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Category Archives: War On Drugs

The right is trying to link George Soros and George Floyd protests. Don’t let it. – NBC News

Posted: June 6, 2020 at 5:56 pm

The killing of George Floyd, an American-born African American man, and the protests against police brutality that have engulfed the nation since his death would seem to not have much in common with George Soros, the nearly 90-year-old Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor and billionaire philanthropist.

And yet over the last week conspiracy theorists have been busy linking Soros to the protests and the present moment.

On June 2, former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani opined that there was "coordination" between the protests, and a "guiding hand in some of this." He went on to link Antifa and Soros. Bill Mitchell, a Miami-based conservative talk show host, tweeted, Will someone PLEASE just arrest George Soros? on May 30, the same day he pinned the protests on the DNC, and queried if protestors were a "Soros rent-a-mob?"

On June 1, a Fox News guest said that Soros should be deported because he is the destruction of our civilization and a clear and present danger to our country. He went on, Follow the money and I suspect you're going to find Open Society Foundation and George Soros' fingerprints.

The ADL recently reported that negative tweets about Soros jumped from 20,000 per day to over 500,000 from May 26 to May 30. The tweets range from Candace Owens insisting that Soros backs Antifa, to former game show host Chuck Woolery claiming the protests are the work of Soros. Its practically become a meme.

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Search George Soros on right-wing Twitter and you will find crowds of agitators either convinced that George Soros is funding and organizing the protests or attempting to convince others thats the case. Blaming Soros is a way of delegitimizing the protests; calls for justice and participation in protests are, at their core, about who gets to participate and be heard in a democracy. Claiming they are being masterminded from a backroom denies the agency of every protester on the ground.

Blaming Soros is a way of delegitimizing the protests; calls for justice and participation in protests are, at their core, about who gets to participate and be heard in a democracy.

Of course, Soros conspiracy theories are hardly new. Theyve been around, on and off and around the world, for decades. Soros is the perfect bogeyman: As a Jewish American financier, he attracts anti-Semites and the anti-elite. As the long-time major funder of liberal causes, he draws those who despise open society, the very concept he has underwritten around the world. Commentators who distort the facts behind that philanthropy create a fun-house mirror that takes a true statement say, George Soros gave money to help advocates fight to restore immigrants welfare benefits (correct) and morph it into a false one George Soros is flooding the country with a migrant caravan (very, very false).

In these weeks of American anger, the far-right has found Soros to be the perfect foil. To understand why he is being attacked for, or even linked to, these particular protests against police brutality and racial injustice, one must understand that Soros has long supported criminal justice reform and backed people who are willing to push for greater democracy. What those seeing only ill-will (or worse, nefarious back room dealing) in a time of peaceful protest have done is to see Soross effort to make criminal justice more equitable and use it to accuse him of funding, or literally paying off, the protestors asking for the very same thing.

Soros began to push for criminal justice reform back in the 1990s, long before it was popular. He came into the issue through drug policy; he was among the first to believe that the war on drugs was a folly. Soros was sure drug use and addiction was a medical issue, not a criminal one, a position that others in the criminal justice reform movement embraced. At the time, it was not a nationally, or globally, accepted stance.

To give one example: In the late 1990s, Soros established Open Society America and set up an Open Society field office in Baltimore. Kurt Schmoke, the citys first African American mayor, had long been on the record wanting to treat drug use, abuse and addiction through the public health system, rather than the criminal justice system. Backed by Soros, the Baltimore field office thus put millions of dollars behind Schmokes initiatives on this front, including one that tried to use the citys needle exchange program to train drug users to recognize an overdose and treat it with Narcan (Naloxone), which reverses the effects of an overdose. Open Society went further than needle exchange programs and also gave out grants to encourage Maryland to reform its parole system and awarded fellowships and grants to individuals and organizations working on providing effective alternatives to incarceration. (I interviewed some of the grantees in the course of working on my book on Soros, and while they still felt that they were working against the prevailing system, they felt that they were able to do a lot.)

Tucker Carlson accused Soros of hijacking American democracy last year.

But its not just his philanthropic work that links Soros to those who have pushed for criminal justice reform. He has also funded progressive prosecutors in their district attorneys races. One was Larry Krasner, who beat six other Democrats to win a primary and went on to become the district attorney in Philadelphia. Not all of them win of course; in upstate New York, his money wasnt enough to get progressive candidate Shani Curry Mitchell to defeat the Republican incumbent. These are people who have promised to reform the criminal justice system from within. That money may occasionally help win races, but it has also won him enemies, like Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who accused Soros of hijacking American democracy last year even though backing those who support criminal justice reform could just as easily be describe as upholding democracy, or making democracy more universal.

Conspiracy theorists and strong-man world leaders alike blame Soros when their streets and plazas are consumed by protesters.

Conspiracy theorists and strong-man world leaders alike blame Soros when their streets and plazas are consumed by protesters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted in 2018 that the famous Hungarian Jew George Soros had been behind Gezi Park protests against urban development in Istanbul in 2013, a full five years earlier. Former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico blamed outside forces for anti-corruption protests that eventually led to his resignation and said that the president at the time, Andrej Kiska, who was critical of him, had been influenced by Soros (Soros rejected Ficos claims). In Romania, one television broadcaster insisted Soros was paying dogs to come out to the streets during the anti-corruption protests in that country in 2017 (according to this broadcaster, the dogs were offered less than their humans). And, of course, there is Soross one-time grantee, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbn who went to Oxford on a Soros scholarship and now blames Soros for everything from migrants to criticism of Hungarys handling of the coronavirus.

Back in the U.S., in the fall of 2018, when Americans took to the halls of the Senate to protest the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court after news broke that hed allegedly attempted to sexually assault Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in high school, Trump tweeted: The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Dont fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers.

It has even happened before on protests related to police brutality; Soros was accused of paying for protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 after Michael Brown Jr. was killed. There, too, he had given money to grassroots groups and activists; but he had not paid for or organized protests.

Soross Open Society Foundations do support anti-corruption NGOs and grassroots groups around the world and right here at home. But the idea that Soros has organized protests, and then paid people to attend them, isnt just absurd and wrong. The implication that protesters are paid to shout, or hold their signs, or weep in rage, is fundamentally an insult to the initiative and agency of those who got up and took to the streets to participate in democracy.

