Saturday, August 08, 2009

Mexico: The Genome and the Genocide

The Mexican Genome

When last May 11th, at the nadir of this spring's swine flu panic, President Felipe Calderon strode to the flag-bedecked podium in southern Mexico City and, under the strictest health protocols, lowered his "tapaboca" (surgical mask) to punch the button that would load "The Mexican Genome" onto the world's computers, the only thing that seemed to be missing was a military band to strike up the National Anthem.

The human genome is the ordering of genes in a determined set of chromosomes that contain all the genetic and hereditary memory of the human organism, i.e. the history of our DNA. Although distinct genomes have been decoded for racial groupings - European Caucasians, Asians, and Africans -, science has never before been assigned to decipher the genome of a national state or nation which is, by definition, a political entity, and many here questioned the existence of a "Mexican Genome."

Despite the nay sayers, Dr. Gerardo Jimenez, director of the National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN) whose scientists did the gene mapping insists that the 89 deviations from genetic patterns found in other races, justifies the national character of the "Mexican Genome."

Other scientists scoffed at the INMEGEN project. Science writer Julio Munoz Rubio wondered if Calderon's genome would prompt a genetic explanation for such peculiarly Mexican propensities as "mariachis, tequila, wife-beating, gay-bashing, and racist attitudes towards indigenous peoples." Would a gene be discovered for electoral fraud and the corruption of public officials asked one letter-writer to La Jornada, the left daily, pointing out that, according to a government audit, half a million Yanqui dollars appears to have gone missing during the construction of the INMEGEN headquarters in the south of the city?

Calderon's political opponents also questioned the timing of the announcement of the discovery of the Mexican Genome during a health crisis that had been tainted by his administration's overreaction to the swine flu pandemic after a six-week delay in alerting the public to the contagion.

The president countered his critics by lauding the cost benefits that the decoding of the Mexican Genome would mean for public health care. Cost effective preventative medicines and treatments could now be delivered to confront the nation's Number One killers, Diabetes, and Obesity. So-called "personalized" drugs would now be designed to deal with the health problems of the Mexican people. "Super Positive News!" read the crawl on the Univision report about the "Mexican Genome."

But which Mexicans will be the beneficiaries of this cutting edge science? Mexico is, indeed, many nations. The vast bulk of the population - 80 million out of 103 million - are of mixed European and indigenous stock (65% of the genetic material identified in the Mexican Genome is listed as "Amerindian".) On the other hand, Mexico is home to 57 distinct ethnic groups or "peoples" (15 to 20 million, a fifth of all Mexicans) whose genetic make-up is distinct from the Mestizo population.

The INMEGEN's Jimenez insists that indigenous peoples were not slighted in the compilation of the Mexican Genome - although he is not sure if samples of DNA were collected from all 57 indigenous peoples.
During a forum held this July at the National College to celebrate the publication of the Mexican Genome, Dr. Jimenez explained that INMEGEN scientists had rounded up samples from anonymous Indian donors - it is unclear if the donors knew what they were being swabbed for. Skeptical academics in the audience also wondered if drugs or treatments designed for the mestizo population would be accessible to Indian communities? Dr. Jimenez did not respond to questions about the sale or leasing of the Mexican Genome to transnational pharmaceutical giants.

"The Indians will contribute the prime material - their DNA - to enrich the pharmaceutical industry," observes Silvia Ribiero, a biotech writer for La Jornada. "As usual, we will be excluded from the benefits," adds Genaro Dominguez, founder of the National Coordinating Council of the Indian Peoples (CNPI), arguing that the Mexican Genome is a form of ethnocide.

The posting of the Mexican Genome raises critical ethical questions, Diego Valades, former Mexican attorney general and now dean at the National Autonomous University (UNAM)'s law faculty, posited at the July 2nd forum. Will indigenous peoples, the first Mexicans, be regarded as "unMexican" because their genetic sequencing differs from the mestizo norm? Could the compilation of a separate indigenous genome be used to imply the inferiority of Indian Mexicans? The commercial implications of the Mexican Genome are troubling to Valades - the genome is commercial property and can be bought and sold by service providers. Could insurance companies, for example, up premiums for policyholders with bad genes?

The manipulation of the genetic mapping of the indigenous peoples of Mexico is only one front on which Big Science aids and abets ethnic cleansing. The contamination of native maize by transgenic corn and the forced privatization of Indian lands also place scientists in the service of ethnocide.

For eight millenniums, indigenous Mexicans developed and cultivated 300 families of native corn, each with properties designed for the soils and climates in which they were grown. Indian culture and civilization are indelibly entwined with corn cultivation - indeed the Mayans are "people of the corn", literally made from maiz. "No hay pais sin maiz!" ("We have no country without corn!) is the battle cry of Indian campesino movements.

The penetration of transgenic corn into Mexico is the result of massive importation of biotech grains under provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.) Some like Zapotec Indian leader Aldo Gonzalez consider the contamination of native corns by transgenic strains developed by U.S. biotech titans like Monsanto tantamount to genocide.

