Friday, January 20, 2017

2544. Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change

By Stanfield Smith, Counterpunch, January 18, 2017

It should be a scandal that leftists-liberals paint Trump as a special threat, a war mongerer – not Obama who is the first president to be at war everyday of his eight years, who is waging seven wars at present, who dropped three bombs an hour, 24 hours a day, the entire 2016. Here[1] is some of the worst of this anti-Trump hysteria propagated by mouthpieces for liberal Democrats – calling Republicans “fascist” is a favorite left-liberal sport.
It is probably true Trump represents “a regime of grave danger,” an “immoral peril to the future of humanity and the earth itself,” by his denial of global warming. Yet Obama was also clearly a grave peril, one many progressives chose not to see clearly. Obama owns a long pattern of feel-good rhetoric and empty promises followed with no delivery. While many progressives got angry at his hypocrisy, many still were willing to turn the other cheek.
This helps explain why we don’t know that Obama, who says he recognizes the threat to humanity posed by climate change, still invested at least $34 billion to promote fossil fuel projects in other countries. That is three times as much as George W Bush spent in his two terms, almost twice that of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton put together.
Obama financed 70 foreign fossil fuel projects. When completed they will release 164 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year – about the same output as the 95 currently operating coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. He financed two natural gas plants on an island in the Great Barrier Reef, as well as two of the largest coalmines on the planet.
Obama did have his Clean Power Plan for the US, estimated to reduce carbon emissions by 2.5 billion tons over 15 years. But the foreign projects he approved will produce about the same carbon emissions as the Clean Power Plan savings. These foreign emissions increases financed by Obama aren’t counted toward US totals, but the impact on climate change is identical regardless the place of origin.[2]
Moreover, under Obama has reversed the steady drop in U.S. oil production which had continued unchecked since 1971.[3] The U.S. was pumping just 5.1 million barrels per day when Obama took office. By April 2016 it was up to 8.9 million barrels per day. A 74% increase! In 2015, the U.S. pumped the most oil in 43 years. The U.S. is now the world’s No. 1 petroleum producer if we include both crude and natural gas. In oil production itself, the U.S. ranks No. 3, just behind Russia and Saudi Arabia.[4]
If Bush had this record, it would be jumped on to expose him all the more as a tool of the oil companies. Different standard for Democrat Obama. His administration accelerated the destruction of the earth, and many environmental groups and liberal-leftists soft pedaled or even covered it up.
On top of this, in 2010 Project Censored called the US military the biggest polluter on the planet.[5] What measures did Obama take? He exempted it from climate change regulation!
“The Pentagon [which accounts for 80% of US government fuel usage] is also exempt from an executive order by President Obama requiring other federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.”[6]
Obama proudly said in 2012, quoted in the film This Changes Everything:
“Over the last three years I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75% of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough oil and gas pipelines to encircle the earth and then some. So, we are drilling all over the place, right now.”
Drill, baby, drill!
Yet this is how Obama scammed us in his feel-good farewell speech – though many liberals like how he makes them feel good, and often don’t want to hear about the reality:
“Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, we’ve doubled our renewable energy, we’ve led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet.”
In calling out Obama on his criminal record against the planet we must also call out our left-liberal and environmentalist friends who helped downplay it. And this struggle takes new form today in this broad anti-Trump coalition, which left-liberals will try to use to herald in a new Obama in 2020.
Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity Committee, recently returned from a SOA Watch, Task Force on the Americas delegation to Venezuela.

Monday, January 16, 2017

2543. 2016 Advances in Cuban Medicine

By , Granma, January 14, 2017 
Patient receiving a Hepatitis B vaccination Photo: Ismael Francisco
Cuban science, an indisputable product of the Revolution and Fidel’s visionary thinking, today faces the challenge of more swiftly linking to the production of goods and services, based on obtaining high-tech and innovative results and always closing the research-manufacturing-marketing cycle.

This makes this sector, alongside innovation, an essential part of the project of the prosperous and sustainable socialist society that we hope to build. As Dr. Agustín Lage Dávila pointed out in an article published in Granma last October, the recovery of scientific activity and investment in such a vital sector, inevitably damaged by the Special Period and the blockade, is not a luxury, but a necessity. Development is impossible without inserting science in every sector of the economy, the director of the Center of Molecular Immunology emphasized.

