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Video: Psychiatrists “Deeply Concerned” by Trump’s Instability Call for Urgent Mental Health Evaluation

https://democracynow.org - We continue our interview with someone who's led a discussion of mental health professionals who are deeply concerned about President Trump's psychological...
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Video: “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”: Psychiatrist Dr. Bandy Lee on Growing Mental...

https://democracynow.org - Questions over President Donald Trump's mental health continue to grow, following his speech on Wednesday where he slurred his speech and mispronounced...
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Video: “There are Thousands of Us”: Mental Health Professionals Warn of Trump’s Increasing Instability

https://democracynow.org - As questions over President Donald Trump's mental health grow, we continue our interview with Dr. Bandy Lee, a forensic psychiatrist on the...

60% of kids referred for mental healthcare in England sent home without treatment —...

Published time: 27 Nov, 2017 11:06 Edited time: 27 Nov, 2017 11:43 A new report...

May’s promise to tackle mental health undermined by stats — RT UK News

Published time: 26 Oct, 2017 12:41 Edited time: 27 Oct, 2017 09:07 Theresa May has...

Legalize cannabis now or face mental health crisis, warns drug think-tank — RT UK

Britain should legalize cannabis to prevent a mental health crisis, a leading drugs think-tank has...

Swedish Government Orders Study into Mental Health Conditions of Transgender People

The Swedish government has ordered the Public Health Authority to carry out an in depth study into the living conditions and mental...

Children’s Mental Health and Societal Pressures

What is happening to our society? How and when did we lose the joy of just being alive? Increasing numbers of our children are...

5 suicides at Bristol University raise fears of student mental health crisis

Following the suicide of five students in one academic year at Bristol University, southwest England,...

Christian exorcisms on the rise, threaten mental health – report

Published time: 5 Jul, 2017 16:09 Christian exorcisms have seen an “astonishing” increase over the...

Majority of military discharges for misconduct linked to brain injury, mental health – GAO

More than six in 10 service members who were discharged for misconduct had a brain injury...

Federal bill set to provide mental health services for exiting prison inmates

A new bill, introduced by a New York congressman, would provide mental health services for those...

Seven Reasons Why the US’s New Mental Health Law Is Dangerous

(Photo: Agencia de Noticias ANDES; Edited: LW / TO) This week, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act, touting the bipartisan mental health measure...

Back Pain May Raise Risk of Mental Health Problems

A study, involving almost 200,000 participants, finds that individuals who have back pain are more likely to also experience a range of...

Economic Update: Economy, Psychology, Mental Health

This episode discusses Harvard's greed, corporate mega-mergers, Germany outlawing GMOs, campaign fundraising, prison strikes and foreign minimum wages. The show also includes...

Police Kill Alfred Olango, Unarmed Black Man, During His Mental Health Emergency

Police in the San Diego, California, suburb of El Cajon shot and killed an unarmed African-American man Tuesday, after his sister called...
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Video: Sexually abused as children, then silenced by mental health professionals.

Author of 'An Oath To Hell' (2008) Sam Hill and Jenny Grace, who wrote 'Nowhere To Belong' under the penname Harmony Brooks describe early...

Minor childhood head injury increases chance of mental health problems, early death – research

Mild childhood brain injuries could lead to mental illness, poor school attainment, unemployment and premature death, according to new research by Oxford University. Researchers studied...

Mychal Denzel Smith Talks Malcom X, Gender and Mental Health

Mychal Denzel Smith. (Photo: Syreeta McFadden) Mychal Denzel Smith has written an engaging and brilliant book about his growth and transformation as a Black man...

UK govt gambled with troops’ mental health over Iraq & Afghanistan – Chilcot

Multiple wars fought at the same time saw the British government risking troops’ mental health by ignoring their own guidelines on repeated, back-to-back deployments,...

American Wasteland: the Most Urgent Challenge for America is Its Poorly Hidden Mental Health...

The relentless tragedy of narcotic addiction, especially of opiates, across America has overwhelmed already depleted public resources, leaving a trail of devastated communities, families...

Elderly artist sectioned under Mental Health Act after disputing eviction – activists

Eighty-one-year-old artist Tony Healy disputed an eviction order from Lambeth Council in early March, but...

Poor mental health care in England is “ruining lives,” report finds

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Dennis Moore Mental health care in England is now so poor and...

Pre-Crime Police Target Mental Health

Arizona is the latest to begin using pre-crime models to supposedly thwart attacks by those who are "near the breaking point." The video below...

Court: State Trooper Can’t Carry Gun While Off-Duty Due to Mental Health Record

Yet officer is allowed to carry while on-duty, granting him special concession he is not...

Study to Resolve Mental Health Loophole and Gun Ownership Touted

The front page of Sunday's New York Times led with a nearly 5,000-word essay by two journalists amping up the volume in the latest...

Micro-Apartments Could Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health

Vincent MancusoNew York ObserverDecember 21, 2013 Apparently, living in a small New York apartment can cramp...

Remembering Eyad El-Sarraj: Palestine’s Mental Health Pioneer and Human Rights Defender

Sarraj founded and headed Gaza's Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP). He called its mission: “Healing the Spirit. Instilling Hope.” He said “(i)f you're not enjoying...

A year after Newtown, WH OKs $100M for mental health

Dave BoyerWashington TimesDecember 10, 2013 Marking the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook school massacre, the White House will announce a $100 million initiative Tuesday...

‘Crisis in Greece hits mental health’

Economic crisis in Greece hits nation™s mental health (file photo).A study says economic crisis in recession-mired Greece has a major impact on the nation's...

Poll: Americans Now Blame Mental Health System for Mass Shootings, Not Guns

Americans no longer fault “easy access” to guns as number one reason for gun violence Julie...

Manning's anger, mental health issues made him unfit for intelligence work — defense attorneys

Bradley Manning angrily flipped over a table and reached for a superior officer’s weapon during his time in Iraq, when the US Army private’s...

Study: Connecting with Nature Boosts Mental Health and Well-Being

Elizabeth Renter Natural SocietyAugust 2, 2013 According to researchers from the University of Michigan, outdoor recreation...

The Crisis as a Problem of and For Mental Health

Many mainstream studies are now relating mental health problems, including rising suicide and alcohol-related death rates, to the present economic crisis. However, they usually...

Expanded Mental Health Recording Raises Privacy, Gun Control Issues

As more of President Obama’s “Now is the Time” agenda announced in January is implemented, more and more concerns are being expressed over the impact on...

Mental health gun bill goes to Scott’s desk

News4Jax.comJune 19, 2013 A bipartisan gun bill has made its way to the governor’s desk. If...

Now feds want your mental health records

Bob Unruh WND June 15, 2013 Privacy experts are warning of a strategy embedded inside a federal plan to adjust privacy rules so that...

Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth.

March 25, 2013  |  

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At age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.  But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help couldn’t fix the core problem: I was a failure in the eyes of God. It would be years before I understood that my inability to heal bulimia through the mechanisms offered by biblical Christianity was not a function of my own spiritual deficiency but deficiencies in Evangelical religion itself.  

Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Area. She is also the daughter of Pentecostal missionaries. This combination has given her work an unusual focus. For the past twenty years she has counseled men and women in recovery from various forms of fundamentalist religion including the Assemblies of God denomination in which she was raised. Winell is the author of Leaving the Fold - A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion, written during her years of private practice in psychology. Over the years, Winell has provided assistance to clients whose religious experiences were even more damaging than mine. Some of them are people whose psychological symptoms weren’t just exacerbated by their religion, but actually caused by it.   

Two years ago, Winell made waves by formally labeling what she calls “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS) and beginning to write and speak on the subject for professional audiences. When the British Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychologists published a series of articles on the topic, members of a Christian counseling association protested what they called excessive attention to a “relatively niche topic.” One commenter said, “A religion, faith or book cannot be abuse but the people interpreting can make anything abusive.” 

Is toxic religion simply misinterpretation? What is religious trauma? Why does Winell believe religious trauma merits its own diagnostic label?

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is religious trauma syndrome?

Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group. The RTS label provides a name and description that affected people often recognize immediately. Many other people are surprised by the idea of RTS, because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. Just like telling kids about Santa Claus and letting them work out their beliefs later, people see no harm in teaching religion to children.

But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. As Journalist Janet Heimlich has documented in, Breaking Their Will, Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

Mental Health Care and Gun Violence

WASHINGTON - January 24 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that the mass killings at Newtown, Conn., and other American communities have revealed serious shortcomings in access to mental health care.

“Our goal must be to provide mental health care in a timely manner and to do all that we can to prevent these tragedies from happening,” Sanders said, but he stressed that the nation’s mental health crisis goes beyond tragedies involving gun violence.

Veterans returning from war with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury conditions too often go undiagnosed and therefore untreated. Schools need more counselors for kids who are being bullied or who experience challenges at home. Better care also is needed for people struggling with depression, anxiety, addiction and stresses related to the economy. 

Sanders is a member of the Senate health committee which held a hearing today on mental health services.

Sanders cited federal reports that more than 90 million Americans live in areas where there is a shortage of mental health professionals. Fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children with diagnosable mental disorders will actually receive mental health services in a year. The access challenges are particularly acute in rural America where there are not enough psychiatrists to meet the mental health needs of young people and seniors.

While mental health issues sometimes are caught and addressed in doctors’ offices and other primary care settings, there is a severe shortage of primary care physicians in the United States – a problem that will be the subject of a subcommittee hearing that Sanders will chair next Tuesday.

As incoming chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sanders expressed concern that untreated mental health problems contribute to a high rate of suicide. Eighteen veterans per day commit suicide. The problem is so severe that deaths of service members by suicide exceeded deaths in combat last year. Like the health care system in general, VA hospitals and health centers do not have enough mental health practitioners and are not doing enough to treat people in crisis.

“We cannot continue to let down the one-in-four Americans living with a mental health condition and all of us who have loved ones living with mental health conditions, many of whom are not getting the care that they need,” Sanders said. “We must act now. For many it is already too late.”

Comprehensive Mental Health Background Checks for Gun Buyers Is a No-Brainer — And Almost...

The White House and New York State want to use more mental health data, but obstacles abound.

January 16, 2013  |  

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On Wednesday, President Obama said strengthening background checks for gun buyers was one of the key features of his package of gun control reforms, before he signed an executive order telling federal agencies to “clarify that no federal law prevents healthcare providers from warning law enforcement authorities about threats of violence.”
 
And on Tuesday, the fine print of New York’s new gun-control law—rushed through its legislature and signed that day by Gov. Andrew Cuomo—went even further. New York is now requiring mental health professionals to report any mental illness that could lead to violence to police agencies. The police, in turn, will use that referral to revoke any gun license issued to that person, confiscate any guns they own (but pay them), and possibly order forced hospitalization if that person doesn’t follow a treatment plan.

These steps—from the White House issuing executive orders to try to get more and better information into the FBI’s national background check database for gun buyers, to what New York’s Gov. Cuomo is calling the nation’s “ most comprehensive” gun law—are conveying to Americans that better gun buyer background checks are on the horizon.

But health law and policy experts say both the White House—and to a much greater extent, New York state—are overpromising what can be delivered in the near future to strengthen gun buyer background checks, especially when it comes to including and acting on mental health records and information.

“There’s a lot of technical stuff embedded in these issues,” said Richard J. Bonnie, a public policy professor at University of Virginia’s law school who led his state’s review of its gun laws after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that left 33 people dead. “My own view is this is worth doing—trying to make the system have the data that the system is designed to have. But trying to make the system as good as it can be is a big challenge. It’s a bigger challenge than people are willing to indicate.”

The public discussion following the Sandy Hook school shooting in December has included calls for more and better background checks for gun buyers.

On the "more" side of this ledger, was Obama’s call for “universal” background checks. In 1986, Congress created a loophole for buying guns privately at gun shows, with no background check by the FBI. Forty percent of all guns are now sold this way. On the "better" side of this equation is submitting more mental health information to federal and state gun licensing databases, which, as Bonnie said, gets complicated.

The federal background check system is hardly all that it can be, for a variety of reasons.

The first reason is states don’t have to participate if they don’t want to. They can decide what mix of court records—from criminal matters to mental health orders—to submit, as a result of a 1997 Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Antonin Scalia. “A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that there are still 17 states that have made fewer than 10 mental health records available,” the White House said in a report issued Wednesday, highlighting this gap.

“If they don’t want to do it, they can’t be made to do it,” said Bonnie, referring to the Supreme Court ruling about state’s compliance with the 1994 Brady Bill, which created a nationwide system of gun background checks.     

What Congress has done since the 1997 ruling and what the White House proposed on Wednesday, is to offer states new money to create the technical and administrative capacity to collect and submit the background check data. In many states, the lack of political will, incompatible state and county computing systems, and varying mental health systems from county to county are sizeable obstacles, Bonnie said.

Mental Health Privacy Laws

Cenk Uygur Asks Alex Jones if He’s Ever Sought Mental Health Treatment

From this Monday evening's The Young Turks, this interview with Alex Jones wasn't quite as contentious as the one he had with Piers Morgan last week, but it wasn't a whole lot better. I did enjoy watching Cenk get a chance to ask him if he'd ever sought any mental health treatment after listening to quite a bit of his ranting and raving. I can also say it didn't break my heart to see two of these wingnuts tearing each other apart and Jones ripping on Glenn Beck after he criticized his interview on CNN.

Alex Jones to Glenn Beck: ‘Thomas Jefferson would spit on you’:

In this clip from Cenk’s interview with radio host Alex Jones, whose rant on Piers Morgan’s CNN show was dismissed by Glenn Beck as an attempt to make gun advocates seems crazy, Jones says, “You jackass mainline conservatives don’t speak for me. You’re the ones that have discredited true conservatism and libertarianism. Thomas Jefferson would spit on you, you little bastard. You little piece of trash. That’s what I have to say to Glenn Beck.”

If you're in for some more abuse, you can watch the extended interviews with Jones here and here.

What Internet habits say about mental health

Adrian F. Ward and Piercarlo Valdesolo | Consider two questions. First: Who are you? What makes you different from your peers, in terms of the things you buy,...

Call for Brain Scans of Presidential Candidates to Detect Mental Health Problems

By David Gutierrez | A neuropsychiatrist who runs a chain of private brain-scanning clinics has issued a call to scan the brains of presidential...

Gitmo Detainees’ Mental Health Is Latest Legal Battle

By William Glaberson | Next month, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was once a driver for Osama bin Laden, could become the first detainee...

An Environmental and Public Health Disaster Awaits if USDA Gives Organic Label to Hydroponics

Whether food production entails acres of mono-crops, livestock shuttled through assembly lines or orderly tracks of plastic pipelines in factory-scale hydroponics spaces, streamlined production...

Medical Waste Poses a Serious Environmental and Public Health Threat in Pakistan

Imdadullah Khan routinely rifles though a garbage bin in front of Lady Reading Hospital, in Peshawar, Pakistan. "I am looking for used syringes, drips,...

‘Abortion Is a Fundamental Component of a Full Spectrum of Healthcare’

Janine Jackson interviewed Jessica Mason Pieklo about the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling for the July 8, 2016, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly...

‘Abortion Is a Fundamental Component of a Full Spectrum of Healthcare’

Janine Jackson interviewed Jessica Mason Pieklo about the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling for the July 8, 2016, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly...

Impacts of Chemtrails on Human Health: Nanoaluminum, Neurodegenerative and Neurodevelopmental Effects

The Internet is littered with stories of “chemtrails” and geoengineering to combat “global warming” and until recently I took these stories with a grain...

NAACP, Medical, Public Health and Environmental Groups Urge Court to Uphold Clean Air Safeguards

WASHINGTON - February 22 - Eighteen national and state medical, public health, civil rights, environmental, and clean air groups filed a brief late Thursday with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals defending the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) against industry lawsuits aimed at dismantling those rules, and blocking long-overdue reductions in highly toxic air pollutants including mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, and acid gases from existing coal- and oil-fired power plants.

