Meanderings & mawqifs of poetry, poetics, translations y mas. Travelogue too.

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Today: Robert Kelly Reading

November 2nd, 2014 · Uncategorized


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60 Years Ago, Algeria

November 1st, 2014 · Algeria, Colonialism

60 years ago today the Algerian War of Independence started, a day referred to as “la Toussaint Rouge,” the “Red All Saints’ Day.” It would last until 1962 when Algeria finally gained independence. Here’s the headline of the Oran paper for that day:


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Uri Avnery On Chickenshit

October 31st, 2014 · Essays

220px-UriAvneryUri Avnery

November 1, 2014


WHEN A high-ranking official of one country calls the leader of another country “chickenshit”, it may be assumed that the relations between the two countries are not at their best. In fact, they may be considered somewhat less than cordial.

This week, It happened. An unnamed very high-ranking US official said this in an interview with the respected American journalist who bears the very Jewish name of Jeffrey Goldberg.

No high-ranking official would use such a term for publication without the express permission of the President of the United States of America. So here we are.

HISTORY HAS seen many strange relationships between nations. But I dare say none stranger than that existing between Israel and the US.

On the face of it, no two states could be closer to each other. Just a minor example: the day the memorable Chickenshit remark made headlines, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling upon the US to put an end to its 50-year old embargo on Cuba. 188 countries, including the whole spectrum of EU and NATO countries, voted in favor. Two states voted against: the US and Israel.

Two countries against the entire world? No, not entirely. Micronesia, Palau and the Marshal Islands abstained. (These three mighty island nations generally support Israel, too, though few Israelis could place them on the map.)

Throughout the years, in hundreds of UN votes, Israel has stood loyally with the US, and vice versa. An unshakable alliance, so it seemed. And now they call our valiant Prime Minister chickenshit?

THE OFFICIAL based his uncomplimentary remark on Binyamin Netanyahu’s disinclination to bomb Iran, as threatened repeatedly, as well as on Netanyahu’s unwillingness to make peace with the Palestinians.

The first accusation is unfounded, since Netanyahu never seriously considered an attack on Iran. Some of my readers may remember that from the first day I assured them that such an attack would not happen, without even leaving myself a loophole in case I might be wrong. I knew that such an attack was quite out of the question. And not only because the entire Israeli defense establishment was against it. 

The second accusation is even more groundless. Netanyahu did not chicken out of making peace. This would presuppose that he wanted peace in the first place. If the Americans really believe so, they should read a few good articles (especially mine).

Netanyahu never entertained even for a moment the idea of making peace. His entire upbringing makes this quite impossible. His late father, Ben-Zion, was such an extreme and rigid nationalist, that compared to him Vladimir Jabotinsky, the Zionist right-wing leader, looked like a leftist pacifist.

Every word Binyamin Netanyahu has ever uttered in favor of peace and the Two-State solution was a blatant lie. For him to advocate a Palestinian state is like the Chief Rabbi advocating eating pork on Yom Kippur.

Any American diplomat who does not know this should be transferred at once to Micronesia (or Palau).

LATELY IT seems that Netanyahu has been doing everything in his power to provoke a quarrel with the US government.

At first sight, this looks like an act of lunacy, an act so dangerous that any competent psychiatrist would commit him to the closed wing of an asylum.

Israel is totally dependent on the US – not 99%, but 100%. On the very same day as the publication of the Chickenshit statement, the US agreed to sell Israel a second squadron of F-35 fighter planes, after the sale of the first 19 planes (which costs 2.35 billion dollars). The money comes from the yearly tribute the US pays to Israel.

Without the automatic US veto on all UN Security Council resolutions not approved by the Israeli government, there would have long been a State of Palestine as a full-fledged member of the UN. A cornerstone of our foreign relations is the belief of many countries that in order to gain entrance to the favors of the US Congress, they first need to bribe the gatekeeper – Israel. And so on.

Literally every Israeli is convinced that our relationship with the US is the lifeline of the state. If there is anything at all on which Israelis of all age groups, communities, beliefs and political orientations are unanimous, it is this conviction.

So how come our prime minister is working full-time on destroying the relationship between the two governments?

When our Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon, visited Washington DC this week, all his requests to meet US cabinet ministers and other high officials were categorically refused, except for a meeting with his colleague, Chuck Hagel, who could not very well object. It was an unprecedented, open insult.

Ya’alon, a former Chief of Staff of the army, is not considered a genius. Some believe that it would have been better if he had stayed at his former profession – milking cows in a kibbutz. When he declared that John Kerry suffered from an “Obsessive Messianism” in his efforts to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine, both Kerry and President Barack Obama were deeply offended.

But such statements by Israeli cabinet ministers have become routine.  So have the sharp rebuttals of official US spokesmen and spokeswomen. These are ignored by the Israeli public.

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is no fool. Chickenshit or not, unlike Ya’alon he is considered smart and intelligent. So what is he doing?