Despite a difficult year due to limited resources and other problems that affected research activities and the permanence of specialists in certain scientific branches, the country closed 2016 with notable contributions and statistical indicators. Granma offers readers a preliminary and partial summary of these achievements. •

 ► The registration in Cuba of Heberferón, a combination of interferon-alpha 2b and recombinant interferon-gamma, to treat non-melanoma skin cancer.
► The patent granted by the European Union to the new generation of the drug Heberprot-P, presented in nanocapsules, whose antimicrobial action makes the treatment of advanced diabetic foot ulcers more effective, avoiding amputations.
► The continuation of clinical trials of the CIGB 500 molecule, a novel drug under development demonstrating a significant cardioprotective effect, with promising possibilities for the treatment of acute myocardial infarction.
► The approval in the United States of clinical trials of the Cuban lung cancer vaccine CIMAvax-EGF, produced at the Center of Molecular Immunology.
► The discovery of new pharmacological evidence of the neuroprotective effects of a molecule called JM-20, which offers hopes for the treatment of cerebral ischemia, a serious global health problem.
► The extension to the 15 provinces of the island and the special municipality of the Isle of Youth of regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy, mainly in the specialties of orthopedics, traumatology and angiology.
► The development of new human vaccines, including obtaining a candidate heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, and another for cholera.
► The announcement that as a result of the application of the Cuban vaccine for chronic hepatitis B, the country has not reported cases of the disease in children under five years of age since 1999, an indicator that since 2006 has also extended to children under 15 years old.
► The ratification through the most recent assessments that the Cuban climate will be warmer, drier and more extreme by the end of the 21st century, with an average temperature increase of up to four degrees Celsius and a decrease in rainfall in the order of 15 - 50%.
► The widespread planting of the cucumber variety INIVIT P-2007, with high potential yields and greater tolerance to the main diseases that damage this crop in Cuba. Nominated for the 2016 National Award for Technological Innovation.
► The new Virginia San Luis 23 tobacco variety, disease resistant and with high productive potential.
► The production of polyfloral honey wine (mead) on an industrial scale, helping to diversify the uses of Cuban honey.
► Algorithms for the real-time analysis of the National Electric System (SEN) with penetration of renewable energy sources; extremely useful work to improve the management of the National Electrical Union’s Energy Distribution Office and to avoid total and partial collapse of SEN operations. Nominated for the 2016 National Prize for Technological Innovation.
► Protection of Cuba’s dams in the face of climate change, nominated for the 2016 National Prize for Technological Innovation.
► The inauguration of an exhibition on Cuban biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
► The incorporation of technology in Basic Productive Organizations of Cuban Distributed Generation, a result that contributes to the improvement of the operation and exploitation of the National Electric System. Nominated for the 2016 National Innovation Prize.
► Current Cuban pedagogy, which synthesizes and renews the theme of scientific management in the education sector.
► The creation and validation of a new anthropometric indicator termed fetal weight increase, which allows for the longitudinal evaluation of intrauterine growth by estimated fetal weight from the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy, systematizing its prenatal evolution in primary health care.
► The determination of the volume of polluting gases released into the atmosphere by Cuba's state mobile sources in the 2007-2012 period.

 934 Doctors of Science per 1 million inhabitants.
400 specialist researchers per 1 million inhabitants.
1,165,002 university graduates (according to the 2012 Census).
129 research centers.
18 scientific-technological services centers.
53 development and innovation units.

82,764 manual workers in the CTI system
56% are women
53% have higher education qualifications
4,355 are specialized researchers
48.2% are women
A total of 86 of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution were related to science, technology and innovation, 15 directly and 71 indirectly. The measures to be implemented and developed cover 33 guidelines with implications for comprehensive policies and 53 guidelines for sectoral policies.

  • Production of animal and human food.
  • Sustainable energy development, enhancing efficiency, savings and renewable sources.
  • Adaptation to climate change.
  • Automation and computerization of society.
  • Sustainable use of natural resources, with emphasis on water.
  • Cuban society, economy and international relations.
  • Territorial and urban planning.
  • Biotechnology, medical-pharmaceutical production and vaccines.
  • Research in natural and exact sciences.
  • Research in Nanotechnologies. 

