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Video: Space 360: Fitness in zero gravity at Intl Space Station

To keep fit is a hard but vital task for ISS crew. A new episode of RT's Space 360 project features Andrey Borisenko telling...

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Police officers across England and Wales failed the annual police fitness test more than 1,800...

What’s Your Fitness Age?

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Fitness fracas: Jawbone accuses Fitbit staff of stealing over 330k of its secret files

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How to Make 2014 the Year You Reach Your Weight Loss and Fitness Goals

by Lily Dane Originally published at The Daily Sheeple Note from Daisy:  Last week I wrote about New Year’s resolutions, and one of those resolutions is something that people vow to work on, and then often stop within a couple of weeks.  This article really resonated with me about WHYRead the Rest...

The Mass Confusion That Dominates In Fat Loss & Fitness Today

by Rob Poulos, Fat Loss & Fitness Expert & Creator of 'Fat Burning Furnace' People are confused more than ever about how to burn fat....

New p90x Workout – A New Era In Fitness DVD’s

by Ben Nicholls The p90X workout is revolutionary system of high energy,fat burning workouts that is designed to change your body in just 90 days...

Lies Of The Health And Fitness Industry Exposed

Craig Pepin-Donat If history has taught us anything, it is that when a business concept exhibits the potential for growth, companies and industries spread like...

Neo-Nazi arrests: British Army soldiers charged with terror offences

Published time: 12 Sep, 2017 09:19 Edited time: 14 Sep, 2017 07:15 Three men, including...

British jihadists trained by secretive ISIS unit to launch UK suicide attacks

Published time: 7 Aug, 2017 09:01 British extremists in Syria are being trained to carry...

Trump Jr. Emails and Meeting With Russian Lawyer Are Probable Cause of Federal Crime

Donald Trump, Jr. speaks to supporters of his father, Donald Trump, at a campaign rally at the Sun Devil Fitness Center at Arizona State...

In Less Than Six Months, President Trump Proves He's Unfit

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Trump Dashes Hopes for Afghan Peace

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Media Served as Echo Chamber for Trump Nominees

Despite conservative accusations that news media are “the opposition party” (Politico, 1/26/17) and “the ultimate Super PAC” for the Democratic Party (Politico, 10/28/15), a...

‘Game-changer for autism’: 100-year-old drug reverses symptoms, study finds

A drug discovered more than 100 years ago may hold the key to combating autism symptoms,...

Impeach Trump? Transcript Will Tell Whether President Blabbed Secrets To Russians

If Donald Trump disclosed highly classified state secrets to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, he may be vulnerable to impeachment — not because...

UN Agency Helps North Korea with Patent Application for Banned Nerve Gas Chemical

For more than a year, a United Nations agency in Geneva has been helping North Korea prepare an international patent application for...

The Empire Expands: Not the American One, But Trump’s

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The US Military’s Ethos: Of Busy-work, Sweaty Suffering, White Wall Haircuts, Beribboned Uniforms, and...

Why does the U.S. military invest so much pride in working to the point of tedium, if not exhaustion? A friend of mine, an...

'Circus atmosphere': Sheriff Arpaio’s Tent City jail to shut down

The newly elected sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona will be shutting down the Tent City...

Essentials for Effective, Natural Weight Loss

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Does Your T-Level Need a Boost, Guys?

By Dr. Mercola Testosterone plays many important roles in men’s health. Besides affecting your sex drive, it also helps maintain muscle mass, bone density, red...

From Barry Goldwater to Donald Trump

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On and Beyond the Removal of a Jackass President: Impeachment Not Required

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SpaceX announces 2018 manned trip to orbit moon

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The Women Beside Bob Marley: Remembering the I Threes

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Can 7 Minutes of Exercise Keep You Fit?

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Higher Altitude Means Much Lower Death Rates

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Take the Office Pool 2017

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Celebrity sex robots could thrust human intercourse aside, experts predict

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Worst False Equivalencies of 2016

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Survival Fuel for Your Body

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Officer once jailed for DUI and making his child drive is up for promotion...

A Milwaukee sergeant, who once served a jail time after making his minor daughter drive while...

National Enquirer paid $150,000 for Trump Playmate affair scoop, didn’t publish story

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Ballots and Bullets

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Heart-attack soldier fights for US Army to cover medical bills

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This is it: Clinton and Trump face-off in final 2016 presidential showdown

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‘She’s getting pumped up’: Trump calls for drug tests before next debate (VIDEO)

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Russia, Terror and Taxes Dominate Debates; Climate, Poverty, Abortion Barely Mentioned

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392lb soldier among dozens axed by military for being overweight

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How’s Your Health?

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Transgenderism Can Help You

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There’s More Than One Kind of Fungus Among Us

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Aging Doesn’t Mean Losing Your Vision

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Darwin Unhinged

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Blueprint for an Orwellian future? Chicago tests new data collection technology

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What Triggers a Charley Horse?

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Remember Blue-Blockers?

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Study finds ‘modern man’ is weaker than previous generations 

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Physician: Mainstream Media ‘Strangely Silent’ About Hillary Clinton’s Health

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‘Fat & ugly’ gym poster promotes bullying, say critics

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Fat vs fair: Pentagon mulls new obesity standards for soldiers

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American Psychiatric Association urges members to stop calling Trump mentally ill

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Effortless Weight Loss?

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Forget Dangerous Antidepressants

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Hillary Clinton’s ‘Entangled’ Foreign Policy

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Hippocrates Swore By It

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Internet hoodwinked as syphilis model used in fake Clinton campaign ad

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Hillary Clinton’s ‘House of Cards’

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The Globalisation of Bad Food and Poor Health: Sustainable Development or Sustainable Profits?

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Global Agribusiness, Dependency and the Marginalisation of Self-Sufficiency, Organic Farming and Agroecology

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Fat segregation? Obese children should take separate gym classes, health expert says

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Republicans Rebuked for Utter ‘Perversion of Constitutional Duties’

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Aloha to smoke: Hawaii becomes 1st state to bar under-21s from buying tobacco

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Presidential Success or Failure

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British police admit to training ‘abusive’ UAE officers

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Ethical scientific community rallies against GMOs

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Six powerful foods that taste better than junk foods

One of the persistent myths about eating healthy is that food that is good for the body doesn't necessarily taste good. People are encouraged...

Met police chief warns unfit police officers

Britain’s most senior police chief, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has warned unfit and overweight police officers that they have no place within the forces.  Hogan-Howe...

UK kids turn obese at younger ages

British children are becoming obese at younger ages, according to a major study. The study by University College London (UCL) warned on Wednesday that the...

The 90,000 Square Foot, 100 Million Dollar Home That Is A Metaphor For America

Michael Snyder (RINF) - Just like “America’s time-share king”, America just keeps on making the same mistakes over and over again. Prior to the financial...

The Empire Strikes Back: Poison Is “Natural”

Professor James F. Tracy RINF Alternative News The processed food industry is seeking to turn back the global movement toward organic and non-GMO food by promoting...

Fast Food Nations: Selling Out To Junk Food, Illness Ad Food Insecurity

The 4th Media, Global Research, RINF and Countercurrents

Western agribusiness, food processing companies and retail concerns are gaining wider entry into India and through various strategic trade deals are looking to gain a more significant footprint within the country. The Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA) and the ongoing India-EU free trade agreement talks have raised serious concerns about the stranglehold that transnational corporations could have on the agriculture and food sectors, including the subsequent impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of millions. For example, see this on the dismantling of Indian agriculture, this on the KIA and the US neoliberal invasion of India and this on the US-Indo free trade deal.

What it all could mean is a trend towards a handful of big companies determining what food is grown, how it is grown, how it is processed, what is in it and who sells it. In other words, a Western model of intensive petro-chemical farming (aka the 'green revolution') and heavily processed grow-fast chemically-tampered-with food passed through a chain that sees it ending up in Western-style convenience supermarkets or fast-food outlets that rely on industrial farms. From seed to field to plate, the entire process would be handed over to a handful of large corporations whose bottom line is not agricultural sustainability, food security, food democracy or healthy nutritious food, but control and fast profit. 

Look no further than the situation in Africa. Daniel Maingi works with small farmers in Kenya and belongs to the organization Growth Partners for Africa. He says here that the ‘green revolution’ approach is based on Western-style agriculture, with its reliance on fertilizer, weed killers and single crops. Maingi was born on a farm in eastern Kenya and studied agriculture from a young age.

He remembers a time when his family would grow and eat a diversity of crops, such as mung beans, green grams, pigeon peas and a variety of fruits now considered ‘wild’. Following the Structural Adjustment Programmes of the 1980s and 1990s and a green revolution meant to boost agricultural efficiency, the foods of his childhood have been replaced with maize, maize, and more maize.

Maingi says here:

“In the morning, you make porridge from maize and send the kids to school. For lunch, boiled maize and a few green beans. In the evening, ugali, [a staple dough-like maize dish, served with meat]… [today] it’s a monoculture diet, being driven by the food system – it’s an injustice.”

In India, farmers are being displaced and policy makers have been facilitating a reliance on corporate seeds and corporate access to the food processing and retail sectors, both of which have traditionally tended to be small scale and key to supporting local (rural) economies and livelihoods. There are of course major implications for food security/sovereignty and the restructuring of society (see this), but what this could mean for the nation’s diet and health is already clear to see.

Although almost half the nation’s under-5s are underweight (the prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, see this), rates of obesity in the country have tripled in the last two decades and the nation is fast becoming the diabetes and heart disease capital of the world (see this).  

Western style fast food outlets have been soaring in number throughout the country. Pizza Hut now operates in 46 Indian cities with 181 restaurants and 132 home delivery locations, a 67 percent increase in the last five years). KFC is now in 73 cities with 296 restaurants, a 770 percent increase. McDonalds is in 61 Indian cities with 242 restaurants as compared to 126 restaurants five years back, a 92 percent increase). According to a recent study published in the Indian Journal of Applied Research, the Indian fast food market is growing at the rate of 30-35 percent per annum (see this).

Of course, the dominant paradigm implies such a trend is positive. The commodification of (corporate) seeds, the manufacturing and selling of more and more chemicals to spray on crops or soil, the opening up fast food outlets and the selling of pharmaceuticals or the expansion of private hospitals to address the health impacts of the modern junk food system is ‘good for the economy’. It’s all 'good for business’ as more cash exchanges hands and certain businesses cartels thrive. And what is good for business is good for GDP growth. And what is good GDP growth is good for everyone, or so we are told.

Transnational food companies now see their main growth markets in Asia, Africa and South America, where traditionally (as in India) people have tended to eat food from their own farms or markets that sell locally-produced foods. Taking Mexico as an example, GRAIN describes how agribusiness concerns are infiltrating farming and transnational food retail and processing companies are taking over food distribution channels and replacing local foods with cheap, processed foods, often with the direct support of the government. Free trade and investment agreements have been critical to this process and an alarming picture is set out of the consequences for ordinary people, not least in terms of their diet and health (see GRAIN’s report here). 

In 2012, Mexico’s National Institute for Public Health released the results of a national survey of food security and nutrition. Between 1988 and 2012, the proportion of overweight women between the ages of 20 and 49 increased from 25 to 35 percent and the number of obese women in this age group increased from 9 to 37 percent. Some 29 percent of Mexican children between the ages of 5 and 11 were found to be overweight, as were 35 percent of the youngsters between 11 and 19, while one in ten school age children suffered from anaemia.

The Mexican Diabetes Federation says that more than 7 percent of the Mexican population has diabetes. Diabetes is now the third most common cause of death in Mexico, directly or indirectly. 

The various free trade agreements that Mexico has signed over the past two decades have had a profound impact on the country’s food system. GRAIN explains that after his mission to Mexico in 2012 the then Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, concluded that the trade policies currently in place favour greater reliance on heavily processed and refined foods with a long shelf life rather than on the consumption of fresh and more perishable foods, particularly fruit and vegetables. He added that the overweight and obesity emergency that Mexico is facing could have been avoided, or largely mitigated, if the health concerns linked to shifting diets had been integrated into the design of those policies.

The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has led to the direct investment in food processing and a change in the retail structure (notably the advent of supermarkets and convenience stores) as well as the emergence of global agribusiness and transnational food companies in Mexico.

NAFTA required Mexico to provide equal treatment to domestic and foreign investors, with the elimination of rules preventing foreign investors from owning more than 49 percent of a company. It also prohibited the application of certain “performance requirements” such as minimum amounts of domestic content in production and increased rights for foreign investors to retain profits and returns from initial investments.

The Agreement triggered an immediate upsurge of direct investment from the US into the Mexican food processing industry. In 1999, US companies invested $5.3 billion in Mexico’s food processing industry, a 25-fold increase from $210 million in 1987.

Another effect of NAFTA on the Mexican food system was an explosive growth of chain supermarkets, discounters and convenience stores. GRAIN highlights how the food corporations began by colonising the existing, dominant food distribution networks of small-scale vendors, known as tiendas (the corner stores). Tiendas have proved critical to the spread of nutritionally poor food as they are the means by which transnationals and domestic food companies sell and promote their foods to poorer populations in small towns and communities.

According to GRAIN, the tiendas are, however, quickly being replaced by corporate retailers that offer the processed food companies even greater opportunities for sales and profits. By 2012, retail chains had displaced tiendas as Mexico’s main source of food sales. For example, Oxxo (owned by Coca-cola subsidiary Femsa) tripled its stores to 3,500 between 1999 and 2004.26 In July 2012, Oxxo was opening its ten thousandth facility, and is aiming to open its 14 thousandth store sometime during 2015.

