The New American
by C. Mitchell Shaw
Windows 10 seems to be Microsoft’s deliberate attempt at creating the most intrusive operating system ever. If that is the goal, the software giant from Redmond, Washington, is succeeding. It seems that every new update brings the newest iteration of Windows increasingly closer to giving Microsoft total control over the way users can operate their own computers. The most recent update makes that abundantly clear.
Malware is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition as:
Malicious computer software that interferes with normal computer functions or sends personal data about the user to unauthorized parties over the Internet.
While computer users typically think of that definition applying to viruses, it unfortunately fits Windows 10 — and increasingly Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 — very well. What else do you call an operating system that reports back to its developers supplying them with personally identifiable information about you including your name, e-mail address, postal address, phone number, passwords, password hints, age, and gender, as well as your browsing history, address book, calendar, the contents of your e-mails, and access to all your files including pictures, videos, documents, and anything else stored on your hard drive? What about an operating system that while doing all that hides updates from you, will not provide you information about them, and installs them even when you have told it not to? What about that same operating system being designed in such a way that you cannot even turn off these settings?
If none of that rises to the level of defining Windows 10 (and, because of updates, Windows 7, 8, and 8.1) as malware, the most recent news certainly does. The New American has previously reported on the outrageous Microsoft Services Agreement and accompanying documents that must be agreed to before any Microsoft product or service can be used. We explained:
Few will ever read the terms of these documents since they span some 40,000 words and would run 110 pages if printed. As is to be expected, most of the terms are written in legalese and are not overly easy to understand. There are some parts of the terms that users need to be aware of, though, because agreeing to them grants Microsoft the right to read, save, and share anything stored on or accessed using any computer running Microsoft Windows as well as any computer using Microsoft products or services.
The Microsoft Services Agreement also gives the software empire permission to not only install whatever software it chooses on your computer, but also to delete whatever software it chooses from your computer. Microsoft announced its Windows 10 November update with great fanfare. What the company did not tell users was that the update would give Microsoft the ability to reach into their computers and remove software that the company deemed either unstable (based on its own criteria) or pirated (based on its own assumptions). Just whose computer is it, anyway?
Venture Beat reports that after receiving the update, many users complained that software they had installed before the update was deleted and they were notified that it was “not supported.” When they simply reinstalled the software, it worked just as it had before. So far the deletion of programs has been mostly limited to “hardware monitoring tools CPU-Z and Speccy as well as the AMD Catalyst Control Center for tweaking your Radeon graphics cards,” according to Venture Beat. So, it looks as if it impacts only users of higher-end computers such as those used for gaming. But that does not mean it will not be coming soon to a workstation near you.
As Venture Beat reported:
The company has previously explained to GamesBeat that it would remove software that it considers dangerous. That includes not just programs that will cause issues with Windows 10 but potentially apps that may steal your information or infect your system. That language is in Microsoft’s terms of service.
“The Microsoft Services Agreement allows Microsoft to change or discontinue certain apps or content where we deem your security is at risk,” a Microsoft spokesperson told GamesBeat in August. “Software that is pirated or botted places the safety and security of our customers at risk, including a higher risk of malware, fraud, public exposure of personal information, and poor performance or feature malfunction. We remain committed to protecting our customers from the risks of non-genuine software and protecting the intellectual property of developers of all types of content.”
Of course none of this answers why valid software packages were removed from user’s computers or why — if the programs were “not supported” — the users were able to reinstall them without problem.
All the recent heavy-handedness from Microsoft has many computer users seeking other operating systems. Many are looking to Apple and the Mac OS. Others who want more freedom and control over their computers are looking increasingly to one of the many distributions of Linux.
As this writer noted last year, the best way to protect your systems against surveillance by both overreaching governments and nosy corporations is to replace Windows with Linux and apply several software tools that are both free and freely available. Microsoft’s new policies are making it increasingly easy to convince people to do just that.
In the interest of fairness, the writer of this article has been a Linux user for several years and does not use any Microsoft products or services. This article was written on his System76 Bonobo Extreme running Ubuntu 14.04 using LibreOffice 4.2.
