Drugmaker Pfizer is set to acquire the biotech company Medivation for $14 billion. The primary aim of the deal was to secure Medivation’s cancer drug Xtandi in order to better position Pfizer within the lucrative… More
The Empire Files 034
Chevron vs. the Amazon
A Danish subsidiary of British defense contractor BAE Systems is selling an internet surveillance package to the government of the United Arab Emirates, a country known for spying on, imprisoning, and torturing dissidents and activists, according to documents obtained by Lasse Skou Andersen of the Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information.
The documents from the Danish Business Authority reveal an ongoing contract between the defense conglomerate, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence A/S, and the Middle Eastern oil federation dating back to at least December 2014.
The contract describes an internet surveillance product capable of deep packet inspection — “IP monitoring and data analysis” for “serious crime” and “national security” investigations. That could include capabilities like mapping a target’s social networks and extracting personal information and communications from devices including voice recordings, video, messages, and attachments.
According to the company’s contract, revealing any details about the agreement could have extreme consequences for its relationship with the “End User,” presumably the UAE government.
In a written statement, BAE Systems said, “It is against our policy to comment on contracts with specific countries or customers. BAE Systems works for a number of organizations around the world, within the regulatory frameworks of all relevant countries and within our own responsible trading principles.”
The Danish Business Authority told Andersen it found no issue approving the export license to the Ministry of the Interior of the United Arab Emirates after consulting with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, despite regulations put in place by the European Commission in October 2014 to control exports of spyware and internet surveillance equipment out of concern for human rights. The ministry told Andersen in an email it made a thorough assessment of all relevant concerns and saw no reason to deny the application.
According to Edin Omanovic, a research officer with Privacy International, this is one of the first tests of the commission’s new export controls, which are due to be updated next month.
“This comes at a crucial time, just before the European Commission is set to decide whether or not it proposes updates to regulations regarding the export of surveillance technologies,” he wrote in an email to The Intercept. “The fact that the export license was granted by the Danish authorities to the UAE, where human rights abuses are well established, and that this information was not publicly available, underlines why these reforms are urgently needed.”
“Without such safeguards, the current assessment criteria used by European governments to approve license applications will only serve as a rubber stamp,” he continued.
The disclosure of the BAE Systems deal comes after researchers from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab reported that a prominent human rights activist in the UAE was the target of an attempt to install potent spyware on his iPhone in an attack linked to the Israeli company NSO Group.
Human Rights Watch writes that the UAE “often uses its affluence to mask the government’s serious human rights problems,” which include arbitrary detention, torture allegations, threats to free speech, labor exploitation, and more. The UAE has led a systematic crackdown on members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other dissidents. Reporters have written about the UAE developing an emirate-wide surveillance program, while security researchers have uncovered weaponized malware attacks targeting Emirati activists and journalists.
And it’s not the first time the subsidiary, formerly known as ETI, has sold spyware to repressive regimes. Before being acquired by BAE Systems, the company sold surveillance equipment to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Information previously reported, as well as the corrupt Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime in Tunisia prior to the Arab Spring uprisings.
Following Bloomberg’s exposé on the sale to Ben Ali and the acquisition by BAE Systems, representatives from BAE told a Danish documentarian, Mads Ellesøe, that the company has since “enhanced” the subsidiary’s export control process to comply with its human rights policies — drawing the new sale to the UAE into question.
A spokesperson for BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, also known as BAE Systems Detica, said in an emailed statement that “Since acquiring ETI in March 2011, we have enhanced its processes including introducing the BAE Systems Code of Conduct and associated policies on ethical conduct which are now integrated into the processes that govern all aspects of the day-to-day business. … BAE Systems Detica has instituted a further formal process, governed through a business conduct committee, which assesses relevant opportunities on the basis of responsible trading risks, ethical concerns and reputational risks.”
Some surveillance companies have suffered after being exposed for selling equipment to repressive regimes, like Hacking Team — the Italian firm whose internal emails were leaked last summer. Hacking Team also sold spyware to the UAE, reportedly to help the government spy on pro-democracy activists. However, Hacking Team may be bouncing back, as it’s due to present new “cutting edge” surveillance tools at the trade surveillance show ISS Latin America in October.
The U.S. government’s National Security Agency hosts some of the top hackers and surveillance tools in the world, capable of “touching” more of the internet than Google through deep packet inspection. Its XKeyscore program, first revealed by The Guardian, feeds off of a truly massive stream of worldwide online traffic from the backbone of the internet and automatically analyzes and inspects that traffic as it flows in.
