is an academic, activist, and author and editor of numerous books, chapters, and articles. He is the president and founder of the International Network on Migration and Development, codirector of the Critical Development Studies Network, and professor and director of the Doctoral Program in Development Studies at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, Mexico. He is also the editor of Migración y Desarrollo and the UNESCO chair in Migration, Development and Human Rights. is an assistant professor at the Mora Institute in Mexico City.
Understanding the way in which contemporary capitalism—which Samir Amin insightfully characterized as the era of generalized monopolies—organizes productive forces is crucial to grasping both the forms of domination defining imperialism today and the profound metamorphoses that monopoly capital has undergone during the last three decades.1
The concept of general intellect, put forward by Karl Marx, is a useful starting point for the exploration of the organization of productive forces. Let us take the example of one of the most “advanced” innovation systems today: Silicon Valley’s Imperial System. Our GFN seeks not only to reveal the profound contradictions of capitalist modernity, but also to highlight the significant transmutation that today’s monopoly capital is undergoing. Far from acting as a driving force for the development of social productive forces, it has become a parasitic entity with an essentially rentier and speculative function. Underlying this is an institutional framework that favors the private appropriation and the concentration of the products of general intellect.
Capital, General Intellect, and the Development of Productive Forces
Capitalism is characterized by the separation of the direct producers from their means of production and subsistence. This separation broke violently into the embryonic phase of capitalist development with the process that Marx referred to as “so-called primitive accumulation” (more correctly translated as “so-called primary accumulation”). It is not just a foundational process, external or alien to the dynamics of capitalism, but one that reproduces itself over time and is accentuated through new and increasingly sophisticated mechanisms with the advent of neoliberal policies, so much so that David Harvey proposed the category “accumulation by dispossession” in his book The New Imperialism to refer to this incessant phenomenon.2
Importantly, the primal separation of the direct producer that Marx describes in chapters 14 and 15 of the first volume of Capital is only formal. In the early stages of industrial capitalism, even if the direct producers did not own the means of production—which they considered foreign property and an external force of domination—they maintained some control over their working tools in the production process. Thus, the separation was not wholly complete until the appearance of large-scale industry in the second half of the twentieth century, which radically changed the situation. The production of machines by machines—that is, the use of an integrated machinery system, as a totality of mechanical processes distributed in different phases moved by a common motor—gave way to a complete separation between workers and their tools. This brought the optimal conditions for a second and deeper dispossession, relegating labor to a subordinated role in the production process and converting the worker into an appendage of a machine. It is worth mentioning, however, that the use of this metaphor by Marx does not mean that the direct producer is unable to eventually contribute to the attainment of an improvement or a technological innovation. There are several historical examples that account for this possibility.
Nevertheless, in terms of the theory of value, there is a general movement toward the predominance of dead labor, objectified in the machine, over living labor—in other words, the prevalence of relative surplus value in the dynamics of capitalist accumulation. The emergence of machinery and large-scale industry meant that capital managed to create its own technical mode of production as the foundation of what Marx conceives in the unpublished sixth chapter of Capital, volume 1, as the real subsumption of labor under capital; in other words, the “specific capitalist mode of production.” As Marx wrote, “the historical significance of capitalist production first emerges here in striking fashion (and specifically), precisely through the transformation of the direct production process itself, and the development of the social productive powers of labour.”3
This process originated during the second half of the First Industrial Revolution and deepened during the Second Industrial Revolution (1870–1914), where science and technology appear as engines of production, forcing development as the so-called first globalization was occurring. Since then, the growth of capital has been directly associated with the development of production forces and the consequent expansion of surplus value, mainly in the form of relative surplus value. At the same time, this is marked by the continuous increase in the organic composition of capital (the relation between capital invested in the means of production and that invested in the labor force), where “the scale of production is not determined according to given needs but rather the reverse: the number of products is determined by the constantly increasing scale of production, which is prescribed by the mode of production itself.”4 This inherent contradiction in the specifically capitalist mode of production is related, in turn, to (1) the trend of concentration and centralization of capital that accompanies accumulation dynamics and (2) the concomitant tendency toward absolute impoverishment of the working class, in what Marx conceives as the general law of capitalist accumulation:
The greater the social wealth, the functioning capital, the extent and energy of its growth, and, therefore, also the absolute mass of the proletariat and the productiveness of its labor, the greater is the industrial reserve army. The same causes which develop the expansive power of capital also develop the labor power at its disposal. The relative mass of the industrial reserve army increases, therefore, with the potential energy of wealth. But the greater this reserve army in proportion to the active labor army, the greater is the mass of a consolidated surplus population, whose misery is in inverse proportion to its torment of labor. Finally, the greater the growth of the misery within the working class and the industrial reserve army, the greater the official pauperism.5
The trend toward the complete separation of the worker from the means of production is consolidated into what Victor Figueroa described as follows:
The factory offers us the image of a production center that does not demand workers’ awareness or knowledge of the production process.… As if the factory, being itself the result of the productive application of knowledge, demanded for the knowledge to be developed outside and, therefore, independently to the workers it houses, where immediate labor is presumably a mere executor of the progress forged separately by science.6
In Labor and Monopoly Capital, Harry Braverman described this fissure as an essential part of the scientific and technological revolution that detached the subjective and objective content of the labor process.