2542. Progress in Renovation of Health Care Facilities in Cuba

By Nuria Barbosa León, Granma, January 4, 2017

The repair and remodeling project will continue into 2017 at hospitals, community clinics, pharmacies, and teaching institutions throughout Cuba's public health system. Photo: Yaimí Ravel

The investment project underway in Havana to improve physical conditions and equipment at health care facilities, as well as medical research and teaching centers, made significant progress in 2016, contributing to broader efforts to raise the quality of public health services in the country

The investment project underway in Havana to improve physical conditions and equipment at health care facilities, as well as medical research and teaching centers, made significant progress in 2016, contributing to broader efforts to raise the quality of public health services in the country.
Concluded in the Cuban capital, last year, were more than 2,000 projects to provide patients and workers more comfort; to consolidate the population's satisfaction with services offered; make the public health system more efficient and sustainable; and maintain the statistical indicators achieved in this arena.

A visit to several recently remodeled institutions by Granma International confirmed the progress made to date, in a project that has included building repairs, new furniture and medical equipment, as well as the addition of new areas, such as a ward with observation cameras at Calixto García University Hospital.

Dr. Carlos Alberto Martínez Blanco, surgeon and director of this prestigious hospital, explained that the first stage of repairs began in 2011, with work completed on the emergency area, which has seen the number of patients it serves double in 2016, while the number of unscheduled surgeries dealing with difficult emergency situations has increased.

Surgical theaters at Calixto García University Hospital. Photo: Yaimí Ravelo
The 120-year-old hospital has become a national reference for the management of medical emergencies, serious burns, and multi-trauma, Dr. Martínez reported, showing us the updated hospital rooms, intensive care unit, and surgical theaters.

"Our hospital performs more than 20,000 surgeries a year. Likewise improved were nephrology and hemodialysis services with the installation of 20 beds. We also reopened the neurosurgery pavilion, which was closed for ten years, and can now admit 40 patients. Installed there was a modern surgical unit to treat cranial pathologies," the director noted.

Repairs at the hospital included work on engineering systems related to air conditioning, water supply, steam boilers for the kitchen, laundry, and sterilization area. The grounds were also improved with the reconstruction of sidewalks, roads, and walkways, along with the creation of outdoor rest areas for staff, patients, and companions.

Opened was a new ward to serve geriatric patents, who may arrive to the emergency area with a variety of ailments, including strokes and multiple illnesses, reported Dr. Mercedes Ramos Quiroga.
She added that also admitted are patients who require surgery, and suffer chronic non-infectious diseases, to stabilize their vital signs before the operation. She showed us the ward, specially adapted to serve older adults' needs, with higher toilets, handrails and supports in bathtubs and showers, and the elimination of architectural obstacles that could cause falls.

Dr. Ramos noted the lights and fans above every bed in the ward, and furniture suited to the limited mobility of older patients.

Medical care in Cuba, offered free of charge to all, will benefit from investments underway at facilities across the country. Photo: Yaimí Ravelo
She expressed her satisfaction with the Cuban government and the Ministry of Public Health's efforts to provide financing to address the buildings' physical deterioration, to renew the old, and make such facilities available to the population free of charge.

A similar opinion was offered by patient Dayli Betancourt Acosta, from the province of Matanzas, and her spouse Ruber Leyva Reyes, who had traveled to the Rheumatology Center located in the Diez de Octobre Clinical Surgical University Hospital, known to Havana residents as La Dependiente.

In this facility, director Dr. Yunior Luis Pulido Prieto reported that remodeling had been completed in areas devoted to imaging and sterilization, to the kitchen-dining room, the laundry area, the main surgical theater, and the Zorrilla Pavilion where the infectious disease department is located, while efforts are still underway at the Antonio Pérez-Pérez Pavillion, which will provide geriatric attention across three hospitalization wards. To be located in this building's basement are a warehouse, a neurophysiology lab, and pharmacy.

The doctor emphasized the quality of work completed by cooperatives, which have been recognized by the hospital's personnel given the magnificent job done.

Rheumatology Center specialist Dr. Carlos Carrillo Reyes added that this unit's emergency staff receives patients from around the country, who arrive experiencing severe joint pain.

"Our center," he said, "trains human resources nationally in this specialty and for other interested nations, and is conducting clinical trials based on monoclonal antibodies to investigate auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, bone pathologies and others." 


These results are among the best competing for the National Health Prize. As 2016 ended, 115 works had been evaluated by academic juries, 72 for the traditional prize, 21 PhD theses, plus 23 for Masters degrees or specializations.

The Scientific Merit Lifelong Career Prize was awarded this year to doctors Israel Forrajero Martínez, Orlando Vals Pérez and Alfredo Ceballos Mesa, in recognition of their exceptional contributions to the development of Cuban medicine.