The New American
by Raven Clabough
The Food and Drug Administration continues to collude with bioengineering companies, despite growing evidence that genetically modified products are potentially harmful to human health and the environment. On November 19, it approved genetically modified salmon, dubbed “Frankenfish” by many health-conscious Americans, as safe for human consumption, marking the first time that a genetically altered animal has been approved. At the same time, the FDA administered new rules that state genetically modified plant foods do not need to be labeled as such.
According to the New York Times, the FDA’s approval of the AquaAdvantage genetically modified salmon “caps a long struggle for AquaBounty Technologies, a small company that first approached the FDA about approval in the 1990s.”
The decision was reportedly a surprise even to AquaBounty, states Ronald Stotish, chief executive of AquaBounty. “We had no indication that approval was imminent,” he claimed.
The New York Times reports that the approved salmon “contains a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and a genetic switch from the ocean pout, an eel-like creature, that keeps the transplanted gene continuously active, whereas the salmon’s own growth hormone gene is active only parts of the year.”
The FDA determined it could regulate the genetically engineered salmon under the new “animal drug” provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because the recombinant DNA (rDNA) construct introduced into the animal meets the definition of a “drug.”
The approval came even as two million people filed public comments with the FDA in opposition, the largest number of comments the agency ever received on an action, according to the Center for Food Safety.
The Food and Drug Administration defended its decision, stating that the fish is safe to eat and that the inserted elements will not harm the fish. Likewise, AquaBounty provided enough proof that the salmon grew at a faster rate, allowing the salmon to reach market weight in 18 to 20 months as opposed to 28 to 36 months.
The FDA also determined that the fish does not need to be labeled as genetically engineered.
Reaction to the FDA’s approval of genetically modified salmon was immediate. Environmental groups opposed the salmon, arguing that safety studies were inadequate and that the wild salmon populations could be negatively impacted if the fish were to escape into oceans and rivers.
“This unfortunate, historic decision disregards the vast majority of consumers, many independent scientists, numerous members of Congress and salmon growers around the world, who have voiced strong opposition,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement.
The Center for Food Safety has announced plans to sue the FDA in coordination with other plaintiffs to block the agency’s approval for the sale and consumption of the salmon.
Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety, accused the FDA of betraying its responsibility to the public.
“In approving the AquaBounty transgenic salmon, the FDA ignored millions of Americans and more than 40 members of Congress who have expressed vocal opposition. FDA also neglected the concerns of more than 300 environmental, consumer, health and animal welfare organizations, salmon and fishing groups and associations, food companies, chefs and restaurants,” he opined.
The Center for Food Safety contends that the concerns raised by environmental and consumer groups are legitimate, citing a study by Canadian researchers that found GE salmon can cross-breed with brown trout, which could pose risks to wild populations of salmon that are already threatened.
AquaBounty, on the other hand, claims that nearly 99 percent of its AquaAdvantage salmon are sterile females that could not breed with wild fish. However, the rapid growth rate of the GM salmon raises the possibility of the fish outcompeting wild salmon for food, whether or not any interbreeding could occur. To help alleviate this concern, AquaBounty says it is marketing its fish to be raised in land-based aquaculture farms to limit the chance fish of escaping into the wild.
Alongside the approval of the genetically modified salmon, the FDA ruled that GM plant foods do not require labeling. The agency defended that decision by insisting that the plant foods are safe:
The agency is not aware of any valid scientific information showing that foods derived from genetically engineering plants, as a class of food, differ from other foods in any meaningful way. GE foods don’t present greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.
The FDA made certain exceptions to these rules. For example, anytime a food derived from a genetically engineered plant is “materially different from its traditional counterpart,” the food’s label must reflect that difference, but the requirement permits companies to be vague in this disclosure, rather than simply label the product as genetically modified. For example, soybean oil that has been genetically engineered to contain higher levels of oleic acid must now be labeled “high oleic soybean oil.”
Many consumers are concerned about the consumption of genetically modified organisms and rely on the accuracy of labels to help avoid those foods. But despite demands from consumer and environmental groups, the FDA has insisted that there is no need for labels on GM foods.
“Food manufacturers may voluntarily label their foods with information about whether the foods were not produced using bioengineering, as long as such information is truthful and not misleading,” the FDA said.
NBC News observes that by allowing the labeling of genetically engineered products to be voluntary, the United States sets itself apart from many other countries, including the European Union, Australia, and China, all of which require labels on such products.
