Wednesday, October 22, 2014

the unselfconscious irony of bioweapons-creating pots gassing about decapitating kettles...,


guardian |  Considered as a broad moral category, what Margalit defines as radical evil is not uncommon. The colonial genocide of the Herero people in German South-West Africa (now Namibia) at the start of the 20th century was implemented against a background of ersatz-scientific racist ideology that denied the humanity of Africans. (The genocide included the use of Hereros as subjects of medical experiments, conducted by doctors some of whom returned to Germany to teach physicians later implicated in experiments on prisoners in Nazi camps.) The institution of slavery in antebellum America and South African apartheid rested on a similar denial. A refusal of moral standing to some of those they rule is a feature of societies of widely different varieties in many times and places. In one form or another, denying the shared humanity of others seems to be a universal human trait.

Describing Isis’s behaviour as “psychopathic”, as David Cameron has done, represents the group as being more humanly aberrant than the record allows. Aside from the fact that it publicises them on the internet, Isis’s atrocities are not greatly different from those that have been committed in many other situations of acute conflict. To cite only a few of the more recent examples, murder of hostages, mass killings and systematic rape have been used as methods of warfare in the former Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Rwanda, and the Congo.

A campaign of mass murder is never simply an expression of psychopathic aggression. In the case of Isis, the ideology of Wahhabism has played an important role. Ever since the 1920s, the rulers of the Saudi kingdom have promoted this 18th-century brand of highly repressive and exclusionary Sunni Islam as part of the project of legitimating the Saudi state. More recently, Saudi sponsorship of Wahhabi ideology has been a response to the threat posed by the rise of Shia Iran. If the ungoverned space in which Isis operates has been created by the west’s exercises in regime change, the group’s advances are also a byproduct of the struggle for hegemony between Iran and the Saudis. In such conditions of intense geopolitical rivalry there can be no effective government in Iraq, no end to the Syrian civil war and no meaningful regional coalition against the self-styled caliphate.

But the rise of Isis is also part of a war of religion. Nothing is more commonplace than the assertion that religion is a tool of power, which ruling elites use to control the people. No doubt that’s often true. But a contrary view is also true: politics may be a continuation of religion by other means. In Europe religion was a primary force in politics for many centuries. When religion seemed to be in retreat, it renewed itself in political creeds – Jacobinism, nationalism and varieties of totalitarianism – that were partly religious in nature. Something similar is happening in the Middle East. Fuelled by movements that combine radical fundamentalism with elements borrowed from secular ideologies such as Leninism and fascism, conflict between Shia and Sunni communities looks set to continue for generations to come. Even if Isis is defeated, it will not be the last movement of its kind. Along with war, religion is not declining, but continuously mutating into hybrid forms.

Western intervention in the Middle East has been guided by a view of the world that itself has some of the functions of religion. There is no factual basis for thinking that something like the democratic nation-state provides a model on which the region could be remade. States of this kind emerged in modern Europe, after much bloodshed, but their future is far from assured and they are not the goal or end-point of modern political development. From an empirical viewpoint, any endpoint can only be an act of faith. All that can be observed is a succession of political experiments whose outcomes are highly contingent. Launched in circumstances in which states constructed under the aegis of western colonialism have broken down under the impact of more recent western intervention, the gruesome tyranny established by Isis will go down in history as one of these experiments.

The weakness of faith-based liberalism is that it contains nothing that helps in the choices that must be made between different kinds and degrees of evil. Given the west’s role in bringing about the anarchy in which the Yazidis, the Kurds and other communities face a deadly threat, non-intervention is a morally compromised option. If sufficient resources are available – something that cannot be taken for granted – military action may be justified. But it is hard to see how there can be lasting peace in territories where there is no functioning state. Our leaders have helped create a situation that their view of the world claims cannot exist: an intractable conflict in which there are no good outcomes.

that magic orange grease though....,


farmingpathogens |   There’s something fishy about the bushmeat narrative of Ebola.

In August we explored the way the story internalizes the outbreak to local West Africans. It’s part of the ooga booga epidemiology that detracts from the circuits of capital, originating in New York, London and elsewhere, that fund the development and deforestation driving the emergence of new diseases in the global South.

But in addition, and not unconnected, there’s something missing from the model’s purported etiology. Indeed, Ebola may have almost nothing, or only something tangentially, to do with the bushmeat trade.

In this new commentary just published in Environment and Planning A, a team of ecohealth scientists of which I’m a part proposes Ebola emerged out of a phase change in West Africa’s agroecology brought about by neoliberal development.

We hypothesize more specifically that the pathogen arose as oil palm, to which Ebola-bearing bats are attracted, underwent a classic case of creeping consolidation, enclosure, commoditization, and proletarianization that at one and the same time curtailed artisanal production and expanded the human-bat interface over which Ebola traffic likely increased.

Explorations of such structural causes, the heart of the matter, have largely been shelved before they’ve begun. The emergency response, or lack thereof, has moved front and center. Both eminently understandable and opportunistically convenient. The failure to address upstream causes produces the crisis that becomes another way of avoiding such a discussion.

The tension manifests in some striking ways, with many veiled allusions to structural sources of the outbreak but few open declarations. It’s as if scientists and first responders are expected to talk about the outbreak’s origins without using anything more than generalities, careful euphemisms and pointed ellipses, avoiding offending funding sources whose capital accumulation helped drive the outbreak in the first place.

surprise, surprise..., the firestone rubber plantation stopped ebola in its tracks


CDC |  On March 30, 2014, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) of Liberia alerted health officials at Firestone Liberia, Inc. (Firestone) of the first known case of Ebola virus disease (Ebola) inside the Firestone rubber tree plantation of Liberia. The patient, who was the wife of a Firestone employee, had cared for a family member with confirmed Ebola in Lofa County, the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia during March–April 2014. To prevent a large outbreak among Firestone's 8,500 employees, their dependents, and the surrounding population, the company responded by 1) establishing an incident management system, 2) instituting procedures for the early recognition and isolation of Ebola patients, 3) enforcing adherence to standard Ebola infection control guidelines, and 4) providing differing levels of management for contacts depending on their exposure, including options for voluntary quarantine in the home or in dedicated facilities. In addition, Firestone created multidisciplinary teams to oversee the outbreak response, address case detection, manage cases in a dedicated unit, and reintegrate convalescent patients into the community. The company also created a robust risk communication, prevention, and social mobilization campaign to boost community awareness of Ebola and how to prevent transmission. During August 1–September 23, a period of intense Ebola transmission in the surrounding areas, 71 cases of Ebola were diagnosed among the approximately 80,000 Liberians for whom Firestone provides health care (cumulative incidence = 0.09%). Fifty-seven (80%) of the cases were laboratory confirmed; 39 (68%) of these cases were fatal. Aspects of Firestone's response appear to have minimized the spread of Ebola in the local population and might be successfully implemented elsewhere to limit the spread of Ebola and prevent transmission to health care workers (HCWs). 