The very name Open Society comes from Karl Poppers 1945 book of political philosophy "The Open Society and Its Enemies." Popper argued that no one philosophy or ideology or person can ever really know or say what is true, and so we all must be allowed to participate in a democracy, freely express our ideas and shape our societies.

We can argue that no one single person should have enough money to give toward all these causes, and that the very idea of billionaires in a society is counter to the idea of democracy.

But Soros, in putting his money toward reforming a deeply unequal and racist criminal justice system and in supporting causes about which people care enough to go out and protest, has tried to make ours a participatory democracy in more than just name. That far-right agitators are calling for his arrest during these protests tells us far more about who part of this country believes have permission to raise their voices and participate in a democracy than it does about Soros.

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The right is trying to link George Soros and George Floyd protests. Don't let it. - NBC News

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Calum Marsh: Defunding the police isn’t radical. It’s so lucid it’s a wonder it took a movement to catch on – National Post

Posted: at 5:56 pm

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hands or knee of Derek Chauvin and the Minneapolis Police Department, demonstrations have been mounted across the United States, and in major cities throughout the world, in protest of police brutality, excessive use of force, and systemic racism and violence toward black people, typified by Floyds senseless, tragic death. In Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, and other Canadian cities, protesters marched in solidarity with the American demonstrators, as well as to protest the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a black indigeneous woman who fell from her balcony in late May, whose family is pursuing the claim that her death was caused by Toronto police.

These demonstrations some of the largest and most sustained in recent history are about more than demanding justice for George Floyd, which, as a direct consequence of protest, has already been partly achieved. (All four of the officers involved in his death have been fired and now face criminal charges.) Whats being called for now is comprehensive, fundamental, even revolutionary change. The United States and of course Canada has a problem with racism and criminal justice. The solution isnt reform. Its to defund the police.

This is not a position easily understood. It requires seriously rethinking our assumptions around law and order, community, justice and civic responsibility. Defunding the police represents an effort to confront the problem not by making minor adjustments, but by completely reimagining the role of the institution itself.

An idea once considered radical, defunding the police has suddenly been propelled by this movement into the mainstream. Los Angeles has decided not to move forward with a planned increase in police spending, and in fact will reduce the police budget by upwards of $150 million. In Minneapolis, where the protests began, city council president Lisa Bender says the city intends to dismantle the police department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.

What does defunding the police actually look like? Alex S. Vitale, in his extraordinary book The End of Policing, outlines the necessary changes so clearly and lucidly that the concept starts to look simple. He begins by identifying the most flagrant issues: the militarization of law enforcement, the criminalization of homelessness and most sex work, the you vs them attitude instilled by training academies, the school-to-prison pipeline, the useless and malign War on Drugs.

Police officers in North America are tasked to do too much. Theyre trained to see themselves as warriors and other people as potential threats to be contained or eliminated. They target black and other non-white people at rates that are wildly disproportionate. Theres not enough transparency and next to no accountability.

Reforms remain paramount for the suspension of paid administrative leave for cops under investigation, for new and better training that emphasizes deescalation and community relations. But these reforms, Vitale argues, must be part of a larger vision that questions the basic role of police in society. The larger truth about law enforcement is that these problems are too fundamental to iron out like wrinkles. Theyre part of the fabric of the police. Most of the critical reforms would be ignored, resisted, and overturned, while cops will continue to reproduce their political power by fanning fear of the poor, non-white, disabled, and dispossessed, thereby further centralizing and empowering the institution.

The problem is that most reforms expand the reach of policing. The most recent changes introduced to reduce police brutality and help improve community relations, such as body cameras, civilian review boards and community policing programs have merely amplified the scale of the police and increased police funding, effecting no real change in how cops approach their jobs.

As Vitale points out, more money, more technology, and more power and influence will not reduce the burden or increase the justness of policing. What will is smarter investment and planning: developing robust mental health care and creating low-income housing systems, or creating real avenues out of poverty and social isolation in neighborhoods with high concentrations of crime.

Whenever the idea of defunding the police is raised, crime is always the immediate objection. Without cops, who will protect us? Who will prevent thieves from stealing, violent criminals from running amok, murderers from eluding justice? But defunding or even abolishing the police entirely, doesnt mean that no one should investigate murder. It simply acknowledges that a very, very small percentage of cops are involved in murder cases to begin with, and that the overwhelming majority of cops are involved day to day with situations they are plainly unequipped or ill-suited to deal with.

The alternative proposed is simple. Someone is sleeping on a park bench: instead of a cop, a city employee comes by and offers shelter. Someone is doing drugs in public: instead of a cop, a substance use professional intervenes and determines if they need help. Someone is shouting and behaving erratically in the street: instead of a cop, a social worker trained in dealing with people with mental illness approaches and calms them down, guiding them home or bringing them somewhere for assistance. Earlier this week, an indigenous woman named Chantel Moore in Edmundston, New Brunswick, was shot and killed by police who had come to perform a wellness check at the request of a concerned boyfriend. Does it makes sense for an armed cop to perform a wellness check?

These are not changes anyone expects will be made overnight. They are serious, sweeping changes, and are bound to be controversial, in Canada as much as in the United States. But this year, Toronto City Council approved a budget increase for Toronto Police Services of more than $40 million. Of its $13.5 billion total operating budget, the city spends $1.076 billion on police services. Thats more than the city spends on firefighters, paramedics, libraries, and public housing more than it spends on all of them combined. The point isnt that we ought to flip a switch and watch the entire police just vanish in an instant. Its to drastically cut back, and to reinvest that money into programs and services that will actually do good. Its to defund the police.

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Calum Marsh: Defunding the police isn't radical. It's so lucid it's a wonder it took a movement to catch on - National Post

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It’s a war on the poor why the war on drugs is still sweeping the globe – Morning Star Online

Posted: May 29, 2020 at 12:55 am

INDEPENDENT, investigative journalist and author, Antony Loewenstein has been a maverick player on the left-field of journalism for almost 15 years, reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict, repressive regimes, disaster capitalism and, most recently, the war on drugs.

His new book Pills, Powder and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugstakes a macro-political lens to subject, investigating both wealthy consumer countries such as the US and Britain and impoverished, transit and narco-states, such as Guinea-Bissau, Honduras and the Philippines.

I talked with Loewenstein on a long-distance Skype call to discuss the war on drugs how it functions as a conduit for the US empire and how, at its rotten core, its all about class, class, class Loewenstein also shared his views on the current coronavirus pandemic and how its in danger of being co-opted by the ever-watchful forces of disaster capitalism.