— source theintercept.com By Jenna McLaughlin
In 2000, renewable energy made up just 6.3% of Germany’s electricity. By last year, it had risen to 31%.
Cloudy Germany became a leading innovator in solar energy. It did so not by subsidising large power utility companies, but by mobilising hundreds of thousands into energy cooperatives. The two legs of this democratic energy transition are Germany’s commitment to phase out nuclear power and its feed-in tariffs, which allowed small renewable energy producers to sell their electricity.
Both policies were fruits of the environmental movement. Now, the feed-in tariffs are under attack by the right-wing Angela Merkel government, which wants to hand over renewable energy to large corporations.
The anti-nuclear leg of the renewable energy transition came out of protest. It was born out of a struggle against a nuclear power plant begun in the early 1970s.
By the time the plant’s construction was stopped in 1977, the anti-nuclear movement had organised a 10-month occupation by 20,000-30,000 people at the construction site. The victory sparked similar protests across the country.
The anti-nuclear movement further consolidated anti-nuclear power sentiment. Its ranks were swelled by various nuclear disasters around the world.
In particular, the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown directly impacted Germans by showering them with nuclear fallout. By 1989, the movement effectively stopped construction of new commercial nuclear power stations. Protests continued focusing on nuclear waste storage sites and the transport of spent nuclear fuel.
When the Green Party, founded by the anti-nuclear movement in 1980, came into power in coalition with the Social Democratic Party in 1998, it passed a law ending nuclear energy by 2022.
Even after losing power in the Bundestag (Germany’s legislative branch) in 2005 to Merkel’s pro-nuclear Christian Democratic Union Party, the anti-nuclear movement successfully fought off attempts at weakening the nuclear phase out.
In the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the anti-nuclear movement achieved electoral victories that forced Merkel to reverse her rescindment of the nuclear phase out law, to be completed by 2022.
The second pillar, the feed-in tariffs, was a response to the question: “If not nuclear then what?” The answer was the renewable energy movement.
The feed-in law of 1990 and 2000 came directly out the movement and its experiments with renewable energy. The 1990 feed-in law came out of the various “independent think tanks” established by the anti-nuclear movement that was now forming the renewable energy movement.
The feed-in law allowed renewable energy producers to sell excess electricity to the grid at a percentage of the retail price. It directly challenged the power utilities by displacing electricity produced by their nuclear and coal-fired plants with renewable energy.
Craig Morris of the Energiewende blog said that “innovation doesn’t come from those with established assets”, because they have little incentive to undermine their assets at hand (i.e. conventional coal and nuclear power plants) by investing in competing innovative technologies. Change must come from outside.
The real breakthrough in feed-in tariffs came with the SPD-Green ruling coalition. In addition to providing fixed low interest rate loans for renewable technology investment, it further empowered the renewable energy movement by setting a fixed 20 year feed-in price (in 2000) for renewable energy, based not on a portion of the retail price but on the higher cost of investment.
It was a direct lesson from the early renewable energy installations: increase demand by decreasing risk with a steady source of income and lower the price of renewable technology (especially solar) by exploiting economies of scale from greater demand.
Yet, to view the feed-in tariffs as the drivers of Germany’s renewable energy transition is to ignore the movement that created it and put it into practice. Even before it was profitable, the renewable energy movement was building policy and technical expertise through its independent institutes, organising energy cooperatives to crowdfund renewable energy projects.
The feed-in tariffs were implemented so successfully because grassroots groups such as the Association for the Promotion of Energy and Solar (FESA) existed to help villages and communities invest in renewable projects.
The great success of the renewable energy movement threatens the big power utility companies that are based on nuclear and coal-fired power plants. So the Merkel government is transitioning from feed-in tariffs, which allowed everyone to be an energy producer, to a quota-based auction system that advantages large-scale renewable energy projects.
This allows the power utility companies to enter a renewable energy market they long neglected to protect their conventional power plants. With the quota-based auction system, producing renewable energy means investing in a risky and expensive bidding process.
It is clear that to wrest renewable energy from the hands of the power companies and return it to the hands of people will involve a fight with the Merkel government. Ultimately, energy democracy, like all democracy, cannot be given by vested interests in power. It must be fought for and won, as Germany’s environmental movements have been doing.