Firestone Liberia, Inc. is an affiliate of Firestone Natural Rubber Company, LLC, a division of Bridgestone Americas, Inc., that operates rubber tree plantations in Liberia. The original plantation was established in 1926 by the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. The company harvests natural rubber and wood from a plantation area of approximately 120,000 acres (185 square miles) in the Firestone District of Margibi County (Figure 1). The populations of Margibi County and Firestone District are 238,000 and 69,000, respectively (Government of Liberia 2014 population estimates). Employees and their dependents reside within 121 communities inside the Firestone plantation. Nearly 16,000 students matriculate at 27 schools operated by Firestone. Although Firestone manages the plantation, the area is accessible to non-company residents from surrounding communities and includes roadways permitting passage of people and commerce.

Firestone operates a referral hospital, two clinics, and seven health posts, with 181 health care providers within the plantation area. The main hospital has an emergency department, labor and delivery department, intensive care unit, and 170-bed routine inpatient capacity with an additional 130-bed surge capacity for both adult and pediatric patients. Health posts are located within housing communities and staffed by non-physician primary care providers who reside in those communities. Firestone also operates a mobile medical unit that follows a daily route through the plantation area and surrounding communities. Firestone's reported health care catchment population of roughly 80,000 includes employees, retirees, dependents, and the residents of the densely populated surrounding communities in Margibi and Montserrado counties. Firestone provides perinatal care (representing 70% of all deliveries at Firestone's main hospital), routine vaccinations, primary care through the mobile medical unit, and emergency care for members of the communities surrounding Firestone's plantation area. The total number of patient visits to Firestone facilities averages nearly 5,500 per month.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

trust issues start early and pervade, corrode, and undermine to create castes in america


Washington Post | America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.
That's because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on "enrichment activities" for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.
But, of course, it's not just a matter of dollars and cents. It's also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a week on average than poor parents, which is critical during a child's formative early years. That's why, as Stanford professor Sean Reardonexplains, "rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students," and they're staying that way.
It's an educational arms race that's leaving many kids far, far behind.
It's depressing, but not nearly so much as this:
Even poor kids who do everything right don't do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's annual conference, which is underway.

trust issues: u.s. biowarfare laboratories in west africa are the origin of the ebola epidemic in west africa


ICH |  Could Ebola Have Escaped From US Bio-warfare Labs? American law professor Francis A. Boyle, answers questions for tvxs.gr and reveals that USA have been using West Africa as an offshore to circumvent the Convention on Biological Weapons and do bio-warfare work. Is Ebola just a result of health crisis in Africa - because of the large gaps in personnel, equipment and medicines - as some experts suggest?

That isn’t true at all. This is just propaganda being put out by everyone. It seems to me, that what we are dealing with here is a biological warfare work that was conducted at the bio-warfare laboratories set up by the USA on the west coast of Africa. And if you look at a map produced by the Center of  Disease Control you can see where these laboratories are located. And they are across the heart of  Ebola epidemic, at the west coast of Africa. So, I think these laboratories, one or more of them, are the origins of the Ebola epidemic.

US government agencies are supposed to do defensive biological warfare research in these labs. Is there any information about what are they working on?

Well, that’s what they tell you. But if you study what the CDC and the Pentagon do… They say it is defensive, but this is just for public relation purposes than anything. It’s a trick. What it means is what they decide at these bio-warfare labs. They say, “well we have to develop a vaccine”, so that’s their defensive argument. Then what they do is to develop the bio-warfare agent itself. Usually by means of  DNA genetic engineering. And then they say, “well to get the vaccine we have to develop the bio-warfare agent” - usually by DNA genetic engineering - and then they try to work on the vaccine. So it’s two uses type of work. I haven’t read all these bio-warfare contracts but that’s typical of the way the Pentagon CDC has been doing this since at least the 1980’s. I have absolute proof from a Pentagon document that the Center of Disease Control was doing bio-warfare work for the Pentagon in Sierra Leone, the heart of the outbreak, as early as 1988. And indeed it was probably before then because they would have had to construct the lab and that would have taken some time. So we know that Fort Detrick and the Center for Disease Control are over there, Tulane University, which is a well-known bio-warfare center here in USA - I would say notorious for it - is there. They all have been over there.

In addition, USA government made sure that Liberia, a former colony of  the USA, never became a party to the Biological Weapons Convention, so they were able to do bio – warfare work over there - going back to 1980’s - the USA government, in order to circumvent the Biological Weapons Convention. Likewise, Guinea the third state affected here - and there is an increase now – didn’t even sign the Biological Weapons Convention. So, it seems to me, that the different agencies of the US government have been always there try to circumvent the Biological Weapons Convention and engage bio-warfare work. Indeed, we had one of these two lab bio-warriors admit in the NY Times that they were not over there for the purpose of either screening or treating people. That’s not what these labs are about. These labs are there in my opinion to do bio-warfare work for different agencies of the US government. Indeed, many of them were set up by USAID. And everyone knows that USAID is penetrated all up and down by the CIA and CIA has been involved in bio-warfare work as well.

Are we being told the truth about Ebola? Is that big outbreak began all of a sudden? How does it spread so quickly?