The three have received the Carlos J. Finlay and Frank País Orders, for their outstanding, arduous work in the treatment of patients, research, and teaching. The first two have likewise been decorated as Heroes of Labor of the Republic of Cuba.

In an interview with Granma International, Dr. Israel Forrajero Martínez recalled his efforts developing 100 anatomical pathology departments around the country, training 400 pathologists, 900 technicians, evaluating more than 50 doctors and 60 expert specialists in this field. His resume includes membership to several international professional associations, 50 publications in scientific journals, and two books.

Dr. Forrajero is a full professor with merit at the Havana and Santo Domingo Universities of Medical Sciences, as well as a consultant, investigator, and titled academic in the Cuban Academy of Sciences. He heads the Cuban Society of Anatomical Pathology.

Dr. Orlando Vals Pérez, another prizewinner, is an expert specialist in medical imaging, a titled professor and researcher at the University of Havana School of Medical Sciences, and a member of professional radiology societies internationally.

Dr. Vals considers his fundamental contribution over the past 60 years to be the two books he has written, in which he shares his knowledge and experience in the field, though he adds, "I'm still writing."

Likewise, Dr. Alfredo Ceballos Mesa, an expert specialist in Orthopedics and Trauma, is also a full professor of merit at the University of Havana School of Medical Sciences, as well as a consultant and titled academic within the Cuban Academy of Sciences.

In his remarks, he commented on his career in orthopedics and participation in many research projects linked to the external setting of broken bones, and electrical stimulation to promote healing of fractures, as well as hip and knee replacement.

During the award ceremony, Alfredo González, deputy minister of Public Health, made special mention of accomplishments in the provinces of La Habana, Pinar del Río, Villa Clara and Holguín, while highlighting results achieved at the Hereditary Ataxias Research and Rehabilitation Center located in Holguín; and at Havana's University of Medical Sciences, Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine, and Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital. 

The deputy minister dedicated the 2016 prizes for outstanding scientific work to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, a lifelong promoter of Cuba's healthcare system, and called on all to continue his legacy over the coming years.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2541. Social Class and History: The Case of Eulogies for Ayatollah Rafsanjani

By Kamran Nayeri, January 15, 2017
Iranian working people were the backbone of the 1979 revolution.
On January 8, 2017, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pillar of the Islamic Republic of Iran and one of the wealthiest men in Iran, died of stroke at age 82.  He was eulogized not only by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Republic establishment but also in the West, including by mass media in the United States.  Of course, in keeping with the expected political opportunism, in each instance,  a suitable aspect of Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s long political career was highlighted.  One headline called him a “revolutionary and a reformer,” the reference being to Rafsanjani’s role in the Iranian revolution of 1979 and his subsequent function as a “moderate” and “reformer” within the clerical capitalist Islamic Republic establishment.  For working people in Iran and worldwide who do not know the history of the Iranian revolution and the Islamic Republic, it may be helpful to recall the class nature of Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s political legacy that underlies the eulogies of today with an eye towards writing our own history. 

The 1979 revolution
Rafsanjani was among the handful of Ayatollah Khomeini’s disciples who played a central role in establishing the clerical capitalist Islamic Republic regime by destroying the grassroots movements that led to the February 1979 revolution and drew strength from it or were born out of it.  Chief among these was the shora (council) movement that bubbled up in workplaces (workers, peasant, and soldiers shoras), in neighborhoods and schools (neighborhoods’ komite, high schools' and colleges' shoras) and in regions of the oppressed nationalities (in particular in Turkmen Sahra and Kurdistan).  While the shora movement was far from being universal (for example, workplace shoras developed in large factories and workplaces, and mostly in the industrial sector) and had serious limitations wherever they were formed, it demonstrated the creativity of working people (see, for example, Asef Bayat, Workers and Revolution in Iran, 1987) .  No political party was responsible for their formation.  And they posed the road forward for the 1979 Iranian revolution to secure the democratic space won through mass struggle against the dictatorship, by forging a government of the people, by the people and for the people, a workers and peasant government, that could begin dismantling capitalism and landlordism and to build towards a socialist future. In fact, there was an obvious thirst for socialist ideas banned under the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi among the young people and more advanced sectors of the workers movement. I recall standing inside the gates of the Tehran University a day or two after the February 11 downfall of the Shah’s regime with a tall stack of the Socialist Workers Party’s “The Manifesto of the Rights of Workers and Toilers” as the crowd whisked away all of them within a few minutes while generously handing me small and large amounts of monetary contributions to publish more.  When the Fedayeen, an underground urban socialist guerrilla movement under the Shah which was largely decimated through brutal repression in the 1970s, held a rally at the same location a few weeks later, more than a hundred thousand attended.  It was because of this pressure from the mass movement and socialist groups that Khomeini and other prominent clerics were promising state provision of basic needs for working people.

