March 28, 2019

Crisis: On Google & China, Purdue Pharma, Ralph Nader, On Theresa May, On Trump´s Crimes

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 28, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 28, 2019.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than three years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from March 28, 2019:
1. Google Is Conducting a Secret “Performance Review” of Its Censored
     China Search Project

2. OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma to Pay $270 Million

3. Ralph Nader: Americans Should Be Demanding Trump's Resignation

4. Theresa May Pitches Her Resignation in Exchange for Brexit Deal

5. Barr Is a Distraction. We Must Insist on the Moral Indictment of Trump.
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at everyorning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Google Is Conducting a Secret “Performance Review” of Its Censored China Search Project

This article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Google executives are carrying out a secret internal assessment of work on a censored search engine for China, The Intercept has learned.

A small group of top managers at the internet giant are conducting a “performance review” of the controversial effort to build the search platform, known as Dragonfly, which was designed to blacklist information about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest.

Performance reviews at Google are undertaken annually to evaluate employees’ output and development. They are usually carried out in an open, peer review-style process: Workers grade each other’s projects and the results are then assessed by management, who can reward employees with promotion if they are deemed ready to progress at the company.

In the case of Dragonfly, however, the peer review aspect has been removed, subverting the normal procedure. In a move described as highly unusual by two Google sources, executives set up a separate group of closed “review committees,” comprised of senior managers who had all previously been briefed about the China search engine.

I say, and I have written repeatedly about this project Dragonfly before. What I think about it amounts to this:

(1) Working for the Chinese Communist Party and sorting out which Chinese wrote about ¨
human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest¨, so that they can be picked up by some Chinese governmental institution to ¨re-educate¨ them, perhaps by torture or locking them up for decades, will be extremely profitable for the leaders of Google, although

(2) not all of Google´s staff are happy that the leaders of Google seem to have chosen for profit rather than for human rights, and therefore

(3) Google is now trying to push through Dragonfly in secret, as reported above, and indeed may even decide (or may already have decided) to keep Dragonfly mostly or completely secret, in the interest of great profits for Google´s leaders, whose profits in China will be earned by repressing over a billion Chinese.

At least, that it what I think. Here is some more from this article:

The existence of the Dragonfly review committees has not been disclosed to rank-and-file Google employees, except for the few who have been evaluated by the committees because they worked on China search. Fewer than a dozen top managers at the company are said to be looped in on the review, which has involved studying documents and technical work related to Dragonfly.

“Management has decided to commit to keeping this stuff secret,” said a source with knowledge of the review. They are “holding any Dragonfly-specific documents out of [employees’] review tools, so that promotion is decided only by a committee that is read in on Dragonfly.”

This completely supports what I wrote above. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Google previously launched a search engine in China in 2006, but pulled out of the country in 2010, citing concerns about Chinese government interference. At that time, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the decision to stop operating search in the country was principally about “opposing censorship and speaking out for the freedom of political dissent.”

Dragonfly represented a dramatic reversal of that position. The search engine, which Google planned to launch as an app for Android and iOS devices, was designed to comply with strict censorship rules imposed by China’s ruling Communist Party regime, enabling surveillance of people’s searches while also blocking thousands of terms, such as “Nobel prize,” “human rights,” and “student protest.”

More than 60 human rights groups and 22 U.S. lawmakers wrote to Google criticizing the project.

Well ... as I see it Brin - who was worth $51 billion dollars in 2018 - and Google are now rich enough to try to push Dragonfly through. It is an exta-ordinarily sick and totalitarian system, that I do compare with fascism-by-the internet, but hey... for almost any American capitalist, the richer they are the better things are for them, and I suppose it is the same here. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma to Pay $270 Million

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows (and is part of several more articles on OxyContin on Democracy Now!):

The state of Oklahoma has reached a $270 million agreement with Purdue Pharma—the makers of OxyContin—settling a lawsuit that claimed the company contributed to the deaths of thousands of Oklahoma residents by downplaying the risk of opioid addiction and overstating the drug’s benefits. The state says more Oklahomans have died from opioids over the last decade than have been killed in vehicle accidents. More than $100 million from the settlement will fund a new addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. “It’s really just the first move in what is a very complicated legal chess game,” says Barry Meier, author of “Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic.” Meier was the first journalist to shine a national spotlight on the abuse of OxyContin. He asks, “Is this money going to be used wisely in terms of treating addiction?”

I say, although I knew about OxyContin before, as I knew that much medicine in the USA these days seems more interested in increasing the profits of the makers of drugs than in serving or helping the people who have to consume these drugs. In the present case, that means that Purdue Pharma has been ¨downplaying the risk of opioid addiction and overstating the drug’s benefits¨ at the same time as ¨more Oklahomans have died from opioids over the last decade than have been killed in vehicle accidents¨.

Then again, I did not yet know about Barry Meier. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: Purdue is one of several firms named in the lawsuit that alleges pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical knowingly helped create the opioid crisis. The trial for the other companies is still on track for May 28th. This is the first settlement Purdue has made amid some 2,000 additional lawsuits connecting its painkiller OxyContin to the opioid crisis. Government data has found deadly opioid overdoses are responsible for nearly 50,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. Purdue argues U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved labels for its opioids carried warnings about the risk of abuse and misuse associated with them.