The whole outbreak that we see in the west coast of Africa, this is Zaire/Ebola. The most dangerous of five subtypes of Ebola. Zaire/Ebola originated 3500 km from the west coast of Africa. There is absolutely no way that it could have been transmitted 3500 km. And if you read the recently published Harvard study on the DNA analysis of the west Africas’ Zaire/Ebola there is no explanation about how the virus moved there. And indeed, it’s been reported in the NY Times that the Zaire/Ebola was found there in 1976, and then WHO ordered to be set to Porton Down in Britain, which is the British equivalent to Fort Detrick, where they manufacture all the biological weapons for Britain. And then Britain sent it to the US Center for Disease Control. And we know for a fact that the Center for Disease Control has been involved in biological warfare work. And then it appears, at least from whatever I’ve been able to put together in a public record, that the CDC and several others US bio-warriors exported Zaire/Ebola to west Africa, to their labs there, where they were doing bio-warfare work on it. So, I believe this is the origins of the Zaire/Ebola pandemic we are seeing now in west Africa.

Why would they do that?

Why would they do that? As I suggested to try to circumvent the Biological Weapons Convention to which the US government is a party. So, always bio-warriors do use offensive and defensive bio-warfare work, violating the Biological Weapons Convention. So effectively they try to offshore it into west Africa where Liberia is not a party and Guinea is not a party. Sierra Leone is a party. But in Sierra Leone and Liberia there were disturbances which kept the world from really paying attention of what was going on in these labs.

USA sent troops to «fight» Ebola. What do you think about that move?

The US military just invaded Liberia. They send in the 101st Airborne Division to Liberia. That’s an elite division of combat and they have no training to provide medical treatment to anyone. They are there to establish a military base in Liberia. And the British are doing the same in Sierra Leone. The French are already in Mali and Senegal. So, they’re not sending military people there to treat these people. No, I’m sorry.

trust issues: florida dengue outbreaks and bioweapons research...,


truthout |  It appears highly unlikely that any "detective work" performed by the CDC and Florida health officials will unearth evidence of dengue fever being imported into Florida, but that evidence certainly exists. Prior to the recent Key West findings and still today, the CDC has consistently reported that there have been no outbreaks of dengue fever in Florida since 1934 and none in the continental US since 1946. This report is incorrect.

Unknown to most Americans is that dengue fever has been the intense focus of US Army and CIA biological warfare researchers for over 50 years. Ed Regis notes in his excellent history of Fort Detrick, "The Biology of Doom," that as early as 1942 leading biochemists at the installation placed dengue fever on a long list for serious consideration as a possible weapon. In the early 1950s, Fort Detrick, in partnership with the CIA, launched a multi-million dollar research program under which dengue fever and several addition exotic diseases were studied for use in offensive biological warfare attacks. Assumably, because the virus is generally not lethal, program planners viewed it primarily as an incapacitant. Reads one CIA Project Artichoke document: "Not all viruses have to be lethal ... the objective includes those that act as short-term and long-term incapacitants." Several CIA documents, as well as the findings of a 1975 Congressional committee, reveal that three sites in Florida, Key West, Panama City and Avon Park, as well as two other locations in central Florida, were used for experiments with mosquito-borne dengue fever and other biological substances.

The experiments in Avon Park, about 170 miles from Miami, were covertly conducted in a low-income African-American neighborhood that contained several newly constructed public housing projects. CIA documents related to its top-secret Project MK/NAOMI clearly indicate that the mosquitoes used in Avon Park were the Aedes aegypti type. Specially equipped aircraft, in one of the larger experiments, released 600,000 mosquitoes over the area. In one of the Avon Park experiments, about 150,000 mosquitoes were dropped in paper bags designed to open upon impact with the ground. Each bag held about 1,000 insects. Besides dengue, some of the mosquitoes were also carrying yellow fever.

Avon Park residents, still living in the area, say the experiments resulted in "at least 6 or 7 deaths." One elderly resident told Truthout, "Nobody knew about what had gone on here for years, maybe over 20 years, but in looking back it explained why a bunch of healthy people got sick quick and died at the time of those experiments." Interestingly, at the same time experiments were conducted in Florida, there were at least two cases of dengue fever reported among civilian researchers at Fort Detrick in Maryland.

A 1978 Pentagon publication, entitled "Biological Warfare: Secret Testing & Volunteers," reveals that the Army's Chemical Corps and Special Operations and Projects Divisions at Fort Detrick conducted "tests" similar to the Avon Park experiments in Key West, but the bulk of the documentation concerning this highly classified and covert work is still held by the Pentagon as "secret." One former Fort Detrick researcher says the Army "performed a number of experiments in the area of the Keys," but that "not all concerned dengue virus."

In 1959, Fort Detrick launched its largest mosquito experiment called Operation Bellwether, consisting of over 50 field experiments. Some of these experiments, designed to ascertain the "rate of biting" and "mosquito aggressiveness," were conducted in partnership with scientists with the Rockefeller Institute in New York, where scientists bred their own strain of mosquitoes. Some of the Bellwether experiments were conducted in Florida, as well as in other states, including Georgia, Maryland, Utah and Arizona.

The 1978 Pentagon publication, along with two other Chemical Corps reports, reveal the identities of a number of the companies and institutions that assisted the Army in its offensive biological warfare experiments: Armour Research Foundation (1951-1954); the Battelle Memorial Institute (1952-1965); Ben Venue Labs, Inc. (1953-1954); University of Florida (1953-1956); Florida State University (1951-1953); and the Lovell Chemical Company (1951-1955).

In the spring and summer of 1981, Cuba experienced a severe hemorrhagic dengue fever epidemic. Between May and October 1981, the island nation had 158 dengue-related deaths with about 75,000 reported infection cases. Prior to this outbreak, Cuba had reported only a very small number of cases in 1944 and 1977. At the height of the epidemic, over 10,000 people per day were found infected and 116,150 were hospitalized. At the same time as the 1981 outbreak, covert biological warfare attacks on Cuba's residents and crops were believed to have been conducted against the island by CIA contractors and military airplane flyovers. Particularly harmful to the nation was a severe outbreak of swine flu that Fidel Castro attributed to the CIA. American researcher William H. Schaap, an editor of Covert Action magazine, claims the Cuba dengue outbreak was the result of CIA activities. Former Fort Detrick researchers, all of whom refused to have their names used for this article, say they performed "advance work" on the Cuba outbreak and that it was "man made."

trust issues: um, er, ah..., why the pentagon deploying domestically, redundantly, to address these "issues"?


zerohedge |  President Obama may have been busy golfing this weekend, and his brand new Ebola Czar may have had more pressing matters to attend than the White House's Saturday evening meeting on the US "response to domestic Ebola cases" (because clearly the Ebola Czar is superfluous at such Ebola-related events), but that doesn't mean that the administration will once again be caught with its pants down the next time an Ebola index patient is unveiled on US soil. Nope. 

