MORAL MONSTROSITY: AMERICA’S FOR-PROFIT GULAG SYSTEM.
The private prison population in the US has rocketed 17-fold over the last two decades mostly on the shoulders of the deep-pocketed prison lobby, and the business continues to thrive.
Try confining yourself to a small room in your home, like a bathroom or a closet, and spend a few hours there.
One only cringes to imagine the detrimental psychological effects that kind of solitude creates for individuals who are subjected to solitary confinement for years at a time, knowing only the walls of their cell and the shades of light that creep across them.
The abhorrent state of affairs at the Guantanamo facility often makes international headlines and arguably overshadows the calamity that is the US domestic prison system – where over six million people are subject to some form of correctional supervision, an amount exceeding those who toiled in the Soviet gulags during Stalin’s reign.
In the United States, some fifty thousand inmates pass their days in solitary confinement. While there is undoubtedly no shortage of violent criminals in America’s jails, millions are dolled out annually by privately owned prison lobbies directly to politicians in an effort to influence harsher ‘zero tolerance’ legislation and mandatory sentencing for many non-violent offenses.
While the US faces economic stagnation and unprecedented spending cuts to programs of social uplift, business is booming for the private prison industry. Like any other business, these institutions are run for the purpose of turning a profit. State and federal prisons are contracted out to private companies who are paid a fixed amount to house each inmate per day. Their profit depends on spending the minimum amount necessary on each inmate day-to-day, allowing private-hands to pocket the remaining money. For the corrections conglomerates of America, success depends on housing the maximum numbers of inmates for the longest potential time as inexpensively as possible.
Consider that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, far surpassing any other nation – for every 100,000 Americans, 743 citizens sit behind bars. The harsher sentences meted out to non-violent offenders in contrast to other industrialized nations speaks volumes of America’s enthusiastic embrace of a prison industrial complex.
WHO IS TRYING TO PATENT MARIJUANA?
The secret is out: marijuana is medicine. And not to the surprise of the pharmaceutical industry, who is slowly but surely gaining exclusive rights to the medical properties of this age-old plant.
But wait. How can a company, other than Monsanto, patent a plant? That’s not a serious question, but it brings up a serious point. Patents on marijuana have yet to cover genetic modifications of the plant itself, but rather involve the cannabinoids found in marijuana that are responsible for its medical effects.
Phytocannabinoids in the treatment of cancer (Patent No. US20130059018)
The most recent patent filing on cannabinoids comes from none other than GW Pharmaceuticals – the UK-based company that manufactures Sativex (1). Sativex is an oral spray that contains cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant itself, specifically THC and CBD. Although Sativex is not yet available in the U.S., it has already gained approval in Canada, the UK and eight other European countries.
GW Pharma has been quick to recognize the market potential of cannabis and their most recent patent application makes this more than clear. Just from the title of the patent, one gets a good sense of what GW Pharma has been trying to claim as their own.
“Phytocannabinoids” simply means cannabinoids derived from plants, referring to the cannabis plant in this case.
Unsurprisingly, it appears as though GW Pharma encountered difficulties in trying to claim such a broad “invention”. In fact, the updated version of their patent application shows that more than half of their original patent claims were retracted, and for good reason too. Looking back in time, GW Pharma made claims to just the use of isolated cannabinoids in the treatment of cancer, which is no more of an invention than it is a theft from individuals who first proclaimed marijuana’s cancer-fighting abilities decades ago.
On the other hand, GW Pharma’s remaining claims might just pass through the Patent Office without further questioning. GW Pharma seems to be familiar with the pharmaceutical industry’s shrewd patent strategies, which involves modifying pre-existing compounds that have already been proven to work.
In this case, all GW Pharma had to do was claim that they invented a cannabis-based botanical drug substance for treating cancer – botanical drug substance meaning any form of marijuana prepared by methods as simple as aqueous or ethanolic extraction. There you have it. GW Pharma invented neither cannabis nor a method of extraction, but still consider themselves to be inventors of “phytocannabinoids in the treatment of cancer”.
Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants (Patent No. US6630507)
Perhaps the most infamous marijuana-related patent belongs to the U.S. federal government themselves. Indeed, while federal agents have been keeping busy trying to defend their stance on pot prohibition, they also made sure to file patents on the medical components of the very same Schedule I drug. The funny thing is, this particular patent dates all the way back to 1998 when Bill “didn’t inhale” Clinton was still president.
Although federal patent writers made sure to include a long list of synthetic cannabinoids within their claims, carefully tucked away is none other than cannabidiol, also known as CBD. Once again, the inventive step in this patent seems to be severely lacking, but maybe the federal government gets more flexibility with their patent filings.
Regardless, it seems as though the use of CBD for the treatment of “stroke and trauma”, “Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia” and a “wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases” all belongs to the White House, at least for the next 10 years until their patent expires.
Private funding matters more
It might be easy to blame an outdated patent system for what seems to be just another one of the many injustices that plague the private health care system. But the truth is, it’s not really the Patent Office’s fault that marijuana is being taken over by capital-backed corporations and government agencies.
Rather, the fault lies in the restrictive nature of medical marijuana research, which is overseen by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – the only source of legal marijuana in the U.S.
According to researchers (2) who have attempted to conduct clinical trials on cannabis, the NIDA is simply uninterested in supplying cannabis for medical studies, in accordance with a mandate from Congress that limits NIDA researchers to investigating the marijuana’s dangers. And being the overwhelmingly benign substance (3) that it is, marijuana hasn’t been the subject of many NIDA studies for a while now.
But perhaps the worst outcome of this situation is not the fact that clinical research on medical marijuana is severely lacking. No, the worst part is that the gap in research is eagerly being filled by corporations like GW Pharma. Indeed, while there were a total 37 clinical studies (4) conducted on cannabinoids between 2005-2009, only 8 of them involved actual marijuana. On the other hand, 9 of the 37 studies involved Sativex, with the rest consisting of a variety of synthetic THC formulations, no doubt sponsored by their respective manufacturers as well.
So where does this leave the rest of us? Not too far from where we started off it seems, since it’s no surprise to anyone that healthcare will continue to be driven by privately funded research, even in the case of marijuana. But all that research money has to come from somewhere, and you can bet it’s not coming from the deep pockets of GW Pharma’s executive board.
As it turns out, a couple of shrewd businessmen with knowledge of medicine realized long ago that sick and dying individuals will pay almost any price for the promise of relief, even if it happens to be all of their life savings and then some.
What happened to these businessmen? Oh, they’re still around. We just call them Big Pharma.
HEALTH / COKE COLA – WOMAN
15 DEADLIEST CORPORATIONS.
These corporations, if they were individual human beings, would be locked up for life. Instead, they continue raking in the big bucks. Human rights abuses, murder, war, eco disasters, and animal exploitation keep these evil companies raking in the green. Prepare to be disgusted.
Several big oil companies make this list, but Chevron deserves a special place in Hell. Between 1972 to 1993, Chevron (then Texaco) discharged 18 billion gallons of toxic water into the rain forests of Ecuador without any remediation, destroying the livelihoods of local farmers and sickening indigenous populations. Chevron has also done plenty of polluting right here in the U.S.: In 1998, Richmond, California sued Chevron for illegally bypassing waste water treatments and contaminating local water supplies, ditto in New Hampshire in 2003. Chevron was responsible for the death of several Nigerians who protested the company’s polluting, exploiting presence in the Nigerian Delta. Chevron paid the local militia, known for its human rights abuses, to squash the protests, and even supplied them with choppers and boats. The military opened fire on the protesters, then burned their villages to the ground.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend — unless she lives in the Ivory Coast. “Blood” or “conflict” diamonds are the name given to minerals purchased from insurgencies in war-torn countries. Prior to 2000 when the U.N. finally took a stand against the practice, DeBeers was knowingly funding violent guerrilla movements in Angola, Sierra Nevada, and the Congo with its diamond purchases. In Botswana, DeBeers has been blamed for the “clearing” of land to be mined for diamonds — including the forcible removal of indigenous peoples who had lived there for thousands of years. The government allegedly cut off the tribe’s water supplies, threatened, tortured and even hanged resisters.