The discovery that genetically modified corn had been introduced into the rural Oaxaca outback in 2001 alarmed Zapotec farmers in the Sierra Norte, sometimes known as the Sierra of Benito Juarez because it is the birthplace of Mexico's only Indian president. Three years ago, at a forum in the state capital that brought together scientists from the three NAFTA nations to evaluate the impacts of the penetration of transgenic corn on the native crop, Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the Union of Social Organizations of the Juarez Sierra (UOSJS), shook a drying cornstalk at the distinguished panel and accused its member of nothing less than genocide: "the seed of the Zapotec people is our corn and when you kill our corn, you kill us."

Recent non-government studies indicate that the incidence of transgenic corn has spread to maiz-growing regions in at least five non-contiguous states. The surge of transgenic corn threatens to overwhelm and homogenize native species and obliterate millions of years of genetic history.

Now the Sierra of Juarez is under siege from an unlikely coalition of U.S. scientists and the U.S. military. It seems hardly to be a coincidence that University of Kansas geographers working on a grant supplied by the U.S. Department of Defense have spent the past three years mapping the "human terrain" of Zapotec corn growers in the Oaxacan sierra. The "Mexico Indigena" (sic) Project was launched in 2006 by geographers Peter Herlihy and Jerome Dobson and is underwritten by the Foreign Military Study Office (FMSO) based at Fort Leavenworth Kansas, the home of the United States War College. The FMSO is administrated by Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Demarest, a graduate of the School of the Americas and author of such pertinent texts as "Mapping Counterinsurgency."

Technology and data processing for the Mexico Indigena Project is provided by Radiance Technologies, a Pentagon contractor that specializes in information gathering technology. Information gathered by Mexico Indigena will be made available to U.S. government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and its Customs & Border Protection branch.

Ever since the rising of the Mayan Indian Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Chiapas on the very night that NAFTA kicked in in January 1994 and the election of Aymara Indian leader Evo Morales as the first indigenous president of majority Indian Bolivia a decade later, the continent's 60,000,000 Indian peoples have become a source of alarm for Washington strategists. The National Intelligence Council document "Global Trends 2000-2015" warned that Indian uprising would be a cause of instability south of the border in the coming years. The NIC's successor document "Global Trends 2020: Mapping the Global Future" is even more explicit: "indigenous movements are redrawing the regional map."

In Oaxaca, the Mexico Indigena Project is mapping the NIC's global future.

Curiously, Mexico Indigena was launched in 2006 in two Sierra Norte villages, the same year as Oaxaca was torn asunder by the uprising of a broad coalition of grassroots organizations determined to remove the state's despotic governor - the Union of Social Organizations of the Juarez Sierra was a prominent member of the Assembly of the Oaxacan Popular Peoples Organization or APPO. In the Mexico Indigena prospectus posted on line, Project director Herlihy boasts that his work "will illuminate important but neglected facets of these movements."

The Oaxaca isthmus, which the Juarez Sierra borders, is the narrowest neck of Mexico separating the Pacific and Atlantic oceans by a scant 225 kilometers of mountainous terrain and has been considered a strategic passage for global trade between the east and the west for centuries - the isthmus has been an object of U.S. interest ever since Benito Juarez was Mexico's president in the mid-19th century.

According to Aldo Gonzalez, Mexico Indigena geographers have violated their project's stated ethical guidelines by gathering information on the human terrain of the Juarez Sierra by deception. Villagers testify that Herlihy and Dobson never informed the elders' councils of the two villages being mapped that Mexico Indigena was funded by the U.S. military.

Nor did the two University of Kansas scientists divulge to their Zapotec informants that in 2006 they met with none other than General David Petraeus, now in charge of the Central Command and charged with running the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Petraeus, the author of the U.S. Marine corps counter-insurgency manual, complimented the Mexico Indigena Project's goals: "understanding the cultural terrain is a force multiplier (for the U.S. military.")

But what the Mexico Indigena scientists did tell the Zapotec elders was that the mapping information elicited from their communities would be shared with the PROCEDE program, the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture's agency that certifies the holdings of the nation's 27,000 "ejidos" (villages organized as rural production units) and encourages farmers to privatize their plots. Under neo-liberal revisions of Article 27 of the Mexican constitution, ejido farmers can now sell or rent their land or enter into "association" with transnational capital. Although Indian lands are held collectively, Gonzalez reports that PROCEDE agents try to convince Indian farmers to apply for ejido status so their land can be privatized. PROCEDE, in effect, converts Indian land into real estate.

By compiling a plot-by-plot map of the human terrain of the Juarez Sierra, the Mexico Indigena Project is committing "geo-piracy", the Zapotec leader warns. The U.S. scientists locate and map natural resources and facilitate biological theft - bio-piracy, if you will. "The Mexico Indigena scientists are looting Zapotec knowledge of land and territories," Gonzalez insists.

Privatizing Indian land is as much a facet of ethnocide as destroying native corn or submerging indigenous genes in a mestizo genome. Although science has learned to mask its homicidal intentions since the days when Lord Jeffrey Amherst distributed typhoid-impregnated blankets to Ottawa Indian rebels under Chief Pontiac and General George Custer decimated the Sioux, corporate scientists continue to serve the interests of Indian genocide.

