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Escobar: The Geopolitics Of Al-Aqsa Flood

Escobar: The Geopolitics Of Al-Aqsa Flood

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Cradle,

Global focus just shifted from Ukraine to Palestine. This…

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Escobar: The Geopolitics Of Al-Aqsa Flood

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Cradle,

Global focus just shifted from Ukraine to Palestine. This new arena of confrontation will ignite further competition between the Atlanticist and Eurasian blocs. These fights are increasingly zero-sum ones; as in Ukraine, only one pole can emerge strengthened and victorious.

Hamas’ Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was meticulously planned. The launch date was conditioned by two triggering factors. 

  • First was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flaunting his 'New Middle East' map at the UN General Assembly in September, in which he completely erased Palestine and made a mockery of every single UN resolution on the subject. 

  • Second are the serial provocations at the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, including the straw that broke the camel’s back: two days before Al-Aqsa Flood, on 5 October, at least 800 Israeli settlers launched an assault around the mosque, beating pilgrims, destroying Palestinian shops, all under the observation of Israeli security forces.

Everyone with a functioning brain knows Al-Aqsa is a definitive red line, not just for Palestinians, but for the entire Arab and Muslim worlds. 

It gets worse. The Israelis have now invoked the rhetoric of a “Pearl Harbor.” This is as threatening as it gets. The original Pearl Harbor was the American excuse to enter a world war and nuke Japan, and this “Pearl Harbor” may be Tel Aviv’s justification to launch a Gaza genocide.  

Sections of the west applauding the upcoming ethnic cleansing – including Zionists posing as “analysts” saying out loud that the “population transfers” that began in 1948 “must be completed” – believe that with massive weaponry and massive media coverage, they can turn things around in short shrift, annihilate the Palestinian resistance, and leave Hamas allies like Hezbollah and Iran weakened. 

Their Ukraine Project has sputtered, leaving not just egg on powerful faces, but entire European economies in ruin.

Yet as one door closes, another one opens: Jump from ally Ukraine to ally Israel, and hone your sights on adversary Iran instead of adversary Russia.  

There are other good reasons to go all guns blazing. 

A peaceful West Asia means Syria reconstruction – in which China is now officially involved; active redevelopment for Iraq and Lebanon; Iran and Saudi Arabia as part of BRICS 11; the Russia-China strategic partnership fully respected and interacting with all regional players, including key US allies in the Persian Gulf.

Incompetence. Willful strategy. Or both.

That brings us to the cost of launching this new “war on terror.” The propaganda is in full swing. For Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Hamas is ISIS. For Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev, Hamas is Russia. Over one October weekend, the war in Ukraine was completely forgotten by western mainstream media. Brandenburg Gate, the Eiffel tower, the Brazilian Senate are all Israeli now. 

Egyptian intel claims it warned Tel Aviv about an imminent attack from Hamas. The Israelis chose to ignore it, as they did the Hamas training drills they observed in the weeks prior, smug in their superior knowledge that Palestinians would never have the audacity to launch a liberation operation.

Whatever happens next, Al-Aqsa Flood has already, irretrievably, shattered the hefty pop mythology around the invincibility of Tsahal, Mossad, Shin Bet, Merkava tank, Iron Dome, and the Israel Defense Forces. 

Even as it ditched electronic communications, Hamas profited from the glaring collapse of Israel’s multi-billion-dollar electronic systems monitoring the most surveilled border on the planet. 

Cheap Palestinian drones hit multiple sensor towers, facilitated the advance of a paragliding infantry, and cleared the way for T-shirted, AK-47-wielding assault teams to inflict breaks in the wall and cross a border that even stray cats dared not. 

Israel, inevitably, turned to battering the Gaza Strip, an encircled cage of 365 square kilometers packed with 2.3 million people. The indiscriminate bombing of refugee camps, schools, civilian apartment blocks, mosques, and slums has begun. Palestinians have no navy, no air force, no artillery units, no armored fighting vehicles, and no professional army. They have little to no high-tech surveillance access, while Israel can call up NATO data if they want it. 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant proclaimed “a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we will act accordingly.”

The Israelis can merrily engage in collective punishment because, with three guaranteed UNSC vetoes in their back pocket, they know they can get away with it. 

It doesn’t matter that Haaretz, Israel’s most respected newspaper, straight out concedes that “actually the Israeli government is solely responsible for what happened (Al-Aqsa Flood) for denying the rights of Palestinians.”

The Israelis are nothing if not consistent. Back in 2007, then-Israeli Defense Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said, “Israel would be happy if Hamas took over Gaza because IDF could then deal with Gaza as a hostile state.” 

Ukraine funnels weapons to Palestinians

Only one year ago, the sweaty sweatshirt comedian in Kiev was talking about turning Ukraine into a “big Israel,” and was duly applauded by a bunch of Atlantic Council bots. 