The groups assert the lawsuit has no basis, and should be dismissed. Under the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act, these standards already were more than a decade overdue when the EPA finalized them in December 2011 and are based on successful control measures already in place in many plants.

“With elevated rates of lung cancer, asthma hospitalizations and deaths, mercury poisoning from subsistence fishing and more, for African Americans the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards provide lifesaving protection from the myriad life-sapping toxic chemicals we have been exposed to for decades since we bear the brunt of living near coal fired power plants,” said Jacqui Patterson Director, Environmental and Climate Justice Program for NAACP. “The NAACP’s civil and human rights mission compels us to stand behind the EPA and make sure this rule is upheld as a mechanism for protecting the rights of communities to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live on uncontaminated land.”

The NAACP has highlighted the civil rights issues related to clean air, citing the fact that 68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Also, an African American family making $50,000 per year is more likely to live next to a toxic facility than a white American family making $15,000 per year.

“Power plants spew corrosive acid gases, carcinogens like formaldehyde, and toxic metals—a long list of hazards that rain down on nearby communities or travel miles downwind,” said Janice Nolen, Assistant Vice President, National Policy, for the American Lung Association. “We need these standards to protect not only our children, but older adults, people with lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes, and the poor from toxic air pollution. They cannot protect themselves.”

Coal- and oil-fired power plants are the largest industrial source of air toxics, annually emitting more than 386,000 tons of 84 separate toxics, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel, selenium, acid gases, and mercury. Even in small doses these pollutants cause serious, often irreversible risks of cancer, birth defects, neurodevelopmental problems in children, and chronic and acute health disorders to people’s respiratory and central nervous systems including nerve and organ damage. They also cause serious harms to wildlife, including reproductive and behavioral disorders, and to ecosystems, including acidification of our nation’s waterways.

Power plants account for approximately half of all the nation’s mercury emissions. Many waters with mercury-based fish consumption advisories have no identifiable source of mercury other than airborne emissions, and many of these waters supply food to subsistence fishermen who have no other alternative but to eat contaminated fish, thereby further harming an economically disadvantaged population. Mercury exposure threatens prenatal development, infants and young children. The EPA has estimated that every year, more than 300,000 newborns may face elevated risk of learning disabilities due to exposure to toxic forms of mercury in the womb. Mercury contamination in fish also causes serious damage to wildlife.

EPA’s MATS requirements will annually prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, nearly 5,000 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks. Additionally, the standards will help avoid more than 540,000 days when people have to miss work because of health problems associated with power plant pollution. These “sick” days diminish economic productivity and raise health care costs.

Attorneys for the Clean Air Task Force filed the brief Thursday on behalf of the coalition of public health and environmental organizations defending the MATS rule.

Groups submitting today’s legal arguments, and their counsel, are the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association and Physicians for Social Responsibility, (represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center); Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Clean Air Council, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Sierra Club (represented by Earthjustice), Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Conservation Law Foundation, Environment America, Izaak Walton League of America, Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Ohio Environmental Council (represented by the Clean Air Task Force), and the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Read the brief.

Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 745-5221
Maggie Kao, Sierra Club, (202) 675-2384
Ben Wrobel, NAACP, (202) 292-3386
Tom Zolper, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, (443) 482-2066
Jay Duffy, Clean Air Council, (215) 567-4004, ext. 109
Mary Havell McGinty, American Lung Association, (202) 715-3459
Kathleen Sullivan, Southern Environmental Law Center, (919) 945-7106
John Walke, NRDC, (202) 289-2406
Sharyn Stein, Environmental Defense Fund, (202) 572-3396
Stuart C. Ross, Clean Air Task Force, (914) 649-5037

US health officials warn of cancer & infertility risk — RT US News

The California Department of Public Health has issued guidelines on cell phone exposure, warning residents to...

A selfie a day keeps the doctor away, 3 or more and you could...

Is taking too many selfies bad for your health? Psychologists seem to think so, warning...

Thousands of mentally ill people are being unlawfully detained by police — RT UK...

Published time: 8 Dec, 2017 16:38 Up to 2,000 people a year needing mental health...

‘We Need a Fundamental Shift in the Way We Frame Drug Issues’

Janine Jackson interviewed Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance for the November 3, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly...

Texas church shooter fled mental hospital, threatened Air Force commanders – report — RT...

Published time: 7 Nov, 2017 19:40 Edited time: 7 Nov, 2017 20:17 The gunman who killed...

Is Brexit bad for your health? UK hospitals among most reliant on foreign medics...

Published time: 7 Nov, 2017 09:13 Britain is among the most reliant on foreign doctors...

The Coming Debate Over Health Care Justice

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act participate in a "Save Obamacare" rally in Los Angeles, California, on March 23, 2017. (Photo: Ronen Tivony /...

Smells Like Environmental Racism | By

One morning in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood, I saw the air turn a heavy yellowish-green, like a thick fog. It stunk so badly, it hurt...

Measuring Public Health Impacts After Disasters

Two months after Hurricane Harvey submerged much of metropolitan Houston, recovery is under way across the city. Residents and volunteers are gutting and restoring flooded...

The Global Food and Health Crisis: Monsanto’s Science is Bogus

By Rosemary Mason and Colin Todhunter Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is the new director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). With a $4 billion annual...

Multi-State Suit Targets Trump’s “Reckless Assault” on Healthcare as Anger Flows

Warning of the decision's "great human cost," 19 attorneys general on Friday filed suit in a federal court to stop President Donald Trump's decision...

Health and Human Services Secretary Price resigns amid criticism of his travel on private...

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price has offered his resignation amid a growing scandal...

Is Health Care A Commodity Or Right?

With just a week left before Congress’ budget reconciliation process ends, the Senate is once again peddling a poorly-thought out plan to repeal and replace the...

Tom Price Is Enhancing the Health of the American People By Wasting $60,000 On...

   Hypocrisy, thy name is the malignant gang of grifters, liars and swamp monsters now in control of many American institutions. Thus on Wednesday, we...

Media ‘Extremes’ on Healthcare: Universal Coverage or Taking Healthcare From Millions

For many years, corporate media have largely ignored a single-payer system as a possible solution to the United States healthcare crises (FAIR.org, 3/6/09). This...

Toxic air, poverty, obesity: Health warning for London’s most deprived children

Tens of thousands of children from deprived areas of London are exposed to an array...

Football, the American Tragedy: Public Ignorance Persists on a Major Health Crisis

There's no way to make football "safe," but many choose to believe NFL propaganda. (Photo: Pixabay) The NFL is receiving critical media attention for its...

Adding $200 Billion More Won't Fix Unfixable Senate Health Bill

A group of activists rally against the GOP health care plan outside of the Metropolitan Republican Club, July 5, 2017, in New York City....

Trump admin used public Obamacare funds to undermine health law ‒ report

As President Donald Trump’s administration tries to ‘repeal and replace’ Obamacare, they have reportedly been accessing...

Mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement too long – watchdog

Inmates with mental health issues are kept in solitary confinement longer than their peers in federal...

Is Your Health Being Ruined?

I often find myself looking up the nutrient profiles of the foods I eat. I try to do it on a regular basis, just...

Virginia executes 'mentally ill' inmate despite calls for clemency

Convicted killer William Morva has been executed, despite his mental disorder and appeals from the daughter...

People’s Right to a Healthy Climate Takes Center Stage in Federal Court

Spokane, WA - Spokane residents fighting for the right to a healthy climate will have their day in court on Wednesday, July 12th, in...

‘Monumental failure’: Sinn Fein deadlocked with DUP, UK conservatives dealt another crisis

Northern Ireland's two main political parties have failed to reach a new power-sharing agreement, and...

US Mayors: Instead of War, Spend Big on 'Human and Environmental Needs'

Hundreds of U.S. mayors have rejected the ongoing militarism supported by the present and Congress and instead called for a budget that supports "human...

Study links high use of opioid painkillers to mental disorders

Published time: 26 Jun, 2017 22:15 A study has found that more than half of US...

Health care and the fight for socialism

  ...

Solidarity in the Health Care Struggle: A Message From the Truthout Team

(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout) Dear Readers, At this moment of crisis, with the health care of 24 million people on the line, we at Truthout...

Air Force says it can't fund health study after poisoning water around its base

The US Air Force says it has no authority to pay for a study into the...

Son severs penis, attacks mother in alleged skunk-induced mental break

Published time: 2 Jun, 2017 19:47 Edited time: 2 Jun, 2017 19:49 A British man...

Three Strategies to Defend GOP Health Bill: Euphemisms, False Statements, and Deleted Comments

This story was co-published with Stat and Kaiser Health News. Earlier this month, a day after the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal...

Man behind Times Square rampage claims he tried to get mental help & ‘can’t...

Published time: 21 May, 2017 04:40 Edited time: 21 May, 2017 04:40 The 26-year-old Navy veteran...

Why Market Logic Can't Solve the US Health Care Crisis

(Photo: Sasint; Edited: LW / TO) The ongoing controversy over the American Health Care Act (AHCA) -- the GOP's proposed replacement for the Affordable Care...

What's at Stake When We Talk About Health Care

All across the country, citizens at town hall meetings are asking hard questions to the 217 Republicans like New York's John Faso and Elise Stefanik...

Trump’s first 100 days: The monumental golf edition

Donald Trump has officially racked up 100 days of service as president of the United States...

Women’s Health Is on the Chopping Block, Again

My nieces, who range in age from 17 to 25, grew up in a very different world from the one I knew coming of...

‘No criminal liability’: Cali cops who killed mentally ill man back to full duty

Police officers in Chico, California, were justified in using deadly force to subdue a man they...

"Trump Forest" Blooms to Counter "Trump's Monumental Stupidity" and Attack on Earth

Want to help counter President Donald Trump's war on climate action and combat climate change? Help plant Trump Forest. The brainchaid of climate scientist Dan...

Medicaid Saved Obamacare, and Single-Payer Universal Health Insurance May Be Back on the Agenda...

A lot of the reporting on the GOP's attempted repeal of ObamaCare has focused on the Freedom Caucus, a group of libertarian-minded representatives for...

Bellwether Behavioral Health Is Controversial Group Home Operator AdvoServ — With a New Name

A for-profit company that runs group homes for the developmentally and intellectually disabled has changed its name from AdvoServ to Bellwether Behavioral Health, following ProPublica...

Colorado must protect health & environment before allowing fracking, court rules

The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision on fracking, siding with a group...

The GOP Health Plan Would Make the Opioid Crisis Even Worse

“We will give people struggling with addiction access to the help they need,” Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail in 2016. We’re in the...

3 California prison guards on trial for murder of mentally ill inmate

The trial has begun for three Santa Clara County correctional officers who are accused of involvement...

Media Find Room for ‘Trumpcare Too Progressive,’ but Not for Single-Payer – Right-wing critics...

In May 2009, at the infancy of the healthcare reform battle that led to the Affordable Care Act, a group of nurses and single-payer...

The Republican Health-Care Bill is the Worst of So Many Worlds

With the release of the American Health Care Act, House Republicans have pulled off an impressive feat: managing to alienate virtually everybody with a...

Sweat Shops, GMOs and Neoliberal Fundamentalism: The Agroecological Alternative to Global Capitalism

Much of the argument in favour of GM agriculture involves little more than misrepresentations and unscrupulous attacks on those who express concerns about the technology and its impacts....

No Ban, No Wall: Native American and Human Rights Groups Join Forces With Environmental...

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War on Fundamental Rights in Ukraine

War on Fundamental Rights in Ukraine

by Stephen Lendman

Previous articles called it war without mercy. This writer's new book as editor and contributor explains the most significant post-WW II geopolitical crisis. 

Escalating it risks global conflict. Obama bears full responsibility. Washington stops at nothing to advance its imperium.

Imagine the unthinkable. John Pilger fears Washington "threaten(s) to take the world to war."

"We in the west are backing neo-Nazis in a country where Ukrainian Nazis backed Hitler," he said.

"(A) silent coup has taken place in Washington and rampant militarism now rules."

Ukraine is "a CIA theme park." Its operatives oversee "savage attacks" against Ukrainians wanting to live free.

"Add the risk of nuclear war," said Pilger. Neocons infesting Washington make the unthinkable possible.

Perhaps Eastern Ukrainian war without mercy is prelude for East/West confrontation. It rages. Civilians are fair game. They're being murdered in cold blood.

Not according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. She called fascist aggression "restraint."

Kiev has "every right to take steps to maintain law and order," she said.

"(W)e commend and continue to commend the Ukrainian government's restraint and efforts to limit damage and injury to the civilian population."

Psaki blamed Kiev's crimes of war and against humanity on Eastern Ukrainian freedom fighting victims.

"We have a fundamental disagreement with the Russians about what the Ukrainian government is doing and the validity of their own right to maintain calm and order in their own country," she added.

On Friday, Putin voiced concern over ongoing military aggression. He wants it stopped. He urged peaceful conflict resolution.

So did Lavrov. He called for "(m)ore effective mediation efforts…to cease violence in Ukraine and immediately start a mutually respectful dialogue…"

Slavyansk is besieged. Shelling continues. Mortars, howitzers and heavy artillery are used. Artema and Semenovka village were targeted.

Gunfire was heard near Kramatorsk airport. A Donetsk healthcare department statement said army units opened fire on Slavyansk residential areas. At least seven children were wounded.

Donetsk People's Republic leaders accused Kiev of using chemical weapons in Mariupol. They issued a statement saying:

"Kiev bears the entire responsibility not only for their state agencies' actions, but also for the actions by citizens who illegally apply means of chemical warfare."

"Armed groups controlled by Kiev used unidentified chemical weapons (earlier) while storming the City Council headquarters."

"The defenders of the City Council have left the contaminated area." 

"Many of them had their breathing systems damaged, which is likely to have consequences and probably be a danger to their lives."

The statement urged world leaders to condemn toxic choking gas use. Take comprehensive measures, it added. Isolate Kiev putschists.

They're silent about chemical weapons use. They're waging Eastern Ukrainian dirty war. 

With full US support. One fascist regime backs another. Crimes of war and against humanity don't matter.

Hundreds of Slavyansk children were evacuated to Crimea for their safety.

They're aged eight to 16. They're housed at peninsula summer camps. It wasn't easy getting past Ukrainian border guards.

They're safe in Russia. They'll spend at least a month in Crimea. One child told RT International:

His city "comes under mortar shelling. People get hurt as a result." 

"A mortar shell splinter the size of a walnut hit my grandpa's leg and pierced the bone." 

"If it went a little deeper, it could hit an artery, and that would be it for him."

Another child said:

"It's so unusually calm and quiet here compared to Slavyansk. No explosions going off. It was scary." 

"Nobody expected that things like that could start in our city, which was never famous for anything."

A third child said she "was very scared. There were explosions." 

"My dad just celebrated his birthday and he was woken by the sound of shelling on that day. I'm very glad I'm here now. It’s calm here."

Hopefully it'll stay that way. On May 30, Itar Tass headlined "Members of Right Sector plotting attacks in Crimea," saying:

Russian Federal Security (FSB) officers "detained members of Ukraine's Right Sector terrorist group in the Republic of Crimea."

"The group plotted terrorist attacks in the cities of Simferopol, Yalta and Sevastopol, and later on they planned to destroy several facilities, railway bridges and electricity lines." 

FSB said its "Investigative Department has been working on the criminal case against O. Sentsov, S. Afanasyev, A. Chirniy and A. Kolchenko…"

They're "suspected of setting up a (Crimean) terrorist community." They planned earlier bomb attacks. 

Explosive materials, weapons, gas masks and untranationalist literature were found in their residences. They were taken to Moscow. They're at Lefortovo detention center.