There is  method in his madness.

Netanyahu grew up in the United States. When his father was boycotted by Israeli academia, which refused to take him seriously as a historian, the family moved to a suburb of Philadelphia. Binyamin prides himself on having an intimate knowledge of the US.

What is he thinking about?

He knows that Israel controls the US Congress. No American politician could possible be reelected if he voiced even the slightest hint of criticism of the “Jewish State”. AIPAC, the most powerful lobby in Washington (apart from the National Rifle Association) will see to that. The powerful grip the Jewish lobby has on the media is a further guarantee.

In Netanyahu’s view, in any confrontation between Congress and the White House over Israel, the President is bound to lose. So there is nothing to be afraid of.

NETANYAHU, IN FACT is playing roulette with all the capital of Israel in the vast casino called the USA. Perhaps he has been infected by his mentor and protector, the Casino Czar Sheldon Adelson, who has a hand in conducting Israeli policy in the US.

(It was Adelson who appointed the Israeli ambassador in Washington, Ron Dremer, a prominent activist of the Republican party, who is detested by the White House.)

In order to appreciate the magnitude of Netanyahu’s gamble, with us as chips, one has to visualize the state of the union.

The US is now a dysfunctional democracy.

In a normal democracy – say the UK or Germany – there are two central parties, or party coalitions, which face each other. They are both “mainstream” and the differences between them are minor. They succeed each other from time to time without much ado. The citizens hardly notice.

Not in the US. Not anymore.

The American public is now deeply divided between two camps, which hate each other from the bottom of their hearts (if they have any). This hatred is abysmal. One is the party of the ultra-rich, who defend their privileges, the other belongs to the moderately wealthy and serves their interests.

The ideologies  of the two camps are diametrically opposed. Therefore, they cannot agree practically on anything. Anything the Democrats do is considered almost treason by the Republicans, anything the Republicans advocate is considered by the Democrats as stupid, if not crazy

The Republicans, who control Congress (and may do so even more firmly in a few days time) are out to immobilize the administration. Once they even stopped all federal payments, making the running of the state impossible. A consistent joint foreign policy is out of the question. I am not sure that the situation on the eve of the great Civil War was much worse.

INTO THIS crazy situation Netanyahu has plunged. He has placed all his chips (us) on the Republicans.

During the last presidential elections, he almost openly supported Mitt Romney, the opponent of Obama, thus practically declaring war on the present administration. The radical anti-Obama statements made now by Israeli leaders are used – and designed to be used – by Republican candidates against their Democratic opponents. 

The Democrats make strenuous efforts to woo Jewish voters and donors by flattering Israel in the most outrageous terms, promising to support each and every action of the Israeli government, now and for all eternity, be it what it may. Inadvertently, they stick knives into the back of the Israeli peace forces, making the fight for peace even more Herculean.

But even if the mid-term elections make the House and the Senate even more subservient to the Israeli right-wing, Obama will be around for two more years. In a way, having no more elections to fear, he will be freer than before to obstruct Netanyahu.

I wish he would. But I do not entertain too much hope. Even as a lame duck, he will still have to consider the interests of the next Democratic candidate for the White House.

OBAMA COULD still do a lot for peace between Israel and Palestine, a peace supported by the entire pro-American Arab bloc – something clearly in the US national interest, not to mention ours.

For that, courage is needed. And – yes – a little more Obsessive Messianism.

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PJ Reading in San Luis Potosí

October 29th, 2014 · Poetry Festival, Poetry readings

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Eric Mottram Lives!

October 27th, 2014 · Cultural Studies, Poetics, Poetry, Uncategorized

Old Eric Mottram friend John Whiting has done us all a great favor by making available some of his tapes of Mottram’s most amazing graduate seminar from the early seventies, “American Imagination of Synthesis,” which I myself also took around 73/74 (my cassette tapes have in the main gone bad — so, double thanks to John!) Here is his latest web announcement:

“There’s nothing more exciting than something you don’t know!”
Eric Mottram (in whose case it was remarkably little)

 mottram001In 1966 I was on the American Embassy’s list of available speakers on American cultural topics. Elizabeth Singleton in the Cultural Affairs office phoned me and asked if I could do a talk on the San Francisco beat poets. I said I’d love to, and would like to do it like a radio documentary with lots of recorded examples and linking commentary in between, but I no longer had the materials.

“Let me introduce you to Eric Mottram,” she replied, “he’s the best! I read American Lit with him at Kings. He has lots of recordings and he’s always helpful. Come around to the embassy for lunch and I’ll introduce you.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Lunch stretched to a three-hour conversation in which he offered exactly the material I wanted, including recordings that had been made for and at KPFA – stuff I had long been familiar with. Mutual passions ripened into friendship and he was best man at Mary’s and my wedding in 1968.