For De Schutter, a programme that deals effectively with hunger and malnutrition has to focus on Mexico’s small farmers and peasants. They constitute a substantial percentage of the country’s poor and are the ones that can best supply both rural and urban populations with nutritious foods. His view is in line with numerous official reports that emphasise the key role that such farmers have in providing food security and which also stress the importance of agroecological farming (for instance, see this and this). Likewise, GRAIN argues that Mexico could recover its self-sufficiency in food if there were to be official support for peasant agriculture backed with amounts comparable to the support granted to the big corporations. 

In Mexico, the loss of food sovereignty has induced catastrophic changes in the nation's diet. The writing is on the wall for other countries such as India because this scenario is being played out across the world. (Diet aside, there are other severe deleterious health impacts that result from the indiscriminate use of pesticides that have accompanied the 'green revolution', not least in the Indian state of Punjab which has become known as a 'cancer epicentre': see this.) 

The situation is encapsulated by Vandana Shiva who outlines the consequences of opting for a food system that is based on a corporate-controlled, chemical-intensive system based on diminishing variety, fast food and fast profits:

“If we grow millets and pulses, we will have more nutrition per capita. If we grow food by using chemicals, we are growing monocultures — this means that we will have less nutrition per acre, per capita… The agrarian crisis, the food crisis and the nutrition and health crisis are intimately connected. They need to be addressed together. The objective of agriculture policy cannot be based on promoting industrial processing of food. The chemicalisation of agriculture and food are recipes for “denutrification”… The Green Revolution displaced pulses, an important source of proteins, as well as oilseeds, thus reducing nutrition per acre. Monocultures do not produce more food and nutrition. They take up more chemicals and fossil fuels, and hence are profitable for agrochemical companies and oil companies. They produce higher yields of individual commodities but a lower output of food and nutrition.” (See here, ‘The Real Hunger Games’)




Fast Food Nations: Selling out to Junk Food, Illness and Food Insecurity

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The Con Man and the Big Con


One can too easily blame capitalism for debasing the culture and intellectual life of the US. The profit motive has surely placed commercial success ahead of artistic merit. Independent purveyors of art and ideas have been either co opted and absorbed by monopoly corporations or ground to a pulp attempting to compete with corporate-sponsored rivals. Culture has become corporate culture, despite the democratizing relief sometimes offered by the Internet.

From producer to consumer, arts and entertainment corporations are the ever-present intermediaries for successful production and realization of cultural commodities. Their goal is profit and not artistic merit.

Similarly, the humanities have been marginalized through the marketization of higher education. The ever present mantra of “running everything like a business” has deeply infected the process of learning, thus sending philosophy, political studies, literature, history and other humanities to the dustbin. That which cannot pay its way deserves no place in the university, say administrators wedded to best business practices. Consequently, the appreciation for and vibrant generation of the humanities is stunted by the dominance of the “practicality” of the sciences and business. Higher learning becomes learning for a purpose, namely, getting ahead.

But the arts and independent thought are threatened by other factors as well. While even those friendly to capitalism will give a reluctant acknowledgment of the economic factors that diminish culture and humanistic pursuits, few accept the significant role of politics in stunting culture and learning. Of course many will readily agree that right wing zealots chip away politically at the liberal values that are believed to be the foundation for cultural and intellectual enrichment. They will eagerly concede that pornography police and music censors retard the free flow of ideas. But they, nonetheless, celebrate the US democratic spirit that continues to nourish the spring of cultural production and intellectual innovation.

Accordingly, they forget, or purposely overlook, the insidious role of Cold War repression that befell intellectual and cultural life in the US from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, with loud echoes today. For nearly a decade and a half, intellectual conformity on class, race, and Communism was rigorously enforced through punishment or fear, especially in the sensitive areas of culture and ideas (the battle of ideas is not merely in academia or among the men and women of letters but in the unions and mass organizations, where a vibrant incubation of radical ideas was replaced with a tepid, mediocre, and intolerant uniformity). Thousands of cultural and intellectual workers lost their jobs, were shunned, or blacklisted. Tens of thousands were frozen with fear and determined to assiduously avoid anything controversial.

Artists and intellectuals grew timid: ironically, some of the best popular cinema of the otherwise mediocre era was offered by ex-Communists who had made their mea culpas and thus earned the right to tackle edgy themes (for example, A Face in the Crowd (Kazan), Sweet Smell of Success, and The Big Knife (Odets). The best of television, a then-new medium seemingly happy to wallow in mediocrity, came from deeply covert writers who had been expelled from Hollywood. When vibrant African American music in the form of a subversive Rhythm and Blues stood to crack the cultural barriers, US entertainment corporations co-opted and whitened the music while transforming it into mildly titillating Rock and Roll (RCA and Elvis Presley), a safer alternative.

The false radicalism of Abstract Expressionism was promoted by a deeply conservative coterie of wealthy art impresarios intent upon overshadowing any subversive messages borne by representational art (see How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art, Guilbaut). And mildly mocking satire of upper-middle-class and suburban mores a la New Yorker magazine became the gold standard of popular literature.

Youth rebellion, thought to be a biological imperative, found expression in the middle-class angst of the “beat” generation or through revisiting frontier toughness through the cult of the motorcycle. “Alienation” replaced “exploitation” as the theme of critiques of industrial society.

Moral and political philosophy shunned social criticism for the fetish of linguistic analysis while the social sciences fell under the sway of the paradigm of the self-interested, rational individual.

But it was not simply fear and intimidation that drove the vapidity of culture and thought in the high season of anti-Communism. The best and brightest of Cold War liberals readily collaborated with the US government's security forces and propaganda offensives. As Frances Stoner Saunders thoroughly documents (The Cultural Cold War), the CIA's front organization, The Congress for Cultural Freedom, purchased or captured in its net some of the most illustrious intellectuals in the US and the world. Recruitment and manipulation of writers, editors, journalists, academics exerted a strong influence on the direction of intellectual and cultural life for decades. It would be naïve not to believe-- and contrary to what has been uncovered-- that these same government tentacles had not reached into the US labor movement and numerous NGOs.
It is a pity that no one has taken on the daunting task of assembling all of the glimpses, hints, testaments, and documents that have allowed us to peek behind the curtain of secrecy and deception shielding the vast apparatus of thought control employed by US rulers. What we know about the co-option of a student organization like NSA, a labor front like AIFLD, a publishing house like Praeger, or public intellectuals like Isaiah Berlin, Mary McCarthy, Clement Greenberg, or Arthur Schlesinger Jr. suggests that the instruments of influence stretch far and wide and ensure limits to discussion, debate, and artistic expression.

A Swamp of Gullibility: The Case of Paul De Man

It was in the context of reflecting upon the Cold War clamp-down on US culture and intellectual life that I approached Evelyn Barish's new book, The Double Life of Paul De Man. From the mid-sixties until his death in 1983, De Man acquired a scholarly, intellectual reputation that secured him a position as one of the most influential intellectuals in the Western world. His students and colleagues in the intellectual school popularly known as “deconstructionism” held prestigious positions at many academic centers, influenced most of the humanities, and succeeded in penetrating into popular culture. Deconstruction-- as an intellectual current-- has the curious distinction of being nearly incomprehensible to the uninitiated, yet purporting to be a devastating critique sweeping away all that comes before it.

Not long after de Man's death, an admiring student of his discovered evidence that de Man collaborated with the Nazi occupiers in his native Belgium, contributing pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic articles to Belgium's leading newspaper. This revelation rocked the academic community and beyond, raising questions about de Man's integrity and fitness to retain his celestial place in the liberal arts heavens. De Man loyalists sought to cast the collaboration as an aberration and, perhaps with some merit, as irrelevant to the value of his work. As with other fascists or collaborators-- Martin Heidegger, Herbert von Karajan, Werner von Braun, etc.-- it may be possible to separate their life's work from their work with the devil (possible, but difficult).

Critics like David Lehman in his 1991 book, Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man, offered no such life line to de Man and deconstruction. He argues forcefully that deconstruction is as tainted by hum-buggery as de Man is flawed as a human being.

But like the Western debate over Heidegger's past, sides were drawn, but no minds were changed.

Now comes Ms. Barish's book which shows that Paul de Man was thoroughly a cad, a thief, and, with few exceptions, cavalier with the truth. While Barish indulges in annoying flights of psychological speculation, while she gets some minutiae wrong, she marshals a most convincing case that de Man neglected a wife and children, falsified official documents, stole from investors, lied about academic credentials (even about his own paternity), failed to pay debts-- the list of crimes and misdemeanors goes on and on... Those curious of the myriad, lurid details should buy the book; they will find it more bizarre than fiction.

Predictably, the Barish book drew many responses. At one extreme, de Man friend and Sterling Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Yale (succeeding de Man as Sterling professor) and Andrew W. Mellon Scholar at Princeton, Peter Brooks, brought his scholarship to bear on the book in a review published in The New York Review of Books. Notable for its prickliness, the review challenges Barish's “scholarship” but fails to engage or correct any of the substantive claims at play. Nor do Brooks’ scholarly sensitivities note that the NYRB published several de Man articles previously, perhaps a fact that might be seen as tainting the editors' objectivity.

Robert Alter, writing in The New Republic, saw the Barish book as demonstrating that de Man was simply a “total fraud,” a conclusion with which those of us less concerned with scholarly niceties might concur. Carlin Romano, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, similarly recoils from de Man's demonstrated moral corruption.

Harvard Professor Susan Rubin Sulieman, writing in the New York Timesconcedes that de Man is a “con man,” but cannot resist the academic urge to cast a long shadow by scolding Barish over her scholarly standards. Her sense of moral proportion seems to be overshadowed by her outrage over professional standards.

Writing in The New Yorker, Louis Menand details de Man's sins with a school-boy relish, while attempting to separate his turpitude from the intellectual views associated with his work. Menand writes, in defense of deconstructionism:
 
We could say that deconstruction is an attempt to go through the looking glass, to get beyond or behind language, but a deconstructionist would have to begin by explaining that the concepts “beyond” and “behind” are themselves effects of language. Deconstruction is all about interrogating apparently unproblematic terms. It’s like digging a hole in the middle of the ocean with a shovel made of water.

... go through the looking glass...”? “...digging a hole in the middle of the ocean with a shovel made of water...”? Is this nonsense or an example of the elevated, urbane wit so long associated with The New Yorker?

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

While writers milk the de Man affair for its full entertainment value, and academics debate the damage to the deconstructionist program, critical questions are quietly passed over: How did de Man, the con man, slip through the filters of some of the world's most prestigious universities? How did Bard, Harvard, Cornell, and Yale allow this man who never completed a baccalaureate snooker the gatekeepers on his journey to claiming one of the most prestigious academic chairs in the US? More broadly, how were the celebrated New York intellectuals, especially Mary McCarthy and Dwight McDonald, seduced into sponsoring de Man into the highest intellectual circles?

In her fashion, Barish speculates on the personalities and psyches of those taken in by de Man in order to supply an explanation. But such an explanation would reduce the rise of Paul de Man to an unprecedented, finally inexplicable historic accident.

A better answer is found by returning to the historical context of Paul de Man's journey. De Man arrived and maneuvered his way into a position to launch his career at the peak of the Cold War repression in the US. Academics and intellectuals were not expanding horizons nor inviting fresh currents. Rather, they were circling the wagons and banning controversial ideas. This was, of course, fertile soil for opportunists, people who could read the signs and conform.

It is important to remember that de Man's chosen field of literature and literary criticism underwent a radical transformation coincident with the rise of anti-Communist hysteria in the US. Formerly, critics sought to understand literature in broadly open ways, groping for social, cultural, historical, and personal factors that would inform the meaning of texts. A prominent exponent and acknowledged leader of this school was V. L. Parrington. While not a Marxist, Parrington's “...progressive interpretation of American history was highly influential in the 1920s and 1930s and helped define modern liberalism in the United States..." (Wikipedia) Parrington's Pulitzer Prize winning book “... dominated literary and cultural criticism from 1927 through the early 1950s...,” according to a source cited in the same article. At that time a Marxist, Granville Hicks, wrote a critical appreciation of Parrington's work for Science and Society in 1938 (The Critical Principles of V L Parrington), concluding that “...if he were alive, Parrington would be fighting for democracy. Certainly his work is a powerful weapon on that side.” Apparently, too powerful for the malignant 1950s.

Moderately progressive views such as Parrington's were squelched in this time of toadyism:
 

Trilling was one of the most important "hard-liners" in the CIA's Congress for Cultural Freedom. 

Today, Parrington is largely forgotten, thanks to Cold Warriors and academic opportunists. And in his place, the “New Critics” arose in the late 1940s to rescue literary texts from a fulsome, rich interpretation, especially an interpretation that might even remotely suggest Marxism. From that time on, everything was text and only text. Like the shift from representational art to Abstract Expressionism, the movement to “new criticism” was a Cold War gambit masquerading as a new, daring approach to culture, a safe officially sanctioned rebellion that barred the door from seditious art and interpretation.