Well, it turned out quite differently. As an old-school Deep State source just informed me:

“Ukraine-earmarked weapons are ending up in the hands of the Palestinians. The question is which country is paying for it. Iran just made a deal with the US for six billion dollars and it is unlikely Iran would jeopardize that. I have a source who gave me the name of the country but I cannot reveal it. The fact is that Ukrainian weapons are going to the Gaza Strip and they are being paid for but not by Iran." 

After its stunning raid last weekend, a savvy Hamas has already secured more negotiating leverage than Palestinians have wielded in decades. Significantly, while peace talks are supported by China, Russia, Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt - Tel Aviv refuses. Netanyahu is obsessed with razing Gaza to the ground, but if that happens, a wider regional war is nearly inevitable. 

Lebanon’s Hezbollah – a staunch Resistance Axis ally of the Palestinian resistance - would rather not be dragged into a war that can be devastating on its side of the border, but that could change if Israel perpetrates a de facto Gaza genocide. 

Hezbollah holds at least 100,000 ballistic missiles and rockets, from Katyusha (range: 40 km) to Fajr-5 (75 km), Khaibar-1 (100 km), Zelzal 2 (210 km), Fateh-110 (300 km), and Scud B-C (500 km). Tel Aviv knows what that means, and shudders at the frequent warnings by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that its next war with Israel will be conducted inside that country.   

Which brings us to Iran. 

Geopolitical plausible deniability

The key immediate consequence of Al-Aqsa Flood is that the Washington neocon wet dream of “normalization” between Israel and the Arab world will simply vanish if this turns into a Long War.

Large swathes of the Arab world in fact are already normalizing their ties with Tehran – and not only inside the newly expanded BRICS 11. 

In the drive towards a multipolar world, represented by BRICS 11, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), among other groundbreaking Eurasian and Global South institutions, there’s simply no place for an ethnocentric Apartheid state fond of collective punishment.    

Just this year, Israel found itself disinvited from the African Union summit. An Israeli delegation showed up anyway, and was unceremoniously ejected from the big hall, a visual that went viral. At the UN plenary sessions last month, a lone Israeli diplomat sought to disrupt Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi’s speech. No western ally stood by his side, and he too, was ejected from the premises. 

As Chinese President Xi Jinping diplomatically put it in December 2022, Beijing “firmly supports the establishment of an independent state of Palestine that enjoys full sovereignty based on 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. China supports Palestine in becoming a full member of the United Nations.”

Tehran’s strategy is way more ambitious – offering strategic advice to West Asian resistance movements from the Levant to the Persian Gulf: Hezbollah, Ansarallah, Hashd al-Shaabi, Kataib Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and countless others. It’s as if they are all part of a new Grand Chessboard de facto supervised by Grandmaster Iran. 

The pieces in the chessboard were carefully positioned by none other than the late Quds Force Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani, a once-in-a-lifetime military genius. He was instrumental in creating the foundations for the cumulative successes of Iranian allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine, as well as creating the conditions for a complex operation such as Al-Aqsa Flood. 

Elsewhere in the region, the Atlanticist drive of opening strategic corridors across the Five Seas - the Caspian, the Black Sea, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Eastern Mediterranean - is floundering badly. 

Russia and Iran are already smashing US designs in the Caspian – via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) – and the Black Sea, which is on the way to becoming a Russian lake. Tehran is paying very close attention to Moscow’s strategy in Ukraine, even as it refines its own strategy on how to debilitate the Hegemon without direct involvement: call it geopolitical plausible deniability.   

Bye bye EU-Israel-Saudi-India corridor

The Russia-China-Iran alliance has been demonized as the new “axis of evil” by western neocons. That infantile rage betrays cosmic impotence. These are Real Sovereigns that can’t be messed with, and if they are, the price to pay is unthinkable. 

A key example: if Iran under attack by a US-Israeli axis decided to block the Strait of Hormuz, the global energy crisis would skyrocket, and the collapse of the western economy under the weight of quadrillions of derivatives would be inevitable. 

What this means, in the immediate future, is that he American Dream of interfering across the Five Seas does not even qualify as a mirage. Al-Aqsa Flood has also just buried the recently-announced and much-ballyhooed EU-Israel-Saudi Arabia-India transportation corridor. 

China is keenly aware of all this incandescence taking place only a week before its 3rd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. At stake are the BRI connectivity corridors that matter – across the Heartland, across Russia, plus the Maritime Silk Road and the Arctic Silk Road. 

Then there’s the INSTC linking Russia, Iran and India – and by ancillary extension, the Gulf monarchies. 

The geopolitical repercussions of Al-Aqsa Flood will speed up Russia, China and Iran’s interconnected geoeconomic and logistical connections, bypassing the Hegemon and its Empire of Bases. Increased trade and non-stop cargo movement are all about (good) business. On equal terms, with mutual respect - not exactly the War Party’s scenario for a destabilized West Asia.  

Oh, the things that a slow-moving paragliding infantry overflying a wall can accelerate.  

*  *  *

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle or ZeroHedge.

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/14/2023 - 23:20

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

More Travel:

With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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