In taking a page right out of America's response to the Ebola pandemic in... West Africa, where the US has dispatched several thousands troops to do, something, unclear what, earlier today, it was revealed that the U.S. military is forming a 30-person "quick-strike team", which according to CNN is "equipped to provide direct treatment to Ebola patients inside the United States, a Defense Department official told CNN's Barbara Starr on Sunday."
The team will be under orders to deploy within 72 hours at any time over the next month, the official said.  The Department of Health and Human Services requested the military team, and the Pentagon has given verbal approval, the official said.

The team will include five doctors, 20 nurses and five trainers, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

The Pentagon has been working to determine what assistance it could offer the civilian health care sector following a White House meeting last week during which President Barack Obama said he wanted a more aggressive response, according to two Defense officials.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered chief of the Northern Command, Gen. Chuck Jacoby, "to prepare and train a 30-person expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States," Kirby said.

Jacoby is already working with the military on the joint team, Kirby said, and once formed, it will head to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for up to seven days of training in infection control and personal protective equipment. The training, provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, will begin "within the next week or so," Kirby said.

The team will remain in "prepare-to-deploy" status for 30 days, he said. It will be able to respond anywhere in the U.S. if "deemed prudent by our public health professionals," he said.
To summarize: the Pentagon, as in the US army, will provide direct treatment to Ebola patients.
So just how exactly is the US army's crack 30-person "SWAT" team which has a whopping 5 doctors, more competent to deal to deal with what is, at last check, a medical situation than, say, America's medical professionals? Or is, in the parlance of our times, where an "Iraq military advisor" really means crack commando fighting Syrian troops on the ground on behalf of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, "direct treatment" merely a euphemism for something far less enjoyable? 

For the partial answer to some of these questions, please read "Public Health Emergency Declared In Connecticut Over Ebola: Civil Rights Suspended Indefinitely, and also "Obama Mobilizes National Guard, Army Reserves To Fight Ebola" - they serve as a good starting point for where all of this is ultimately headed.

trust issues: u.s. army withheld promise from germany that ebola and marburg wouldn't be weaponized...,


rt |  The United States has withheld assurances from Germany that the Ebola virus - among other related diseases - would not be weaponized in the event of Germany exporting it to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
German MFA Deputy Head of Division for Export Control Markus Klinger provided a paper to the US consulate's Economics Office (Econoff), "seeking additional assurances related to a proposed export of extremely dangerous pathogens."

Germany subsequently made two follow-up requests and clarifications to the Army, according to the unclassified Wikileaks cable.

"This matter concerns the complete genome of viruses such as the Zaire Ebola virus, the Lake Victoria Marburg virus, the Machupo virus and the Lassa virus, which are absolutely among the most dangerous pathogens in the world,"
the request notes.

The Zaire Ebola virus was the same strain of Ebola virus which has been rampaging through West Africa in recent months.

"The delivery would place the recipient in the position of being able to create replicating recombinant infectious species of these viruses," the cable notes.

However, it also points out that Germany has in place an "exceptionally restrictive policy," adding that approval would not be granted to the export until US assurance was provided.

"A decision about the export has not yet been made. Given the foregoing, we would appreciate confirmation that the end use certificate really is from the Department of the Army and of the accuracy of the data contained therein," the document stated.

There is no follow-up document available to confirm whether the US Army eventually provided Germany with the necessary guarantees.

Bioweapons were outlawed in the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and was signed and ratified by 179 signatories, including Germany, the US and Russia.

It dictates that signatories, "under all circumstances the use of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons is effectively prohibited by the Convention" and "the determination of States parties to condemn any use of biological agents or toxins other than for peaceful purposes, by anyone at any time."

@phx - trust issues start early and pervade, corrode, and undermine the total school experience



thisamericanlife | Chana Joffe - A few weeks after JJ was first suspended, Tunette took him to a birthday party. And this is where, at this point, remember, I'm feeling really low on myself, I guess my parenting skills. And so I go to this birthday party. And it's for his friend, one of his little friends.
And all the parents are kind of talking, all the women parents. And we're talking about the preschool. And some of them are saying things that they like and don't like and all these different things. And then I said, well, JJ's been suspended. And they were like, suspended? And I'm like, yeah.
And they said, they suspend kids? They were shocked. And I said, absolutely. I said, he's been suspended, and I started telling them all the things that he had done.

And then one parent's like, I wonder why my kid hasn't been suspended. And I'm like, hm? What? So then she says, well, my son, he hit this kid on purpose, and they had to rush that kid to the hospital, and all I got was a phone call. And I was like, hm. And one after another, they kept telling me different stuff-- my kid did this, my kid did that, my kid bit somebody, my kid-- all these things.

And my kids, they're all the same age, all the same class. And only JJ had been sent home. So I was like, what is going on? That's when I thought to myself, something is not right.
Chana Joffe -The other parents were white at this birthday party?

Tunette Powell -The other parents were white. It was three other parents and myself. And they were white. And where we live, the majority of the kids are white.

And I'm not a person who does that, oh, everything's against black people, or I don't wake up and look for situations where there's discrimination or racism or any of that. So I wasn't-- oh, they're just doing this because my kids are black. I had no reason to believe that. After that birthday party, it forced me to consider it.
Chana Joffe - After the birthday party, Tunette's younger son, Joah, got suspended. Joah was three, though just barely three. He'd just had his birthday that week.

Tunette writes for a local Omaha parenting blog called Momaha. She wrote a post with the headline, "Is My Black Preschooler Just Another Statistic?"

I reached out to the preschool. And they did not want to comment or even allow me to talk to the director of the school. But Tunette's post got picked up by the Washington Post. And she started getting dozens of messages, especially from black parents, all over the country.
Tunette Powell In every part, every little sector, just saying that this has happened to me, and I thought I was by myself.
Chana Joffe -Tunette was very much not by herself. This is not a new conversation for lots of black and Latino parents noticing that their kids seem to be punished more harshly than white kids. That's not new.
What is new is that some academics and activists have been taking these stories and attaching them to a new, provocative term-- "the school-to-prison pipeline." The idea is that what's happening to Tunette's son is happening to lots of kids of color all over the country. And once those kids are old enough, the excessive punishment in school really messes them up and makes them much more likely to wind up in prison.

