Canadian Government Takes a Jab At U.S. Pharmaceuticals

By: Jeff Lagerquist of Yahoo

Canadian officials are considering how to take aim at the massive U.S. pharmaceutical industry in the event of a full-blown trade war with the United States, according to an Ottawa-based law professor with knowledge of the situation.

The plan would target valuable U.S. patents, granting Canada’s generic pharmaceutical firms the right to copy, sell and potentially export American drugs.

Amir Attaran, a biomedical scientist and University of Ottawa law professor, said the move would stun Wall Street and the White

House, while mobilizing the powerful U.S.

pharmaceutical lobby behind Canada’s cause.

“Canadian officials are aware of and studying the proposal in case the United States decides to impose a major retaliation on Canada,” he told Yahoo Canada Finance on Tuesday.  “I’m positive it’s being considered.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland travelled back to Washington to resume NAFTA negotiations on Wednesday. U.S. officials have demanded a deal by Oct. 1., upping the pressure to resolve long-held sticking points such as the dispute resolution mechanism, cultural protections, and the supply-managed dairy industry.

Attaran spelled out how Canada could employ a pharma-based retaliation strategy in a magazine column in June. He declined to disclose who in the federal government is now considering the plan, saying only that it is not the officials negotiating the trade deal with the U.S.

Global Affairs Canada did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

“I think one plausible reaction for the Canadian government would be to say if the Americans operate radically outside of NAFTA, as by penalizing our car industry, we will pursue their pharmaceutical industry’s interests,” Attaran said. “At that point, you have exited the negotiating model of resolving our differences, and you are resorting to brute force.”

The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America was the fourth largest U.S. lobby group in 2017, spending nearly US$26 million that year, according to the nonpartisan Centre for Responsive Politics. The Washington D.C.-based trade group’s members include drug industry giants Pfizer, Sanofi, and Johnson & Johnson.

Attaran said a threat by Canada to suspend U.S. patents on Canadian soil would be impossible for those companies to ignore.

“Pharma would be putting in phone calls out to everyone in Congress whom they made campaign donations to. And that is nearly everyone,” he said. “Pharma spends more on lobbying than banking and defence combined, and each of those are a huge lobby.”

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Hog Farm Waste and Coal Ash Form New Hazards In The Wake of Hurricane Florence

NC Hog Lagoons

Hog waste mixed with coal ash during Hurricane Florence has created a hazard and threat that looms over the recovering Carolina’s.  The Carolina’s are large hog producing states with hundreds of hog waste lagoons.  These lagoons, now submerged in water, can mix with the coal ash in the ground and create a very toxic environment.  The is a real concern for public safety, water security and food safety for everyone in and around the Carolina’s.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow  reported on this potential disaster:


LINK:  MSNBC’s “Flooded Animal Farms Add Toxic Soup To Post Florence Concerns .”

Updates to this post will follow as the situation develops.

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Japanese Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa To Be First Private Citizen To Fly Around The Moon With Space X

By: Michael Sheetz of CNBC

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa signed with SpaceX to fly around the moon on the company’s next generation rocket, CEO Elon Musk announced on Monday.

Maezawa will attempt to be the first to return to the moon in nearly half a century, launching aboard a Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which SpaceX is developing. BFR is the flagship for Musk’s vision of creating a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars, and testing on the behemoth rocket is expected to begin next year.

The trip is expected to launch in 2023.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon. It’s always there and continues to inspire humanity,” said Maezawa, one of the richest people in Japan, who made his fortune as the founder of online retailers Start Today and Zozotown.

SpaceX announced in February 2017 that two passengers would be flying around the moon in the company’s Crew Dragon capsule, launched by its Falcon Heavy rocket. But earlier this year, Musk said SpaceX was considering using BFR instead and on Monday confirmed that Maezawa is “the same person” who was announced before, just with a larger group now onboard.

BFR is a massive, 35-story tall rocket designed to launch and land like SpaceX’s Falcon 9, but also carrying dozens of people on board instead of just satellites. Musk confirmed BFR’s “design has been changed,” after receiving questions about new renders of the rocket posted online.

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Magic Mushrooms Could Help Curtail Depression

By: Ryan O’hare of Imperial College London

The findings come from a study in which researchers from Imperial College London used psilocybin – the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms – to treat a small number of patients with depression in whom conventional treatment had failed.

In a paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers describe patient-reported benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment, and believe the psychedelic compound may effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression.

Comparison of images of patients’ brains before and one day after they received the drug treatment revealed changes in brain activity that were associated with marked and lasting reductions in depressive symptoms.

The authors note that while the initial results of the experimental therapy are exciting, they are limited by the small sample size as well as the absence of a control group – such as a placebo group – to directly contrast with the patients.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, Head of Psychedelic Research at Imperial, who led the study, said: “We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.

“Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt ‘rebooted’.

“Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy.”

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11 Disadvantaged L.A. Communities See Heaviest Oil-drilling Pollution

Courtesy of John Fleming, (310) 405-1532, jfleming@biologicaldiversity.org

LOS ANGELES— Eleven disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities endure the heaviest use of toxic oil-drilling chemicals in Los Angeles County, according to South Coast Air Quality Management District data analyzed by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The 15 zip codes in which oil companies used the most chemicals known to cause serious health problems (“air toxics”) include several areas of Long Beach, South L.A. County and the Westside. In one Long Beach zip code, the oil industry has used almost 50 million pounds of air toxics since 2013.

Eleven of the 15 zip codes with the heaviest air toxics use contain neighborhoods like Wilmington that are considered “disadvantaged” by the California Environmental Protection Agency. The agency’s CalEnviroScreen index weighs the percentage of residents who are people of color, poverty levels, asthma rates and other measures of pollution burden and vulnerability.

“Oil companies are using massive amounts of chemicals that make people sick in communities already suffering high rates of asthma and other health problems,” said John Fleming, a Center staff scientist who conducted the analysis. “State regulators give out drilling permits like they’re candy, and here in Los Angeles we see how it hurts people of color and vulnerable residents the most.”

oil-pump-jack-1407715_1280

An earlier analysis of air district data revealed that oil companies have used more than 98 million pounds of chemicals known to cause serious health problems in L.A. County since 2013. These air toxics were often used dangerously close to homes, hospitals and schools.

Over 80 percent of air toxics usage involved just 12 chemicals, including carcinogens like crystalline silica and formaldehyde. Hydrochloric acid, one of the most frequently used air toxics, is a corrosive gas that can cause suffocation or irreversible lung damage at high concentrations.

Today’s analysis underscores the disproportionate harms of California’s oil extraction on vulnerable communities. Gov. Jerry Brown faces growing pressure to confront California’s oil and gas production prior to hosting the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this week.

On April 11 a diverse array of environmental, public-health, faith, labor and community groups launched the Brown’s Last Chance campaign to demand that he halt new oil and gas extraction and devise a just transition plan to phase it out entirely. To date more than 800 organizations have signed on.

“Fossil fuel dependence is a disease, and environmental injustice is one of its nastiest symptoms,” Fleming said. “That’s why Governor Brown should tackle the root of this problem by planning an end to California’s incredibly dirty oil extraction.”

Los Angeles County zip codes where air toxic usage was highest between June 4, 2013 and Feb. 28, 2017

Rank

Zip Code

Community(ies)

Total amount of air toxics used by mass (lbs.)

CalEnviroScreen Score Percentile*

1

90802

Long Beach

48,271,904

80.2

2

90056

Ladera Heights

12,242,946

58.9

3

90744

Wilmington

5,513,548

94.3

4

90813

Long Beach

3,552,481

96.1

5

90670

Santa Fe Springs

3,501,947

93

6

90755

Signal Hill

3,440.721

78.6

7

90640

Montebello

1,225,214

86.5

8

90048

West Hollywood

1,210,425

54.8

9

90018

Jefferson Park, Leimert Park

377,147

91.1

10

90710

Harbor City

303,994

75.8

11

90019

Mid-City, Arlington Heights

183,180

84.3

12

90804

East Long Beach

162,277

84.5

13

90815

Long Beach

143,194

34

14

90064

Cheviot Hills, Rancho Park

137,151

38

15

90745

Carson

125,245

87.4

*Communities with CalEnviroScreen scores in the top 25th percentile are designated “disadvantaged communities” by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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New Mexico Sues Google For Spying

By: Ray Downs of UPI

New Mexico has filed a lawsuit against Google, Twitter and several app developers for illegally collecting data from children under the age of 13 without parental consent.

New Mexico Attorney General Balderas said the companies are violating the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law, by collecting and selling the data on children.

The lawsuit comes after a University of California, Berkeley study analyzed nearly 6,000 children’s apps and found that the majority of them appeared to violate COPPA.

“These apps can track where children live, play, and go to school with incredible precision,” Balderas said. “These multi-million-dollar tech companies partnering with app developers are taking advantage of New Mexican children, and the unacceptable risk of data breach and access from third parties who seek to exploit and harm our children will not be tolerated in New Mexico.”

In addition to Google and Twitter, the lawsuit alleges Tiny Lab Productions, MoPub, AerServ, InMobi PTE, AppLovin and IronSource of collecting data on children.

Google spokesman Aaron Stein told The New York Times that it is the responsibility of app developers to disclose if their products are primarily for children, and that apps in the store’s family section “must comply with more stringent policies.”