Eric knew more about American culture, both past and present, than anyone I’d ever encountered on either side of the Atlantic. He became my mentor, in fact my guru. (I dislike the word, but it conveys the reality more succinctly than any other.) Ultimately I enrolled in the Institute of United States Studies to do an M.A. with him, not as part of a career plan, but simply to get my mind stretched.

His seminar that year was titled “The American Imagination of Synthesis”. It introduced us to a series of interlocking selections that included such unlikely but enlightening juxtapositions as Norman O. Brown, William Burroughs, Ezra Pound, Norman Mailer, Alfred Korzybski, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Wilhelm Reich. (The latter’s The Function of the Orgasm was an education in itself – a nobly romantic work whose seminal (!) value extended from the classroom to the bedroom.)

Over the next two years I recorded virtually every lecture and seminar Eric presented, both at the Institute and at King’s College – countless hours of unique insights into how much happier and better the world could be than the mess we had inherited.* Without this website, which I have now begun to put together, what would happen to these tapes? All over Europe and America, official archives are so strapped for money that they can no longer afford even to give storage space to private collections, let alone catalog them and make their contents accessible to scholars. For instance, a virtually complete private collection of mint condition classical LPs from well over half a century was recently disposed of piecemeal through Oxfam because no institution was prepared to accommodate it!

And so I decided to spend who knows how long–perhaps the rest of my life?–digitizing some of Eric’s seminars and lectures and making them publicly available. As I copy them they are appearing here:


At least two of these tapes have already had a public hearing. In 1982 both of my Eric[k]s were in London at the same time and I got to introduce them to each other. They came to my studio on November 2nd and Erik Bauersfeld, who was drama and lit director at KPFA, interviewed Eric Mottram for KPFA broadcast with occasional interruptions from me in the control room. (They were having so much fun I couldn’t stay out of it!). In this exchange between two compulsive and eloquent communicators, Eric Mottram’s contageous enthusiasm comes across as vividly as in all those seminars so deeply etched in my brain. Can such sheer mental and spiritual energy ever dissipate?

Eric then stayed on to record one of the very few poetry readings he was ever able to do under studio conditions.

When Eric died in 1995, his enormous archive went to Kings College. Poet Bill Griffiths was hired for a couple of years to put it in order and partially itemize it, but then the money ran out. If you Google Eric’s name, you get few hits that are dated since the turn of this century. The only online recordings of his voice that I’ve been able to find, either in interview or poetry reading, are those linked to here on my own website. History? It’s so yesterday!

In 1995, Peterjon and Yasmin Skelt put together a festschrift, Alive in parts of this century: Eric Mottram at 70 (click on Erik’s picture at the top of this site to see the cover). I had the honor of leading it off and Mary ended with a recipe for Rhubarb Breakfast Crumble:

“Eric says he has rhubarb for breakfast. However, when dinner guests eagerly accept second helpings of a gournet concoction of chicken, limes and coriander, he has been heard to exclaim, ‘Oh NO! I was hoping to have some of that for breafast!'”

As a brief summary of who and what Eric was, I can’t improve on what I wrote almost two decades ago:

Eric survived his 70th birthday by less than three weeks, dying on January 16, 1995, just a few days after I had brought him together over dinner with John Kenny. When Mary drove Eric back to the tube station he exclaimed, “I’ve never met an intelectual trombonist before!”

On March 3 there was a public celebration of his life held in the Kings College Chapel, in which a selection of poets, musicians and friends paid him a memorably creative collective tribute. No institution, including King’s, expressed an interest in my recording of the event and so it sat idle for fifteen years until I finally made it public in another website. It consists of the following; to listen to each item, click on the preceding number:

A Celebration of the Life of Eric Mottram, 1924-1995

King’s College Chapel, March 3, 1995

1 Introduction and links by William Rowe  
2 Reading by Bill Griffiths
3 Reading by Jerome Rothenberg (recorded for the occasion in America)
4 Performance by Paula Claire
5 Reading by Eric Mottram. (recorded at October Sound, November 2, 1982)
6 First Improvisation by Barry Guy, introduced by John Whiting
7 Second improvisation by Barry Guy
8 Reading by Thomas A. Clark
9 Sound poetry performance by Bob Cobbing, with treatment by John Whiting
10 Tony Joyce reading a tribute by John Page
11 Improvisation, trombone and electronics, by John Kenny and John Whiting, who introduces it
12 Recorded interview with Eric Mottram, who opens with a description of his one-sided conversation with a bear
13 A memorable poem, composed for the occasion, by Jeff Nuttal

Three years later, there was an official opening of the Eric Mottram Archive, with a lecture by the distinguished Harvard aesthetician, Professor Stanley Cavell. His talk, Identifying Praise: in moments of Henry James & Fred Astaire (click HERE to listen), included extensive excerpts from old films. There was an ominous prognosis for the archive’s future in the fact that his VHS tape containing the selections was in the American NTSC format, which resulted in a highly distorted image when played on the Pal VHS projector.