Monday, October 20, 2014

the systemic roots of a global pandemic


collapseofindustrialcivilization |  Over the ages, a number of empires have exploited and looted the resource-rich lands of Africa. At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from Scotland in the northern hemisphere to the deserts of Africa in the south. The Romans stripped their North African territory of its trees, making it their breadbasket of grain production. Originating in central Africa, malaria was likely spread to the center of the Roman Empire on their cargo ships. Passengers on their boats could have carried malaria in their bloodstream before becoming symptomatic, and water barrels on board could have harbored mosquito larvae. In fact, the DNA work of Dr. Robert Sallares has proven that the most lethal form of malaria helped topple ancient Rome. Fast forwarding to today, the blow-back from industrial agriculture and transnational corporate land grabs in Africa has now reached the shores of the hegemonic American Empire in the form of a deadly tropical disease called Ebola.

The Roman Empire seized fertile African land by brute force, but in modern times capitalist industrial civilization takes over Third World countries with the stroke of a pen. Structural adjustment loans by such tools of western power as the IMF and World Bank are signed requiring privatization of the economy and government cuts in social spending. Vast tracks of forests are cleared for mining or monoculture crop production such as palm oil. Subsistence farmers are dispossessed of their ancestral lands and forced to migrate to cities in search of work. Deprived of adequate healthcare and the opportunity to earn a livable wage, these urban poor live in squalor and are driven to hunt in the surrounding forests for a cheap source of protein known as bushmeat. Fruit bats, a keystone environmental species, have been identified as an Ebola virus host that has spread the disease through bushmeat consumption, habitat destruction, and human encroachment. Thus the neoliberal agenda of ‘developed’ nations has acted to create the atmosphere from which this pandemic arose.

Due to the long history of exploitation by outside powers, native Africans are justifiably wary and prone to conspiracy theories involving intervention by Western institutions as well as their own governments which have been, to a great degree, corrupted by the resource curse. These unpleasant facts are, of course, never mentioned by the MSM because it might spark a flicker of moral compunction in the ‘developed’ world which has ended up with so much of Africa’s wealth in the form of rare earth minerals used inside electronic devices, gold and diamonds in jewelry, or petrol pumped into vehicles. The horrific realities behind conflict minerals are always kept out of sight and out of mind by the next consumer diversion.

ferguson, the foreclosure crisis, and america's hedge-fund landlords


billmoyers |  The events in Ferguson last month laid bare many of the tensions that are simmering in America. In areport for The New York Times’ Dealbook, Matthew Goldstein adds another to the list: Americans are still reeling from the 2008 fiscal meltdown, the resulting crash in the housing market and monied interests taking advantage in minority neighborhoods like Ferguson’s.

Nationally, 17 percent of homeowners are underwater — they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are actually worth. In Ferguson, that figure sits at 50 percent. Because so many homeowners are struggling, the town is ripe for institutional investors — often hedge funds or private equity groups on the coasts, thousands of miles away — to buy up homes, then rent them to low-income tenants. And that’s what has happened. Investment firms are responsible for roughly a quarter of all recent housing purchases in the town.

Goldstein profiled two Ferguson families renting from one Los Angeles-based investment firm, Raineth Housing:

Housing advocates worry about what will happen if investors in firms like Raineth become dissatisfied with the returns from leasing homes to low-income families. The commitment of out-of-state landlords to maintaining properties also is a concern. Tenants and local housing officials have given Raineth mixed grades as a landlord.

Mr. Bryant, 24, who lives on Mueller Avenue in Ferguson, said he and his mother had been generally pleased with their home, which they have rented for four years. He said the landlord’s property manager had been fairly responsive about making repairs, although Mr. Bryant said the house, which has white siding and burgundy trim, “needs to be worked on, or updated.”

The Walkers, who moved into their two-bedroom white brick home on La Motte Lane a year ago, tell a different story. Ethel Walker, 54, a custodian at a local school, said her asthma has worsened because of a persistent mold problem in the house, which she blames on a leaky pipe and water in the basement. More recently, Ms. Walker and her daughter said they had had to deal with raw sewage gurgling up in their yard.

“When you’d flush the toilet it’d come up in the backyard,” Tasha Walker, 31, said.

As Goldstein notes, tenant advocates say the problem comes when investors try to turn too quick a profit on their investment — or fail to turn a profit at all. In New York City, for example, private equity firms have invested in neighborhoods — often low-income communities that investors were unfamiliar with — where the economics of their investment didn’t work out and tenants suffered. In some cases, residents watched their buildings fall into disrepair as their new Wall Street landlords sought to wring maximum profit. In others, tenants faced intense pressure to leave their homes as new landlords tried to gentrify neighborhoods and raise rents. Tenants’ rights groups have dubbed this style of landlordship “predatory equity.”

These practices have spread far beyond urban neighborhoods to the suburbs, where an abundance of cheap homes are teetering on the brink of foreclosure. In the wake of the housing crisis, Bloomberg reported, Blackstone Group raised $20 billion to purchase “as many as 200,000 homes.” As of 2013, the fund was renting residences in 14 cities. Ferguson was “largely avoided” by Blackstone, Goldstein writes, but other investment groups filled the gap.

So increasingly, in Ferguson and across America, homes that went through foreclosure during the crisis are now owned by large financial entities, many of which are staffed by individuals who had a hand in creating the crisis in the first place. And increasingly, Americans are renting from them.

why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa


WaPo |  The love seat and sofa that Jamie Abbott can’t quite afford ended up in her double-wide trailer because of the day earlier this year when she and her family walked into a new store called Buddy’s. Abbott had no access to credit, no bank account and little cash, but here was a place that catered to exactly those kinds of customers. Anything could be hers. The possibilities — and the prices — were dizzying. 

At Buddy’s, a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs $1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: $1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: $1,999 over 100 weeks.
Abbott wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options. “You don’t get something like that just to put more burden on yourself,” Abbott said.