John Ross' "El Monstruo - Dread & Redemption In Mexico City" will be published by Nation Books this December. "Iraqigirl", the diary of an Iraqi teenager growing up under U.S. occupation, developed and edited by Ross, is now available from Haymarket Books. John Ross has just been declared cancer-free and will soon be returning to Mexico. He can be reached at:

The Kidney Broker and the Money Laundering Rabbis

The Kidney Broker and the Money Laundering Rabbis

I thought of Cousin Harry when I read about the July 21 bust of five New York and New Jersey orthodox rabbis along with scores of New Jersey officials. Like the clean shaven, dapper and secular Harry, these long bearded and black garbed religious leaders and a ring of politicians, had become professional scammers. They engaged in massive money-laundering and illegal organ trading operations in addition to selling fake Gucci and Prada handbags and anything else. The Sopranos-style network operated with Brooklyn and New Jersey rabbis washing tens of millions of dollars through charities which they controlled.

The arrested included mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield, two state legislators, the Jersey City Council president and its deputy mayor. The rabbis forwarded some of their ill gotten gains to Israeli yeshivas linked to the super-duper Orthodox Shas Party and its uber Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Federal officials also discovered that some of the money laundered by these supposed pillars of Jewish law and ethics came from the sale of human kidneys by a Brooklyn orthodox Jew named Levi Izhak Rosenbaum.

This kick back to politicians, illegal organ sale rackets and rabbis laundering illicit dough -- supposedly to support their ultra orthodox kin in Israel – offered new twists in Talmudic logic. In this tangled narrative the leading money laundering suspect, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Haim’s good buddy in Israel, Rabbi David Yosef, is also Shas jefe Ovadia Yosef’s son. They belonged to an advanced Talmudic studies center in Jerusalem headed by Ovadia Yosef’s family. Ben-Haim got rich Jews in New York to bankroll the institute. Because of the scandal, Haaretz reporter Zvi Zrahiya concludes, “these donations are expected to cease.” He also reports that un-named banks were also apparently involved in the scandal. (Haaretz, 26/07/2009) Shocking!

As a young boy, I accompanied my grandfather to interminable Saturday services at his East Bronx Orthodox synagogue. After hours of muttering in Hebrew, the men in prayer shawls and skull caps retreated to a table laden with sponge and honey cakes alongside shot glasses of whiskey. As they partook, one of my grandfather’s prayer colleagues would inevitably offer me a shot glass and watch, with the others, as a seven year old imitated the pious elders. I was dizzy for hours as the elders giggled “The little pisher is drunk.”

Grandpa also introduced me to some long-bearded, extremely pious looking rabbis, clad in traditional black with skull caps or black hats. Just a few years later, in the early 1950s, some of these authorities on Jewish law and ethics found their names in the New York newspapers as accused Harlem slum lords who refused to supply heat in the winter, make basic repairs or call the exterminator in the rat and roach-laden tenements they owned.

Indeed, periodically such scandals erupt around the hypocrisy of the fundamentalist preachers of the Hebrew faith, as my wife’s Methodist grandmother from Texas referred to them. But the family “oyed” and “veyed” when Cousin Harry got nabbed in a sleazy money fraud in Florida and went to prison. “How could a good Jewish boy [as if!] do such a terrible thing?”

After my grandfather died and I recognized one of the slum owners as a rabbi friend of my grandfather, I asked my grandmother about how such a religious man could have refused to supply heat to poor black families and not called exterminators to oust the rats and roaches. She shrugged indifferently.

“They’re not our people,” my grandmother said in Yiddish.

In October 1964, a story again erupted. Jewish demonstrators picketed the Manhattan offices of the New York Board of Rabbis to protest against Jewish slumlords. The mostly young – teens and twenties – protestors claimed that a published list of New York slumlords contained a large proportion of Jewish names and they were petitioning “the rabbis of New York to seek out the slum owners in their congregations and to threaten them with denunciation from the pulpit and even excommunication if they fail to repair and maintain their properties.” More than 250 Jewish landlords owned more than 500 slum buildings in Manhattan alone.

The demonstrators tried to meet with Head Rabbi Harold Gordon, but he refused. The picketers handed out leaflets charging that “most of 600 buildings whose tenants have complained to housing ‘clinics’ and ‘tenants’ councils on the lower East Side have Jewish landlords” and that “74 of the 80 Lower East Side buildings hit by rent strikes have Jewish landlords.”

A Conservative rabbi told the Village Voice reporter – refusing to give his name or congregation – the picket line was “more exotic than effective.” Asked what the rabbis have done, he said: “They did what they could.” When pressed on what, specifically, the rabbis have done, he replied: “Specifically, I don’t know.” (Stephanie Gervis Harrington, Village Voice, May 7, 1964)

Forty five years later, another scandal involving rabbis and dubious business practices brought this comment from one of my cousins. “At least they don’t test little boys for hemorrhoids and hernias like the Catholic priests do.”

Over the centuries, rabbis, like priests and Protestant ministers galore, have engaged in sexual hanky panky as well as old fashioned theft. Often, they try to cover their wrongdoings with pretenses of religious zealotry – keeping those cash-starved yeshivas open in Jerusalem or bankrolling other charities. But the invisible shield of ethics did not protect these supposed holy men from engaging in flagrant crime.

A New Jersey State Attorney said “it seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the action. Corruption was widespread and pervasive.” The politicians sold their services to the rabbis who “cloaked their extensive criminal activity behind a facade of rectitude.”

