"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Denial Of Informed Consent’

In A System Of Coercion & Predetermined Choices, “Freedom” Is Just A Word

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Oldspeak: “For the overwhelming majority of us, our whole lives revolve around meeting our basic needs and keeping our families from starvation and homelessness. Most individuals are at the mercy of the economic system and have little time for anything else – survival is their main concern. What kind of a life is that? Is this a life lived in absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action? People spend most of their lives working for a ruthless system and benefit very little from the incredible work and labor they put into it. And despite their best efforts, they are barely making it.

But being a human is about more than just earning a living, working 40 plus hours a week for someone else’s benefit, and wasting countless more hours commuting to and from work. We get a few hours to ourselves for lunch or at home after work, and (if we are lucky) two weeks of vacation per year. This is not freedom – it’s more like temporary release. Living means more than merely existing; living is about experiencing life by expressing one’s passions, connecting with one another, and contributing creatively to our communities. For the most part of our existence, our bodies and our time belong to our employers, the “owners.” The only reason the current system “works” is because it threatens us with starvation and homelessness – this is coercion. It is not freedom by any definition.” –Kali Ma

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. “Many of them are normal because they are so well-adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.” They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”-Aldous Huxley

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Freedom is Slavery””Ignorance is Strength” –George Orwell

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” –Nesta Robert Marley

Don’t believe the hype. All the consumables, you’re being encouraged to spend your life force acquiring in the name of “personalization”, “independence”, “freedom”, “convenience” are being used to control and enslave you. Let go of your attachments to stuff. Don’t live your life in insatiable and relentless pursuit of “more”. Our Mother Earth cannot support us if we don’t drastically re prioritize our civilizations to value conservation over consumption. Sustainable, clean, regenerative energy development over toxic, extractive and destructive development. Creation, abundance, and balance over destruction, scarcity and imbalance. The revolution begins in you.” –OSJ

By Kali Ma @ The Hampton Institute:

Freedom is a word and idea that has become synonymous with America. President George Bush told Americans in the wake of 911 that the reason terrorists attacked the country was because “they hate our freedoms.” The national anthem proudly proclaims that America is “the land of the free.” Every July 4, Americans celebrate Independence Day and the freedoms that America represents. But what does freedom actually mean? What do politicians, those in power, and everyday individuals mean when they use freedom to describe the essence of America? In the sense that we have been conditioned to think of freedom and America as synonymous, there is actually no true meaning or definition of freedom. It is what George Orwell termed a “meaningless word” because it conveys nothing specific.[1] In reality, freedom means different things to different people: the right to free speech; the right to vote and participate in the political process; the right to privacy; the ability to accumulate great wealth and consume various products; or the right to live unmolested and to move about freely without constraints. [2] Essentially, the meaning of freedom is a personal one that has no official consensus.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, freedom means: a)the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; b) liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another. Freedom, then, is about autonomy and independence – to be in control of oneself and to choose one’s destiny. If we apply this definition as the standard, do we truly have freedom?
“Work Until We Keel Over and Die”

The reality for most people in the world today is one in which we serve the needs of the economic system, and in turn, those at the top who benefit from the status quo. For a human being to do anything in the world, his or her most basic needs – such as food, shelter, and clothing – must first be met. Since all individuals need money to survive, the economic system within a country is one of the primary – if not the primary – determinant of an individual’s course and quality of life. Since money is directly tied to survival, it serves as a major factor that guides our decisions.

Frontline’s recently released documentary Two American Families vividly depicts the extent to which money and the economic system affect our everyday reality. The film follows the lives of two working-class families (the Neumanns and the Stanleys) over the course of twenty years as they struggle to live the “American Dream.” Their troubles begin when both Tony Neumann and Claude Stanley lose their well-paying, unionized manufacturing jobs to overseas outsourcing. What follows in the next two decades for both families is a painful struggle to keep up with their bills, feed their children, and cope with the constant stress of being unemployed, underemployed, and on the brink of poverty and homelessness. Throughout the years, the Neumanns and Stanleys work various demanding jobs (sometimes two at a time) and eventually hope to live a life of “purpose and a lot more self-respect.” The Neumann kids worry about the family’s finances and, at one point, even offer to sell their baseball cards. The Stanley boys start their own lawn care business and have no time for fun during the summer because, as the oldest son Keith says, “You have to go out there and help your mom and dad.” Only one Stanley child makes it through college while the rest are unable to attend due to medical bills that put the family $30,000 in debt. Even with all their hard work, resilience, and refusal to give up, both families express their disappointments and blame themselves for the struggles they have endured over the years.

One of the most disturbing examples of the injustice and ruthlessness of our system is the foreclosure of Terry Neumann’s home. After 24 years, Terry loses her house in 2011 because her part-time job wages are not enough to cover the mortgage. If we assume that the monthly mortgage payments stayed the same for 24 years, the Neumann family paid JP Morgan close to $236,160 for a house the bank sold for $38,000 in foreclosure and for which they demanded an additional $120,000 from Terry as a buy-out.[3] After years of barely “making it,” Terry has little faith in the future and believes that most of us will simply “work until we collapse, keel over and die.”
Poverty – As American as Apple Pie

Unfortunately, the Stanleys and the Neumanns are not unique. Their stories are typical and happen to millions of Americans every day. According to recent surveys, 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and 80% of Americans struggle with unemployment and near-poverty at some point in their lives. Since the 2008 economic crash, millions of Americans have slipped into poverty, lost their homes, gone bankrupt, become unemployed, and are now working part-time jobs in an economy where not even full-time wages are enough to make a decent living. But these conditions have always been present, as evidenced by families like the Stanleys and Neumanns; it’s just that now an increasing number of Americans are living this reality that had previously gone mostly unacknowledged. Currently, there are more than47 million Americans on food stamps (most of thememployed), and almost a third of working class families earn wages below the official poverty threshold. In the more updated poverty measures, which include additional living costs such as medical expenses, almost 50% of Americans – 146. 4 million people – are considered poor or low-income.[4] On top of all this, 69% of Americans today hold some form of debt with the median household owing $70,000. Unfortunately, the odds of overcoming these dire economic circumstances are slim: theU.S. ranks consistently at the bottom when it comes toincome equality and offers much less economic mobility than other developed countries. So, who is benefitting from this system?

The top 1% richest households in America received 121% of all income gains from 2009 to 2011, and median CEO pay increased to $15.1 million last year. Today, the richest 1% of Americans take in 24% of all new income, while in 1976 they took home 9%. The 400 wealthiest individuals – the real owners of America – have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans. Corporations have also raked in record profits, yet somehow none of this prosperity has “trickled down” to the rest of us.
Freedom to Live, Not Merely Exist

When we look at the Stanleys, Neumanns, and millions of other families struggling to (literally) survive, one has to ask: are they free human beings? What freedoms do they enjoy? For the overwhelming majority of us, our whole lives revolve around meeting our basic needs and keeping our families from starvation and homelessness. Most individuals are at the mercy of the economic system and have little time for anything else – survival is their main concern. What kind of a life is that? Is this a life lived in absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action? People spend most of their lives working for a ruthless system and benefit very little from the incredible work and labor they put into it. And despite their best efforts, they are barely making it.

But being a human is about more than just earning a living, working 40 plus hours a week for someone else’s benefit, and wasting countless more hours commuting to and from work. We get a few hours to ourselves for lunch or at home after work, and (if we are lucky) two weeks of vacation per year. This is not freedom – it’s more like temporary release. Living means more than merely existing; living is about experiencing life by expressing one’s passions, connecting with one another, and contributing creatively to our communities. For the most part of our existence, our bodies and our time belong to our employers, the “owners.” The only reason the current system “works” is because it threatens us with starvation and homelessness – this is coercion. It is not freedom by any definition.

