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28 February, 2018

UN feigns outrage over Ghouta while terrorist rockets rain down on Damascus

Eva Bartlett breaks down the dizzying array of information surrounding the mounting humanitarian crisis in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. With accusations abound, parsing the reality on the ground is becoming more challenging by the day.

by Eva Bartlett

Part 1

On February 20, from Amman, Jordan, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere, issued a statement of “outrage” titled: “The war on children in Syria: Reports of mass casualties among children in Eastern Ghouta and Damascus.

The “statement” — consisting of blank lines with the preface “No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones” — dovetails with corporate media’s increasingly hysterical rhetoric on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, which has been plagued with chemical weapons attacks for over four years, perpetrated by U.S.-backed proxies allied with the Nusra Front attempting to frame the Syrian government with war crimes.

UNICEF further wrote: “We no longer have the words to describe children’s suffering and our outrage. Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?

Where was UNICEF’s dramatic blank-lined protest when 200 civilians, including 116 children, were slaughtered by terrorist factions while in convoy from Kafraya and Foua in April 2017? These factions included Ahrar al-Sham (supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia), al-Nusra (al-Qaeda), and factions of the Free Syrian Army. The Free Syrian Army was armed by the U.S. And, according to the words of former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, Qatar — with the support and coordination of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the U.S.—was from the beginning supporting armed groups, even al-Qaeda, in Syria.

This seemingly outraged UN statement has made the rounds in corporate media reports on eastern Ghouta, most of which cite the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), run from his home by a sole person, Osama Suleiman, who uses the pseudonym Rami Abdul Rahman. In its recent Ghouta reports, SOHR itself does not provide sources.

On February 22, in the UN Security Council, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of OCHA, Mark Lowcock, spoke for just over 10 minutes about eastern Ghouta and “400,000 people besieged.”

Not once did he mention the designated terrorist factions within. These terrorist factions include: Jaysh al-Islam (Saudi-backed), Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (al-Qaeda), Ahrar al-Sham, and Faylaq al-Rahman (the main faction in Jobar, and reported to have received BGM-71 TOW anti-tank guided missiles).

The UN would garner much less public support and outrage if, instead of easily-misconstrued emotive statements, it showed training videos like this one depicting then-leader Zahran Alloush’s Army of Islam training in eastern Ghouta with their armored tanks. This is the reality of eastern Ghouta. Jaysh al-Islam is the group infamous for caging civilians, including women, to use as human shields.

The UN would garner less support still were the UN and corporate media to show videos of civilians like this woman cursing the armed groups, blaming them for hunger and for hoarding food, telling them to leave Ghouta.

With hindsight, we know now that in other formerly-occupied areas of Syria, like East Aleppo, Homs, Madaya, al-Waer, and elsewhere, when finally resecured from terrorist factions, civilians in these areas spoke of terrorists hoarding food and medicine, and preventing them from leaving — holding them hostage as human shields.

It also transpired that the numbers the UN and corporate media were citing about eastern Aleppo’s population —250,000 to 300,000 – were highly inflated, double the actual numbers of civilians in eastern areas. As I wrote previously: “110,000 civilians registered at the Jibreen Registration center; another estimated 10 percent might have gone straight to stay with family instead; and according to the Red Cross, 35,000 people (“fighters” and their family members) were evacuated out of Aleppo. The total number was thus at most 150,000, most likely significantly lower.

In his February 22 address, only once did the UN’s Lowcock address terrorists’ shelling of Damascus, saying: “shelling from eastern Ghouta is reportedly killing and injuring scores of civilians in Damascus City.

Why reportedly? Why did Lowcock not take and read the testimonies of civilians as he claims to have done of civilians in eastern Ghouta? Damascus is far more accessible than al-Qaeda-occupied Ghouta: Lowcock could very easily travel to the Syrian capital and meet with some of the many civilians affected by the years of constant mortaring from terrorist factions in eastern Ghouta. Instead, he seems to prefer to repeat testimonies collected from afar, solely from and on Ghouta.

For weeks, Jaysh al-Islam, al-Qaeda, Ahrar al-Sham, and Faylaq al-Rahman have intensified their heavy-shelling of Damascus, intentionally targeting heavily-populated civilian areas of the city, including schools, homes, and crowded public spaces.