Critics contend that the FDA has been bought by the same corporate interests that it’s supposed to be regulating. The agency’s “revolving door” hiring practices, which allow employees from private corporations with financial interests in FDA policies to join the FDA and then return to their private sector positions after they leave their government jobs, are a prime example of that.
East Bay Express observes, for example, that “Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, is a former Monsanto lobbyist who served as the vice president for Public Policy at the Monsanto Corporation from 1998 until 2001.” Monsanto is the largest producer of genetically modified seeds in the world and the leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, a “probable human carcinogen,” according to the World Health Organization.
The biotech industry has been very influential with the FDA, leading to genetically engineered versions of certain food crops being almost ubiquitous. For instance, in 2013, 93 percent of soybeans, 90 percent of corn, 90 percent of cotton, and 95 percent of sugar beets were genetically engineered.
But the battle is not over yet, as major retailers are rejecting the bioengineered “food.”
Red Lobster announced on Dallas Morning News last week that it will not be selling the GMO salmon. And Costco Wholesale, the third largest retailer in the United States, has commited to not selling the genetically modified salmon. Costco is joined by more than 60 supermarket chains, including Kroger, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, and Publix have not yet rejected the salmon.
“The market is rejecting GMO salmon. Stores won’t sell it and people don’t want to eat it,” said Dana Perls, food and technology policy campaigner with environmental activist group Friends of the Earth. “Now other retailers like Walmart and restaurants need to follow suit, and we need mandatory GMO labeling so that consumers know how to avoid GMO salmon.”
“People have a right to know if the fish they are eating and feeding their children is genetically engineered with the DNA of an eel-like ocean pout to continuously pump out growth hormones,” continued Perls. “Friends of the Earth will be closely monitoring the market. In the absence of labeling, we will continue to push retailers to not sell this risky fish and plan to test salmon and notify consumers directly if stores attempt to hide GMO salmon under false marketing.”
And while consumer groups are doing their part to fight the FDA’s decision, concerned individuals are encouraged to sign this petition and ask the president and Congress to revoke the FDA’s approval.
by Mac Slavo
The biggest open secret in the world has just been tweeted by the world’s biggest news aggregator.
Matt Drudge drives so much web traffic that he basically has his own gravity, and now the often-reclusive figure has sent out a message that should be a wake-up call for those who have been broadcasting news about the threat that ISIS poses.
Following their mass murder spree in Paris, the terrorist group is supposedly planning attacking inside America, all while taking supposedly also taking on the biggest military powers in the world during their protracted struggle for an Islamic State caliphate inside Syria and Iraq.
What would the world do if it realized the truth – that ISIS is the creation of Western forces, and that the United States has in fact been arming and supporting their own worst enemy?:
A shocking truth is unfolding: America has been arming ISIS…
— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) November 24, 2015
This bombshell tweet echoes numerous reports from inside the alternative media pointing out the sick truth behind the shocking resurgence of terrorism.
Influential conservative news aggregator Matt Drudge issued a tweet on Tuesday acknowledging the growing body of evidence that suggests that the U.S. has participated in arming the terror group ISIS.
Drudge’s realization follows nearly two years of Truth in Media coverage of how U.S. foreign policy is enabling terrorism in Syria and Iraq and has led to the rise of ISIS.
In September of 2013, Ben Swann reported on how U.S. efforts to arm radical Islamist rebel groups against secular Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad were empowering extremists who were planning to create what he described at the time as an “al-Qaeda ‘super state,’ comprised of Iraq and Syria.”
In addition to numerous data points hinting at the U.S. support for terrorists in order to undermine and destabilize Bashar al-Assad, an important memo has come to the surface.The declassified Pentagon/Defense Intelligence Agency memo from 2012 [see PDF] reveals that Turkey as well as the Western and Arab states who are overtly backing the “Free Syrian Army” rebels have also been sponsoring a burgeoning Islamic State that stands to take over Syria and Iraq for the interests of the Sunni Muslim factions that dominate much of the Middle East and who oppose Shiite Muslim strongholds at all costs.