ME: So, what prompted you to write a book about the war on drugs?

AL: I started writing the book five years ago and what frustrated me was how many people thought the drug war was either over or coming to an end and my sense was that this was an untrue narrative.

There are huge problems around the drug war, not least because demand for drugs in the West is at an all-time high. The amount of people inBritain, for instance, who are using cocaine is off the chart and that cocaine has to come from somewhere.

This is not just something that happened under Ronald Regan 30 years ago. This is a real war, now.

I was also wholly frustrated by the journalism around the war on drugs. I felt a lot of it was inaccurate, uses language thats dehumanising to the user and ignores countries that have a direct connection to drugs.

Transit countries are key to this whole question of the drug war, particularly those in West Africa and Central America.

So, while I didnt want to write a book that demonises the users of drugs, I did want to interrogate the mechanism of this unseen, hegemonic war.

ME: Most people, when they think of drug-producing countries, think Colombia, Afghanistan or Mexico. What made you look at somewhere like Guinea-Bissau?

AL: Well, I had heard that Guinea-Bissau, this tiny African country, a former Portuguese colony, had recently become a narco-state. Enormous amounts of cocaine are trafficked through the country on their way to Europe from South America.

Chances are, most of the cocaine being consumed in London tonight will have come through Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest nations on Earth.

All levers of the state, military and political, have been co-opted by South American drug cartels. This is allowed to happen because its such a poor country, meaning its a vulnerable country. Its a beautiful country, but those tropical palm trees mask a population thats been entirely subjugated by the drug trade and drug war.

So I wanted to bring a case study of Guinea-Bissau, to say to the consumer states: these are the countries that have to suffer to get the drugs to you. Not to make them feel guilty but to make them aware that this is what the drug trade and drug warmeans.

ME: Tell me about Bubo Na Tchuto?

AL: Na Tchuto was a retired general in the Guinea-Bissau navy and the US allege that he was one West Africas leading drug kingpins.

In reality, Na Tchuto was set up by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to be involved in a fake drug importation business to allegedly import huge amounts of cocaine and give some of that money to the Colombian Farc.

So he was busted by the DEA, taken to the US, put on trial and ended up pleading guilty for a shorter sentence. He served four years in jail and hes now back in Guinea-Bissau.

The reason I gave the example of Na Tchuto in the book was to show what the DEA regularly does. It essentially entraps people, makes up stories and prosecutes people for the idea of carrying out those stories.

And this is exactly what the FBI has been doing since September 11 to countless Muslims. It coerces them, manipulates them or pressures themto say or plan for an alleged terrorist attack, when theyd never have done that unprodded by the FBI.

And Im not saying dangerous people dont exist, they do, but the implication that this old West African guy was some crazy drug kingpin its ludicrous.

ME: How about Honduras another transit state?

AL: Honduras is where the majority of the cocaine, heading for the US, travels through. Its been a US client state for a hundred years and has subsequently become, or been allowed to become, a narco-state with a narco-president, narco-mayors, narco-government and the Honduran people are terrified. The drug war has turned their country into a failed state.

Not enough journalists go there. And some of the reporting, particularly from the New York Times, surrounding Honduras has just been propaganda.

Normally its a journalist who goes there, embedded with DEA forces or Honduran forces propped up by the DEA. They go over there and praise these illicit counterinsurgency tactics, the idea of co-opting violent thugs to go after the thugs you dont like.

ME: Whats the end game of the war on drugs for the US?

AL: This is an important point. The drug war has never been about ending drug use, or the drug trade. Its never been about that ever.

Its about keeping control and influence over forces you can deal with, that you can work with. Its about propping up intelligence assets and eliminating those who arent, so to speak, your friends.

Honduras is a classic example of this. Juan OrlandoHernandez, the current president, has been accused with serious, hard evidence of taking cartel money. His brother, Tony Hernandez, was recently found guilty in a US court for trying to import huge amounts of cocaine.

If Washington wants to maintain this insane prohibition on drugs, it will inevitably have to maintain states like Honduras to do its dirty work.

During Trumps first term, theres been a lot of press demonising migrants fleeing Honduras, but no-one is asking why are they fleeing? And thats because if you start to pull that thread you begin to realise the USs role is absolutely central.

ME: Do you see the drug war as imperialist?

AL: Nobody who covers the drug war talks about empire. But empire is what the drug war is about. And its always been about that maintaining empire and controlling empire.

And on that level its sadly been very successful and millions of people have died in the process.

ME: What about countries that try a hard-line deterrent approach to eliminate drugs, like Dutertes government in the Philippines? Does that work?

AL: No. The reality is that what Dutertes doing is a war on the poor. Ninety-nine per cent of those whove been killed by Dutertes anti-drug death squads are the intensely poor people living in slums, living with families in complete squalor.

This is not about going after high-level dealers and users of cocaine (which is ubiquitous amongthe upper echelons of Filipino society). Something I saw in the Philippines is that the drug war is about empire in a geopolitical sense, but in a social sense its about class class, class, class. Its a war on the poor, whose lives are incredibly difficult.

Tragically, however, its a very popular war. Many Filipinos support the drug war. When I was there investigating, I found that even people who had family killed by Duterte still admired what hes trying to do.

Its almost this Freudian thing Daddy needs to come and clean out the streets. Its much like Trump. The drug war is Dutertes vessel for this, instead of build the wall or whatever it is now.

What price are we willing to pay for our perceived security, thats the question in the Philippines tens of thousands of people massacred by vigilante groups in their slum? A lot of people are, sadly, fine with this.

The other scary part of this is whether what Duterte is doing will provide a blueprint for potential authoritarians. Because hes getting away with it. Trump has even said he admires what Duterte is doing.

ME: What about on a consumer level? Drug prosecutions may focus on the lower tiers of class, but drug use certainly doesnt.

AL: In countries like Britain, which I explore in the book, drug use cuts across all social classes and has become almost ubiquitous.

For years there was an impression with cocaine that it was just the rich. And years ago that was true. Now its not.

Its incredibly cheap and incredibly pure not that you cant get impurities in an unregulated substance. Many people also die. Or get hospitalised from going to the pub and taking it which makes them drink more pints which they often cant take.

So hospitalisation rates from drugs in Britain has never been higher. Not because the drugs are somehow more dangerous, but because more people are doing them.