The laundered money came from Israel, via Swiss banks and then to New Jersey. Israeli gonifs would buy kidneys from “vulnerable people” in Israel for $10,000, and then get them shipped to their rabbinical associates who would sell them in the United States for $160,000, he said. (AP, July 25, 2009)

Like Cousin Harry, Brooklyn’s Levy Izhak Rosenbaum considered himself a “matchmaker.” In a secretly recorded conversation, Rosenbaum boasted about matching kidney donors with recipients. “I bring a guy what I believe, he’s suitable for your uncle.” Rosenbaum, 58, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, resembles Tony Soprano who worked in “waste management.” Rosenbaum claimed he was in “construction.” Criminals who lead traditional lives!

Unlike the traditional shotchen (Yiddish for marriage broker), Rosenbaum promoted illegal kidney transplants, not marriages, as he explained to a government informant and an FBI agent posing as the informant’s secretary. The Agent claimed he had an uncle on dialysis, on a transplant list at a Philadelphia hospital. But shortage of kidneys might cost him his life. 4,540 people died in the U.S. last year while waiting for a kidney, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Thus, the kidney black market!

In 2002, UC Berkeley’s Nancy Scheper-Hughes alerted the FBI that Rosenbaum was a broker for an international kidney trafficking gang. He used Moldovan villagers as donors. He promised them jobs in the United States, then coerced them into “donating” their kidneys to recipients who posed as relatives and threatened them with a gun if they resisted. Rosenbaum would show his real gun and then make his fingers into a gun and point one at the reluctant donor’s head. (Somatosphere: Science, Medicine and Anthropology. July 27, 2009,

Some kidney transplants using Rosenbaum’s donors were performed at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Secret FBI recordings of Rosenbaum had him saying he had to spread money around liberally to Israeli doctors, visa preparers and those who cared for the organ donors in this country. “One of the reasons it’s so expensive is because you have to shmear (pay others) all the time,” he was quoted as saying. (AP, July 25, 2009)

Like Cousin Harry, Rosenbaum bragged: “So far, I’ve never had a failure.”

Harry went to synagogue on high holidays and prayed. Rosenbaum went more often. The rabbis prayed daily. Nowhere in the sacred texts did any of them find the quote: “Religion is about getting rich, no matter how, and you can use God to cover your path.” Or, “it’s OK to commit crimes to help Israeli yeshivas."

Saul Landau is vice chair of the Institute for Policy Studies board of trustees. His most recent book is A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD (CounterPunch / AK Press).

As a Matter of Interest to Canadians

In Our Interest
by C. L. Cook

It occurred to me last year around this time, at the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the proclamation making official the theft of the territory now known as the Province of British Columbia; Canadians don't give a whit for the fate of the children, women, and men blown to pieces by their military forces, the Canadian Forces, serving them in Afghanistan.

In attendance that day past along with the thousands of Victorians out to celebrate a perfect August 1st event was Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper.

As Harper ascended the podium then boos and objections to the country's involvement in Afghanistan rang from various quarters of the crowd, but the greater rabble would not be roused. Overwhelmingly they cheering the p.m.'s mouthpiece, who opined as the military flyover approached;

"It's great to live in a country where this [vociferous public dissent] is allowed,
but I think most of us here just want to have fun!"

The Crowd Goes Crazy

In fact; the murderous exploits of the military abroad are in this country worthy of praise from all quarters of the political and social spectrum (save the "radical" 60-70 percentile of citizens polled who wish Canada's military quit its fighting role in that benighted country). Both the State and concentrated corporate media eliminate almost completely counter-militarism views from newspapers, radio, television, and internet coverage, leaving the field almost entirely to the voices of Empire's promoters, and the profiteers in the near-endless war train.

That there has been no withdrawal, (actually the opposite is the case) though the percentages of opposition to the war-fighting activities of Canadians in Afghanistan has hovered in the same range from the very earliest days of the nation's engagement way back in 2001 attests to the effectiveness of message manipulation; but, it also suggests to me:

Canadians will say the right things to telephone-pollsters, but when actions are needed to end a continued injustice their famed decency goes AWOL, the masses preferring entertaining distraction to moral attentiveness.

Maintaining the Interests of the Canadian People

Protecting the usually "threatened interests" of the United States is a mainstay in American rhetoric. Transcending party affiliation or anyone's position along the political continuum, the preservation of those never defined "national interests" is sacrosanct; a duty and a given for any aspiring to gain and keep power there. It is until recently an alien concept in most of the rest of the world; the belief that ones interests supercede and render "quaint" and obsolete any and all previous treaties, agreements, or precepts of civilized cooperation among nations being an "exception" to the rule of international law saved solely for the most powerful.

Thus the United States of America, and its duly deputized vassal nations can wage aggressive war with the flimsiest of "justifying" patinas in places like South East Asia, Central America, and the Middle East, because it serves its interests to do so. Israel too can bomb neighbouring countries and territories with impunity for the same reason Russia can obliterate the independence aspirations of Chechnya, and China can annex Tibet for their respective interests.

These exceptions are necessarily reserved to the 'Exceptionalistas' of the world, of which Canada for all its pretense to import has never been a member, (for exception see "vassals" above) but the current leader of the "New Government of Canada" recently declared his new entity entitled to the same exceptional behaviour as its Ancien Regime neighbour.