The document should be world news, but has failed to gain headlines and major coverage in any mainstream media news outlets. Perhaps with Drudge’s fresh spotlighting of the important issue, some Americans will understand how their leaders have been breathing life into the ISIS monster, and that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want.“Here is one of Ben Swann’s reports on the secret behind ISIS… and their sponsors:
by ASHLEY NICOLE MCCRAY and LAWRENCE WARE
It’s Thanksgiving once again: that day, every year, when we are all gluttonous to celebrate the fact that ‘Pilgrims and Indians’ had a harmonious meal — at least that is how it has been framed historically.
Let’s be honest. On the last Thursday of November, every year, we celebrate the beginning of an European invasion that ends with the death or relocation of millions of native people. While many have tried to redefine the meaning of Thanksgiving into a time wherein we cultivate a sense of gratitude, the undeniable truth is that the blood of native people stains the genesis of the holiday.
The colonial origins of Thanksgiving – or what many natives often refer to as Thankskilling or Thankstaking – is not something to celebrate. While we cannot pinpoint one specific or original “Thanksgiving” celebration, President Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863 and conceived it as a national day of thanksgiving. “Pilgrims and Indians” weren’t included in the tradition until 1890. The national mythos surrounding this holiday does not take into consideration the long and violent history of contact between European settlers (in this case English pilgrims – puritans) and indigenous populations that already inhabited the land. It is in these forgotten histories that we see the history of this holiday for what it truly is: English pilgrims, unprepared to survive on the land and unfamiliar with the vegetation, waterways, and others food sources, stranded on Turtle Island who survive those early winters and ultimately engage in a brutal campaign of colonialism and genocidal activity.
It is important that we think clearly and honestly about how the beatified pilgrims saw the natives. Five time Plymouth County Governor William Bradford said the natives were “savage people, who are cruel, barbarous, and most treacherous.” Clearly not the people you would like to feast with, yet our national narrative surrounding this holiday celebrates the first Thanksgiving as a moment of harmonious bridge building. This is clearly not the case. Especially when we learn about the Pequot Massacre of 1637. This is just one in a multitude of genocidal tactics employed against the indigenous peoples of this land since white Europeans arrived in 1492. Of this event, Governor Bradford said,
Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire…horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.
The occupiers celebrated the genocide — and thanked God for the victory. Immediately following the Pequot Massacre of 1637, the occupiers worked diligently to whitewash history. The name of the tribe was erased from the map. The Pequot River became the Thames, and the geographic space the Pequot inhabited became known as New London. It is as if they never existed.
The whitewashing and erasure of indigenous histories is not unique to this holiday, but it is, perhaps, one of the most ironic instances of indigenous mass murder in service of white European colonial expansion. The idea that we celebrate the notion that indigenous peoples and the white European occupiers who literally sought their extinction were able to put their differences to the side long enough to sit down and feast upon food, in relative peace and harmony, is deeply problematic. Even more so is the idea that it was the white European occupiers who had to teach and demonstrate “civility” to these “barbarous savages.” With the Pequot massacre in mind, it is clear which group in the Thanksgiving picture were the real “barbarous savages” and who were the ones practicing civility.
The language and the rhetoric surrounding the holiday erase the true history of settler-colonialism. The Pequot Massacre is just one mere instance in the long history of evil acts that began with the white European occupation of Turtle Island. This is also not the first time we have seen the descendants of the occupiers attempt to create a new civic identity by whitewashing history and silencing indigenous voices while erasing indigenous bodies. We see this unfolding in Oklahoma (Okla-humma, Choctaw for “Red People”), where non-native occupiers see no shame in calling themselves “Sooners” (those who stole land prior to the Oklahoma Land Runs — a territory that was, by treaty, set aside specifically and solely for tribal communities “so long as the rivers run and the sun shines…”).
However, indigenous peoples and our co-conspirators cannot stand idly by as those who continue to employ colonial and, ultimately, genocidal tactics against our communities, rewrite, and revise history to justify both their actions and the actions of their ancestors. We must thoughtfully and intentionally intervene because while “Boomer Sooner,” “R*dsk*ns,” and “Thanksgiving” may seem inconsequential to some, the historical context that gave rise to these terms and celebrations contribute to real life consequences that still impact native people in this country.