Arriving in New York in 1948, Paul de Man's brand of charm, salon wit, and shameless opportunism fit perfectly into the intellectual milieu of the emerging Cold War. A European, without the baggage of Communism or leftism, but emitting vague hints of participating in the Resistance, proved attractive to Cold War liberals. But when he packed up and left Bard College for Harvard ahead of bill collectors and scandal, his fortunes took another even more significant turn. Harvard's heralded Humanities Six class gave de Man a taste of the flavors enjoyed at the US's elite universities. The gift of the New Critics' method of “close reading” became the foundation for his meteoric career. Add European exoticism, a profound rejection of inter-subjective meaning, and convey this package in a dense, impenetrable language, and you have a ticket to stardom for an incorrigible con man. Paul de Man punched the ticket.

Intellectual life in the US was irreparably damaged by the stifling, suffocating atmosphere imposed by Cold War hysteria. Cultural and intellectual watchdogs collaborated with administrators to master promoting the illusion of a free and open society while blocking any potential challenges to the bourgeois canon. Central to that task was the project of creating and shaping ersatz rebellion, of channeling the natural skepticism and contrariness of young minds towards benign expressions of revolt. Paul de Man became a willing participant in that game, molding deconstruction into an instrument for thumbing one's nose at an ambiguous, amorphous establishment. A difficult, frustratingly opaque language coupled to a defiant rejection of the most basic category of understanding-- meaning-- seduced initiates into the world of deconstruction. While it challenged no center of real power, deconstruction tasted, smelled, and looked like rebellion. Thus, it joined a long list of carefully constructed cultural and intellectual manifestations that absorb the rebelliousness of youth while producing a harmless release of energies.

Many believe that with the loosening of the repressive noose popularly called McCarthyism, the US returned to openness and freedom of expression. However, that is a misleading perspective. Openness and freedom of expression mean nothing when intellectual and cultural ideas were purged and remain forgotten or uncritically scorned. Openness and freedom of expression mean nothing when intellectual and cultural workers have had their spines surgically removed to the point that they cannot muster the courage to call out frauds and poseurs.

Though hardly revolutionary, V.L. Parrington's ideas and those of many similarly purged, remain lost to a new generation, while the ideas of the discredited Paul de Man and those of other intellectual opportunists and charlatans continue to circulate through the universities and in prestigious journals. The same could be said in the arts and many other intellectual pursuits where the limits of debate are not stated, but inherited. This is the legacy and cost of hysterical, unrestrained anti-Communism.

Zoltan Zigedy

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It was the participants in Operation Tomodachi – land based truck drivers and helicopter crews, and carrier based aircraft and landing craft – who were repeatedly trying to guess where the radioactive clouds were blowing and steer paths out of the way. It was unsuccessful on more than one occasion, according to Defense Department records and participants, resulting in efforts to decontaminate ships travelling through contaminated waters and cleansing helicopters only to send them right back into radioactive clouds.

So far, however, more than 150 service men and women who participated in the rescue mission have since developed a variety of medical issues – including tumors, tremors, internal bleeding, and hair loss – which they feel were triggered by their exposure to radiation. They do not blame the Navy for their predicament, but are joined in an expanding law suit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, for providing false information to the US officials about the extent of spreading radiation from its stricken reactors at Fukushima. And the decision by the Defense Department to abandon the registry leaves them on their own.

Jobs are compartmentalized at sea explained Navy Quartermasters Maurice Enis and Jaime Plym, two of the navigators on the carrier Reagan. Few of those on board knew there were dangerous radioactive plumes blowing in the wind and none knew what ocean currents might be contaminated. They did know there were problems when alarms went off.

“We make our own water through desalinization plants on board,” said Plym, a 28-year-old from St. Augustine, Florida. “But it comes from the ocean and the ocean was contaminated. So we had to get rid of all the water on the ship and keep scouring it and testing it till it was clean.

“You have a nuclear power plant inside the ship that uses water for cooling, and they didn’t want to contaminate our reactor with their reactors’ radiation.”

But avoiding it was not easy. It meant going far enough out to sea where there were no contaminated currents, washing down the ship and its pipes, and then going back towards shore.

“We could actually see the certain parts of the navigation chart where radiation was at, and to navigate through that was nerve wracking,” said Enis. “The general public, like the ship, didn’t really know where it was or what it was and relied on word-of-mouth and rumors. We have more information, but there was no absolute way for us to know how much radiation was out there because we were still being told by the (Japanese) power company that we shouldn’t worry.

“We stayed about 80 days, and we would stay as close as two miles offshore and then sail away. It was a cat and mouse game depending on which way the wind was blowing. We kept coming back because it was a matter of helping the people of Japan who needed help. But it would put us in a different dangerous area. After the first scare and we found there was radiation when they (the power company) told us there was none, we went on lockdown and had to carry around the gas masks.”

When it came to getting timely information on radiation, the Americans on land were just as much at sea. Gregory Jaczko, then Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, urged the evacuation of all Americans within 50 miles of the stricken reactors. And the Defense Department evacuated women and children from the Yokosuka Naval Base, located 300 miles south of Fukushima, after sensors picked up increases in background radiation.

Information was hard to come by, exacerbated by the rigidity of the Japanese bureaucracy. Two nuclear experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists, David Lochbaum, who has worked as a consultant for the NRC and industry, and Ed Lyman, a nuclear physicist, have examined thousands of government emails and cable traffic during a confusing period when the data base shifted by the hour and concrete information was hard to come by.

“After the explosion in Fukushima Daiichi Unit #4 the Japanese were not able to get enough water into the building to keep the spent fuel pool cool,” Lochbaum said. “So the US airlifted a concrete pumper truck all the way from Australia to an American naval base in the northern part of the island. And the Japanese would not let it leave the base because it wasn’t licensed to travel on Japanese roads. Given the magnitude of their problems, that seemed to be the wrong priority.

“But the Japanese culture is more like a symphony, where everyone follows the conductor’s lead. Whereas American society is more like a jazz ensemble where everyone is playing together, but improvisation is prized.”

The inability to get cohesive, trustworthy information from the Japanese hampered the American rescue effort.

Michael Sebourn, senior chief mechanic for the helicopter squadron based at Atsugi,about 60 miles from Fukushima, recalled that “after the earthquake and tsunami we were given one day notice to pack up the command and go to Misawa, Japan Air Base to provide relief efforts to the Sendai and Fukushima areas. All of the other squadrons were evacuating to Guam. There was a big possibility that the base at Atsugi would be shut down and we would never be returning. We were told to put our names and phone numbers on the dashboards of the cars because we would probably not get them back.

“We were in Misawa 3 ½ weeks, working every day, flying mission after mission after mission to pick people up, rescue people, ferry supplies and things like that. There were a few nuclear technicians scanning individuals coming back from missions. Many times they would cut off their uniforms.” The decontamination team cut off their uniforms to avoid touching them and further contaminating them.

Sebourn was sent to Guam for three days of intensive training and became the designated radiation officer. It wasn’t easy.

“This was a completely unprecedented event,” he said. “We had never dealt with radiation before. We were completely brand new to everything and everyone was clueless. We had had drills dealing with chemical and biological warfare. But we never had any drills dealing with radiation. That was nuclear stuff and we didn’t do nuclear stuff. The aviation guys had never dealt with radiation before. We had never had aircraft that was radiated. So we were completely flying blind.”

There were rules for Sebourn’s group of mechanics. They scanned the returning helicopters for radiation, and then removed any contaminated parts and put them in special containers filled with water and stored on an isolated tarmac. It began snowing in Misawa so the group moved back to their base at Atsugi, closer to Fukushima. Sebourn tracked varying radiation levels in units called Corrected Counts Per Minute on their electronic detectors.

“Normal outside radiation exposure is between five and 10 CCPM,” he said. “And that’s from the sun. At Atsugi, the background readings were between 200 and 300 CCPM in the air. It was all over. The water was radiated. The ground was radiated. The air was radiated.

“The rule was if there was anything over a count of 500 you needed special gloves. Over 1,000 CCPM and you needed a Tyvek radiation suit. And if it was over 5,000 you needed an entire outfit – suit, respirator, goggles, and two sets of gloves. You couldn’t put a contaminated radiator back into the helicopters – they had to be replaced. I remember pulling out a radiator and it read 60,000 CCPM.”

But in the end, the safety equipment may not have been enough.

The Tomodachi Medical Registry, developed over a two year-period and completed at the end of 2012, was a collective effort of the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Veterans Affairs launched at the insistence of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

It was an exhaustive registry essential to develop a medical baseline from which to determine if there were any long lasting repercussions from exposure to radioactivity – particularly iodine and cesium – spewing for months from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor units 1 through 4 into both the air and the sea.

The Registry was unparalleled in its depth. The Defense Department’s 252-page assessment of radiation doses the 70,000 Americans may have been exposed to is broken down by a host of factors, including proximity to Fukushima, the type of workbeing done and its impact on breathing rates, changing weather patterns, sex, size, and age. In the latter category children were divided into six different age groups, reflecting their varying susceptibility to radiation. (link)

In addition, the report states, “over 8,000 individuals were monitored for internal radioactive materials and the results of those tests were compared with the calculated doses.”

In the end, however, the Department concluded that their estimates of the maximum possible whole body and thyroid doses of contaminants were not severe enough to warrant further examination.

Navy spokesman Lt. Matthew Allen, in a written statement, said “The DoD has very high confidence in the accuracy of the dose estimates, which were arrived at using highly conservative exposure assumptions (i.e., assuming individuals were outside 24 hours a day for the 60 days in which environmental radiation levels were elevated and while breathing at higher than normal rates).

“The estimated doses were closely reviewed by the Veterans' Advisory Board on Dose Reconstruction and by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements who both agreed that the methods used to calculate the estimates were appropriate and the results accurate. In addition the dose estimates were consistent with the estimates made by the Japanese government and by the World Health Organization.”

Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith added that as a result of the agency’s decision that there was no serious contamination, “There are no health surveillance measures required for any member of the DoD-affiliated population who was on or near the mainland of Japan following the accident and subsequent radiological release from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station beginning on or about March 11, 2011.”

But there are skeptics of the Defense Department’s blanket conclusion that there was not enough radiation poured into the environment to warrant continuous monitoring of the men, women, and children living and working there.

“Radiation does not spread in a homogenous mix,” said Lochbaum. “There are hot spots and low spots and nobody knows who is in a high zone or in a low zone. Who knows what the actual radiation dose to an individual is? There are no measurements of what they consumed in water and food.

“This is the Navy’s best attempt to take a few data points they have and extrapolate over the entire group. They took a lot of measurements, but those represent just a point in time. It’s like taking a strobe light outside to take a picture of a nighttime scene. Every time the strobe flashes you will get shots in spots of the area. But do you really capture all of the darkness?”

The Navy Life – Into the Abyss

To the US Government, Operation Tomodachi was just another big humanitarian aid and rescue mission in which the nearest Navy fleet and many land-based personnel rushed to the aid of an ally in need. In this case, the northeast coast of Japan had been flattened by a massive earthquake and tsunami, which destroyed infrastructure, killed some 20,000 citizens and left 315,000 refugees, many of whom may never return to their homes in contaminated areas.

Operation Tomodachi – named after the Japanese word for Friend – began as a large logistical exercise. It seemed that way to the American sailors, both land based and in the USS Ronald Reagan Aircraft Carrier Strike Group. The view from Washington was that Operation Tomodachi would enhance the long ties between allies.

Then everything changed.

The nuclear fuel in reactors 1, 2, and 3 at Fukushima Daiichi overheated and melted down, creating a hydrogen cloud in the process, which exploded, spiking radiation readings on detection monitors across Japan. Hydrogen from Unit 3 migrated through a shared venting system into Unit 4 and blew off its roof as well, exposing the spent fuel pool and its 1,500 bundles of fuel rods containing a lethal mix of cesium, iodine and plutonium.

Transcripts of meetings and conference calls hosted by Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko showed steadily increasing concern as newer data contradicted previous data and measurements of radiation from the Navy differed markedly from the information coming from the Japanese government and TEPCO, the giant utility which owned the stricken reactors. (NRC’s Operation Center Fukushima Transcript. Note large censored passages, including the identity of the speaker)

The NRC itself was flying blind. The agency had believed it was virtually impossible to have multiple meltdowns at the same site. As a result, their emergency models all involved the healthy plant using its working systems to control critical systems in the stricken plant until the problems were solved. Jaczko had publicly urged calm and for Americans in Japan to follow the guidelines of the Japanese government. NRC press releases in the United States all stated prominently that there was no danger from radioactive fallout.

But the transcripts tell another story.

On March 14 Jaczko’s conference call was interrupted by Jack Grobe, Deputy Director for Engineeringin the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, with bad news:

“JACK GROBE: Okay, guys, I apologize for bothering you, but things are degenerating quickly. This reminds me of the drill. [...]

what’s really troubling is that we, we have had that wind shift — the Chairman’s here, by the way — we’ve had that wind shift and the wind is out of the northeast blowing towards the southwest. That’s inland and towards Tokyo. And there’s an aircraft carrier in the port just south of Tokyo. It’s about 180 miles from the site, about 10 miles southwest of Tokyo, and they’re measuring on the order of 10 to 20 millirem over a 12-hour period total effective dose and roughly five to 10 times that, thyroid. [...]

JACK GROBE: The, the answer is the dose rates don’t seem to be consistent either with what would be released or with the timing that it would take for a plume to get 180 miles away from the site to the southwest.

MIKE WEBER: Yeah, well, that’s what struck me when you told us what’s going on.