Also, it is important to recall that the movement against the Shah’s dictatorship was all-inclusive and democratic. How could it have been otherwise?  It was probably the largest urban mass mobilization in the twentieth century.  Consider the December 10 and 11, 1978 mass mobilizations which took place in all large Iranian cities where several million people of all walks of life marched chanting “Down with the Shah.”  One author, Moin, cites a figure of 17 million marchers (Moin, Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah, 2009, p. 196).  That is about half the country’s population which was estimated at 35 million.  Although the call for the demonstration was initiated by Khomeini to coincide with the Shia religious holidays, people regardless of religion or ideology participated in these historic marches and they were in the overwhelming majority young working people.  Also, it was the general strike of the oil workers that defeated the martial law and opened the way for the mass movement that forced the hated Shah to flee Iran on January 16, 1979.  Again, it was the mass movement that forced the Shah’s last prime minister, Shahpour Bakhtiar, to reopen Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport for Ayatollah Khomeini to return from exile in Paris on February 1, 1979.  Finally, it was the working class youth of East Tehran helped by the armed leftist guerrillas that fought and defeated the Imperial Guardsmen when they attacked the barracks of the air force technicians (homafars) who had pledged their support for the revolution to stage a military coup d’etat on February 9. This battle became the beginning of the mass insurrection as people armed and unarmed stormed all military barracks, police, gendarmerie headquarters, prisons and torture houses of the Shah’s regime in Tehran and other cities culminating in the February 11 fall of the Shah’s regime. 

The hijacking and crushing of the revolution
Rafsanjani was among the handful of senior clerics in Ayatollah Khomeini’s inner circle that engineered and established the clerical capitalist Islamic Republic regime by hijacking and then crushing the 1979 revolution.  In fact, in his memoir, Rafsanjani speaks of the day after the insurrection when the state-run television and radio stations were running statements and manifestos of different political and grassroots groups.  He recalls how he intervened in the television station to bring it under the control of forces loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini because he wanted it to speak of the “Islamic Revolution” instead of the Iranian revolution. And this he did.  Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, one of the three non-clerical confidants of Khomeini, was assigned as the director of the station and immediately he imposed strict censorship of the news and programming of the station (Gotbzadeh was executed on September 15, 1982, for allegedly plotting a coup against Khomeini backed by Saudi Arabia).  On February 18, Rafsanjani assisted ayatollah Beheshti, another disciple of Khomeini, to found the Islamic Republic Party.  On April 1, Ayatollah Khomeini imposed an anti-democratic referendum that offered Iranians two options:  a return to the hated Pahlavi monarchy which they had just overthrown, or an Islamic Republic. There was no discussion of what this Islamic Republic was supposed to be, and when Mehdi Bazargan, Khomeini’s appointed prime minister of the provisional government, suggested a “Democratic Islamic Republic,” Khomeini was enraged.  No wonder that 98.2% voted for the Islamic Republic! On August 18, an Assembly of (Islamic) Experts was elected to draft the Islamic Republic’s constitution. All political tendencies that were non-Islamic or favored an interpretation of Islam deemed unorthodox, were excluded.  Khomeini was given the final say over all key matters and appointed as the chief commander of the armed forces.  On December 2-3, the draft constitution was put to yet another undemocratic referendum and received 98% of the votes. The formal process of the hijacking of the revolution was complete.

But the revolution, understood as the grassroots movements of the masses, in particular, the Shora movement, was still alive.  Through a series of selective repression and co-options, the Islamic Republic regime consolidated itself (for a summary discussion of this process see, Nayeri and Nasab, “The Rise and Fall of the 1979 Iranian Revolution: Its Lessons for Today,”  May 2006).  Rafsanjani was a central player in hijacking and crushing the Iranian revolution. 