Native women are the group most likely to be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, with low estimates suggesting 1-in-3 in her lifetime. Upwards of 80% or more of these cases are perpetrated by non-native males. There are 2,000 reports of missing and murdered Indigenous Women from Turtle Island, and suicide in native communities far surpasses the national average for every age group. Natives have the shortest lifespan of any group living in the United States, and this rate is even lower for those living on reservations. Historical or intergenerational trauma is literally embedded in native DNA, and many of our parents and grandparents were stolen from their families and forced into boarding schools that had the expressed mission to “civilize the savage” and “kill the Indian but save the man.”
Physical torture, sexual assault, murder, public shaming, and stealing the culture of native children accomplished this. Psychological studies have demonstrated that native mascots negatively affect the psyche and wellbeing of native youth and many of these children have a difficult time making it through K-12, never mind college. Further, native people are virtually helpless when a non-native perpetrates a crime on native land. The victims have no jurisdiction over non-natives and the only way they could ever achieve justice is if the already overloaded federal government decides the case is worth pursuing. The silencing of native voices not only happened historically, but also continues today.
Whitewashing history, revising history, and developing rhetoric that celebrates the creation of a new civic identity for European occupiers—these all contribute to the oppression of indigenous peoples and tribal communities. The stories like those told about the Indians and Pilgrims at Thanksgiving ingrain a false sense of truth into the mind of the general public. These stories tell the populace that “everything is okay,” and, in fact, the “Indians owe a lot to the Pilgrims.” A closer examination and orientation with actual history, however, will negate these ideas and will enable the public to see how and, more importantly, why these stories – Columbus, Thanksgiving, Boomer Sooner – are told the way they are. These stories are extensions of colonialism and are in fact genocidal tactics. By erasing and replacing the true stories with those of “Thanksgiving,” the occupier continues to remain complicit in genocide.
So enjoy that turkey…but remember that you are doing so in a land that was stolen. Honor the dead by remembering their stories and their sacrifice.
By Rostislav ISCHENKO
The paradox of the current global crisis is that for the last five years, all relatively responsible and independent nations have made tremendous efforts to save the United States from the financial, economic, military, and political disaster that looms ahead. And this is all despite Washington’s equally systematic moves to destabilize the world order, rightly known as the Pax Americana.
Since policy is not a zero-sum game, i.e., one participant’s loss does not necessarily entail a gain for another, this paradox has a logical explanation. A crisis erupts within any system when there is a discrepancy between its internal structure and the sum total of available resources (that is, those resources will eventually prove inadequate for the system to function normally and in the usual way).
There are at least three basic options for addressing this situation:
- Through reform, in which the system’s internal structure evolves in such a way as to better correspond to the available resources.
- Through the system’s collapse, in which the same result is achieved via revolution.
- Through preservation, in which the inputs threatening the system are eliminated by force, and the relationships within the system are carefully preserved on an inequitable relationship basis (whether between classes, social strata, castes, or nations).
The preservation method was attempted by the Ming and Qing dynasties in China, as well as the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan. It was utilized successfully (in the 19th century) prior to the era of capitalist globalization. But neither of those Eastern civilizations (although fairly robust internally) survived their collision with the technologically more advanced (and hence more militarily and politically powerful) European civilization. Japan found its answer on the path of modernization (reform) back in the second half of the 19th century, China spent a century immersed in the quagmire of semi-colonial dependence and bloody civil wars, until the new leadership of Deng Xiaoping was able to articulate its own vision of modernizing reforms.
This point leads us to the conclusion that a system can be preserved only if it is safeguarded from any unwanted external influences, i.e., if it controls the globalized world.
The contradiction between the concept of escaping the crisis, which has been adopted the US elite, and the alternative concept – proposed by Russia and backed by China, then by the BRICS nations and now a large part of the world – lay in the fact that the politicians in Washington were working from the premise that they are able to fully control the globalized world and guide its development in the direction they wish. Therefore, faced with dwindling resources to sustain the mechanisms that perpetuate their global hegemony, they tried to resolve the problem by forcefully suppressing potential opponents in order to reallocate global resources in their favor.