The unity of thought and action, conception and execution, hand and mind, which capitalism threatened from its beginning, is now attacked by a systemic dissolution employing all the resources of science and various engineering disciplines based upon it. The subjective factor of the labor process is removed to a place among its inanimate objective factors. To the materials and instruments of production are added a “labor force,” another “factor of production,” and the process is henceforth carried on by management as the sole subjective element.… This displacement of labor as the subjective element of the process, and its subordination as an objective element in a productive process now conducted by management, is an ideal realized by capital.7
In the face of these circumstances, derived from the technical and social division of labor inherent to the specifically capitalist mode of production, it is worth asking ourselves: In what way does capital, beyond the immediate work that is deployed in the factory, organize the development of the productive forces? What kinds of workers, universities, and research centers participate in this process? What is the role of the state and other institutions? What role do accumulated social knowledge, basic and applied science play? What types of intangible and tangible products are generated? What are the mechanisms and mediations involved in the transformation of scientific and technological work to productive forces? What kind of profit enters the scene and how does it affect the dynamics of social surplus value distribution, concentration, and centralization of capital?
Although Marx does not explicitly address this issue in Capital except in marginal footnotes, in the Grundrisse’s “Fragment on Machines,” he coined the category of general intellect and made some considerations, in the form of notes, that provide important clues to help us understand the subject.
Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules etc. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, or of human participation in nature. They are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge, objectified. The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and have been transformed in accordance with it. To what degree the powers of social production have been produced, not only in the form of knowledge, but also as immediate organs of social practice, of the real-life process.8
From this, we can infer that fixed capital, or constant capital, is condensed into past material and immaterial labor (dead labor). Consequently, accumulated social knowledge is objectified in the means of production and becomes an immediate force of production. In other words,
general intellect is a collective and social intelligence created by accumulated knowledge and techniques. This radical transformation of the workforce and the incorporation of science, communication and language within the productive forces has redefined the entire phenomenology of labor and the entire global horizon of production. General intellect means that the general form of human intelligence becomes a productive force in the sphere of global social labor and capitalist valorization. The power of science and technology are put to work.… With the concept of general intellect, Marx refers to science and consciousness in general, that is, the knowledge on which social productivity depends.9
With the advent of the capitalist mode of production, a new and particularly significant division was created between what could be called immediate labor and scientific-technological labor. While the former unfolds in the factory, the latter is carried out separately and under different, although complementary, forms of organization, with both converging in the critical function for capitalist development: the increase of surplus value. If immediate labor is actually subsumed by capital, scientific and technological labor can only be, at best, formally subsumed, becoming what Figueroa calls a workshop of technological progress to distinguish it from the way immediate labor in the factory is organized.10 However, the way general intellect is structured, in its quest to accelerate the development of productive forces, acquires increasingly sophisticated and complex modalities, as in the paradigmatic case of the Silicon Valley Imperial Innovation System.
The growing importance of immaterial work in the production process does not imply a “crisis” of the law of value, as suggested by Antonio Negri.11 Rather, it implies that an increasing proportion of the social surplus value and the social surplus fund captured by capital and the state is redistributed toward activities aimed at promoting the development of productive forces. In other words, immediate labor and scientific-technological labor interweave dialectically to broaden the scope of capital valorization through the deepening of exploitation. In this sense, under the prism of the theory of value, the general intellect contributes to increasing the organic composition of capital with a powerful leitmotif: the appropriation of extraordinary profits, that is, profits greater than the average profit, commonly conceived as technological rents. In this aspect, the Ecuadorian-Mexican philosopher Bolívar Echeverría specifies that there are
two poles of monopoly property to which the group of capitalist owners must acknowledge rights in the process of determining the average profit. Based on the most productive resources and provisions of nature, land ownership defends its traditional right to convert the global fund of extraordinary profit into payment for that domain, in other words, into ground rent. The only property that is capable of challenging this right throughout modern history and has indefinitely imposed its own, is the more or less lasting domain over a technical innovation of means of production. This property forces the conversion of an increasing part of extraordinary profit into a payment for its dominion, in other words, into a “technological rent.”12
It is worth noting that Echeverría brackets the notion of technological rent, associating it with ground rent—or surplus associated with the ownership of a monopolizable good that does not derive from incorporated labor during the production process. Under the new forms of general intellect organization, monopoly capital appropriates profit through the acquisition of patents, without implying investments in the promotion and development of the productive forces, behaving in this sense as a rentier agent.
Unlike immediate labor, the subordination of scientific and technological labor to capital is extremely complex, especially because the value that the scientific and technological labor force incorporates into the production process is not immediately objectified; it is the product and result of social knowledge expressed in the market once new commodities, new production processes, and new ways of organizing and increasing labor productivity are concretized. Pablo Míguez refers to this phenomenon not as “a simple subordination to capital, but an independent relation to labor time imposed by capital, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish working time from production time or leisure time.”13
From the theory of value perspective, the process of valorization of scientific and technological labor is materialized in the production and circulation sphere, but in the distribution sphere of valorized capital, that social surplus value, mediated by intellectual property, is issued in the form of a rent. In this sense, it is important to emphasize the fundamental role held by states in the distribution of social surplus to promote basic and applied science, supporting public and private universities, as well as research centers. The state also contributes to creating institutions and policies that allow for the private appropriation of rent to come out of the general intellect. These institutions become crucial to the dynamics of accumulation and uneven development characterizing contemporary capitalism and imperialism.
