Wednesday, June 9

Staggering food waste: "What we pay for perfection is the really quick destruction of our planet."

 A great documentary from Russia's RT on food waste. Although everyone knows there is food (and water!) wasted all along the food chain, the numbers quoted in the documentary are an eye-opener.  The only criticism I have is that at least at the beginning various speakers harp on the evils of capitalism and the profit motive, but the rest is so interesting I'll forgive these idealists for bringing in what I think is a useless  argument -- particularly because these are not lecturers; they are doing something, in immediate, hands-on fashion, to combat food waste:


Tuesday, June 8

Governments are actually planning themselves into obsolescence

Meet the new Britain. Same as the old Britain:
Britain has been “living out a foreign policy of a world that has gone,” one of [Boris Johnson's] closest advisers said. Beijing and Moscow have shown us the limits of the rules-based order. Britain can no longer afford to be a “status quo power” naively trying to resurrect a defunct system. “The world is moving faster,” the adviser said, “and therefore we have got to get our shit together and move faster with it.”

To do so, Johnson insists, Britain must be independent, united, and nimble.

Sounds good. But just how do independence, unity, and nimbleness translate into action? 

(His foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, told me that instead of “some big cumbersome whale,” the country needed to be “a more agile dolphin.”) The prime minister has already indicated what this might look like:  imposing human-rights sanctions on Russia, using the presidency of the G7 to turn the group into a wider alliance of democracies, and trying to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

If that's that their idea of nimble, unifying, and independent thinking, God help the British. Yet to change one's entire way of thinking is extremely hard. In lieu they create 'narratives' that sound nimble, etc.  This in the hope that if they repeat the new narratives enough, it will somehow translate into real change.

But the British government does recognize that a chasm now exists between between the ways things are today and the old political narratives the government has constructed about it. To return to Tom McTague's profile of Boris Johnson for The Atlantic (The Minister of Chaos):

[Boris Johnson] also believes that the global zeitgeist has radically changed since the 2008 financial crisis, and therefore so too must Britain’s foreign policy. This is not an ephemeral, insubstantial thing: Voters will not accept a laissez-faire attitude toward free trade, deindustrialization, or the rise of China any longer. Whether voters’ demands on these issues are reasonable or constructive is beside the point—they are reality.

Yet all such issues ignore that the traditional form of central government, which has been in place for centuries, is crumbling.

The only glue holding central government administrations and their copycat regional governments together in certain parts of the world is authoritarian policies -- and in the more 'liberal' parts of the world, government policies that can only be described as sneaky. 

Both strategies are an attempt to keep the system of government going because a truly different system is unimaginable, a kind of black hole into which we'll disappear. 

The future in many respects is indeed unimaginable, but the key to responding to the present is to understand that governments are becoming obsolete because they became synonymous with overarching planning. 

In general changes happened slowly enough in earlier times that governments could develop plans for entire swaths of society. In recent times, changes happen so fast that often by the time broad-scale plans are finalized and implemented, the situations they were meant to address have changed so greatly the plans are obsolete.  

This has left governments attempting to stuff situations that no longer exist into plans that no longer work.

How to deal with the problem?  On paper the solution is two-fold:  reduce overarching planning, and accompany every plan with a detailed de-planning strategy.  

The sticking point is that many people earn their living being planners at one stage or another of planning for governments. Reducing government planning also means  reducing a work force.  

So the change would have to start with simply addressing the government planning problem -- making it an issue. Get people to understand that the more extensive, costly, and permanent a plan, the harder it is to undo or revise it in the face of changed conditions. And emphasizing that applied sciences and technologies and many other factors are forcing fast and extensive changes in entire societies.   

Secondly, don't make the mistake in reverse; that is, don't say, "We have to stop government planning."  That wouldn't happen anyway. What can work is to pinpoint areas where less government planning makes overwhelming sense, and work toward reducing planning in those areas.


Thursday, June 3

Michael Yon still reporting from Darién Gap for John Batchelor's audience

June 2Upriver and into the Darién Gap with Congressman Tom Tiffany. Michael Yon,; The John Batchelor Show. (Audioboom podcast.) 

For background I'm republishing my April 20 post, With Michael Yon at the edge of the Darien Gap

Michael Yon


Michael Yon is reporting for the New John Batchelor Show on the many thousands of people from scores of countries struggling through the Darien Gap in a desperate effort to get to the United States.  Here's part one of his report, and here's part 2.  

What is the Darien Gap? It's a hellhole for people traversing it. From an article at Dangerous Roads:

... The Darien Gap is a region of southern Panama that borders Colombia and is the only overland route into South America. ... It consists of a large watershed, forest and mountains. It’s possible to cross it. However to all intents and purposes at the time of this writing ... it is strictly off limits for the vast majority of travelers.
The barrier of the gap is partly natural due the dense rainforest that covers the region and over more recent years the significant safety concerns from guerilla activity have further reinforced this.
The gap is 50km wide, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and 96km long. Known as a drug smuggling corridor between the two countries, it’s rarely seen by outsiders. It’s a lawless wilderness teeming with everything from deadly snakes to antigovernment guerrillas. Tens of thousands of migrants a year risk their lives to cross it. ...