If successful, the United States would be able to reenact the events of the late 1980s – early 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union and the global socialist system under its control allowed the West to escape its crisis. At this new stage, it has become a question of no longer simply reallocating resources in favor of the West as a collective whole, but solely in favor of the United States. This move offered the system a respite that could be used to create a regime for preserving inequitable relationships, during which the American elite’s definitive control over the resources of power, raw materials, finance, and industrial resources safeguarded them from the danger of the system’s internal implosion, while the elimination of alternative power centers shielded the system from external breaches, rendering it eternal (at least for a historically foreseeable period of time).
The alternative approach postulated that the system’s total resources might be depleted before the United States can manage to generate the mechanisms to perpetuate its global hegemony. In turn, this will lead to strain (and overstrain) on the forces that ensure the imperial suppression of those nations existing on the global periphery, all in the interests of the Washington-based center, which will later bring about the inevitable collapse of the system.
Two hundred, or even one hundred years ago, politicians would have acted on the principle of “what is falling, that one should also push” and prepared to divvy up the legacy of yet another crumbling empire. However, the globalization of not only the world’s industry and trade (that was achieved by the end of the 19th century), but also global finance, caused the collapse of the American empire through a policy that was extremely dangerous and costly for the whole world. To put it bluntly, the United States could bury civilization under its own wreckage.
Consequently, the Russian-Chinese approach has made a point of offering Washington a compromise option that endorses the gradual, evolutionary erosion of American hegemony, plus the incremental reform of international financial, economic, military, and political relations on the basis of the existing system of international law.
America’s elite have been offered a “soft landing” that would preserve much of their influence and assets, while gradually adapting the system to better correspond to the present facts of life (bringing it into line with the available reserve of resources), taking into account the interests of humanity, and not only of its “top echelon” as exemplified by the “300 families” who are actually dwindling to no more than thirty.
In the end, it is always better to negotiate than to build a new world upon the ashes of the old. Especially since there has been a global precedent for similar agreements.
Up until 2015, America’s elite (or at least the ones who determine US policy) had been assured that they possessed sufficient financial, economic, military, and political strength to cripple the rest of the world, while still preserving Washington’s hegemony by depriving everyone, including (at the final stage) even the American people of any real political sovereignty or economic rights. European bureaucrats were important allies for that elite – i.e., the cosmopolitan, comprador-bourgeoisie sector of the EU elite, whose welfare hinged on the further integration of transatlantic (i.e., under US control) EU entities (in which the premise of Atlantic solidarity has become geopolitical dogma) and NATO, although this is in conflict with the interests of the EU member states.
However, the crisis in Ukraine, which has dragged on much longer than originally planned, Russia’s impressive surge of military and political energy as it moved to resolve the Syrian crisis (something for which the US did not have an appropriate response) and, most important, the progressive creation of alternative financial and economic entities that call into question the dollar’s position as the de facto world currency, have forced a sector of America’s elite that is amenable to compromise to rouse itself (over the last 15 years that elite has been effectively excluded from participation in any strategic decisions).
The latest statements by Kerry and Obama which seesaw from a willingness to consider a mutually acceptable compromise on all contentious issues (even Kiev was given instructions “to implement Minsk “) to a determination to continue the policy of confrontation – are evidence of the escalating battle being fought within the Washington establishment.
It is impossible to predict the outcome of this struggle – too many high-status politicians and influential families have tied their futures to an agenda that preserves imperial domination for that to be renounced painlessly. In reality, multibillion-dollar positions and entire political dynasties are at stake.
However, we can say with absolute certainty that there is a certain window of opportunity during which any decision can be made. And a window of opportunity is closing that would allow the US to make a soft landing with a few trade-offs. The Washington elite cannot escape the fact that they are up against far more serious problems than those of 10-15 years ago. Right now the big question is about how they are going to land, and although that landing will already be harder than it would have been and will come with costs, the situation is not yet a disaster.
But the US needs to think fast. Their resources are shrinking much faster than the authors of the plan for imperial preservation had expected. To their loss of control over the BRICS countries can be added the incipient, but still fairly rapid loss of control over EU policy as well as the onset of geopolitical maneuvering among the monarchies of the Middle East. The financial and economic entities created and set in motion by the BRICS nations are developing in accordance with their own logic, and Moscow and Beijing are not able to delay their development overlong while waiting for the US to suddenly discover a capacity to negotiate.