And the broader question is, why is there such a big demand? Theres a number of reasons for people to take drugs they want to get high, they want to get over a personal tragedy, theres a thousand reasons.

But the idea that keeping these drugs illegal so fewer people will take them is deluded and has failed so spectacularly as to be absurd.

There are millions of people who will break the law in Britain over the next week by taking drugs. I have no problem with them breaking stupid laws. But it goes to show two things.

First that the prohibition approach is not working and second that more people than ever feel the need for some kind of alteration or escape.

ME: So whos benefiting by the perpetuation of the war on drugs?

AL: Many people. The DEA get higher and higher budgets every year. And theres an osmosis between the war on terror and the drug war.

People in the corridors of power argue that there is a link between the cartels and Middle Eastern terrorist cells like Isis or al Qaida. This is complete bullshit.

There is evidence that certain drug money has assisted militant groups, such as the Taliban, but this expansion of the invisible enemy is a political tool. Its a self-perpetuating, quasi-religious battle and theres billions of dollars invested in it worldwide. It allows empire to continue across the globe.

Most politicians Ive talked to about the war on drugs are, frankly, gutless and shit-scared of putting forward an alternative view, for fear of being seen as weak. Things are changing a bit, though.

In Britain you even have Tory MPs like Crispin Blunt [a former prisons minister], calling for legalisation of drugs. Labour has a unique opportunity, with a new leader, of putting forward a more sensible drug policy.

ME: Were now in the midst of a pandemic. Your previous book, Disaster Capitalismdetailed how corporations make a killing from disaster. Should we be worried?

AL: Disaster capitalists always look for an opportunityto strike when society is weak and vulnerable. The coronaviruscrisis has exposed the weaknesses of the current, global economic order, even in wealthy countries such as the US and Western Europe, where government mismanagement has led to catastrophe and far too many deaths.

There are companies and individuals seeing financial opportunity in this disaster. From pharmaceutical companies looking to profit from a possible vaccine to private health care providers aiming to exclude anybody who doesnt pay the top premiums, our capitalist societies are designed to benefit the rich and exclude the poor.

Why are private corporations being contractedto build field hospitals in the first place acompanyin Australia such as Aspen Medical, for instance, which has a troubling record when the state should be providing all necessary services?

We should also be wary of states using the cover of Covid-19 to instituteextreme surveillance methods, often designed by shady,privatised intelligence services, allegedly in the name of protecting us.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Where is NAACP’s outrage toward abortion, black-on-black crime? – Anniston Star

Posted: at 12:55 am

In the last couple of issues of The Daily Home, a couple of articles concerning whether to hang drug dealers, with three convictions, has drawn the ire of the NAACP. This 100-plus year organization Is on record opposing lynchings.

President Nixon's war on drugs has been disastrous. The government Is spending trillions of dollars fighting against illegal drugs. Prisons are filled, and there are backlogs.

Presently, there are around 162,000 inmates serving a life sentence nationwide, and 50,000 of them have no chance for parole.

There are 33 countries in the world that have a death penalty for drug offenses. Since January 2015, more than 1,300 drug dealers worldwide are known to have been executed for drug-related offenses.

America has a death penalty for certain crimes, so instead of hanging, maybe the Sylacauga mayoral candidate should try to get his representatives to get legislation passed to have a death penalty for habitual drug dealers, regardless of skin color. This would save taxpayers millions a year for incarceration.

This said, I question why the NAACP does not push for a federal law to ban abortion (legalized baby murder) or work to get the Roe v. Wade, abortion law over turned.

It is estimated that 125,000 babies are aborted (murdered) daily worldwide. Depending on whose data is used, it is estimated that almost 30 percent of babies aborted in the United States are black.

Meanwhile, black-on-black crime remains a major problem in this country.

As a former member, I encourage the NAACP to come out as forceful against baby murdering and black-on-black killings as they have about whether to hang or not.

Thank you, Mr. Editor, for permitting me this opportunity to express my view.

Larry Barton,

Talladega

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Where is NAACP's outrage toward abortion, black-on-black crime? - Anniston Star

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In this documentary, Duterte’s drug war is a hunt for the aswang – CNN Philippines

Posted: at 12:55 am

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) Kapag sinabi nilang may aswang, ang ibig sabihin nila: matakot ka.

The central metaphor of the newest full-length documentary on the Duterte administrations war on drugs campaign isnt just apt; it resonates true to the Filipino experience, like a gong in any locals psyche.

As the first Filipino-directed full-length documentary, it draws parallels with the aswang not just as a vampiric, shape-shifting monster of folklore, but also as a CIA creation for fear-mongering, and as a real-life marauder that mimics the behavior of something out of lower mythology, disguised and clandestine.

Even now during the community quarantine, there are rumors that Iloilo and West Visayan officials are using aswang scare tactics to help impose the curfew against the locals.

In the late 2010s, director Alyx Ayn Arumpac was in Europe for a few years, completing her Docnomads Erasmus Mundus Joint Master in Lisbon, Budapest, and Brussels. But she came home in 2015 sans job, later on witnessing how Rodrigo Duterte was elected president. To make ends meet, she took projects and production gigs, while she accompanied her friend, the photojournalist Raffy Lerma (both were former Philippine Collegian colleagues), to his nightwatch rounds on the police and city beats, curious about the rumors of extrajudicial killings.

What Arumpac witnessed on those ride-alongs convinced her of the need for a Filipino perspective on tokhang. Her full-length documentary would not just tackle the emotional heft of the horrid event, but also attempt an expression of her feelings on it that might, she hoped, eventually exorcise her own demons.

From 2016 until post-production in 2019, Arumpac and her crew took to the streets from late night to dawn and bore witness. This was the seed of "Aswang," a joint effort from institutions in France, Norway, Qatar, and Germany that pooled their resources and funding for its completion. First shown at the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), it was supposed to have its local premiere in March 2020s Daang Dokyu festival before the lockdown against COVID-19 cancelled all events.

The documentary follows characters whose fates entwine with the growing violence during two years of killings in Manila. The two central ones are Brother Jun Santiago of the Redemptorist Brothers and the young street kid Jomari.

Santiagoworks not just to document the killings but also helps in the funeral and burial fees for those who are left behind, often poor and almost destitute. While Jomari tells the story of the drug war kids, the orphans and the abandoned youth, since in Jomaris case both his mother and father are in prison for drug-related charges. Its pretty good serendip, too, that the filmmaker met Jomari at the wake of Kian Delos Santos.