Even if you don’t care about the horrendous animal abuse that has been documented in Tyson’s factory farms, you have to flinch at Tyson’s appalling environmental abuses and workers’ rights violations, as well as the fact that on several occasions, Tyson has allowed e coli tainted beef to enter the food supply. A recent study showed that Tyson’s chickens were the most salmonella-and-campylobactor filled poultry of all the major suppliers. As if that wasn’t gross enough, Tyson has been sued repeatedly for illegally dumping untreated wastewater into Tulsa’s water supply; after they were sued the first time, they simply paid the fine and continued the practice. Tyson has made people seriously ill with the ammoniafrom their factory farms. Tyson is infamous for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and has even been accused of human trafficking to supply themselves with cheap labor.
4. Smith and Wesson
As the largest manufacturer of handguns (and sub machine guns) in the U.S., Smith and Wesson is indirectly responsible for uncountable shooting deaths — not just by the police and government agencies to which these guns are issued, but by criminals and by “accident.” In a study of the top ten guns involved in crime in the U.S., the first was the Smith & Wesson .38 Special. Numbers 6 and 7 were also Smith and Wessons. Statistically, studies have shown that guns are used more often in crime than in self-defense. Of course, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” And frequently, they use Smith and Wesson guns to do so.
5. PHILIP MORRIS
Phillip Morris is the largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the U.S. Cigarettes are known to cause cancer in smokers, as well as birth defects in unborn children if the mother smokes while pregnant. Cigarette smoke contains 43 known carcinogens and over 4,000 chemicals, including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, nicotine, ammonia and arsenic. Nicotine, the primary psychoactive chemical in tobacco, has been shown to be psychologically addictive. Smoking raises blood pressure, affects the central nervous system, and constricts the blood vessels. Discarded cigarette butts are a major pollutant as smokers routinely toss their slow-to-degrade filters on the ground. Many of these filters make their way into salt or fresh water bodies, where their chemicals leech out into the water. Then again, cigarettes make you look cool.
Any corporation that has Dick Cheney as a CEO has got to be evil. Haliburton, a huge “oilfield services” company, profited big time from the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq when Cheney called in his boys to quell burning oil wells — and to “help” the Iraq oil ministrypump and distribute oil. Haliburton has also been implicated in countless oil spills, including the BP disaster of 2010.
7. COCA COLA
America’s favorite soft drink, deadly? Well, even if you choose to overlook the childhood obesity epidemic and how soft drinks market to children to get them to buy something really, really bad for them, Coca Cola corporation has wrought devastation in India, where its factories use up to one million liters of water per day, leaving tens of thousands of nearby residents dry during the drought months. Then the factories dispose of the wastewater improperly, contaminating whatever water is left. A lawsuit in 2001 accused Coca Cola of hiring paramilitaries in Columbia which suppressed unionization in the cola plant there through intimidation, torture and murder.
Big Pharma gets rich when you get sick. Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical corporation in the U.S., pleaded guilty in 2009 to the largest health care fraud in U.S. history, receiving the largest criminal penalty ever for illegally marketing four of its drugs. It was Pfizer’s fourth such case. As if Pfizer’s massive use of animal experimentation wasn’t heart wrenching enough, Pfizer decided to use Nigerian children as guinea pigs. In 1996, Pfizer traveled to Kano, Nigeria to try out an experimental antibiotic on third-world diseases such as measles, cholera, and bacterial meningitis. They gave trovafloxacin to approximately 200 children. Dozens of them died in the experiment, while many others developed mental and physical deformities. According to the EPA, Pfizer can also proudly claim to be among the top ten companies in America causing the most air pollution.
Another oil company that makes the list, ExxonMobil is perhaps best known for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill which resulted in 11 million gallons of oil contaminating Prince William Sound. But they have also been responsible for a huge oil spill in Brooklyn and for aiding in the decline of Russia’s critically endangered grey whale because of drilling in its habitat. The Political Economy Research Institute ranks ExxonMobil sixth among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the United States. ExxonMobil counters not by cleaning up its act, but by funding scientific studies which refute global warming. ExxonMobil was targeted by human rights activists in 2001 when a lawsuit alleged that ExxonMobil hired Indonesian military who raped, tortured and murdered while serving as security at their plant in Aceh.