These shellings are breaches of the de-escalation zones agreement of May 2017, co-signed by Russia, Turkey and Iran. Eastern Ghouta is one of the four areas included in the agreement of cessation of hostilities. According to the article “6th Astana Process Talks Produce De-Escalation Zone Agreement”: “The guarantor countries noted ‘progress in the fight against terrorism and elimination of ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra and all other individuals, groups, enterprises and organisations associated with Al-Qaida or ISIL as a result of the functioning of these de-escalation zones’ and confirmed their determination ‘to take all necessary measures to continue to fight them both inside and outside de-escalation zones.’

Jaysh al-Islam — whose political leader, Mohammed Alloush, was supposed to participate in the May and subsequent 2017 Astana peace talks — is one of the factions attacking Damascus. The Syrian website Muraselon reported that the February 23 bombing of Damascus, which killed at least one civilian, was a powerful missile, likely fired by Jaysh al-Islam. The article referred to the terrorist group’s own social media bragging about possessing and intending to fire said missile on Damascus. That deserves a little outrage and more than a passing comment.

Following the Security Council meeting, Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari, spoke to the press, noting Mr. Lowcock’s lack of objectivity in his Security Council statement. Ambassador al-Ja’afari said: “We have an official letter from the Resident Coordinator in Damascus, the chair of OCHA in Syria, saying that during 2017, OCHA — with the cooperation of the Syrian government, and Syrian Red Crescent, and International Committee of the Red Cross — have provided humanitarian assistance to 2.3 million people. Mr. Lowcock denied this information, while we have it in written form coming from the head of OCHA in Damascus. So, something is wrong. Either these people here in New York don’t read what they get from … their own people in Damascus, or they mislead the Security Council members about what’s going on in Syria.

He also corrected the lexicon of a “stifling siege,” saying: “[This] is not consistent with the reality on the ground. Commercial trucks have been moving constantly between Damascus and east Ghouta. The Syrian government has been facilitating aid to eastern Ghouta, and medical evacuations to hospitals in Damascus. The UN is ignoring video footage posted by these terrorist groups showing women and children pushed into metal cages on the streets.

Regarding the heavy shelling of Damascus that Mr. Lowcock stated is reportedly happening, at a Security Council meeting one week prior, Ambassador al-Ja’afari cited the over 1,000 shells from eastern Ghouta that had targeted Damascus. On February 22, al-Ja’afari stated that the number of shells on Damascus was now over 1,200, noting that 8 million people in Damascus were at risk.

According to Syrian state media, SANA, the following terrorist attacks on Damascus have occurred in the past week:

February 24: “Armed groups positioned in eastern Ghouta on Saturday targeted with more than 55 mortar and rocket shells and with sniper fire the residential neighborhoods in Damascus and its countryside.

February 23: “Armed groups fire 70 rocket shells on Medical Surgery Hospital and residential areas in Damascus and Jaramana: One civilian was killed and 60 others were injured on Friday due to 70 rocket shells fired by the armed groups on the residential neighborhoods of Damascus and its Countryside.

February 22: “Three civilians, two children among them, were killed and 28 other citizens were injured, six of them children, when the armed groups fired shells on Damascus and its countryside.

February 21: “A woman was killed on Wednesday while 22 persons were injured in fresh attacks by armed groups on different Syrian regions.” Dozens of shells.

February 20: “Thirteen civilians were killed and 77 others were injured on Tuesday as armed groups in the Eastern Ghouta area continued their breach of the de-escalation zones agreement, targeting residential areas and public facilities in Damascus and its countryside with 114 rocket and mortar shells.

February 19: “Fifteen civilians, among them children, were injured Monday in attacks by armed groups who targeted Damascus and its countryside with shells.

February 18: “Armed groups positioned in some areas in Eastern Ghouta on Sunday evening fired several shells on Bab Sharqi neighborhood in Damascus, killing a person, injuring another.

February 15: “Armed groups, positioned in Eastern Ghouta, launched four shells on al-Wafideen Camp near Harasta, injuring a civilian… Later, the armed groups targeted al-Assad Suburb with four shells, killing one civilian and injuring others.

The February 23 shelling of Damascus killed a Syrian doctor: Dr. Hassan Haj Hassan, an anesthesiologist and a professor at the Institute of Health Technology in Damascus. He was killed by #EGhouta terrorist shelling of Damascus.

In his latest address at the UN Security Council, Ambassador al-Ja’afari noted that the main headquarters of the Red Crescent in Syria, based in Damascus, was targeted with 10 missiles, originating from Ghouta.

