A tightening world

Michael Roberts Blog | June 18, 2022

It’s been a big week for the major central banks. First, the European Central Bank (ECB) called an emergency meeting because government bond yields were rising sharply in the more indebted Eurozone economies like Italy and Spain.  That threatens to deliver a new sovereign debt crisis as happened after the Great Recession from 2010-2014, leading to the Greek nightmare.

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Georgi Dimitrov’s legendary speech in 1933 Leipzig trial

The 18th of June marked the 140th birth anniversary of the great Bulgarian communist, leader of the Communist International from 1935 to 1943, Georgi Dimitrov. As a tribute to his memory we publish his famous defense speech during the Reichstag fire trial in Leipzig, when he refused counsel and proudly defended himself against his Nazi accusers.

“I am defending my Communist ideology, my ideals”

In Defense of Communism | June 19, 2022

Leipzig, 16 December 1933.

Dimitrov: By virtue of Article 258 of the Criminal Procedure Code I am entitled to speak both as defender and as accused.

President: You have the right to the last word and you can make use of that right now.

Dimitrov: By virtue of the Criminal Procedure Code I have the right to argue with the prosecution and then to deliver my final speech.

My Lords Judges, Gentlemen for the Prosecution and the Defence. At the very beginning of this trial three months ago as an accused man I addressed a letter to the President of the Court. I wrote that I regretted that my attitude in Court should lead to collisions with the judges, but I categorically refuted the suggestion which was made against me that I had misused my right to put questions and my right to make statements in order to serve propagandist ends. Because I was wrongly accused before this Court I naturally used all the means at my disposal to defend myself against false charges.

‘I acknowledge, I wrote, that several of my questions had not been as apposite from the point of view of time and formulation as I could have wished. May I explain this by referring to the fact that I am not acquainted with German law and further that this is the first time in my life in which I have played a part in judicial proceedings of this character. If I had enjoyed the services of a lawyer of my own choice I should doubtless have known how to avoid these misunderstandings so harmful to my own defence.

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How months-long COVID infections could seed dangerous new variants

Tracking SARS-CoV-2 evolution during persistent cases provides insight into the origins of Omicron and other global variants. What can scientists do with this knowledge?

Ewen Callaway

Nature | June 15, 2022

These are mutations that accumulated in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 during a seven-month-long infection.Illustration by Nik Spencer/Nature; Source: Ref. 1

Virologist Sissy Sonnleitner tracks nearly every COVID-19 case in Austria’s rugged eastern Tyrol region. So, when one woman there kept testing positive for months on end, Sonnleitner was determined to work out what was going on.

Before becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 in late 2020, the woman, who was in her 60s, had been taking immune-suppressing drugs to treat a lymphoma relapse. The COVID-19 infection lingered for more than seven months, causing relatively mild symptoms, including fatigue and a cough.

Sonnleitner, who is based at a microbiology facility in Außervillgraten, Austria, and her colleagues collected more than two dozen viral samples from the woman over time and found through genetic sequencing that it had picked up about 22 mutations (see ‘Tracking spike’s evolution’). Roughly half of them would be seen again in the heavily mutated Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 that surged around the globe months later1. “When Omicron was found, we had a great moment of surprise,” Sonnleitner says. “We already had those mutations in our variant.”

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PURPOSe study: understanding the burden of stillbirths in south Asia

Joao Paulo Souza & Rajiv Bahl

The Lancet | Open Access | Published: July, 2022 | DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(22)00218-2

Stillbirth prevention is a global health priority and a crucial step towards better maternal and newborn health and wellbeing.1 In 2019, 2 million babies were stillborn, with over three-quarters of these stillbirths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.2 However, progress has been slow, and unless there is a substantial acceleration in progress, the Sustainable Development Goal target 3.2 and Every Newborn Action Plan target of 12 stillbirths per 1000 births will not be met by 2030.3 Slow progress is partly due to the limited emphasis on stillbirth reduction in maternal and child health programmes and a paucity of accurate, complete, and actionable information on stillbirths, particularly in high-burden areas.1, 4

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Do hospital facilities influence global cancer surgery outcomes?