According to studies, most workers today have completely checked out from their jobs and are practically sleepwalking through their workdays. This even includes high-income workers, which suggests that money has little effect on whether we actually enjoy our jobs. These statistics fly in the face of those who argue that our current system is necessary because it creates an incentive for people to be productive. Studies have repeatedly shown thatmoney is actually a bad motivator, and what people really care about is to have autonomy at their jobs and the opportunity to apply their talents and be recognized for their work. Turns out, self-expression and the ability to make one’s own decisions are more important than money. This may be surprising to many of us because we have been indoctrinated into an economic ideology that sees profit as the ultimate value without any consideration for human beings and the natural world. Today, our global economy is mostly geared toward consuming and producing products we don’t need at the expense of exploited workers and the degradation of our environment. In other words, we are lending our labor to forces of death and destruction while ignoring the consequences of our work. No wonder most people cannot relate to their jobs.

Unfortunately, many individuals cannot afford to quit their jobs even if they find their work morally repugnant because they have to worry about paying their bills and taking care of their families. Moreover, in an economy based on consumption and exploitation, there are few meaningful jobs that provide us with a deep sense of purpose and that create a positive impact on society. If they do exist, these jobs are mostly reserved for privileged individuals who get to choose between careers of profit or lives of purpose. It is these kinds of choices that working class people do not have in our system today.

No one is suggesting that people should not be “productive” or contribute to society; on the contrary, people want to have a purpose in life and we should be able to utilize our talents and passions for the benefit of society while still working in harmony with each other and the environment. A coercive economy only creates widespread discontent and fails to meet even the basic physical and psychological needs of the majority of people.

Unfortunately, there are still those who blame others for being poor, unemployed, or struggling in this economy. While those in power often blame people for their misfortunate in order to evade responsibility for creating and perpetuating a system of oppression, there are also those within the working class who echo their sentiments. Clearly these individuals have internalized the authoritarian and coercive mindset that keeps them obedient to the needs of those in power. Their anger, criticism and disgust are misplaced and should be directed at the ruling class who benefits from this system of oppression and degradation. They have sharp words of “personal responsibility” for working people, yet no calls for accountability of Wall Street criminality and general belligerence of the ruling class. The victim-blamers never stop to ask themselves why there is no space in our economy for people to express their passions and talents; or why every person must adapt to the needs of the system – isn’t the system supposed to work for us, the people? But, of course, it is much easier to blame the victims than to confront our own powerlessness.
Limited, Predetermined Choices

Our every decision depends on the system’s approval, and we forego many of our wishes, desires, hopes, and dreams because we have to labor to survive. This is simply a sophisticated and updated version of slavery that has most people serving the interests of the powerful with minimal benefits to themselves. And make no mistake about it – the ruling class – if they could get away with it – would make all of us work for free. They are certainly not above slavery, as the history of African Americans and today’s corporate exploitation of farmworkers,temp workers, prisoners, and millions of sweatshop laborers around the world clearly shows. We are only putting up with this system because we have no other choice; we are blackmailed and rendered passive because our survival depends on our servitude to the interests of a ruthless authoritarian structure. No one in their right mind would willingly choose this type of existence because it goes against every natural human instinct that pushes against oppression and yearns for self-expression and creativity.

We cannot even choose our own education because we have to look to the system to determine which majors will land us a job or make us a lot of money. Knowledge and education have been commodified, stripped of their inherent value, and turned into assembly-line products to be bought and sold on the market. We have lost the most basic and personal freedoms to determine how we wish to cultivate our lives – it is all about the system and how we can be used to serve its needs. This type of thinking is so deeply ingrained into our psyche that most people do not even realize that this is how they approach life. Living our passions and having autonomy should not be a privilege – we all deserve the opportunity to express our talents, not just the lucky (mostly privileged) few. Anything less than that is psychological and spiritual suicide.

The issue of freedom boils down to autonomy – the dignity of self-determination which recognizes that we as human beings are more than just commodities to be used and exploited for the benefit of the few; to exercise our inherent rights as living beings to make decisions about our own lives without facing catastrophic consequences from a system created by those in power who benefit from our oppression. So the next time you hear the word “freedom,” ask yourself: do I have the autonomy to direct my life as I wish, to pursue my passions, interests, and desires without facing the consequences of starvation, homelessness or alienation? Am I free to do as I wish (without harming anyone) or am I dependent and beholden to a greater force and power than myself – one that makes those fundamental decisions for me? Do I have real choices in my life or only the superficial “choice” of Pepsi or Coke, Democrat or Republican, CNN or Fox News? In other words, do our choices have substance or is it just the same shit in a different package?

Notes

[1] Because the word “freedom” conveys nothing, individuals (and governments) can conceal the true nature of their ideas and actions behind such ambiguous words, while allowing their audience to fill in the missing definition. For instance, when politicians speak of a free economy (or economic freedom), what they really mean is an economy free to exploit workers and the environment without any regulation, rules, or oversight of corporations; however, many individuals interpret economic freedom to mean the right to work, decent wages, or better opportunities to start small businesses. Clearly, there is a disconnect between the politician’s meaning of the word and its interpretation by the audience.

[2] Even the rights we think we have are vanishing before our eyes: as a result of mass surveillance, the right to privacy no longer exists; our votes have become meaningless because regardless of who we vote for, Wall Street and the military industrial complex always win; many of us cannot even walk around freely without being harassed in the age of codified racial profiling under “Stop and Frisk”; and of course the “chilling” effect on free speech resulting from unprecedented persecutions of journalists and whistleblowers by an establishment so afraid of the truth that it jails those who expose corruption and war crimes.

[3] $820 (monthly mortgage) x 12 months x 24 years = $236,160. This sum does not include fees and penalties the Neumanns paid over the years when they fell behind on their mortgage.

[4] Some critics argue that even these figures are too low because the standards for calculating the poverty line have not been updated since the 1960s. If the measures had kept pace with living standards over the years, today the poverty threshold would be $34,000 for a family of four instead of the $25,222 in the more “updated” version under the Poverty Supplemental Measure. http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/cepr-blog/raising-minimum-wage-to-9-not-enough-to-ensure-that-families-with-fulltime-workers-live-above-poverty-line

Radiation From Cell Phones & WiFi Networks Are Making People Sick — Are We All at Risk?