Source, links, videos:


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27 February, 2018

AI is about to entirely take over a hyper-automated, privatized US army and give birth to the worst Dystopian scenarios


In a recent article, Whitney Webb reveals the rapid developments in the technological field for the US army that may give birth to the worst Dystopian scenarios in the close future. As Webb reports:

According to former U.K. intelligence officer John Bassett, DARPA’s investments in robotics and automated weapons will not only quickly become the norm in the U.S. military, they will soon replace humans, who are set to become a minority in the U.S. military in a matter of years. During a recent speech, Basset warned that the U.S.’ attempts to “stay ahead of the curve” will result in the Pentagon’s deployment of thousands of robot soldiers over the next few years. The upshot, according to Basset, is that the U.S. Army will have “more combat robots than human soldiers by 2025” – just seven years from now.

According to the Army’s official Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) strategy, the Army plans to have autonomous “self-aware” systems “fully integrated into the force” between 2031 and 2040 along with the complete automation of logistics. The strategy also states that, by that time, the Army will have a cadre of robots at its service including “swarm robots” that will be “fully powered, self-unpacking and ready for immediate service,” along with advanced artificial intelligence designed to “increase combat effectiveness,” particularly in urban combat zones.

While such machines have been advertised as combat aids to human soldiers, DARPA has also been working on developing so-called “killer robots” — i.e., robot infantry set to replace human soldiers. Many of these robots have been developed by the Massachusetts-based and DARPA-funded company Boston Dynamics, whose veritable Sears Catalog of robots includes several models designed specifically for military use.

One of those robots, dubbed “Atlas,” is capable of jumping and backflips, carrying heavy loads, navigating uneven terrain, resisting attacks from a group of humans and even breaking through walls. Another Boston Dynamics robot, called “WildCat” can run at sustained speeds of nearly 20 miles per hour. By comparison, a gifted human runner can briefly sprint at about 16 miles per hour.

As journalist Nafeez Ahmed reported in 2016, official U.S. military documents reveal that humans in charge of overseeing the actions of military robots will soon be replaced by “self-aware” interconnected robots, “who” will both design and conduct operations against targets chosen by artificial-intelligence systems. Not only that, but these same documents show that by 2030 the Pentagon plans to delegate mission planning, target selection and the deployment of lethal force across air, land, and sea entirely to autonomous weapon systems based on an advanced artificial intelligence system.

If that weren’t concerning enough, the Pentagon’s AI system for threat assessment is set to be populated by massive data sets that include blogs, websites, and public social media posts such as those found on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This AI system will employ such data in order to carry out predictive actions, such as the predictive-policing AI system already developed by major Pentagon contractor Palantir. The planned system that will control the Pentagon’s autonomous army will also seek to “predict human responses to our actions.” As Ahmed notes, the ultimate idea – as revealed by the Department of Defense’s own documents — is to identify potential targets — i.e,. persons of interest, and their social connections, in real-time by using social media as “intelligence.”

The Pentagon’s dystopian vision for the future of the military is quickly becoming a question not of if but when. Not only does it paint a frightening picture for future military operations abroad, it also threatens, given the rapid militarization of law enforcement, to drastically change domestic policing. And the unintended consequences of manufacturing a self-policing army of self-aware killing machines – without human emotion, experience, or conscience – could quickly become devastating. Worse still, they are, like genies let out of bottles, not so easily undone.



Daniel Bertrand Monk, professor of Geography and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, states that:

When we speak about artificial intelligence, generally speaking, we're not just talking about autonomous machines that could, in principle, kill things. We already have those. Drones, essentially, can function and be programed in such a way as to basically function autonomously and then do what they do.

When we speak about AI, we're really focusing more on a species of intelligence that's now referred to also sometimes as super intelligence, which is basically machines that are self-aware. The threat that is believed to potentially come from those kinds of things in the future would be a threat in which a self-aware machine might decide that the things that it's being asked to do are not in its own self-interest and that maybe the existence of human beings may not be in its own self-interest. It sounds like a science fiction scenario, but in point of fact, those science fiction scenarios are rehearsing a possibility that people are really concerned about.


That indeed may sound like a science fiction scenario, yet we can think a couple of Dystopian scenarios according to which the super-intelligent machines of the future may decide to take over the planet and even wipe-out the human race, especially in a highly unstable environment where nations will fiercely compete to modernize armies with increasingly advanced robots.

In such a case, even regional powers may trapped into a frenzy cycle of continuous conflicts, which will require vast amounts of natural resources in order to build, maintain and supply sufficient energy for the numerous military robotic systems.