John Kenny and I took part in the evening’s programme, which began with a recorded presentation of John’s setting of poems from Eric’s A Book of Herne (click HERE to listen). There are extensive notes and a complete text in the printed programme (click on the blue cover, above right). The evening ended with one of the longest improvisations that John and I had ever performed (click HERE to listen). It was one of our best; sadly, it was to be our last. We never did another duo recital.

The Eric Mottram Archive Catalog as assembled by Bill Griffiths is ON LINE (together with a detailed academic biography in one long unreadable paragraph of fine print). Its contents are still available for examination, but it will get precious little use by Kings’ own students. The Department of American Studies which Eric worked so hard to establish was wiped out at a stroke by the College as part of Britain’s great austerity drive. There’s a furious letter from its Professor Emeritus Clive Bush on the No Cuts at Kings website.

Who understands distinction? Who really cares for art?

                                                              Tu Fu! Tu Fu!

Finally, I want to thank Will Rowe, Michael Rhebiniak and Dale Carter, fellow associates and students of Eric and long time friends, for their encouragement and for their reassurance that the time and effort required to raise these ghosts and send them soaring through the ether will not have been wasted.

* Listening again to these seminars from over forty years ago, I’ve come across a brief analysis of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia for eight singers and symphony orchestra. If I had known at the time that throughout the 90s I would mix over thirty performances of this work with orchestras all over Europe and America . . .

       John Whiting can be reached HERE


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Umbrella Martial Arts

October 22nd, 2014 · Uncategorized

Although it is raining where I am in Mexico right now, I don’t think I need to rehearse the new Hong Kong demonstrators’ umbrella martial arts style:


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The Political Economy of Ebola

October 17th, 2014 · Man-made Disaster

EbolaMapVia: Retort, this Leigh Phillips piece from the Jacobin of 13 August 2014 is very clear on why the Ebola situation is stuck where it is today. Phillips is a science writer and EU affairs journalist whose writing has appeared in Nature, the GuardianScientific American, the EUobserver and the Daily Telegraph.

The Political Economy of Ebola

The Onion, as ever, is on point with its ‘coverage’ of the worst recorded outbreak of Ebola, and the first in West Africa, infecting some 1,779 people and killing at least 961. “Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away,” read the cheeky headline of the July 31 news brief.

Our shorthand explanation is that if the people infected with Ebola were white, the problem would be solved. But the market’s role in both drug companies’ refusal to invest in research and the conditions on the ground created by neoliberal policies that exacerbate and even encourage outbreaks goes unmentioned.

Racism is certainly a factor. Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease specialist and the head of the Wellcome Trust, one of the largest medical research charities in the world, told the Toronto Star: “Imagine if you take a region of Canada, America, Europe, and you had 450 people dying of a viral hemorrhagic fever. It would just be unacceptable — and it’s unacceptable in West Africa.”

He noted how an experimental Canadian-developed Ebola vaccine had been provided on an emergency use basis to a German researcher in 2009 after a lab accident. “We moved heaven and earth to help a German lab technician. Why is it different because this is West Africa?”

But Ebola is a problem that is not being solved because there is almost no money to be made in solving it. It’s an unprofitable disease.

There have been around 2,400 people killed since Ebola was first identified in 1976. Major pharmaceutical companies know that the market for fighting Ebola is minute while the costs of developing treatment remain significant. On a purely quantitative basis, some might (perhaps rightly) warn against focusing too much on this one disease that kills far fewer than, for example, malaria (300,000 killed since the start of the Ebola outbreak) or tuberculosis (600,000).

Yet the economic constraints retarding progress in developing Ebola treatment also explain why drug companies are resisting developing treatment to those diseases as well as many others.

The last decade has actually seen a tremendous advance in research into therapies for Ebola, usually in the public sector or by small biotech companies with significant public funding, with a variety of treatment options on the table including nucleic-acid-based products, antibody therapies, and a number of candidate vaccines — five of which have successfully protected non-human primates from Ebola.

Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been telling everyone in the press who will listen to him in the last fortnight that an Ebola vaccine would be within spitting distance — if it weren’t for the corporate skinflints.

“We have been working on our own Ebola vaccine, but we never could get any buy-in from the companies,” he told USA Today.

“We have a candidate, we put it in monkeys and it looks good, but the incentive on the part of the pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine that treats little outbreaks every thirty or forty years — well, that’s not much incentive,” he told Scientific American.

Almost everyone familiar with the subject says that the know-how is there. It’s just that outbreaks are so rare and affect too few people for it to make development worthwhile — that is, profitable — for large pharmaceutical companies.

“These outbreaks affect the poorest communities on the planet. Although they do create incredible upheaval, they are relatively rare events,” Daniel Bausch, the director of the emerging infections department of Naval Medical Research Unit Six (NAMRU-6), a biomedical research laboratory in Lima, Peru, told Vox. “So if you look at the interest of pharmaceutical companies, there is not huge enthusiasm to take an Ebola drug through phase one, two, and three of a trial and make an Ebola vaccine that maybe a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people will use.”