Five years into a national economic recovery that has further strained the poor working class, an entire industry has grown around handing them a lifeline to the material rewards of middle-class life. Retailers in the post-Great Recession years have become even more likely to work with customers who don’t have the money upfront, instead offering a widening spectrum of payment plans that ultimately cost far more and add to the burdens of life on the economy’s fringes.

The poor today can shop online, paying in installments, or walk into traditional retailers such as Kmart that now offer in-store leasing. The most striking change in the world of low-income commerce has been the proliferation of rent-to-own stores such as Buddy’s Home Furnishings, which has been opening a new store every week, largely in the South.

In some ways, the business harkens back to the subprime boom of the early 2000s, when lenders handed out loans to lowborrowers with little credit history. But while people in those days were charged perhaps an interest rate of 5 to 10 percent, at rental centers the poor find themselves paying effective annual interest rates of more than 100 percent. With business models such as “rent-to-own,” in which transactions are categorized as leases, stores like Buddy’s can avoid state usury laws and other regulations.

And yet low-income Americans increasingly have few other places to turn. “Congratulations, You are Pre-Approved,” Buddy’s says on its Web site, and the message plays to America’s bottom 40 percent. This is a group that makes less money than it did 20 years ago, a group increasingly likely to string together paychecks by holding multiple part-time jobs with variable hours.

the racist housing policies that built ferguson

A 1916 leaflet proposes to segregate St. Louis. The measure passed. (Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center)
theatlantic |  The Economic Policy Institute has just released a report by Richard Rothstein that gives some sense of how the world of Michael Brown came to be. It turns out that that world was born from the exact same forces that forged cities and suburbs across the country—racist housing policy at the local, state, and national levels. Rothstein's report eschews talk of mindless white flight, and black-hearted individual racists, and puts the onus exactly where it belongs:
That governmental actions, not mere private prejudice, were responsible for segregating greater St. Louis was once conventional informed opinion. In 1974, a three-judge panel of the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that “segregated housing in the St. Louis metropolitan area was … in large measure the result of deliberate racial discrimination in the housing market by the real estate industry and by agencies of the federal, state, and local governments.”

Similar observations accurately describe every other large metropolitan area; in St. Louis, the Department of Justice stipulated to this truth but took no action in response. In 1980, a federal court order included an instruction for the state, county, and city governments to devise plans to integrate schools by integrating housing. Public officials ignored this aspect of the order, devising only a voluntary busing plan to integrate schools, but no programs to combat housing segregation.
A lot of what's here—redlining, housing covenants, blockbusting, etc.—will be well-known to those with a good handle on 20th-century American history. I focused on this particular era in my case for reparations. But it bears constant repeating: The geography of America would be unrecognizable today without the racist social engineering of the mid-20th century. The policy included—but was not limited to—mortgage loans backed by the Federal Housing Authority and the Veteran's Administration:

the quickest way to predict the number of police shootings in a city is to see how many blacks live there


chicagotribune |  What mattered for police shootings wasn't the makeup of the police department, it was the makeup of the city. In all measured cities, an increase in black residents brought an increase in police shootings. In smaller cities, a substantial change in the proportion of black residents resulted in a slight increase in the predicted number of police-caused homicides. And in the larger cities, the same change increased the chance for police-caused homicides by a factor of 10 compared to smaller cities. Put another way, the quickest way to predict the number of police shootings in a city is to see how many blacks live there.

And, in turn, the most likely victims of fatal police shootings are young black males. According to a ProPublica analysis of federal data on police shootings, young black males ages 15 to 19 are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than their white counterparts. "One way of appreciating that stark disparity," notes ProPublica, "is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring — 185, more than one per week." What's most relevant for the diversity of police departments is this fact: While black officers are involved in just 10 percent of police shootings, 78 percent of those they kill are black.

The glib response to stats on blacks and police is to cite so-called "black crime" or "black criminality." But this depends on a major analytical error. Yes, blacks are overrepresented in arrest and conviction rates. At the same time, "criminal blacks" are a tiny, unrepresentative fraction of all black Americans. If you walked into a group of 1,000 randomly selected blacks, the vast majority — upward of 998 — would never have had anything to do with violent crime. To generalize from the two is to confuse the specific (how blacks are represented among criminals) with the general (how criminals are represented among blacks). Statisticians call this a "base rate error," and you should try to avoid it.

In fairness, you could apply this to police as well. The number of cops who shoot — much less shoot black Americans — is a small percentage of all cops. Why judge the whole by the actions of a few?
But there are problems here. Policing is a profession backed by the state and imbued with the right — and reasonable latitude — to use lethal force. Even if we're looking at a small number of cops, it's still a serious problem when those who shoot are most likely to kill people from a specific group. Moreover, the problem of blacks and police goes beyond shootings to general interactions between black communities and law enforcement. We know, for instance, that officers are more likely to use force against black protesters than white ones. The stats on shooting are just one part of a larger dynamic that applies to police departments across the country, not just individual cops.

The history of American policing is tied tightly to its relationship with black Americans and other minorities. The earliest police antecedents were slave patrols and anti-native militias, built to suppress rebellion and combat Native Americans. After the Civil War, Southern whites used police as a new tool for control, terrorizing blacks under the guise of law enforcement, from lynchings — often organized or supported by local sheriffs — to convict leasing. Elsewhere, in the industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest, policing became a pathway for immigrant mobility. At the same time, police attention turned to black migrants, who were condemned as lazy and criminal. As historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes, police during the New York race riots of 1900 and 1905 "abdicated their responsibility to dispense color-blind service and protection, resulting in ... indiscriminate mass arrests of blacks attacked by white mobs."

The antagonism between blacks and police would continue through the 20th century. As BuzzFeed's Adam Serwer notes in an essay on Ferguson, the urban riots of the 1960s — and beyond — were fueled by police abuse, "The recipe for urban riots since 1935 is remarkably consistent and the ingredients are almost always the same: An impoverished and politically disempowered black population refused full American citizenship, a heavy-handed and overwhelmingly white police force, a generous amount of neglect, and frequently, the loss of black life at the hands of the police." For a more vivid picture, there's James Baldwin's 1960 essay on Harlem — "Fifth Avenue, Uptown" — where he describes the meaning of the white policeman in the black ghetto:

They represent the force of the white world, and that world's real intentions are, simply, for that world's criminal profit and ease, to keep the black man corralled up here, in his place. The badge, the gun in the holster, and the swinging club make vivid what will happen should his rebellion become overt.