In Uncategorized on December 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Oldspeak:”We are now exposed to electromagnetic radio frequencies 24 hours a day. “radio-frequency radiation has a number of biological effects which can be reproducibly found in animals and cellular systems. The indications are that there may be very serious effects in humans. Exposure tests with animal and human cells show RF-EMF radiation causes genes to be activated.  RF-EMF causes the generation of free radicals, increases production of things called heat shock proteins, and alters calcium ion regulation. These are all common mechanisms behind many kinds of tissue damage.”-David O. Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York  Double-strand breaks in DNA — one of the undisputed causes of cancer — have been reported in similar tests with animal cells. Swedish neuro-oncologist Leif Salford, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Lund University, has found that cell phone radiation damages neurons in rats, particularly those cells associated with memory and learning. The damage occurred after an exposure of just two hours. Salford also found that cell phone EMFs cause holes to appear in the barrier between the circulatory system and the brain in rats. Punching holes in the blood-brain-barrier is not a good thing. It allows toxic molecules from the blood to leach into the ultra-stable environment of the brain. One of the potential outcomes, Salford notes, is dementia.” These are some of  the documented deleterious effects of prolonged exposure to RF-EMF radiation. It is reasonable to assume there are many more we are unaware of.  And we’re exposed to it CONSTANTLY. But hey as long as Big Pharma gets to keep getting paid pumping our kids full of the ADHD meds they need because this radiation is making them go haywire and adversely affecting their memory and learning abilities, everything is fine, pay no attention to the men behind the curtain. Welcome to the largest human experiment EVER. And very few people are even aware of it. What’s most disturbing is the non-partisan research is being ignored, in favor of obviously bought and paid for by industry research. Why? Watch the documentary below to understand what you’re up against. ” Ignorance Is Strength”

Related Video

FULL SIGNAL: The Hidden Costs of Cell Phones

By Christopher Ketcham  @ Earth Island Journal:

Consider this story: It’s January 1990, during the pioneer build-out of mobile phone service. A cell tower goes up 800 feet from the house of Alison Rall, in Mansfield, Ohio, where she and her husband run a 160-acre dairy farm. The first thing the Rall family notices is that the ducks on their land lay eggs that don’t hatch. That spring there are no ducklings.

By the fall of 1990, the cattle herd that pastures near the tower is sick. The animals are thin, their ribs are showing, their coats growing rough, and their behavior is weird – they’re agitated, nervous. Soon the cows are miscarrying, and so are the goats. Many of the animals that gestate are born deformed. There are goats with webbed necks, goats with front legs shorter than their rear legs. One calf in the womb has a tumor the size of a basketball, another carries a tumor three feet in diameter, big enough that he won’t pass through the birth canal. Rall and the local veterinarian finally cut open the mother to get the creature out alive. The vet records the nightmare in her log: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire practice… All of [this] I feel was a result of the cellular tower.”

Within six months, Rall’s three young children begin suffering bizarre skin rashes, raised red “hot spots.” The kids are hit with waves of hyperactivity; the youngest child sometimes spins in circles, whirling madly. The girls lose hair. Rall is soon pregnant with a fourth child, but she can’t gain weight. Her son is born with birth defects – brittle bones, neurological problems – that fit no specific syndrome. Her other children, conceived prior to the arrival of the tower, had been born healthy.

Desperate to understand what is happening to her family and her farm, Rall contacts the Environmental Protection Agency. She ends up talking to an EPA scientist named Carl Blackman, an expert on the biological effects of radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMFs) – the kind of radiofrequency EMFs (RF-EMFs) by which all wireless technology operates, including not just cell towers and cell phones but wi-fi hubs and wi-fi-capable computers, “smart” utility meters, and even cordless home phones. “With my government cap on, I’m supposed to tell you you’re perfectly safe,” Blackman tells her. “With my civilian cap on, I have to tell you to consider leaving.”

Blackman’s warning casts a pall on the family. When Rall contacts the cell phone company operating the tower, they tell her there is “no possibility whatsoever” that the tower is the source of her ills. “You’re probably in the safest place in America,” the company representative tells her.

The Ralls abandoned the farm on Christmas Day of 1992 and never re-sold it, unwilling to subject others to the horrors they had experienced. Within weeks of fleeing to land they owned in Michigan, the children recovered their health, and so did the herd.

We are now exposed to electromagnetic radio frequencies 24 hours a day. Welcome to the largest human experiment ever.

Not a single one of the half-dozen scientists I spoke to could explain what had happened on the Rall farm. Why the sickened animals? Why the skin rashes, the hyperactivity? Why the birth defects? If the radiofrequency radiation from the cell tower was the cause, then what was the mechanism? And why today, with millions of cell towers dotting the planet and billions of cell phones placed next to billions of heads every day, aren’t we all getting sick?

In fact, the great majority of us appear to be just fine. We all live in range of cell towers now, and we are all wireless operators. More than wireless operators, we’re nuts about the technology. Who doesn’t keep at their side at all times the electro-plastic appendage for the suckling of information?

The mobile phone as a technology was developed in the 1970s, commercialized in the mid-80s, miniaturized in the ‘90s. When the first mobile phone companies launched in the United Kingdom in 1985, the expectation was that perhaps 10,000 phones would sell. Worldwide shipments of mobile phones topped the one billion mark in 2006. As of October 2010 there were 5.2 billion cell phones operating on the planet. “Penetration,” in the marketing-speak of the companies, often tops 100 percent in many countries, meaning there is more than one connection per person. The mobile phone in its various manifestations – the iPhone, the Android, the Blackberry – has been called the “most prolific consumer device” ever proffered.

I don’t have an Internet connection at my home in Brooklyn, and, like a dinosaur, I still keep a landline. But if I stand on my roof, I see a hundred feet away, attached to the bricks of the neighboring parking garage, a panel of cell phone antennae – pointed straight at me. They produce wonderful reception on my cell phone. My neighbors in the apartment below have a wireless fidelity connection – better known as wi-fi – which I tap into when I have to argue with magazine editors. This is very convenient. I use it. I abuse it.

Yet even though I have, in a fashion, opted out, here I am, on a rooftop in Brooklyn, standing bathed in the radiation from the cell phone panels on the parking garage next door. I am also bathed in the radiation from the neighbors’ wi-fi downstairs. The waves are everywhere, from public libraries to Amtrak trains to restaurants and bars and even public squares like Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, where the Wall Street occupiers relentlessly tweet.

We now live in a wireless-saturated normality that has never existed in the history of the human race.

It is unprecedented because of the complexity of the modulated frequencies that carry the increasingly complex information we transmit on our cell phones, smart phones and wi-fi systems. These EMFs are largely untested in their effects on human beings. Swedish neuroscientist Olle Johansson, who teaches at the world-renowned Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, tells me the mass saturation in electromagnetic fields raises terrible questions. Humanity, he says, has embarked on the equivalent of “the largest full-scale experiment ever. What happens when, 24 hours around the clock, we allow ourselves and our children to be whole-body-irradiated by new, man-made electromagnetic fields for the entirety of our lives?”

We have a few answers. Last May, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, a branch of the World Health Organization), in Lyon, France, issued a statement that the electromagnetic frequencies from cell phones would henceforth be classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The determination was based in part on data from a 13-country study, called Interphone, which reported in 2008 that after a decade of cell phone use, the risk of getting a brain tumor – specifically on the side of the head where the phone is placed – goes up as much as 40 percent for adults. Israeli researchers, using study methods similar to the Interphone investigation, have found that heavy cell phone users were more likely to suffer malignant tumors of the salivary gland in the cheek, while an independent study by scientists in Sweden concluded that people who started using a cell phone before the age of 20 were five times as likely to develop a brain tumor. According to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer Prevention, people living for more than a decade within 350 meters of a cell phone tower experience a four-fold increase in cancer rates.

The IARC decision followed in the wake of multiple warnings, mostly from European regulators, about the possible health risks of RF-EMFs. In September 2007, Europe’s top environmental watchdog, the EU’s European Environment Agency, suggested that the mass unregulated exposure of human beings to widespread radiofrequency radiation “could lead to a health crisis similar to those caused by asbestos, smoking and lead in petrol.” That same year, Germany’s environmental ministry singled out the dangers of RF-EMFs used in wi-fi systems, noting that people should keep wi-fi exposure “as low as possible” and instead choose “conventional wired connections.” In 2008, France issued a generalized national cell phone health warning against excessive cell phone use, and then, a year later, announced a ban on cell phone advertising for children under the age of 12.