The transformation of the general intellect into an immediate productive force, materialized in new commodities and new ways of organizing the labor process, requires the mediation of patents and a patenting system. In the capitalist mode of production, the creation of intellectual property through patents or patenting systems acquires a strategic importance in relation to the control and orientation of productive forces. This becomes a key element both for the private appropriation of products that emanate from the general intellect, and for the organization of innovation systems. In this sense, national and international patent legislations constitute a mechanism that enables the privatization and commodification of common goods, hindering potentially beneficial innovations for society.14 For example,
The legal mechanisms for the private appropriation of scientific-technological labor, with the patent as a nodal part in the restructuring of innovation systems, becomes a basic piece for the withholding of extraordinary profits made possible through global corporate regulation in tune with the imperial State policies.… Hence, international law functions as a core piece of private control of scientific-technological labor through a series of intellectual property and international trade regulatory agreements.15
Following this idea, Míguez argues that, in the context of contemporary capitalism, “intellectual property is reinforced as it is the only mechanism that allows for the private appropriation of increasingly social knowledge in its incessant quest to valorize capital.”16
The development of the productive forces in contemporary capitalism—and the course followed by the general intellect—cannot be understood separately from the contemporary domination of monopoly capital. This hegemonic fraction of capital—ubiquitous in contemporary capitalism—finds its raison d’être in the appropriation of extraordinary profits and technological rents through monopoly prices, among other processes. According to Marx, monopoly appropriation of profit through prices refers to prices that rise above the cost of production and the average profit together, enabling monopoly capital to appropriate a relatively greater portion of social surplus value than the one that would correspond to conditions of free competition.
Another fundamental feature of monopoly capital, as a sine qua non condition for obtaining profits, is its need to maintain lasting advantages over other possible participants in a particular branch or branches where it operates. Such advantages can be natural or artificial, depending on the combination of forms of surplus profit, which, in turn, configure particular monopolistic practices. One of these forms is related to capitalism’s revolutionary development of productive forces, as envisioned by Marx: technological change. In this regard, Joseph A. Schumpeter—far from intending to identify his vision of technological change with that proposed by Marx in Capital—sets forth the existence of a positive relationship between innovation and monopoly power, arguing that competition through innovation or “creative destruction” is the most effective means of acquiring advantages over potential competitors. Furthermore, Schumpeter argues that innovation is both a means of achieving monopoly profit and a method of maintaining it.
It should be noted, however, that in the Marxist conception, there is no mechanical or direct identification of technological change with a positive vision of progress. On the contrary, being governed by the law of value and the necessity of capital to broaden accumulation, technological change does not escape the contradictions of capitalist modernity, which, as Echeverría emphasizes, “leads itself, structurally, by the way in which the process of reproduction of social wealth is organized…to the destruction of the social subject and the destruction of nature where this social subject affirms itself.”17
The appropriation of extraordinary monopoly profits produced by means of intellectual property is accompanied in contemporary capitalism by a profound restructuring of this hegemonic fraction of capital, through a process of hyper-monopolization, where three additional forms of profit appropriation stand out:18
- The formation of monopoly capital global networks, commonly known as global value chains, through the geographic expansion of corporate power by transferring parts of production, commercial, and financial service to peripheral countries in search of cheap labor.19 Basically, it is a new nomadism in the global production system based on the enormous wage differentials that persist between the Global North and the Global South (the global labor arbitrage). This restructuring strategy has deeply modified the global geography of production to the degree that just over 70 percent of industrial employment is currently located in peripheral or emerging economies.20
- The predominance of financial capital over other factions of capital.21 In the absence of profitable investments in the productive sphere due to the overaccumulation crisis triggered in the late 1970s, capital began moving toward financial speculation, creating strong distortions in the sphere of social surplus value distribution through the financialization of the capitalist class, which has led to an explosion of fictitious capital—financial assets without a counterpart in material production.22
- The proliferation of extractivism by monopolizing and controlling land and subsoil by monopoly capital.23 In addition to accentuating the dynamics of accumulation by dispossession, the growing global demand for natural resources and energy has led to an unprecedented privatization of biodiversity, natural resources, and communal goods benefiting mega-mining and agribusiness. This implies the appropriation of huge extraordinary profits in the form of ground rent (unproduced surplus value) that translates into greater ecosystem depredation, pollution, famine, and disease with severe environmental implications, including global warming and worsening extreme climatic events that jeopardize the symbiosis between human society and nature.24
The predominance and metamorphosis of monopoly capital under the neoliberal aegis has brought about far-reaching transformations in the organization of production and the labor process. These transformations are integral to the global capitalist system’s geography, leading to a fall of the welfare state, an increase in social inequalities, and the emergence of a new international division of labor, where the labor force becomes the main export commodity. This, in turn, gives way to new and extreme forms of unequal exchange and transfer of surplus from the periphery to the core economies of the system. In this context, the irruption of the technoscience revolution has generated new ways of promoting scientific and technological creativity, of organizing the general intellect on a global scale and of appropriating its products.
Untangling Silicon Valley’s Imperial Innovation System
A strategic dimension of capitalist development in the era of generalized monopolies corresponds to the extraordinary dynamism that the development of productive forces achieves through a rampant rate of patenting. Hence, it is vital to understand the characteristics of the most advanced innovation system today, hegemonized by the United States and georeferenced in Silicon Valley, which operates as a powerful patenting machine and has tentacles in various peripheral and emerging countries. The organizational architecture of the general intellect in this complex economic terrain enables corporate control over scientific and technological labor of an impressive mass of intellectual workers trained in different countries around the world, both in core and periphery economies. In this system, a wide range of agents and institutions interact to speed up the dynamics of innovation, reducing the costs and risks associated with inventors and independent entrepreneurs—organized through innovative embryonic companies known as startups—to be capitalized by large corporations through the acquisition or appropriation of patents.25
Some of the most outstanding features of what we conceive as the Silicon Valley Imperial Innovation System are:
- The internationalization and fragmentation of research and development activities under “collective” methods of organizing and promoting innovation processes: peer to peer, share economy, commons economy, and crowdsourcing economy, through what is known as Open Innovation. These are forms of scientific and technological inventions produced outside the boundaries of multinational corporations, which involve the opening and spatial redistribution of knowledge-intensive activities, with the increasing participation of partners or external agents to large corporations, such as startups that operate as privileged cells of the new innovative architecture, venture capital, clients, subcontractors, head hunters, law firms, universities, and research centers.26 This new form of organizing the general intellect has given way to the permanent configuration and reconfiguration of innovation networks that interact under a complex interinstitutional fabric commanded together by large multinational corporations and the imperial state (see Chart 1). This networked architecture has deeply transformed previous ways of driving technological change.