Yes indeed - and incidentally (see Vietnam War) the number of Americans who were killed in Vietnam in all were 58,318 deaths, while ¨deadly opioid overdoses are responsible for nearly 50,000 deaths per year in the United States alone¨.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: So, the significance of the Oklahoma settlement, Barry?

BARRY MEIER: Well, this settlement is the first settlement in what is likely to be a wave of settlements or a wave of cases brought against Purdue Pharma, as well as other manufacturers and distributors of opioids. It is also significant because it comes amid a threatened bankruptcy filing by Purdue that would halt all this litigation. So it’s really just the first move in what is a very complicated legal chess game going on.

Yes, I suppose that is all quite true. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: And then you have this huge popular understanding of what’s taken place. The Sacklers, who own Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, having faced increased outrage in recent months for their role in the crisis. The family known worldwide for their patronage of the arts, and the Sackler name, though it doesn’t appear on the drugs—that’s Purdue Pharma—it appears in the wings of museums all over the world, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York. In the past week, the Tate museums in London, the Guggenheim—talk about what they have decided.

BARRY MEIER: Well, I mean, they have decided that they do not want any money from the Sacklers. They apparently have taken the position that somehow this money is tainted, that a portion of this money was derived from the street sales of OxyContin. And they don’t want to have anything to do with that.

What is fascinating is that the Sackler family has denied any wrongdoing.

I say, for I am rather amazed (and pleased) that (among others) ¨the Metropolitan Museum in New York¨ and ¨the Tate museums in London, the Guggenheim¨ decided that they did not want money from the owners of Purdue Pharma.

Then again, I am not at all amazed that the owners of Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, ¨has denied any wrongdoing¨.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

BARRY MEIER: (..) Purdue Pharma basically turned the drug industry and the medical profession upside down. They convinced doctors that this drug was safe. They convinced doctors that this drug had a lower risk of addiction. They admitted in 2007 that they had lied to doctors, they had lied to patients, they had lied to public health authorities, that the entire marketing of OxyContin had been built on a basis of deceit. And basically, they—

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the increasing potency of these drugs, that they understood would kill people.

BARRY MEIER: Well, they certainly understood that people could become addicted to these drugs. They understood that the higher dosages of these drugs could pose the greatest health threats to people. And they basically, certainly for a number of years, incentivized their sales representatives to market these drugs and to convince these doctors to use these drugs at the highest dosages possible. As it turns out, those higher dosages also brought the greatest profits to the company.

I say - and let me calculate:

From 2007 - when Purdue Pharma admitted ¨
that they had lied to doctors, they had lied to patients, they had lied to public health authorities, that the entire marketing of OxyContin had been built on a basis of deceit¨ - till 2018 is (let us say) 10 years, which times 50,000 deaths per year due to ¨deadly opioid overdoses¨ equals a mere 500,000 American deaths in these 10 years because of ¨deadly opioid overdoses¨...

And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Ralph Nader: Americans Should Be Demanding Trump's Resignation

This article is by Ralph Nader on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller spent almost two years to produce a $25 million report that is a flat tire. Still unreleased in full to the American people, Trump’s acolyte, Attorney General William Barr, a longtime friend of Republican Mueller, gave us what Trump long craved—by stating that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities” during the 2016 election. As for obstruction of justice by Trump, Attorney General Barr cryptically burped, that “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”—whatever that means. Give people the whole report now, as the House of Representatives voted 420 to 0 to do.

I more or less agree, and especially with the last quoted statement. Here is some more:

[Trump] is pushing to weaken or eliminate modest controls over imperial Wall Street, upsetting even Wall Streeters like Timothy Geithner, setting the stage for another Wall Street collapse on the economy, causing workers to lose their pensions and savings, before they, as taxpayers, are required to again bailout the Wall Street speculators and crooks.

He lies repeatedly about current realities, falsely brags about conditions he is actually worsening. He opposes any increase in the frozen federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and does not adequately enforce fair labor standards. He has hired and personally profited from many undocumented workers while attacking their presence in the U.S.

He pays more attention to one golf ball than he does to the estimated $60 billion in annual wage theft or $350 billion a year in the health industry’s computerized billing fraud, or the gouging drug prices he falsely promised the people he would reduce.

Never mind impeachment, millions of Trump’s victims, regardless of how they voted in 2016, should demand his resignation. A million-people march should surround the White House and peacefully make this demand repeatedly.

Again I more or less agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Cheating Donald J. Trump has gotten away with everything in his failed businesses and his Electoral College-caused Presidency. In so doing, he has taught us much about ourselves, how much we tolerate with chronic indifference to the flaying of the rule of law, and the principles of decency, helpfulness, peace, and justice.