We now live in a wireless-saturated normality that has never existed in the history of the human race.

In 2009, following a meeting in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, more than 50 concerned scientists from 16 countries – public health officials, biologists, neuroscientists, medical doctors – signed what became known as the Porto Alegre Resolution. The signatories described it as an “urgent call” for more research based on “the body of evidence that indicates that exposure to electromagnetic fields interferes with basic human biology.”

That evidence is mounting. “Radiofrequency radiation has a number of biological effects which can be reproducibly found in animals and cellular systems,” says David O. Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York (SUNY). “We really cannot say for certain what the adverse effects are in humans,” Carpenter tells me. “But the indications are that there may be – and I use the words ‘may be’ – very serious effects in humans.” He notes that in exposure tests with animal and human cells, RF-EMF radiation causes genes to be activated. “We also know that RF-EMF causes generation of free radicals, increases production of things called heat shock proteins, and alters calcium ion regulation. These are all common mechanisms behind many kinds of tissue damage.”

Double-strand breaks in DNA – one of the undisputed causes of cancer – have been reported in similar tests with animal cells. Swedish neuro-oncologist Leif Salford, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Lund University, has found that cell phone radiation damages neurons in rats, particularly those cells associated with memory and learning. The damage occurred after an exposure of just two hours. Salford also found that cell phone EMFs cause holes to appear in the barrier between the circulatory system and the brain in rats. Punching holes in the blood-brain-barrier is not a good thing. It allows toxic molecules from the blood to leach into the ultra-stable environment of the brain. One of the potential outcomes, Salford notes, is dementia.

Other effects from cell phone radiofrequencies have been reported using human subjects. At Loughborough University in England, sleep specialists in 2008 found that after 30 minutes of cell phone use, their subjects required twice the time to fall asleep as they did when the phone was avoided before bedtime. EEGs (electroencephalograms) showed a disturbance of the brain waves that regulate sleep. Neuroscientists at Swinburne University of Technologyin Australia discovered in 2009 a “power boost” in brain waves when volunteers were exposed to cell phone radiofrequencies. Researchers strapped Nokia phones to their subjects’ heads, then turned the phones on and off. On: brain went into defense mode. Off: brain settled. The brain, one of the lead researchers speculated, was “concentrating to overcome the electrical interference.”

Yet for all this, there is no scientific consensus on the risks of RF-EMFs to human beings.

The major public-health watchdogs, in the US and worldwide, have dismissed concerns about it. “Current evidence,” the World Health Organization (WHO) says, “does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.” (The WHO thus contradicts the findings of one of its own research units.) The US Federal Communications Commission has made similar statements. The American Cancer Society reports that “most studies published so far have not found a link between cell phone use and the development of tumors.” The cell phone industry’s lobbying organization, CTIA-The Wireless Association, assures the public that cell phone radiation is safe, citing studies – many of them funded by the telecom industry – that show no risk.

Published meta-reviews of hundreds of such studies suggest that industry funding tends to skew results. According to a survey by Henry Lai, a research professor at University of Washington, only 28 percent of studies funded by the wireless industry showed some type of biological effect from cell phone radiation. Meanwhile, independently funded studies produce an altogether different set of data: 67 percent of those studies showed a bioeffect. The Safe Wireless Initiative, a research group in Washington, DC that has since closed down, unpacked the data in hundreds of studies on wireless health risks, arraying them in terms of funding source. “Our data show that mobile phone industry funded/influenced work is six times more likely to find ‘no problem’ than independently funded work,” the group noted. “The industry thus has significantly contaminated the scientific evidence pool.”

The evidence about the long-term public health risks of exposure to RF-EMFs may be contradictory. Yet it is clear that some people are getting sick when heavily exposed to the new radiofrequencies. And we are not listening to their complaints.

Take the story of Michele Hertz. When a local utility company installed a wireless digital meter – better known as a “smart” meter – on her house in upstate New York in the summer of 2009, Hertz thought little of it. Then she began to feel odd. She was a practiced sculptor, but now she could not sculpt. “I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even finish sentences,” she told me. Hertz experienced “incredible memory loss,” and, at the age of 51, feared she had come down with Alzheimer’s.

One night during a snowstorm in 2010 her house lost power, and when it came back on her head exploded with a ringing sound – “a terrible piercing.” A buzzing in her head persisted. She took to sleeping on the floor of her kitchen that winter, where the refrigerator drowned out the keening. There were other symptoms: headaches and nausea and dizziness, persistent and always worsening. “Sometimes I’d wake up with my heart pounding uncontrollably,” she told me. “I thought I would have a heart attack. I had nightmares that people were killing me.”

Roughly one year after the installation of the wireless meters, with the help of an electrician, Hertz thought she had figured out the source of the trouble: It had to be something electrical in the house. On a hunch, she told the utility company, Con Edison of New York, to remove the wireless meter. She told them: “I will die if you do not install an analog meter.” Within days, the worst symptoms disappeared. “People look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about this,” Hertz says.

Her exposure to the meters has super-sensitized Hertz to all kinds of other EMF sources. “The smart meters threw me over the electronic edge,” she says. A cell phone switched on in the same room now gives her a headache. Stepping into a house with wi-fi is intolerable. Passing a cell tower on the street hurts. “Sometimes if the radiation is very strong my fingers curl up,” she says. “I can now hear cell phones ringing on silent. Life,” she says, “has dramatically changed.”

Hertz soon discovered there were other people like her: “Electrosensitives,” they call themselves. To be sure, they comprise a tortured minority, often misunderstood and isolated. They share their stories at online forums like Smartmeters.org, the EMF Safety Network, and the Electrosensitive Society. “Some are getting sick from cell phones, some from smart meters, some from cell towers,” Hertz tells me. “Some can no longer work and have had to flee their homes. Some are losing their eyesight, some can’t stop shaking, most cannot sleep.”

In recent years, I’ve gotten to know dozens of electrosensitives. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, I met a woman who had taken to wearing an aluminum foil hat. (This works – wrap a cell phone in foil and it will kill the signal.) I met a former world record-holding marathoner, a 54-year-old woman who had lived out of her car for eight years before settling down at a house ringed by mountains that she said protected the place from cell frequencies. I met people who said they no longer wanted to live because of their condition. Many of the people I talked to were accomplished professionals – writers, television producers, entrepreneurs. I met a scientist from Los Alamos National Laboratories named Bill Bruno whose employer had tried to fire him after he asked for protection from EMFs at the lab. I met a local librarian named Rebekah Azen who quit her job after being sickened by a newly installed wi-fi system at the library. I met a brilliant activist named Arthur Firstenberg, who had for several years published a newsletter, “No Place to Hide,” but who was now homeless, living out of the back of his car, sleeping in wilderness outside the city where he could escape the signals.

In New York City, I got to know a longtime member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) who said he was electrosensitive. I’ll call him Jake, because he is embarrassed by his condition and he doesn’t want to jeopardize his job or his membership in the IEEE (which happens to have for its purpose the promulgation of electrical technology, including cell phones). Jake told me how one day, a few years ago, he started to get sick whenever he went into the bedroom of his apartment to sleep. He had headaches, suffered fatigue and nausea, nightsweats and heart palpitations, had blurred vision and difficulty breathing and was blasted by a ringing in the ears – the typical symptoms of the electrosensitive. He discovered that his neighbor in the apartment building kept a wi-fi transmitter next door, on the other side of the wall to his bedroom. When Jake asked the neighbor to shut it down, his symptoms disappeared.