It is worth noting that, in this context, scientific and technological labor carried out by startups is not formally subsumed to capital as inventors are not direct employees of large corporations. Hence, subsumption is subtle and indirect, backed by an institutional framework established by the Patent Cooperation Treaty of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a sophisticated ecosystem network that fosters the collective development of products emerging as part of the general intellect on a planetary scale and its private appropriation through patents and other proprietary mechanisms mediated by law firms responding to large multinational corporation interests. As a result, accumulated social knowledge—a collective drive accelerated by networks of scientists and technologists—ends up in corporate hands through juridical mechanisms.27
- The creation of scientific cities such as Silicon Valley in the United States and new “Silicon Valleys” recently established in peripheral areas or emerging regions, mainly in Asia, where collective synergies are created to accelerate innovation processes. As Annalee Saxenian highlights, it is a new georeferenced paradigm that moves away from the old research and development models and opens the way for a new culture of innovation based on flexibility, decentralization, and the incorporation, under different modalities, of new and increasingly numerous players that interact simultaneously in local and transnational spaces.28 Silicon Valley became the pivot point of a new global innovation architecture, around which multiple peripheral links are woven to operate as a sort of scientific maquiladora located in regions, cities, and universities around the world. This gives rise to a new and perverse modality of unequal exchange, through which the costs of forming and reproducing a highly skilled workforce involved in the dynamics of scientific innovation are transferred from core economies to peripheral and emerging countries, generating extraordinary profits via monopolistic technological rents.
- New forms of control and appropriation of scientific labor products by large multinational corporations, through various forms of subcontracting, associations, and management and diversification of venture capital. This control is established through a two-way channel. On the one hand, it is established through specialized teams of lawyers thoroughly familiar with the institutional framework and operating rules for patents imposed by the Patent Cooperation Treaty and WIPO, serving the interests of large corporations. Under this complex and intricate regulatory framework (see Chart 2), it is practically impossible for independent inventors to register and patent products on their own. On the other hand, this is done through teams of lawyers who operate as headhunters, contractors, and subcontractors working though “strategic investment” to appropriate and gain control over general intellect products.29
The way in which large multinational corporations participate in the dynamics of innovation incubated and deployed through the Silicon Valley matrix reveals that, more than development driven to facilitate social productive forces, monopolistic capital operates as a rentier agent that appropriates the products of the general intellect without participating in the production process of its development. In other words, the extraordinary profits that constitute the leitmotif of monopoly capital become technological rents in accordance with the meaning that Marx attributes to ground rent: the possibility of demanding a significant portion of social surplus value by virtue of owning a product, in this case the patent, though not acquiring it through a production process that incorporates value through labor. Hence, in the era of generalized monopolies, monopoly capital ceases to be a progressive agent in the development of the productive forces and becomes a parasitic entity that even decides, as owner of intellectual property, which products are potentially significant in the market and which will remain petrified in the freezer of social history.30
- A North-South horizon expansion of the workforce in areas of science, technology, innovation, and mathematics, and increasing recruitment of a highly skilled workforce from the peripheries through outsourcing and offshoring mechanisms. In this sense, highly skilled migration from peripheral countries plays an increasingly relevant role in global innovation processes, generating a paradoxical and contradictory dependence of the South on the North, where patent inventors more often reside in peripheral and emerging countries. In fact, this trend can be seen as part of a higher stage in the development of global value chains—what we prefer to call global monopoly capital networks—as the new international division of labor moves up the value-added chain to the scientific and technological sphere, and while monopoly capital moves to capture profit derived from productivity and knowledge contributed by a highly qualified workforce from the Global South.31 This trend can be found in different sectors of the global economy, including agricultural biotechnology and biohegemony in transgenic crops, as well as the appropriation of Indigenous knowledge related to seed technology.32
Chart 1. Graphic Representation of the Silicon Valley Innovation System
Source: Produced based on information gathered from Strategic Business Insights.
A key piece that supports the new geopolitics of innovation is the creation of an ad hoc institutional framework aimed at the concentration and appropriation of general intellect products through patents under the tutelage and supervision of the WIPO in agreement with the World Trade Organization (WTO).33 Since the late 1980s, there has been a trend toward generating legislation in the United States, in tune with the strategic interests of large multinational corporations in the field of intellectual property rights.34 Through rules and regulations promoted by the WTO, the scope of this legislation has been significantly expanded. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has taken on the role of promoting the signing and implementation of free trade agreements, since intellectual property disputes within the WIPO/WTO tend to be enormously complex due to their multilateral nature. The U.S. strategy also includes bilateral free trade agreement negotiations as a complementary measure to control markets and increase corporate profits. The regulations established by the Patent Cooperation Treaty, amended in 1984 and 2001 within the framework of the WIPO and WTO, have contributed significantly to the strengthening of this trend.
In addition, according to the nature and characteristics of the Imperial Innovation System, the United States appears as the leading capitalist power in innovation worldwide, absorbing 23.9 percent of the total patent applications registered in the WIPO from 1996 to 2018. However, in the same period, China surpassed the United States in patent applications, with 23.1 percent compared to the U.S. 21.7 percent (Table 1).
