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Tue, 07 Feb 2023
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Bad Guys

BP, Vodafone, British Gas and British banks play crucial role supporting Mubarak regime

Firms such as BP criticised for being too close to government of president Hosni Mubarak

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© Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
An anti-government demonstrator in Tahrir Square wears a hat made from a newspaper carrying an advert for Vodafone. Vodafone has flown 25 people and their families back to the UK in recent days.
British companies are flying out staff and halting operations as the civil disorder escalates in Egypt but they have also found themselves under verbal attack for being too close to the government of president Hosni Mubarak.

BP has also been accused of working "hand in glove with dictatorship" while Vodafone is under fire for bowing to presidential pressure to shut the mobile telephone network down.

BP, which has sunk $14bn into oil operations and is hoping to double production there, said "hundreds" of employees or their dependents were being evacuated from Cairo and some drilling operations had been halted.

BG, formerly part of British Gas, said it had closed its Cairo office and flown home all non-essential expatriate staff from Egypt, but its production of liquefied natural gas goes on.

USA

Chomsky: It's not radical Islam that worries the US - it's independence

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© Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
The nature of any regime it backs in the Arab world is secondary to control. Subjects are ignored until they break their chains

'The Arab world is on fire," al-Jazeera reported last week, while throughout the region, western allies "are quickly losing their influence". The shock wave was set in motion by the dramatic uprising in Tunisia that drove out a western-backed dictator, with reverberations especially in Egypt, where demonstrators overwhelmed a dictator's brutal police.

Observers compared it to the toppling of Russian domains in 1989, but there are important differences. Crucially, no Mikhail Gorbachev exists among the great powers that support the Arab dictators. Rather, Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in our backyard, please, unless properly tamed.

One 1989 comparison has some validity: Romania, where Washington maintained its support for Nicolae Ceausescu, the most vicious of the east European dictators, until the allegiance became untenable. Then Washington hailed his overthrow while the past was erased. That is a standard pattern: Ferdinand Marcos, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Chun Doo-hwan, Suharto and many other useful gangsters. It may be under way in the case of Hosni Mubarak, along with routine efforts to try to ensure a successor regime will not veer far from the approved path. The current hope appears to be Mubarak loyalist General Omar Suleiman, just named Egypt's vice-president. Suleiman, the longtime head of the intelligence services, is despised by the rebelling public almost as much as the dictator himself.

Bad Guys

What's Wrong With a Psychopath?

Ian Fleming
© Express Newspapers / Getty Images
The British author Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, might have been a psychopath.

Psychopath: the very word conjures up the image of a deranged killer. Yet the Hollywood portrayal of psychopaths has only served to conceal a disturbing truth: that many of us share our workplace or even our home with cunning psychopaths adept at masking their malevolence. They may never have committed a crime or resorted to violence, yet they share the same cold, manipulative and chillingly self-centred mindset of a serial killer.

Such corrosive personalities have been with us for millennia. According to the American psychiatrist Dr Hervey Cleckley, who pioneered research into the subject in the 1940s, the Athenian statesman and general Alcibiades shows all the classic traits, from childhood delinquency and dishonesty to a complete lack of scruples or remorse. Latter-day candidates for the label of "socialised" psychopath range from Josef Stalin and Saddam Hussein to the author Ian Fleming - perhaps not coincidentally, the creator of the famously ruthless fictional hero James Bond.

Given their malign impact on those around them, from workplace bullying to marital violence and even murder, psychopaths have long been a focus of psychiatric research. To date the results have largely left unresolved the enigma of this destructive personality disorder. But now researchers are uncovering important new clues about its causes.

Psychiatrists are clear that, whatever else they might be, psychopaths are not insane. Indeed, they appear to have an all too effective grasp of reality, being able to manipulate those around them to fit their self-centred grand plan.

Bad Guys

E.L. Rothschild LLC Acquires a Majority Stake in Weather Central, LP

Lynn Forester de Rothschild
© Business Wire
Lynn Forester de Rothschild CEO, E.L. Rothschild LLC
E.L. Rothschild LLC, a private investment company led by Chairman Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and CEO Lynn Forester de Rothschild, today announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire a 70% interest in Weather Central, LP (www.wxc.com). The world's leading provider of interactive weather graphics and data services for television, web, and mobile, Weather Central's highly accurate and personalized forecasting offers businesses and consumers a truly unique suite of science-driven weather information products. The company will continue to operate under CEO and founder, Terry Kelly, as well as current management. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Founded in 1974, Weather Central is a global provider of professional on‐air, online, print, mobile, and enterprise weather solutions and forecasting. With 180 employees, including 70 meteorologists, Weather Central provides dynamic weather graphic systems, proprietary forecast models, and dedication to high-quality customer service. Weather Central has secured a leading 46% market share of North America's weather information delivery market for broadcast and media delivering content to hundreds of millions of viewers. It is the largest provider of broadcast and interactive web weather solutions for media companies in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Weather Central has more than 400 broadcast television clients in 21 countries worldwide. It provides weather forecasts to millions of users daily by distributing real-time personalized forecasts, interactive maps, and storm warnings based on each user's exact address.

Comment: Wayne Madsen wonders the following about this story, and so do we:

"What is it that these financial ogres don't want us to know about future weather on the planet? The mind boggles."


Bomb

Egypt gas pipeline attacked

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© Al Jazeera
Unknown attackers have blown up a pipeline that runs through El-Arish area of Egypt's north Sinai area and supplies gas to Jordan and Israel, according to Egypt's state television.

