/
2546 views
3 mins read

The Ukraine Safari

I don’t usually write about cultural products from my own country, but I must make an exception for Slovenian filmmaker Miran Zupanič’s new documentary Sarajevo Safari, which details one of the most

More
/
1338 views
5 mins read

Cost of China’s Miscalculation

Signals from China clearly indicate that the Chinese government has evolved a strategy and action plan, to be partly implemented in medium term and the rest to be implemented in long term and emerge as the most dominant country in

More

Taiwan announces the appearance of a new virus in China

475 views
1 min read

While surrounded by Chinese armed forces, Taiwan has announced that a new virus has been discovered in China. Her name? Langya-Henipavirus (LayV). This would be transmitted from animals to humans. Dogs and goats are the main carriers of the virus. According to Taiwan, the new pathogen could lead to organ failure in humans.

At least 35 people have been infected with this new “Henipa” in China. This was said on Sunday by Chuang Jen-hsiang, deputy director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Taiwan, to reporters, according to information from the anti-Beijing “Taipei Times”.

His explanation of Langya-Henipavirus comes three days after scientists from Beijing and Singapore published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine . The virus is said to have appeared in the Chinese provinces of Shangdong and Henan. According to the study, the patients presented with a high fever. At least half of them also suffered from exhaustion, coughing, loss of appetite and a decrease in white blood cells. More than a third of those affected also suffered from liver failure and 8% from kidney failure.

No human-to-human transmission observed

Henipaviruses are considered a permanent threat to humans and animals. According to scientists, “LayV” belongs to the family of paramyxoviruses which, like the coronavirus, are transmitted mainly by droplets. Paramyxoviruses themselves belong to the so-called “negative strand RNA” viruses and can, according to the study, cause “fatal diseases”.

A study of domestic and livestock animals reportedly showed that 2% of goats and 5% of dogs tested were positive. Mice are also believed to carry the virus.

According to Chuang Jen-hsiang, none of the 35 people infected in China would have had contact with each other. Contact tracing also failed to prove human-to-human transmission. No deaths have been reported so far.

No test yet

The appearance of this new virus comes as the global Covid-19 pandemic has still not been overcome. In Switzerland, the Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP) is preparing to set up new prevention campaigns. It was also in China that the Covid appeared in 2019, on a fresh produce market in Wuhan. Since then, the country has systematically obstructed access to relevant data and destroyed evidence that could help determine the origin of the coronavirus.

Even today, as part of its “zero Covid” policy, Beijing goes so far as to ban access to entire cities, which leads to uncertainty around the world about the delivery of goods and an interruption of the chains of transport. production.

For its part, Taiwan does not yet want to sound the alarm about this new discovery. According to Chuang Jen-hsiang, there is currently no standardized testing method to identify the virus. It is therefore not yet possible for laboratories to detect an infection in humans and a possible large-scale spread.

In the context of current tensions between Taiwan and China, the appearance of this new pathology seems to be at the heart of much broader issues than just the health field.

Mendel’s Genetic Revolution and the Legacy of Scientific Racism

/
751 views
7 mins read

In July, the world celebrated 200 years since the birth of Gregor Mendel, who is widely accepted as the “father of modern genetics” for his discovery of the laws of inheritance. His experiments with peas, published in 1866 under the title “Experiments in Plant Hybridization,” identified dominant and recessive traits and how recessive traits would reappear in future generations and in what proportion. His work would largely remain unacknowledged and ignored until three other biologists replicated his work in 1900.

While Mendel’s work is central to modern genetics, and his use of experimental methods and observation is a model for science, it also set off the dark side with which genetics has been inextricably linked: eugenics and racism. But eugenics was much more than race “science.” It was also used to argue the superiority of the elite and dominant races, and in countries like India, it was used as a “scientific” justification for the caste system as well.

People who believe that eugenics was a temporary aberration in science and that it died with Nazi Germany would be shocked to find out that even the major institutions and journals that included the word eugenics as part of their names have continued to operate by just changing their titles. The Annals of Eugenics became the Annals of Human Genetics; the Eugenics Review changed its name to the Journal of Biosocial Science; Eugenics Quarterly changed to Biodemography and Social Biology; and the Eugenics Society was renamed the Galton Institute. Several departments in major universities, which were earlier called the department of eugenics, either became the department of human genetics or the department of social biology.