The government of Sweden reports that the disorder known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS, afflicts an estimated 3 percent of the population. A study by the California Department of Health found that, based on self-reports, as many as 770,000 Californians, or 3 percent of the state’s population, would ascribe some form of illness to EMFs. A study in Switzerland recently found a 5 percent prevalence of electrosensitivity. In Germany, there is reportedly a 6 percent prevalence. Even the former prime minister of Norway, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, until 2003 the director general of the World Health Organization, has admitted that she suffers headaches and “strong discomfort” when exposed to cell phones. “My hypersensitivity,” she told a Norwegian newspaper in 2002, “has gone so far that I react to mobile phones closer to me than about four meters.” She added in the same interview: “People have been in my office with their mobile hidden in their pocket or bag. Without knowing if it was on or off, we have tested my reactions. I have always reacted when the phone has been on – never when it’s off.”

“People are reporting these symptoms all over the globe. It’s not likely a transcultural mass hallucination.”

Yet the World Health Organization – the same agency that Brundtland once headed – reports “there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure.” WHO’s findings are corroborated by a 2008 study at the University of Bern in Switzerland which found “no evidence that EHS individuals could detect [the] presence or absence” of frequencies that allegedly make them sick. A study conducted in 2006 at the Mobile Phone Research Unit at King’s Collegein London came to a similar conclusion. “No evidence was found to indicate that people with self-reported sensitivity to mobile phone signals are able to detect such signals or that they react to them with increased symptom severity,” the report said. “As sham exposure was sufficient to trigger severe symptoms in some participants, psychological factors may have an important role in causing this condition.” The King’s College researchers in 2010 concluded it was a “medically unexplained illness.”

“The scientific data so far just doesn’t help the electrosensitives,” says Louis Slesin, editor and publisher of Microwave News, a newsletter and website that covers the potential impacts of RF-EMFs. “The design of some of these studies, however, is questionable.” He adds: “Frankly, I’d be surprised if the condition did not exist. We’re electromagnetic beings. You wouldn’t have a thought in your head without electromagnetic signals. There is electrical signaling going on in your body all the time, and the idea that external electromagnetic fields can’t affect us just doesn’t make sense. We’re biological and chemical beings too, and we know that we can develop allergies to certain biological and chemical compounds. Why wouldn’t we also find there are allergies to EM fields? Shouldn’t every chemical be tested for its effects on human beings? Well, the same could be said for each frequency of RF radiation.”

Dr. David Carpenter of SUNY, who has also looked into electrosensitivity, tells me he’s “not totally convinced that electrosensitivity is real.” Still, he says, “there are just too many people with reports of illness when chronically near to EMF devices, with their symptoms being relieved when they are away from them. Like multiple chemical sensitivity and Gulf War Syndrome, there is something here, but we just don’t understand it all yet.”

Science reporter B. Blake Levitt, author of Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer’s Guide to the Issues, says the studies she has reviewed on EHS are “contradictory and nowhere near definitive.” Flaws in test design stand out, she says. Many with EHS may be simply “too sensitized,” she believes, to endure research exposure protocols, possibly skewing results from the start by inadvertently studying a less sensitive group. Levitt recently compiled some of the most damning studies of the health effects from cell towers in a report for the International Commission on Electromagnetic Safetyin Italy. “Some populations are reacting poorly when living or working within 1,500 feet of a cell tower,” Levitt tells me. Several studies she cited found an increase in headaches, rashes, tremors, sleep disturbances, dizziness, concentration problems, and memory changes.

“EHS may be one of those problems that can never be well defined – we may just have to believe what people report,” Levitt says. “And people are reporting these symptoms all over the globe now when new technologies are introduced or infrastructure like cell towers go into neighborhoods. It’s not likely a transcultural mass hallucination. The immune system is an exquisite warning mechanism. These are our canaries in the coal mine.”

Swedish neuroscientist Olle Johansson was one of the first researchers to take the claims of electrosensitivity seriously. He found, for example, that persons with EHS had changes in skin mast cells – markers of allergic reaction – when exposed to specific EM fields. Other studies have found that radiofrequency EMFs can increase serum histamine levels – the hallmark of an allergic reaction. Johansson has hypothesized that electrosensitivity arises exactly as any common allergy would arise – due to excessive exposure, as the immune system fails. And just as only some people develop allergies to cats or pollen or dust, only some of us fall prey to EM fields. Johansson admits that his hypothesis has yet to be proven in laboratory study.

One afternoon not long ago, a nurse named Maria Gonzalez, who lives in Queens, New York, took me to see the cell phone masts that irradiate her daughter’s school. The masts were the usual flat-paneled, alien-looking things nested together, festooned with wires, high on a rooftop across from Public School 122 in Astoria. They emitted a fine signal – five bars on my phone. The operator of the masts, Sprint-Nextel, had built a wall of fake brick to hide them from view, but Maria was unimpressed with the subterfuge. She was terrified of the masts. When, in 2005, the panels went up, soon to be turned on, she was working at the intensive care unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital. She’d heard bizarre stories about cell phones from her cancer-ward colleagues. Some of the doctors at St. Vincent’s told her they had doubts about the safety of their own cellphones and pagers. This was disturbing enough. She went online, culling studies. When she read a report published in 2002 about children in Spain who developed leukemia shortly after a cell phone tower was erected next to their school, she went into a quiet panic.

Sprint-Nextel was unsympathetic when she telephoned the company in the summer of 2005 to express her concerns. The company granted her a single meeting that autumn, with a Sprint-Nextel technician, an attorney, and a self-described “radiation expert” under contract with the company. “They kept saying, ‘we’re one hundred percent sure the antennas are safe,’” Maria told me as we stared at the masts. “‘One hundred percent sure! These are children! We would never hurt children.’” She called the office of Hillary Clinton and pestered the senator once a week for six months – but got nowhere. A year later, Gonzalez sued the US government, charging that the Federal Communications Commission had failed to fully evaluate the risks from cell phone frequencies. The suit was thrown out. The judge concluded that if regulators for the government said the radiation was safe, then it was safe. The message, as Gonzalez puts it, was that she was “crazy … and making a big to-do about nothing.”

I’d venture, rather, that she was applying a commonsense principle in environmental science: the precautionary principle, which states that when an action or policy – or technology – cannot be proven with certainty to be safe, then it should be assumed to be harmful. In a society thrilled with the magic of digital wireless, we have junked this principle. And we try to dismiss as fools those who uphold it – people like Gonzalez. We have accepted without question that we will have wi-fi hotspots in our homes, and at libraries, and in cafes and bookstores; that we will have wireless alarm systems and wireless baby monitors and wireless utility meters and wireless video games that children play; that we will carry on our persons wireless iPads and iPods and smart phones. We are mesmerized by the efficiency and convenience of the infotainment appendage, the words and sounds and pictures it carries. We are, in other words, thoughtless in our embrace of the technology.

Because of our thoughtlessness, we have not demanded to know the full consequences of this technology.
Perhaps the gadgets are slowly killing us – we do not know. Perhaps they are perfectly safe – we do not know. Perhaps they are making us sick in ways we barely understand – we do not know. What we do know, without a doubt, is that the electromagnetic fields are all around us, and that to live in modern civilization implies always and everywhere that we cannot escape their touch.