Afanasyev, Chirniy and Kolchenko admitted planning to blow up railway bridges, power lines and public monuments. An FSB statement said:

"The suspects have confessed to being part of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) and to organizing terrorist acts on the territory of Crimea with the aim of destabilizing the social and political situation on the peninsula."

It doesn't surprise. Fascist regimes operate this way. Right Sector thugs are neo-Nazi extremists. They're Obama's new friends.

They're xenophobic, hate-mongering, ultranationalist anti-Semites. They're aligned with like-minded ideologues.

For the first time since WW II, overt fascists have real power. They hold major government posts.

Anointed president-elect Petro Poroshenko serves as nominal leader. He's militantly anti-democratic. 

He's polar opposite what Ukrainians deserve. Straightaway he OK'd full-scale war without mercy.

New leadership changed nothing. Fascism won. Democracy lost. War on Eastern Ukrainians wanting to live free rages.

Poroshenko wants it continued until all resistance is crushed. Perhaps he intends bloodbath slaughter achieve it.

On May 30, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said:

"Humanitarian aid will be given to (Eastern Ukrainians) for sure, but I can't say anything about military aid. The military should be asked about that."

Itar Tass said:

"On May 28, the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation sent a note to the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine, attracting attention of the Ukrainian authorities to the fact that Russia has been repeatedly receiving requests from citizens and organizations from the conflict zone in Ukraine’s eastern regions where many people are killed and many are wounded in combat operations." 

Russia "has been requested to provide urgent humanitarian aid, first and foremost of medication and medical goods."

"Russia is ready to provide the population in those regions with everything needed, and asked Ukraine to take necessary steps for ensuring urgent deliveries of Russian humanitarian aid to conflict-hit regions in the shortest term possible."

On May 29, Itar Tass headlined "Ukraine's Foreign Ministry turns down humanitarian aid to eastern regions from Russia."

It called Moscow's request "another element of propaganda." It wants Eastern Ukrainians denied what's vital to supply.

On May 30, Interfax-Ukraine headlined "Pentagon delegation to hold talks in Kyiv."

US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said Washington tripled US military aid in the last three months.

Special emphasis was placed on improving border security forces combat readiness. Pyatt expects assistance will grow, he said.

Modernizing Ukraine's "defense and security" apparatus is planned, he added. Making its killing machine more effective he omitted explaining.

War without mercy continues. Kiev putschists want fascist governance institutionalized. 

They want democracy prevented. They want what Ukrainians most  deserve denied.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour 

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Public Health Experts Identify Militarism As Threat

A remarkable article appears in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.  (Also available as free PDF here.)

The authors, experts in public health, are listed with all their academic credentials: William H. Wiist, DHSc, MPH, MS, Kathy Barker, PhD, Neil Arya, MD, Jon Rohde, MD, Martin Donohoe, MD, Shelley White, PhD, MPH, Pauline Lubens, MPH, Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD, and Amy Hagopian, PhD.

Some highlights and commentary:

"In 2009 the American Public Health Association (APHA) approved the policy statement, 'The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics, and Advocates in Relation to Armed Conflict and War.' . . . In response to the APHA policy, in 2011, a working group on Teaching the Primary Prevention of War, which included the authors of this article, grew . . . ."

"Since the end of World War II, there have been 248 armed conflicts in 153 locations around the world. The United States launched 201 overseas military operations between the end of World War II and 2001, and since then, others, including Afghanistan and Iraq. During the 20th century, 190 million deaths could be directly and indirectly related to war -- more than in the previous 4 centuries."

These facts, footnoted in the article, are more useful than ever in the face of the current academic trend in the United States of proclaiming the death of war. By re-categorizing many wars as other things, minimizing death counts, and viewing deaths as proportions of the global population rather than of a local population or as absolute numbers, various authors have tried to claim that war is vanishing.  Of course, war could and should vanish, but that is only likely to happen if we find the drive and the resources to make it happen.

"The proportion of civilian deaths and the methods for classifying deaths as civilian are debated, but civilian war deaths constitute 85% to 90% of casualties caused by war, with about 10 civilians dying for every combatant killed in battle. The death toll (mostly civilian) resulting from the recent war in Iraq is contested, with estimates of 124,000 to 655,000 to more than
a million, and finally most recently settling on roughly a half million. Civilians have been targeted for death and for sexual violence in some contemporary conflicts. Seventy percent to 90% of the victims of the 110 million landmines planted since 1960 in 70 countries were civilians."

This, too, is critical, as a top defense of war is that it must be used to prevent something worse, called genocide. Not only does militarism generate genocide rather than preventing it, but the distinction between war and genocide is a very fine one at best. The article goes on to cite just some of the health effects of war, of which I will cite just some highlights:

"The World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on the Social Determinants of Health pointed out that war affects children's health, leads to displacement and migration, and diminishes agricultural productivity. Child and maternal mortality, vaccination rates, birth outcomes, and water quality and sanitation are worse in conflict zones. War has contributed to preventing eradication of polio, may facilitate the spread of HIV/ AIDS, and has decreased availability of health professionals. In addition, landmines cause psychosocial and physical consequences, and pose a threat to food security by rendering agricultural land useless. . . .

"Approximately 17,300 nuclear weapons are presently deployed in at least 9 countries (including 4300 US and Russian operational warheads, many of which can be launched and reach their targets within 45 minutes). Even an accidental missile launch could lead to the greatest global public health disaster in recorded history.

"Despite the many health effects of war, there are no grant funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health devoted to the prevention of war, and most schools of public health do not include the prevention of war in the curriculum."

Now, there is a huge gap in our society that I bet most readers hadn't noticed, despite its perfect logic and obvious importance! Why should public health professionals be working to prevent war? The authors explain:

"Public health professionals are uniquely qualified for involvement in the prevention of war on the basis of their skills in epidemiology; identifying risk and protective factors; planning, developing, monitoring, and evaluating prevention strategies; management of programs and services; policy analysis and development; environmental assessment and remediation; and health advocacy. Some public health workers have knowledge of the effects of war from personal exposure to violent conflict or from working with patients and communities in armed conflict situations. Public health also provides a common ground around which many disciplines are willing to come together to form alliances for the prevention of war. The voice of public health is often heard as a force for public good.
 Through regular collection and review of health indicators public health can provide early warnings of the risk for violent conflict. Public health can also describe the health effects of war, frame the discussion about wars and their funding . . .  and expose the militarism that often leads to armed conflict and incites public fervor for war."

About that militarism. What is it?

"Militarism is the deliberate extension of military objectives and rationale into shaping the culture, politics, and economics of civilian life so that war and the preparation for war is normalized, and the development and maintenance of strong military institutions is prioritized. Militarism is an excessive reliance on
a strong military power and the threat of force as a legitimate means of pursuing policy goals in difficult international relations. It glorifies warriors, gives strong allegiance to the military as the ultimate guarantor of freedom and safety, and reveres military morals and ethics as being above criticism. Militarism instigates civilian society's adoption of military concepts, behaviors, myths, and language as its own. Studies show that militarism is positively correlated with conservatism, nationalism, religiosity, patriotism, and with an authoritarian personality, and negatively related to respect for civil liberties, tolerance of dissent, democratic principles, sympathy and welfare toward the troubled and poor, and foreign aid for poorer nations. Militarism subordinates other societal interests, including health, to the interests of the military."

And does the United States suffer from it?

"Militarism is intercalated into many aspects of life in the United States and, since the military draft was eliminated, makes few overt demands of the public except the costs in taxpayer funding. Its expression, magnitude, and implications have become invisible to a large proportion of the civilian population, with little recognition of the human costs or the negative image held by other countries. Militarism has been called a 'psychosocial disease,' making it amenable to population-wide interventions. . . .

"The United States is responsible for 41% of the world's total military spending. The next largest in spending are China, accounting for 8.2%; Russia, 4.1%; and the United Kingdom and France, both 3.6%. . . . If all military . . . costs are included, annual [US] spending amounts to $1 trillion . . . . According to the DOD fiscal year 2012 base structure report, 'The DOD manages global property of more than 555,000 facilities at more than 5,000 sites, covering more than 28 million acres.' The United States maintains 700 to 1000 military bases or sites in more than 100 countries. . . .

"In 2011 the United States ranked first in worldwide conventional weapons sales, accounting for 78% ($66 billion). Russia was second with $4.8 billion. . . .

"In 2011-2012, the top-7 US arms producing and service companies contributed $9.8 million to federal election campaigns. Five of the top-10 [military] aerospace corporations in the world (3 US, 2 UK and Europe) spent $53 million lobbying the US government in 2011. . . .

"The main source of young recruits is the US public school system, where recruiting focuses on rural and impoverished youths, and thus forms an effective poverty draft that is invisible to most middle- and upper-class families. . . . In contradiction of the United States' signature on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict treaty, the military recruits minors in public high schools, and does not inform students or parents of their right to withhold home contact information. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is given in public high schools as a career aptitude test and is compulsory in many high schools, with students' contact information forwarded to the military, except in Maryland where the state legislature mandated that schools no longer automatically forward the information."

Public health advocates also lament the tradeoffs in types of research the United States invests in:

"Resources consumed by military . . . research, production, and services divert human expertise away from other societal needs. The DOD is the largest funder of research and development in the federal government. The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocate large amounts of funding to programs such as 'BioDefense.' . . . The lack of other funding sources drives some researchers to pursue military or security funding, and some subsequently become desensitized to the influence of the military. One leading university in the United Kingdom recently announced, however, it would end its £1.2 million investment in
a . . . company that makes components for lethal US drones because it said the business was not 'socially responsible.'"

Even in President Eisenhower's day, militarism was pervasive: "The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government." The disease has spread:

"The militaristic ethic and methods have extended into the civilian law enforcement and justice systems. . . .

"By promoting military solutions to political problems and portraying military action as inevitable, the military often influences news media coverage, which in turn, creates public acceptance of war or a fervor for war. . . ."

The authors describe programs that are beginning to work on war prevention from a public health perspective, and they conclude with recommendations for what should be done. Take a look.

read more

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Global Research and Countercurrents 27/4/2014
Indian finance minister P.Chidambaram once claimed that his government’s policies were pro growth and pro equity (1). He talked of alleviating poverty in India‘in our lifetime’ by implementing the type of development policies currently being pursued. The minister envisages 85 percent of India’s population eventually living in well-planned cities with proper access to water, health, electricity, education, etc. Based on today’s population size, which is set to continue to rise, that would mean at least 600 million moving to cities. He stated that urbanisation constitutes ‘natural progress’.
The type of urbanisation being pursued in India is not ‘natural’, however, nor does it represent ‘progress’. It has thus far been largely based on unconstitutional land takeovers, the trampling of democratic rights, increasing and unsustainable resource usage and air and water pollution. But for Chidambaram and other supporters of cronyism, cartels and the manipulation of markets (2,3,4), which all go under the guise of economic ‘neo-liberalism’, such processes increase the amount of money flowing around the economy, which therefore increases the GDP figure and thus represent progress. In this respect, chopping down an ancient forest and selling the timber represents progress, and removing people’s access to traditional lands by handing them to corporations to somehow make cash profits from is also positive.
This warped notion of development has seen the poverty alleviation rate in India remain around the same as it was back in 1991 or even in pre-independence India (0.8 percent) (5), while the ratio between the top and bottom ten percents of the population has doubled during this period. According to the Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development, this doubling of income inequality has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies (6).
This is the type of development being forced through by Indian politicians on behalf of national and international elite interests via the World Bank, WTO, and the G8, etc, and it is based on the idea that shifting people from agriculture to what are a number of already overburdened, filthy, polluted mega-cities to work in factories, clean the floors of a shopping mall or work as a security guard improves the human condition; or, more realistically, to live in slum-like conditions and be unemployed or underemployed, given that hundreds of millions are to be booted from the land to achieve Chidambaram’s 85 percent urbanisation figure.
Urbanisation is being forced through by what Vandana Shiva says is the biggest forced removal of people from their lands in history and involves one of the biggest illegal land grabs since Columbus, according to a 2009 report commissioned by the rural development ministry and chaired by the then minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.
In the West, urbanisation was not ‘natural’ and involved the unforeseen outcomes of conflicts and struggles between serfs, lords, peasants, landowners, the emerging bourgousie and class of industrialists and the state. The outcomes of these struggles resulted in different routes to modernity and levels of urbanisation (7,8).
Similar struggles are now taking place in India. The naxalites and Maoists in India are referred to by the dominant class as left wing extremists who are exploiting the poor. How easy it is cast legitimate protesters together and create an ‘enemy within’. How easy it is to ignore the state-corporate extremism across the world that results in the central state abdicating its responsibilities by submitting to the tenets of the Wall Street-backed ‘structural adjustment’ pro-privatisation policies, free capital flows, massive profits justified on the basis of ‘investment risk’ and unaccountable cartels which aim to maximise profit by beating down labour costs and grabbing resources at the cheapest possible costs. That’s the real nature of extremism. It is the type of extremism that is regarded as anything but by the mainstream media.
Powerful corporations are spearheading the agenda for ‘development’ in India and have been handed the rights to this process via secretive Memorandums of Understanding. The full military backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land in order to fuel a wholly unsustainable model of development that strips the environment bare and ultimately negatively impacts the climate and ecology.
Moreover, due to the restructuring of agriculture in favour of Western agribusiness, over 250,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997. And yet the corporate-controlled type of agriculture being imposed only leads to bad food, bad soil, bad or no water, bad health and bad or falling yields (9,10,11,12). Unconstitutional land grabs for SEZs, resource extraction, nuclear plants and other projects have additionally forced many others from the land.
With GDP growth slowing and automation replacing human labour the world over in order to decrease labour costs and boost profit, just where are the jobs going to come from to cater for India’s increasing population, never mind hundreds of millions of former agricultural workers?
To push through the type of progress and development Chidambaram wants, it is clear that farmers represent a ‘problem’ to be removed from the land and a problem to be dealt with once removed. Food producers, the genuine wealth producers of a nation, only became a problem when Western agribusiness was given the green light to take power away from farmers and uproot traditional agriculture in India and recast it in its own profiteering, corporate-controlled image. This is who is really setting the ‘development’ agenda. The processes involved constitute the ‘progress’ and ‘natural’ move towards depopulating rural areas that Chidambaram spoke of.
If it can’t be done via mass suicide and making it economically non-viable to continue farming as a result of world trade policies, ‘free’ trade agreements and ‘structurally adjusting’ (plundering) traditional agricultural practices and economies to ultimately ensure petro-chemical farming (and thus oil and the US dollar (13) remains king, let tens of thousands of militia into the tribal areas to displace hundreds of thousands, place 50,000 in camps and carry out rapes and various human rights abuses (14,15).
If anyone perceives that this ‘natural progress’ is not based on acquiescing to foreign corporations, they should take a look at the current corporate-driven, undemocratic free trade agreement being hammered out behind closed doors between the EU and India (16,17,18).It all adds up to powerful trans-national corporations trying to by-pass legislation that was implemented to safeguard the public’s rights. Kavaljit Singh of the Madhyam research institute argues that we could see the Indian government being sued by multinational companies for billions of dollars in private arbitration panels outside of Indian courts if national laws, policies, court decisions or other actions are perceived to interfere with their investments; this is already a reality in many parts of the world whereby legislation is shelved due to even the threat of legal action by corporations (19). Such free trade agreements cement the corporate ability to raid taxpayers’ coffers even further via unaccountable legal tribunals, or to wholly dictate national policies and legislation.
Of course, the links between the Monsanto/Syngenta/Walmart-backed Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture and the US sanctioning and backing of the opening up of India’s nuclear sector to foreign interests (on the back of a cash for votes scandal in parliament (20)) have already shown what the models of ‘development’ being pushed onto people really entails in terms of the erosion of democracy and the powerful corporate interests that really benefit (21,22).
Industrial developments built with public money and strategic assets, such as energy sources, ports, airports and seeds and infrastructure support for agriculture are being sold off. And how is this all justified? By the amount of cash sloshing around the formal economy (notwithstanding the massive amounts of money being siphoned off via corrupt deals and hidden from public gaze) and the reference to GDP growth – a single, warped, narrow definition of ‘development’ – a notion of development hijacked by economists and their secular theology which masquerades as economic ‘science’.
Do people really believe India’s future lies in tying itself to a corrupt, moribund system that has so patently failed in the West and can now only sustain itself by plundering other countries via war or ‘free trade’ agreements, which have little if anything to do with free trade? At best, it shows a lack of foresight. At worst, it displays complete subservience to elite interests at home and abroad.
Finally, if anyone perceives the type of ‘development for all’ being sold to the masses is actually possible in the first instance, they should note that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80 percent of world population, but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5 percent of the world’s population, but consume 24 percent of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians (23).
The Earth is 4.6 billion years old and if you scale this to 46 years then humans have been here for just four hours. The Industrial Revolution began just one minute ago, and in that time, 50% of the Earth’s forests have been destroyed (24). Forests are just part of the problem. We are using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have also poisoned the rivers, destroyed natural habitats, driven some wildlife species to extinction and altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere – among many other things.
Levels of consumption were unsustainable, long before India and other countries began striving to emulate Western levels and high energy use. The current model of development is based on a totally misguided dream; or, to put it another way, a deceitful ideology that attempts to justify and sell a system that is designed to fail the majority of the global population and benefit the relative few (25).
Capitalism has for a long time succeeded in making most people blind to the chains that bind and which make them immune to the falsehoods that underpin the system. This wasteful, high-energy system is tied to what ultimately constitutes the plundering of peoples and the planet by powerful transnational corporations. And, as we see all around us, the outcome is endless conflicts over fewer and fewer resources. Such conflicts are likely to gather pace as wars are not only fought to grab resources, but are also manufactured in order to destroy states from within by fomenting civil wars and thus destabilize economies and reduce demand for resources (26). The outcome is also environmental destruction and an elitist agenda being forwarded by rich eugenicists who voice concerns over there being ‘simply too many mouths’: those mouths would only take food from their rich bellies – bellies that long ago became bloated from the fat of the land, lucrative wars and the misery brought about by economic exploitation. The super rich who currently run the world regard most of humanity as a problem to be ‘dealt with’ (27).
Finally, it is worth considering that the US as a nation and its oligarchs in particular achieved the level of affluence that they did more by way of ‘gansterism’, not by ‘freedom and democracy’ or ‘free market’ economics as that nation’s leaders like to tell the world. That much was admitted by the late Major General Smedley Butler, the US’s most decorated marine: he listed various corporations on whose behalf he fought for during his various military campaigns (28). Of course, little has changed since Smedley wrote about his experiences in 1935.
Maybe Smedley’s description of this aspect of the US’s route to ‘development’ are what certain Indian politicians really respect, as the strong (and soft) arm of the state works to secure access to the nations resources for powerful corporations.
Notes
7) Robert Brenner (1976), “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe”.Past and Present 70
8) Barrington Moore (1993) [First published 1966]. Social origins of dictatorship and democracy: lord and peasant in the making of the modern world (with a new foreword by Edward Friedman and James C. Scott ed.). Boston: Beacon Press.