— source greenleft.org.au By Dae-Han Song
14 August 2008
The secrets of the crushing of Yugoslavia are emerging, telling us more about how the modern world is policed. The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in The Hague, Carla Del Ponte, this year published her memoir The Hunt: Me and War Criminals. Largely ignored in Britain, the book reveals unpalatable truths about the west’s intervention in Kosovo, which has echoes in the Caucasus.
The tribunal was set up and bankrolled principally by the United States. Del Ponte’s role was to investigate the crimes committed as Yugoslavia was dismembered in the 1990s. She insisted that this include Nato’s 78-day bombing of Serbia and Kosovo in 1999, which killed hundreds of people in hospitals, schools, churches, parks and tele vision studios, and destroyed economic infrastructure. “If I am not willing to [prosecute Nato personnel],” said Del Ponte, “I must give up my mission.” It was a sham. Under pressure from Washington and London, an investigation into Nato war crimes was scrapped.
Readers will recall that the justification for the Nato bombing was that the Serbs were committing “genocide” in the secessionist province of Kosovo against ethnic Albanians. David Scheffer, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, announced that as many as “225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59” may have been murdered. Tony Blair invoked the Holocaust and “the spirit of the Second World War”. The west’s heroic allies were the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), whose murderous record was set aside. The British foreign secretary, Robin Cook, told them to call him any time on his mobile phone.
With the Nato bombing over, international teams descended upon Kosovo to exhume the “holocaust”. The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing “a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines”. A year later, Del Ponte’s tribunal announced the final count of the dead in Kosovo: 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the KLA. There was no genocide in Kosovo. The “holocaust” was a lie. The Nato attack had been fraudulent.
That was not all, says Del Ponte in her book: the KLA kidnapped hundreds of Serbs and transported them to Albania, where their kidneys and other body parts were removed; these were then sold for transplant in other countries. She also says there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the Kosovar Albanians for war crimes, but the investigation “was nipped in the bud” so that the tribunal’s focus would be on “crimes committed by Serbia”. She says the Hague judges were terrified of the Kosovar Albanians – the very people in whose name Nato had attacked Serbia.
Indeed, even as Blair the war leader was on a triumphant tour of “liberated” Kosovo, the KLA was ethnically cleansing more than 200,000 Serbs and Roma from the province. Last February the “international community”, led by the US, recognised Kosovo, which has no formal economy and is run, in effect, by criminal gangs that traffic in drugs, contraband and women. But it has one valuable asset: the US military base Camp Bondsteel, described by the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner as “a smaller version of Guantanamo”. Del Ponte, a Swiss diplomat, has been told by her own government to stop promoting her book.
Yugoslavia was a uniquely independent and multi-ethnic, if imperfect, federation that stood as a political and economic bridge in the Cold War. This was not acceptable to the expanding European Community, especially newly united Germany, which had begun a drive east to dominate its “natural market” in the Yugoslav pro vinces of Croatia and Slovenia. By the time the Europeans met at Maastricht in 1991, a secret deal had been struck; Germany recognised Croatia, and Yugoslavia was doomed. In Washington, the US ensured that the struggling Yugoslav economy was denied World Bank loans and the defunct Nato was reinvented as an enforcer. At a 1999 Kosovo “peace” conference in France, the Serbs were told to accept occupation by Nato forces and a market economy, or be bombed into submission. It was the perfect precursor to the bloodbaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.
— source johnpilger.com
First, the day: It was an unseasonably pleasant summer day 53 years ago today when nearly 250,000 people assembled peacefully and purposefully on the National Mall for the March on Washington D.C. Accounts describe an almost cloudless sky, bluer than reality, the air unseasonably dry, with the mercury hovering in the mid 70s for most of the day. And the mood, famously, was electric, crackling with energy, pregnant with triumph, as though the park were a leviathan, roofless church.
But then there is this: In the 19,359 days since Martin Luther King Jr. delivered perhaps his most praised address–a sort of christening of a new and better Republic–a case can be made that the material conditions of African Americans has actually worsened, not improved.
When King stepped to the dais, the incarceration rate in the U.S. was roughly identical to Germany and Finland’s, as Michelle Alexander notes in her bestselling book, The New Jim Crow. In the intervening years, the U.S. has quadrupled its prison population, Finland has cut its incarceration rate by more than half, and Germany’s has remained stable. Drug offenses account for virtually the entire explosion in the U.S. prison population, and Blacks, in turn, represent nearly three-quarters of offenders sentenced to jail for drug offenses, despite representing only 13 percent of the population and the same percentage of the nation’s drug users.