Table 1. Requested and Granted Patents: Total and 10 Main Countries, 1996–2018
Source: SIMDE-UAZ. Estimations using data by WIPO, 1996–2018.
In the era of generalized monopolies, the development of productive forces has entered a point of no return in which the contradictions between progress and barbarism embodied in capitalist modernity have become more evident than ever before. The historical mission of progress attributed to capitalism in the development of the productive forces of society has turned into its opposite: a regressive path that threatens nature and humanity. In this context, the current dispute between the United States and China is uncertain. While there are signs that the United States still maintains leadership in strategic fields of innovation, China has been gaining ground and contesting the U.S. scientific-technological preeminence and global hegemony. Under the conditions of this disputed scenario, the COVID-19 pandemic opens a great question, where the only certainty is uncertainty.
- ↩ Samir Amin, The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013).
- ↩ David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
- ↩ Karl Marx, chap. 6 in El capital (1867; repr. Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1981), 60.
- ↩ Marx, chap. 6 in El capital, 76.
- ↩ Karl Marx, El capital, tomo 1, vol. 3 (1867; repr. Mexico: Siglo XXI, 2005), 804.
- ↩ Victor Figueroa, Reinterpretando el subdesarrollo: Trabajo general, clase y fuerza productiva en América Latina (Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1986), 40.
- ↩ Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (New York: Monthly Review, 1998), 118.
- ↩ Karl Marx, Elementos fundamentales para la crítica de la economía política 1857–1858 (Grundrisse), tomo 2 (1858; repr. Mexico: Siglo XXI, 1980), 229–30.
- ↩ Antonio Gómez Villar, “Paolo Virno, lector de Marx: General Intellect, biopolítica y éxodo,” SEGORÍA: Revista de Filosofía Moral y Política 50 (2014): 306.
- ↩ Figueroa, Reinterpretando el subdesarrollo: trabajo general, clase y fuerza productiva en América Latina, 41.
- ↩ Antonio Negri, Marx más allá de Marx (Madrid: Akal, 2001).
- ↩ Bolívar Echeverría, Antología: Crítica de la modernidad capitalista (La Paz: Oxfam, Vicepresidencia del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, 2011): 78–79.
- ↩ Pablo Míguez, “Del General Intellect a las tesis del Capitalismo Cognitivo: Aportes para el estudio del capitalismo del siglo XXI,” Bajo el Volcán 13, no. 21 (2013): 31.
- ↩ Guillermo Foladori, “Ciencia Ficticia,” Estudios Críticos del Desarrollo 4, no. 7 (2014): 41–66.
- ↩ Julián Pinazo Dallenbach and Raúl Delgado Wise, “El marco regulatorio de las patentes en la reestructuración de los sistemas de innovación y la nueva migración calificada,” Migración y Desarrollo 27, no. 32 (2019): 52.
- ↩ Míguez, “Del General Intellect a las tesis del Capitalismo Cognitivo,” 39.
- ↩ Echeverría, Antología, 173.
- ↩ Francisco Javier Caballero, “Replanteando el desarrollo en la era de la monopolización generalizada: Dialéctica del conocimiento social y la innovación” (PhD dissertation, Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Mexico, 2020).
- ↩ Raúl Delgado Wise and David Martin, “The Political Economy of Global Labor Arbitrage,” in The International Political Economy of Production, ed. Kees van der Pijl (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2015), 59–75.
- ↩ John Bellamy Foster, Robert W. McChesney, and R. Jamil Jonna, “The Global Reserve Army of Labor and the New Imperialism,” Monthly Review 63, no. 6 (November 2011): 1–15.
- ↩ Walden Bello, “The Crisis of Globalist Project and the New Economics of George W. Bush,” in Critical Globalization Studies, ed. Richard P. Appelbaum and William I. Robinson (New York: Routledge, 2005),101–9.
- ↩ Robert Brenner, The Boom and the Bubble: The U.S. in the World Economy (New York: Verso, 2002); John Bellamy Foster and Hannah Holleman, “The Financialization of the Capitalist Class: Monopoly-Finance Capital and the New Contradictory Relations of Ruling Class Power,” in Imperialism, Crisis and Class Struggle: The Enduring Verities and Contemporary Face of Capitalism, ed. Henry Veltmeyer (Leiden: Brill, 2010).
- ↩ James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer, Extractive Imperialism in the Americas (Leiden: Brill, 2013).
- ↩ Guillermo Foladori and Naina Pierri, ¿Sustentabilidad? Desacuerdos sobre el desarrollo sustentable (Mexico: Miguel Ángel Porrúa, 2005).
- ↩ Raúl Delgado Wise, “Unraveling Mexican Highly-Skilled Migration in the Context of Neoliberal Globalization,” in Social Transformation and Migration: National and Local Experiences in South Korea, Turkey, México and Australia, ed. Stephen Castles, Derya Ozkul, and Magdalena Arias Cubas (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015): 201–18; Raúl Delgado Wise and Mónica Guadalupe Chávez, “¡Patentad, patentad!: Apuntes sobre la apropiación del trabajo científico por las grandes corporaciones multinacionales,” Observatorio del Desarrollo 4, no. 15 (2016): 22–30; Míguez, “Del General Intellect a las tesis del Capitalismo Cognitivo.”
- ↩ Henry Chesbrough, “Open Innovation: A New Paradigm for Understanding Industrial Innovation,” in Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm, ed. Henry Chesbrough, Wim Vanhaverbeke, and Joel West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 1–14.