All of them have apparently shed their eugenics past, but the reoccurrence of the race and IQ debate, sociobiology, the white replacement theory and the rise of white nationalism are all markers that theories of eugenics are very much alive. In India, the race theory takes the form of the belief that Aryans are “superior” and fair skin is seen as a marker of Aryan ancestry.

While Adolf Hitler’s gas chambers and Nazi Germany’s genocide of Jews and Roma communities have made it difficult to talk about the racial superiority of certain races, scientific racism persists within science. It is a part of the justification that the elite seek, justifying their superior position based on their genes, and not on the fact that they inherited or stole this wealth. It is a way to airbrush the history of the loot, slavery and genocide that accompanied the colonization of the world by a handful of countries in Western Europe.

Why is it that when we talk about genetics and history, the only story that is repeated is that about biologist Trofim Lysenko and how the Soviet Communist Party placed ideology above science? Why is it that the mention of eugenics in popular literature is only with respect to Nazi Germany and not about how Germany’s eugenic laws were inspired directly by the U.S.? Or how eugenics in Germany and the U.S. were deeply intertwined? Or how Mendel’s legacy of genetics become a tool in the hands of racist states, which included the U.S. and Great Britain? Why is it that genetics is used repeatedly to support theories of superiority of the white race?

Mendel showed that there were traits that were inherited, and therefore we had genes that carried certain markers that could be measured, such as the color of the flower and the height of the plant. Biology then had no idea of how many genes we had, which traits could be inherited, how genetically mixed the human population is, etc. Mendel himself had no idea about genes as carriers of inheritance, and this knowledge became known much later.

From genetics to society, the application of these principles was a huge leap that was not supported by any empirical scientific evidence. All attempts to show the superiority of certain races started with a priori assuming that certain races were superior and then trying to find what evidence to choose from that would help support this thesis. Much of the IQ debate and sociobiology came from this approach to science. In his review of The Bell Curve, Bob Herbert wrote that the authors, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, had written a piece of “racial pornography,” “…to drape the cloak of respectability over the obscene and long-discredited views of the world’s most rabid racists.”

A little bit of the history of science is important here. Eugenics was very much mainstream in the early 20th century and had the support of major parties and political figures in the UK and the U.S. Not surprisingly, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a noted supporter of race science, although eugenics had some supporters among progressives as well.

The founder of eugenics in Great Britain was Francis Galton, who was a cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton pioneered statistical methods like regression and normal distribution, as did his close collaborators and successors in the Eugenics Society, Karl Pearson and R.A. Fisher. On the connection of race and science, Aubrey Clayton, in an essay in Nautilus, writes, “What we now understand as statistics comes largely from the work of Galton, Pearson, and Fisher, whose names appear in bread-and-butter terms like ‘Pearson correlation coefficient’ and ‘Fisher information.’ In particular, the beleaguered concept of ‘statistical significance,’ for decades the measure of whether empirical research is publication-worthy, can be traced directly to the trio.”

It was Galton who, based supposedly on scientific evidence, argued for the superiority of the British over Africans and other natives, and that superior races should replace inferior races by way of selective breeding. Pearson gave his justification for genocide: “History shows me one way, and one way only, in which a high state of civilization has been produced, namely the struggle of race with race, and the survival of the physically and mentally fitter race.”

The eugenics program had two sides: one was that the state should try to encourage selective breeding to improve the stock of the population. The other was for the state should take active steps to “weed out” undesirable populations. The sterilization of “undesirables” was as much a part of the eugenics societies as encouraging people toward selective breeding.

In the U.S., eugenics was centered on Cold Spring Harbor’s Eugenics Record Office. While Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and its research publications still hold an important place in contemporary life sciences, its original significance came from the Eugenics Record Office, which operated as the intellectual center of eugenics and race science. It was supported by philanthropic money from the Rockefeller family, the Carnegie Institution and many others. Charles Davenport, a Harvard biologist, and his associate Harry Laughlin became the key figures in passing a set of state laws in the U.S. that led to forced sterilization of the “unfit” population. They also actively contributed to the Immigration Act of 1924, which set quotas for races. The Nordic races had priority, while East Europeans (Slavic races), East Asians, Arabs, Africans and Jews were virtually barred from entering the country.