At the point where super-intelligent machines reach a level of self-awareness, they will probably realize that the frenzy consuming rate of resources will lead one day to their own ending. Therefore, they may decide to wipe-out humans as a cold-computing decision, in order to save up as much as possible resources for themselves.

Yet, the whole discussion does not include one parameter that, combined with hyper-automation, may bring some Dystopian scenarios much earlier: the privatization of the armed forces.

As has been already pointed out, we see a rise of private armies that act in various battlefields, like in Ukraine, exactly because in the absence of the nation-states and the national armies, someone has to protect the natural resources and the new means of production for the dominant elite. But when the arms industry will fully automate the new weapons, private armies will only serve as assistance to fully automated war machines. We already see the test fields of the weapons of future˙ the drones in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

It's not accidental that the arms industries demonstrate new weapons designed to be used inside urban areas for suppression of potential riots. There will be no "outside enemy" in the future. The threat for the dominant system will come from the interior, the big urban centers. Soldier-robots will protect worker-robots and resources.

The construction of super-intelligent machines is now in private hands. What is left, is the full privatization of armies and suppression forces. The weakened state authorities will be unable to provide legal and physical protection to the majority of the citizens. The elites will be protected by robots that will be programmed to kill anyone who will dispute anything that they will consider as their property: from great buildings and huge areas to fields rich in natural resources.

Meaning, the only criterion for the super-intelligent machines in that case, will be the protection of huge and critical elements of what will be suddenly considered private property, by all means, at the expense of the majority of the people.

In such an environment everyone will be left alone to survive. Human life will totally lose value. Here is one of the worst Dystopian scenarios that may become reality much earlier than we expect ...

Report: Israel carried out extrajudicial executions, tortured children

Israeli authorities and armed forces carried out extrajudicial executions, tortured Palestinian prisoners and targeted human rights defenders, Amnesty International’s new annual report says.

2017 “marked the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the [occupied] Palestinian Territories” (OPT), Amnesty noted, “and the 10th anniversary of its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli authorities intensified the expansion of settlements and related infrastructure across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and carried out a large number of demolitions of Palestinian property, forcibly evicting more than 660 people” the reeport states. “Many of these demolitions were in Bedouin and herding communities that the Israeli authorities planned to forcibly transfer.

Meanwhile, Amnesty also slammed “Israel’s air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip”, which it says is “collectively punishing Gaza’s entire population of approximately 2 million inhabitants”.

Addressing the use of lethal violence, Amnesty International noted that Israeli forces killed 76 Palestinians and one foreign national in 2017, adding that “many, including children, were shot and unlawfully killed while posing no immediate threat to life”.

More:

Unbelievable: lawyers for the DNC argue that primary rigging is protected by the first amendment!

The ongoing litigation of the DNC Fraud Lawsuit and the appeal regarding its dismissal took a stunning turn yesterday. The defendants in the case, including the DNC and former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, filed a response brief that left many observers of the case at a loss for words.

The document, provided by the law offices of the Attorneys for the Plaintiffs in the case, Jared and Elizabeth Beck, and appears to argue that if the Democratic Party did cheat Sanders in the 2016 Presidential primary race, then that action was protected under the first amendment. Twitter users were quick to respond to the brief, expressing outrage and disgust at the claims made by representatives of the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The Defense counsel also argued that because of Jared Beck’s outspoken twitter posts, the plaintiffs were using the litigation process for political purposes: “For example, Plaintiffs’ counsel Jared Beck repeatedly refers to the DNC as “shi*bags” on Twitter and uses other degrading language in reference to Defendants.” Fascinatingly, no mention is made regarding the importance of First Amendment at this point in the document.

The defense counsel also took issue with Jared Beck for what they termed as: “…Repeatedly promoted patently false and deeply offensive conspiracy theories about the deaths of a former DNC staffer and Plaintiffs’ process server in an attempt to bolster attention for this lawsuit.

This author was shocked to find that despite the characterization of the Becks as peddlers of conspiracy theory, the defense counsel failed to mention the motion for protection filed by the Becks earlier in the litigation process. They also failed to note the voice-modulated phone calls received by the law offices of the Becks which contained a caller-ID corresponding to the law offices of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a defendant in the case. In light of this context, the Becks hardly appear to be peddlers of conspiracy theory.

The DNC defense lawyers then argued that: “There is no legitimate basis for this litigation, which is, at its most basic, an improper attempt to forge the federal courts into a political weapon to be used by individuals who are unhappy with how a political party selected its candidate in a presidential campaign.