This isn't ancillary to the present question of diversity and policing, it's vital. The culture of policing evolved in a context of racial discrimination and racial control, where departments were charged with containing blacks, not protecting them. The demographics of policing have changed since the middle of the 20th century, but the culture has moved more slowly. And while we have minority officers, they — like their white counterparts — operate in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust between communities and law enforcement.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

bashing lockheed martin's purported fusion breakthrough


BI |  Researchers at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Skunk Works, announced on Wednesday their ongoing work on a new technology that could bring about functional nuclear reactors powered by fusion in the next 10 years.

But most scientists and science communicators we talked to are skeptical of the claim.
"The nuclear engineering clearly fails to be cost effective," Tom Jarboe told Business Insider in an email. Jarboe is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, an adjunct professor in physics, and a researcher with the University of Washington's nuclear fusion experiment.

The premise behind Lockheed's 10-year plan is the smaller size of their device. The scientists are designing an improved version of a compact fusion reactor. The CFR generates power from nuclear fusion by extracting energy through the extremely hot plasma contained inside it.

The plasma consists of hydrogen atoms that, when heated to billions of degrees, fuse together. When this happens they release energy, which the CFR then extracts and can eventually transfer into electricity.

Traditional containment vessels for these plasmas are called tokamaks, and they look like hollowed-out doughnuts and are the size of an average apartment. Lockheed says its new CFR can generate 10 times more power than a tokamak in a space that could fit on the back of a large truck, according to Aviation Week. But Jarboe disagrees.

"This design has two doughnuts and a shell so it will be more than four times as bad as a tokamak," Jarboe said, adding that, "Our concept [at the University of Washington] has no coils surrounded by plasma and solves the problem."

Although Lockheed Martin issued a press release saying it had several pending patents for its approach, the company has yet to publish any scientific papers on this latest work.

"It's really great that Lockheed has taken an interest in this important challenge of providing carbon-free energy to the world," Michael Zarnstorff, deputy director for research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, told Business Insider in an email. "We haven't seen any results from the Lockheed experiments but the design is an interesting concept and it looks like they are at a very early stage of exploring this configuration."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

the political economy of ebola


farmingpathogens |  In spite of writing a long book on diseases spilling over from animals to humans, well-regarded author David Quammen can’t seem to get his mind wrapped around the possibility Ebola has likely evolved a new ecotype, for the first time spreading into a major urban area.
The first outbreak of Flaviviridae Filoviridae Ebola in West Africa apparently began in forest villages across four districts in southeastern Guinea as early as December 2013 before spreading to Conakry and the outskirts of Monrovia, the capitals of Guinea and Liberia respectively.
The number of deaths across West Africa presently stands at 149 killed out of 242 infected. According to the WHO, with a three-week incubation period cases are likely to continue to accumulate for months.

To date, researchers have identified five ebolavirus types. A new clade of Zaire ebolavirus characterizes the present outbreak.

Many of the human outbreaks since 1976, until now limited to Central and East Africa, began with the ingestion of an infected monkey or fruit bat of the Pteropodidae family or some such combinatorial of ecological pathways. In short, one of Quammen’s spillovers.

A human infection typically leads to fever, diarrhea, vomiting, hemorrhage, and death.
Ebola is difficult to contract from another human, however. Much like HIV it spreads by bodily fluid, including, alongside ingestion and accidental cuts, sexually. Its virulence, producing case fatality rates as high as 91%, usually burn out outbreaks. Patients die faster than susceptibles are infected.
And yet this new strain has found the geographic momentum and multiple transmission chains associated with a virus experimenting with evolutionary possibilities, including a more widespread epidemiology.
*
History offers multiple examples of pathogens successfully making such sociospatial transitions.
For most of its evolutionary history the cholera bacterium ate plankton in the Ganges delta. Only once humanity urbanized and by the 19th century became spatially integrated by new modes of transport was cholera able to make its way to the world’s cities. There, in a kind of microbial Bildungsroman, the bacterium transformed from a marginal bug into a roaring success when municipalities began drawing drinking water from the same place they dumped their shit.
The simian immunodeficiency viruses that would evolve into HIV likely emerged from Cameroonian forests when colonial logging broadened the wildlife-human interface.

For eons influenza cycled across waterfowl populations that summered on the Arctic Circle. Influenza expanded into humans once we became farmers and our population densities and connections grew enough to support such an acute infection. After WWII influenza entered  its Industrial Revolution. Billions of livestock monoculture are now pressed up against each other, permitting a new phase in influenza evolution and spread.

In the guise of a liberal paternalism, Quammen errs on the side of an essentialist Ebola instead, denying the virus its capacity to evolve new identities under new circumstances,

Other work documents West Africa is undergoing massive changes in food production and forestry driven by the neoliberal program. “In West Africa,” writes William Moseley and colleagues,
the resulting neoliberal economic policies sought to promote growth and prosperity through structural adjustment programs (SAPs) that generally involved contraction of government services, renewed export orientation on crops or goods deemed to have a comparative advantage, privatization of parastatal organizations, removal or reduction of many subsidies and tariffs, and currency devaluations.
The area is part of the larger Guinea Savannah Zone the World Bank describes as “one of the largest underused agricultural land reserves in the world” that the Bank sees best developed by market commercialization, if not solely on the agribusiness model.

Indeed, the initial outbreaks appear within the cycle migration range–about 120 miles–of recent land deals pursued by the newly democratized government of Guinea.

architects of death and chickens coming home to roost...,


newpol |  To understand the gravity of the situation in Liberia, in Sierra Leone and in the south of Guinea, it’s necessary to look carefully at the particularities of this sub-region. I note here four characteristics that constitute an explosive cocktail.
  1. At the end of the 1980s, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the south of Guinea were at the center of armed conflicts for the control of natural resources.
  2. After the reestablishment of relative peace in the early 2000s, there was a surge of foreign investments, accompanied by land-grabbing and the expropriation of the small farmers who had been weakened by war.
  3. The increasingly rapid destruction of the forests endangered many animal species and pushed their microbial parasites to search for new hosts at the margins of their traditional ecosystem.
  4. The collapse of the state institutions that had been established when these countries became independent led to the transfer of their tasks to outside and local non-governmental organizations, private companies, and even to Western powers.
It is the combination and interaction of these four characteristics that has made these countries an ideal terrain for the diffusion of the Ebola virus.