Our Interests and Our Values

Canada, if such an entity ever existed in reality, has served ever as carrier of water and hewer of enemies for empire; first England, now America. Perhaps the Afghanis, and other denizens of small nations living next to great ones will understand Canada's past and present plight?

Our historic obeisance is mostly manifest as official silence to our benefactor's wanton malefaction. Though Ottawa always answered when Empire's bugle called, never until Stephen Harper has a leader here compounded Canada's generational, side-liner cowardice in the face of obvious injustice to make of the country a free-booting, war-making avatar to Empire; in effect, a Mini Me maiming and destroying the weak and destitute in vain hope of profiting from the emperor's fleeting favour.

In comments made last week for the sending off of two more Canadian soldiers uselessly cut down in the most green days of youth, Stephen Harper made the following political statement of the nation's future intent:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of these soldiers during this difficult period [...]
The men and women of our Canadian Forces tirelessly strive to make a positive difference in this world.
Their selfless actions protect Canadians, our interests and our values."

After years of Canadian introspection, and ceaseless searching for a defining characteristic to embody the nation's soul, Harper would have us believe he has hit on our elusive commonality and the moral adhesive holding this vast and disparate land together.

Without subjecting the sobriquet of "values and interests" to definition, (the very idea calling into question his pious certitude) Stephen assures he's looking after all of our same interests and our values, while striving to stem the tide that would erode those fine, noble, and ineffable characteristics.

Counting the Dead

Whatever they may be, so far the price of "selfless action" has been: 127 Canadian soldiers, two international aide workers, and one diplomat killed. There have too been many more hundreds wounded physically and psychically.

The fate of the many thousands of natives collaterally killed, maimed, rendered orphans, and made homeless by the Canadian Forces as they "tirelessly strive to make a positive difference in this world" is neither of value nor interest to the people in whose names those misfortunes were cast.

The late and great British playwright and nag to the social conscience of that past empire, Harold Pinter put it to his countrymen and women just why actions of the successor empire and those of their own government they would never openly sanction continued with tedious regularity. He explained, in part of his brilliant acceptance speech to the Nobel committee in 2005;

"It never happened. Nothing ever happened.
Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening.
It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.

The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless . . .
while masquerading as a force for universal good.

It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."

Now the New Government of Canada and its Hypnotist-in-Chief would have a nation believe not that which was clearly happening wasn't, or that it was of no interest; he would have you accept what is happening is happening, and it's all happening for you.

Connections: Mercenary Firm Dyncorp and Swine Flu

Diseased African Monkeys Used to Make Swine Flu Vaccines; Private Military Contractor Holds Key Patents

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger

NaturalNews - To most people, vaccines sound medically harmless. "They're good for you!" say the doctors and drug companies, but they never really talk about what's in those vaccines. There's a good reason for that: If people knew what was really in those vaccines, they would never allow themselves to be injected with them.

Aside from the dangerous ingredients many people already know about (like squalene or thimerosal), one of the key ingredients used in flu vaccines (including the vaccines being prepared for the swine flu pandemic) is the diseased flesh of African Green Monkeys. This is revealed in U.S. patent No. 5911998 - Method of producing a virus vaccine from an African green monkey kidney cell line. (

As this patent readily explains, ingredients used in the vaccine are derived from the kidneys of African Green Monkeys who are first infected with the virus, then allowed to fester the disease, and then are killed so that their diseased organs can be used make vaccine ingredients. This is done in a cruel, inhumane "flesh factory" environment where the monkeys are subjected to a process that includes "incubating said inoculated cell line to permit proliferation of said virus." Then: "harvesting the virus resulting from step (c); and... (ii) preparing a vaccine from the harvested virus."

Aside from the outrageous cruelty taking place with all this ("incubating" the virus in the kidneys of living monkeys, for example), there's another disturbing fact that has surfaced in all this: The patent for this process is held not just by the National Institutes of Health, but by another private corporation known as DynCorp.

This, of course, brings up the obvious question: Who is Dyncorp? And why do they hold a patent on live attenuated vaccine production using African Green Monkeys?

What you probably didn't want to know about Dyncorp
DynCorp, it turns out, is a one of the top private military contractors working for the U.S. government. In addition to allegedly trafficking in under-age sex slaves in Bosnia ( and poisoning rural farmers in Ecuador with its aerial spraying of Colombian coca crops (, Dyncorp just happens to be paid big dollars by the U.S. government to patrol the U.S. / Mexico border, near where the H1N1 first swine flu virus was originally detected.

DynCorp also happens to be in a position to receive tremendous financial rewards from its patents covering attenuated live viral vaccine harvesting methods, as described in four key patents jointly held by DynCorp and the National Institutes of Health:

(6025182) Method for producing a virus from an African green monkey kidney cell line

(6117667) Method for producing an adapted virus population from an African green monkey kidney cell line (

(5911998) Method of producing a virus vaccine from an African green monkey kidney cell line

(5646033) African green monkey kidney cell lines useful for maintaining viruses and for preparation of viral vaccines

Government collusion?