John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, wrote a vituperative opinion piece in the Independent on Sunday decrying “the scandal of the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research to produce treatments and vaccines, something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their terms, so small and don’t justify the investment.

“This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of an ethical and social framework,” he concluded.

This situation is not unique to Ebola. For thirty years, the large pharmaceutical companies have refused to engage in research into new classes of antibiotics. Due to this “discovery void,” clinicians expect that within twenty years, we will have completely run out of effective drugs against routine infections. So many medical techniques and interventions introduced since the 1940s depend upon a foundation of antimicrobial protection. The gains in life expectancy that humanity has experienced over this time depended on many things, but would certainly not have been possible without antibiotics. Prior to their development, bacterial infections were one of the most common causes of death.

In April, the World Health Organization issued its first-ever report tracking antimicrobial resistance worldwide, finding “alarming levels” of bacterial resistance. “This serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country,” the UN health body warned.

The reason for this is straightforward, as the companies themselves themselves admit: It simply makes no sense to pharmaceutical companies to invest an estimated $870 million (or $1.8 billion accounting for the cost of capital) per drug approved by regulators on a product that people only use a handful of times in their life when suffering from an infection, compared to investing the same amount on the development of highly profitable drugs for chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer that patients have to take every day, often for the rest of their lives.

Every year in the US, according to the CDC, some two million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 23,000 die as a result.

We see an identical situation with vaccine development. People purchase asthma drugs or insulin, for example, for decades, while vaccinations usually require only one or two doses once in a lifetime. For decades now, so many pharmaceutical companies have abandoned not just vaccine research and development but production as well, that by 2003, the US began to experience shortages of most childhood vaccines. The situation is so dire that the CDC maintains a public website tracking current vaccine shortages and delays.

But at least with respect to Ebola, where the market refuses to provide, the defense department is comfortable intervening and setting aside free-market principles in the interests of national security.

Virologist Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston told Scientific American about his hope for the VSV vaccine, one of the most promising options against Ebola:

We’re trying to get the funds to do the human studies … but it really depends on financial support for the small companies that develop these vaccines. Human studies are expensive and require a lot of government dollars. With Ebola, there’s a small global market — there’s not a big incentive for a large pharmaceutical company to make an Ebola vaccine, so it’s going to require government funding.

William Sheridan, the medical director of BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, the developer of experimental anti-viral drug BCX4430, describes the financial predicament facing Ebola treatment research and development: “It just wouldn’t make the cut at a major company.”

But for a small company like his, the federal government has both backed research and promised to purchase stockpiles of anti-Ebola drugs as a preventative measure against bioterrorism. BCX4430 is also co-developed with the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). “There is a market, and the market is the US government,” he told NPR.

USAMRIID, along with Canada’s Public Health Agency, is also backing the development of ZMAPP, a serum of monoclonal antibiodies by a small San Diego-based biotech firm MAPP Biopharmaceutical, which was administered last week to two American doctors, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, working with the evangelical Christian missionary group Samaritan’s Purse.

The pair had fallen ill in Liberia while taking care of patients infected with Ebola. Brantley’s condition had been rapidly deteriorating, and he had phoned his wife to give his farewells. Within an hour of Brantley receiving the experimental serum, his condition had reportedly reversed, with his breathing improving and rashes fading.

The following morning, he was able to shower on his own, and by the time of his arrival in the US after being evacuated from Liberia, he was able to climb down out of the ambulance without assistance. Writebol is now similarly “up and walking,” after her arrival in Atlanta from the Liberian capital.

We should be extremely cautious about drawing any conclusions from this development and claiming that the drug has cured the missionaries. We have a sample size of just two in this “clinical trial,” with no blinding or control groups. The drug had until now never been tested on humans for safety or efficacy. And as with any illness, a certain percentage of patients will recover on their own. We do not know whether ZMapp was the cause of the apparent recovery. Nonetheless, it is not unreasonable to state that this turn of events gives great hope.

Two of the ZMapp antibodies were originally identified and developed by researchers at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and at Defyrus, a Toronto-based “life sciences biodefense company,” with funding from the Canadian Safety and Security Program of Defence R&D Canada. The third antibody in the cocktail was produced by MappBio in collaboration with USAMRIID, the National Institutes of Health, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The companies then partnered with Kentucky Bioprocessing in Owensboro, a protein production company that was bought earlier this year by the parent firm of RJ Reynolds Tobacco, to pharm the antibody-laden tobacco plants.

On hearing of the role of the Pentagon and Canada’s defense establishment, some have jumped to conspiracy theories. Indeed, ZMapp appears to be a perfect storm of popular nemeses: GMOs, Big Tobacco, the Pentagon, and injections that look a bit like vaccines!