Thus, the West (including its academics) has found it suitable to buy into the clerical capitalist regime’s claim that the Iranian revolution was essentially a popular movement to establish the Islamic Republic, that it was an Islamic Revolution.  A historical parallel can be found in the West (including its academics) trumpeting the Stalinist lie that the bureaucratic caste that destroyed the Bolshevik party and the October revolution was the continuity of Bolshevism and the 1917 Russian revolution.  The convergence of interests between imperialism and the counter-revolution that emerged from within the 1979 Iranian revolution is reflected in the eulogies for Rafsanjani. He is a “revolutionary” because he was among the new elite that usurped power that the masses took from the hated monarchy through a calculated scheme to hijack the revolution and then crush it.  The “reformer” Rafsanjani they praise is a product of their opportunism, their effort to find a way to come to terms with the clerical capitalist Islamic Republic now that it has brought forth stability for capitalist exploitation.   

For a history from below
As Walter Benjamin observed, history is written by the victors.  To clear the fog of rulers’ lies the working people need to uncover and write our own history.  The democratic aspiration of the Iranian revolution brought together currents from various social classes and strata in the face of autocracy.  When Rafsanjani and other key supporters of Khomeini were in the Shah’s jails in the 1970s there were many more labor and socialist activists in jail who were in fact treated much more harshly.  Take, for example, a leader of oil workers in Tehran refinery, Yadullah Khosroshahi, who was arrested a number of times beginning in 1971. In 1973, he was severally tortured and given a 10-year sentence.  He was released, thanks to the mass movement against the Shah demanding freedom for political prisoners. He immediately joined the leadership of the oil workers movement that organized the decisive general strike of fall 1978.  Khosroshahi went on to become a central leader of the oil workers shora. In 1982, he was arrested, this time by the Islamic Republic, as part of a sweeping attack on all labor and socialist movements and tortured. He was released in 1987 and soon forced into exile where he continued rebuilding the Iranian labor movement in exile and later, when conditions allowed, inside Iran.  He died of a stroke at age 68 in London on February 4, 2010. (For a brief biography see, Nayeri, “A Biographical Sketch of the Iranian Socialist Labor Leader Yadullah Khosroshahi,” 2016A)

Of course, from the perspective of the 1979 Iranian revolution, conceived as the rise of the grassroots movements of the Iranian working people, Khosroshahi was a historic figure.  But no one among the ruling classes or their media, in Iran or the rest of the world, took notice. Iranian labor activists inside and outside Iran as well as some unions in Western Europe and Canada, of course, celebrated Khosroshahi’s life and achievements as did many Iranian leftist groups. But when I tried to publish a Wikipedia entry about Khosroshahi’s life the “editors” objected precisely because he was an unknown in the mass media or academia (see, Nayeri, “Why You Cannot Learn about the Iranian Labor History from Wikipedia,” 2016B). Some found him not notable enough to deserve an entry in Wikipedia. Others felt a biography based on statements from labor activities, unions or socialist groups is “one sided” and “not objective.”  But how can our working class and socialist leaders get recognized by capitalist controlled press and academia?  They often cannot due to institutional class bias against the working people and their leaders. When in the mid-2000s I tried in collaboration with the nationally known oral historian Professor Richard Cándida Smith, Director of the University of Californian, Berkeley, Regional Oral History Office, and Professor Asef Bayat, the author of Workers and Revolution in Iran (1987), a book-length study of the workers shoras submitted a research proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities to take oral histories of up to 40 leaders of the workers’ shora movement in 1979 Iranian revolution, it was rejected based on one critical comment even though it received “excellent” marks from other reviewers (see, Nayeri, “The Yadullah I Knew: A Tribute to an Iranian Working Class Leader,” 2010).  The anonymous critical reviewer objected to the first draft of the proposal to interview 30 leaders of the Iranian workers council leaders because they were all living in exile.  He/she wanted interviews with those who were able to remain inside Iran!  Of course, not only few such leader managed to survive the repression and remain inside Iran, interviewing them would pose serious security risk to them and the research team.  When we found an additional ten participants in the workers council movement in Iran who agreed to be interviewed, the critical reviewer asked why the leaders of the government created “labor” organizations were not included.  Thus, our attempt to provide a rich set of oral history that could become raw research material for historians of Iranian labor and history was derailed. 

Yadullah Khosroshahi began working at the Abadan refinery at age 14.  Rafsanjani must have joined a shia seminary about the same age.  Khosroshahi joined the rank of the Iranian working class and became one its most prominent leaders. Rafsanjani joined one of the two props of capitalism and landlordism in Iran (the other was the monarchy) and helped crushing go the mass movement of the working people by installing a theocracy instead of the autocracy they destroyed in February 1979 revolution.  While stroke ended both men’s lives, Khosroshahi died in exile at 68 and Rafsanjani died in Tehran at age 82 being one of the richest men in Iran, thanks to the counter-revolution that he helped organize. That is what is behind all the glowing eulogies in the capitalist media in Iran and the West.