Christopher Ketcham has contributed to ORION, Harper’s, and GQ, where portions of this reporting appeared previously. Find more of his work at ChristopherKetcham.com

Biotech Corporations Are Patenting & Profiting From Human Genes And Tissues — Here’s Why That’s Terrifying

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Oldspeak:” Whether you like it or not, under current law a vital part of who you are actually belongs to someone else. Medical corporations are buying the property rights to the very essence of human life. Gene patents for a 1 third of the  human genome — or more than 10,000 genes — have been created, despite court precedent that says no one can own the “products of nature.”  If you’re hurt, medical research can be conducted on you without your permission. They’re putting human health second to their profit & they’re using your tax dollars and poor people’s tissues (without compensating them for using them) to do it, unscrupulously perversting the tenet of “informed consent” in their insatiable quest for more profit via patents and product monopolies. Using barely informed illiterate subjects for their medical research, their products contribute to unreported subject deaths, which help them glean the data they need to get their products approved by FDA they bought and paid for via campaign contributions to corrupt politicians who strip the FDA of any ability to regulate and populate the agency with medical industry cronies who do their bidding. Then don’t even provide access to the drugs produced to the poor people with unmet medical needs used to produce the drugs! This is the essence of  the Medical-Industrial Complex. A repeating loop profit machine, where human health is secondary, humans are guinea pigs and public dollars are used to fund private profits. Pumping out ‘medicines’ that sometimes cause more harm than good. All so a few very wealthy men can get more wealthy making drugs for people who can afford exorbitant costs for them, and not making the drugs available to the vast majority of people who need them. “Profit Is Paramount”

Related Stories:

Breast Cancer Court Case Pits Patients’ Genes vs. Gene Patents

Should Biotech Firms Be Able to Own Your Genes?

WHY GENES MUST REMAIN ELIGIBLE FOR PATENTING 

By Brad Jacobson @ AlterNet:

Do you think that granting corporations the rights of people in the Citizens United case is disturbing? Then contemplate the fact that corporations have been patenting human genes and tissues at alarming rates — in the last 30 years, more than 40,000 patents have been granted on genes alone.

As the Occupy movement fights against the unmitigated influence of corporations on our lives, author and medical ethicist Harriet Washington’s new book, Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself–And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future, is a timely wakeup call to protect the very essence of human life from the medical-industrial complex.

In a recent phone interview with AlterNet, Washington discussed the dark implications of corporate medical patents, how we find ourselves in this nightmarish scenario and what needs to be done to stop medical research profits from trumping human health. Washington is also the author of Medical Apartheid, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has been a fellow in medical ethics at Harvard Medical School, a senior research scholar at the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University and a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Brad Jacobson: The main piece of legislation that opened the door for corporations to begin patenting human life was the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. Can you tell us how this law was sold to the American people?

Harriet Washington: Just to recap what the Bayh-Dole Act is, basically it was a law that permitted for the first time universities to legally transfer their patents to private corporations, to sell them, license them. That had been virtually prohibited in the past because most of these new inventions had been developed with tax dollars. And the thinking had been, “If you develop things with our tax dollars, then we shouldn’t allow them to go to private corporations who can establish a monopoly with their patents.”

It was sold to the American public primarily by [former Indiana Sen.] Birch Bayh, who of course partnered with [former Kansas Sen.] Bob Dole. But it was Birch Bayh who made the argument that we have all these patents lying around, no one’s doing anything with them. If we let corporations get them, then they’ll develop them into needed medications. So people were told this is the root to get the medications and treatments that we need.

However, what’s really interesting, though — I went behind the scenes and of course I saw that, rather than being any kind of groundswell of popular support, the law actually passed on the last hour of the last day of the last congressional session because of some good ol’ boy networking.

BJ: Also in 1980, the legal counterpart for this corporate opening came with the court decision Diamond v. Chakrabarty, in which a scientist’s patenting of an oil-eating bacteria was contested. But how is this different than what had been patentable in the past?

HW: It’s certainly a good question because living things have been patented in the past. That’s a misconception people have. Louis Pasteur had patented a yeast. Takamine [Hideo] had patented adrenaline. Numerous living things had been patented before. However, there were often legal challenges by people who would say, “This patent is not really valid because you can’t patent a product of nature.”

So in 1980, when Ananda Chakrabarty, a researcher at General Electric, decided to try to patent some bacteria that he had intensively engineered to be able to “eat crude oil,” the U.S.] patent office said, “We’ll patent the process you use, but we’re not going to patent these bacteria. They’re living things and only inventions can be patented. We can’t patent products of nature.”

So Chakrabarty and General Electric sued and the patent office decided to defer to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided that, yes, living things can be patented, which is interesting because Chakrabarty insisted he was shocked by the ruling. He said that he fully expected he had made his case, but he was surprised they decided to more broadly permit the patenting of living things.

But now it’s being applied to things where the contribution of the researcher is nowhere near so extensive. So, of course, genetic sequences found in our body are being patented. Medically important animals — like Harvard’s OncoMouse which is guaranteed to get cancer — are being patented. And so these products of nature, including products of our bodies, being patented has created huge problems for us.

BJ: In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman, was being treated for cervical cancer without success at John Hopkins University. Without Henrietta’s or her family’s knowledge, John Hopkins University researcher Dr. George Gey obtained a sample of her tumor from her doctors, which eventually led to his creation of an immortalized cell line used in the development of the polio vaccine as well as drugs for numerous other diseases. It also generated millions of dollars in profits around the world, yet the Lacks family was never compensated, nor did they even have health insurance at the time. How was this case a harbinger for what would follow in the context of patient rights in regard to medical patents?

HW: I actually met with the Lacks family in the mid-1990s. I wrote about her case and I think there are some things that have been promulgated that are not exactly true. It’s true the family didn’t have any health insurance and weren’t compensated. But they never evinced concern about being paid. I think that was a focus that had been imposed later by people who I think had the best intentions in the world. Some of the people who wrote about them were very concerned they weren’t paid.

But the Lacks family expressed consistently that their mother had been a medical benefactor and no one knew this. Her name had been changed in the accounts so that nobody knew who she was. They were very upset about the autonomy.

And they didn’t like having been lied to of course.

BJ: You mention in the book the paternalistic nature that Dr. Gey had taken. The excuse he’d used was that he changed her name to protect her, but they didn’t really accept that.

HW: Her husband thought they didn’t want the world to know that this is a black lady helping science. And that seemed to be the prevailing attitude in the family. They resented that.

BJ: What’s the positive impact, however, of this cell line having never been patented?

HW: So what happened to Henrietta Lacks was an abuse of her and her family. But the dissemination of her cells very cheaply, not free but very cheaply, made a lot of medical advances possible. The reason they weren’t patented was this was before 1980 and it wasn’t legally possible. It also wasn’t part of the medical culture then. Medicine was being practiced by people in university settings. They had different motivations, not money.

Now it’s impossible to speculate about exactly what would’ve happened. But had her cells been patentable, had this happened after 1980, there’s a good chance that certainly recognizing their value, Dr. Gey or John Hopkins or some other researcher would’ve taken a patent out on it and then they would’ve, as is usual, only licensed them to the researchers and universities that would have paid them a hefty fee. Or perhaps not licensed them at all.

Which means the polio vaccine probably would still be developed, but it might’ve cost a lot more money than it did. It might not have been available to everybody as it was. So those are the differences.

BJ: John Moore, a leukemia patient in the 1980s, first had his spleen removed in 1976. Unbeknownst to him, it would lead to the creation of a cell line estimated to be worth $3 million by the pharmaceutical company Sandoz. Moore sued his doctor who had removed the spleen after he discovered the doctor had filed for a patent on his cells and proteins that led to this lucrative cell line. Can you talk about the difference between what happened in the case and its impact?