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Health Dangers Of Glyphosate And Implications For India


Deccan Herald 29/1/2014 

Last year, Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE) and GM Freeze found that people in 18 countries across Europe had traces of glyphosate (weedkiller) in their urine. They also commissioned laboratory tests on urine samples and found that on average 44 per cent of samples contained glyphosate.

The proportion of positive samples varied between countries, with
Malta, Germany, the UK and Poland having the most positive tests. All the volunteers who provided samples live in cities, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run-up to the tests.

Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King's College London, said the levels found are unlikely to be of any significance to health. However, FoE believes that there is sufficient evidence to suggest environmental and health impacts from glyphosate warrant concern. It wants to know how the glyphosate found in human urine samples has entered the body, what the impacts of persistent exposure to low levels of glyphosate might be and what happens to the glyphosate that remains in the body.


In Europe, as elsewhere, official approval of glyphosate has been rash, problematic and deeply flawed. A comprehensive review of existing data released in June 2011 by Earth Open Source suggested that industry regulators in Europehad known for years that glyphosate causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. Questions were subsequently raised about the role of the powerful agro-industry in rigging data pertaining to product safety and its undue influence on regulatory bodies.

In the same vein, FoE says there is currently very little testing for glyphosate by public authorities, despite its widespread use, and authorities in Europe do not test for glyphosate in humans and tests on food are infrequent. Glyphosate was approved for EU-wide use in 2002, but FoE argues that the European regulatory agencies did not carry out their own safety testing, relying instead on data provided by the manufacturers. That is, data from studies that were not scientifically peer reviewed.

With references to a raft of peer-reviewed studies, FoE draws attention to the often disturbing health and environmental dangers and impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides throughout the world. The FoE study also highlights concerns around the increasing levels of exposure to glyphosate-based weed killers, particularly as the use of glyphosate is predicted to rise further if more genetically modified GM crops are grown worldwide. It is after all good for business. GMOs drive sales of glyphosate. Despite its widespread use, there is currently little monitoring of glyphosate in food, water or the wider environment. There is a serious lack of action by public authorities. 

Using official
US government data, Dr Charles Benbrook, research professor at the Centre for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, states that in the US since 1996 the glysophate rate of application per crop year has tripled on cotton farms, doubled in the case of soybeans and risen 39 per cent on corn. The average annual increase in the pounds of glyphosate applied to cotton, soybeans, and corn has been 18.2 per cent, 9.8 per cent, and 4.3 per cent, respectively, since herbicide tolerant crops were introduced.

Glyphosate is used on many genetically modified crops. Approval of these crops would inevitably lead to a further increase of glysphosate spraying. In the US, biotech crops, including corn, soybeans, canola and sugarbeets, are planted on millions of acres annually. Evidence suggests that Roundup could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson's, infertility and cancers, according to a peer-reviewed report from 2013, published in the scientific journal Entropy. The study also concluded that residues of glyphosate have been found in food. These residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease, according to the report, authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a science consultant. 

The authors conclude that many of the health problems that appear to be associated with a Western (petro-chemical-based) diet could be explained by biological disruptions that have already been attributed to glyphosate. These include digestive issues, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, liver diseases, and cancer, among others. While many other environmental toxins obviously also contribute to these diseases and conditions, Seneff and Samsel believe that glyphosate may be the most significant environmental toxin.

In 2010, the provincial government of
Chaco province in Argentina issued a report on health statistics from the town La Leonesa. The report showed that from 2000 to 2009, following the expansion of genetically-modified soy and rice crops in the region (and the use of glyphosate), the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa and the rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire province.

There are major implications for
India, not least because biotech companies continue to try to force GM crops onto the commercial market here. On the heels of Professor Seralini’s much maligned (by the biotech sector) findings pointing to the deleterious health impacts of gyphosate, according to a study in 2013 by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, glyphosate-based herbicide poses the risk of serious human health hazards including cancer. It all leads us to consider what cost might India pay in the long run. That depends on what price the nation’s policy makers are prepared to put on the public’s health.



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Wireless Technology: A Looming Health Crisis

By James F. Tracy

This story originally appeared here and at Global Research in July 2012. It was recently selected by an international panel of evaluators as Story Number 14 in Project Censored’s Top 25 Most Under-Reported Stories for 2012-2013. The article is featured in the new volume Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fateful Times (Seven Stories Press, 2013).

Electromagnetic pollution is one of the greatest threats to human health today. Over the past several years this public health menace has only intensified with the rollout of “smart meters” that replace standard analog meters on residences and businesses throughout the nation and world.

Wireless Technology and the Accelerated Toxification of America

As a multitude of hazardous wireless technologies are deployed in homes, schools and workplaces, government officials and industry representatives continue to insist on their safety despite growing evidence to the contrary. A major health crisis looms that is only hastened through the extensive deployment of “smart grid” technology.

In October 2009 at Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) solar energy station President Barack Obama announced that $3.4 billion of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act would be devoted to the country’s “smart energy grid” transition. Matching funds from the energy industry brought the total national Smart Grid investment to $8 billion. FPL was given $200 million of federal money to install 2.5 million “smart meters” on homes and businesses throughout the state.[1]

By now many residents in the United States and Canada have the smart meters installed on their dwellings. Each of these meters is equipped with an electronic cellular transmitter that uses powerful bursts of electromagnetic radiofrequency (RF) radiation to communicate with nearby meters that together form an interlocking network transferring detailed information on residents’ electrical usage back to the utility every few minutes or less. Such information can easily be used to determine individual patterns of behavior based on power consumption.

The smart grid technology is being sold to the public as a way to “empower” individual energy consumers by allowing them to access information on their energy usage so that they may eventually save money by programming “smart” (i.e, wireless enabled) home appliances and equipment that will coordinate their operability with the smart meter to run when electrical rates are lowest. In other words, a broader plan behind smart grid technology involves a tiered rate system for electricity consumption that will be set by the utility to which customers will have no choice but to conform.

Because of power companies’ stealth rollout of smart meters a large majority of the public still remains unaware of the dangers they pose to human health. This remains the case even though states such as Maine have adopted an “opt out” provision for their citizens. The devices have not been safety-tested by Underwriters Laboratory and thus lack the UL approval customary for most electronics.[2] Further, power customers are typically told by their utilities that the smart meter only communicates with the power company “a few times per day” to transmit information on individual household energy usage. However, when individuals obtained the necessary equipment to do their own testing they found the meters were emitting bursts of RF radiation throughout the home far more intense than a cell phone call every minute or less.[3]

America’s Telecom-friendly Policy for RF Exposure

A growing body of medical studies is now linking cumulative RF exposure to DNA disruption, cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and autoimmune diseases. Smart meters significantly contribute to an environment already polluted by RF radiation through the pervasive stationing of cellular telephone towers in or around public spaces and consumers’ habitual use of wireless technologies. In the 2000 Salzburg Resolution European scientists recommended the maximum RF exposure for humans to be no more than one tenth of a microwatt per square centimeter. In the United States RF exposure limits are 1,000 microwatts per centimeter, with no limits for long term exposure.[4] Such lax standards have been determined by outdated science and the legal and regulatory maneuvering of the powerful telecommunications and wireless industries.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ceased studying the health effects of radiofrequency radiation when the Senate Appropriations Committee cut the department’s funding and forbade it from further research into the area.[5] Thereafter RF limits were codified as mere “guidelines” based on the EPA’s tentative findings and are to this day administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

These weakly enforced standards are predicated on the alleged “thermal effect” of RF. In other words, if the energy emitted from a wireless antenna or device is not powerful enough to heat the skin or flesh then no danger is posed to human health.[6] This reasoning is routinely put forward by utilities installing smart meters on residences, telecom companies locating cellular transmission towers in populated areas, and now school districts across the US allowing the installation of cell towers on school campuses.[7]

The FCC’s authority to impose this standard was further reinforced with the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act that included a provision lobbied for by the telecom industry preventing state and local governments from evaluating potential environmental and health effects when locating cell towers “so long as ‘such facilities comply with the FCC’s regulations concerning such emissions.’”[8]

In 2001 an alliance of scientists and engineers with the backing of the Communications Workers of America filed a federal lawsuit hoping the Supreme Court would reconsider the FCC’s obsolete exposure guidelines and the Telecom Act’s overreach into state and local jurisdiction. The high court refused to hear the case. When the same group asked the FCC to reexamine its guidelines in light of current scientific studies the request was rebuffed.[9] Today in all probability millions are suffering from a variety of immediate and long-term health effects from relentless EMF and RF exposure that under the thermal effect rationale remain unrecognized or discounted by the telecom industry and regulatory authorities alike.

Take Back Your Power, an important new documentary on the relationship between electro-pollution and its health and privacy-related consequences, was released in September 2013. The film constitutes must-see viewing for those concerned over the immediate and long term dangers posed to human health and freedom by “smart meters” and similar silent weapons.-JFT

Growing Evidence of Health Risks From RF Exposure

The main health concern with electromagnetic radiation emitted by smart meters and other wireless technologies is that EMF and RF cause a breakdown in the communication between cells in the body, interrupting DNA repair and weakening tissue and organ function. These are the findings of Dr. George Carlo, who oversaw a comprehensive research group commissioned by the cell phone industry in the mid-1990s.

When Carlo’s research began to reveal how there were indeed serious health concerns with wireless technology, the industry sought to bury the results and discredit Carlo. Yet Carlo’s research has since been upheld in a wealth of subsequent studies and has continuing relevance given the ubiquity of wireless apparatuses and the even more powerful smart meters. “One thing all these conditions have in common is a disruption, to varying degrees, of intercellular communication,” Carlo observes. “When we were growing up, TV antennas were on top of our houses and such waves were up in the sky. Cell phones and Wi-Fi have brought those things down to the street, integrated them into the environment, and that’s absolutely new.”[10]

In 2007 the BioInitiative Working Group, a worldwide body of scientists and public health experts, released a 650-page document with over 2000 studies linking RF and EMF exposure to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, DNA damage, immune system dysfunction, cellular damage and tissue reduction.[11]

In May 2011 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer categorized “radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless cellphone use.”[12]

In November 2011 the Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), a national organization of medical and osteopathic physicians, called on California’s Public Utilities Commission to issue a moratorium on the continued installation of smart meters in residences and schools “based on a scientific assessment of the current available literature.” “[E]xisting FCC guidelines for RF safety that have been used to justify installations of smart meters,” the panel wrote,

only look at thermal tissue damage and are obsolete, since many modern studies show metabolic and genomic damage from RF and ELF exposure below the level of intensity which heats tissues … More modern literature shows medically and biologically significant effects of RF and ELF at lower energy densities. These effects accumulate over time, which is an important consideration given the chronic nature of exposure from “smart meters.”[13]

In April 2012 the AAEM issued a formal position paper on the health effects of RF and EMF exposure based on a literature review of the most recent research. The organization pointed to how government and industry arguments alleging the doubtful nature of the science on non-thermal effects of RF were not defensible in light of the newest studies. “Genetic damage, reproductive defects, cancer, neurological degeneration and nervous system dysfunction, immune system dysfunction, cognitive effects, protein and peptide damage, kidney damage, and developmental effects have all been reported in the peer‐reviewed scientific literature,” AAEM concluded.[14]

Radiating Children

The rollout of smart meters proceeds alongside increased installation of wireless technology and cell phone towers in and around schools in the US. In 2010 Professor Magda Havas conducted a study of schools in 50 US state capitols and Washington DC to determine students’ potential exposure to nearby cell towers. A total 6,140 schools serving 2.3 million students were surveyed using the antennasearch.com database. Of these, 13% of the schools serving 299,000 students have a cell tower within a quarter mile of school grounds, and another 50% of the schools where 1,145,000 attend have a tower within a 0.6 mile radius. The installation of wireless networks and now smart meters on and around school properties further increases students’ RF exposure.[15]

Many school districts that are strapped for cash in the face of state budget cuts are willing to ignore the abundance of scientific research on RF dangers and sign on with telecom companies to situate cell towers directly on school premises. Again, the FCC’s thermal effect rule is invoked to justify tower placement together with a disregard of the available studies.