But the Defense Department funding should not be viewed as nefarious. Rather, it is evidence of the superiority of the public sector as shepherd and driver of innovation.

However, not all unprofitable diseases are subjects of the colonels’ bioterror concern. And why should the private sector get to cherry pick the profitable conditions and leave the unprofitable ones for the public sector?

If, due to its profit-seeking imperative, the pharmaceutical industry is structurally incapable of producing those products that are required by society, and the public sector (in this case in the guise of the military) consistently has to fill in the gaps left by this market failure, then this sector should be nationalized, permitting the revenues from profitable treatments to subsidize the research, development, and production of unprofitable treatments.

In such a situation, we would no longer have to even argue whether the prevention of malaria, measles, or polio deserves greater priority; we could target both the big name and neglected diseases at the same time. There is no guarantee that turning on the tap of public funding will immediately produce a successful result, but at the moment, private pharmaceutical companies aren’t even trying.

This is precisely what is meant when socialists talk of capitalism being a fetter on the further development of the forces of production. Our concern here is not merely that the refusal of Big Pharma to engage in neglected tropical disease, vaccine, and antibiotic R&D is grotesquely immoral or unjust, but that the production of a potential cornucopia of new goods and services that could otherwise benefit our species and expand the realm of human freedom are blocked due to the free market’s lethargy and paucity of ambition.

Focusing on a vaccine or drugs is critical. But doing so without also paying attention to the deterioration of public health and general infrastructure across West Africa, and the wider economic conditions that contribute to the likelihood of outbreaks of zoonotic diseases like Ebola, is at best using a bucket to empty the water out of a leaky and sinking boat.

Phylogeographer and ecologist Rob Wallace has described well how neoliberal fallout has established the ideal conditions for the epidemic. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are some of the poorest countries on the planet, ranking 178th, 174th, and 177th out of 187 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index.

Were such an outbreak to occur in northern European countries, for example, nations with some of the best health infrastructure in the world, the situation would more likely have been contained.

It is not merely the dearth of field hospitals, lack of appropriate hygiene practices in existing hospitals, absence of standard isolation units, and limited cadre of highly trained health professionals that are able to track down every person that may have been exposed and isolate them. Or that better supportive care is a crucial condition of better outcomes, whatever the treatment available. The spread of the disease has also been exacerbated by a withering away of basic governmental structures that would otherwise be able to more broadly restrict movement, to manage logistical difficulties, and to coordinate with other governments.

Epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist Daniel Bausch, who worked on research assignments near the epicenter of the current outbreak, describes in a paper published in July in the Public Library of Science journal Neglected Tropical Diseases how he “witnessed this ‘de-development’ firsthand; on every trip back to Guinea, on every long drive from Conakry to the forest region, the infrastructure seemed to be further deteriorated — the once-paved road was worse, the public services less, the prices higher, the forest thinner.”

Wallace notes that here, as in many countries, a series of structural adjustment programs have been encouraged and enforced by Western governments and international financial institutions that require privatization and contraction of government services, removal of tariffs while Northern agribusiness remains subsidized, and an orientation toward crops for export at the expense of food self-sufficiency. All of this drives poverty and hunger, and, in turn, competition between food and export crops for capital, land, and agricultural inputs leads to an ever greater consolidation of land ownership, in particular by foreign companies, that limits access of small farmers to land.

Ebola is a zoonotic disease, meaning a disease spread from animals to humans (or vice versa). Some 61 percent of human infections throughout history have been zoonotic, from influenza to cholera to HIV.

The single biggest factor driving growth in new zoonotic pathogens is increased contact between humans and wildlife, often by the expansion of human activity into wilderness. As neoliberal structural adjustment forces people off the land but without accompanying urban employment opportunities, Wallace points out, they plunge “deeper into the forest to expand the geographic as well as species range of hunted game and to find wood to make charcoal and deeper into mines to extract minerals, enhancing their risk of exposure to Ebola virus and other zoonotic pathogens in these remote corners.”

As Bausch puts it: “Biological and ecological factors may drive emergence of the virus from the forest, but clearly the sociopolitical landscape dictates where it goes from there — an isolated case or two or a large and sustained outbreak.”

These outcomes are the predictable result of unplanned, haphazard development in areas known to be the origin of zoonotic spillover, and without the sort of infrastructural support and egalitarian ethos that permitted, for example, the elimination of malaria from the American South after World War II by the CDC in one of its earliest missions.

Over these past few months, the worst Ebola outbreak in history has exposed the moral bankruptcy of our pharmaceutical development model. The fight for public health care in the United States and the allied fight against healthcare privatization elsewhere in the West has only ever been half the battle. The goal of such campaigns can only truly be met when a new campaign is mounted: to rebuild the international pharmaceutical industry as a public sector service as well as address wider neoliberal policies that indirectly undermine public health.