JACK GROBE: Yes, but the, the feedback through Trapp from the admiral is that they used multi* instruments and confirmed this in multiple ways [BLACKED OUT]

MIKE WEBER: Wow.

JACK GROBE: They do operate nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, so they must have a level of competence that’s fairly decent. [...]”

This was new territory, and they could not trust data from the Japanese.

For the Americans in Operation Tomodachi, this meant they would be improvising throughout the crisis. They faced the dual needs to conduct search and rescue missions in a devastated landscape with little functioning infrastructure while guarding against unseen and unforeseen contamination from the stricken reactors.

To officials at the Defense and State Departments, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Operation Tomodachi was a successful, limited duration event in which the military worked in a civilian humanitarian mission. It was requested, logged, and finished.

But military operations are carried out in real time by people implementing orders from half a world away who have to live with the consequences of making the mission succeed.

And for some of the Americans sent into action, Operation Tomodachi would mean the end of a career and dream of service in the US Navy, and the start of a new life laced with anxiety.

The Junkie’s Kid

Michael Sebourn was just another kid nobody wanted, from a neighborhood nobody cared about, with a future leading towards jail or death and a life nobody would have missed. Then he met the US Navy.

“My mother was a drug addict and my father was killed when I was 18 months old trying to rob a drug dealer,” he said. “We lived in the housing projects in Charleston, South Carolina. My stepfather was abusive and spent all the money my mother made on drugs and alcohol. I was malnourished and underweight.”

At age five he was sent to live with his grandparents, who died two years later. He moved in with an aunt in Gary, Indiana, a poor white kid in a predominantly poor, black part of a decaying city.

“I never thought I would ever be able to accomplish anything,” Sebourn said. “I knew college was out of the question because I was poor. I worked in a factory for a while after high school, but that didn’t work out and I was homeless for three months, living out of a truck and driving to Wal-Mart parking lots to sleep.”

He moved back in with his aunt. He had a bad attitude, made bad choices, and “had a couple of run-ins with the law. I needed something new. I had nothing going for myself at all and I wanted a fresh start. I asked my aunt if I should join the military and she ran into the kitchen and got her car keys and said ‘let’s go’. Two days later I was gone.”

He did well in the Navy’s Great Lakes training station and when he was offered a choice of assignments, it turned out to be administrative. “Something clicked,” he said of his entry into the Navy in 1993. “I got my pride back. I got a sense of worth and I started succeeding. I decided serving in the Navy was something I needed to do.

“It was the first time I felt I had a home. It was the first time I felt I had a family.”

It would not be his only family.

He landed in Japan 17 years ago, loved it and stayed at the Navy’s Misawa naval air base, working his way up to head mechanic for the helicopter squadrons based there. He married a Japanese woman and, eventually they had a son. He was half a world and a full life away from the drug dens of South Carolina. He was a Navy man.

The Athlete and the Musician

Maurice Enis was a tall, strapping kid from the frost belt of Rochester, Minnesota whose world revolved around sports and physical fitness. “I was running track at Century High School in Rochester,” he recalled, “doing the 400 and 200 meters and wanted to continue.

“My coach was an ex-Marine who had traveled the world, competing for the military. It sounded like a great life and I wanted to compete for the Navy, too. When I was 19, we went down to the recruiting station and talked about the opportunities they had, and I enlisted. It was 2007, but there was a lot of crying at home because my Mom was afraid I would get hurt because of the war and 9/11. But I told her that this is what I want to do with my life.

“And it was good. It saved me, in a way. I was aimless and it taught me a lot more about my time and what you can do and accomplish. Being deployed, you have no time to do anything extra. Every minute of the day is accounted for. When you get out and have 24 hours to play with, I can accomplish so much more now because I can manage my time and I learned how to prioritize.

“I really did grow up in the Navy. They didn’t have track and field in the Navy anymore, so I chose navigation and general quartermaster. There is the old school way, navigation using different celestial bodies, and the new way, which is all math and computers. You learn to use all the different navigation systems that we have. You apply it to the paper nautical charts and use the satellites and you can actually figure out exactly where we are in the water.”

He also fell in love.

Jaime Plym came from as far away from the snow as one can get without swimming in the Caribbean, which she also enjoyed. She grew up in St. Augustine, Florida, one of the nation’s oldest cities and went on to attend Jacksonville University for two years as a music major, playing bass clarinet.

I decided I wanted music in my life,” Plym said, “but I didn’t want it as my job. I quit school and just worked as a pre-school teacher in Gainesville. I wanted to go back to school, but I had been on a music scholarship and I didn’t have the money for any other major.”

She felt aimless, and went home and loafed on the beach as 2007 drew to a close. She had a brother who was in the Marines and decided she, too, could join the service. “But I wanted to be out to sea,” she said. “I wanted to be on a big ship.”

Plym and Enis were in the same class at the Great Lakes training center and came together at the end. “I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” she said. “They told me about quartermaster, which meant we worked at the command center and were responsible for navigation. I signed up for it.”

Navigation is critical, especially on an aircraft carrier. Other naval craft can move and shift to be in the most favorable position regarding the wind and the currents, with their navigators finding the best and quickest routes to take. That is especially important if there is danger approaching, like a slow moving radioactive cloud.

Navigators on an aircraft carrier do not have that luxury. Their quarter-mile deck slowly rolls side to side, and up and down in accordance with the sea. They must find the smoothest spot and hold it for the duration of the mission, regardless of what comes. After the aircraft leave the deck, the ship must remain at that spot so they can find their way back.

That makes dodging dangerous winds and radioactive currents problematic.

But they didn’t know that when they graduated from the training camp and began life as quartermasters and navigators on the USS Ronald Reagan, head of a carrier battle group plying the South Pacific.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Plym. “We were friends at first, and then we started dating.”

On March 11, 2011, the USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Strike Group 7 were headed for port in South Korea as a tsunami struck the northeastern coast of Japan.

“We knew right away they were going to redirect us to go to Japan and provide aid,” Plym said. “We were there by 5 AM the next morning.

“We didn’t know about the reactors,” said Enis. “Wedidn’thave outside contact like the internet or cable to know what was going on on land. We just knew there was a major crisis. We had no idea about the nuclear plants till they notified the captain of a possible radiation scare. That’s when we found out that there might be a possible radiation leak.

Something New: Radiation

Operation Tomodachi began with the request for help from the Japanese Embassy to Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs who quickly turned to Gregory Jaczko, then chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who would regularly brief President Barak Obama on the escalating difficulties on land.

What had begun as a rescue mission was being increasingly complicated by spreading radiation from Unit 1 at the six-reactor, Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear complex. At least three other reactors were in danger of failing, including the spent fuel pool of reactor Unit 4, holding 1,535 bundles of irradiated fuel.

On March 12, as the USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Strike Group 7 arrive two miles off the coast, Fukushima Unit 1 blows up. Unit 3 would explode March 14, and the hydrogen gases migrating through a shared vent would also destroy the containment building at Unit 4, exposing the spent fuel pool to the air. Unit 2 would explode March 15. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) would announce that most of the fuel in Units 1,2, and 3 are intact. They were not. They had fused into a molten mass and were oozing through the bottom of their destroyed reactors.

The Japanese government, not wanting to acknowledge that the situation was getting out of control, did not activate its military, the Self Defense Forces, to airlift water to the stricken Unit 4 and continuously drop it on the spent fuel to keep it from exploding in a nuclear fuel fire. According to Asahi Shimbun, a leading Japanese newspaper, which obtained the communications between Tokyo and Japan’s embassy in Washington, Mullen sent a cable to Fujisaki Ichiro, Japan’s ambassador to the US, stating that the SDF should be used to cool the reactors:

“The U.S. military believes the No. 4 reactor is in danger. It feels every step should be taken to cool the reactor, including using the SDF,” the cable said. “The United States has made various preparations to deal with the nuclear accident. The president is also very concerned…” (link)

At the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Jack Grobe is leading a crisis team in the 24-hour Operations Center in nearly constant conference calls with Jaczko and a team in Japan. Their previous scenarios – including the long held belief that it was impossible to have multiple meltdowns in a single nuclear complex, and that the containment structure would stop radiation from spreading from a reactor to the environment – have proved disastrously wrong and their scenarios for keeping people safe from spreading radiation are being called into question.

The NRC’s redacted transcript of those conversations shows that after the explosion at Unit 4 Grobe says in exasperation, “The projections on releases with the containment intact are completely insignificant now.

“I mean, this is beginning to feel like an emergency drill where everything goes wrong and you can’t, you know, you can’t imagine how these things, all of them, can go wrong.”

But the NRC released several daily press releases, all reassuring the public that there was no danger to the public.

And on the high seas and at the American naval installations, the sailors of Operation Tomodachi were on their own.

This is part one of a two part series by Roger Witherspoon.

Fox Blames Minorities For Obesity In NYC Firefighter Recruits

Fox host Alisyn Camerota made a deliberate point of linking firefighter flunkies to race when she reported that “as many as 30” New York City firefighter recruits are too obese for the job. Without bothering to point out that obesity rates among firefighters are causing concerns all over the country or that women are also part of the FDNY recruitment efforts, Camerota highlighted increased minority recruitment as the only factor to consider:

Well, they sued for the right to become New York City firefighters but now they’re flunking out. As many as 30 trainees have already dropped out because they’re too overweight to meet the physical demands of the job. And more are expected to go. The first recruited class since 2008 was formed after a judge ordered the department to become more racially diverse. But now veteran firefighters are fuming, saying the candidates are oversized and underperforming and need to be cut breaks to pass their tests.

Do you think anyone in the Fox audience failed to connect the dots?

Apparently, this “news” was based on a similar report from sister company NY Post that also linked the problem to minorities. However, the Post pointed out what Camerota didn’t: the class was not made up of applicants from the general population:

FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano excluded applicants from the general population for this Academy class, limiting the pool to medics, whose ranks include a higher percentage of minorities than is found in firehouses.

…But they were rated only on a written exam. In years past, applicants had to score high on both a written and a physical test.

… The department’s own EMS Academy head, Lt. David Russell, admitted in a 2011 report that even when FDNY recruits from EMS got extra help, “the overall fitness of these recruits is still poor.”

In other words, it's quite likely that the population of medics, whose work, as the article also pointed out, is mostly sedentary, has a lower fitness rate than the general population. But Camerota misleadingly gave the impression that the same people who sued (a black fraternal firefighters organization) are the same people now flunking out.

By the way, those “fuming” “veteran firefighters” Camerota cited in her report seem to be anonymous ranters on a bulletin board not associated with the FDNY. The Post also wrote that “Veteran firefighters are fuming over the quality of the new recruits” and backed that up with comments from a few posters on a site called FDNY Rant.

Christians Protest Yoga in Schools — But Welcome Bible Study

Whether yoga is religious is a less important question than whether we really have separation of church and state in the public schools.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

February 26, 2013  |  

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The following is reprinted with permission from  Religion Dispatches. You can sign up for their free daily newsletter  here.

When is touching your toes just touching your toes, and when is it an effort to indoctrinate small children in Hinduism?

That is the question that emerged from reporting in the  New York TimesFox News, and the  Guardian on the threat of a lawsuit by a group of public school parents in Encinitas, Calif., over a yoga class in a public elementary school.

But the most compelling aspect of the controversy has nothing to do with the religious nature of yoga, or with the fears of parents. Rather, the case raises serious questions about the separation of church and school, and about the many religiously-driven programs that are already active in public education, even in Encinitas. As it turns out, there is so much religion in public education today that the fuss over yoga is like worrying about a stain on your blouse when your trousers are covered in mud.

There are two important ways to think about the issue of yoga -- or other potentially religiously-inspired content in public schools. The first test has to do with the content of the program; the second has to do with the connection of the sponsoring organization to the curriculum being presented.

Mary Eady, one of the parents organizing against Encinitas’ yoga program,  described to a  Times reporter what she sees as religious content: “They’re teaching children how to meditate, how to look for peace and for comfort… It’s meant to shape the way they regulate their emotions.” She characterized the “Sun Salutation,” a basic series of yoga poses in which the student stretches his or her hands to the ceiling, as “a movement sequence that worships the sun god Surya,” and claimed that “yoga, including its physical practice, is very religious indeed.” Her legal representative, Dean Broyles, chief counsel for the Escondido-based National Center for Law & Policy, is even more adamant, asserting that the Sun Salutation constitutes sun-worship.  

Eady works at a Christian organization called Truthxchange, whose chief mission is to “respond to the rising tide of neopaganism.” Her lawyer’s organization, NCPL, is an affiliate of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly the Alliance Defense Fund), a conservative Christian legal advocacy group that has litigated on behalf of evangelical activity in schools and the broader public square. As might be imagined, the ADF takes a dim view of “neopaganism,” whatever that means to them.

However, if Eady’s and the ADF’s views are correct -- that the Sun Salutation and other yoga moves are indeed intrinsically religious -- perhaps they have a point.

I put these challenges to the school administrator who runs the program, Assistant Superintendent of the Encinitas Union School District David Miyashiro, who dismissed the idea. “The exercises are not in any way religious,” he told me flatly. “I oversee the development of the curriculum, and I make sure that it is designed to conform with the Presidential Physical Fitness Standards. There is nothing religious about that.”

A problem with the NCPL position might be that they are challenging a practice (a hands-over-head stretch) that isn’t religious in and of itself. The hands-over-head stretch only becomes religious in the context of a larger tradition. In this sense, stopping kids from yoga stretching because it is religious in some contexts makes about as much sense as banning kids from shaving their heads simply because it reminds you of Buddhism.