- ↩ Guillermo Foladori, “Teoría del valor y ciencia en el capitalismo contemporáneo,” Observatorio del Desarrollo 6, no. 18 (2017): 42–47.
- ↩ AnnaLee Saxenian, The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2006).
- ↩ Titus Galama and James Hosek, S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2008).
- ↩ Foladori, “Teoría del valor y ciencia en el capitalismo contemporáneo.”
- ↩ Raúl Delgado Wise, “El capital en la era de los monopolios generalizados: Apuntes sobre el capital monopolista,” Observatorio del Desarrollo 6, no.18 (2017): 48–58; Rodrigo Arocena and Judith Sutz, “Innovation Systems and Developing Countries” (DRUID Working Paper 02–05, Danish Research Unit for Industrial Dynamics, Aalborg, 2002).
- ↩ Laura Gutiérrez Escobar and Elizabeth Fitting, “Red de semillas libres: Crítica a la biohegemonía en Colombia,” Estudios Críticos del Desarrollo 7, no. 11 (2016): 85–106; Pablo Lapegna and Gerardo Otero, “Cultivos transgénicos en América Latina: Expropiación, valor negativo y Estado,” Estudios Críticos del Desarrollo 6, no. 11 (2016): 19–44; Renata Motta, “Capitalismo global y Estado nacional en las luchas de los cultivos transgénicos en Brasil,” Estudios Críticos del Desarrollo 6, no. 11 (2016): 65–84.
- ↩ Wise and Chávez, “¡Patentad, patentad!”
- ↩ Peter Messitte, “Desarrollo del derecho de patentes estadounidense en el siglo XXI. Implicaciones para la industria farmacéutica,” in Los retos de la industria farmacéutica en el Siglo XXI: Una visión comparada sobre su régimen de propiedad intelectual, ed. Arturo Oropeza and Víctor Manuel Guízar López (Mexico: UNAM–Cofep, 2012),179–200.
Vermont Health Connect had 10 data breaches last winter
In mid-December, a Vermont Health Connect user was logging in when the names of two strangers popped up in the newly created account.
The individual, who was trying to sign up for health insurance, deleted the information that had suddenly appeared.
“It was super unsettling to think that someone is filing in my account with my information,” the person, whose name is redacted in records, wrote in a complaint to the Department of Vermont Health Access. “Just seems like the whole thing needs a big overhaul.”
It was one of 10 instances between November and February when Vermont Health Connect users reported logging to find someone else’s information on their account.
The data breaches included names of other applicants and, in some cases, their children’s names, birth dates, citizenship information, annual income, health care plans, and once, the last four digits of a Social Security number, according to nearly 900 pages of public records obtained by VTDigger. On Dec. 22, the department’s staff shut down the site to try to diagnose the problem.
While officials say the glitches have been resolved, it’s the most recent mishap for a system that has historically been plagued by security and technical issues. The breaches could be even more widespread: Administrators of Vermont Health Connect can’t tell if other, similar breaches went unreported.
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” said Jon Rajewski, a managing director at the cybersecurity response company Stroz Friedberg. Regardless of whether there are legal ramifications for the incidents, they should be taken “very seriously,” he said.
“If my data was being stored on a website that was personal, — maybe it contains names or my Social Security number, like my status of insurance… — I would expect that website to secure it and keep it safe,” he said.
“I wouldn’t want someone else to access my personal information.”
Andrea De La Bruere, executive director of the Agency of Human Services, called the data breaches “unfortunate.” But she downplayed the severity of the issues. Between November and December, 75,000 people visited the Vermont Health Connect website for a total of 330,000 page views, she said. The 10 incidents? “It’s a very uncommon thing to have happen,” she said.
De La Bruere said the issue was fixed on Feb. 17, and users had reported no similar problems since. The information that was shared was not protected health information, she added, and the breaches didn’t violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
“No matter what the law says technically, whether it’s HIPAA-related or just one’s personal information, it’s really concerning,” said Health Care Advocate Mike Fisher.
The timing of the issue is less than ideal, he added. Thousands of Vermonters will be logging into Vermont Health Connect in the coming weeks to take advantage of discounts granted by the American Rescue Plan. “It’s super important that people can access the system, and that it’s safe and secure,” Fisher said.
A ‘major issue‘
The issues first arose on Nov, 12, when at least two Vermonters logged in and found information about another user, according to records obtained by VTDigger.
Department of Vermont Health Access workers flagged it as a “major issue” for their boss, Kristine Fortier, a business application support specialist for the department.
Similar incidents also occurred on Nov. 17 and 18, and later on multiple days in December.
Department of Vermont Health Access staff members appeared alarmed at the issues, and IT staff escalated the tickets to “URGENT.”
“YIKES,” wrote a staff member Brittney Richardson. While the people affected were notified, the data breaches were never made public.
State workers pressed OptumInsights, a national health care tech company that hosts and manages Vermont Health Connect, for answers. The state has contracted with the company since 2014. It has paid about $11 million a year for the past four years for maintenance and operations, with more added in “discretionary funds.”
Optum appeared unable to figure out the glitch. “It is hard to find root cause of issue,” wrote Yogi Singh, service delivery manager for Optum on Dec. 10. Optum representatives referred comments on the issues to the state.
By Dec. 14, Grant Steffens, IT manager for the department, raised the alarm. “I’m concerned on the growing number of these reports,” he wrote in an email to Optum.
The company halted the creation of new accounts on Dec, 14, and shut down the site entirely on Dec, 22 to install a temporary fix. “It’s a very complex interplay of many many pieces of software on the back end,” said Darin Prail, agency director of digital services. The complexity made it challenging to identify the problem, and to fix it without introducing any new issues, he said.
