Dirty European Oil | World Record Drug Bust | Meatpacking Menace
July 2, 2020
“Colonialism hardly ever exploits the whole of a country. It contents itself with bringing to light the natural resources, which it extracts, and exports to meet the needs of the mother country’s industries, thereby allowing certain sectors of the colony to become relatively rich. But the rest of the colony follows its path of under-development and poverty, or at all events sinks into it more deeply.” ― Frantz Fanon
A Dirty Oil Racket
(Pius Utomi Ekpei via Getty Images)
Nigeria has some of the worst air pollution in the world. On any given day, dense clouds of choking soot hang above gridlocked cities, causing serious health conditions and damaging vehicles. A new report by the international resource watchdog group Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) explains why.
Every day, major oil companies like Shell, Exxon, and Chevron extract up to 2 million barrels of high quality, low sulfur “Bonny Light” crude from the Niger delta. Because Nigeria’s four state-owned refineries are dysfunctional or have closed, the crude is exported to Europe.
The SDN report substantiates allegations made in earlier investigations that European refineries and commodity brokers were blending the “Bonny Light” crude oil with benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals to create high-sulfur fuels hundreds of times over European pollution limits, specifically for sale to the weakly-regulated African market. Such blends have long been prohibited in western countries, but European refineries are allowed to make it if countries agree to accept it.
What most surprised SDN researchers studying samples taken from government-licensed filling stations in Port Harcourt and Lago was the extreme toxicity of this “official” fuel exported from Europe. Laboratory analysis showed that “unofficial” black market fuel — made from stolen oil in rudimentary artisanal refining camps hidden deep in the Niger delta — is less polluting than the diesel and gasoline coming primarily from refineries in the Netherlands and Belgium.
“Our research suggests that Nigeria is having dirty fuel dumped on it that cannot be sold to other countries with higher and better implemented standards,” said SDN’s program manager. Some 900,000 tons of this poisonous, yet “official,” fuel is sold to Nigeria annually.
Buying Colonizers, Will Cover Shipping
(Jaime Reina via Getty Images)
- To many people, symbols of the Confederacy and statues honoring its officials are reminders of America’s slave-owning past, and they want such icons removed. Similarly, protesters in the western US see monuments to Spanish colonial-era figures as links to colonialism and centuries of genocide against indigenous peoples in the Americas, and they want effigies of conquistadors removed.
- Last month, California lawmakers announced that a statue of Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus would be removed from the state capitol in Sacramento, describing it as “completely out of place today” in the capitol rotunda where it has stood since 1883.
- “Christopher Columbus is a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations,” leadership said in a bipartisan statement. The announcement prompted a flurry of activity in a small town in northeastern Spain 6,000 miles away.
- A group wrote Governor Gavin Newsom requesting they be allowed to take possession of the Carrara marble statue, and promising “We’ll take care of all the shipping costs.” Other towns have made similar requests, offering to rehome controversial statues. It’s part of a broader outreach effort by the Spanish government aimed at officials after protesters targeted dozens of monuments related to Spain’s conquest of the Americas. (Guardian)
A Drug Bust World Record
- Captagon is a brand name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline. Originally used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy, it was banned by many countries in the 1980s due to its addictive properties.
- Today, counterfeit Captagon is reportedly one of the most popular drugs among affluent youths in the Middle East, particularly in Gulf Arab states. The drug’s ability to inhibit fear and ward off tiredness also makes it extremely popular among combatants in Syria’s civil war, including Islamic State fighters. Syria is thought to be the biggest producer and exporter of counterfeit Captagon.
- On Wednesday, Italian police seized what could be a world-record haul of the amphetamines: 14 tons, enough to satisfy the entire European market. The 84 million counterfeit Captagon pills were found in containers at the port of Salerno. They’re estimated to be worth over a billion dollars — money, police suspect, meant to finance ISIS. (BBC)
Additional World News
- Putin Orchestrates Russia Referendum to Keep Him in Power: Russia’s constitutional “referendum” delivered its expected outcome — President Putin can serve until 2036 — but an elaborate spectacle of public affirmation was vital to his legitimacy. (NYT, $)
- ‘It Could Be Anyone’: Hong Kong Security Law Sends Chill Over the City (NYT, $)
- U.K. Makes Citizenship Offer to Hong Kong Residents (Time), but not if China decides to keep them from emigrating: China may block Hongkongers from moving to UK, admits Dominic Raab (Guardian)
- Hachalu Hundessa: ‘Eighty-one killed’ in protests over Ethiopian singer’s death (BBC)
- Iran sentences journalist to death, months after he was detained in mysterious circumstances (CNN)
- One speck of good news in the world: Uganda opens border for DR Congo refugees (BBC)
- Hundreds of elephants dead in mysterious mass die-off (Guardian)
- ‘I’m all for masks,’ says Trump in change of tone (BBC), but his supporters will not be told to wear masks or practice social distancing at his July 3 Mount Rushmore celebration.