However, the organizational test raises more serious concerns in this case. Encinitas’ yoga program is partially funded by a grant from the  Jois Foundation, which is contributing to teachers’ salaries, curriculum development, and even yoga mats. The Foundation is associated with the family of the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, a yoga teacher who popularized a form of yoga called Ashtanga. Mary Eady and the ADF claim that the Jois Foundation is a religious organization. The director of the Jois Foundation, Eugene Ruffin, says it is not.

Brennan’s Loose Talk on Iran Nukes

cia

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on John Brennan to head the CIA focused on lethal drones, but Brennan’s loose talk lumping Iran with North Korea as nuclear threats could be even more worrisome, recalling Iraq WMD exaggerations, as Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity warn Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

MEMORANDUM FOR: Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Due Diligence on John Brennan

We write to urge you to ensure due diligence regarding John Brennan’s fitness to become CIA director before you make the next-to-the-worst mistake of your tenure on the Senate Intelligence Committee by endorsing Brennan. Your worst – perhaps you will now agree – was your vote to authorize war on Iraq.

With your vote in October 2002 on Iraq, you oddly parted company with most of your Democratic colleagues on the committee, including chairman Bob Graham. They saw through the flimsy intelligence. After a five-year committee investigation was completed in 2008, then-chairman Jay Rockefeller concluded:

“In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”

Brennan Now Taking Aim at Iran?


 
This recent history is highly relevant because, at the time, John Brennan had a ringside seat for this unconscionable charade as it was being acted out (more on that below).  Of still more importance are recent signs that Mr. Brennan intends to ape his discredited mentor, former CIA Director George Tenet, by slanting intelligence to “justify” an even more catastrophic attack – this time, on Iran.

How else to explain why Brennan, in his prepared testimony to your committee on February 7, departed sharply from the longstanding position of U.S. intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. He said:

“And regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang remain bent on pursuing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile delivery systems.”

Whatever grounds there may be for suspicion that Iran might be seeking a capability that eventually would allow it to rapidly break out of Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) constraints on building a nuclear weapon, there is even less evidence that Iran is seeking an ICBM capability. Iran has never flight-tested a ballistic missile with ranges in excess of its 2200-kilometer range Sajjil MRBM. Nor has it launched a space rocket that would be a suitable model for an ICBM.

Conflating Iran and North Korea, as Brennan does, seems too clever by half. The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a non-nuclear-weapons member of the NPT, not only denies any intent to pursue nuclear weapons, but also declares such an intent immoral. In contrast, North Korea withdrew from the NPT after President George W. Bush labeled it one of the three points on an “axis of evil” (together with Iraq and Iran). Pyongyang declares a nuclear weapons capability against the United States essential to deter the kind of attack inflicted on Iraq.

These issues have been on the front burner for years. Brennan’s statement is one of several that raise serious doubt regarding his suitability to head the CIA. It can be no secret to you and your committee colleagues that his statement deviates sharply from the unanimous, “high-confidence” judgment of all 16 intelligence agencies that Iran stopped working on nuclear weaponization at the end of 2003 and has not resumed that work. That key intelligence judgment, reached in 2007, has been revalidated by U.S. intelligence and reaffirmed by the Director of National Intelligence in sworn testimony before your committee every year since.

Fraudulent, Not Flimsy

“Fraudulent” is the inescapably appropriate adjective to describe the pre-Iraq-war intelligence conjured up by those (first and foremost George Tenet) who did the bidding of George Bush and Tony Blair. Former CIA colleagues who served under Brennan before and during the Iraq war tell us that, since he was such a close confidant of Tenet, Brennan almost certainly knew chapter and verse about the deliberate corruption of the intelligence on Iraq. And yet, we have no indication that you have investigated whether Brennan was part of that fateful conspiracy.

British documents leaked in 2005 – acknowledged as authentic by the UK government – detailed the hoax being prepared to “justify” war on Iraq. In a July 23, 2002 briefing to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the head of British intelligence reported that then-CIA Director George Tenet had told him at CIA headquarters three days earlier that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” for war on Iraq.


In the Loop vs. In the Chain


It is not too late for you to look into what role John Brennan played in these key events. Was he, for example, one of the small circle of senior CIA officials who met with the head of British intelligence on July 20, 2002? We don’t know the answer to that, but you might be able to find out if you ask. From our experience with such meetings, it seems likely that either Brennan or his boss A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard would have been among those taking part. You could ask each of them. You should be able to expect straight answers.

Whether Brennan was in the loop for the lies on Iraq is not an idle question, impinging as it does on his integrity. And yes, integrity matters. It matters a great deal. Why not instruct your staff to determine how many fraudulent-intelligence-related memos Brennan received, just as they did in identifying at least 50 torture-related memos that show him to have been “in the loop” on that sensitive subject.

We strongly encourage you not to acquiesce again in the lame in-the-loop-but-not-in-the-chain-of-command alibi Brennan used on February 7, in answering questions regarding his contemporaneous knowledge of CIA waterboarding and other abuses, and what he did or did not do with that knowledge. Presumably, with your long tenure on the Intelligence Committee, you are thoroughly familiar with the guarded way in which very sensitive intelligence-related information is handled – first and foremost, the basic principle of “need-to-know.”

Need-to-Know

Brennan was kept informed of the torture because Tenet wanted him to be – that is, in Tenet’s view, Brennan had a need to know. That is why, as Sen. Saxby Chambliss pointed out, Brennan was “cc-ed” on “a minimum of 50 memos” dealing with waterboarding and other controversial interrogation techniques. Chambliss noted that Brennan’s boss, A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, told the Wall Street Journal that Brennan had a role in setting the parameters of the program and “helping to seek Justice Department approval for the techniques.”

This is a far cry from what Brennan admitted to – namely, just having had “awareness that the agency was being asked to do this [and] was going forward on it. … [and having] visibility into some of the activities there.” Again, on the basis of the fundamental principle of need-to-know, Brennan would have had zero “visibility” into the highly sensitive torture program, were Tenet not to have wanted him to be involved – or, at least, kept informed about it.

If CIA officials wrote memos on the sensitive issue of torture, it seems altogether possible that they wrote memos about warping intelligence, too, while restricting dissemination to those with a need-to-know. You may wish to try to get ahold of any such memos, in order to determine if either the “loop” or the “chain” included Brennan.

There is Still Time

By no means were you the only Congressperson to fall for what Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the State Department, has branded the “hoax” on Iraq. But you are now chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Would it be asking too much to request that you take greater pains to exercise due diligence, this time around, regarding those playing fast and loose with key intelligence judgments that can lead to war?

First, please find out what evidence John Brennan is relying upon for his assertion that Iran is “bent on pursuing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile delivery systems.” Does he know something others should know? Or are we beginning to see the makings of another consequential hoax?

Second, please look closely into the role Brennan played at his mentor’s side, as George Tenet corrupted the intelligence process to service White House lust for war on Iraq. See what you can find out. If it turns out that those conjuring up “uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent” intelligence kept Brennan in the loop (as the torture aficionados did), the fact that Brennan did not blow the whistle is enough, in our view, to remove him from consideration as CIA director.

Drones and Dead Civilians

You began Brennan’s confirmation hearing by stating that the number of civilian deaths caused by US drone strikes each year has “typically been in the single digits.”

 This brought to mind the extraordinary public claim Mr. Brennan made on June 29, 2011, that “nearly for the past year there hasn’t been a single collateral death” as a result of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

Could Brennan have forgotten the widely reported drone strike just three months earlier (on March 17) that killed 42 Pakistanis, most of them civilians? Could he have forgotten the strong protest that the Pakistani government lodged decrying those killings in the town of Datta Khel?

Just two days ago (February 20), Sen. Lindsey Graham publicly put at 4,700 the total number of those killed by U.S. drone strikes in the past decade. This is the first time a United States official has provided a casualty figure for U.S. drone attacks. Interestingly, Graham’s estimate is very close to the high side of the estimated range given by the UK-based Bureau for Investigative Journalism for “total reported killed” in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia: 4,756.

What does John Brennan say about these inconsistencies? Have you checked back with those who told you the annual kill-rate for civilians has “typically been in the single digits?” We suggest that you ask Mr. Brennan to try to resolve these discrepancies before your committee takes further action on his nomination.

VETERAN INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS FOR SANITY, STEERING GROUP

Phil Giraldi, Directorate of Operations, CIA, retired

Larry Johnson, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA; Department of State; consultant, Department of Defense

Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., retired Lt. Col., USAF

David MacMichael, PhD, CIA & National Intelligence Council (NIC) analyst

Tom Maertens, Foreign Service Officer and NSC Director for Non-Proliferation

Ray McGovern, US Army Infantry/Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA, retired

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, NIC

Coleen Rowley, former Special Agent and Minneapolis Division Counsel, FBI

Ann Wright, Col., US Army Reserve (ret.), former Foreign Service Officer, Department of State

Human intelligence is declining according to Stanford geneticist

AFP Photo / Johannes Eisele

AFP Photo / Johannes Eisele

Ever can’t help but think you’re surrounded by idiots? A leading scientist at Stanford University thinks he has the answer, and the bad news is things aren’t likely to get any better.

Dr. Gerald Crabtree, a geneticist at Stanford, has published a study that he conducted to try and identify the progression of modern man’s intelligence. As it turns out, however, Dr. Crabtree’s research led him to believe that the collective mind of mankind has been on more or a less a downhill trajectory for quite some time.

According to his research, published in two parts starting with last year’s ‘Our fragile intellect. Part I,’ Dr. Crabtree thinks unavoidable changes in the genetic make-up coupled with modern technological advances has left humans, well, kind of stupid. He has recently published his follow-up analysis, and in it explains that of the roughly 5,000 genes he considered the basis for human intelligence, a number of mutations over the years has forced modern man to be only a portion as bright as his ancestors.

“New developments in genetics, anthropology and neurobiology predict that a very large number of genes underlie our intellectual and emotional abilities, making these abilities genetically surprisingly fragile,” he writes in part one of his research. “Analysis of human mutation rates and the number of genes required for human intellectual and emotional fitness indicates that we are almost certainly losing these abilities,” he adds in his latest report.

From there, the doctor goes on to explain that general mutations over the last few thousand years have left mankind increasingly unable to cope with certain situations that perhaps our ancestors would be more adapted to.

“I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues. I would also make this wager for the ancient inhabitants of Africa, Asia, India or the Americas, of perhaps 2000–6000 years ago. The basis for my wager comes from new developments in genetics, anthropology, and neurobiology that make a clear prediction that our intellectual and emotional abilities are genetically surprisingly fragile.”

According to the doctor, humans were at their most intelligent when “every individual was exposed to nature’s raw selective mechanisms on a daily basis.” Under those conditions, adaption, he argued, was much more of a matter than fight or flight. Rather, says the scientists, it was a sink or swim situation for generations upon generations.

"We, as a species, are surprisingly intellectually fragile and perhaps reached a peak 2,000 to 6,000 years ago," he writes. "If selection is only slightly relaxed, one would still conclude that nearly all of us are compromised compared to our ancient ancestors of 3,000 to 6,000 years ago.”


That doesn’t mean it’s all downhill, though. Dr. Crabtree says, “although our genomes are fragile, our society is robust almost entirely by virtue of education, which allow strengths to be rapidly distributed to all members."

"We have a long time to solve it. People 300 years ago had no idea where we'd be scientifically now," he says. "We'll be able to deal with this problem with a range of humane and ethical solutions."

British teen backpacker missing in Outback

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PE lessons ‘not pushing pupils’

Many PE lessons are failing to improve pupils' fitness, while not enough youngsters are playing competitive sport to a high level, inspectors have warned. In a new report, Ofsted raised concerns that many schools are failing to push their sportiest pu...

I Was an Atheist Child, and the Girl Scouts Didn’t Want Me

The news this week from Scoutland brings controversy over a proposed end to the ban on gay Americans. But here’s another dirty little secret. The Boy Scouts also officially discriminate against atheists and agnostics. For much of their history, the Girl Scouts did, too, but in 1993, the national organization had the sense to stop this unfair and distinctly un-American practice.

That was too late for me. I was a Brownie in 1978, and wanted to become a Girl Scout. It was not to be.

I had a hard time fitting in as a kid. My Sunday school teacher’s eyes shot daggers at me when, after a lesson on the Virgin Mary, I asked, “Was Joseph a virgin, too?” I just didn’t take to the religion thing. Alongside my Bible, I read Bullfinch’s Mythology, and I much preferred the Greek gods. They fell in love and had adventures and didn’t seem to take themselves so seriously. There was laughter in heaven.  Jesus was sort of okay – I liked some of his sermons. But the Bible seemed filled with harsh desert people (mostly men) morbidly obsessed with death and suffering. What had they to do with me?

When I was eight, I became a Brownie and took much pleasure in my crisp little uniform and close association with mint chocolate cookies. I vaguely recall winding yarn around popsicle sticks and doing things like that to prove my craftiness. Like most Brownies, I yearned to join the green ranks of the Girl Scouts, so I dutifully earned Brownie points in preparation for the big event when I would be pinned by a troop leader and accepted into the upper echelon of girldom.

But something unexpected happened during the Induction Ceremony. The ritual of transition from Brownie to Girl Scout was very sacred and solemn and involved, among other things,  staring into a pool of water. It also required me to pledge an oath to God. (You can check out a video of some little tykes saying it here).