Wars for the Control of Natural Resources
The civil wars that bloodied Liberia and Sierra Leone starting at the end of the 1980s had largely been carried on by groups—whether those in power or those in rebellion—struggling over the control of natural resources, in particular diamonds (which because of these circumstances came to be called blood diamonds) as well as lumber, with the complicity of large multinational corporations. Those wars were the cause of the death of some 200,000 people, not to mention the thousands of wounded, mutilated, raped women, orphaned children, and those displaced and turned into refugees. The vast forests where Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea touch have been particularly ravaged by the battles in which the Guinean army confronted the Liberian forces, which were allied to the rebels of Sierra Leone.[1] In addition, this remote area where the capitals of the three countries are found has continued to be the scene of repeated violence, almost to this day, either in the district of Kolahun (Lofa County) in Liberia, or in that of Guéckédou, Guinea. It is in the latter that the Ebola epidemic broke out in December 2013.

Liberia and Sierra Leone recovered from their civil wars and attained a relative stability, supported by the diplomats and the special forces of Great Britain and the United States, whose action has been continued by United Nations peace-keeping missions there, so that by 2005 in Liberia and 2005-07 in Sierra Leone there had been put in place a semblance of representative democracy and business-as-usual resumed. The international index of “economic freedom” (of the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal) showed a continual improvement in commercial freedom, in the monetary and tax systems and in investments in the two countries, and only the rights of workers and public services have worsened.

No doubt about it: the international competition for the control and exploitation of natural resources has returned with a vengeance, dispensing with the mediation of costly armed bands, as part of the new scramble for Africa. During the last five years, from 2009 to 2013, according to the World Bank, the GDP of Liberia has grown on average by 11.1 percent per year, and Sierra Leone by 10 percent. Overall, Guinea remains behind, with a growth rate of 2.5 percent, though it is true that is has not suffered a destructive conflict in the whole country.

the medical industrial complex more profoundly broken than the criminal justus industrial complex


theatlantic |  For someone in her 30s, I’ve spent a lot of time in doctors’ offices and hospitals, shivering on exam tables in my open-to-the-front gown, recording my medical history on multiple forms, having enough blood drawn in little glass tubes to satisfy a thirsty vampire. In my early 20s, I contracted a disease that doctors were unable to identify for years—in fact, for about a decade they thought nothing was wrong with me—but that nonetheless led to multiple complications, requiring a succession of surgeries, emergency-room visits, and ultimately (when tests finally showed something was wrong) trips to specialists for MRIs and lots more testing. During the time I was ill and undiagnosed, I was also in and out of the hospital with my mother, who was being treated for metastatic cancer and was admitted twice in her final weeks.

As a patient and the daughter of a patient, I was amazed by how precise surgery had become and how fast healing could be. I was struck, too, by how kind many of the nurses were; how smart and involved some of the doctors we met were. But I was also startled by the profound discomfort I always felt in hospitals. Physicians at times were brusque and even hostile to us (or was I imagining it?). The lighting was harsh, the food terrible, the rooms loud. Weren’t people trying to heal? That didn’t matter. What mattered was the whole busy apparatus of care—the beeping monitors and the hourly check-ins and the forced wakings, the elaborate (and frequently futile) interventions painstakingly performed on the terminally ill. In the hospital, I always felt like Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party: I had woken up in a world that seemed utterly logical to its inhabitants, but quite mad to me.

In my own case, it took doctors a long time (roughly 15 years) to recognize exactly what was wrong with me. Along the way, my blood work was at times a little off, or my inflammation markers and white-blood-cell counts were slightly elevated, but nothing seemed definitive, other than some persistent anemia. “Everything’s probably okay,” the doctors would say, or “You have an idiopathic problem,” which is doctor-talk for “We don’t know why you suddenly have hives every day.” They never implied that I was crazy, or seeking attention, or any of the other things you sometimes hear from patients (especially female ones) who have sought a diagnosis for years on end. At the same time, they didn’t believe anything was wrong enough to pursue; frequently they asked whether I was depressed before even doing a physical exam.

To them, I was a relatively fit, often high-functioning young woman who had a long list of “small” complaints that only occasionally swelled into an acute problem, for which a quick surgical fix was offered (but no reflection on what might be causing it). To me, my life was slowly dissolving into near-constant discomfort and sometimes frightening pain—and terror at losing control. I didn’t know how to speak to the doctors with the words that would get them, as I thought of it, “on my side.” I steeled myself before appointments, vowing not to leave until I had some answers—yet I never managed to ask even half my questions. “You’re fine. We can’t find anything wrong,” more than one doctor said. Or, unforgettably, “You’re probably just tired from having your period.”

In fact, something was very wrong. In the spring of 2012, a sympathetic doctor figured out that I had an autoimmune disease no one had tested me for. And then, one crisp fall afternoon last year, I learned that I had Lyme disease. (I had been bitten by multiple ticks in my adolescence, a few years before I started having symptoms, but no one had ever before thought to test me thoroughly for Lyme.) Until then, facing my doctors, I had simply thought, What can I say? Perhaps they’re right. They’re the doctors, after all.

But this essay isn’t about how I was right and my doctors were wrong. It’s about why it has become so difficult for so many doctors and patients to communicate with each other. Ours is a technologically proficient but emotionally deficient and inconsistent medical system that is best at treating acute, not chronic, problems: for every instance of expert treatment, skilled surgery, or innovative problem-solving, there are countless cases of substandard care, overlooked diagnoses, bureaucratic bungling, and even outright antagonism between doctor and patient. For a system that invokes “patient-centered care” as a mantra, modern medicine is startlingly inattentive—at times actively indifferent—to patients’ needs.

To my surprise, I’ve now learned that patients aren’t alone in feeling that doctors are failing them. Behind the scenes, many doctors feel the same way. And now some of them are telling their side of the story.