Deo Suryanarayana & Prashant Gupta

The Lancet | Open Access | Published: May 24, 2022 | DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(22)00214-5

Cancer is emerging worldwide as a significant public health problem and trends indicate that low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) are going to witness a substantial increase in cancer burden by 2040.1 Surgery plays a vital role in the management of solid tumours, but only 25% of the global population has access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery.2 This disparity is more pronounced in LMICs dealing with high cancer burden and limited resources. Timely access to quality multidisciplinary care is a critical factor determining outcomes. Surgical outcomes are reliant on the experience and skills of the surgeon, and the availability of ancillary support facilities. Cancer surgery outcomes have improved during the past three decades, primarily because of the advancements made in surgery, anaesthesia, surgical technology, perioperative, and critical care domains.3  4 Operative mortality in patients receiving complex cancer surgeries such as Whipple’s resection and oesophagectomy has reduced drastically.5 However, most of these studies originate from tertiary care cancer centres in high-income countries, and there is little literature available related to cancer surgical outcomes from LMICs.

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Climate change is turning more of Central Asia into desert

The rapid expansion will have significant impacts on ecosystems and the people and animals who rely on them.

Giorgia Guglielmi

Nature | June 16, 2022

The spread of deserts in Uzbekistan and neighbouring countries will alter the composition of ecosystems.Credit: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock

As global temperatures rise, desert climates have spread north by up to 100 kilometres in parts of Central Asia since the 1980s, a climate assessment reveals1.

The study, published on 27 May in Geophysical Research Letters, also found that over the past 35 years, temperatures have increased across all of Central Asia, which includes parts of China, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. In the same period, mountain regions have become hotter and wetter — which might have accelerated the retreat of some major glaciers.

Such changes threaten ecosystems and those who rely on them, says Jeffrey Dukes, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology in Stanford, California. The findings are a “great first step” towards informing mitigation and adaptation policies, he says.

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WTO decides: no TRIPS waiver

Trade delegates and WTO Secretariat celebrate package of documents issued at the end of the Ministerial Conference, yet outlook for Global South remains bleak

Peoples Health Dispatch | June 17, 2022

Activists stage a “die-in” action at the WTO Ministerial Conference to protest the lack of TRIPS waiver (Photo: Our World is Not for Sale

The WTO announced on June 17 that it had reached an agreement on the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver. The deal has been criticized by people’s movements around the world as the WTO decidedly rejected the demand by health activists for a full TRIPS waiver.

The ministerial decision on the TRIPS agreement, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, was announced in the early morning in Geneva on June 17, almost two days after the expected end of the 12th Ministerial Conference. Although the decision was hailed by the WTO Secretariat and officials from the Global North as an unprecedented result, in practice it falls short of meeting the bare minimum of the world’s needs.

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“Sri Lanka needs a strong public distribution system, wealth tax and universal welfare measures”

In the second part of an interview with Peoples Dispatch, Ahilan Kadirgamar analyzes the economic crisis faced by Sri Lanka and talks about the steps that need to be taken urgently

Peoples Dispatch | June 18, 2022

In the second part of an interview with Peoples Dispatch, Ahilan Kadirgamar, senior lecturer at the University of Jaffna, details the economic crisis that has engulfed Sri Lanka. He explains why shortages of essentials have continued over the months, and the inability of the government to tackle it.

He also talks about how Sri Lanka has already begun to adopt IMF policies before even signing an agreement and how this is affecting the country. He lists out the steps that need to be taken urgently to protect livelihoods and ensure the future of the next generation.

Watch the first part of the interview on the political crisis here:

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Book: Truth and Lies about the famine in Ukraine, by Nikos Mottas

In Defense of Communism | June 18, 2022

The mythology surrounding the so-called Holodomor, the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933, is exposed in a concise 78-pages book edited by Nikos Mottas and published in Greek language by Atexnos Publishing House.

For many decades, the issue of the Ukrainian famine in 1932-33, the famous Holodomor, occupies a prominent place in the arsenal of anti-communism. Especially after the counter-revolutionary overthrows in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, the Holodomor is at the forefront of a systematic and persistent attempt to vilify socialism of the 20th century and present it as an evil, inhumane system which is supposedly responsible for millions of deaths. 

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