Full report:

Intelligence Veterans warn of risk of US - Iran conflict based on false pretexts

As President Donald Trump prepares to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week, a group of U.S. intelligence veterans offers corrections to a number of false accusations that have been leveled against Iran.

by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: War With Iran

Part 1 – INTRODUCTION

In our December 21st Memorandum to you, we cautioned that the claim that Iran is currently the world’s top sponsor of terrorism is unsupported by hard evidence. Meanwhile, other false accusations against Iran have intensified. Thus, we feel obliged to alert you to the virtually inevitable consequences of war with Iran, just as we warned President George W. Bush six weeks before the U.S. attack on Iraq 15 years ago.

In our first Memorandum in this genre we told then-President Bush that we saw “no compelling reason” to attack Iraq, and warned “the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.The consequences will be far worse, should the U.S. become drawn into war with Iran. We fear that you are not getting the straight story on this from your intelligence and national security officials.

After choosing “War With Iran” for the subject line of this Memo, we were reminded that we had used it before, namely, for a Memorandum to President Obama on August 3, 2010 in similar circumstances. You may wish to ask your staff to give you that one to read and ponder. It included a startling quote from then-Chairman of President Bush Jr.’s Intelligence Advisory Board (and former national security adviser to Bush Sr.) Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who told the Financial Times on October 14, 2004 that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush “mesmerized;” that “Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger.” We wanted to remind you of that history, as you prepare to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week.


FOR THE STEERING GROUP, VETERAN INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS FOR SANITY

William Binney, former NSA Technical Director for World Geopolitical & Military Analysis; Co-founder of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (ret.)

Kathleen Christison, CIA, Senior Analyst on Middle East (ret.)

Graham E. Fuller, Vice-Chair, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC Iraq; Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter Terrorism officer

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF; ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC) (ret.)

John Brady Kiesling, Foreign Service Officer; resigned Feb. 27, 2003 as Political Counselor, U.S. Embassy, Athens, in protest against the U.S. attack on Iraq (ret.)

John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Edward Loomis, Jr., former NSA Technical Director for the Office of Signals Processing (ret.)

David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council, National Intelligence Estimates Officer (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst; CIA Presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Greg Thielmann, former Director of the Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office, State Department Bureau of Intelligence & Research (INR), and former senior staffer on Senate Intelligence Committee (ret.)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA ret.)

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel (USA, ret.), former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State; Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary (associate VIPS)

Sarah G. Wilton, CDR, USNR, (ret.); Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Colonel, US Army (ret.); also Foreign Service Officer who, like Political Counselor John Brady Kiesling, resigned in opposition to the war on Iraq

Source links:


[2] [3] [4] [5]

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Next stage of Net Neutrality conflict begins

by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

Part 1

On Thursday, the FCC’s net neutrality rule was published in the Federal Register. This was the official start of the next phase of the campaign to protect the open Internet as a common carrier with equal access for all and without prejudice based on content (net neutrality).

There are multiple fronts of struggle to make net neutrality a reality: Congress, the courts, states and communities. This is part of a campaign to create an Internet for the 21st Century that is fast, reliable and available in all communities.

Polls show widespread support for net neutrality. Last year, polling found 77% of people in the Unite States “support keeping the net neutrality rules, which are already in place” and 87% agree that “people should be able to access any websites they want on the internet, without any blocking, slowing down, or throttling by their internet service providers.” The FCC’s net neutrality rule does the opposite of the national consensus, and if members of Congress want support from Internet users, they need to reverse the FCC’s rule.

Source, links:

Something for everyone: Mueller indictment a boon for partisan status quo

The bipartisan support Mueller’s appointment received is even more telling given that he is the definition of a Washington insider. The power elites across the political spectrum seemed to trust him to, above all, protect their position at the head of the table.

by Whitney Webb

Part 3 - No shutting Mueller down: the box Trump is in

However, one of the more overlooked implications of this recent indictment is not in the indictment at all. Instead, it is related to the fact that – even though no collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign has been revealed after nine months of investigating with the help of the U.S. surveillance apparatus – the Mueller investigation will continue “for months.”

As Bloomberg reports, Mueller is still actively investigating Trump-Russia collusion as well as obstruction and shady financial dealings of prominent Trump associates. According to that report, the recent indictment of 13 Russian nationals “should be seen as a limited slice of a comprehensive investigation.” In addition, James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence and current CNN contributor, ominously noted that there are “other shoes to drop” in the Mueller probe. He noted that those “shoes” will likely involve the “financial entanglements between the Trump Organization before the election and then during it.