10. CATERPILLAR COMPANY
Caterpillar sells all kind of tractors, trucks and machinery — including many of the vehicles, ships and submarines used by the U.S. military. Caterpillar also supplies the Israeli army with bulldozers which are used to demolish Palestinian homes — sometimes with the people still inside. In 2003 a Caterpillar bulldozer ran over and killed Rachel Corrie, an American protesting in Gaza who stood in front of the tractor to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home.
11. Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey
“The Cruelest Show on Earth” is famous for its abuse of wild animals. In July 2004, Clyde, a young lion traveling with Ringling, died in a poorly ventilated boxcar while the circus crossed the Mojave Desert in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Circus elephants are routinely confined for days at a time and beaten with bullhooks and electric prods, and when they’ve had enough, they lash out. In one famous case in 1994, an elephant named Tyke killed her trainer and injured 12 spectators before being gunned down on the streets of Honolulu. Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily Circus also has an impressive dead human headcount because of a fire under the big top in 1944 which killed a hundred spectators — the canvas was illegally non-flame-retardant.
Big Agra makes the list with Monsanto, pushers of genetically modified foods, bovine growth hormones, and poison. Monsanto’s list of evils includes creating the “terminator” seed which creates plants which never fruit or flower so that farmers must purchase them anew yearly, lobbying to have “hormone-free” labels removed from the labels of milk and infant milk replacer (through bovine growth hormone is believed to be a cancer-accelerator) as well as a wide range of environmental and human health violations associated with use of Monsanto’s poisons — most notably “Agent Orange.” Between 1965 and 1972, Monsanto illegally dumped thousands of tons of highly toxic waste in UK landfills. According to the Environment Agency the chemicals were polluting groundwater and air 30 years after they were dumped. Alabama sued Monsanto for 40 years of dumping mercury and PCB into local creeks. Plus, Monsanto is infamous for sticking it to the very farmers it claims to be helping, such as when it sued and jailed a farmer for saving seed from one season’s crop to plant the next.
Sticky-sweet image aside, Nestle’s crimes against man and nature include massive deforestation in Borneo — the habitat of the critically endangered orangutan — to grow palm oil, and buying milk from farms illegally-seized by a despot in Zimbabwe. Nestle drew fire from environmentalists for its ridiculous claims that bottled water is “eco-friendly”when the exact opposite is true. Nestle attracted worldwide boycott efforts for urging mothers in third-world countries to use their infant milk replacer instead of breastfeeding, without warning them of the possible negative effects. Supposedly, Nestle hired women to dress as nurses to hand out free infant formula, which was frequently mixed with contaminated water, or the children starved when the formula ran out and their mothers could not afford more and their breast milk had already dried up from disuse. Nestle, of course, denies contributing to the death of thousands of infants.
14. BRITISH PETROLEUM
Who can forget 2010?s oil rig explosion in the Gulf Coast which killed 11 workers and thousands of birds, sea turtles, dolphins and other animals, effectively destroying the fishing and tourism industry in the region? This was not BP’s first crime against nature. In fact, between January 1997 and March 1998, BP was responsible for a whopping 104 oil spills. Thirteen rig workers will killed in 1965 during one explosion; 15 in a 2005 explosion. Also in 2005, a BP ferry carrying oil workers crashed, killing 16. In 1991, the EPA cited BP as the most polluting company in the U.S.. In 1999, BP was charged with illegal toxic dumping in Alaska, then in 2010 for leaking highly dangerous poisons into the air in Texas. In July 2006, Colombian farmers won a settlement from BP after they accused the company of benefiting from a regime of terror carried out by Colombian government paramilitaries protecting the Ocensa pipeline. Clearly, there is no way BP will ever “make it right.”
This privatized military company is often hired by the U.S. government to protect American interests overseas — and so the government can claim no responsibility for Dyncorp’s actions. Dyncorp is best known for its brutality in impoverished countries, for trafficking in child sex slaves, for slaughtering civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for training rebels in Haiti. Among some stiff competition, mercenary Dyncorp may be the deadliest and most evil corporation in the United States.