HW: When John Moore was initially treated, the Chakrabarty law had not been decided yet. Bayh-Dole hadn’t been passed. So, as living things, his cells weren’t eligible for patenting either. However, once these rulings were passed, his doctor, Dr. David Golde, and the University of California, immediately responded by taking out a patent on his cells.

His doctor recognized that his spleen and his cells were medically important. He knew that, but it was before he could take a patent out on them. I’m sure at that point he never dreamed that in a few years he would be able to take this collection and sample of his cells and tissues — that he had assiduously kept alive and was researching — and take out a patent on them and control the profits from them.

So when the law was passed, Dr. Golde had already established a laboratory to do research on it. He and another researcher and the university owned the patent. Now they went to Sandoz and established a contract for $3 million — $3 million 1980 dollars. Then [Sandoz] could plan to acquire huge profits. Before that, Dr. Golde had been interested for the usual reasons. He would be able to hopefully develop some medically useful compounds and, more to the point, become famous and get some publications. Now, there was a great deal of money to be made.

BJ: You write that today, however, as opposed to the case of Henrietta Lacks and John Moore, it is normal tissues in large quantities that provides a lot of wealth for people who hold patents. So are you saying that everyone is now vulnerable to the same kind of appropriation as what happened to Lacks and Moore?

HW: Yes. Lacks and Moore’s vulnerability was a bit different, but it was the same principle. And today, we’re all vulnerable to that. We’re vulnerable because if we undergo surgery in certain hospitals, such as the Harvard University hospitals or Duke and a number of others, we are given a consent form to sign, which will give a private corporation, in many cases Ardais [Corp.], the rights to any tissues or cells taken from our body, often described in the consent form as “discarded and worthless.” But they’re not worthless or the corporation wouldn’t have bought them.

Also, in many cities in this country — in fact, in more than half the states — have something called medical examiners laws, or presumed consent law. These laws dictate that a medical examiner or coroner in these cities, when someone dies, can take any tissues from your body that could have some medical value. Then they’re transferred to a broker or two, who then eventually transfers them to surgeons or hospitals. At each step, there is a hefty fee paid. And then the institution pays a fee. So although it’s against the law technically to sell an organ or sell these tissues, from my point of view they are actually being sold.

And then of course medical research conducted by private corporations or in which private corporations pay medical institutions to conduct research according to the corporations’ dictate, which means they control it. So one thing they have begun doing is exploiting a 1996 law that governs medical research, which says that if you are in the United States and you’re the victim of a trauma — shot in the chest, a heart attack, hit by a car — medical research can be conducted on you without your permission.

I have spoken to research subjects who had no idea that they were used in medical research until a member of their family told them. We all expect that we’re going to be offered informed consent. In medical research, this is an exception.

BJ: Is there any legislation you know of today that is being introduced to address these issues?

HW: I know of no legislation that is being promoted or that even has been suggested. I think it’s because so few members of the public even know it’s going on. You can’t fight something if you don’t know it exists. And I find it really interesting that, although a few medical journals have called me and interviewed me about this, it’s not being published someplace where a great many people will read it.

I wrote an article for a magazine — and I’ll be prudent and I won’t name it — a popular magazine with a very large circulation. They said they loved the article, they’d love to publish it, right up to the moment where I got a phone call saying they were killing it and then they paid me for it anyway.

BJ: And what about the “consensual” situation, when a patient is made to sign a consent form right before going into surgery? That might be legal, but it’s also very misleading, no?

HW: That’s consensual. But the legality of doing this is actually kind of shadowy. I don’t think it’s been well established whether it’s legal or not to take somebody’s tissues in surgery without asking their permission first. So what happened is researchers and corporations had decided to cover themselves by getting people in this scenario to sign a consent form and the difficulty, as you suggested, is whether people really understand what they’re signing.

But the piece of paper, the consent form, is not informed consent. If you have a signed consent form in a file and you go to court, that’s not proof of informed consent. That’s only one piece of evidence to support your claim that you informed the person. Actual informed consent is an ongoing process between the researcher and the subject. You have to not only tell them all the information about the study, about what’s known about the consequences, but also if new information emerges you have to keep the person apprised of that. That’s informed consent.

What they’re doing is they’re having signed a consent form to try to prove that they’ve given these people informed consent. But the truth is, you know, if you’re a hospital patient and it’s six o’clock in the morning, and you’re still groggy from your sleeping medication from the night before, you’re woken, handed a sheet of forms to sign for surgery you presumably need and there are staff people standing around you…that’s not conducive to informed consent.

Most patients don’t read it, but that’s kind of logical. You know, you need this surgery. The last thing you want to do the second before you go under the knife is antagonize the people who are doing your surgery.

BJ: How do these medical patent laws actually impede innovation?

HW: A really good example of this, because the court case is about to go to the Supreme Court soon, are the gene patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that predispose women to breast cancer. They’re very important genes and there are nine patents held on them by Myriad Genetics. And Myriad Genetics has behaved like a very smart capitalist. For a long time, it has minimized the number of people whom it will license access to the genes. Researchers who have been working with the genes, trying to find better treatments for breast cancer, have received cease and desist letters from lawyers at Myriad’s behest, saying, “We control this gene, we hold the patent, you can’t work on it without our permission,” which they often decline to give.

So that’s a problem right now. Then look at the pricing of the test for women who want to characterize their risk for breast cancer. And most women of course don’t need this test but the direct-to-consumer advertising by Myriad confuses women and really makes it look like more women do, which will of course increase their profits. It will also unnecessarily scare a lot of women and induce many more women than should to pay Myriad’s $3,000 to $4,000 fee.

A recent development is especially nasty because now you can pay the $3,000 to $4,000 fee, but there’s also an additional test, a relatively new test, based again on the genes. And if you want that, you have to pay an additional $600. Obviously if you’re a woman at risk, you’re not going to consider that $600 optional. So that’s a huge amount of money.

BJ: What happens if within the legal framework of today’s medical patent process a researcher seeks a more altruistic route, similar to what Jonas Salk did with the polio vaccine? Is that even possible today or is that individual crushed by the system?

HW: It is possible today and that’s a great question because one of the really exciting positive things that has happened is that, you know, certainly not just me and people like me who are criticizing them — a lot of medical researchers, as I said before, are seeing how damaging this paradigm is and they’re coming up with viable alternatives.

The Gates Foundation is probably the best-known example. Bill Gates has worked with a longstanding initiative to bring vaccines to the developing world — its acronym is GAVI. He’s also worked with the governments in the developing world and come up with a model called Advanced Market Directives. Basically, what they’re doing is they’re coming up with funds and pooling their funds and saying to pharmaceutical companies, “If you will develop, for example, a malaria vaccine that’s cheap and works well for the developing world, we will pay you, we will make sure you earn a profit.” And they were successful. They came up with a vaccine — quite a few actually — but one in particular costs $70 in the United States. It only cost 50 cents in Nigeria because of their model.

Now, I hasten to say, we’re not out of the woods yet because all of the pharmaceutical companies that did it — which I think is wonderful that they’re going along with the model and giving it a try — but they counted this as something beneficial that they were doing. Which is not exactly the case.

They’re doing this because they’re paid and it’s being guaranteed by others. And GAVI, the group that helped guarantee the payment is already $3 billion in debt because of it. So that means that even though this has worked in a couple of cases, I’m worried that it may not be a viable long-term model.

We’ve seen this before when pharmaceutical companies, for example, provided sleeping sickness medication, Eflornithine. They provided it only on a short-term basis, for about five years, and then they left. Now the people who are at risk, and I think that’s like 60 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, don’t have access to that drug. So to me that’s a cautionary tale because we need long-term solutions.