The School District of Palm Beach County, the eleventh largest school district in the US, provides one such example. Ten of its campuses already have cell towers on their grounds while the district ponders lifting a ban established in 1997 that would allow for the positioning of even more towers. When concerned parents contacted the school district for an explanation of its wireless policies,the administration assembled a document, “Health Organization Information and Academic Research Studies Regarding the Health Effects of Cell Tower Signals.” The report carefully selected pronouncements from telecom industry funded organizations such as the American Cancer Society and out-of-date scientific studies supporting the FCC’s stance on wireless while excluding the long list of studies and literature reviews pointing to the dangers of RF and EMF radiation emitted by wireless networks and cell towers. [16]

The Precautionary Principle / Conclusion

Surrounded by the sizable and growing body of scientific literature pointing to the obvious dangers of wireless technology, utility companies installing smart meters on millions of homes across the US  and school officials who accommodate cell towers on their grounds are performing an extreme disservice to their often vulnerable constituencies. Indeed, such actions constitute the reckless long term endangerment of public health for short term gain, sharply contrasting with more judicious decision making.

The 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment & Development adopted the precautionary principle as a rule to follow in the situations utilities and school districts find themselves in today. “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”[17] In exercising the precautionary principle, public governance and regulatory bodies should “take preventive action in the face of scientific uncertainty to prevent harm. The focus is no longer on measuring or managing harm, but preventing harm.”[18]

Along these lines, the European Union and the Los Angeles School District have prohibited cell phone towers on school grounds until the scientific research on the human health effects of RF are conclusive. The International Association of Fire Fighters also interdicted cell towers on fire stations pending “’a study with the highest scientific merit and integrity on health effects of exposure to low-intensity [radio frequency/microwave] radiation is conducted and it is proven that such sitings are not hazardous to the health of our members.’”[19]

Unwitting families with smart meters on their homes and children with cell towers humming outside their classrooms suggest the extent to which the energy, telecom and wireless industries have manipulated the regulatory process to greatly privilege profits over public health. Moreover, it reveals how the population suffers for want of meaningful and conclusive information on the very real dangers of RF while the telecom and wireless interests successfully cajole the media into considering one scientific study at a time.

“When you put the science together, we come to the irrefutable conclusion that there’s a major health crisis coming, probably already underway,” George Carlo cautions. “Not just cancer, but also learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and psychological and behavioral problems—all mediated by the same mechanism. That’s why we’re so worried. Time is running out.”[20]

Notes

[1] Energy.gov, “President Obama Announces $3.4 Billion Investment to Spur Transition to Smart Energy Grid,” October 27, 2009, http://energy.gov/articles/president-obama-announces-34-billion-investment-spur-transition-smart-energy-grid

[2] Ilya Sandra Perlingieri, “Radiofrequency Radiation: The Invisible Hazards of Smart Meters,” August 19, 2011, GlobalReserach.ca, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=26082

[3] Dr. Bill Deagle, “Smart Meters: A Call for Public Outrage,” Rense.com, August 30, 2011, http://www.rense.com/general94/smartt.htm. Some meters installed in California by Pacific Gas and Electric carry a “’switching mode power-supply’ that ‘emit sharp spikes of millisecond bursts’ around the clock and is a chief cause of ‘dirty electricity.’” See Perlingieri, “Radiofrequency Radiation: The Invisible Hazards of Smart Meters.” This author similarly measured bursts of radiation in excess of 2,000 microwatts per meter every 30 to 90 seconds during the day, and once every two-to-three minutes at night.

[4] Magda Havas, BRAG Antenna Ranking of Schools, 2010, http://electromagnetichealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/BRAG_Schools.pdf

[5] Susan Luzzaro, “Field of Cell Phone Tower Beams,” San Diego Reader, May 18, 2011, http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2011/may/18/citylights2-cell-phone-tower/?page=1&

[6] FCC Office of Engineering and Technology, http://www.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety

[7] Luzzaro, “Field of Cell Phone Tower Beams”; Marc Freeman, “Cell Towers Could Be Coming to More Schools,” South Florida Sun Sentinel, January 5, 2012, http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-01-05/news/fl-cell-towers-schools-palm-20120105_1_cell-towers-cellular-phone-towers-stealth-towers

[8] Amy Worthington, “The Radiation Poisoning of America,” GlobalResearch.ca, October 9, 2007, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7025

[9] Worthington, “The Radiation Poisoning of America.”

[10] Sue Kovach, “The Hidden Dangers of Cell Phone Radiation,” Life Extension Magazine, August 2007, http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2007/aug2007_report_cellphone_radiation_01.htm

[11] Susan Luzzaro, “Field of Cell Phone Tower Beams”; Bioinitiative Report: A Rationale For a Biologically-based Public Exposure Standard For Electromagnetic Fields, http://www.bioinitiative.org/freeaccess/report/index.htm.

[12] World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer, “IARC Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields as Possibly Carcinogenic,” May 31, 2011, www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf; Joseph Mercola, “Be Aware: These Cell Phones Can Emit 28 Times More Radiation,” Mercola.com, June 18, 2011, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/18/finally-experts-admit-cellphones-are-a-carcinogen.aspx.

[13] American Academy of Environmental Medicine, “A Proposed Decision of Commissioner Peevy [Mailed 11/22/2011] Before the Public Utilities Commission of the State of California,” (pdf) January 19, 2012. www.aaemonline.org. The list of references upon which the decision is based may be accessed at http://aaemonline.org/images/referencelistemf.pdf

[14] American Academy of Environmental Medicine, “American Academy of Environmental Medicine Calls for Immediate Caution regarding Smart Meter Installation,” (pdf)  April 12, 2012, http://www.aaemonline.org/

[15] Havas, BRAG Antenna Ranking of Schools, 31-38.

[16] Donna Goldstein, “Health Organization Information and Academic Research Studies Regarding the Health Effects of Cell Tower Signals,”Planning and Real Estate Development, Palm Beach County School District, January 30, 2012.

[17] Havas, BRAG Antenna Ranking of Schools, 17.

[18] Multinational Monitor, “Precautionary Precepts: The Power and Potential of the Precautionary Principle: An Interview with Carolyn Raffensperger,” September 2004, http://multinationalmonitor.org/mm2004/09012004/september04interviewraffen.html.

[19] Luzzaro, “Field of Cell Phone Tower Beams.”

[20] Kovach, “The Hidden Dangers of Cell Phone Radiation.”

See also Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri, “Smart Meter Dangers: The Health Hazards of Wireless Electromagnetic Radiation Exposure,” GlobalResearchca, July 13, 2012.

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Healthcare Professionals Involvement in US Torture


Healthcare Professionals Involvement in US Torture

by Stephen Lendman

On November 4, an independent panel of military, ethics, medical, public health, and legal experts said Pentagon and CIA officials directed doctors and psychologist to ignore medical ethics, principles and standards.

Post-9/11, the Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers said they collaborate in securing intelligence.

"(D)esigning, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" substituted for do no harm. Established practices continue.

Dr. Gerald Thomson is Columbia University Professor of Medicine Emeritus. He's duly outraged.   
"The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve," he said.
"It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice." 
"We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again."
The Task Force's report is titled "Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror. More on it below.
Ethics Abandoned isn't the first report on healthcare professionals abandoning their oath to do no harm.
In April 2009, a confidential February 2007 ICRC torture report was released. It's titled "ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen 'High Value Detainees' in CIA Custody."

It discusses harsh and abusive treatment. It does so from time of arrest, detention, transfer, and incarceration at Guantanamo. 

It explains the involvement of healthcare professionals. It covers:

  • their monitoring of and direct participation in torture procedures;

  • instructing interrogators to continue, adjust, or stop certain ones;

  • informing detainees that medical treatment depended on their cooperation;

  • performing medical checks before and after each torture session; and

  • treating the effects of torture as well as ailments and injuries during incarceration.

Condoning or participating in torture grossly violates medical ethics. Doing so is strictly prohibited.

The World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Tokyo "Guidelines for Physicians Concerning Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Relation to Detention and Imprisonment" states:

In all cases at all times, "physician(s) shall not countenance, condone or participate in" torture or any other form of abuse.

They "shall not use nor allow to be used (their) medical knowledge or skills, or health information" to aid abusive interrogations in any way.

They "shall not be present during any procedure during which torture or any other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is used or threatened."

They "must have complete clinical independence" in treating persons entrusted to their care. 

WMA encourages the international community and practicing physicians to support medical professionals who face "threats or reprisals resulting from a refusal to condone" all forms of torture and abuse.

According to Protocol I of the 1949 Geneva Conventions:

"Persons engaged in medical activities shall neither be compelled to perform acts or to carry out work contrary to, nor be compelled to refrain from acts required by, the rules of medical ethics or other rules designed for the benefit of the wounded and sick, or this Protocol."

In July 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) published a report titled, "Report on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

It included evidence of medical personnel involvement in torture. Eyewitness testimonies confirmed it. So did prisoners CCR lawyers interviewed.

International law is clear and unequivocal. The UN Convention Against Torture prohibits it at all times, under all circumstances, with no allowed exceptions.

Third Geneva bans "violence to life and person (as well as) humiliating and degrading treatment." It mandates proper medical care.

Fourth Geneva affords the same rights to civilians in times of war. The federal anti-torture statute (18 USC, 2340A) prohibits its use. 

It defines is as "an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering...upon another person within his custody or physical control."

Constitutional law prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.  

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) bans cruelty, oppression, actions intended to degrade or humiliate, and physical, menacing, and threatening assaults.

The US War Crimes Act prohibits grave Geneva breaches.

Geneva's Common Article III prohibits "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture (as well as) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

It doesn't matter. Torture remains official US policy. Medical professionals are criminally involved.

The Task Force report is based on two years research. Its 19 members reviewed public domain records. 

Department of Defense and CIA policies "institutionalized a variety of interventions by military and intelligence agency doctors and psychologists that breach ethical standards to promote well-being and avoid harm." They include:

  • "Involvement in abusive interrogation; consulting on conditions of confinement to increase the disorientation and anxiety of detainees; 

  • Using medical information for interrogation purposes; and 

  • Force-feeding of hunger strikers."

Vital medical care was denied. Healthcare professionals "substantially deviate from ethical standards traditionally applied to civilian medical personnel."

Grave breaches include:

  • "Excus(ing) violations of ethical standards by inappropriately characterizing health professionals engaged in interrogation as 'safety officers;' 

  • Implement(ing) rules that permitted medical and psychological information obtained by health professionals to be used in interrogations; 

  • Requir(ing) physicians and nurses to forgo their independent medical judgment and counseling roles, as well as to force-feed competent detainees engaged in hunger strikes even though this is forbidden by the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association; 

  • Improperly designat(ing) licensed health professionals to use their professional skills to interrogate detainees as military combatants, a status incompatible with licensing; and 

  • Fail(ing) to uphold recommendations by the Army Surgeon General to adopt international standards for medical reporting of abuse against detainees."

CIA Office of Medical Services personnel were criminally involved in approving so-called "enhanced interrogation" methods (aka torture and other forms of abuse).

The Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) endorsed the Task Force's report. IMAP promotes professionalism in medicine.

It conducts research on past, present and future professionalism roles. It wants it to be relevant to physicians, medical organization leaders, policy analysts, public officials and consumers.

Its president, David Rothman said:

"Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism."

" 'Do no harm' and 'put patient interest first' must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practice."

Task Force members say US agencies continue "follow(ing) policies that undermine standards of professional conduct."

They do so with regard to interrogations, hunger strikes, and reporting abuse. Ethical breaches include:

  • "issuing protocols requiring doctors and nurses to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, including forced extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day;

  • enabling interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees for exploitation by interrogators; and

  • permitting clinical care for detainees to suffer from the inability or failure of clinicians to address causes of detainee distress from torture."

Task Force member Leonard Rubenstein is a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for Human Rights and Berman Institute of Bioethics legal scholar.

"Abuse of detainees, and health professional participation in this practice, is not behind us as a country," he said.

"Force-feeding by physicians in violation of ethical standards is illustrative of a much broader legacy in which medical professionalism has been undermined."

Task Force members urge current unethical practices be fully and independently investigated. 

They call for establishing codes of conduct complying fully with proper medical and psychological practices.

They want what they're not likely to get. It bears repeating. Torture is official US policy. 

Guantanamo is the tip of the iceberg. America maintains torture prison black sites. It does so globally. Abusive practices continue out of sight and mind.

Washington is by far the world's leading human rights abuser. It's unaccountable. Media scoundrels ignore it.

America gets away with the worst kinds of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Obama exceeds the worst of George Bush. 

He bears full responsibility for unspeakable crimes against humanity. They continue out-of-control on his watch.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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The Impact of Sanctions on the Iranian People’s Healthcare System

September 2013 Report

Sanctions against Iran started from 1979 and it has found new dimensions through time. But the new set of sanctions imposed against Iran in 2006 intensely influenced this country and directly affected people’s lives. Especially after 2012, the sanctions have shifted toward civilians and its disastrous effects instead of aiming at nuclear technology development process, have made a huge humanitarian crisis. Sanctions on petroleum industry, cargo shipment, shipping insurance, followed by sanctions on banking system has damaged the economic situation in Iran, having destructive effects on providing commodities and services. While UN, EU, and the US sanctions do not directly include importation of humanitarian goods, these sanctions have acutely decreased Iranian people’s access to commodities and major services, including medicine and treatment. (A list of sanctions which have influenced this field in somehow have been attached to this report)

This report aims at representing a part of destructive effects of sanctions on people in health care field. This impact is so severe that has violated basic human rights of Iranian citizens, and threatens their lives and quality of life. So in this situation, generally in medical field, educational levels, research and industry, these effects can be discussed separately.

To prepare this report, four diseases were selected as representatives of different group of diseases for treatment section: Cancer treatment as representative of high mortality diseases; Asthma as a prevalent disease, decreasing quality of life; MS as a prevalent disease in Iran, disturbing daily life; and surgery for Dystonia and Parkinson’s disease as a high-tech surgery. For this study, we referred to medical specialists for each disease and some patients, and generated interviews in written forms or recorded videos. In some cases, information about diseases were gained from treatment centers or related associations. In doing research on medicine access, interviews were taken from pharmacists, managers of medicine producer companies, medicine importers and managers of distribution companies. Some information was also taken from 13Aban Central Pharmacy (the early pharmacy was founded by pharmacy college of University of Tehran), 1490 health system (a 24hrs/7days hotline designed to help patients by giving information about where different drugs could be accessed), and associations of some of these diseases. A set of this information is used to prepare this report and is referred to.

The condition of Cancer patients in Iran

Cancer is a type of disease in which body cells lose their ability to divide and usual growth and turn to tumor which leads to capture, destruction and corruption of healthy tissues. Worldwide cancer mortality in 2006 has been 6.7 million which include 13 percent of worldwide mortality statistics. It is predicted that this number will increase up to 9 million people in 2015.

According to the latest statistical and epidemiologic surveys in Iran, cancer is the third mortality factor after cardiovascular diseases and unintentional accidents (Dr. Mohammadali Mohagheghi, director of research center at Cancer Institute, Imam Khomeini Hospital, in an interview with “healthcare and treatment” reporter of Iranian Students News Agency).

About 85 thousand cancer cases are detected in the country annually, from which 30 thousands result in death. It should be noted that the number of newly diagnosed patients from 17765 in 2000 had increased to 55855 cases in 2005, and the latest statistics show that it had reached to 85000 cases in 2011. The age of cancer incidence has decreased to less than 30 years old. Its reasons include air pollution and modern lifestyle which goes along with smoking, consumption of alcoholic drinks, low physical activity, fibreless diets with high amount of fat and sugar.