There is a third character in this trinity: a woman who confesses to being imprisoned inside the secret jail behind the bookshelf and filing cabinet in a police station in Tondo. Like some ghost she only appears in shadow, close shots of her arms and hands as she draws the cramped layout of the cell on a notebook, filled to the nooks with her fellow prisoners.

"Aswang" can be a bit meandering at first, mostly since it assumes you know the major peaks and valleys of the tokhang chronicles from Kian Delos Santos murder and the rise of the tandem shooting modus, to the secret bookshelf jail and the funeral parlors that deal with the influx of the dead.

"Aswang" director Alyx Ayn Arumpac. Photo by MATTEO GARIGLIO

The two major, and arguably more popular, foreign-made documentaries on the drug war are National Geographics "The Nightcrawlers" (U.K.) and PBS Frontline's "On the President's Orders" (U.S.). Theyre mostly straightforward docus of the informative this-and-that-happened type, with talking heads and arms length objectivity. In Arumpacs narrative though is something innately magic realist, something that is innately Asian rather than Western in approach and tenor. This was made for those who couldnt escape the news, who lived daily with the threat of tandem riders.

"Aswang" is a meditation on the tokhang chronicles by a local, at once sublime and gruesome. What makes this different is its point of view: the perception by a Filipino for fellow Filipinos. The tone is quite liberating, making it free to reflect our own collective feelings of frustration, grief, horror, and utter bewilderment back at us.

That it is beautifully composed of imagery worthy of the caliber of a Hollywood movie or South Korean horror cinema, Arumpac credits to her cinematographer Tanya Haurylchyk, and her editors Anne Fabini and Fatima Bianchi. She states that they truly made the gritty visions look cinematically exquisite. For Arumpac though, there was a feeling of aestheticizing the horror, a distrust of the attractive imagery that happened to be bathed in the blood of real people. Its something that the director struggled with.

That you wish this was some fictional Bong Joon-Ho movie is part of why "Aswang" is so effective. Part of what makes it very Filipino is how it hits the emotive inflection points that the other major tokhang documentaries often only casually gloss over in favor of just-the-hard-facts.

"Aswang" never lets the facts get in the way of the truth, finding a way to conjure emotive exorcism without being sentimental or forgetting the plain bloodiness of it all. Arumpac obviously knew the tragedy and sorrow of her country and her fellow Filipinos intimately. Here, she has lovingly constructed an important, unredacted record for these dark times for our own use, free of pretense or agenda.

The film just won theAmnesty International Human Rights Award at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. The citation for the film said:[Aswang is a]powerful denouncement against state terror, resilient and painful humanitarian stories coming from different voices, enthralling connections between the popular myth of the Aswang monster and everyday violence, poverty and death looming in the cities. A cry of despair from the marginalized, pleading for justice and human rights.

In this interview, Arumpac, executive producer for GMA News and Current Affairs,talks about the making of this powerful and riveting documentary. Opinions expressed in this interview are the subjects.

"Aswang" never lets the facts get in the way of the truth, finding a way to conjure emotive exorcism without being sentimental or forgetting the plain bloodiness of it all. Photo courtesy of ASWANG 2019

Theres a really intimate and comforting feeling that pervades the film in its tone and vibe that it was made for Filipinos. How did you adjust and manage to toe that creative line?

I insisted on this form. I insisted on the aswang, on using the metaphor. And I was told off many times, mostly by my foreign producers. And then I was told, you know, maybe we can do instead a straight reportage? Or a straight film with talking heads and everything? Just so it could be bought by broadcasters.

I was just saying: No, I still want to do the aswang; I want to do the metaphor. I think that was also basically the guide for me as to how to film it, how to approach it. And then I was very fascinated with the connections as well, the spirituality of the Filipino, since the fact that my protagonist was a priest.

Throughout the process, especially during the first month I really tried digging through my thoughts and feelings. So after every shoot I would go home at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. and I would transfer material right away. Then I would write a bit about what happened during the day, sometimes just to make sure I had the names and locations right. Sometimes I would write about what happened. What I thought. What I felt.

Did you draw on personal experiences about the stories of the aswang?

I am from General Santos City and we lived beside a forest inside this subdivision, because it was a newly constructed subdivision. I was around eight years old, I think. One day the yaya of our neighbor said theres a sigbin [Visayan aswang variant] who roams around the village and lives in that forest. At night you need to sleep and you cant wake up, because if you do and you look at the window youll see red eyes and long nails. The windows back in the day were jalousie types. She said the sigbin would put its long clawed fingernails inside the window to get you. I was terrified for so long!

The documentary follows characters whose fates entwine with the growing violence during two years of killings in Manila. Photo courtesy of ASWANG 2019

The beauty of the cinematography really clashes with the bloody subject matter. Its a stark and very powerful contrast.

One of the things that I wrote [a few months in] and [still] remember: I was saying, you know, I always wanted to make cinematic films, beautiful films, but I wrote down that There's nothing beautiful about this. I mean, how can you make a good film out of this? Because there's nothing good about it. I even felt bad about trying to construct images, trying to construct a frame around this entire situation.

The idea of using a beast from folklore that scares makes this documentary very different and very Filipino. That kind of clarity in a nonfiction product is rare.

The entire idea of this war on drugs for me was finding a common enemy, finding a scapegoat. And that's what the president did there. No one liked the drug user and the drug dealer who would rape kids and [Duterte] made this narrative. It has always existed, but he made this narrative and then he made everyone go against this set of people. So that was his common enemy, the same way that previous generations think they went for the communists. That was very clear to me and this was also why I immediately went for this idea, as well, of the aswang.

While other foreign-made and major documentaries about the war on drugs are very different in approach, we think that Filipinos and those familiar with how the tokhang events and stories have gone may find something ritually therapeutic in watching this docu.

I have to say Filipinos will get it more. Filipinos will feel it more, and it was made that way. I didn't expect foreigners to understand all the connections of the images. But then I also had what you would call a target audience. I knew who I was making the film for, and the sooner that was clear to me then the easier I could make my decisions and the easier the rest of my team would get on board.

"Aswang" will soon be available on video-on-demand internationally.

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Colombia to receive US Army unit on June 1 for counter-narcotics support – The City Paper Bogot

Posted: at 12:55 am

Colombia will not get a respite with the War on Drugs despite another frontline with the fight against coronavirus. On June 1, same day that the nationwide lockdown is scheduled to enter a new phase according to the government, the U.S Armys elite Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) will arrive in the country as part of a regional counter-narcotics operation by US Southern Command.

