Violations of rules and laws are often explained by individual motives and gains. In the case of Heckler & Koch’s arms exports to Mexico, however, intentions of individual enrichment on part of those involved were insignificant, not unlike the Siemens corruption case or the VW emissions scandal. Approaches from organizational sociology can help explain such cases of rule-violation by pointing to the effectiveness of three factors: hierarchical pressure, rationalization, and socialization.
When we think about the clear-cutting of the virgin forests, the first thing that comes to mind for many of us, is Brazil and the Amazon. But there is no need to go that far. The deforestation of some of Europe’s oldest virgin forests through legal and illegal logging has become the norm in many parts of Romania. In an almost ghostly fashion, some of the most biodiverse forests in all of Europe are disappearing. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, illegal logging seems to have become largely uncontrollable. More and more bald patches are appearing in the forested mountains. More and more forests are disappearing. Despite frequent attempts to stop it, numerous EU-regulations, and the Interpol Forestry Crime Team, clear-cutting has continued to increase. How can this be explained and why is illegal deforestation so hard to stop? After all, the perpetrators are not out and about at night, like Dracula in his day, but in broad daylight.
Everything seems to start harmlessly. A priest is visiting a public pool with a 13- and a 14-year-old boy. When they want to take a shower after swimming, however, one of the boys´ state that he approached him and wanted to share a shower cabin with him. However, the boy refused and reported the event. When questioned about this, the priest reported the visit to the swimming pool, but nothing more. It turned out, however, that he made such visits with young boys to the public pool frequently and also eagerly took photos.
For years, cancer has topped the list of leading causes of death among people aged under 55 in Germany, while in the U.S. it is overdoses resulting from abuse of opioid painkillers. Over the past two decades, their use has become an epidemic; an addiction wave that claims more victims every year. For example, in 2019 alone, approximately 70,260 people in the U.S. died as a result of opioid overdoses, two-thirds of which were from prescription drugs.
The best-known active ingredient – and “kickstarter” of the crisis – is oxycodone, marketed under the trade name Oxycontin by the company Purdue Pharma. Although Purdue was not the only manufacturer of opioid painkillers, the company played a significant role in the emergence of the opioid crisis due to its particularly aggressive marketing strategy and lobbying. The promise of “quick and easy pain relief” thus turned into one of the biggest health crises in the USA, with some 450,000 deaths to date.
“For a Christmas without political prisoners” was the call for a demonstration to be held on December 14th, at the crossing of the streets Avenida de Mayo and Avenida 9 de Julio in the very heart of Buenos Aires. Such a slogan is exceptionally cynical since it originally referred to the disappeared victims of the Argentine military dictatorship. However, in this particular case, the slogan refers to other political prisoners, those imprisoned for corruption cases – former members of the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – Among them is Julio De Vido, who gained a certain notoriety in the Notebook scandal (“Cuadernos de las coimas” in Spanish).
If everything goes well, Trump himself was just a temporary phenomenon; if it goes wrong, he becomes a political revenant. However, what remains are the political and social circumstances in the U.S. that made his presidency possible. Even such absurd political figures as Trump are interchangeable because certain classes, carrier groups and social conditions are decisive that make figures like him great. Not only did a great many people vote for Trump once again in this election, but he stands for typical social and societal conditions in the U.S. far more than many of his opponents would like. The coal industry and coal mining is an excellent example of this. It was a centerpiece of Trump’s ongoing campaign before and during his presidency. Coal has been a topic of many novels and songs, but its recent history is the story that has to be told to understand that Trump himself is merely an epiphenomenon. While all not in favor for Trump can feel the relief now, the misery of his voters, a large group of people in the U.S., and their institutions are not over with the End of Trump’s era yet: quite the opposite in fact – The womb he crawled from is still going strong.
Nowadays, Mary Shelley would be happy and terrified at the same time. Happy about how up to date her novel still is, terrified about how little we have learned from it. On the contrary: experiments similar to that of Frankenstein are numerous, and their results are sometimes bitter-sweet. Like in the case of the toddlers’ Lulu and Nana, subject to genetic manipulations of the Chinese scientist He Jiankui. We have already reported on this topic (for further, see the blog post Gattaca in China: The Birth of the first genetically engineered Humans). Even though the genetic manipulation was probably not successful in this particular case, the children are now in our world, and one day they may change the gene pool of humanity. How should we deal with matters like these? Should and can we protect the gene pool of humankind? What if Nana and Lulu give birth to children one day? These are just some troublesome issues that arise in this new human genetic era of genetic engineering. Although Nana and Lulu are just the tips of the iceberg, behind this one case appears to be a rapidly growing gene modification system, as reported by numerous scandals in recent years.
A lot is uncertain in Corona times. Many of us hope nolens volens that new medicines and vaccines will be developed. Thus, the door is wide open for speculation, charlatanism, influence peddling and big money. Reason for that is that the search for new active ingredients doesn’t always rely on scientific independence and the scientific integrity of decision-makers, researchers, and authors. Rather, it also hides manifested economic interests of the pharmaceutical industry and a covert “ghostly” system of influencing scientific research results and their dissemination. For example, Mucchielli recently tried to show that in the two most important bodies that decide on medication and clinical test procedures for Covid19 in France (the ‘Scientific Council’ (CS-COVID) and the ‘Committee for Analysis, Research and Expertise ‘(CARE)) there are a number of experts who have had close relationships with the pharmaceutical company Gilead in the past. The American pharmaceutical company has developed a license for Remdesivir, an antiviral drug used against Ebola (nonetheless never approved) that was promoted by these experts despite initially controversial and poor scientific results. Just recently a new study showed that it can significantly shorten the clinical treatment time by four days in more severe cases, but without influencing the mortality. The EU Commission then approved Remdesivir at the beginning of July 2020 as a medication for the pulmonary disease Covid-19.
External crises, such as the Corona crisis, are often an opportunity in politics for political actors to reshuffle the cards. While in Germany this goes hand in hand with harmless profiling attempts, in Brazil the political intrigue is in full swing. The popular health minister, Luis Henrique Mandetta, has been dismissed and his successor has also promptly resigned. Even the notorious Minister of Justice, Sergio Moro, has jumped ship, although for other reasons. He left behind a dossier as well as a court statement on the conduct of Jair Bolsonaro, perhaps in order to prepare the impeachment proceedings against another incumbent president in Brazil. Meanwhile, the president himself is surfing on the waves of public agitation in the media, and the governors and courts are doing their utmost to minimize the consequences of the president’s media somersaults. In the background, the generals now seem to be turning impatient again. Politics gone wild in Brazil.
It currently has us all firmly in its grip, the “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” (SARS-CoV2). Serious infection control measures are being taken almost everywhere in the world. On 16.4.2020, 2.076.015 cases of infection were confirmed worldwide, 138.008 deaths and 522.881 considered to be recovered. But this is only the beginning. The peak of the pandemic is far from being reached. We are all waiting for the restrictions on physical proximity between people that have been put in place in many countries to take effect, together with other infection control measures, and for a drug and vaccine to be developed as soon as possible.