And there are other groups of researchers around the world who are also embracing a different non-corporate model. A man named Alan Edwards in Toronto put together a coalition of a lot of researchers. His strategy is one that has worked before for the government. He does not want their discoveries patented. So what they do is every day — whatever they’ve been working on that day, whatever solution they come up with, whatever they’ve identified or characterized that could be medically important – they put it on the Internet. They make it public knowledge, which means it can’t be patented.

So there are strategies that are now being embraced to work around corporate control of medical research.

BJ: How has the medical patent gold rush affected the accessibility of life-saving vaccines for widespread diseases?

HW: Well, simply because maximizing the profit on the patent is the focus, not curing the maximum number of people. Michael Kremer, a Harvard economist, put it best. He pointed out that during the period between 1975 and 1997, of the 1,233 new drugs the pharmaceutical industry devised, only four of them were drugs designed for people in the developing world.

The bottom line is that, although it’s possible to devise vaccines that will save the lives of people in the developing world, it’s not done because people there cannot pay the inflated prices a corporation charges. So they ignored these people in the developing world.

And as I point out in the case of African sleeping sickness, where Eflornithine was found affective against it, people in areas affected by African sleeping sickness cannot afford to pay high prices for drugs. So after that couple of years where they provided it for free, they stopped making it for African sleeping sickness and the exact same molecule, this Eflornithine, is now the active component in Vaniqa, which is used in the West to help women rid their faces of unwanted hair. So women pay $50 a month for Vaniqa, but people in the developing world can’t pay that $50 a month to keep themselves alive, to protect themselves against sleeping sickness.

BJ: In your book, you cite a 2009 study from the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that one-third of U.S. clinical trials are conducted abroad, mostly in developing countries, where drugs can be tested more cheaply. Can you discuss the inequity of the fact that most of the test subjects partaking in these trials — on which corporations are saving millions to perform there — will either never be able to afford, or have a need for, the drugs being tested on them?

HW: Usually both. But even in the cases where it’s a drug, as you say, that could help them, it’s not going to help them because they’re going to be charged the same high prices as people in the West. And knowing they can’t afford it, they don’t even provide it to people in that country.

What I find fascinating is that if you think about it, these people in the developing world are providing opportunity to conduct clinical trials that are a lot cheaper and a lot faster for these corporations. Corporations would have to pay a lot more money if they conducted those trials in the developed world. And so actually we’re the ones in their debt.

We have a new cancer medication, for example, that has been devised by testing it on people in the developing world so that you and I can take it without fear that we’re going to drop dead, hopefully. We owe the people in the developing world that. The corporations save so much money by using those people for their tests. Speed is very important because it maximizes the amount of patent time so they can make more profit from their patent. Also the FDA requires that studies be completed within two and a half years, which is sometimes difficult to do.

So providing them with drugs that they have made possible would seem to be the very least we could do. Yet there’s constant reluctance to provide medications for people in the developing world.

BJ: Clinical trials in developing countries can also involve testing subjects in dangerous circumstances that wouldn’t even be legal in this country. You point to the example of Pfizer’s clinical trials for an antibiotic in Kano, Nigeria in the 1990s. What went wrong?

HW: They tested Trovan in Kano and they waited until — this is quite typical, actually — they waited until there was a meningitis epidemic to test their meningitis drug. First of all, these are people who typically go their whole life without getting any medical care. They can’t go to the doctor, can’t buy medicines. When they’re sick they just hope and do the best they can to treat each other.

So there’s an epidemic. You’ve got people, especially children, dying wholesale. And Doctors Without Borders had flown in and were working feverishly around the clock trying to save as many children as they could. Doctors Without Borders had a huge tent there for a clinic. Pfizer flew its people in and set up shop right next to them. The people of Kano could not discern the difference between the Pfizer tent and the Doctors Without Borders tent. All they knew was that there were doctors and medicines in both tents. If they couldn’t get into one, they went into the other one.

Now I don’t believe they received informed consent. First of all, the records were lost. Pfizer [said it] lost the records that would’ve proved informed consent. Then Pfizer produced some letters from local doctors and local medical boards saying there was informed consent, but they were clearly forged. One doctor admitted that they were forged. Another doctor pointed out that the medical institution that supposedly approved this trial had not even been set up until a year or two after the trial had ended. So all the evidence points to the probability that these people did not receive informed consent.

But then I also ask myself, even if they had gotten informed consent, did they have a real choice? They wanted their children to get any kind of medicine. So it was inherently a coercive environment.

And Pfizer would give this medication and it did not follow prescribed methods of conducting research in this country. Although some of the things they did were permissible in their country. For example, the young girl whose fate I chronicled — she was given Trovan, didn’t get any better, in fact she got worse. And had she been in, say, Connecticut or New York, if she had gotten worse, then they would’ve switched her from experimental therapy to one that was known to work. They didn’t do that there. And she died, other children died, other children went deaf, other children had all kinds of neurological problems. In fact, there were so many deaths and so many permanent serious problems resulting from it, the FDA would not approve the drug.

In the aftermath, there were these lawsuits and finally Pfizer had to pay out a fine. But the fine they were asked to pay was just dwarfed by their amount of profits every year. It’s just the cost of doing business to them. Certainly in a case like this, considering the final cost to them, you could argue it was worth it to them.

BJ: Do you see U.S. Occupy protests as a direct outgrowth of this kind of corporate encroachment on our lives?

HW: That is a parallel that’s made very often. And I’m just going to plead ignorance here. As much as I read and as much as I think about that, I think that there’s the same frustration with the degree of control corporations have over things that should not be controlled by monetary interests. And yet that’s our habitual practice of medicine today. So as far as the Occupy Wall Street protests echo that sentiment, then I agree with them. There are other elements of course in which I think there is not a parallel between them and the people I talk about.

I began this book being really concerned about poor people, people in the developing world, people who I thought and I still think are impacted most heavily by this. But I quickly came to realize that it affects all of us. I mean it’s also middle-class people. Because the drug prices are so high and because the corporate control of medical research is so extensive and our health policy so extensively protects them, middle-class people are not really faring any better. Middle-class people are caught in the same bind.

So I guess that’s sort of a qualified yes [laughs].

BJ: Since the Citizens United court ruling, we’re living in a time where, in effect, corporations are considered people, while simultaneously corporations are buying the property rights to the very essence of human life. You’ve eerily described them as our “biological landlords.” This already has a nightmarish quality today. In regard to the future of medical patents, do you see the pendulum swinging back or the situation growing worse?

HW: Unfortunately, if history’s taught us anything, it’s that things can always get worse. But I don’t think it will. The pendulum can swing back, but it’s going to need a big push from us. It’s not going to swing back on its own. Because the most powerful people in this country are being well served by this. The very wealthy people don’t have the worries that most of us have. And corporations certainly don’t have the worries we have. They’re not disturbed by their high prices. They’re constantly defending them. They’re not disturbed by the lack of care for people in the developing world. They have no problem claiming that, “Hey, don’t blame us — it’s not our patent, it’s their poverty.”

It can be done, but we’re going to have to push it. And the way to push it is to repeal Bayh-Dole and find those lawmakers. There are lawmakers out there who are trying to repeal parts of this problem, patents on genes, for example. And researchers also are beginning to see that his system is dysfunctional and starting to come up with different models.

So it’s going to be up to us to push the pendulum in the other way.

Brad Jacobson is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist and contributing reporter for AlterNet. You can follow him on Twitter@bradpjacobson