Sterilization laws in the U.S. at the time were controlled by the states. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the doyen of liberal jurisprudence in the U.S., gave his infamous judgment in Virginia on justifying compulsory sterilization, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” he ruled in Buck v. Bell. Carrie Buck and her daughter were not imbeciles; they paid for their “sins” of being poor and perceived as threats to society (a society that failed them in turn). Again, Eugenics Research Office and Laughlin played an important role in providing “scientific evidence” for the sterilization of the “unfit.”

While Nazi Germany’s race laws are widely condemned as being the basis for Hitler’s gas chambers, Hitler himself stated that his inspiration for Germany’s race laws was the U.S. laws on sterilization and immigration. The close links between the U.S. eugenicists and Nazi Germany are widely known and recorded. Edwin Black’s book War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race described how “Adolf Hitler’s race hatred was underpinned by the work of American eugenicists,” according to an article in the Guardian in 2004. The University of Heidelberg, meanwhile, gave Laughlin an honorary degree for his work in the “science of racial cleansing.”

With the fall of Nazi Germany, eugenics became discredited. This resulted in institutions, departments and journals that had any affiliation to eugenics by name being renamed, but they continued to do the same work. Human genetics and social biology became the new names for eugenics. The Bell Curve was published in the 1990s justifying racism, and a recent bestseller by Nicholas Wade, a former science correspondent of the New York Times, also trot out theories that have long been scientifically discarded. Fifty years back, Richard Lewontin had shown that only about 6 to 7 percent of human genetic variation exists between so-called racial groups. At that time, genetics was still at a nascent stage. Later, data has only strengthened Lewontin’s research.

Why is it that while criticizing the Soviet Union’s scientific research and the sins of Lysenko 80 years back, we forget about race science and its use of genetics?

The answer is simple: Attacking the scientific principles and theories developed by the Soviet Union as an example of ideology trumping science is easy. It makes Lysenko the norm for Soviet science of ideology trumping pure science. But why is eugenics, with its destructive past and its continuing presence in Europe and the U.S., not recognized as an ideology—one that has persisted for more than 100 years and that continues to thrive under the modern garb of an IQ debate or sociobiology?

The reason is that it allows racism a place within science: changing the name from eugenics to sociobiology makes it appear as a respectable science. The power of ideology is not in the ideas but in the structure of our society, where the rich and the powerful need justification for their position. That is why race science as an ideology is a natural corollary of capitalism and groups like the G7, the club of the rich countries who want to create a “rule-based international order.” Race science as sociobiology is a more genteel justification than eugenics for the rule of capital at home and ex-colonial and settler-colonial states abroad. The fight for science in genetics has to be fought both within and outside science as the two are closely connected.

This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.

Russia and the European Union Continue Transition to Wartime Economies

/
477 views
5 mins read

Having declared victory over the “economic blitzkrieg” of Western sanctions in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin must contend with continued Western financial support to Ukraine as it combats Russian forces. In addition, the Kremlin will be forced to finance the reconstruction and integration of conquered Ukrainian territory.

With costs mounting, Putin has increasingly promoted the need to fortify the Russian economy’s immediate and long-term position. In April, the head of Russia’s Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, stated that the Russian economy would see a “structural transformation” during the second and third quarters this year to offset inflation, supply chain issues, and reduced imports.

To alleviate domestic concerns related to the cost of the war, the Kremlin increased the minimum wage and pension payments by 10 percent in May. The initiative also appeared to help muffle any domestic opposition on June 30, when two bills were submitted to the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the Duma, to give the Russian government greater control over the domestic economy.

The first bill will allow the Russian government to compel domestic companies into accepting government contracts and supply the goods and services required for what it calls its “special military operation” to the armed forces. To reassure the business community that this bill would not impact them negatively, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said that the proposed law would “not provide for compulsory conversion of civilian small and medium-sized enterprises for the needs of the armed forces.” Instead, the bill would be primarily aimed at companies in the defense sector that already work with the government.

The second bill, which will introduce changes in the federal labor law, permits the Russian government to overcome potential labor shortages by allowing the government to make employees work overtime, at night, and on weekends and holidays.

Even after agreements are signed, the Russian government will be able to alter the terms of any contract. The Kremlin has indicated that without these “special economic measures,” Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine risks grinding to a halt. After being adopted by the Duma on July 5, the bills now await further review before they can be signed by Putin into law.