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

This pledge didn't sit right with me, for the simple reason that as far as I could tell, God didn’t exist. To pledge an oath to him would be lying. I stood frozen when it was time to swear fealty to a non-existent being. Probably I could have gotten away with just mouthing the words, but a feeling in the pit of my stomach told me that was wrong. I sheepishly mumbled my dilemma to the troop leader and she looked at me with the exasperation adults get when confronting a pint-sized pain in the ass. “Well, that’s what it takes to be a Girl Scout.” Confused, ashamed, and a little defiant, I took off my sash and handed it to her.

That was that. I would never have those illustrious Girl Scout badges for basket weaving and what not proudly streaming across my chest. The green uniform would not be mine. Part of me was a little relieved, because I wasn’t the sportiest of children and joining the Scouts meant proving my fitness for things like orienteering and riflery. I still like the cookies, though.

Compared to the Boy Scouts, today’s Girl Scouts are known as the more progressive example of youth programming. According to The Atlantic, the Boy Scouts of America still “expressly prohibits membership (even as Cub Scouts) of atheists and agnostics.”  The Girl Scouts, on the other hand, are now cool with atheism and have shown a fondness for New Agey tenets. They've even drawn the ire of Catholic bishops. I’ll give them points for that.

America’s Top Sniper ‘Shot Dead By PTSD Veteran’

America's 'most lethal sniper' was killed on a shooting range by a former soldier he was trying to help recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, police have said.

Chris Kyle, a former Navy Seal, was shot dead at the site in Texas - where he had taken the Iraq war veteran and another friend to try to aid his recovery.

The man is alleged to have turned his gun on both Mr Kyle, 38, and his friend, Chad Littlefield, 35, shooting them both dead.

Police have charged 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh with two counts of murder and set his bail at \$3m (£1.9m).

Capt Jason Upshaw, from Erath County Sheriff's Office said a semi-automatic handgun was found at Routh's home.

He said that after the shootings, Routh drove to his sister's home in Midlothian and told his sister and brother-in-law what he had done. After he left, his relatives called the police.

Capt Upshaw said Routh had not revealed what his motive was.

Mr Kyle, a decorated veteran, wrote the best-selling book called "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History," which was about his 160 kills of insurgents from 1999 to 2009.

According to promotional information from book publisher William Morrow, Mr Kyle was deployed to Iraq four times.

He had started a not-for-profit company called Fitco Cares, which provided at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

After the shooting, Travis Cox, the organisation's director and friend of Kyle's, told Associated Press: "What I know is Chris and a gentleman — great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield — took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them."

Mr Cox added: "Chris was literally the type of guy (that), if you were a veteran and needed help, he'd help you.

"And from my understanding that's what happened here. I don't know how he came in contact with this gentleman, but I do know that it was not through the foundation.

"It was just two great guys with Chad and Chris trying to help out a veteran in need and making time out of their day to help him. And to give him a hand. And unfortunately this thing happened."

Mr Cox said the shooter then took Mr Kyle's truck and fled.

Sgt Lonny Haschel said Erath County Sheriff's deputies responded to a call about a shooting at the Rough Creek Lodge, west of Glen Rose, at around 5.30pm on Saturday.

He said police found the bodies of Mr Kyle, who was married with children, and Mr Littlefield at the shooting range, but that Mr Routh had fled to his home in Lancaster, around 17 miles from Dallas.

‘American Sniper’ Author Fatally Shot at Texas Gun Range

The best-selling author and Navy SEAL was allegedly killed by a fellow war veteran with PTSD

February 3, 2013  |  

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Chris Kyle, an Iraq war vet and former  Navy SEAL — and the best-selling author of  “American Sniper” — was shot to death, along with another man, by 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh, on Saturday afternoon. The shooting took place at a Texas gun range, according to Sheriff Tommy Bryant, of Erath County, who spoke with the Texas news media. Kyle, who was 38, was considered the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, killing over 150 insurgents from 1999 to 2009.

According to both the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, the two men were found dead at Rough Creek Lodge’s shooting range west of Glen Rose, about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth. The Star-Telegram reports that witnesses saw a gunman open fire on the men on Saturday afternoon, around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, before fleeing in a pickup truck belonging to one of the victims. The suspect, Routh, was taken into custody in Lancaster, southeast of Dallas, and arraigned on two counts of capital murder. The motive for the shooting remains unclear, but according to a report from CBS News, the victim’s friend Jason Kos — the co-founder with Kyle of FITCO Cares foundation, which donates fitness equipment to veterans — said Kyle frequently took veterans to gun ranges to bond with them.  The Star-Telegram cites a report from WFAA/Channel 8, which quoted unnamed sources who say that Kyle and his neighbor, 35-year-old Chad Littlefield, had taken Routh to the range to help him deal with PTSD, before Routh turned on them and shot them in the back. But the sheriff cannot confirm the details at this time. Last January, Routh was arrested in Johnson County on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to the Cleburne Times-Review.

At the time of his death, Chris Kyle was in the midst of a legal battle with former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, who sued Kyle for defamation, over his claim in “American Sniper” that he punched Mr. Ventura in 2006 in a bar, when the governor made unpatriotic remarks. Mr. Ventura claims it was a fabrication — there was no punch, and no such remarks were made. The lawsuit was proceeding, however, and was set to go to trial on August 1.

Kyle, who had two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars for his bravery after four tours of duty in Iraq, was nicknamed “the Devil” by Iraqi insurgents, who put a $20,000 bounty on his head.  His memoir, which he wrote with Scott McEwen, lent insight into the mind of the most prolific sniper in American history. “Every person I killed, I strongly believed they were bad,”  Kyle said in an interview with the BBC  a year ago.  McEwen notes with horror the bitter irony of Kyle’s death: ”It just comes as a shock and it’s staggering to think that after all Chris has been through, that this is how he meets his end, because there are so many ways he could have been killed.” Kyle is survived by his wife and two children.

Frontrunning: February 1

  • 'London Whale' Sounded an Alarm on Risky Bets (WSJ)
  • Deadly Blast Strikes U.S. Embassy in Turkey (WSJ)
  • Abe Shortens List for BOJ Chief as Japan Faces Monetary Overhaul (BBG)
  • Endowment Returns Fail to Keep Pace with College Spending (BBG) - More student loans
  • Mexico rescue workers search for survivors after Pemex blast kills 25 (Reuters)
  • Lingering Bad Debts Stifle Europe Recovery (WSJ)
  • Peregrine Founder Hit With 50 Years (WSJ) - there is hope Corzine will get pardoned yet
  • Deutsche Bank to Limit Immediate Bonuses to 300,000 Euros
  • France's Hollande to visit Mali Saturday (Reuters)
  • France, Africa face tough Sahara phase of Mali war (Reuters)
  • Barclays CEO refuses bonus (Barclays)
  • Edward Koch, Brash New York Mayor During 1980s Boom, Dies at 88 (BBG)
  • Samsung Doubles Tablet PC Market Share Amid Apple’s Lead (BBG)
  • Hagel Endures Republican Criticism as Levin Sees Approval (BBG)
  • U.S. sues to stop beer deal to unite Bud and Corona (Reuters)

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* The JP Morgan Chase & Co trader known as the "London whale" tried to alert others at the bank to mounting risks months before his bets ballooned into more than $6 billion in losses, according to people familiar with emails reviewed by J.P. Morgan and a U.S. Senate panel.

* The U.S. government filed suit to block Anheuser-Busch InBev's $20.1 billion deal to buy the rest of Grupo Modelo, saying it would reduce competition.

* Chinese hackers believed to have government links have been conducting wide-ranging electronic surveillance of media companies including The Wall Street Journal, apparently to spy on reporters covering China and other issues, people familiar with incidents said.

* President Barack Obama let his jobs council disband Thursday as its two-year charter expired, sparking criticism among Republicans and conservative economists that the group had provided more show than substantive policy.

* Morgan Stanley said it would increase the salaries of Chairman and Chief Executive James Gorman and other top executives to make their pay more competitive.

* AirAsia Bhd's chief executive hopes to list the group's Indonesia arm on the Jakarta stock exchange in the third quarter as the budget carrier seeks to expand its foothold in Southeast Asia's largest air travel market.

* Roomy Khan, one of the first cooperating witnesses who helped build the U.S. government's case against convicted hedge-fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, was sentenced to one year in prison Thursday.

* Animal-medicine maker Zoetis Inc, which is being carved into a standalone company by drug maker Pfizer Inc, raised about $2.2 billion in an initial public offering, a strong showing for the largest IPO deal from a U.S. company since Facebook Inc debuted last May.

* Best Buy Co is closing 15 of its 75 big-box stores in Canada as its new chief executive tries to stem slumping sales and profits at the consumer electronics chain.

FT

BARCLAYS IN QATAR LOAN PROBE - UK authorities are looking into an allegation that Barclays lent Qatar money to invest in the bank during the height of the 2008 financial crisis, allowing it to avoid a government bailout, according to unnamed sources cited by the newspaper.

SEYMOUR PIERCE'S FUTURE UP IN THE AIR - The board of Seymour Pierce held talks on Thursday night over the future of the stockbroker, with an unnamed source saying this has come about due to the FSA previously blocking funding from Ukrainian backers.

AB INBEV'S 20 BILLION DOLLAR DEAL THREATENED BY US SUIT - The United States moved to block Anheuser-Busch InBev in its 20 billion dollar acquisition of Grupo Modelo , the Mexican brewer, saying it would lead to an increase in prices and deter competition.

BERTELSMANN SEEKS BUYER FOR TWO BILLION EURO RTL STAKE - German media group Bertelsmann said it intends to sell a stake in broadcasting subsidiary RTL, aiming to raise up to 2 billion euros

LAWSON URGES FULL NATIONALISATION OF RBS - Former Conservative finance minister, Nigel Lawson said the UK government should nationalise RBS and there was a case for no bonuses to paid this year.

DEUTSCHE BANK RISES ON CAPITAL STRENGTH - The bank offered good news to investors reporting a capital base above expectations, bolstering its share price.

CHINA'S WORKERS ENDURE UNHAPPY NEW YEAR - An austerity drive by the new Chinese leadership of Xi Jinping has led government departments and state-owned enterprises to cut back or cancel new year festivities.

US BANKS SQUEEZED AS MORTGAGE PROFITS HIT - Bonanza profits at US banks from mortgages are being squeezed, raising doubts about earnings at lenders such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others.

WASENDORF GETS 50 YEARS JAIL FOR FRAUD - A federal court in the United States sentenced the ex head of collapsed future broker Peregrine Financial Group, Russell Wasendorf Sr., to 50 years in prison.

NYT

* The Justice Department has sued to block Anheuser-Busch InBev's proposed $20.1 billion deal to buy control of Grupo Modelo, the first major roadblock in a decade of consolidation by brewers around the world.

* A bankruptcy court judge approved a broad settlement deal on Thursday that paves the way for MF Global customers to recover much of the $1.6 billion that disappeared when the brokerage firm blew up in 2011.

* European antitrust officials on Thursday accused drug giants Johnson & Johnson and Novartis of colluding to delay the availability of a less expensive generic version of a powerful medication often used to ease severe pain in cancer patients.

* James Gorman, chief executive of Morgan Stanley, will receive a huge raise in his base salary this year, but his overall pay package for 2012 was down from 2011, according to a regulatory filing.

* Pfizer Inc's animal health unit, known as Zoetis, raised $2.2 billion in its initial public offering on Thursday, exceeding expectations by pricing its stock at $26 a share, above the expected range of $22 to $25 a share. The sale values the company at about $13 billion.

* Roomy Khan, a central figure in the investigation that led to the conviction of hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, was sentenced to one year in prison on Thursday for illegally passing inside information and obstructing justice.

* Fabrice Tourre, the Goldman Sachs trader accused of misleading clients over a controversial mortgage deal, is no longer working at the firm.

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

* Canada will begin a two-year stint at the helm of the eight-nation Arctic Council amid a clamor of competing calls for leadership, as the ice recedes and the race heats up to extract resource riches while protecting a fragile and now-exposed environment.

* Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is publicly at odds with a key member of his team again, this time in a he-said, she-said spat with the Toronto Transit Commission chair.

The verbal tussle over the approval last week by the transit commission of a 15-year sole-source contract is the latest example of Ford's difficulty seeing eye to eye with even fiscal conservatives on council.

Reports in the business section:

* The Canadian economy expanded at its fastest pace in more than half a year, but the bigger picture is still one of slow growth. The country's gross domestic product rose 0.3 percent in November, Statistics Canada said Thursday, its strongest showing in seven months as auto makers and oil firms ramped up activity.

NATIONAL POST

* Prime Minister Stephen Harper says while some of his Conservative Members of Parliament may not agree, abortion is legal in Canada. Harper made the comments while under questioning in the House of Commons over a letter written by three Tory MPs who want the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate hundreds of abortions as possible homicides.

FINANCIAL POST

* Two of Canada's biggest retailers, Best Buy Canada and Sears Canada Inc, announced layoffs Thursday in what is shaping up to be a turbulent and competitive year for the country's retail sector.

China

PEOPLE'S DAILY

-- Premier Wen Jiabao pledged that China would continue its opening up policy during a meeting with foreign experts on Monday.

SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS

-- The People's Bank of China (PBOC) drained a net 300 billion yuan ($48 billion) via reverse bond repurchase agreements in its open market operations in January as the country's interbank market was flooded with cash.