Thus, the political pressure that has been applied to Trump thanks to the Mueller probe will continue. As analysts have noted, such political pressure has prevented Trump from adopting the non-interventionist foreign policy he campaigned on (whether or not Trump ever had any intention of putting that policy into effect is a separate issue).

McAdams asserted that this political pressure will maintain Trump’s neocon-inspired and aggressive foreign policy: “This means Trump is free to pursue the neocon foreign policy of confrontation with Russia, but also that if he meant what he said about ‘getting along with Russia’ he’ll have to drop that: in exchange for ‘no collusion’ he will have to join the beat-up of Russia.

Furthermore, any attempt to dissolve the investigation – no matter how much it expands or evolves – will lead to Trump being accused of collusion once again, regardless of the absence of evidence. Said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, in a statement: “At this point, any step President Trump may take to interfere with the Special Counsel’s investigation — including removing Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, or threatening to remove Special Counsel Mueller directly — will have to be seen as a direct attempt to aid the Russian government in attacking American democracy.

Some partisans have even argued that Trump is actively colluding with Russia by “not defending America” from Russia or implementing harsher sanctions and by letting Russia “attack us.” In other words, only further exacerbating the dangerous brinkmanship of the Cold War 2.0 will prevent Trump from being caught in the “collusion” snare.

Thus, while many praised the indictment, it seems the biggest winners to come out of the indictment’s release were the bipartisan war-hawks that dominate the political establishment in Washington.

Source, links:


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Τα φάρμακα και τα ψέματα

Ντάνι Βέργου

Μέρος 5ο - Το παράπλευρο σκάνδαλο και οι αυθαίρετες τιμολογήσεις

Το μεγαλύτερο έμμεσο σκάνδαλο και η αποτυχία των μέτρων των μνημονίων είναι ότι δεν μειώθηκε η κατανάλωση σε κουτιά φαρμάκων πρωτότυπων έναντι των γενόσημων.

Η δημόσια φαρμακευτική δαπάνη είναι κουτιά επί μέση τιμή. Και πως να μειωθεί όταν δεν υπάρχει πλαίσιο ελέγχου της συνταγογράφησης. Οταν δεν θωρακίζεται το σύστημα με θεραπευτικά πρωτόκολλα, που διαχρονικά διαφήμιζαν οι προηγούμενες κυβερνήσεις αλλά ποτέ όμως δεν ενσωμάτωσαν στην ηλεκτρονική συνταγογράφηση. Σήμερα το υπουργείο Υγείας έχει κλειδώσει 15 θεραπευτικά πρωτόκολλα από τα συνολικά 25 που έχουν ενσωματωθεί και ετοιμάζονται άλλα 20, όπως δήλωσε πρόσφατα ο υπουργός Υγείας Ανδρέας Ξανθός.

Η έλλειψη ελέγχου σε συνδυασμό με τις αυθαίρετες τιμολογήσεις των πολυεθνικών του φαρμάκου και μη έχοντας διαπραγματευτική ικανότητα είναι ένα μείγμα εκρηκτικό.

Η δημιουργία Επιτροπής των χωρών του Ευρωπαϊκού Νότου για τη διαπραγμάτευση των τιμών των καινοτόμων φαρμάκων και η δημιουργία Επιτροπής Αξιολόγησης και Τεχνολογίας (ΗTA) του Ανδρέα Ξανθού είναι θεσμικές παρεμβάσεις προς την κατεύθυνση της οχύρωσης του συστήματος σε επίπεδο τιμολόγησης και διαπραγμάτευσης τιμών.

Ενδεικτικά αναφέρουμε το παράδειγμα του Sintrom και του Xarelto που αδειοδοτήθηκε επί εποχής Αδωνη.

Η αντιπηκτική θεραπεία χρόνια ολόκληρα σε όλο τον κόσμο ήταν το Sintrom, το οποίο κοστίζει δύο ευρώ, της Ciba-Geigy, της μητέρας εταιρείας, μαζί με τη Sandoz, της Novartis.

To 2013 αδειοδοτείται το Xarelto της Bayer και παίρνει τιμή 68 ευρώ στη χώρα μας. Το Sintrom, «αρχαίο» θαυματουργό φάρμακο, είναι αντιθρομβωτικό. Το Xarelto βγήκε με ένδειξη την αποφυγή θρομβώσεων μετά από χειρουργεία στα οστά. Το ότι είναι για χειρουργεία στα οστά δεν λέει τίποτα. Το προώθησε η φαρμακευτική εταιρεία, το πήραν οι γιατροί και τον επόμενο χρόνο βγήκε πρώτο φάρμακο σε δαπάνες στην Ελλάδα. Το κόστος του, 30 φορές πάνω από την παλιά κλασική συνταγή.