The 181 percent growth of cancer in Iran is worrisome and according to the predictions of  Professor Nasser Parsa, a member of American Cancer Society, Iran will face a cancer tsunami in 2015. According to World Health Organization, Iran has the highest cancer prevalence in the Middle East (Mohammad Esmaeel Akbari, director of cancer research center at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences)

The most prevalent cancers in Iran are stomach or gastric cancer in men and breast cancer in women. Iran has 61 cancer treatment hubs and the government provides great subsidies for its treatment, but unfortunately fast growth of this disease in one hand, and its high costs in the other hand has made governmental aids ineffective, especially because of the inflation due to the economic sanctions of Iran in 2006 and then in 2012 which paralyzed treatment system of these centers and hindered their development. As a result, unfortunately half of these patients may not respond to the treatment because of the disease progress and die very soon (Alireza Zali, assistant director of Medical Council of Iran, annual cancer conference, 2012).

Cancer in Iran damages the patient in some respects:

Psychological problems: more than one third of patients in the world experience anxiety and depression resulted from anguish and stress after their disease diagnosis. This issue may affect the family of patients too. Though, this statistics may apply to half of the patients. Also, due to the following problems, these worries may be multiplied.

Financial problems and costs of medicine: The fear from high costs and financial problems is the second psychological problems. The results of Bazyar study shows that half of the cancer patients in Iran had to borrow money (in the research sample). Some of them had to move because they were in debt and more than half of them are living in a critical psychological and financial condition because of high costs, even in the first steps of the treatment (life threat, the major challenge for the patients after cancer diagnosis, Nursing and Obstetric College of the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, (Hayat) vol. 18, no. 5, 1391, pp. 12-22)

Social work section of the Tehran Cancer Treatment Center informed the research team that before 2006, nearly all of the treatment and medicine costs were covered by the hospital and they were focusing on the psychological problems of the patients, but after 2006 and then suddenly in 2012 with multiple increase of the medicine prices because of sanctions, the patients turned to this center for the medicines too. The number of patients has been doubled or more in recent year. ( Data provided by Social work section of the Tehran Cancer Treatment Center )

Currently, with insurance coverage and extra governmental aids, the patient has to pay for 20-30 percent of the prices, but it is not still affordable for many of them. Some special medicines are not covered by insurance and due to lack of purchase, have become scarce in market. After sanctions on banking system, the medicines without Iranian equivalents no longer exist, and when a kind of medicine becomes available in another city for example, people rush to that city and they encounter many people in a pharmacy (Dr Aghili Interview transcripts attached to this report). So in addition to financial problem, the patients have access problems too.

Consequently, there are some patients who have left their cancer treatment because of sudden increase in medicine prices and lost their lives. The number of these patients is increasing, though the treatment in this center is free.

Due to the high costs of treatment and medicines, the patients do not refer to private centers and because of the lack of economic justification, these centers are semi-closed. So a large number of cancer patients from different social stratums rush to the social work centers, and the people from vulnerable stratum of the society are not the only clientele anymore. This reference rate is obvious in statistics of the recent year (Mrs. Zohre Gholamhosein Fard, social work supervisor at Cancer Institute).

For instance, some patients like “Mahmud Ostad Mohammad”, a famous theatrical figure passed away, due to lack of medicine in last three months of his life, though he was well-to-do (to see price growth rate, refer to the statistics of this center and the complete interview transcripts attached to this report).

The problems of treatment access: altogether, the necessary facilities for cancer surgeries and also the related medicines (except the nuclear medicines for cancer diagnoses) are not under sanctions currently. But the usage overlap of radiotherapy pieces and some military devices (like radars) has made the sanctions focused on these pieces. The accelerator devices which are used for deep radiotherapies have been practically under sanctions, as in some cases after purchase and paying the money, the device, equipment or software were not delivered (for example, the Varian device.) Also, because of the sanctions, the other old devices couldn’t get the necessary sources (radioactive cobalt), after the old sources were ran out. These devices broke down one by one and the patients who have been in their waiting list were added to the waiting lists of other remaining devices. Every morning, stressful crowds, gather in treatment centers with active devices, waiting for their treatment turn.

The golden time of treatment for some patients is wasted in waiting lists, and some even die, waiting for their turn. On the other hand, treatment personnel work day and night and are worried about overloading the devices and losing these few devices too. While the special rooms for radiotherapy had been made with high costs, they are now used as storerooms because purchasing new devices were impossible (Dr. Aghili’s interview transcripts attached to this report.)

Later, sanctions just included the public sector, but the private sector still didn’t have the financial strength to buy such equipments and also the financial problems of patients led to the bankruptcy of some private sector agencies and thus, left the market. Devices were not still sold to the governmental sector. By imposing sanctions against banking system of the country, it was not possible to purchase these medical equipments because money transfer became impossible, while it is said that sanctions on medical equipments had been entirely removed! On the other hand, decrease in value of Iranian Rial currency, increased the prices for these devices in a sudden as it became practically impossible to buy them. As a result, cancer patients are deprived of this classic and standard option of treatment and lose their lives.

Healthcare system had to import low-quality Chinese devices. Later, it was found that they are harmful for patients because of their voltage fluctuations, so using these devices became obsolete.

Consequently, considering the inflation caused by sanctions, just a few well-off patients who are still able to afford costs of going abroad travel to countries like Turkey or Malaysia for radiotherapy treatment, and other patients are deprived of treatment or are still waiting in treatment queues of the remaining devices. In this situation, there are physicians and necessary specialties, but lack of access to equipments is the major factor of cancer mortalities (Dr. Kazemian Interview transcripts attached to this report).

It’s worth noting that once, Iran has been a center for training foreign residents and also a cancer treatment center for patients from the region, but sanctions has made the neighbor countries lose this opportunity (Dr. Aghili Interview transcripts attached to this report).

The condition of Asthma patients in Iran

Asthma as a disruptive disease which affects quality of life doesn’t have high mortality rate, but makes the patient unable to do his daily activities. About 250 thousand people lose their lives because of asthma annually. The exact reason is not clear, but this disease is a combination of inherent and genetic characteristics of the person (like allergies), which may outbreak due to the environmental elements (like smoking or viruses). The financial cost of this disease is equal to the overall costs of diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis and is in the same level with diabetes and Alzheimer.

According to immunology research center, 2010 asthma and allergy, the average prevalence of asthma in Iran is estimated 13 percent for children and 5-10 percent for adults. Actually, there are 7.5 million people with asthma. In the most polluted cities like Tehran, the level of this disease has been reported to be up to 35 percent.

Iran’s ministry of health has planned programs for prevention as well as confrontation with this disease, which one of its most important strategies is increasing public awareness and informing different groups of society, from healthy people to the authorities, about chronic respiratory diseases. Strategic and restricting plan of chronic respiratory diseases is also prepared in this line to be implemented in medical science universities. As Dr. Masoud Movahedi, director of Iranian Society for Asthma and Allergy, mentioned, with all of these efforts, due to different factors such as high amounts of contaminants in large cities, asthma is not under control yet.

If Asthma patients have no access to the medicines, they will spend a hard time, not having the opportunity of living a normal life or succeeding in their profession because of the respiratory difficulties. Some medicines are found in the market which many of them are mainly expired or their expiration date has been manipulated. For example, Floxitide is a medicine which has been omitted from the market and many patients do not respond to Beclomethasone and they have to use edible Prednisolone Tablets. These alternative medicines may develop some complications like osteoporosis or more serious ones like femur break and other complications.

The medicine has a similar low-quality Indian product which is ineffective or less-effective on some patients. As a result, these medicines maybe provided for a limited number of people through smuggling, passengers, and other unethical ways. The case of research team is Dr. Kamran Aghakhani, one of the prominent Iranian physicians, forensics specialist and faculty member of Iran University of Medical Sciences. Despite his extended relations, asthma sprays and other medicines are inaccessible for him as well. (Dr. Kamran Aghakhani Interview transcripts attached to this report)

On the other hand, unfortunately when it became apparent that these medicines are inaccessible in Iran, like many other medicines, similar counterfeit medicines were produced by some illegal Indian and Chinese companies and were imported through illegal ways and are now used by the patients which may follow irreparable complications.

Considering the prevalence rate and its lack of control in Iran, asthma medicines have been wiped out of the market and have disrupted lives of many patients in recent years. Though asthma is not a fatal disease like cancer, in addition to its effects on people’s lives, asthma mortality rate in Iran has been increasing which is a humanitarian crisis.

The asthma patients in Iran, considering their incurable disease, acknowledged that the issue of their disease should be noticed in international and humanitarian assemblies, and their access to medicines, and as a result a normal life, be provided in a way.  Apart from increase in medicine prices, most of the medicine centers believe that the lack of cooperation of foreign banks for transferring money is the major problem in medicine inaccessibility which is due to the sanctions against Iran’s banking system. Also, asthma specialists with their up-to-date knowledge prescribe new medicines which have been recently used in modern countries, but there is not a hope to access them in Iran.

These patients wish to have access to the medicines somehow, just like the people in other countries. Finally, as Dr Aghakhani stated, “Disease does not select the patient; poor and rich may become affected by the disease, but it is not proper that the patients’ access to treatment and medicine be selective and dependent to condition”.

The condition of M. S. patients in Iran

After accidents, M. S. is the most prevalent cause of disabilities among young people and no definite treatment for this disease has been discovered yet. But the existing medicine can decrease the attacks and disabilities resulting from this disease.

Development and exclusive signs are different in every patient and are not predictable. M.S. is appears after destruction of central neural tissues. Based on the place of destruction on the nervous system, it shows different signs, including impaired vision, blurred vision, impaired balance, tremor, lack of balance in walking, vertigo, weakness and torpidity in body, inability to do harmonic movements, frequent urination, urgent urination, impaired bladder emptying, urinary incontinence. In some patients the attack intervals maybe a year or it is possible to have an attack which is followed by continuous attacks.

M. S. is growing shockingly fast in Iran. The number of patients in Tehran has reached to 50 in every 100 thousands and in Isfahan are 73 in 100 thousands, which are similar to statistics of the European countries. Totally, the number of M. S. patients in Iran is 52.9 in every 100 thousands and there are 50 thousand patients currently in Iran. So Iran is among the countries with highest rate of M. S. prevalence. There are no exact statistics from M.S. patients in Iran, but with the mentioned estimations it seems that Iran is among the top ten countries with high numbers of M. S. patients. This disease appears in people between 20-40 years old. The great youth population of Iran is a reason for high rates of this disease in young people. Most of them are young women (twice or three times more than men). It is more prevalent among the educated people and even the physicians themselves (Sahraian, neurologist and director of scientific committee of M.S. society, international M.S. day)(Jamshid Lotfi, director of M.S. society in an interview with “Shargh”).

The research team had the opportunity for an interview with Dr. Mohammadali Sahraian, neurologist and director of scientific committee of M. S. society and asked about the patients’ problems. (Interview transcripts attached to this report)  He said that stress will increase the intensity of the disease and the number of attacks in M. S. patients. Stress and tension could be one of the factors which increases the number of M. S. patients in Iran.

Conditions of the society, especially the economic condition of people, intensely affect their normal lives and enforce a great deal of stress and tension on individuals. The daily deteriorating trend of these issues adds to the stress and tensions of these people and affects them in a negative way, and this trend may be one of the factors in growing number of M. S. patients.

M. S. is a disease that severely disrupts the patient’s life and enforces many problems. As a neurological disease, stress and tensions may intensely influence the number of attacks. In Iran, patients are affected by lack of medicines in two ways: First, the stress about the scarcity of medicines increases the number of attacks. Second, lack of medicine consumption for more than one or two months again increases the number of attacks.

M. S. makes the patient dependent to one type of medicine. Considering the lack of the European medicine, when the same medicine with the same producer was imported from Turkey with a Turkish label, its medical effectiveness on the patients had decreased severely. While Iran has the knowledge and ability, and produces 70 percent of the medicine, still the psychological non-acceptance of the Iranian medicines has made them less effective on the patients.

The same as other diseases, the most problematic issue is the increase in prices because of sanctions against banking system. Actually, the difficulties in money transfer have increased the prices very much or have completely wiped them out of the market. For example the German Methaferone was 900000 rials eight years ago, but gradually its price went up and suddenly it reached to 16000000 rials, which is unimaginable for its monthly consumption.

Rebif which has not the similar Iranian product has reached from 450000 to 6000000 rials for per month consumption, Tysabri costs 4000 USdollars per month, Avonex from 900000 to 10000000 and then suddenly reached to 20000000 rials.

Also, sanctions on banking system, high costs and the lack of primary ingredients of medicines, have increased the prices for the Iranian products too. Actually, the non-acceptance of money and inability to open LC are the major problems in scarcity of medicines. Banks and then companies do not accept the money.  The money transferred by patients or charity organizations has been blocked in Armenian and Azeri banks and patients cannot get the medicine even when they spend money. In the time of interview with Dr. Sahraian, for example Rebif was found in the market, but Avonex tablets and Methaferone were rare.

The condition of Dystonia and Parkinson’s patients

Dystonia is a neurological-dynamic disruption which results in repeated or long contractions in muscles. Dystonia often causes the appearance of unnatural and disabling movements. The main causes of this disease are hereditary and genetic, trauma and physical injuries, some kinds of infections, some medicine complications, oxygen shortage and injuries at the time of birth, and more than usual increase in bilirubin in the infancy period. Also some of the problems related to internal organs and skull may affect the outbreak of Dystonia.

Dystonia may appear local (for example, involuntary and continuous opening and closing of eyelid with several spasms, which prevents the proper movements of the eyes and eyelids and direct sight of the person) or as a generalized kind, is one the most disabling kinds of Dystonia. Because this disease involves all parts of the body including face, neck and spine, the patient’s appearance becomes unusual (Mrs. Jalili, Asie Karimi and Hosein Oroujzade) and walking becomes difficult too. Some of them (like Amoushahi, Rahimi, Jahed and Zamani) at first walk on their toes or the external edge of their feet and when they start walking their feet twist. They don’t have control over their muscles when they try to write; their fingers open and their hands tremble. These signs gradually increase, as in children the unnatural movements of neck toward a direction (like Faride Hamidinia), the continuous movement of head, spine and waist curve (Asie Karimi), involuntary gestures of mouth and uncontrollable movements of tongue (Hosein Oroujzade) causes speech and swallowing problems.

Dystonia is one of the diseases that almost show resistance against treatment. In the early stages, edible medicines, and sometimes botulism and Botox injection, maybe effective on temporary muscle paralysis. These toxicants have a temporary effect and after a while the human body produces antibodies and resists against them. New methods are based on stimulation of deep parts of brain. With electric stimulation of some deep parts of the brain through surgery and implanting electrode in it, it is possible to control patient’s movements, but this is a very professional surgery. This surgery which is one of the advanced surgeries is done in Iran and its costs are very low in comparison with the European countries. Dystonia is not a fatal disease, but it is paralyzing as the patients always has involuntary gestures, unusual way of walking and severe uncontrollable movements which makes usual daily activities impossible, and sometimes the patient has to sit on a wheelchair or on bed.

As mentioned before, Dystonia surgery is an advanced surgery, based on using high-tech instruments and equipments. Dr. Gholamali Shahidi is a neurologist with fellowship in movement disorder, doing the related surgeries from 2005. In an interview of research team with Dr. Shahidi, the problems and issues of these patients were examined. (Interview transcripts attached to this report) They have done 128 surgeries with good results, similar to the European surgeries, which 26 of them had been Dystonia. Contrary to the other countries, most of these patients are young. So this treatment improves their quality of life and returns them to the normal social life.

Pacemaker battery which makes electric pulses works between 1.5-5 years, depending to the kind of disease and should be replaced by a new one when it is necessary. Otherwise, if the battery finishes suddenly, it returns the patient to a condition worse than before and it is even possible that the patient faces medical risks, including dystonic storm and death. The battery is produced by the American company of Metronix exclusively. In many cases there were problems of importation due to its exclusiveness and they didn’t easily extend its license for the representative company. On the other hand, increase in dollar price from 650 to 900 tomans because of sanctions, and after sanctions against oil industry and banking system from 1226 to 3100, made this battery very expensive. It reached from 13 million tomans to 54 million tomans. This high price is not affordable for many patients. In addition, after sanctions against banking system, the problems of money transfer practically has made it impossible to purchase new batteries. The patients have to wait for example three months. When the capacity of the battery reaches 2 percent, it is a life-threatening condition for the patient. Many patients turn to doctors to adjust their batteries on low consumption; thus increasing the involuntary movements, to keep the battery alive until they could replace it.