The company-sized unit has been assigned to Colombia to support security forces with logistics and intelligence gathering within Future Zones defined by the Ministry of Defense. The unit will be deployed to Colombia for four months. The mission of SFAB in Colombia is an opportunity to demonstrate our mutual commitment against drug trafficking and support regional peace, respect for sovereignty and the lasting promise to defend shared ideals and values, writes U.S. Southern Commander Admiral Craig Faller in a U.S Embassy statement.

Minister of Defense Carlos Holmes Trujillo emphasized that at no time will there be any transit of foreign troops or participation in military operations. Military operations are carried out exclusively by Colombian troops. The presence of foreign military in a host country is part of long-standing bilateral agreements on security and cooperation.

After a surge in coca production since the signing of the 2016 Final Accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla, the government of President Ivn Duque has pledged to eradicate manually 130,000 hectares this year and up from 98,000 the previous year. The U.S government has insisted that in order to reach objectives established by the government aerial spraying with glyphosate must be approved by Colombian Congress after lawmakers banned the method citing public health and environmental hazards.

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No time to be selling arms to the Philippines | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: at 12:55 am

The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down a lot of things, but U.S. arms sales are not one of them.Since March, the Trump administration has made over$9 billionin major offers in 15 separate deals.But its not just about the money, its about whom were arming.

A case in point is the Philippines, where the Duterte regime is one of the worlds most aggressive human rights abusers.Over27,000people have been killed in the governments war on drugs, many of them by the police and military or government-affiliated death squads. People are being gunned down in the streets without benefit of a trial or formal charges.And the victims have included lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders and trade unionists whose only crime has been opposing the regimes repressive practices.

Despite this record, the Philippine military is slated to receive apackageof attack helicopters, bombs and missiles worth up to $1.5 billion.This comes on the heels of offers of firearms last year that included pistols and semi-automatic rifles for the Philippine armed forces.The helicopters are likely to be used in Dutertes scorched earth counterinsurgency campaign on the island of Mindanao, where450,000 peoplehave been driven from their homes by indiscriminate aerial attacks. As the U.S. State Department has noted in its annual human rightsreport, the killings have included environmentalists and land rights activists with no connection to the armed opponents of the government.

If anything, the regimes repression has gotten worse during the pandemic, with over30,000people arrested for alleged violations of social distancing rules, many of them herded into overcrowded prisons orplaced in dog cages,where they are at far greater risk of contracting COVID-19.Meanwhile, President Duterte has been granted emergency powers akin to martial law and has used them to harshly crack down on critics of the regime, including news outlets that dare to raise questions about its mishandling of the pandemic. Even voluntary aid groups that have been providing food aid to people not reached by the governments inadequate assistance programs have been harassed andarrestedby the police and military.

The Philippine deal is just one of many examples of the Trump administrations penchant for arming authoritarian regimes, often citing the economic benefits of weapons exports, which it gives preference over human rights and security concerns.Just this week Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Senate chairman schedules vote on Trump nominee under investigation MORE (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,revealedthat there is a deal in the works to sell more precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, which is waging a brutal war in Yemen in which it has killed thousands of civilians in air strikes carried out with U.S. aircraft and bombs.Last year Congress voted to block a similar deal, only to have its action vetoed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices and votes MORE.

And thats not all. In addition to the offer of attack helicopters to the Philippines, the Trump administration is seeking to close deals for thousands of armored vehicles to the United Arab Emirates, which has been implicated in running secrettorture sitesin Yemen,divertingU.S.-supplied weapons to extremist militias and members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and arming opposition forces in Libya in violation of a United Nations arms embargo.

The administration is also offering upgraded Apache attack helicopters toEgypt, where the al-Sisi regime haskilledthousands of non-violent opponents and thrown tens of thousands of critics in jail, even as it wages a harsh counterterror campaign marked by arbitrary arrests, torture, the forced removal of thousands of people from their homes and the bombing of civilian targets.

Several members of Congress are organizing a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper demanding a delay in the flood of arms sales announced in the past few months to allow Congress adequate time to be briefed on and carefully consider each of them. In an ideal world, Congress would block all of the sales specifically mentioned above, which are likely to cause suffering in the recipient countries even as they undermine long-term U.S. interests in peace and stability in key regions. But its not an easy task.It currently takes a veto proof majority two-thirds of both houses of Congress to stop an arms sale. The procedure should be reversed, so that major arms sales cannot go forward without explicit congressional approval.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised serious questions about how best to protect the United States and the world.Mindlessly trafficking in weapons to questionable regimes is just one of the things that needs to change.

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy.

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The battle of COVID in the ‘quiet war’ on China | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: at 12:55 am

China is seemingly at war with us even if it is a quiet war. The conflict stems in part from the Chinese government reportedly hoarding or restricting exports of ventilator parts and personal protective equipment to the U.S. and other countries as the pandemic spread across the globe. That is especially troublesome since, at the time, the U.S. and many nations were faced with medical shortages, health care workers were in danger, and COVID-19 patients were gasping for air. We managed to win that battle and produced our own ventilators and masks, but only after too many lives were lost.

The National Institute of Health's Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump confronted with grim COVID-19 milestone Overnight Health Care: Health officials eye emerging hotspots | CDC cautions against relying on antibody tests for back to work decisions | Fauci says no evidence for hydroxychloroquine The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump ramps up attacks against Twitter MORE and Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have both told me they have great relationships with Chinese scientists and received valuable information about COVID-19, but what is far more important is the critical information that was withheld from us the ease of spread, the multi-system organ failure and blood clots recorded among patients. Instead of informing us directly or via its tool, the World Health Organization, the Chinese government was busy locking down Wuhan while allowing international flights which spread the virus.

To win this war, we must first recognize it, as we did with the Soviet Union after World War II. Our next great battle is to reposition our supply chain and not respond to threats, even amid a pandemic.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 13.4 percent of our drug and biologic imports are from China, along with 39.3 percent of our medical devices. The vast majority of our antibiotics, over-the-counter pain killers and generic drugs to treat HIV, diabetes Alzheimers disease and seizures, all originate in China.