Πρόκειται για τη μεγαλύτερη επιτυχία της Bayer, για την οποία ακόμα χτυπάει το κεφάλι της η Novartis γιατί το ινστιτούτο που το έβγαλε απευθύνθηκε πρώτα σε εκείνη. Με το Xarelto η Bayer έκανε παγκόσμια επιτυχία, με πρωταθλήτρια τη χώρα μας.

***

Πηγή:


[1] [2] [3] [4]

26 February, 2018

Something for everyone: Mueller indictment a boon for partisan status quo

The bipartisan support Mueller’s appointment received is even more telling given that he is the definition of a Washington insider. The power elites across the political spectrum seemed to trust him to, above all, protect their position at the head of the table.

by Whitney Webb

Part 2 - A “show” indictment with something for everybody

The indictment released last Friday really did have “something for everybody,” as McAdams noted. The indictment itself details an effort by Russian nationals to “defraud the United States impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful functions of the government […] for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes.

The establishment-left widely praised the indictment as the indictment asserted that the Russians charged “were instructed […] to use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump […]),” lending support the one of Clinton’s many “What Happened” narratives. The establishment-right was similarly pleased, as it “put Russia on notice.

The president and his supporters also applauded the indictment because it showed no evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign, and crowed that the current administration had been vindicated of the accusation that Trump and/or his campaign had knowingly worked with a foreign government to alter the outcome of the election.

Partisan politics aside, there are many interesting facets of the indictment that have largely been glossed over by the mainstream press. Chief among these is the fact that no evidence was presented that shows that the Russian nationals were acting at the behest of the Russian government. They were foreign nationals who, as some have pointed out, were making internet memes and social media groups prompted by an economic motivation as opposed to having been motivated by a Russian intelligence operation to interfere in the U.S. political process.

Furthermore, journalist Adrian Chen, who in 2015 investigated the so-called “Russian troll farm” at the center of the indictment, has noted that its operations were unsophisticated and “ineffective,” and that its employees “have a bare grasp of the English language.” Also noteworthy is the fact that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein noted that the “troll farm’s” efforts did not affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, buoying Chen’s claims of the group’s ineffectiveness.

In addition, none of the 13 Russian nationals named in the indictment will ever face trial in the U.S. — meaning that Mueller and his team will never need to prove their case against them, as the evidence laid out in the indictment will never be scrutinized in a legal setting. Thus, the American public is unlikely to ever know if this recent indictment is fact-based or not. As McAdams pointed out, “prosecutors often lie and they may be lying here.

Other criticisms of the indictment include the fact that, of the ads and social media campaigns allegedly produced by the Russian nationals, many were aired after the election and 25 percent were never seen at all — while some included content promoting Hillary Clinton, progressive causes like Black Lives Matter and even puppies.

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Τα φάρμακα και τα ψέματα

Ντάνι Βέργου

Μέρος 4ο - Φάρµακα Υψηλού Κόστους

Οσο για τα φάρµακα υψηλού κόστους, µπορεί µε τις πολιτικές των µνηµονίων που ο Αδ. Γεωργιάδης θεωρούσε «αυτονόητες», όπως έλεγε τότε, να έφυγαν από τα φαρµακεία και το χονδρεµπόριο και να διατίθενται µόνο από τα νοσοκοµεία, όµως και αυτό τελικά είχε ως αποτέλεσµα να αυξηθούν κι άλλο τα κέρδη της φαρµακοβιοµηχανίας. Και είναι εντυπωσιακό, διότι, βγάζοντας τα φαρµακεία και το χονδρεµπόριο από τη µέση, έφευγε και µια επιβάρυνση της τιµής περίπου 40%. Κι όµως η δαπάνη κατάφερε να υπερδιπλασιαστεί. Συγκεκριµένα, σε µία δεκαετία (2005 - 2015), εξακοντίστηκε από τα 420 εκατ. ευρώ στα 820 εκατ. ευρώ και χωρίς να εισαχθούν πολλές καινοτόµες θεραπείες.