- Scientists Say New Strain of Swine Flu Virus Is Spreading to Humans in China (NYT, $)
- In Iraq, Rising Virus Cases And Oxygen Shortages Stoke Outrage, Fears Of ‘Chaos’ (NPR)
- Rapid Antibody Testing Won’t Reliably Tell You If You’ve Had Coronavirus, Review Finds (Gizmodo)
- San Quentin Prison Was Free of the Virus. One Decision Fueled an Outbreak. (NYT, $)
- Why AAP Guidelines Are Pushing for Schools to Reopen This Fall (NYT, $)
- How California went from model student to pandemic problem child (Politico)
- Most People With Coronavirus Won’t Spread It. Why Do a Few Infect Many? (NYT, $)
- ‘No kissing’: Amsterdam’s red light district reopens after coronavirus shutdown (Guardian)
Case Farms’ COVID Cases
- A chicken processing facility in western North Carolina, Case Farms, reportedly underwent widespread testing for COVID-19 in early June. A worker said 150 people tested positive at the facility. On June 8, the health department for Burke county, where the Case Farms facility is located, reported 136 new COVID-19 cases, a 25 percent increase in its total caseload.
- Neither the company, county officials, nor the North Carolina department of health and human services would confirm whether those cases were connected to Case Farms. North Carolina is one of the largest pork and poultry producing states in the US. Because large meatpacking or food processing facilities are primary sources of employment in rural parts of the state, health departments there have been tight-lipped about COVID-19 outbreaks in those plants.
- In April, while outbreaks were emerging at meat processing plants across the country, President Trump signed an Executive Order forcing such facilities to remain open. Since the pandemic began, more than 36,000 meat processing and farm workers in the US have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 116 have died, but these numbers are undoubtedly higher. North Carolina is one of many states seeing a marked increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past several weeks. (Guardian)
Grasping at Drugs
- Health officials announced Monday that Remdesivir, the first drug shown to be somewhat effective against COVID-19, will be distributed under an unusual agreement between the manufacturer, Gilead, and the federal government. The deal establishes nonnegotiable prices and prioritizes American patients.
- Gilead has been donating the drug to hospitals since its emergency authorization, but the last donated shipment was distributed on Monday. HHS and state health departments have been allocating the drug to hospitals nationwide based on need.
- Henceforth, Remdesivir will be sold for $520 per vial, or $3,120 per treatment course, to hospitals for the treatment of patients with private insurance. For patients on government-sponsored insurance the price is set at $390 per vial, or $2,340 per treatment course.
- The drug will be sold only in the US through September, meaning American patients will receive almost all of Gilead’s output of over 500,000 treatment courses. A large clinical trial found that Remdesivir modestly shortened recovery time — four days on average — for severely ill COVID-19 patients, but did not reduce fatalities. (NYT)
Additional USA News
- Afghan Contractor Handed Out Russian Cash to Kill Americans, Officials Say (NYT, $)
- Seattle: at least 23 arrested as officers clear police-free protest zone (Guardian)
- House Passes $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Package Amid Coronavirus Pandemic (NYT, $)
- First Pence can’t say “Black Lives Matter”, now this: Trump ‘white power’ tweet set off a scramble inside the White House — but no clear condemnation (WaPo, $)
- Bush Administration And Campaign Officials Endorse Biden Through Super PAC (NPR)
- Harvey Weinstein: Some accusers denounce $19m ‘sellout’ settlement (BBC)
- Trump: Black Lives Matter is a ‘symbol of hate’ (Politico)
- Trump Is Boring Now, and He Can’t Do Anything About It (Atlantic, $). Has the world become so crazy that Trump seems normal in comparison now? Or is America finally over Trump’s antics?
- Who is Lauren Boebert, the QAnon sympathizer who won a Republican primary? (Guardian)
Smelling Down Memory Lane
- Last Friday, we learned that mice are better smellers than humans. And while mice may recognize many more smells than humans, we may never know if a particular smell can evoke memories in mice like it can in humans.
- Several scientific studies backup anecdotal experiences people have wherein certain smells trigger memories of a distinct event or location associated with certain emotions. A 2004 study at Brown University found that a group of five women showed more brain activity when smelling a perfume they associated with a positive memory than when smelling an unfamiliar control perfume. The brain activity associated with the memorable perfume was also greater than that produced when seeing the bottle of perfume.
- A more recent 2013 study also found that there was more brain activity associated with olfactory stimuli (the smell of a rose) than visual stimuli (the sight of a rose). Clinical case studies have linked smells to strong negative emotions as well, a connection that can play a significant role contributing to PTSD.
- So what is it about our sense of smell that works better to trigger memory and emotions than our sense of sight? When we come into contact with an odor (or molecules from volatile substances drifting through the air), the neurons that make up our olfactory receptor cells send a signal to a part of our brain called the olfactory bulb, which is responsible for interpreting those signals into what we perceive as smells. The olfactory bulb runs from our nose to the base of our brain, and has direct connections to the area responsible for processing emotion and the area linked to memory and cognition.
- Neuroscientists have suggested that this close physical connection between the regions of the brain linked to memory, emotion, and our sense of smell may explain why our brain learns to associate smells with certain emotional memories. (Scientific American)
- Save your eyes from work-from-home wear and tear: Declining eyesight can be improved by looking at red light, pilot study says (CNN)
- ‘Hamilton’ Review: You Say You Want a Revolution (NYT, $)
- Yamaha’s “Remote Cheerer” brings fan applause back to empty stadiums (Ars Technica)
- Behind Bars, but Still Posting on TikTok (Wired, $)
- Self-driving trucks from Waymo and TuSimple hit the road in the US (Vox)
- How technology literally changes our brains (Vox)
- Ten years of the sun in one hour – Nasa releases mesmerising space film (Guardian)
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