The Gap also represents a break in the Pan-American Highway -- a lethal break. Dangerous Roads notes that the few people who successfully make it on their own through the Gap are Special Forces types driving off-road vehicles. Even for the most experienced it's tough going. (See the photo at Dangerous Roads of two men with the Trans-Darien Expedition trying to push their off-road vehicle across the terrain). 

The migrants who attempt the same journey are not Special Forces types and they travel on foot. They put their lives in the hands of guides who work for criminal gangs. Many of the migrants are murdered or die from the horrific rigors of the journey through the Gap.


Two million so-called migrants at U.S. border by end of this year

Two million migrants --including 200,000 unaccompanied children and 1.1 million single males -- encountered at the border by the end of the year; Pacific Watch with Jeff Bliss, The John Batchelor Show, April 3 (Audiboom podcast)


Deviant globalization with a vengeance: Transnational crime cartels with weaponized drones

The drones are purchased legally in the United States.

For background on deviant (or black) globalization, see my 2008 post, Nils Gilman on black globalization, the world as it is today, and how it got that way

My take: The U.S. needs to pay less attention to Russia, more to Mexico. The U.S. also needs to pay less attention to the Middle East, more to Latin America. The U.S. also needs to designate the Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations. The U.S. needs to all these things right away -- and the Biden administration needs to tell the Get Russia crowd to sit down and shut up.

See also: Mexican Cartels use China's Tik Tok to recruit US-based human traffickers; John Batchelor Show with Jeff Bliss, April 2, Audioboom podcast.  

Drug cartels attack enemies and spread terror with weaponized drones in US, Mexico
By Karol Suárez
Wed, June 2, 2021, 3:20 PM
Louisville Courier Journal/USA Today Network
via Yahoo! News

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It began as a routine operation: Mexican police were clearing blockades placed by organized crime groups in El Aguaje, a western Mexico town that has become a battleground for drug cartels.

Suddenly, authorities said, a drone flew over, dropping a gunpowder bomb and wounding two members of the Michoacán state police force in the arms and legs.

The attack in April underscored an emerging danger in the international fight against illegal drugs – weaponized drones.

The bloody and powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG, and its rival Cárteles Unidos have upgraded their arsenals, using drones to bomb enemies, posing a growing threat to Mexican and U.S. citizens and allowing more drugs to flow into the USA.

Drones are part of the cartels' larger strategy to arm themselves like rogue militaries.

"I've been a strong advocate of designating the Mexican cartels as terrorist groups because they're acting like terrorist groups. They're equipped like terrorist groups. They're distributing record levels of poisonous drugs in America," said Derek Maltz, a former agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division.

"They're going to use the latest and greatest technology" to defeat adversaries in Mexico, go after police and fight for territory that gives them better routes to funnel drugs into the USA, he said.

n an exclusive interview with The Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, one rookie drone operator with Cárteles Unidos, who did not want to give his name, given the cartel’s criminal activities, said his organization has about 100 drones. Cartel members receive training on their use, he said, from a man nicknamed "Lord of the Skies."

“He's been training us since last year,” the cartel member said. “We have many drone models. They're not too sophisticated but can carry a considerable amount of explosives."

He said the drones “come legally from the U.S.” through “groups in Michoacán that support us and have legit money to buy the drones."

The man said Cárteles Unidos deploys drones to keep watch over territory and attack CJNG. He said neither his organization nor CJNG uses drones for trafficking drugs because it's not worth the money or effort; drones are an inefficient way to carry the large volume of drugs CJNG exports to the USA.

CJNG – which is known for kidnappings, torture and murders in Mexico and the USA – is blamed for the spread of fentanyl, one of America's deadliest illicit drugs.

CJNG and other Mexican cartels make fentanyl in clandestine laboratories and produce and traffic “the overwhelming majority of the heroin available in the United States,” according to the DEA’s 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment.

Mexican Secretary of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval blamed CJNG for the drone attack against police in April and said the person who used the drone was arrested.

Aguililla, the municipality containing El Aguaje where the attack occurred, has become a strategic hub for the production of methamphetamine. It’s the birthplace of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as "El Mencho," suspected of being the most powerful drug lord in Mexico and leader of CJNG.

Shortly after the attack, The Associated Press reported, Papal Nuncio Monsignor Franco Coppola visited Aguililla, offering a Mass for residents and walking through the streets with an image of Christ "to symbolically reclaim roadways where dozens of bodies – some decapitated – have been left in recent months."