We could take inspiration from HIV/AIDS activist groups from the late 80s/early 90s like ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group, and, in the 2000s, South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign, which combined direct action and civil disobedience against both companies and politicians with a scientifically rigorous understanding of their condition.

But this time, we need a larger, more comprehensive campaign covering not just one disease, but the panoply of market failures with respect to vaccine development, the antibiotic discovery void, neglected tropical diseases, and all neglected diseases of poverty. We need a science-based treatment activism that has the long-term, ambitious but achievable aim of the pharmaceutical industry’s democratic conquest.

We need a campaign to destroy the unprofitable diseases.

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Predicting extreme floods in the Andes mountains

October 15th, 2014 · Climate Change, Man-made Disaster

Press release by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research


New forecasting method:

Predicting extreme floods in the Andes mountains

Predicting floods following extreme rainfall in the central Andes is enabled by a new method. Climate change has made these events more frequent and more severe in recent decades. Now complex networks analysis of satellite weather data makes it possible to produce a robust warning system for the first time, a study to be published in the journal Nature Communications shows. This might allow for improved disaster preparedness. As the complex systems technique builds upon a mathematical comparison that can be utilised for any time series data, the approach could be applied to extreme events in all sorts of complex systems.

“Current weather forecast models cannot capture the intensity of the most extreme rainfall events, yet these events are of course the most dangerous, and can have severe impacts for the local population, for example major floods or even landslides,” says lead author Niklas Boers of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “Using complex networks analysis, we now found a way to predict such events in the South American Andes.”

When the monsoon hits South America from December to February, it brings moist warm air masses from the tropical Atlantic. Travelling westwards, these winds are blocked by the steep Andes mountains, several thousand metres high, and turn southwards. Under specific air pressure conditions, the warm air masses, loaded with moisture, meet cold and dry winds approaching from the south. This leads to abundant rainfall at high elevations, resulting in floods in the densely populated foothills of the Bolivian and Argentinian Andes. “Surprisingly, and in contrast to widespread understanding so far, these events propagate against the southward wind direction,” says Boers.

‘Big Data’ analysis of observational time series from satellites

The international team of scientists performed a ‘Big Data’ analysis of close to 50,000 high-resolution weather data time series dating from the 15 years since high quality satellite data became available, generated by NASA together with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. “We found that these huge rainfall clusters start off in the area around Buenos Aires, but then wander northwestward towards the Andes, where after two days they cause extreme rainfall events”, says Boers. The new method makes it possible to correctly predict 90 percent of extreme rainfall events in the Central Andes occurring during conditions of the El Niño weather phenomenon when floods are generally more frequent, and 60 percent of those occurring under any other conditions.

“While the findings were hard to derive, local institutions can now apply them quite easily by using readily available data, which helps a lot,” says co-author José A. Marengo of the National Institute for Space Research in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Major rainfall events can result in floods which for instance in early 2007 alone produced estimated costs of more than 400 million US dollars in the region. It is now up to the affected countries to adapt their disaster preparation planning.”

Method can be applied to the climate, but also to financial markets

“Comparing weather data sounds simple enough, but it actually took the new mathematical tool that we developed to detect the intricate connections that lead to the extremes,” says co-author Jürgen Kurths, co-chair of PIK’s research domain Transdisciplinary Concepts and Methods. “The data was there, but nobody joined the dots like this before. The method provides a general framework that could now be applied to forecast extreme changes in time series of other complex systems,” says Kurths. “In fact, this could be financial markets, brain activity, or even earthquakes.”

Article: Boers, N., Bookhagen, B., Barbosa, H.M.J., Kurths, J., Marengo, J.A. (2014): Prediction of extreme floods in the eastern central Andes based on a complex networks approach. Nature Communications (online) [DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6199]

Weblink to the article once it is published:

For further information please contact:

PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
Twitter: @PIK_Climate

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Just Published: Barzakh (Poems 2000-2012)

October 14th, 2014 · Book Launch, Poetry

Joris Cover draft2Black Widow Press
or via Amazon.

From the back cover:


A magnificent multi-layered tome from the brilliant poet and translator (of German, French and Arabic) whose erudition and deep engagement with the doings of humanitas are on full display. From a lyrical bi-lingual ode to Kerouac through DIS/ASTER-OILDRECK, we are drawn into a kinetic weave of world and language. “The brain amazed/that shaped air/ makes sense/in difference./Shut your brain port./ (as if, as if)/ for a moment/ open your mouth/be wet sweet breath/be dew/be dew/be the beduin/ letter.” A book for the time, for all times, for its care, its passion, its urgent soundings.
— Anne Waldman


Pierre Joris is a genuine Luxembourgian Yankee, who has invaded the American language, not to plunder but to enrich us with his presence. The scope of the work is large, the thrust is synthesizing, the idiom particular and rich. A renard-coyote, his accomplish-ment is there for all of us to see and hear.
— Jerome Rothenberg