-- The recent serious pollution in Beijing has given rise to suspicion of the quality of China's fuel and gasoline.

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

-- Sources say Chinese authorities have suspended a plan to expand an experimental property tax now levied in a few cities including Shanghai and Chongqing.

-- A monthly index issued by China's national fund for protecting stock investors shows that in January, investor confidence in the domestic equity market reached its highest since April 2011 as the main Shanghai Composite Index began a sharp rebound since early December.

CHINA BUSINESS NEWS

-- High costs and bureaucracy have made 78 percent of Chinese firms feel it is difficult to operate in the European Union, according to a survey by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

CHINA DAILY (www.chinadaily.com.cn)

-- In a move aimed at strengthening personal data protection, companies will be instructed to delete customer information after use, according to new guidelines implemented on Friday.

Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

AB InBev (BUD) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Bernstein
Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at William Blair
Audience (ADNC) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank
Chubb (CB) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank (DB) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Ericsson (ERIC) upgraded to Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse
GameStop (GME) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
Greenway Medical (GWAY) upgraded to Strong Buy from Market Perform at Raymond James
Neutral Tandem (IQNT) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at Raymond James
Oracle (ORCL) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
PACCAR (PCAR) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Verizon (VZ) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
W. R. Berkley (WRB) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank
WMS Industries (WMS) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Goldman
Wynn Resorts (WYNN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney Capital

Downgrades

AB InBev (BUD) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Societe Generale
ARMOUR Residential (ARR) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Alkermes (ALKS) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Amerseco (AMRC) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Bob Evans (BOBE) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
Brightcove (BCOV) downgraded to Outperform from Top Pick at RBC Capital
Colfax (CFX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
Constellation Brands (STZ) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Constellation Brands (STZ) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Copart (CPRT) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
Edison International (EIX) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at SunTrust
HSBC (HBC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Harris Teeter (HTSI) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
Harris Teeter (HTSI) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
HealthSouth (HLS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Hologic (HOLX) downgraded to Reduce from Neutral at SunTrust
Life Time Fitness (LTM) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at William Blair
MasterCard (MA) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Quiksilver (ZQK) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Time Warner Cable (TWC) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Time Warner Cable (TWC) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
UPS (UPS) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Viacom (VIAB) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Whirlpool (WHR) downgraded to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James

Initiations

Blue Nile (NILE) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
Edwards Lifesciences (EW) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Helmerich & Payne (HP) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
NCI Building Systems (NCS) initiated with a Buy at BB&T
Nabors Industries (NBR) initiated with an Underperform at Credit Suisse
National Oilwell (NOV) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Oceaneering (OII) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Oil States (OIS) initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse
Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Precision Drilling (PDS) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Shutterfly (SFLY) initiated with a Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Sunshine Heart (SSH) initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Zoetis (ZTS) initiated with a Buy at ISI Group

HOT STOCKS

Sprint (S): DISH (DISH) proposal for Clearwire (CLWR) is “illusory”
Moody's said DOJ suit is credit negative for AB InBev (BUD) but doesn’t change rating
Barrick (ABX) considering sale of Barrick Energy unit, other assets, Bloomberg reports
Chubb (CB) announced new $1.3B share repurchase plan
Sees FY13 net written premiums up 2% to 4%
Goodyear Tire (GT) to exit farm tire business in Europe, Middle East and Africa region
OCZ Technology (OCZ) sees 20%-30% company growth year-over-year
Brink's (BCO) to divest cash-in-transit operations in Germany
Said will be “very difficult” to match 2012 earnings
Viad (VVI) sees FY13 revenue decreasing “at a low to mid single-digit rate”
Newell Rubbermaid (NWL) sees FY13 net sales up 1% to 3%

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Viad (VVI), Chubb (CB), C.R. Bard (BCR), Fortune Brands (FBHS), Bally Technologies (BYI), Affymetrix (AFFX), Principal Financial (PFG)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Brink's (BCO), Consolidated Edison (ED), McKesson (MCK), Wynn Resorts (WYNN), bebe stores (BEBE)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Eastman Chemical (EMN), Reinsurance Group (RGA), PerkinElmer (PKI)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

The JPMorgan Chase (JPM) trader known as the "London whale"--Bruno Iksil--tried to alert others at the bank to mounting risks months before his bets ballooned into more than $6B in losses, sources say, the Wall Street Journal reports
Asian manufacturing data today suggested the region's economic recovery is continuing. HSBC's China PMI reached a two-year high of 52.3 from December's 51.5, while the official PFLP number fell to 50.4 from December's 50.6, the Wall Street Journal reports
Dell (DELL) is close to an agreement to sell itself to a buyout consortium led by its founder and CEO Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, with a deal coming as soon as Monday, sources say, Reuters reports
Airbus (EADSY) studied alternatives to lithium-ion batteries for its next jet, the A350, and has time to adapt to any rule changes prompted by the problems that have grounded Boeing’s (BA) 787 Dreamliner, says CEO Fabrice Bregier, Reuters reports
Anheuser-Bush InBev (BUD) may have to give up more control of U.S. beer distribution or sell a brewery to settle an antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. to block its $20.1B takeover of the rest of Grupo Modelo SAB (GPMCF), Bloomberg reports
Equity funds attracted six times the money that went into bonds in the week ended January 30, according to a Citigroup (C) report that cited EPFR Global data. Stock funds drew $18.8B, exceeding the $3B that went into bonds, as 58% of the equity inflows went into North American funds, with exchange-traded funds being the largest beneficiaries, the analysts wrote, Bloomberg reports

SYNDICATE

Bonanza Creek (BCEI) 11.5M share Secondary priced at $29.50
Chesapeake Lodging (CHSP) files to sell 6.25M shares of common stock
Echo Therapeutics (ECTE) 13.33M share Spot Secondary priced at 75c
Navios Maritime Partners (NMM) files to sell 4.25M shares of common stock
Penn National (PENN) files to sell convertible preferreds and stock for REIT structure
United Insurance (UIHC) files to sell 717K shares of common stock for holders
Zoetis (ZTS) 86.1M share IPO priced at $26.00

Your rating: None

Nonprofit Spends Big on Politics Despite IRS Limitation: American Future Fund Has Conservative Roots

Last fall, a cadre of wealthy business executives and conservative groups tried to sell California voters on new campaign finance reforms.

Couched in lofty rhetoric about the importance of cutting off money from special interests to politicians and other regulations favored by reformers, their proposal sought to ban the practice of using payroll deductions for political expenditures — a popular method of union fundraising.

Once alerted to the true nature of Proposition 32, the unions and political left rose up against it.

An innocuously named nonprofit, the Iowa-based American Future Fund, proved to be one of the biggest backers of the initiative, sinking more than $4 million into the ballot measure that voters ultimately rejected.

As a “social welfare” organization, the American Future Fund is not required to publicly disclose its donors. But to maintain its tax-exempt status under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code, influencing elections cannot be its primary purpose.

The American Future Fund’s investment in California was part of a nationwide, political advertising spree in 2012 that exceeded $29 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state and federal records.

That amount included more than $19 million on efforts designed to oust President Barack Obama, as well as millions more to oppose Democratic candidates for Congress and even two state attorneys general. Now the group is funding adsopposing Obama’s nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for defense secretary.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens Uniteddecision in 2010, nonprofits such as the American Future Fund have played a more prominent role in electoral contests — all while giving their supporters the ability to keep their identities hidden. During the 2010 midterm elections, politically active nonprofits outspent super PACs, which exist to fund political advertisements, by a 3-to-2 margin.

The American Future Fund ranked third among “social welfare” nonprofits in spending in the 2012 federal election,according to the Center for Responsive Politics, trailing only the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

There are also Democratic-aligned nonprofits, but their spending was well below that of their conservative counterparts. The top left-leaning nonprofit was the League of Conservation Voters, which reported spending about $11 million in the 2012 election opposing or supporting candidates.

The American Future Fund’s spending “raises some serious questions” and “evades any form of meaningful disclosure,” said Adam Rappaport, senior counsel with watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Numerous officials with the American Future Fund did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Advocating for ‘free-market ideas’

The American Future Fund’s mission is to “educate and advocate for conservative and free-market ideas,” according to its annual filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

Despite asserting that it isn’t primarily focused on elections, the nonprofit’s DNA is decidedly political.

Conservative political operative Nick Ryan, a longtime adviser to former GOP Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa, founded it in 2007. Over the years, the group has paid Ryan’s firm, Concordia Enterprises, hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for consulting services.

In 2010, the New York Times reported that Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter provided an unspecified amount of “seed money” for the organization. Ryan once represented four of Rastetter’s companies as a lobbyist, including Hawkeye Energy Holdings, one of the country’s largest ethanol producers.

The nonprofit’s first president was Nicole Schlinger, the former finance director of Iowa’s Republican Party. Its current president is veteran Republican state Sen. Sandra Greiner, who served for 14 years as the Iowa chairwoman of the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council.

Ryan and Greiner did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2008, when the American Future Fund was seeking — and ultimately garnered — tax-exempt status from the IRS, it pledged to abstain from electoral politics, saying it would spend 70 percent of its time doing work to “educate the public on policy issues” and 30 percent engaging in efforts to “influence legislation through grassroots advocacy.”

When asked on its application if the group had any plans to spend money to “influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment” of anyone seeking public office, it answered “no.” It also vowed to stay out of the presidential race.

When the IRS subsequently inquired why the group’s advertisements “appear to be more partisan than nonpartisan,” the group’s attorney, Karen Blackistone, wrote that the efforts were “strictly issued-based and nonpartisan.”

The group takes a position on issues and encourages the public to contact their representative, she wrote in a 2008 response to the IRS.

“AFF’s advertisements have never commented on a candidate’s character, qualifications or fitness for office,” she stated.

Big money tied to post office box

The American Future Fund has raised more than $60 million, with spikes in contributions coming in election years.

Much of that money has come from another conservative “social welfare” nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors by name — the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights.

The nonprofit has no website and lists its address as a post office box in Phoenix. It was launched in 2009 by Republican operative Sean Noble, who has extensive ties to the vast political network underwritten by the Koch brothers.

Noble, a former chief of staff for former Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

For three years running, Noble’s organization has reported making substantial grants to the American Future Fund for “general support,” according to IRS filings. The nonprofit contributed more than $14 million to the American Future Fund between 2009 and 2011, or 51 percent of funds the group raised over the three-year period.

The Center to Protect Patient Rights has also given millions of dollars to a network of conservative groups, including the Koch-backed nonprofit Americans for Prosperity, as was first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In addition to Noble, there is another Koch connection.

In 2008, Trent Sebits, the former manager of public and government affairs for the Kochs’ Wichita-based refining giant, Koch Industries, registered with the state of Kansas to lobby on behalf of the American Future Fund and Americans for Prosperity. Sebits did not respond to a request for comment.

The American Justice Partnership, another “social welfare” nonprofit, gave $50,000 to the American Future Fund in 2011 and $2.4 million in 2010, according to IRS filings. The group supports free enterprise and is often at odds with trial lawyers.

Dan Pero, its president, said in an emailed statement that the organization supported the American Future Fund to help “promote free enterprise and improve the fairness and predictability of the legal environment.”

Like super PACs, “social welfare” nonprofits are allowed to accept unlimited donations from individuals, corporations, unions and other organizations. The only funders whose names they are required to publicly disclose are those that make contributions earmarked for political purposes.

That’s as it should be, according to attorney Dan Backer, who is not affiliated the American Future Fund but does work with other conservative groups.

“A nonprofit makes its decisions by a board or other management structure, which is distinct from its donors,” Backer said.

Increasingly political

In 2010, the American Future Fund became far more politically active, reporting $8.6 million in political expenditures as well as millions more for “media services,” “telecommunications” and “mail service/production.” It told the Federal Election Commission that it spent $9.1 million on political advertisements.

Marcus Owens, former chief of the IRS’s nonprofits division, said it is “difficult to conjure up a situation where a particular expenditure would be reportable to the FEC but would not constitute political campaign intervention under tax law.”

Nevertheless, Owens said the organization could make a “straight-faced argument” that its orientation had simply changed over time to become more overtly political.

Of the $25 million that the American Future Fund reported spending to the FEC last year, more than 90 percent fueled ads that urged voters to support or reject candidates.

The group also sought the FEC’s advice on whether mentioning the White House or “the administration” in negative ads ahead of Election Day would be seen as referring to a “clearly identified candidate for federal office.”

Such a designation would have required the group to disclose information about its donors. (The commission deadlocked, 3-3, in a vote along party lines.)

In addition to the presidential race, the American Future Fund spent money in 20 congressional elections in 2012, including California’s 26th Congressional District, where it spent $500,000 attacking Democrat Julia Brownley, who, as a state legislator, had authored legislation to bolster disclosure for political advertisements.

She won anyway, but told the Center for Public Integrity that she is “deeply concerned” about the activities of non-disclosing groups in the wake of Citizens United and hopes to “take immediate action” to strengthen federal disclosure laws.

The American Future Fund also spent more than $542,000 to aid West Virginia Republican Patrick Morrisey in his successful quest to win the race for attorney general, records indicate, and more than $620,000 in a failed effort to sink Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat.

Complaints about the American Future Fund’s political activities have followed it since its creation.

In 2008, the Democratic Party in Minnesota contended that the group needed to register as a political committee after paying for ads that praised then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. The FEC disagreed.