The drone attack in El Aguaje was one of many in the past few years. CJNG has been blamed for many attacks in Tepalcatepec in the Michoacán state and one in Baja California, a Mexican state bordering the USA where the cartel targeted the house of Public Security Secretary Gerardo Manuel Sosa Olachea.

During a briefing in Mexico City, Sandoval said such attacks are concerning but “haven’t been as effective” as the cartels would like. He said the drones they use can’t carry enough explosives to seriously harm a person or destroy a building.

Authorities are concerned cartels could get hold of more deadly devices. They worry cartels may step up efforts to smuggle drugs across the border with drones; they say some use this tactic to bring marijuana and other drugs into the USA.

In the academic journal International Studies Perspective in 2018, researchers cited an expert who said cartels use drones to look for Border Patrol agents and inform drug smugglers of their positions.

As drones proliferate among cartels, public safety officials in Mexico try to curb their use. The office of Mexico's attorney general has launched several investigations into terrorism by organized crime and seized drones and C-4 explosives, which are commonly used in drone attacks.

Experts in Mexico and the USA worry more militarized cartels will mean more casualties in both countries, a more difficult battle for law enforcement and more drugs on American streets.

Last month, government officials from both nations held talks at Mexico City's Foreign Ministry to discuss a new joint security policy. A statement released by the Foreign Ministry said, “Mexico and the United States reaffirm the commitment to work together against transnational organized crime.”

The ministry said the two countries’ priorities include reducing arms, narcotics trafficking and violence caused by organized crime; addressing addiction as a public health problem; and attacking the finances of criminal organizations that operate in the two countries.

Judging by history, none of this will be easy.

Over the years, various strategies against organized crime have been implemented in Mexico with no success. The so-called war on drugs led to tens of thousands of deaths. Cartels grew stronger and better able to fuel America’s drug epidemic.

And that epidemic kept taking more lives.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 81,000 people died from drug overdoses in the USA in the 12-month period ending May 2020 – the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in 12 months.

“They're killing our citizens as we've never seen in the history of the country," Maltz said.

Follow Karol Suárez on Twitter: @karolsuarez_

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Mexican drug cartels use drones to spread fear across border


A new plant-based Covid vaccine with no adverse side effects.

I saw the news report the day it was published but I've been holding off mentioning it, just in case any bad news about the vaccine trickled out. Not so far.   

As to when the vaccine will be available, it's still in the Phase Three clinical trials, which started in March and include up to 30,000 volunteers, but it's already been fast-tracked by the FDA for distribution in the USA.  And given that GSK is a big pharma firm, I don't think there will be manufacturing/
distribution problems.

So if it doesn't crash and burn in the last of the trials, which seems unlikely at  this stage, we could get the vaccine here in the USA by the fall, or even end of the summer.  I assume it would be the same in Canada.  As for the rest of the world -- this is GlaxoSmithKline under discussion. And I note some test volunteers are in Brazil. 

It doesn't seem two shots are necessary, although don't hold me to that because the report below and the Guardian one I linked to above don't specifically say, but it is "refrigerator stable."  Good for distribution in countries that don't have the freezer capacities. 

Meanwhile, the Covid pandemic is getting worse, not better. 

By Rupert Steiner
Market Watch

Trial participants have 10 times more antibodies in their systems than patients recovering from COVID-19

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline GSK, +0.15% and Canadian vaccine maker Medicago have reported promising results from a Phase 2 clinical trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

In a joint statement posted on Tuesday, the companies say the study shows trial participants have 10 times more antibodies in their systems than patients recovering from COVID-19. They reported that there were no severe adverse reactions among trial participants.

It will be good news for GSK, which has been overshadowed by vaccine progress made by rivals, and it may relieve pressure on Chief Executive Emma Walmsley after Elliott Management, an activist investor, took a recent stake in the business.

This COVID-19 collaboration involves Medicago providing the plant-derived vaccine candidate, which is tested in combination with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant, a substance intended to increases of [increase or] otherwise affect an immune response to a vaccine. It is different because most proteins for vaccines are grown in the cells of insects, while Medicago’s protein is grown in plants.

Dr. Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer of GSK’s vaccine division, said: “We are delighted to see that the results suggest a very strong immune response. Medicago’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate combined with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant was also well tolerated, reinforcing its potential benefits. We now look forward to the outcome of the ongoing Phase 3 trial of this refrigerator-stable vaccine candidate as the next step forward in our contribution to the global response to the pandemic.”

Phase 3 of the trial started in March, involving volunteers in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Brazil, with additional sites expected to be added in the coming weeks. The vaccine candidate has received fast-track designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Health Canada has initiated a review of Medicago’s COVID-19 rolling submission.

Read: Austria to phase out AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Meanwhile, Austria’s health minister, Wolfgang Mückstein, said in a in a television interview that the country would phase out use of AstraZeneca’s AZN, -0.27% COVID-19 vaccine. He told Puls 24 that the reason was delivery issues, and some citizens were worried about using this vaccine because of reports of rare side effects.