Many cases were introduced to the research team. For example, Dr, Hasan Farjak, a 60 years old professional, an educated man with a PhD and an active lifestyle, or Mr. Zolfagharlou a 40 years old lawyer who had to decrease his battery consumption to 50 percent until he finds a new battery and now has lost his ability for normal daily activities. Mohammad lived in a village and he had come late to change his battery and died three months after his battery was discharged. Roya Jahed was living with 52 pills when she was 15 and now has a normal life after surgery. She is married now and is doing her genetic tests before pregnancy. Zamani, Masoudi, Koosha Khoshghadam, Farshad and many others are worried about their batteries now.

The Iranian economy is heavily dependent on crude oil export; in fact Iran derives 80% of its hard currency from crude oil export. After the intensive sanctions imposed on Iranian oil export, Iran’s ability to provide basic goods for its citizens was severely limited. Further sanctions on cargo shipment and shipping insurance limited the government’s ability to provide humanitarian goods such as medicine and medical equipment. The global sanctions targeting Iranian banking system and money transaction effectively influenced the entire economy and import\export processes of the country.

Although none of the sanctions imposed against the Iranian government directly ban export of humanitarian goods such as pharmaceuticals to this country, their indirect devastating effect on the healthcare, welfare and access of ordinary people to these services is notable.

Iranian drug manufacturers’ issues:

The main concerns of the Iranian manufacturing companies are:

  • Acquiring the currency needed to purchase bulk material as the value of the Rial fell dramatically during the last 2 years.
  • Opening accounts in the foreign country for purchasing process.
  • And finding a way to sidestep sanctions and import products to Iran, despite insurance and cargo sanctions.

Each part of the process is costly, time consuming and uncertain. Every day with the imposing of new sanctions, companies find it harder to work and indeed the quality of medications are questionable as the manager at Abidi pharmaceuticals said in an interview (transcripts attached to this report ) with the research team, “sometimes pharmaceutical product’s transfer and shipment is delayed up to 8 months, this not only poses a drug shortage but certainly affects the drug’s quality which hadn’t been stored in an ideal condition”. Therefore sanctions have cut off manufacturer’s access to key pharmaceutical and medical supplies and have made it difficult to import key materials for manufacturing pharmaceuticals which comprises 90 percent of Iran’s pharmaceutical market.

Whenever importation of a kind of bulk material was restricted from western sources, manufactures shifted to Indian or Chinese sources, although this procedure was costly and time consuming due to paper work, legal issues and the need to repeat quality control tests and stability tests to determine the products’ quality, but manufactures at the end were able to partially retain their pre-sanctions production rates. This nevertheless was at the cost of decline in overall quality since alternative sources are generally less qualified and partially have unknown side effects.

About the medicine production, Dr. Namazi said that the low-quality primary sources need purification and also processing devices which cannot be imported due to their dual usage in nuclear issues, except through smuggling the pieces separately to the country. And then there are maintenance problems and if the device breaks down and need repair, there would be problems with the manufacturer company.

By banning and sanctioning main roots of import or at least making it extensively difficult, the foreign companies or entities reasonably lose their interest to deal with Iran. The international community has opened the door for illegal smuggling of medicines. “Opportunists are taking advantage of the public’s vulnerability in the time of medicine shortage”, mentioned the manager at Abidi pharmaceuticals in an interview with the research team. Many patients refer to black market to buy vital medicines, sometimes at prices 3 times higher than the original price. For many years Naserkhosro Street (the hub of illegal drug dealers) had been quiet and empty; nowadays it’s crowded with illegal drug dealers. These medicines are of unknown by origins, haven’t been stored properly and might be actually counterfeit.

“Although US law technically exempts food and medicine from sanctions in order to minimize the impact on civilians, the increasing implementation of financial sanctions has discouraged exporters from shipping to Iran, because they face problems getting paid, due to barring of money transaction and additional banning of insuring shipments to Iran, and because the U.S. Treasury Department’s licensing requirements are too time consuming and complicated,” Said, dean of faculty of pharmacy at Tehran University of Medical Sciences. (Interview transcripts attached to this report). Most of vital medicines like chemotherapy medicines, medicines for treatment of Thalassemia and other blood complications such as anti-bleeding medicines for hemophilia and immunosuppressive medicines for patients undergoing transplant surgeries are manufactured by western companies. The sanctions, although put some relief for importing medicines from China and India which are very strict regarding importations from western countries, this has led to many miseries and loss of lives.

Data from June 2012 until September 2012, shows an average monthly shortage of 83 drugs, but from October 2012 the number of drug shortages dramatically rises from September 2012 until June 2013, when the average drug shortages was 144. There is a significant gap between the shortage of imported drugs and manufactured drugs in Iran. (Data is provide in the attachments)

The data obtained contains total number of calls made to 1490, in a period of four months, from 21 March to 23 July 2013. This data clearly shows how in a period of time a drug’s accessibility has declined.

Warfarin sodium (anti-blood clot) is a good example; in the first month (21 Mar -20 Apr) the number of calls made to check warfarin’s availability was zero, the second month (21 Apr. -21 May) the number of calls was only 2 and was successfully guided to the nearest pharmacy. But in the third month (22 May-21 June) the number of calls dramatically increases to 790 calls and in the fourth month (22 June-23 July) the number of calls reaches to 1701 calls. This irrespective of whether 1490 hotline was able to direct callers to a pharmacy shows that patients couldn’t simply find the drug needed by reaching a regular pharmacy and had to call 1490 for help. Data shows that 27% of the callers in the 3rd month and 30 percent of callers in the 4th month, faced the shortage and they couldn’t access the drug, respectively.

Methohexal (cardiovascular), for the 4 months above, Methohexal had a very low accessibility and an average of 77% of the calling patients were faced with the drug shortage and only 23% of the callers were guided to a pharmacy which could help them.

1296 kind of drugs were unavailable and the patients tried to access them by calling 1490. There are several vital drugs among them which their shortage endangers the health of the patients and even may cost their life. The data contains number of phone calls which 1490 failed to help them simply because of the lack of drugs in the country. These numbers are shown under “Failed Calls” column.

In following charts some statistics are given which are related to the drugs used to cure or help patients suffering diseases discussed in the previous section. The research is not focusing on the soaring prices of the drugs. Many of these are expensive drugs due to the declining state of Iranian economy -in part a result of sanctions- but it’s worth mentioning that even if patients somehow gain access to these drugs, very few can actually buy them.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) No. of calls
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) treatment Extavia 385
  Betaferon 1233
  Cinnovex 109
  Avonex 172

Drug Classification

Drug(Generic/Brand)

Failed calls

Contrast media

(Essential for radiological examination, are used to visualize vessels and tissues in radiography and CT imaging. Diagnosis of fatal complications are impossible without them.)

Visipaque

1760

Iodixanol

180

Omnipaque

1077

Ultravist

955

Iopromide

105

Scanlux

235

Iohexol

106

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
 Anticancer chemotherapy

(Shortage in chemotherapy drugs is very worrisome since lack of receiving a proper chemotherapy treatment in time, would possibly endanger a patient’s life.)

Flutamide 895
Flutamid 299
Remicade 804
Diferelin 520
Diphereline 202
Diferlin 494
Microrelin 246
Decapeptyl 232
Erbitux 599
Chlormbucil 336
Xeloda 148
Zeloda 102
Leukeran 225
Infliximab 203
Zometa 189
Thalidomide 183
Nexavar 171
Bcg 182

There are also other drugs. The director of Iran’s hemophilia society introduced cases like Manouchehr Esmaili-Liousi, a 15 years old teenager from tribes near the city of Dezful. He suffered from hemophilia and died on 14 November 2012 in hospital after his family failed to find the vital drug he needed to stop the bleeding. Or Taha Mahdi Hatamibabanari, a 4 years old hemophilic boy who died of bleeding caused by an injury. The necessary medicine could not be found while his parents and the hospital could not reach any due to shortage of access to hemophilia medicines. He stated that in the last two years the patients’ accessibility to antihemophilic drugs have declined to one third, compared to the past years. Patients face high emotional stress every day not being able to find their medication. In the last two years, major hospitals in Iran many times completely lacked antihemophilic drugs and many affected children are suffering as a result.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls

Hemophilia, vonwillebrand’s disease, diabetesbinsipidus

Minirin

179

About the Thalassemia patients, Dr. Arasteh noted that because of the difficulties resulting from sanctions on importing drugs and bulk materials for thalassemia drugs, the supply chain has been disrupted and patients are facing many adversaries, including diabetes, heart disease, skeletal problems, and liver problems.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Chelator Desferal 115

Some 20.000 Organ transplant patients are at risk currently. These patients have to permanently take immune suppressant drugs in order to prevent organ rejection. These patients might suffer organ rejection or even die if they miss even one dose of their drug.

Their drugs have become tremendously expensive and rare patients have to spent days searching for their prescription drugs. The table below shows the amount of callers faced with drug shortage.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Transplant Cellcept 274

Another vital drug is warfarin (anti blood clot). It prevents strokes and heart attacks due to thromboembolism, but in recent months its shortage has made so much panic for the patients and their families. The table below shows in a span of four months, the number of patients who weren’t able to access their drugs after calling 1490.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Anticoagulant Warfarin sodium 716

There are other drug classifications which the major ones are provided here, extracted from the data.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antiasthma Symbicort 398
  Seroflo 171
  Seretide 1368
  Salmeterol 108
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antidysrhythmic Flecainide 242
  Flecainide acetate 233
  Sotahexal 139
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antidiabetes Metohexal 491
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Volume expander Albumin 144
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Anticonvulsant Valproate sodium 212
  Depakine 149
  Orlept 124
  Tegretol 144
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Adhd treatment Ritalin 684
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Pregnancy termination Misoprostol 601
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antiparkinson agent Madopar 2356
  Levodopa 185
  Levodopa/benserazide 151
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Alzheimer’s disease treatment Galantamine 353
  Reminyl 166
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antimalarial Pyrimethamine 164
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antidepressant Asentra 436
  Zoloft 382
  Sertraline 137
  Doneurin 141
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antiviral Ganciclovir 345
  Tenofovir 228
  Tenobiovir 146
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Infertility treatment Hcg 1067
  Cetrotide 191
  Cetrorelix acetate 132
Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
 vaccine Gardasil 119
  Bcg 182

There are two tables here, showing the comparative data of drug shortage in a period of 15 days in the years 2012 and 2013. Significant rise in number of drugs shortage comparing the exact dates from two years shows that during last year the situation has exacerbated and will continue if no solution is considered.

It should be noted that the represented study and report is depicting a small part of the disaster occurring in Iran. During the study, many problems and issues in the field of treatment and medicine were discussed which there was not enough time to cover all of them. According to Dr. Namazi, a medical ethics specialist, there are many problems in healthcare field, including X-ray, access to radioactive medicines used in different types of CT scan and MRI, anesthetic medicine used in usual surgeries, lack of laboratory kits which make them to send a blood sample or urine sample to Turkey for a simple test.

The effects of sanctions on medicines have other dimensions too, for example undesirable effects on human food. For instance, the lack of bestial medicines leads to the prevalence of bestial diseases which affects humans too. As a result, more antibiotics are used to prevent the diseases, which severely have increased harmful antibiotics dosage in the bodies of Iranian people.

Clearly, with changing direction of sanctions, they are practically targeting the Iranian people. Also, sanctions against insurance and shipment are not just aimed at the government or political structure anymore. And these are civilians who have lost their primary access to the necessities such as treatments and medicines, and thus engaged in a life-threatening situation.

Financial isolation of people entirely for the political structure and politics, which is endangering their lives, is neither rational nor fair. It seems that political objectives and the existing problems between the governments have been preferred over the basic human rights and had influenced them.

Currently, the equipment and devices of treatment, medicines and other basic needs are under sanctions too, the same as automobile industry equipment or the sale of petroleum products, though apparently it is not like this. Actually, the medical equipment are not under sanctions, but it is sanctions on banking system that has made them difficult to be imported. And the only objective of this sanction is damaging people.

These sanctions have violated human rights in different ways and different public dimensions. When the rights of many people is violated it means that “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being” as stated in the article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also “the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” as stated in Article 12 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are violated too. Also, the rights of children and women as stated in article 24 of “Convention on the Rights of the Child”, and article 12 and 14 of “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” is violated too. It is the same for different ethnicities living in Iran, including Persians, Turks, Azeris, Kurds, natives of Luristan, Arabs, Baluchis and other ethnicities, as stated in article 5 of “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”; and for disabled people as stated in article 25 of  “Final report of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities” as well. Now there are many people with different races and ethnicities in every part of this country struggling over their lives. This is a silent, continuous and hidden genocide.

Sanctions should be revised. With the high population in this century, sanction is a very unjust way of putting pressure on governments, because they trample rights of people. At least, sanctions should be devised purposefully under observation of Human Rights Organization, unless they are not fair.

We hope that after this report and representing a small part of what is happening in Iran, the aware conscience of gentle minds do something in this direction to prevent from a disaster. There should be at least a way to provide the basic needs of people.

It is No Measure of Health to be Well Adjusted to a Profoundly Sick...

There are no media which block mockery of those perceived to be (whether mistakenly diagnosed by media, or otherwise ) mentally ill. They do not care to recognise how dangerous it is to do so.

It isn’t for me that I have been willing to keep putting my head above the parapet, and willing to keep getting the fucking shit kicked out of me.. as I do on the issues of mental health or child abuse. It’s because PEOPLE GET BULLIED WHEN MEDIA DON’T EDIT RESPONSIBLY AND PEOPLE DIE BECAUSE OF THAT BULLYING. (See Miley letter 4 on my site for suicide statistics.)

When editors do not act responsibly on the issue of mental health their readers kill themselves.

That’s the bottom line. Media create everyone’s reality. They create the world as we see it. The music. Who’s a lunatic. Who is sane. Who exactly are media to be allowed define what is sane?

Is having the close up HD slow fuckin motion face of Gaddafi being shot off on the front page in massive technicolor on all the bottom shelves of news stores so that every child in the universe can see it, sane?

Is that a sane practice? No. Did Britney Spears ever do anything like that? No. She fuckin’ didn’t.

Because she is a lady, not a whore for blood. She got made crazy by the media when there was fuck all wrong with her BUT the media. She got Kafka’d.

That’s what happens to her fans then. Those that love her won’t be inspired by her to be their beautiful selves. It doesn’t suit media’s idea of the future that young people grow up to make the world a loving place. So media fuck up the young people’s heroes. Then the young people are afraid.

And what’s the worst thing to be called? What is it everyone’s so afraid of? Being either considered ” crazy” or actually being “crazy”. And why is that such a terrifying thing to be considered? Because “Crazy” people get treated like shit. Not with love, which is what one’s grandmother would expect of one, in the presence of a person afflicted with a disability of any kind.

But as Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”. If people like Fowler and the other irresponsibly murderous-tongued media are sane, then I really wanna be crazy thanks. Because you know what? It’s not me going round killing people it’s media.

I recommend all readers to my website wherein you will find a link to a British information pack on mental health advocacy and human rights.

When the afflicted are mocked they die. When their heroes are mocked by their perceived mental afflictions, they die. Not the heroes, they never die, that’s the sad part. It’s the afflicted.

They have to hide. It’s like trying to walk up the street with two broken legs and make sure you walk like normal because if you don’t, people will come and smash up your legs and laugh about it when you scream. And no one will defend you.