Acknowledgment: I am grateful to Andrew Pollack for asking me to write this commentary and for copy editing my draft.  I am alone responsible for the views expressed here and any remaining errors. 

Bayat, Asef. Workers and Revolution in Iran: A Third World Experience of Workers' Control. 1987. 
Nayeri, Kamran and Alireza Nasab. The Rise and Fall of the 1979 Iranian Revolution: Its Lessons for Today,” III Conferencia Internacional La obra de Carlos Marx y los desafíos del Siglo XXI, May 2006. 
Nayeri, Kamran. "The Yadullah I Knew: A Tribute to an Iranian Working Class Leader," Our Place in the World: A Journal of Ecosocialism, march 7, 2010.
-------------------. "A Biographical Sketch of the Iranian Socialist Labor Leader Yadullah Khosroshahi," Our Place in the World: A Journal of Ecosocialism, February 27, 2016. 
-------------------. "Why You Cannot Learn about the Iranian Labor History from Wikipedia," Our Place in the World: A Journal of Ecosocialism, March 6, 2017. 
Moin, Baqer. Khomeini: The Life of the Ayatollah. 2009.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2540. "Genetically Edited" Food Have No Regulations Whatsoever

By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times, January 9, 2017
These genetically edited mushrooms will have longer shelf-life before getting dark
In a few years, you could be eating the next generation of genetically altered foods — potatoes that do not turn brown or soybeans with a healthier mix of fatty acids.
And you may have no idea that something is different, because there may be no mention on the labeling even after a law passed by Congress last year to disclose genetically modified ingredients takes effect.

A new generation of crops known as gene-edited rather than genetically modified is coming to the market. Created through new tools that snip and tweak DNA at precise locations, they, at least for now, largely fall outside of current regulations.

Unlike older methods of engineering genes, these techniques, like Crispr, so far have generally not been used to add genes from other organisms into the plants.

The federal Agriculture Department has asked companies to advise it of their plans. But once the companies submit data to show the agency that the gene edits do not introduce foreign genes from plant pests into the crops, the agency is giving businesses the green light.

Hundreds of acres of gene-edited crops have already been grown in several states, unencumbered by oversight or regulations. And a few people have eaten them already. “This is not Frankenfood,” said André Choulika, chief executive of Cellectis, one of the companies developing gene-edited crops.

In October, Cellectis hosted a dinner at Benoit New York, the Alain Ducasse Manhattan restaurant, and served dishes made from its gene-edited soybeans and potatoes. Guests included professors, journalists and celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris, the actor.
“I don’t even know what gene editing is,” Mr. Harris said. “I thought we were supposed to wear jeans.”

Calyxt, a subsidiary of Cellectis doing the gene-edited food, is also developing new versions of wheat including one with greater resistance to fungal diseases, another lower in carbohydrates and higher in dietary fibers.

Other companies also developing gene-edited crops including DuPont Pioneer, which has used the technology for a new variety of waxy corn, used most commonly not for food but for starch in adhesives. Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have used Crispr to create mushrooms that do not turn brown as quickly.

The current regulations were written for the earlier generation of genetically modified organisms, where scientists used bacteria and viruses — typically from plant pests — to drop a payload of new genes into the nuclei of the plant cells where they merge with the plant’s DNA. That worked, but scientists could not control where the new genes would be inserted, and that led to worries of potentially dangerous genetic disruptions or crossbreeding with non-G.M.O. crops.

Companies like Calyxt have portrayed gene editing more like moving the cursor in a word processor to a particular location and making a small change to the text.

Federal agencies have not yet said how they intend to regulate gene-edited foods, and the incoming Trump administration, while criticizing overregulation in general, has not weighed in.

Other parts of the world are also considering whether to regulate gene-edited foods and how to do so. In Europe, where many countries have banned the cultivation of G.M.O.s, the European Commission has created a scientific panel to study the issue, with debate resuming this year.

Dr. Choulika said the inspiration for the October gathering was a dinner more than two centuries earlier, by Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French scientist who was enthralled with potatoes brought to Europe from South America. But many Europeans scorned the potato. France even outlawed the growing of potatoes in 1748. Largely because of Parmentier’s work, potatoes were declared to be safely edible in 1772, and the ban was lifted. Still, few wanted to eat them.