One of the key inventors in these patents now held by DynCorp was Dr. Robert H. Purcell. Who is Dr. Robert Purcell? He's one of the co-chiefs of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases operating under the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. government. (


Friday, August 07, 2009

A Day at the Beach in Gaza

The Agony of Abandoned Gaza
by Antony Loewenstein

Israel's recent war against Gaza has been condemned by virtually every human rights group in the world. An Israeli NGO of combat soldiers called Breaking the Silence released a report in July, based on the testimony of veterans of the Gaza campaign, that found excessive violence and the use of human shields during the battle. Noam Chayut, co-founder of the group, told me recently in Tel Aviv that many veterans were shocked by the Israeli army's behavior but still believed in the morality of the war itself.

Gaza creates contradictions in us all. I went there in July to investigate everything from war damage and the Western-led siege to the rule of Hamas and freedom of speech. Hamas control of Gaza is often seen as an impediment to peace. Militancy, extremism, terrorism and deadly rockets create an image of fundamentalism and irrationality.

Islamization is undoubtedly growing in the Strip. Government ministers are urging women to wear loose-fitting, modest clothing and asking shopkeepers to remove female mannequins from their windows.

During my visit, I saw a warning given to adults and children not to wear T-shirts or sweaters with certain "inflammatory" English words and phrases, such as "Madonna," "pork," "kiss me," "I am ready for sexual affairs" and "vixen."

Journalist Fares Akram, whose father was murdered by the Israelis during the January war, told me that he feared the people of Gaza were too exhausted and preoccupied with daily life to worry about the creeping implementation of Sharia law. Akram showed me posters being distributed by Hamas that depicted the dangers of smoking, the Internet, drugs and television. None of these suggestions are legally enforceable, but they may soon be. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told the assembled at Friday prayers in Khan Yunis in July that Islamic "virtue" was important in any society.

But this is only one picture of Gaza, a territory under siege for years by Israel and the Western powers. I was expecting a threatening place, not least because I'm Jewish; instead, I found humility, generosity and desperation.

The effects of the December/January campaign were pervasive. Some parts of Jabaliya, in the north of Gaza, looked like an elephant had trampled the ground beneath its feet. In other areas, some buildings had been pulverized by Israeli missiles while others were left standing. "The Israelis work randomly, like us," my fixer, Ahmed,
joked. In one area I visited, the Israelis had ordered Palestinians to evacuate, so very few lives were lost. Some locals told me they thought the onslaught was in retaliation for a previous invasion, when militants killed some Israeli army troops.

Abdullah Alathamma, 27, lost his home in the bombardment. Eleven days into it, with the Israeli military shelling and shooting at houses in the area, his family decided to flee. He said he saw the Israelis open fire on a woman walking to get water. His brother was arrested after the war and hasn't been seen since; Abdullah doesn't know where he is being held, or for what alleged crime. "Israel are merciless killers," he said, spitting.

Abdullah's father, Majed, is balding, with wisps of gray hair and a deeply lined face. He was angry as he showed me photos of his six crushed yellow Mercedes taxis, the lifeblood of his business before the war. He dismissively called the Israelis "Jews" and couldn't understand why they were "obsessed" with the Qassam rockets "that don't kill anybody anyway." We sat under a shady roof, mosquitoes buzzing around us, as Hamas jeeps slowly snaked their way through the rubble. Young children collected the remains of destroyed homes and placed them on donkey carts to be reused or sold.

Majed took me to his home, a twisted mangle of steel, metal and discarded toys. He stood on what was once the roof and held aloft two pieces of beautiful tile that had been part of the bathroom floor. He showed me where his family now had to cook, a grubby kitchen on sandy ground. Three sleeping children, one a baby, lay peacefully under a makeshift tent, their temporary lodgings. I was told Majed used to be a relatively wealthy man, with property worth $300,000. Today, he constantly reminded me, he has nothing. He asked for help and to tell his story.

Such stories were ubiquitous in Gaza. A territory under blockade since Hamas assumed control in a violent pre-emptive takeover in 2007, many people said they wanted to leave to visit family or friends in Egypt or beyond but were rejected with no reason given.

Some said they would refuse to leave, even if the Israelis or Egyptians granted permission. They were a proud people and seemingly took a level of perverse satisfaction in surviving in Gaza, despite the onerous conditions. The blockade would not crush their spirit.

Dr. Nafez Abu Shaban, head of the burns unit at Al-Shifa Hospital, told me that he and his colleagues struggled with the extreme nature of the burns suffered during the recent war. Nafez is a stoic man, but he could not help but be personally affected by the conflict.

"Every night I slept under the stairs of my house with my family to keep them safe; there was nowhere safe to go," he said. "This was not a war; it was a holocaust."

He had to rely on foreign doctors, friends and the web, when electricity was available, to learn how to treat injuries sustained by white phosphorus. One day when Israel threatened to (again) bomb the hospital, he gathered the nurses, doctors and other staff to tell them he was staying but they were free to go home. Very few walked out the door.

The Fatah/Hamas split -- a brutal little war exacerbated by US-trained Fatah troops committing human rights abuses against the democratically elected Hamas government -- is regularly discussed.

The vast majority of people I talked to wanted the moderates in both parties to reconcile. Division is death in Palestine and simply makes it easier for Israel and Washington to claim there is no partner for peace.