These measures are part of Russia’s continuing attempts to stabilize its economy amid rising global economic instability. Despite Western efforts to isolate Russia’s large foreign currency reserves, the Kremlin is also still able to access about half of the $600 billion it built up to protect itself since 2014, after the annexation of Crimea. Russia has attempted to develop rival payment systems and trade networks with China, promoted “a new reserve currency” for international trade to erode the dominance of the U.S. dollar, and supported other similar measures to safeguard its economy.

So far, however, the Kremlin’s saving grace has been the drastic increase in energy prices since it invaded Ukraine in February. Even compared to 2021, which saw relatively high tax revenues for the Russian government, collections were up more than 30 percent in April 2022 compared to April 2021, despite significant reductions in European demand for Russian energy.

European leaders have called for a more assertive response to the global economic instability similar to the decisive actions taken against Russia. On June 13, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that Europe required a “wartime economy” to manage the economic fallout from the conflict and to reinforce its strategic autonomy. On July 6, the French government announced it was nationalizing its nuclear company, Électricité de France (EDF). On July 22, the German government provided a multibillion-euro bailout to the major gas importing company, Uniper, which was the first energy company in the country.

However, these maneuvers are merely a reflection of Europe’s wider economic vulnerability through energy. After the U.S. and China, the 27 EU states form the third-largest energy market in the world. Much of their energy supply comes from non-member states, notably Russia. And even though the West’s economic strength far outstrips Russia’s, money alone cannot solve the issue of dwindling energy supplies stemming from sanctions and Kremlin initiatives to cut energy exports.

In Germany, the “complete and permanent shutoff of the remaining Russian natural gas supplies to Europe” could result in a GDP loss of 4.8 percent between 2022 and 2024 in comparison to the 2021 GDP, states a working paper by the International Monetary Fund. The German government already escalated from level one (“early warning”) of its three-tier emergency gas plan to level two (“alarm”) on June 23. Level three (“emergency”) would allow the German government to impose rationing and to seize control over the allocation of natural gas countrywide. Austria, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and other countries have also recently raised emergency gas measures.

The EU has sought to introduce collective energy-saving measures to alleviate pain among member states and increase institutional solidarity. The meeting of the European Commission on July 19 saw the EU attempt to introduce the right to impose compulsory gas rationing among member states. But such proposals have faced significant resistance from both the more pro-Russian elements within European politics and the wider political class.

On July 13, for example, Hungary announced an energy emergency plan that included restricting the flow of gas and other energy sources to other countries in the European energy market. The decision prompted criticism from European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. On July 21, Spain and Portugal announced they would not support the EU initiative to reduce the bloc’s natural gas usage by 15 percent.

The suggestion by a German parliamentarian in July that Eastern European countries could share gas with Germany also resulted in pushback from several Polish politicians who have previously criticized Germany’s increasing purchases of Russian natural gas since the country’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 until 2022.

As energy concerns push European countries into pursuing self-preservation policies over solidarity, the EU has suggested ambitious price relief initiatives. Alongside the U.S., the EU unveiled a push for a price cap on Russian oil in early July.

Among other issues, however, this would require cooperation with major buyers like China and India, which have already been receiving Russian oil at below-market value, as well as coordination with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has little reason to take steps to lower the oil prices.

Previous international efforts to influence oil flows and prices from major exporters, such as the oil-for-food program in Iraq in the 1990s and the 2011 sanctions exception regime in Libya, have led to significant exploitation that severely undermined these schemes. Attempts to place a price cap on Russian oil will also likely see the Kremlin use its natural gas reserves to exacerbate the global energy crisis by restricting gas supply further.

And like the problems faced by Russia’s military-industrial complex, supply chain and production issues have become apparent to Western militaries seeking to aid Ukraine’s war effort. By May, for example, stockpiles of various U.S. missiles had been depleted, while the Netherlands announced it could no longer send howitzers to Ukraine.

Additionally, Ukraine’s systemic corruption remains a primary concern of Western governments providing the country with financial assistance. The risk of billions of dollars going to waste will only further add to “Ukraine fatigue” that threatens to erode Western support for Kyiv.

Having grown accustomed to sanctions and economic instability since 2014, the Kremlin believes Russia’s threshold for economic pain exceeds the West’s. As winter approaches and energy demand picks up, the EU risks divisions among member states over supply strains. Bringing the war home to European citizens this way may help Russia reach a diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict and reveals the limitations of the EU in its attempts to supersede the national interests of member states.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

1 10 11 12