We must win this battle of the quiet war to cut this health care supply line and bring drug and medical device production back home. Generic production in India, a trusted ally (and a natural bulwark against China), which already supplies more than a third of our over-the-counter and generic prescription drugs, should be expanded as a backup plan. We must not allow China to further exploit our health care supply vulnerability, especially at a time when we are reeling from the economic devastations of the pandemic, which it brought us.

2019 was a great year for us before the virus hit. American companies, including Apple, were making plans to move production back to the U.S. The car industry announced more than $30 billion in U.S.-based investment. Imports of manufactured goods from Asia were falling, and China felt threatened. We must continue on this road if we are to save our great society. We must rebuild our drug production. Americans will feel more confident knowing a medicine was made here (or even in India) rather than in unreliable China.

We must also win the battle of the vaccine. Not just because China's vaccine industry is infamous for producing defective vaccines, but so that they don't hold us, hostage, to it if they beat us to the punch.

So far, so good on that front: Promising vaccines from Moderna, Oxford University (backed by Astra Zeneca) and BioNTech (a German company backed by Pfizer) are proceeding rapidly through clinical trials.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices and votes MORE's "Operation Warp Speed" is a bold attempt to win the race to the vaccine against China, much as the Manhattan Project beat Germany to the atomic bomb during World War II. This is a much quieter war, but we must win it, too, in order to protect our health care system and save the world once again this time from a lethal virus and the country that wants to use it to exploit us further to win the quiet war.

Marc Siegel, M.D., is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Health. He is a Fox News medical correspondent. Follow him on Twitter:@drmarcsiegel.

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Stevenson: We have to find ways to create more equality, more opportunity, more justice – Harvard Law School News

Posted: at 12:55 am

Toward the close of his Harvard Law School commencement address, Bryan Stevenson J.D./M.P.P. 85 let the graduates in on a secret: He did not attend his own HLS graduation in 1985. I dont have a good excuse, like a pandemic. I was just kind of anxious to get to work, things were busy.

Stevensons work as a lawyer and social activist has made him an inspirational figure to many. He is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, the nonprofit organization behind the recently opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama, which is dedicated to the victims of lynching in the United States. In a pre-recorded talk for HLS first virtual commencement ceremony on Thursday, he urged the graduates to jump into their work with the same zeal that he didand to keep their ideals and their hopes intact.

The class, he said, had already mastered law; the next step is to pursue justice. This pandemic has exposed the issues that we have in our society. Too many people are sick. Too many people are dying. So many people cant get the health care they should be getting because of these problems. Its the same with legal services and access to justice. Too many people cant get the legal help they need We have to find ways to create more equality, more opportunity, more justice.

Bridging these gaps will require a commitment to doing things sometimes not for money, but because it is what we are called to do, Stevenson said. He outlined a four-point program for graduates to call on for bringing about real justice. They need, he said, to stay proximate to those they hope to represent. They need to fight back against the narratives that have created injustice. They need to stay hopeful and remember that your hope is your superpower. And finally, they have to be willing to do inconvenient and uncomfortable things.

Find a way to get proximate to the people who are marginalized, who are excluded.

Stevenson said that proximity can take many forms: For him it meant going to death row to represent inmates. I learned that we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if youre rich and guilty than if youre poor and innocent. I learned that each of us is more than the worst thing weve ever done. While the graduates may not choose the same path, he urged them to find a way to get proximate to the people in your neighborhoods, your communities, the places where you work, the places where you livethe people who are marginalized, who are excluded.

He called on the graduates to change the narratives that sustain inequality and make us indifferent to human suffering. In particular he cited the war on drugs that began in the late 70s and identified drug users as criminals rather than addicts with a medical problem. The result, he said, was that by 2001, one in three black male babies was expected to eventually go to prison. The other consequence was a nation divided by fear and anger.

But the roots of this inequality go back further, to the killing of American natives by European settlers and to the institution of slavery. The true evil of American slavery was this narrative we created that black people arent fully human. Stevenson encountered this narrative himself as a lawyerwhen a judge saw a well-dressed black man and presumed he was a defendantand he saw it again in the recent Georgia killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Two white men killed that young man on the street, and our system did not respond. We tried to justify that violence based on these narratives of racial difference.

This is a strange time. Its a difficult time. We cant all be together. But I am persuaded that we shall overcome.

Finally, he urged the graduates to remain hopeful, and to risk uncomfortable situations. He recalled doing both at one trial, when the discriminatory treatment of his 14-year-old client led him to write a motion that the teenager instead be treated like a 75-year-old corporate executive. The language in that motion triggered a courtroom shouting match. But Stevensons defense of his client led an older black man, who worked as a court janitor, to appear uninvited at the trial to urge Stevenson to keep his eyes on the prize.

Stevenson emphasized that each of the graduates has the ability to make the future more just. We will get to a different place, he said. This is a strange time. Its a difficult time. We cant all be together. But I am persuaded that we shall overcome.

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US declares a vaccine war on the world – Asia Times

Posted: at 12:55 am

Donald Trump launched a new vaccine war this month, but not against the virus. It was against the world.

TheUnited States and the UKwere the onlytwo holdoutsin the World Health Assembly from the declaration that vaccines and medicines forCovid-19 should be available as public goods, and not under exclusive patent rights. TheUnited States explicitly dissociated itself from the call for a patent pool, talking instead of the critical role that intellectual property plays in other words, patents for vaccines and medicines.

Having badly botched his Covid-19 response, President Trump is trying to redeem his fortunes for the November elections by promising an early vaccine. The 2020 version of Trumps Make America Great Again slogan is shaping up to be, in essence, vaccinesfor us but the rest of the world will have to queue up and pay what Big Pharma asks, as it will hold the patents.

In contrast, all other countries agreed with theCosta Rican proposal in the World Health Assemblythat there should be a patent pool for all Covid-19 vaccines and medicines. President Xi Jinping saidChinese vaccines would be available as a public good, a view shared by European Union leaders. Among the10 candidate vaccines in Phase 1 and 2of clinical trials, the Chinese have five, the United States has three, and the UK and Germany have one each.

Trump has given anultimatum to the World Health Organization (WHO)with a permanent withdrawal of funds if it does not mend its ways in 30 days. In sharp contrast, in the World Health Assembly (the highest decision-making body of the WHO), almost all countries, including close allies of the United States, rallied behind the WHO.