Dr. Haider Eid, an academic and activist for the one-state solution in Israel-Palestine, despaired that Hamas was already talking about accepting the parameters of a two-state equation, like the previously failed Fatah endeavors. "Hamas has to choose between resistance and leadership," he said, "so this is now a moment of truth for the movement." Dr. Ahmed Yousef, Hamas deputy foreign minister and former
adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, was the epitome of moderation when we met. He talked about accepting a state within the 1967 borders, though he warned Israel that "resistance" would continue if colonization in the occupied territories continued, which he acknowledged was likely.

The sight of Hamas security forces on the streets was surprisingly unthreatening. Virtually every street or major intersection saw armed men in uniforms (seized, along with their cars, when Hamas overthrew Fatah in 2007). My fixer, a Fatah man, cursed the Hamas men whenever we drove past, and we heard almost daily of deadly gun battles between the two sides. It was a division that militants I interviewed said was unlikely to be fully resolved any time soon.

Haniyeh doesn't give media interviews anymore and has rarely been seen in public since the war, though I was able to attend the Friday prayers in Khan Yunis that he was leading. The security around him was immense--large, well-armed men with beards and steely eyes. The audience lapped up Haniyeh's presence. Like Barack Obama, Haniyeh is an orator of striking proportions. His words rose and fell in a hypnotic rhythm. (I was later told he spoke of accepting a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders if it included East Jerusalem as the capital and the right of the refugees to return.)

The mosque's fans blew on the masses below as they listened intently. Men of all ages rocked from side to side as Haniyeh delivered his speech.

As Haniyeh left, there was a surge behind me, and I was almost swept under a sea of people. The security forces were clearing the area for the leader, pushing and slapping anybody in their way. One man cried out Arabic words of support, and the crowd shouted its response in unison. We were pushed and pulled as Haniyeh, after briefly stopping and raising his hands to acknowledge the salute, exited the building.

A few hours later Haniyeh attended one of Hamas' first public rallies since January. An outdoor sports ground in Khan Yunis was the setting. Hundreds of armed Hamas security forces surrounded the venue, positioning themselves on adjacent rooftops and surveying the crowd, mostly men in traditional thobes. Hamas flags waved from every flagpole, and posters of assassinated Hamas leaders Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi hung behind the raised stage. The large speakers blared music, warming up the crowd. When Haniyeh appeared, he mounted the platform, waved to his followers, sat down and began to speak. I thought how easy it would have been for Israel to bomb the event and take out many levels of the Hamas leadership at once. My fixer told me that Fatah was far more eager to do that than the Israelis.

Gaza is unlike anywhere on earth. I regularly sat near the beach overlooking the ocean, sipping a cool fruit drink. The stylishly appointed bar at the hotel where I was staying could easily have been at some fancy resort elsewhere in the Mediterranean. It was designed for a tourist industry that no longer comes and an elite that now thrives on property ownership and the tunnel-smuggling industry. Just outside the hotel, however, stand an ever-increasing number of beggars amid rubbish-strewn streets, not far from the destroyed parliament building.

Many Gazans think the world, including the Arab states, has forgotten them. Egypt's role in maintaining the siege was constantly damned by the people I talked to. Israeli behavior, while terrible and universally condemned, was better understood than that of their Arab neighbor. People expressed fear of Iran despite its public support for Hamas. The Islamic Republic's strict clerical rule simply does not appeal to Gazans, who need more than rhetorical support. The world community has yet to deliver.

Antony Loewenstein, a Sydney-based journalist, is the author of My Israel Question (Melbourne University Publishing) and The Blogging Revolution, (Melbourne University Publishing).

Copyright © 2009 The Nation – distributed by Agence Global

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Happy Jobbing

Working for Happiness
Alex Frankel
Some workplaces are happier than others. Journalist Alex Frankel tried to discover why.
Image of the author working
The author during his stint at UPS

I started at UPS on Monday. I drove to the San Francisco UPS headquarters, a block-wide fortress of freight. A staffer from human resources took me to get a uniform and pointed me toward the locker room. I changed out of my street clothes and into the brown outfit. I had the locker room to myself; after buttoning up my shirt I took a second to stare into the mirror. As I changed into this new brown uniform, I was changing my attitude. I was becoming one of them.

For a decade I had worked as a journalist, covering business and the rise of branding. But by that fateful morning, I'd decided to leave my desk behind and dive deeper into a subject that had long intrigued me: the role of corporate cultures in large companies. In what became a two-year adventure through the world of commerce, I served as a driver's assistant at UPS, poured coffee at a busy Starbucks cafe, folded garments at Gap, rented cars for Enterprise, and sold iPods at an Apple Store.

Though my mission was primarily to study modern workplace cultures—reporting that turned into my 2007 book, Punching In—I came away with an appreciation for the roots and benefits of on-the-job happiness. Companies like the ones where I worked are not necessarily aiming to create staffs of happy people. They seek hard workers that believe in what they do, and if this makes people happy, that's a secondary benefit. Happy people, in other words, don't necessarily get the job done.

And yet some workplaces are definitely happier than others. Employees at Gap, I discovered, couldn't wait to leave; UPS drivers, on the other hand, often enjoyed their work and were even able to discover a larger meaning in what they did. Just how companies create positive work environments was something that revealed itself to me slowly. I learned that it had a lot to do with how employers choose employees, and how applicants decide just where to apply.

Here are my three secrets to a happy workplace.