In spite of the fixes, a caller reported a similar incident on Jan. 13.
On Feb. 8, a mother logged in to find that she could see her daughter’s information. When she logged into her daughter’s account, the insurance information had been replaced by her own.
“Very weird,” the mother wrote in an emailed complaint.
Optum completed a permanent fix on Feb. 17, according to Prail. Vermont Health Connect has not had a problem since, he said.
Prail said the state had reported the issues to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services as required, and had undergone a regular audit in February that had no findings. The state “persistently pressured Optum to determine the root cause and correct the issue expeditiously but at the same time, cautiously, so as to not introduce additional issues/problems,” he wrote in an email to VTDigger.
“We take reported issues like this very seriously,” he said.
A history of glitches
The state’s health exchange has been replete with problems, including significant security issues and privacy violations, since it was built in 2012 at a cost of $200 million.
The state fired its first contractor, CGI Technology Systems, in 2014. A subcontractor, Exeter, went out of business in 2015. Optum took over for CGI, and continued to provide maintenance and tech support for the system.
In 2018, when Vermont Health Connect was less than 6 years old, a report dubbed the exchange outdated and “obsolete.”
Officials reported similar privacy breaches in 2013, when Vermonters saw other people’s information.
An auditor’s report in 2016 found a slew of cybersecurity flaws, and officials raised concerns again during a 2018 email breach.
It wasn’t the first time that Vermont Health Connect users had been able to view other people’s personal information. Three times since October 2019, individuals had logged in to see another individual’s insurance documents. Prail attributed those incidents to human error, not to system glitch; a staff member uploaded documents to the wrong site, he said.
In spite of the issues, Prail said he and other state officials have been happy with Optum. After years of technical challenges with Vermont Health Connect, “Optum has really picked up the ball and improved it and been running it pretty well,” he said.
Glitches are inevitable, he added, and Optum has addressed them quickly. “They took a really difficult-to-manage site and made it work pretty well,” he said. “Optum is generally quite responsive to any issues we have.”
“I find any privacy breach to be concerning,” said Scott Carbee, chief information security officer for the state. He noted that the state uses “hundreds of software systems.” “While the scope of the breaches can be mitigated, true prevention is a difficult task,” he wrote in an email to VTDigger.
Optum spokesperson Gwen Moore Holliday referred comments to the state, but said the company was “honored” to work with Vermont Health Connect “to support the health care needs of Vermont residents.”
Prail said the Agency of Human Services had no plans to halt its contract with the company. “I don’t have a complaint about Optum,” he said. “They took a really difficult-to-manage site and made it work pretty well.”
Don’t miss a thing. Sign up here to get VTDigger’s weekly email on Vermont hospitals, health care trends, insurance and state health care policy.
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Deciphering the Gaps: Health Officer, Latinx Providers Talk COVID Disparities | Lost Coast Outpost
an effort to address persistent disparities in COVID-19’s impacts
on the local Latinx community, Humboldt County Public Health Officer
Ian Hoffman recently met with LatinoNet, a network of service
providers like Open Door Community Health Clinics, Paso a Paso,
Promotores, the Humboldt County Office of Education and Public Health
that are dedicated to advocating for a healthier Latinx community in
meeting, Hoffman’s first public discussion with the providers,
focused on what can be done to address the disparities — which
exist both in COVID-19 case rates and vaccination efforts and mirror
statewide and national trends — in the county’s Latinx
July, Humboldt County’s COVID-19 dashboard highlighted the
disproportionate COVID-19 case rates in the local Latinx and Hispanic
communities, noting they accounted for 22 percent of COVID-19 cases
while only making up 12 percent of the population. The disparity has
only grown since and as of April 9, Humboldt County Latinx residents
made up 25 percent of positive COVID-19 cases to date.
vaccine data, meanwhile, has seen a similar trend, with Latinx county
residents falling behind on receiving their COVID-19 shots. According
to the Public Health dashboard, only about 10 percent of Humboldt’s
Latinx and Hispanic population are fully vaccinated, compared to 19
percent of the general population.
know that there is a disproportionate effect of COVID-19 in this
community and that’s why, from our standpoint in Public Health, and
also personally, as a physician taking care of this community for a
long time, it’s important that we address this,” Hoffman said.
Weiss, a Public Health deputy branch director who also attended
Friday’s meeting, said LatinoNet invited Hoffman to speak with the
group and offer an update on the pandemic and Public Health’s
efforts to provide equitable vaccine clinics. But Hoffman said the
meeting was also an opportunity for him to hear from the providers
about what barriers and gaps in care and outreach they were seeing.
began his presentation talking about his background working with
different Latinx communities in Santa Rosa and the Bay Area with
organizations like La Clinica de la Raza in Oakland and Kaiser
Permanente in San Francisco. He said he learned to give culturally
sensitive care to members of the Latinx, Spanish-speaking community,
which he said would transfer into a better understanding of how
Public Health approaches culturally competent health policies.
talked about Public Health’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccine clinics,
acknowledging the signup process has been confusing at times, with a
shortfall of vaccine doses, exceedingly high demand and eligibility
limitations. But Hoffman said Public Health’s goal is to ensure
vaccine equitability among those in the Latinx community and
guarantee that any Latinx resident seeking a COVID-19 vaccine feels
comfortable and confident before, during and after their appointment.
taken some steps at Public Health to make sure that when a
Spanish-speaking person needs a vaccine, that they feel comfortable
and confident that their needs will be met and, most importantly,
[provide] Spanish-language information,” Hoffman said.