…Pierre Joris is a wonderful poet of remarkable breadth of concern and lyric occasion.
— Robert Kelly


I. Prologue: End of Century Revisitation, or, A Closer

Canto Diurno # 2: A / To Jack Kerouac : Ode Bilingue | 17

II. 2000 etcetera: the Barzakh

eyes | 30
red crane crosses window | 31
This afternoon Dante | 32
there is no weather this morning | 33 desire of a line| 34
wave to the three women | 35
on the back porch again | 37
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2000 | 38
care of house, dead | 39
evening writing | 40
but mind has no care | 41
Shaman’s Dream Question | 42

Seven Elegies Preceded By A Meditation Postmodern Elegy | 44
1. Telegrammatica Per Franco | 45
2. For O.P. | 46
3. with Armand in mind | 47
4. For Barry MacSweeney dead this week at 51 | 48
5. A calm vademecum dose | 50
6. for R.C. — A Man for all Occasions | 52
7. Nattell is | 53

EP: heard, not seen | 56
Reading / Writing # 18 | 57 Monsoonish | 61

A Later Lemur Offering | 63
First Lemur Mourning | 65
Three Little Proses | 66
Measure | 68
Out Between | 69

Gymnastics, anybody? | 71
Now the bell tolls | 73
The fire alarms ambulances down Madison | 74
9/11/01 | 75

The Rothenberg Variations | 77

1/1/02 | 93
What the dream ends in | 94
dream anguish give | 95
[Introït to my Purgatory] | 97
L’Heure Bleue | 99
Poem upon returning to these States after a 6-month absence | 101
I have never | 102

for Gerrit at 75 | 103
A Certain Shabbiness, or:
The Circus is Leaving Town for Good | 104
April 1st ’04 / Venice Beach | 105
FOR TOM 107 |

Three Ontological Goggles
1. Diaspora is | 109
2. Nomadism is | 112
3. Poetry is: Definitions for Tom Nattell | 116

Nimrod | 121

from: An Alif Baa
preamble to an alphabet | 124
128 | ب
129 | A poem in noon ن

Nicou | 134
It is so like me you | 136
“Nothing No one Nowhere Never” | 139
All you ever can write about | 140
The Rheumy Eye of Night | 141
oh to have an alphabet | 143
Another end to writing/reading # 18 | 144
But the ear | 145
The monument to the dead | 146
Coils to Scratch | 147
For an Oud | 149

Pyrenean Notebook
in the golden pheasant | 150
Along the coast of Sri Lanka fish feed | 151
07.29.09. Bourg d’Oueil | 152
Bourg Birds | 153
The Sanctuary of Hands | 154
7/23/14 1:48 PM

The Fez Journals
On Miles’ 13th birthday | 159
Bab Bou Jeloud | 161
In Fez | 163
In Larache | 164
to go to the bottom of the pool | 167
Looking out over Fez — | 168
On the terrace of the Star of Fez | 169
Pools are for fools. | 170
Sunday morning 7 a.m. | 171
What if the birds were the shadows | 172
National Characters | 174
the heat is in the soup, | 175
the star of Fez again | 176
Leaving Fez | 178

Mongolian Capital | 180
the eighth climate I asked | 181
The Scumline | 183
At Justin’s, late | 187
Trust the first word that comes | 188
Wrist | 189

Canto Diurno # 4
The Tang Extending From The Blade | 192

For love | 208
For Yoori Kang & Joseph Mastantuono, at their Wedding | 211

Canto Diurno #5
1. At the Mondrian | 213
2. Lunch at La Grille (1.30 p.m.) | 216

There are ways and then there are ways to make this page wider | 219
Blurb for Hütte | 221
Reading Edmond Jabès | 222
Papyrus | 223

Letter to Steichen’s Ed | 224
I like the imp | 228
In Praise of Pinot Blanc | 229
48 Words, found, somehow: | 230
The Autopoetic Path | 231
Anton Webern Returns from Hungary | 232
Reading Rothschild & | 233
R.I.P. for C. L.-S. | 235
Homage to Badia Masabni | 236
RoToR response | 237
This tanker… | 240
Sour Birth | 243
Day’s End Run | 244
Winter Poem | 245
New Year Poem | 246
What I see: | 247
On Goethe’s Flyleaf | 248
Shakespeare’s sonnet #71, re-Englished after Paul Celan’s German
version without consulting the original | 249
Time is never timely | 250
R Train Spotting | 251
Early Morning Trail | 252
Dear George, | 253
is it a good thing to find | 254
Time is Vexing | 255

The Gulf (From Rigwreck to Disaster) | 256
Rigwreck | 258
Interlude 1 | 270
Love at First Sight | 272
Interlude 2: | 284
Dis/aster — Oildreck | 287

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Instead of Columbus (who he?) Day —

October 13th, 2014 · Uncategorized

— Crazy Horse’s shirt:


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