One: Go for flow

"Dude," said one of my colleagues at Gap. "This place messes with time. It slows down, it crawls, it moves backward." He was right: At Gap (we were told to never call it "the" Gap) my chief duty was to fold clothing that had been unfolded by customers, a Sisyphean task. Sisyphus, you might recall, was condemned by the gods to keep rolling a boulder up a hill for eternity. And that's just what working at Gap felt like: an eternity. This was also true of working at Enterprise rental car and Starbucks, where all of our movements were measured and monetized. Perceptions of time, I found, are closely linked to the employees' feeling of freedom: The more constrained the environment, the slower things moved, and the less happy employees were.

In contrast, work at the Apple Store was set up so you were focused on accomplishing goals, not filling up time. At Apple, most product layout was left to one "visual merchandiser" who was passionate about keeping the store neat, leaving others like me to interact with customers, share information, and be ourselves instead of following a script. I was judged about what I did instead of how I did it. By having long leashes, Apple employees could forget about the hours and get into the "flow" state, so well articulated by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in which one is "completely involved in an activity for its own sake."

Anthropologist Edward Hall originally described the way in which time is viewed in the workplace. Most hourly jobs treat time as monochronic—"an infinitely divisible linear ribbon that can be divided into appointments and other compartments, but within which only one thing can be done at a time." But at Apple, the polychronic view of time prevailed, so that we could do several things simultaneously, manage our own tasks, and feel pride in accomplishing things, as opposed to just waiting out the hours. This certainly made me happier, and it seemed to work for the other employees as well.

Two: Foster authenticity

Apple helped work hours fly by in part by encouraging employees to be themselves. At Apple I got to hang out, share my knowledge, learn, and stay current with cutting-edge technology. In each discussion with a customer, I continued to feel more at ease, and interactions with my colleagues even came to feel natural. Employees at Starbucks were told to "be authentic," but Apple gave us a more honest variation on this theme. "Be who you are," a recorded voice told me in training. "You know the feeling you get from people who just say what they have to say."

This notion of authenticity is key. If workers feel like they are a part of a plastic, inauthentic culture, they may feel less "real" themselves. UPS has a workplace culture with 100-year-old history and traditions. Through the camaraderie among drivers, the day-to-day company rituals, and the leeway I was given on the road, UPS came to feel like a place where I belonged. And at UPS I gained a strong sense that I was a part of the thumping, beating heart of capitalism, connecting sellers to buyers and family members to each other. It felt much more critical than any other job I held. Its culture felt authentic to me, in a way that even Apple did not.

To function, a culture has to be organic and move of its own accord. People have to believe without being persuaded to do so. Through all my jobs, once the corporate minders pulled something out and identified it as a part of the culture, it immediately lost its authenticity for me. Evolution of the culture is crucial, and to evolve means to change. As a new worker, I had to feel that I could not only join the culture but also add to it.

Authenticity occurs, to some degree, in the mind of the employee. UPS and its culture worked for me. Starbucks did not; I viewed the training I received as simply teaching me how to act. But I remember talking to a fellow barista named Steve after a busy shift: He loved the hard work and the flow state it engendered. Unlike me, he viewed himself as having gained the skills of a craftsman. All of these workplace cultures are fabricated, so what feels authentic to one employee might feel inauthentic to another. Selection, by applicants and employers, is the best way to create happy workers.

Three: Find the right match

It may seem obvious, but it took me almost two years as a front-line employee to understand that not every prospective employee (even if they are all "good" and "hard-working" people) will excel equally in each workplace. We all have different needs and wants in a job, and we will succeed by being matched well to the place where we work. The smarter companies knew this and worked hard to identify the right talent before hiring.

The Container Store, a chain of some 30 retail outlets, didn't hire me. The company, which hires just six percent of applicants, made the right call—I would have been a poor match for the job. Unlike me, many of the other applicants in our group interview had the requisite passion for organizing and selling storage systems.

Thus, asking employees about their passions, and gauging the quality and truthfulness of their responses, is critical. The first thing that companies can do to maximize the happiness of their employees is to pick those employees wisely, by choosing people who will flourish in their particular corporate culture.

Similarly, prospective employees should try to identify those places in which they will flourish most. Applicants for the Container Store are fanatical about organization and about sharing their organizational skills with others. Apple isolates true enthusiasts and true believers in Apple products, of which there are many. People who self-select for UPS are extroverted, athletic, and restless, which are perfect traits for UPS employees—but perhaps not so good for Starbucks baristas, who spend much of the day standing in one tight place.

To attract employees, you need to offer them something that goes beyond money: a brand, a calling, a community. This force is larger than a person; it is a force that feels worth allying with and merging into. Some companies mold their corporate cultures to appeal to the population they hope to recruit and employ.

In the best situations, the applicant hears a calling to the company long before applying; there is something out there that makes the place seem like the right fit. In the best case scenario, there is a moment when you are working at that place when you feel alive, when you are no longer questioning and thinking about life on the outside, life before the job, life after the job. In that moment, you are the job. It's a rare, elusive feeling, I discovered. But it's the secret to happiness at work.
Alex Frankel is the author of Punching In: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee, and Wordcraft: The Art of Turning Little Words into Big Business. His articles have appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times Magazine, and Outside.