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Amazon Employees Accepting Bribes For Positive Reviews

By: Zoë Bernard of Business Insider

For Amazon’s online sellers, a negative product review can be extremely damaging to businesses selling their products on the retail giant’s site.

In order to quash bad feedback, some sellers are offering Amazon employees bribes to obtain bad reviewers’ email addresses or to erase the negative review from the site entirely, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, this practice is especially common in China, where small business owners sometimes pay Amazon employees around $300 for each bad review they take down.

These services are reportedly overseen by brokers who use the Chinese messaging service WeChat to connect sellers with Amazon employees.

Sellers can even contact brokers to get proprietary information on sales volume and data relating to shoppers’ online spending habits in order to boost sales, the sources said.

Amazon policies prohibit disclosing this information, and the online retail giant has launched an internal investigation to determine which employees are violating the company’s policies.

In a statement to Business Insider, an Amazon spokesperson said that the company holds employees to a “high ethical standard” and that anyone violating these codes “faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties.”

“In addition,” they wrote, “we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds, and taking legal action.”

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Human Rights Violations In UK’s Mass Surveillance Programe

By: Harriet Agerholm of The Independent

The UK government’s mass surveillance programme violated human rights and had “no real safeguards”, the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) has said in a landmark ruling.

The Strasbourg court said British intelligence agencies’ interception regime violated the right to a private and family life, since there was “insufficient oversight” over which communications were chosen for examination.

Not enough protection was given to journalistic sources by the government’s mass information collection programme, violating the right to freedom of expression, it also said.

But the court ruled that sharing the information with foreign governments did not violate either the right to a private and family life, or to free speech.

The case, brought by a group of charities including human rights groups Big Brother Watch and Amnesty International, centred on complaints about powers given to security services under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa).

It is the first major challenge to the legality of the UK’s bulk collection of communications and follows revelations that both the US and British governments were gathering communications on a “population-level”.

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EU Passes Controversial Internet law

By: Ryan Browne

European parliamentarians have passed a controversial overhaul of copyright law that could force tech giants to install filters that prevent copyright-protected content from being uploaded.

Lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, voted on Wednesday in favor of the European Union’s revamped directive, which is aimed at bringing the bloc’s rules on copyright into the 21st century.

The copyright reform was passed with 438 votes in favor, 226 against and 39 abstentions.

But critics say such a law would normalize censorship and restrict internet freedom, preventing users from being able to post content ranging from memes to links to articles from news outlets.

The controversy mainly surrounds two sections of the law — Articles 11 and 13.

Article 11 would grant press publications copyright over the sharing of their content online, meaning they would be able to charge services like Google News for aggregating their stories. Critics have dubbed this as an effective “link tax,” but proponents say hyperlinks will be exempt.

Meanwhile, Article 13 calls for “effective content recognition” technology to filter out copyright-protected content. Detractors hold that this part of the law could threaten social media users’ ability to share anything from internet memes to snippets of music and film.

Member of the European Parliament Axel Voss — a key supporter of the directive — said parliament had addressed concerns raised by activists, citing amendments including the exclusion of “small and micro platforms or aggregators” from the scope of legislation.

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China Cracks Down on Christianity

By: Kelsey Cheng and Associated Press

Concerns have been raised over China‘s apparent crackdown on Christianity as the ruling Community party continues to intensify its control over religious freedom in the country.

Churches were raided and demolished, Bibles and holy books were confiscated and new laws were established to monitor religious activities in the country’s province of Henan, which has one of the largest Christian populations in China.

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival.

Experts and activists say that as Xi consolidates his power, he is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.

Guo, a 62-year-old Chinese shopkeeper had waited nearly his entire adult life to see his dream of building a church come true – a brick house with a sunny courtyard and spacious hall with room for 200 believers.

But in March, about a dozen police officers and local officials suddenly showed up at the church on his property and made the frightened congregants disperse.

They ordered that the cross, a painting of the Last Supper and Bible verse calligraphy be taken down. And they demanded that all services stop until each person along with the church itself was registered with the government, said Guo, who gave his last name only from fear of retribution.

Without warning, Guo and his neighbors in central Henan had found themselves on the front lines of an ambitious new effort by the officially atheist ruling Communist Party to dictate – and in some cases displace – the practice of faith in the country.

The crackdown on Christianity is part of a broader push by Xi to ‘Sinicise’ all the nation’s religions by infusing them with ‘Chinese characteristics’ such as loyalty to the Communist Party. Over the last several months, local governments across the country have shut down hundreds of private Christian ‘house churches’. A statement last week from 47 in Beijing alone said they had faced ‘unprecedented’ harassment since February.

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