Health is working on a few new interventions, including sponsoring
California Department of Public Health’s “Let’s Get to
ImmUnity” integrated media campaign with both English and Spanish
ads on GFN channel 3, as well as planned mass vaccination
events in more rural areas of the county with the help from Open
now that eligibility is open to all residents age 16 and older,
Hoffman emphasized the importance of organizations serving the Latinx
community helping to spread information on the vaccine rollout and
the switch to the state’s My Turn website (www.myturn.ca.gov). But
the message Hoffman kept repeating was that the county’s Joint
Information Center (441-5000) is standing by and ready to take any
questions, including those in Spanish, about the vaccine and
the meeting, however, it became clear there may be a disconnect
between county Public Health and service providers looking to direct
clients and patients to accurate information about COVID-19 and
vaccines in Spanish.
continue to hear that there’s not clear and correct information in
Spanish that people know where to access,” LatinoNet board member
Michelle Postman said, alluding to a survey by Jorge Matias, another
LatinoNet board member, that found most Spanish-speaking local
residents didn’t know where to go for accurate COVID-19
information. “I feel like we try and we don’t think that we’re
doing that but we don’t know where the gap is, and I also know that
Public Health is really stretched, there’s only so much we can do,
and so I’m just curious if there’s one thing, one magical thing
that can happen. Would it be like showcasing Latin[x] leaders in the
community on commercials like, ‘Hey I’ve got my shot and this is
working,’ or would it be to have a website? What would be the
magical thing that you might spend time on to make things better if
we had the capacity?”
comments led to a discussion about the best way to get information to
the Spanish-speaking Latinx community, prompting Hoffman to stress
that the JIC is dedicated to putting out a clear, conscious message
in English and Spanish.
of the materials on [the JIC website, social media pages] have been
vetted by Spanish speakers,” he said. “They’re scientifically
accurate. They try to meet the cultural sensitivity that we talked
about, as well. I would say that if we’re going to put anything out
there, that’s the central message.”
urged the groups at the meeting to use the resources on the Humboldt
Health alert website and promoted by the Joint Information Center and
push them out to the Spanish-speaking community. And if there’s one
phone number the groups get to their clients in the coming weeks, he
said it should be the JIC’s: 441-5000.
an email sent to the Journal,
Matias, in his
capacity as a LatinoNet board member, said his survey found most
Latinx and Hispanic residents didn’t feel they had clear and
correct information in Spanish about who can and can’t obtain the
COVID-19 vaccine and that they felt they didn’t have a specified
place to call to find more information in their language. Many,
Matias said, didn’t feel had enough information about how effective
people, Matias added, are afraid of costs, side effects and needing
more medical interventions due to possible side effects, while others
worry they aren’t eligible to receive the vaccine because of their
documentation status. But Hoffman confirmed during the meeting that
the only documentation those seeking a vaccine will need is any type
of form with a name that matches the name on the appointment or a
parental consent form for those 16 and 17 years old.
Hoffman added, are the types of questions that could be answered by
county JIC has been actively translating information into Spanish,
including uploading social media posts in Spanish, but it seems they
have yet to amplify those messages to community providers and
advocacy groups in an effort to get that information to community
members who may not follow county social media accounts or can’t
navigate the county’s website.
also told the Journalthat there’s a lot of information that spreads through social media
that confuses Latinx and Hispanic residents, including misinformation
and conspiracy theories, which was addressed during the meeting
between LatinoNet and Hoffman.
Public Health hears of any misinformation or any disinformation
spreading throughout the community, Hoffman said it would address it
and correct it immediately. But he also cautioned there’s a balance
between correcting and amplifying.
then asked attendees about the types of misinformation they were
hearing and someone mentioned a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19
vaccine causing future fertility issues.
one of the biggest pieces of misinformation that’s got a stronghold
in a lot of communities,” Hoffman said. “There’s absolutely no
evidence that this vaccine has any effect on fertility.”
there have been reports of vaccine hesitancy in communities of color
because of historical acts of genocide in healthcare settings, which
was also mentioned by attendee Maria Ortega.
feel like all of these organizations and clinics and community
organizations have a responsibility to be sensitive about that
(fertility) issue and not dismiss anybody, because they’re valid
concerns, especially historically and worldwide there’s been actual
efforts to change communities of color and their population impacts,”
Ortega said. “Just be mindful about where they’re coming
agreed with Ortega about being mindful and understanding of where
those concerns take root, noting the importance of recognizing the
impact of historical events and communities’ lived experiences in
providing culturally sensitive care.
are difficult things to navigate exactly, and I think if those are
the barriers that we’re really seeing out there, they need to be
addressed, obviously,” Hoffman said. “But I’m not sure at this
point exactly what all the barriers are … My hope is that, mostly,
that gap is because of eligibility and lack of vaccine and that, as
we open it up more broadly like we are doing right now, and we have
that language ability … that we get those messages out there.”
reasons for the gaps in vaccine administration and infection rates
may become more clear as the county moves into the expanded phase of
its vaccination rollout but, presently, Hoffman urged providers and
their clients and patients to look to the JIC for Spanish-language
information about the COVID-19 virus and vaccines.
you so much for inviting me and talking with me,” Hoffman said in
Spanish, wrapping up the meeting. “I hope that we can do this again
Casarez (she/her) is a staff writer with the Journal.
Reach her at 442-1400, extension 317, or
Follow her on Twitter @IridianCasarez.
Community Voices Coalition is a project funded by Humboldt Area
Foundation and Wild Rivers Community Foundation to support local
journalism. This story was produced by the North
with full editorial independence and control.
Vermont Health Connect had 10 data breaches last winter
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Deciphering the Gaps: Health Officer, Latinx Providers Talk COVID Disparities | Lost Coast Outpost
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