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Today’s Censorship Is Personal

Today’s Censorship Is Personal

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Brownstone Institute,

The United States has the distinction the world over…

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Today's Censorship Is Personal

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Brownstone Institute,

The United States has the distinction the world over for being a home to the First Amendment, which guarantees free expression. And yet a mere seven years after its ratification in 1791, Congress violated it in the most severe way with the “Alien and Sedition Acts” of 1798, which made it a crime to engage in “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against government officials. 

The Sedition Act mentioned Congress, the President (John Adams), government generally as protected, but was silent about the Vice President, who was Thomas Jefferson. Upon the election of Jefferson in 1800, it was repealed immediately. Indeed, the censorship was so controversial that Jefferson’s opposition contributed to his victory. 

The experience taught an important lesson. Governments have a tendency to want to control speech, meaning writing in those days, even if it means trampling on the rules that bind them. This is because they have an insatiable desire to manage the public mind, which is the story people carry around that can make the difference between stable rule and popular discontent. It has always been thus. 

We like to think that free speech is settled doctrine but that’s not true. Thirty-five years after Jefferson’s victory, in 1835, the U.S. Post Office banned the circulation of abolitionist materials in the South.

This went on for 14 years until the ban was lifted in 1849. 

Then 12 years later, President Abraham Lincoln revived censorship after 1860, imposing criminal penalties on newspaper editors that supported the Confederacy and opposed the draft. Once again, people who disagreed with regime priorities were considered seditious. 

Woodrow Wilson did the same during the Great War, targeting anti-war newspapers and pamphleteers again. 

A new book by David Beito is the first to document FDR’s censorship in the 1930s, muzzling opponents of his administration. Then in World War Two, the Office of Censorship got busy monitoring all mail and communications. The practice continued on after the war in the early years of the Cold War with the blacklists against alleged communists. 

There is a long history of government using every means to channel speech, especially when technology finds a way around the national orthodoxy. Government has usually adapted to the new problem with the same old solution. 

When radio came along in the early 1920s, radio stations exploded around the country. The federal government quickly responded with the Congress-created Radio Act of 1927, which made the Federal Radio Commission. When television seemed inevitable, that agency converted itself to become the Federal Communications Commission, which long kept a tight rein on what Americans heard and saw in their homes. 

In each of the above cases, the focus of government pressure and coercion was the distribution portals of information. It was always the editors of newspapers. Then it became the broadcasters. 

Sure, the people had free speech but what does it matter if no one hears the message? The point of controlling the broadcast source was to impose top-down messaging for purposes of managing what people generally think. 

When I was a kid, “news” consisted of a 20-minute broadcast on one of three channels that said the same thing. We believed that’s all there was. With such strict controls on information, one can never know what one is missing. 

In 1995, the web browser was invented and an entire world grew up around it that included news from many sources, and then eventually social media too. The ambition was summarized in the name “YouTube:” this was a television from which anyone could broadcast. Facebook, Twitter, and others came along to give every single person the power of an editor or broadcaster. 

Keeping with the long tradition of control, what was government to do? There had to be a way but getting hold of this giant machinery called the Internet was not going to be an easy task. 

There were several steps.

  • The first was to impose high-cost regulations on admission so that only the most well-heeled companies could make it big and consolidate.

  • The second was to rope these companies into the federal apparatus with various rewards and threats.

  • The third was for government to winnow its way into the companies and subtly push them to curate information flows based on government priorities. 

This takes us to 2020, when this vast apparatus was deployed fully to manage messaging on the response to the pandemic. It was highly effective. For all the world, it seemed as if everyone responsible was fully in support of policies that have never before been attempted, such as stay-at-home orders and church cancellations and travel restrictions. Businesses nationwide were shut, with hardly a peep of protest that we could hear at the time. 

It seemed spooky but, over time, investigators came to discover a vast censorship industrial complex that was in heavy operation, to the point that Elon Musk declared that the Twitter he bought might as well have been a megaphone for military intelligence. Thousands of pages have been amassed in court filings that confirm all of this.

The case against the government here is that it cannot do through third parties such as social media platforms what it is forbidden from doing directly by virtue of the First Amendment. The case in question is popularly known as Missouri v. Biden, and there is much at stake with its results. 

If the Supreme Court decides that the government violated free speech with these measures, it will help secure the new technology as a tool of freedom. If it goes the other direction, censorship will be codified in law and it will give license to agencies to lord it over what we see and hear forever. 

You can see the technological challenge here for government. It’s one thing to threaten editors of paper newspapers or throttle communications on radio and television. But it is another matter to gain full control over the vast web of global communication architecture in the 21st century. China has had some measure of success and so has Europe generally. But in America, we have special institutions and special laws. That should not be possible here. 

The challenge of censoring the Internet is vast but consider what they have achieved so far in the US. Everyone knows (we hope) that Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are thoroughly compromised venues. Amazon’s servers have stepped up in service of federal priorities such as when the company shut down Parler on January 10, 2021. Even auspicious services like EventBrite serve their masters: Brownstone even had an event canceled by this company. At whose behest? 

Indeed, when you look at the lay of the land today, the reed on which free speech still stands is pretty thin. What if Peter Thiel had not invested in Rumble? What if Elon Musk had not bought Twitter? What if we didn’t have ProtonMail and other foreign providers? What if there were no truly private server companies? For that matter, what if we had only to rely on PayPal and conventional banks for sending money? Our freedoms that we know now would gradually come to an end.

These days, and thanks to technological advancements, speech has become deeply personal. As communication has become democratized, so have the censorship efforts. If everyone has a microphone, everyone has to be controlled. The efforts to do so affect the  tools and services everyone uses every day.. 

The outcome of Missouri v. Biden – the Biden administration has fought the case at every step – could make the difference as to whether the US will recapture its former distinction as the land of the free and home of the brave. It’s hard to imagine that the Supreme Court will decide any other way than to smack down the federal censors, but we cannot know for sure these days. 

Anything could happen. There is much at stake. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the pre-trial injunction against agency intervention in social media on March 13, 2024. This year will be the year of decision about our fundamental rights.

Tyler Durden Thu, 02/01/2024 - 19:40

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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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