Two years later, in October 2010, consumer group Public Citizen and two other organizations alleged that the American Future Fund’s “huge expenditures” to aid candidates in the midterm election should have triggered requirements that the group register as a political committee and disclose its donors. That complaint is still being considered by the FEC, which often takes years to fully resolve such matters.

CREW, the watchdog organization, filed a complaint against the American Future Fund with the IRS in February 2011 that challenged whether its primary purpose was something other than influencing elections. The group has dismissed the complaint as “baseless” and contends that CREW “only targets government officials and organizations who have a differing or conservative point of view.

Don’t Put a Fork in It: On the Perils of Genetically Engineered Salmon

While most Americans were enjoying the holiday season or stressing out over the nation’s imminent leap off the so-called fiscal cliff, the Food and Drug Administration delivered some big news as quietly as possible.Fishy Genes. (OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib)

On December 21, the agency announced that AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon had cleared the final hurdle before clinching FDA approval.

Despite insufficient testing and widespread consumer opposition, AquaBounty’s food experiment is dangerously close to becoming the first genetically engineered animal produced for human consumption. Yes, a newfangled fish may soon land on a dinner plate near you.

For those who have been following this news for the past several years, the timing of the FDA’s release of its draft environmental assessment — the Friday before Christmas — was no surprise. But the news was still frightening: The FDA may give this transgenic animal the green light under a new approval process that treats the fish as an “animal drug.”

Prefer your salmon without those eel genes spliced into its DNA? Pay close attention because this frankenfish may hit the market without any sort of label.

It seems that AquaBounty and the FDA don’t believe consumers deserve the right to know whether the fish we eat is genetically engineered. Those who have demanded labeling for genetically engineered food will be unable to identify this transgenic salmon from standard farm-raised varieties.

Not only does this ignore our fundamental right to know what we are putting on our plates, it’s also a bad business decision. It’s entirely possible that many Americans will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered.

AquaBounty, the biotech company responsible for bringing us this fishy salmon, used its own data to convince the FDA that it is safe to eat. But AquaBounty’s profits are inextricably linked to approval of this salmon. It’s outrageous that the FDA would take AquaBounty’s word over that of dozens of lawmakers and scientists, including experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service, not to mention thousands of concerned consumers.

The FDA has the difficult task of protecting consumer safety, but it’s hard to take it seriously when it comes to genetically engineered salmon. So far, they’ve failed to conduct the appropriate studies to determine if the fish is safe to eat. Independent scientists have skewered the FDA’s process, noting that serious environmental concerns have not been examined while food safety issues related to hormone levels and allergies have been glossed over.

Even AquaBounty’s claim of faster growth rates is suspect. The company hasn’t yet demonstrated that its transgenic salmon can grow faster than salmon without its new traits. And that’s the whole reason they say it should be approved. SalmoBreed AS, a Norwegian company specializing in the selective breeding of Atlantic salmon, has directly challenged AquaBounty on this point.

By releasing an environmental assessment instead of a more thorough environmental impact statement, the FDA has failed to fully consider the threat this controversial new fish could pose to wild fish populations.

While the FDA is close to approving genetically engineered salmon for consumers, Congress can still keep them from unleashing this dangerous experiment. Consumers don’t have million-dollar accounts with K Street lobbyists, but we do have a powerful voice of opposition, one that has effectively put the brakes on this untested laboratory experiment for more than two years. Members of Congress are speaking out against this controversial fish. Let your elected officials know you don’t want this frankenfish on your plate. Visit Foodandwaterwatch.org to find out how.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. She has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans.

Martha Raddatz Shuts Down George Will Over Women in Combat

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Is Sitting Worse Than Smoking?

Yet another report says that staying seated for hours on end is dangerous. Maybe it's time we take a stand.

January 10, 2013  |  

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I have some news for you. Are you sitting down for it? Psych! Because the news is: Don’t sit down. Your chair. It’s going to smite you.

This is likely not the first time you’ve heard the warning. On “Rock Center” Thursday, NBC News’ Natalie Morales offers the latest take on the story, blowing the lid off America’s deadly epidemic of sitting down.  “Sitting all day long is literally killing us,” says obesity expert Dr. James Levine, who describes exactly what you’re probably doing right this moment as “dangerous behavior.” And in case you’re thinking none of this applies to you because you Zumba, Morales adds, “A trip to the gym, while beneficial, can’t undo the damage done all day.”

The “Rock Center” report is just the latest in a string of bad news for the Snuggie demographic. Back in April, the New York Times urged readers to  “Don’t Just Sit There.”In it, Gretchen Reynolds revealed the sobering results of a recent study on the hazards of staying seated, including the compelling statistic that “Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes.” It turns out that watching “The Bachelor” may actually be worse for you than a pack of Kools. In August, Forbes solemnly wrote of  “death by sitting” — and how a rise in sales of stand-up desks suggests the stigma of looking “goofy” is waning in light of health fears. And an October New York Times story, which quickly wound up posted on the Facebook page of every office-working person in America, cited another study that found that in stark contrast with our hunting, gathering and otherwise on-the-go ancestors,  “The average adult spends 50 to 70 percent of their time sitting.” The consequences for the sedentary are dire – “a 112 percent increase in their relative risk of developing diabetes; a 147 percent increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease; and a 49 percent greater risk of dying prematurely — even if they regularly exercised.” Considering that the average  child now spends almost six hours a day in front of some form of electronic screen, the imminent potential of the human race to go the way of WALL·E seems increasingly real. But the question is – what are we supposed to do about it?

And, as with any new health trend, it’s easy to go off the deep end. The Boston Globe recently noted the inevitable rise in  “competitive non-sitting,” in a story that featured an anecdote about a woman shamed by her friends for wanting to take a table instead of standing healthfully at a packed bar. Great, something else for people to be smug about while they chug their kombucha.

Frankly, despite the enthusiastic raves of my friends who’ve made the switch to standing, my own butt is still getting used to last year’s darling —  the damn yoga ball. Recalibrating my home-office setup – conveniently located in the living room I share with my family – isn’t likely in the immediate future, nor is parting with my beloved vintage steelcase tanker and swapping it for  a treadmill desk. Not when  I feel enough like a hamster on the wheel as it is. But I am going to be more vigilant about getting up for stretching breaks (I use and recommend a simple app called  StopRSI for reminders), heeding Gretchen Reynolds’ advice on the exponential benefits of “simply breaking up the long, interminable hours of sitting.” Similarly, I have made it a goal for the new year to curtail my non-work chair time. After all, how many videos of baby sea otters can one person watch anyway? And I consider it a helpful sign that my local coffee shop/neighborhood second office recently plunked a tall table area in the middle of the room, the better for its clientele who prefer to work vertically.

Tony Perkins Gets His Knickers In A Twist Over Military Yoga

Tony Perkins should just go away. No one pays any attention to anything he says except those who are as extreme as he is -- which is to say, not many. Apparently the severe problems associated with seeing active service are a reflection of having a poor relationship with Jesus, and not the many traumas to which soldiers are exposed:

With a temporary ceasefire declared in the war over Christmas, fundamentalist Christian conservatives are looking for other places that religion may be under attack — and one radical thinks that that place may be the military.Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, a right-wing Christian think tank that has been classified as a hate group, has flipped out over a “wacky” new initiative being tested in U.S. military training programs. No, it’s not the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” — it’s yoga and meditation classes.

A new Mind Fitness Training program being tested in the U.S. military has integrated yoga, breathing classes and meditation alongside other more traditional training regimes to keep soldiers calm and mentally fit and to reduce depression and use of alcohol and drugs. To Perkins, however, this new initiative is a stand-in for one’s personal relationship with God.

When he heard about the goals of the program — that yoga promotes relaxation, mental calm, productivity and restraint from substances— he exploded:

“What a coincidence–so does faith! Unfortunately, the military seems intent on driving religion out and replacing it with wacky substitutes,” he said on his morning radio program. “They’ve added atheist chaplains, Wiccan worship centers, and now, meditation classes. But none of them are as effective or as constructive as a personal relationship with God. Unfortunately, though, it’s mind over what matters–and that’s faith.”

Perhaps one shouldn’t tell Perkins this, but faith hasn’t really been keeping up its end of the bargain lately — at least as far as the mental health of service members goes. The suicide rate of active service members has skyrocketed in the last few years. In 2012, the U.S. military averaged one suicide every single day, with service members were — shockingly — more likely to commit suicide than be killed on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, there is already a disturbing pattern of aggressive Christian proselytizing and accusations of government-sponsored prayer in major military institutions, including at West Point and the US Air Force Academy, which some say is more divisive than healing. A Yale Divinity School study voiced “concern that the overwhelmingly evangelical tone of general Protestant worship encouraged religious divisions rather than fostering understanding among basic cadets.”

When you think of the numerous stories about military members being targeted and harassed for their lack of belief, or passed over for promotions, you know what a shameless hack Perkins is. Why, oh why, is he ever invited onto "news" channels?

Teen Computer Gamer Drives Into Record Book

A Cardiff teenager who trained himself to become an international racing driver by playing a computer game in his bedroom has entered the record books.

Jann Mardenborough had always wanted to be a racing driver and was told by the owner of his local kart circuit that he was a natural at the age of 11.

But when the circuit closed down, he could no longer afford to pursue his dream on the track so instead started taking part in virtual races on the videogame Gran Turismo.

His years of playing the game paid off when in the middle of 2011, Jann, whose father Steve was a professional footballer, beat 90,000 other gamers to win the European round of GT Academy.

The competition was set up by Sony and Nissan to find the fastest player on Gran Turismo 5 and see if it was possible to transform them into a real racing car driver.

It was, and after six months of driver and fitness training at Silverstone, Jann went on to finish third in class at last year's Dubai 24 Hour race.

He described his achievement, at the age of just 19, as the "weekend of my life".

With his victory, he also cemented his name in the Guinness World Records Gamers Edition 2013 as the Youngest Gran Turismo Academy Winner Turned Pro Racing Driver.

His talents also won him a place driving or Nissan in the Blancpain endurance Series.

Another British entry featuring in the Guinness World Records Gamers Edition 2013 is 15-year-old Jacob Gaby from Bushey, Hertfordshire.

He has taken the title as the Highest Score on FIFA after scoring 189 goals in one game – nearly five goals a minute.

Jacob, who spends seven hours a week playing FIFA, said: "It’s incredible to have the record but I can’t let it go to my head – I've got my school exams coming up."

The record for the Largest Collection of Videogame Memorabilia went to Brett Martin, 31, from Colorado, USA, who has amassed more than 8,000 items.

Mark Slevinsky, 30, a computer engineer from Alberta, Canada, took the record for the Smallest Arcade Machine for his device which is smaller than an iPhone.

Christian Fundamentalist Freak Out Over Yoga in the Military

Yoga could put a small dent in the extreme stress on soldiers, meanwhile there's aggressive proselytizing at key military institutions.

January 9, 2013  |  

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With a temporary ceasefire declared in the war over Christmas, fundamentalist Christian conservatives are looking for other places that religion may be under attack — and one radical thinks that that place may be the military.

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, a right-wing Christian think tank that has been classified as a hate group, has flipped out over a “wacky” new initiative being tested in U.S. military training programs. No, it’s not the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” — it’s yoga and meditation classes.

A new Mind Fitness Training program being tested in the U.S. military has integrated yoga, breathing classes and meditation alongside other more traditional training regimes to keep soldiers calm and mentally fit and to reduce depression and use of alcohol and drugs. To Perkins, however, this new initiative is a stand-in for one’s personal relationship with God.

When he heard about the goals of the program — that yoga promotes relaxation, mental calm, productivity and restraint from substances— he exploded:

“What a coincidence–so does faith! Unfortunately, the military seems intent on driving religion out and replacing it with wacky substitutes,” he said on his morning radio program. “They’ve added atheist chaplains, Wiccan worship centers, and now, meditation classes. But none of them are as effective or as constructive as a personal relationship with God. Unfortunately, though, it’s mind over what matters–and that’s faith.”

Perhaps one shouldn’t tell Perkins this, but faith hasn’t really been keeping up its end of the bargain lately — at least as far as the mental health of service members goes. The suicide rate of active service members has skyrocketed in the last few years. In 2012, the U.S. military averaged one suicide every single day, with service members were — shockingly — more likely to commit suicide than be killed on the battlefield. 

Meanwhile, there is already a disturbing pattern of aggressive Christian proselytizing and accusations of government-sponsored prayer in major military institutions, including at West Point and the US Air Force Academy, which some say is more divisive than healing. A Yale Divinity School study voiced "concern that the overwhelmingly evangelical tone of general Protestant worship encouraged religious divisions rather than fostering understanding among basic cadets."

On the other hand, new programs like the Mind Fitness Training program are, in part, a non-religious response to these soaring suicide rates and the recognition that, for active service members, mental health and well being is just as important as physical training.

So far, service members appear to appreciate the program.

“A lot of people thought it would be a waste of time,” Sgt. Nathan Hampton said to the Washington Post.

 “But over time, I felt more relaxed,” he continued. “I slept better. Physically, I noticed that I wasn’t tense all the time. It helps you think more clearly and decisively in stressful situations. There was a benefit.”

Unfortunately, Perkins is devoted to espousing his twisted religious doctrine, even if it threatens the health and safety of U.S. service members. How …. godly of him.

List to his whole rant:

Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and activist in New York City.

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