In 1778, Parmentier organized the first in a series of lavish dinners for the high society of Paris, serving dishes all made with potatoes. Potatoes became a fixture in French cuisine.

With farmers harvesting the first substantial plantings of the Cellectis gene-edited potatoes and soybeans last year, Dr. Choulika thought of throwing a modern version of Parmentier’s gathering.

“This is the first dinner on Earth with gene-edited foods,” Dr. Choulika said to the diners. “Things that you eat today, millions of people are going to eat during the 21st century, and this will not stop.”

After some collaborations with big companies like Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, Cellectis started Calyxt, to explore opportunities for using gene editing for foods.
Dr. Choulika said he considered G.M.O.s safe, but that the gene-editing techniques like those used by Calyxt would be more acceptable to consumers. Often in G.M.O.s, the inserted genes came from unrelated species, like the bacterial genes that were added to cotton so that it would exude a toxin to repel bollworms, a mixing of species known as transgenesis.

“There’s not this blockage of transgenesis that freaks out people for no reason,” he said. “I think it is a question of perception.”

Instead of using bacteria and viruses to burrow into a cell, gene-editing techniques — Calyxt uses one called Talen — create molecules that act as a template to match a specific segment of DNA and then make a cut there.

For the Calyxt soybeans, for example, the only change was to turn off two genes. “There is nothing taken out or added to the plant,” Dr. Choulika said. “It’s what nature would have produced.”

Those edits change the mix of fatty acids and perhaps make for a better cooking oil. “Better than olive oil,” Dr. Choulika said.

At the dinner, the soybeans were transformed into a several dishes including soy blinis, mini tofu and soy burgers, and soybean hummus. Carole Pourchet, director of the Lab, the research and development arm of Mr. Ducasse’s food enterprise, said the gene-edited soy cooked like normal soy, but that the potatoes were a little drier, leading to the idea to confit them to retain moisture.

The potatoes showed up in mashed potatoes, potato pie and blinis.

“The dinner was maybe potatoes cooked 10 ways,” said Richard C. Mulligan, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School who was one of the guests. Dr. Choulika worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Mulligan’s laboratory two decades ago.
Federico Tripodi, chief executive of the Calyxt subsidiary, said the company hoped the soybeans would be used in cooking oil for commercial and industrial use by 2018.

The potatoes, edited to remain fresher longer and not produce carcinogens when fried, could be grown and sold in 2019. A second potato that is slower to turn brown just got word from the U.S.D.A. that it, too, is not subject to regulation.

Gene editing is not being used only with plants. A Minnesota company, Recombinetics, is editing the genes of farm animals — for example, creating cattle without horns.

Critics warned that the industry was repeating the same mistakes of G.M.O.s.

“We’ve never been against any of this technology,” said Michael K. Hansen, a senior staff scientist at Consumers Union. “We don’t say it’s inherently bad or these crops are inherently dangers. It’s just they raise safety issues, and there should be required safety assessments.”

While the gene-editing templates match a specific sequence, it is possible that the same sequence occurs elsewhere in the genome or they will match similar sequences, and the DNA will be sliced in those places, too, with unknown consequences. “They make it sound very exact,” Dr. Hansen said. “It will have off-target effects.”

Dr. Hansen said unregulated gene-edited crops could also create trade havoc if traces of them accidentally mixed into exports to countries that prohibited them.

Daniel Voytas, chief science officer of Calyxt who was one of the inventors of the Talen gene-editing technology, said the company had not checked the entire genomes of their plants, but did look for unintended changes within sections that were similar to the parts they were editing. “We didn’t find any,” he said.

Dr. Voytas said it would not be “a huge amount of work” to sequence the entire genome and that all of the data they presented was available on the U.S.D.A.’s website.

A U.S.D.A. advisory board in November unanimously recommended that standards for organic foods exclude gene-edited crops even if they were grown without chemical fertilizers and abided by the other strictures of organic farming.

Dr. Mulligan of Harvard said he was not sure that people would see much difference between gene-edited and genetically modified. “The objection that people have is a more visceral and vague objection to messing with DNA,” he said. “It’s hard to see that the public would see the difference.”

He admitted that he was more excited by the chef.

“The good thing with this is Ducasse is such a culinary artist,” Dr. Mulligan said. “He is really well known for being able to take anything and make it taste good.”

For Mr. Harris, the dinner provided a whirlwind introduction to biotechnology — “realities that I thought were theoreticals,” he said.