Thefailure of the US Centers for Disease Control and Preventionagainst Covid-19, with nearly four times the annual budget of the WHO, is visible to the world. The CDC failed toprovide a successful testfor SARS-CoV-2 in thecritical months of February and March, while ignoring the WHOssuccessful test kitsthat were distributed to 120 countries.

Trump has yet to hold his administration and the CDC responsible for this criminal bungling. This,more than any other failure, is the reason that Covid-19 infections in the US now number more than 1.5 million, about a third of the global total. Contrast this with China, the first to face an unknown epidemic, stopping it at 82,000 infections, and the amazing results that countriessuch as VietnamandSouth Koreahave produced.

One issue is now looming large over the Covid-19 pandemic. If we do not address the issue of intellectual-property rights, we are likely to see arepeat of the AIDS tragedy.

People died for 10 years (1994-2004)as patented AIDS medicine was priced at US$10,000 to $15,000 for a years supply, far beyond their reach. Finally,patent laws in India allowed people to get AIDS medicineat less than a dollar a day, or $350 for a years supply. Today, 80% of the worlds AIDS medicinecomes from India.

For Big Pharma, profits trumped lives, and they will continue to do so, Covid or no Covid, unless we change the world.

Most countries have compulsory licensing provisions that allow them to break patents in case of epidemics or health emergencies. Even the World Trade Organization (WTO), after a bitter fight, accepted in its Doha Declaration (2001) that in a health emergency, countries have the right to allow any company to manufacture a patented drug without the patent holders permission, and even import it from other countries.

Why is it, then, that countries are unable to break patents, even if there are provisions in their laws and in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement? The answer is their fear of US sanctions against them.

Every year, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issues a Special 301 Report that it has used to threaten trade sanctions against any country that tries to compulsorily license any patented product.

India figures prominentlyin this report year after year, for daring toissue a compulsory licensein 2012 to Natco, an Indian pharmaceutical company, for nexavar, a cancer drug Bayer was selling formore than $65,000 for a year of treatment. Marijn Dekkers, the chief executive of Bayer, was quoted widely that this wastheft, and We did not develop this medicine for Indians. We developed it for Western patients who can afford it.

This leaves unanswered how many people even in the affluent West can afford a $65,000 bill for an illness. But there is no question that a bill of this magnitude is a death sentence for anybody but the super-rich in countries like India. Though a number of other drugs were also under consideration for compulsory licensing at that time, India has not exercised this provision again after receiving US threats.

It is the fear that countries can break patents using their compulsory-licensing powers that led to proposals for patent pooling. The argument was that since many of these diseases do not affect rich countries, Big Pharma should either let go of their patents to such pools, or philanthropic capital should fund the development of new drugs for this pool.

Facing the Covid-19 pandemic, it is this idea of patent pooling that emerged in the recentWorld Health Assembly, WHA-73. All countries supported this proposal, barring theUnited States and its loyal camp follower, the UK.

TheUnited States also entered its disagreementon the final WHA resolution, being thelone objectorto patent pooling of Covid-19 medicines and vaccines, noting the critical role that intellectual property plays in incentivizing the development of new and improved health products.

While patent pooling is welcome if no other measure is available, it also makes it appear as if countries have no other recourse apart from the charity of big capital. What this hides, as charity always does, is that people and countries have legitimate rights even under TRIPS to break patents under conditions of an epidemic or other health emergency.

The United States, which screams murder if a compulsory license is issued by any country, has no such compunction when its own interests are threatened. During the anthrax scare in 2001, the US secretary of healthissued a threat to Bayerunder eminent domain for patents for licensing the anthrax-treatment drug ciprofloxacin to other manufacturers.

Bayer folded, and agreed to supply the quantity needed at a price that the US government had set. And without a whimper. Yes, this was the same Bayer that considers India a thief for issuing a compulsory license.

The vaccination for Covid-19 might need to be repeated each year, as we still do not know the duration of its protection. It is unlikely that a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 willprovide a lifetime immunitylike the smallpox vaccine.

Unlike AIDS, where the patient numbers were smaller and were stigmatized in different ways, Covid-19 is a visible threat for everyone. Any attempt to hold people and governments to ransom on Covid-19 vaccines or medicines could see the collapse of the entire patent edifice of TRIPS that Big Pharma, backed by the United States and major EU countries, have built.

That is why the more clever in the capitalist world have moved toward a voluntary patent pool for potential Covid-19medicines and vaccines. This means that companies or institutions holding patents on medicines, such as remdesivir, or vaccines would voluntarily hand them over to such a pool.

The terms and conditions of such a handover, meaning at concessional rates, or for only for certain regions, are still not clear, leading to criticism that a voluntary patent pool is not a substitute for declaring that all such medicines and vaccines should be designated as global public goods during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unlike clever capital, Trumps response to the Covid-19 vaccine is to bully his way through. He believes that with the unlimited money that the United States is now willing to put into the vaccine efforts, it will either beat everybody else to the winning post, orbuy the companythat issuccessful. If this strategy succeeds, he can then use his Covid-19 vaccine as a new instrument of global power. It is the United States that will then decide which countries get the vaccine (and for how much), and which ones dont.

Trump does not believe in arule-based global order, even if the rules arebiased in favorof the rich. He is walking out of variousarms-control agreementsand hascrippled the WTO. He believes that the United States, as the biggest economy and themost powerful military power, should have the untrammeled right to dictate to all countries. Threats ofbombing and invasionscan be combined withillegal unilateral sanctions and the latest weapon in his imaginary arsenal is withholding vaccines.

Trumps little problem is that the days of the United States being a sole global hegemon passed decades ago. The United States has shown itself to be afumbling giantand its epidemicresponse shambolic. It has been unable to provide virus tests to its people in time, and failed to stop the epidemic through containment/mitigation measures, which a number of other countries have done.

Chinaand theEUhave already agreed that any vaccine developed by them will be regarded as a public good. Even without that, once a medicine or a vaccine is known to be successful, any country with a reasonable scientific infrastructure can replicate the medicine or the vaccine, and manufacture it locally.

India in particular has one of thelargest generic drug and vaccinemanufacturing capacities in the world. What prevents India, or any country for that matter, from manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines or drugs once they are developed only the empty threat of a failed hegemon on breaking patents?

This article was produced in partnership byNewsclickandGlobetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute, which provided it to Asia Times.

Prabir Purkayasthais the founding editor ofNewsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the Free Software movement.

Asia Times Financialis now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world'sfirst benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices.Read ATFnow.

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