He has taught us about the costs of not doing our political homework, of staying home civically and electorally. He has taught us that if we do not look ourselves into the mirror, the three horsemen of fascism, lawless plutocracy, and oligarchy will run our beloved country into the ground, if not over the fiscal cliff.

Yes, I agree with Nader´s diagnosis of his fellow Americans who ¨tolerate with chronic indifference (..) the flaying of the rule of law, and the principles of decency, helpfulness, peace, and justice¨ although my own diagnosis of this ¨chronic indifference¨ is a combination of stupidity and ignorance in the majority of American voters.

I also fear that Nader´s diagnosis that ¨
the three horsemen of fascism, lawless plutocracy, and oligarchy will run our beloved country into the ground, if not over the fiscal cliff¨ may very well be quite correct. And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Theresa May Pitches Her Resignation in Exchange for Brexit Deal

This article is by Eoin Higgins on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

In the latest development of the seemingly never-ending Brexit saga, beleaguered British Prime Minister Theresa May promised to step down from office—but only once Parliament accepted her deal to leave the European Union, a caveat that generated frustration from the country's fed-up population and opposition parties.

The announcement marks the beginning of the end of the May era, which began after her predecessor David Cameron resigned after the British people chose Brexit in a stunning vote on June 23, 2016.
May told her fellow lawmakers in the Conservative Party of her decision in a closed-door meeting Wednesday, reported The Irish Independent

Brexit is currently under a postponement negotiated with the EU that would see the country exit the continental federation on May 22 if Parliament accepts May's deal or April 12 if it does not.

I say. Well... I agree that this is very probably ¨the beginning of the end of the May era¨, but I also think that May simply should be removed, much rather than remove herself after Parliament has accepted her deal (which has been voted down twice now).

Here is one more bit from this article:

The political opposition was less kind to May, pointing out that a change of government under the circumstances laid out by May was akin to a threat. 

"Theresa May's pledge to Tory MPs to stand down if they vote for her deal shows once and for all that her chaotic Brexit negotiations have been about party management, not principles or the public interest," said Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"A change of government can't be a Tory stitch-up," Corbyn added, "the people must decide."

Yes indeed: I agree with Corbyn, and this is a recommended article.

5. Barr Is a Distraction. We Must Insist on the Moral Indictment of Trump.

This article is by Sarah Abramsky on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Since Attorney General William Barr’s “summary” of the report by Robert Mueller was issued, there’s been a lot of hand-wringing among progressives about what went wrong, and a lot of gloating from conservatives, and of course, from Donald Trump himself, about how Trump has been “exonerated.” Sean Hannity has talked of taking down Trump accusers one by one; Trump has called his opponents treasonous and “evil.”

This is, quite simply, utter nonsense. First off, Barr’s memo is so brief and cryptic, so cherry-picking in its use of quotes, and so devoid of the broader context in which Mueller presumably placed those quotes, as to be next to useless. We don’t know how much corruption, if not collusion, Mueller discovered, or how many spin-off cases were forwarded to other prosecutors. We don’t know where the Southern District of New York investigations are now heading, or which members of the Trump inner circle are likely to face prosecution down the road as these other investigations gather steam. Until the full report, or at the very least a comprehensive summary, is released, which I have no doubt at some point will be the case, these questions remain open.

I mostly agree with the above (although ¨at some point¨ may well be too late to be effective).

Here is some more:

Trump has used his platform, the vast reach of his Twitter feed and the huge audiences that his presidential speeches command, to demonize immigrants, including refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors fleeing drug gangs, and those so poor they walk hundreds of miles, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, to find succor in the United States.

He has instituted a travel ban against residents from five majority-Muslim countries, as a result of which no Syrian or Yemeni refugees are being allowed into the country, effectively condemning huge numbers to death in the most violent war zones on earth, and in Syria in particular, he has made it clear that the U.S. doesn’t care how much life is sacrificed. Under Trump, the language of human rights is entirely off the table. Last year only 11 Syrian refugees were admitted into the United States. Not a single one was admitted from Yemen.

I think all of the above two quoted paragraphs are correct. Here is some more:

Domestically, the administration is doing everything it can to undermine health care access for poor people – including its decision this Monday to argue before an appeals court that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. It is attempting to shred the food stamps safety net. It is making it all but impossible for immigrants and their U.S. citizen children to access any public benefits, even emergency nutritional and health assistance. And in its attacks on organized labor, its hostility to an increased minimum wage, its weakening of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and its embrace of exploitative payday lending companies, it has gone out of its way to hurt the working poor.

I again quite agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The Trump administration is wildly destroying public health and environmental regulations that took a half-century or more to build up. It is making it exponentially easier for corporations to do grab-and-runs, extracting resources from the ground as fast as possible and leaving others to clean up the pollution of air, land and water that accompanies that plunder.

As for climate change — almost certainly the most urgent challenge facing humanity over the coming years — not only has Trump’s team turned the EPA and other agencies into agitprop centers for the fossil fuel industry, but it has, at every opportunity, tried to undermine efforts, from the local to the international, to mitigate the scale of global warming and its impact.

Yes, I agree again, and this is a strongly recommended article.

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 3 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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