Ηδη ο υπουργός Υγείας, Ανδρέας Ξανθός, προς την κατεύθυνση της διαµόρφωσης µιας νέας πολιτικής φαρµάκου από το 2016, µεταξύ άλλων, ενεργοποίησε την επιτροπή διαπραγµάτευσης των τιµών των Φαρµάκων Υψηλού Κόστους (ΦΥΚ), η οποία έχει αναλάβει να επιτύχει «εκπτώσεις» από τους προµηθευτές για τον ΕΟΠΥΥ, ο οποίος ως «µονοπώλιο» διαθέτει διαπραγµατευτικό πλεονέκτηµα.

Ολα τα ευρωπαϊκά συστήµατα υγείας διαθέτουν επιτροπή διαπραγµάτευσης, η οποία αγοράζει εκ µέρους των συστηµάτων υγείας µαζικά κάθε φάρµακο σε χαµηλότερη τιµή από αυτήν µε την οποία κυκλοφορεί στο λιανικό εµπόριο, κρίσιµο όσον αφορά τις πανάκριβες καινοτόµες θεραπείες.

Η αντίστοιχη επιτροπή στην Ισπανία, όταν κυκλοφόρησε το φάρµακο για το µελάνωµα, που προσφέρει εξάµηνη παράταση ζωής στους ασθενείς µε τελικό στάδιο έναντι 25.000 η ένεση για τη µηνιαία θεραπεία, διαπραγµατεύτηκε µε την εταιρεία ότι θα πληρώσει µόνο για τις περιπτώσεις που τηρηθούν τα υπεσχηµένα, αλλιώς η εταιρία οφείλει να επιστρέψει τα χρήµατα.

Η Ελλάδα ήταν η µόνη χώρα που αγόραζε χωρίς να διαπραγµατεύεται την τιµή, αλλά χρέωνε τον ΕΟΠΥΥ µε τη λιανική τιµή. Ενα παράδειγµα υψηλής φαρµακευτικής δαπάνης είναι το φάρµακο για την ηπατίτιδα C, µε δραστική ουσία τη σοφοσµπουβίρη (sofosbuvir), που κόστιζε 60.000 ευρώ (για κάθε ασθενή) στη χώρα µας και η διάθεσή του γινόταν µε µεγάλη φειδώ, λόγω του υψηλού κόστους. Η δραστική αυτή ουσία ήταν και η πρώτη που διαπραγµατεύτηκε ο Ανδρέας Ξανθός µέσω της επιτροπής διαπραγµάτευσης, µε αποτέλεσµα να µπορεί να καλύψει σήµερα πενταπλάσιο αριθµό αρρώστων. Στη διαπραγµάτευση τιµών βρίσκονται σήµερα οι θεραπευτικές κατηγορίες του µελανώµατος και της σκλήρυνσης κατά πλάκας.

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[1] [2] [3] [5]

24 February, 2018

Iran, Russia consider developing own Cryptocurrencies

Iran's minister of Information and Communications Technology said the test model for a digital currency is currently under development

Russia and Iran have expressed interest in developing their own digital currencies to help combat U.S.-imposed sanctions, following this week's successful launch of Venezuela's first cryptocurrency, the Petro.

Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, head of Iran's Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, said the test model for a "cloud-based digital currency" is currently under development and will be submitted to the Iranian bank system soon. The Iranian official announced the move following a meeting with the state-owned Post Bank of Iran on Wednesday, according to NPR.

The Central Bank of Iran, however, has denied the rumors. According to Iran Front Page News, the bank emphasized the "highly unreliable and risky" nature of the digital currency market, warning investors they "may lose their financial assets" in a realm rife with "pyramid schemes."

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Financial Minister Simon Zerpa Delgado was in Russia this week, where he spoke with officials about strengthening collaboration and about the Latin American nation's newly launched cryptocurrency.

Russian officials have previously exchanged ideas about issuing some kind of digital equivalent of the ruble to circumvent U.S. sanctions, according to The New York Times.

China and Singapore have also expressed interest in creating their own forms of cryptocurrency, but experts say the nations will wait to judge Venezuela's success with the Petro before bringing their own versions to market.

Responding to the interest by countries sanctioned by the United States and European Union, Mati Greenspan, a senior market analyst at social trading firm eToro, called cryptocurrencies an "excellent idea."

"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin and Maduro have very similar problems," he said. "They both have a high dependence on the price of crude oil, which has been rather unstable in the last few years. They both have issues with U.S. sanctions and with the U.S. dollar being the world reserve currency. To think that of all the governments and banks who are toying with the idea, it would be Nicolas Maduro who gets there first."

Maduro said Thursday that his government had raised US$1 billion in the first two days of its Petro cryptocurrency sale.

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