And blacks have fallen much farther behind whites since 1963. According to the Urban Institute, average white family wealth in 1963 exceeded that of African-American families by about $117,000 in 1963. By 2013, the average wealth of white families exceeded Black families by $500,000, when adjusted for inflation.
Another reason why African-Americans have less wealth than whites is debt. With good-paying manufacturing jobs drying up, especially since Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, Blacks have redoubled their efforts to improve their earning power, but mostly what they have to show for it is merely debt. Forty-two percent of African-American Americans between the ages of 25 and 55 had student loan debt in 2013, compared to 28 percent of whites. The figure was negligible for both in 1963 which was two years before the federal government began its program of federally-guaranteed educational loans.
This dispossession, and the loss of decent work for men especially has fundamentally restructured the Black family, making marriage almost obsolete. This has a compounding effect because research shows that marriage almost erases racial disparities in income and health.
In 1950, 17 percent of African-American children lived in a home with their mother but not their father. By 2010 that had increased to 50 percent. In 1965, only eight percent of childbirths in the Black community occurred out-of-wedlock. In 2010 that figure was 41 percent; and today, the out-of-wedlock childbirth in the Black community sits at an astonishing 72 percent. The number of African-American women married and living with their spouse was recorded as 53 percent in 1950. By 2010, it had dropped to 25 percent.
And to dismiss the trope that these figures on family formation merely reflect Black male irresponsibility, a 2007 study by a Boston University researcher found that Black men who did not live with their families make more of an effort to spend time with their children than any other racial or ethnic group.
Reflecting on the 50 year anniversary three years ago, one of King’s top lieutenants, the Rev. Joseph Lowery stood on the same marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial and summed up the last half century thusly:
“Everything has changed,” he said succinctly, “and nothing has changed.”
— source telesurtv.net
Commercial vehicle major Ashok Leyland on Monday launched ‘Circuit’ Series – first Electric Bus Made in India.
Designed and engineered in India, for India, by Indians – the 100 per cent electric bus is a zero-emission, non-polluting vehicle, created specifically for Indian roads and passenger conditions, the company said in a statement.
— source business-standard.com
An international research project has found human activity has been causing global warming for almost two centuries, proving human-induced climate change is not just a 20th century phenomenon.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Nerilie Abram from The Australian National University (ANU) said the study found warming began during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and is first detectable in the Arctic and tropical oceans around the 1830s, much earlier than scientists had expected.
“It was an extraordinary finding,” said Associate Professor Abram, from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.
“It was one of those moments where science really surprised us. But the results were clear. The climate warming we are witnessing today started about 180 years ago.”
The new findings have important implications for assessing the extent that humans have caused the climate to move away from its pre-industrial state, and will help scientists understand the future impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate.
“In the tropical oceans and the Arctic in particular, 180 years of warming has already caused the average climate to emerge above the range of variability that was normal in the centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution,” Associate Professor Abram said.
The research, published in Nature, involved 25 scientists from across Australia, the United States, Europe and Asia, working together as part of the international Past Global Changes 2000 year (PAGES 2K) Consortium.
Associate Professor Abram said anthropogenic climate change was generally talked about as a 20th century phenomenon because direct measurements of climate are rare before the 1900s.
However, the team studied detailed reconstructions of climate spanning the past 500 years to identify when the current sustained warming trend really began.
Scientists examined natural records of climate variations across the world’s oceans and continents. These included climate histories preserved in corals, cave decorations, tree rings and ice cores.
The research team also analysed thousands of years of climate model simulations, including experiments used for the latest report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to determine what caused the early warming.
The data and simulations pinpointed the early onset of warming to around the 1830s, and found the early warming was attributed to rising greenhouse gas levels.
Co-researcher Dr Helen McGregor, from the University of Wollongong’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said humans only caused small increases in the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere during the 1800s.
“But the early onset of warming detected in this study indicates the Earth’s climate did respond in a rapid and measureable way to even the small increase in carbon emissions during the start of the Industrial Age,” Dr McGregor said.
The researchers also studied major volcanic eruptions in the early 1800s and found they were only a minor factor in the early onset of climate warming.
Associate Professor Abram said the earliest signs of greenhouse-induced warming developed during the 1830s in the Arctic and in tropical oceans, followed soon after by Europe, Asia and North America.
However, climate warming appears to have been delayed in the Antarctic, possibly due to the way ocean circulation is pushing warming waters to the North and away from the frozen continent.
— source anu.edu.au