The Jordanian route that runs from El- Arish to Aqaba and then up to Amman has been damaged by Saturday's explosion.

But it has been reported that the gas pipeline running to Ashkelon in Israel has not been affected.

The explosive material was placed inside or adjacent to the control station of the gas supply line. There were no immediate reports of any casualties as a result of the blast.

"Saboteurs took advantage of the security situation and blew up the gas pipeline," a state television correspondent reported, saying there was a big explosion.

State TV quoted an official as saying that the "situation is very dangerous and explosions were continuing from one spot to another" along the pipeline.

Wolf

Mubarak's true colours

Hosni Mubarak
© Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Hosni Mubarak

Throughout these historic two weeks in Egypt, it has been difficult to know what Hosni Mubarak was thinking. Did he recognize the legitimacy of his people's cry for democracy? Has he known all along that change was nigh, but wanted to make his exit in his own time and his own way?

Mubarak answered all such questions definitively when he sent his thugs to rough up journalists and human rights activists this Thursday and Friday.

That reveals much more than his naming of a vice-president or his talk of "political, social and economic reform" and "constitutional and legislative amendments" in his Tuesday speech.

Pills

Seroquel's Toll

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Even though AstraZeneca's antipsychotic Seroquel is the fifth best-selling medication in the US according to drugs.com, exceeded only by Lipitor, Nexium, Plavix and Advair diskus, its safety, effectiveness, clinical trial and promotion records are highly checkered.

An original backer, psychiatrist Richard Borison, was sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence in 1998 for a pay-to-play Seroquel research scheme.

Its US medical director Wayne MacFadden had sexual affairs with two different women involved with Seroquel research, say published reports.

Chicago psychiatrist Michael Reinstein received $500,000 from AstraZenenca and wrote 41,000 prescriptions for Seroquel reports the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica.

Psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff who left Emory University in disgrace after a Congressional investigation for unreported pharma income, promoted Seroquel in continuing medical education courses according to the web site of psychiatrist Daniel Carlat.

Florida child psychiatrist Jorge Armenteros was chairman of the FDA committee responsible for recommending Seroquel approvals while a paid AstraZeneca speaker himself, said the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2009.

Psychiatrist Charles Schulz' high profile pro-Seroquel presentations are suspected of being colored by his AstraZeneca income says the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And unexplained Iraq and Afghanistan troop deaths are linked to Seroquel reported the Associated Press in August.

Attention

Dangerous Spin Doctors

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A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found over 40 percent of the best designed, peer-reviewed scientific papers published in the world's top medical journals misrepresented the actual findings of the research.(i) The "spin doctors" writing the papers found a way to show treatments worked, when, in fact, they didn't.

Doctors and health care consumers rely on published scientific studies to guide their decisions about which treatments work and which don't. We expect academic medical researchers to determine what needs to be studied, and to objectively report their data. We rely on government regulators to prevent harmful medications from being approved, or to quickly remove harmful medications or treatments from the market.

What most physicians and consumers don't recognize is that science is now for sale, published data often misrepresents the truth, academic medical research has become corrupted by pharmaceutical money and special interests, and government regulators more often protect industry than the public. Increasingly, academic medical researchers are for hire, and research, once a pure activity of inquiry, is now a tool for promoting products.

Science has always been considered an objective endeavor that removes bias and is inherently true and reliable. While we may acknowledge that some science is inferior in design or execution, and that there are a few corrupt scientists, we mostly believe what is published in the world's top medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association and New England Journal of Medicine can be counted on to guide our medical decisions. We still have trust in the scientific method. That trust may be misguided.

Eye 2

UK Seeks Global Accord On Cyber Threat

Britain is to call for countries to agree rules for "acceptable behaviour" in cyberspace amid concern about what is seen as a growing security threat.

William Hague, UK foreign secretary, will offer to host a conference in London this year "to lay the basis for a set of standards on how countries should act in cyberspace".

To underline the seriousness of the threat to governments and businesses, Mr Hague gives three examples of attacks on British interests, including those directed at his staff and a defence contractor.

Although he does not name the states behind the attacks, leaked US diplomatic cables have detailed allegations of cyberattacks and intrusion by China and Russia.

Work is already under way by international bodies to develop conventions on discrete cyber issues, but no foreign minister has called for a comprehensive set of principles that can govern the internet worldwide.

Robot

Army holds the fate of Mubarak in its hands - and he knows it

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© Unknown
Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
If President Mubarak's support was representative of the population, you would have expected tens of thousands to come out in full force over the last week. But the ruling party hasn't been able to mobilize people. It isn't a lack of resources: it's simply that there are very few who would go out on a limb to defend them.

The regime's base is extremely shallow in comparison to the opposition, which represents an overwhelming majority of the population. The regime has alienated most of the rising social and political classes: centrists and democrats, leftists, nationalists, independent Islamists, and the Muslim Brotherhood. They're left with about 10 per cent of the country, the uppermost echelon of the population.

It's a strategic alliance between the business class and the ruling elite, with the support of the state security apparatus, which numbers about a million people. Mubarak's allies hold the top cabinet positions, and his new Vice-President is a very close supporter. But outside that structure there is really no support at all.

There is one other ingredient in his support base that is less secure, and will probably prove the deciding factor: the military. There is no doubt that there are those in the top brass who believe in his politics, who believe in the status quo and stability. And as an institution, the army is calling the shots.