The point of no return will pass once and for all sometime in 2016, and America’s elite will no longer be able to choose between the provisions of compromise and collapse. The only thing that they will then be able to do is to slam the door loudly, trying to drag the rest of the world after them into the abyss.
Rostislav Ischenko is the President of Centre for System Analysis and Forecasting (Kiev) currently living in Moscow.
by Ian Sample
An Anopheles stephensi mosquito feeding on a human host. A known carrier of malaria, the species can found from Egypt all the way to China. Photograph: Jim Gathany / CDC
Hundreds of genetically modified mosquitoes that are incapable of spreading the malaria parasite to humans have been created in a laboratory as part of a radical approach to combating the disease.
The move marks a major step towards the development of a powerful and controversial technology called a “gene drive” that aims to tackle the disease by forcing anti-malarial genes into swarms of wild mosquitoes.
The procedure can rapidly transform the genetic makeup of natural insect populations, making it a dramatic new tool in the fight against an infection that still claims over 400,000 lives a year. The same technology is being considered for other human diseases and infections that devastate crops.
“This is a significant first step,” said Prof Anthony James at the University of California, Irvine. “The mosquitoes we created are not the final brand, but we know this technology allows us to efficiently create large populations.”
But gene drive technology is so powerful that leading researchers have urged scientists in the field to be cautious. A warning published in August in the prestigious journal Science, by teams in the UK, US, Australia and Japan, said that while gene drives have the potential to save lives and bring other benefits, the accidental release of modified organisms “could have unpredictable ecological consequences.”
They call on scientists to ensure that experimental organisms cannot escape from their labs, be released on purpose, or even find their way out accidentally in the event of a natural disaster. Researchers should also be open about the precautions they take to prevent an unintended release, they said.
In the latest study, mosquitoes were engineered to carry genes for antibodies that target the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. When released into the wild, researchers believe the modified insects will breed with normal mosquitoes and pass the anti-malarial genes on to their young, making an ever-increasing proportion of future generations resistant to the malaria parasite.
James and his team used a genome editing procedure called Crispr-Cas9 to write anti-malarial genes into the DNA of eggs belonging Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes. A major carrier of the malaria parasite in Asia, the strain is responsible for more than 10% of malaria cases in India.
In lab tests, the modified mosquitoes passed on their anti-malarial genes to 99.5% of their offspring, suggesting that the procedure was incredibly effective and efficient. To track which insects inherited the antibody genes, the scientists added a tracer gene that gave carriers red fluorescent eyes.
James, who signed the warning in Science, said more work was needed to perfect the gene drive before modified insects can be tested in field trials. But describing the experiments in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he wrote: “Strains based on this technology could have a major role in sustaining malaria control and elimination as part of the eradication agenda.”
Dr Simon Bullock, a geneticist at the MRC’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, helped to perfect the use of Crispr genome editing in flies, and also signed the call for safeguards over gene drive research. “Gene drive technology has great potential to help tackle malaria and other global problems in public health. But the ability of genetic changes to spread rapidly in the wild population means that great caution should be taken when building gene drive systems in the laboratory.
“Accidental or malicious release of a gene drive system into the wild could have unpredictable ecological consequences and thus researchers must use multiple safeguards that are robust to human error and nefarious actions. Fortunately, several safeguarding strategies are already available,” he said.
But Bullock, who was not involved in the research, was surprised that the California group had not described the safeguards they put in place to ensure the mosquitoes did not escape. “Given the highly sensitive nature of this technology and their call for transparency in this area of research, I’m flabbergasted that the authors have not disclosed in the publication detailed information on the containment procedures used in this study and how they were evaluated,” he added.
Prof Anthony Shelton who studies pest management at Cornell University in New York said the California-based team was justified in its optimism over the procedure. “Before open field tests, they need to test their insects in small arenas and field cages to determine the potential for it to work on a larger scale,” he said. “In theory this technology should work in the field, but further tests are needed and only then will the full potential of this breakthrough be realized for the benefit of humanity.”
Prof Gregory Lanzaro at University of California, Davis added: “Concern that drug and insecticide resistance are eroding recent successes in managing malaria has drawn attention to alternative approaches, including the use of genetically modified mosquitoes. This new study marks a significant advance toward the development of this strategy.”