That is why I consider I myself the defender of the mentally ill. I myself am not in fact mentally ill.

I have been the subject of a mis-diagnoses, which came about by a doctor who never met me, who on the phone to a general practitioner who was meeting me for the first time, said “from what I read about her in the papers I’d say she is bipolar”.

It suited me to believe it. The fact was I had a baby 5 months previously and his father didn’t want to know him. I was severely distressed by this and had taken myself to the doctor to say I was feeling depressed and not feeling like myself.

I have over the last three years, had three ‘second opinions’ in consultation with three hospitals.

The last results were in the last 6 weeks. All have confirmed that I never did have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed by media. Because I’m the type of woman that media wouldn’t want being a hero. Because it doesn’t suit them to have women feel strong. And so they’ll use other women. Who’ll write venom about women. Kafka again.

Any woman who might inspire others to be themselves at any cost and to believe that there is a God despite religion, who can be called upon to immediately intervene, when people recognise that religion has them talking to the wall, has to be ‘crazied’. It’s been that way from creation.

I’m honoured to be one in an ancient historic line. Of female spiritual soldiers. Soldiers, not ladies, so don’t gimme any of the “If you’re not a fucking saint and perfect you can’t be a spiritual soldier” shit. Google Jesus mashing up the fucking temple.

I’m willing to fight on behalf of those who are not able to defend themselves, using all I have learned from being treated as the mentally ill are treated. My relentlessness in seeking human rights laws be APPLIED to the mentally is not going to cease. The mentally ill are amongst the most extremely vulnerable of this earth.

When can crazy stop being a term of abuse?

Sinead O’Connor is a musician and activist.

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Air Pollution a Leading Cause of Cancer: World Health Organization

Air pollution causes cancer, the world health body declared on Thursday.A woman bikes through pollution in Vietnam. (Photo: Letizia Airoldi/cc/flickr)While the World Health Organization's...

Air Pollution a Leading Cause of Cancer: World Health Organization

Air pollution causes cancer, the world health body declared on Thursday.

A woman bikes through pollution in Vietnam. (Photo: Letizia Airoldi/cc/flickr)While the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had previously classified elements of air pollution like diesel engine exhaust and some metals as carcinogens, the new designation marks the first time IARC is designating air pollution as a whole a carcinogen.

“Our task was to evaluate the air everyone breathes rather than focus on specific air pollutants,” Dr. Dana Loomis, Deputy Head of the Monographs Section of IARC, which identifies environmental factors that can increase the risk of human cancer, explained in a statement. 

Based on over 1000 scientific papers from studies across the world, the group now places air pollution among tobacco smoking, benzene and Gamma radiation as a known carcinogen in what is referred to as the "Encyclopaedia of Carcinogens.” 

“The WHO study confirms what many environmental justice community activists, leaders and scholars have been saying for decades."
—Dr. Robert Bullard
“The results from the reviewed studies point in the same direction: the risk of developing lung cancer is significantly increased in people exposed to air pollution," added Loomis.

In addition to finding sufficient evidence to say that outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer, the group found a positive association to an increased risk of bladder cancer.

“The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances,” said Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Section. “We now know that outdoor air pollution is not only a major risk to health in general, but also a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths.”

The causes of the air pollution the IARC points to are transportation, stationary power generation, industrial and agricultural emissions, and residential heating and cooking, and though there are extreme global differences in air quality, the IARC stated that the conclusions of their findings "apply to all regions of the world." 

“The WHO study confirms what many environmental justice community activists, leaders and scholars have been saying for decades," said Robert Bullard, Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and a man considered "the father of environmental justice," in a statement given to Common Dreams

But, Bullard continued, "Air pollution is not only an environmental justice issue, it is also a health equity issue in the United States and around the world—with the most vulnerable populations, people of color, poor in cities, and vulnerable marginalized populations facing the greatest risks.”

IARC Director Dr. Christopher Wild concluded that "this report should send a strong signal to the international community to take action without further delay.”

____________________

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This week the Strike Debt Rolling Jubilee, a project that arose from Occupy Wall Street, will announce its purchase of more than $1 million of medical debt as part of a weeklong national conversation about why people shouldn’t be put in debt meeting their basic needs.

Patient holding hands

(Image: Patient holding hands via Shutterstock)

The Rolling Jubilee raised funds to purchase bundles of debt for pennies on the dollar. Unlike the rapidly growing industry of collection agencies that purchase debt and then hound debtors until they repay, the Rolling Jubilee will erase their purchased debt, freeing debtors from their obligation. Rolling Jubilee members view debt as the intersection between Wall Street and people’s lives. They argue that medical and other debt shouldn’t exist because debt is part of a rigged system of mafia capitalism that extracts wealth from people who are trying to meet their basic needs.

We spoke with Thomas Gokey of Strike Debt and Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program and author of the leading studies on bankruptcy caused by medical debt, to learn more. We explored why medical debt exists in the United States, what its impacts are on health and what could be done to end medical debt completely. Woolhandler also described the impact of the 2006 Massachusetts’ health law, which was used as a blueprint for the national health law, on debt and health care costs. The solution, a national single-payer health system, described as “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All,” is already supported by the majority of Americans. Until this and other solutions to our crises are realized, Strike Debt provides a guide for organizing and resisting the culture of debt that binds us.

Living in the Land of Health Injustice

The US has used a market-based health system for so long that most people probably feel that it is normal, but in truth, the US health system is an aberration. Most industrialized nations have publicly-funded universal health care systems paid for through taxes that cover virtually 100 percent of necessary care. Their systems have been in existence for many decades, and while no system is perfect, other countries spend half what the United States  does per person on health care, cover everyone and have better health outcomes.

After World War II, the United States moved toward a system of health insurance primarily accessed through employment. Then, under President Reagan in the 1980s, there was an intentional effort to create investor-owned health-care services, turn health insurance into a profit-making sector and privatize the delivery of health care in for-profit hospitals. Creating a for-profit health care system is a thirty-year experiment with clear outcomes: uncontrolled costs, growing health disparities, falling life expectancy and other indicators of poor health status, including high numbers of preventable deaths. If such an experiment were to have been conducted by a research team, ethics would have demanded that the experiment be stopped a long time ago.

The basic flaws of the US system are obvious. When health insurance is tied to employment, the healthiest segment of the population (i.e. essentially those who are working) is covered. Those who cannot work, perhaps because of a serious accident or illness, lose their coverage or struggle to afford it on the individual market where the prices are higher and the coverage is skimpier. When the bottom line is profit, not health, health insurers compete to attract those who are healthy in the first place and then find ways to restrict and deny payment for care through provider networks, authorization processes and out-of-pocket costs.

Patients and providers spend so much time and energy trying to navigate the complicated health system in the United States that it is hard to see the forest for the trees. But each time that a patient delays or avoids necessary care, that a patient is asked what kind of insurance they have before they are asked what they need, or that a family has to choose between paying for treatment and paying for basics such as food and shelter, a health injustice has occurred. These scenarios do not happen in other wealthy nations.

In fact, medical debt and bankruptcy are uniquely American experiences among wealthy nations. Some enter into medical debt because they are uninsured and need medical services, but the majority of people who end up with medical bankruptcy have health insurance. Dr. Woolhandler and her colleagues interviewed over two thousand people in bankruptcy court. They found that more than 60 percent became bankrupt because of medical illness and medical bills, and nearly 80 percent had insurance when they first became ill. Despite being insured, the out-of-pocket costs for the premiums, copays, deductibles, co-insurance and uncovered services combined to create an unsustainable financial burden.

Woolhandler’s landmark bankruptcy study was based on data from 2007, before the financial crisis of 2008. At present, over one-third of working families have no savings, and nearly two-thirds do not have enough cash on hand to withstand a $1,000 emergency. When families are living paycheck to paycheck, one serious accident or illness is enough to push them over the edge.

In addition to the obvious risk of financial ruin, we asked Woolhandler about the impact of being uninsured or underinsured on health outcomes. The consequences are well-documented. People without insurance do not receive primary or preventive care, have worse outcomes when they do seek treatment and are more likely to die. The same goes for those who have skimpy health insurance. Copays and deductibles cause people to delay or avoid necessary care

ObamaCare Will Escalate Health Injustice

There is a lot of confusion about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At its root the ACA was an insurance company takeover of health care in the United States which included lots of ways for health corporations to profit. There has been a marketing effort to sell people on the ACA by claiming more people will have health insurance, but what is not mentioned is that the type of insurance coverage people will have is going to be skimpier. While it is true that more people will have insurance, the ACA will still leave tens of millions without insurance when fully implemented, and there will be an increase in expensive under-insurance plans.

Prior to the passage of the Obama health reform, there were efforts by some state-level insurance regulators to require insurance companies to provide more extensive coverage by spending 80 to 85 percent of premiums on health services rather than on profit and administration. The Obama law stopped those efforts by putting in place a law for the first time which said that 60-40 plans are acceptable. In a 60-40 plan, the insurance company pays 60 percent of the covered costs, while the enrollee pays 40 percent plus the full amount of uncovered costs, those not included in their policies. Enrollee costs include premiums, deductibles, copays, co-insurance and other out-of-pocket expenses. It is these out-of-pocket costs that quickly lead to health-care debt and bankruptcy.

The ACA will push coverage in the direction of under-insurance in a number of ways. One is through taxing so-called “Cadillac Plans” which are merely insurance plans that provide the kind of coverage all Americans once viewed as standard – actual health insurance. Employers are planning to avoid the Cadillac tax by lowering benefits so that their plans do not meet the Cadillac Plan criteria. Employers are also planning to drop health benefits and pay a penalty instead, which saves money, or to drop health benefits and offer subsidies to employees to purchase health insurance on their own. Other employers are changing the status of their employees to be consultants or less than full time to avoid having to provide health benefits.

The ACA will result in more people purchasing inadequate insurance plans when the state insurance exchanges open later this year. There will be four tiers of coverage from 90-10 to 60-40 plans. Most people will be forced to choose the lower tiers because premiums will rise even higher when the requirement to offer policies to people with pre-existing conditions begins.

Those who qualify for subsidies by earning below 250 percent of the federal poverty level (the Federal Poverty Level income for a family of four is $23,550, the qualifying income, $58,875) will be allowed to purchase 70-30 plans only.

And the Obama administration narrowly interpreted the law so that qualification for subsidies based on the cost of premiums only applies to individual, not family, plans. This means that if the cost of an individual plan is less than 9.5 percent of a person’s income, even if that person actually needs a family plan which would cost more than 9.5 percent, they do not qualify for a subsidy to buy a family plan.

One way to know how the Obama law will fare is to look at the experience of the pilot project in Massachusetts. The 2006 Massachusetts health-care law cut the number of uninsured in half, which is similar to what the ACA is expected to accomplish. Those who are still without coverage are primarily the working poor. The health insurance exchange has not brought the cost of premiums down and is not used by the majority of the public. The exchange is mainly used by those who receive a subsidy from the government because subsidized plans must be purchased from the exchange. To pay for subsidies for insurance premiums, Massachusetts cut important safety net public health programs, especially programs like those for mental health services that are not covered by insurance. The cost of health care in Massachusetts, already the highest in the nation, continues to rise. And the cost of health care continues to be a barrier for people who need health services. Medical debt and bankruptcies continue at the same levels as before the law was passed.

Based on predictions by groups like the Congressional Budget Office and the experience in Massachusetts, we can predict the result of the ACA: continued lack of insurance for at least 30 million, more people in the costly individual insurance market, more people with under-insurance, continued increases in the cost of health care, continued financial barriers to necessary health care and continued high levels of medical debt and medical bankruptcy. In other words, health injustice will continue in the United States.

How to End Health Injustice

One of the first steps required for change is awareness of the problem. The Strike Debt Rolling Jubilee “Life or Debt” campaign will help some people directly, but it will do more to highlight the ongoing problems of medical debt and the debtor system. The Rolling Jubilee has joined with single-payer health care advocates for a week of national solidarity actions to educate about the single-payer solution and to shift the broader conversation to one that questions a system that profits from people’s attempts to meet their needs.

The dominant message in the United States is one that places the blame on individuals when they are unable to meet their basic needs for health care, housing, education and food. The individual is blamed for making a bad decision to borrow money or for not being able to put money aside in a savings account. This is meant to make people feel shame. It is a form of social control that disempowers people and silences them. But Strike Debt recognizes that 76 percent of Americans are in debt and asks, “How is it possible that three-quarters of us could all have just somehow failed to figure out how to properly manage our money, all at the same time?”

This is a fundamental question because real transformation becomes possible when people stop feeling isolated and ashamed and instead join together to tell their stories, to find connections between their stories and to question the root causes of their shared situation. For us, this was a key reason for the physical occupations in the fall of 2011. In the occupations, people met others who were struggling with the same problems of homelessness, unemployment and debt. The Strike Debt campaign says it well, “You are not a loan. You are not alone.” Working in solidarity is both empowering and powerful.

For too long in the United States, politicians and the corporate media have defined the narrative. We can use single payer as a prime example. A single-payer health-care system or “improved Medicare-for-All” would ensure access to health care from birth to death for everyone in the United States. This is eminently affordable, indeed the US already spends the most per person on health care in the world; we just get the least return for our spending. It is not a question of the cost; rather it is a question of the US political system being able to put in place real solutions despite the power of the insurance and for-profit health-care industries.

The arguments for single payer are widely supported and well-known. It is the only proven path to a national health system that will provide coverage to everyone in the United States, control costs and produce excellent health outcomes. There is a solid majority of the public, including a majority of health professionals, who supports a single-payer health system despite the intentional misinformation campaign that characterizes single payer as “socialism” and “rationing.” But single-payer supporters are disempowered by being told that they are asking for too much and that what they want is not politically feasible. They are urged to be pragmatic and to accept incremental solutions.

Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in front groups such as Health Care for America Now to channel popular energy away from single payer and into Wall Street solutions such as the ACA. And it has been very effective. During the health-reform process, the groups who supported health reform were effectively split. Single-payer supporters were divided into those who held firm for a single payer plan and those who supported what was called the public option. Single-payer supporters who held firm were chastised for not being pragmatic and supporting a public option, which was mislabeled as a step toward single payer even though the evidence showed that a public option was neither a practical step nor was it intended to be included in the health law.

As the health law neared the final steps in the process, and the provisions in the bill were increasingly unacceptable, two additional methods of social control were employed. One was straight up lying. Politicians and their front groups called the health law “universal, affordable and guaranteed,” when it was none of those. And the other was to tie the success of the law to the success of the Democratic Party and to frighten the public into believing that Republicans would be much worse. This line of thinking ignored the fact that the state model for the bill was passed under a Republican administration, Governor Romney, in Massachusetts, and that the blueprint for the bill was developed in the conservative Heritage Foundation.

There are important lessons to learn from the health-reform process. First, is that advocates must have a solid understanding of what constitutes a real solution so they are not led down a path toward a false solution. Second, is that advocates must work in solidarity for real solutions with confidence rather than accepting watered-down solutions. And third, is that advocates must not tether their work to the agenda of any political party but must be willing to hold whoever is in office accountable.

Commodifying Human Needs Violates Human Rights

The human rights framework is being used more and more as a way to understand problems and their solutions and to empower people to demand that basic needs are met. The concept of human rights runs counter to the incentive of the market, which is to make everything a commodity. When human needs are treated as commodities, those who control access to them have a captive population.

Like the company towns that arose during the Industrial Revolution, Wall Street controls the currency, the jobs, and goods and services, so that many people have nowhere to go. It is estimated by author John Curl that 92 percent of the working population in the US is trapped in indentured servitude, dependent on their job for their survival. As anthropologist David Graeber points out, the earliest wage contracts were slave rentals. Today, the reality for almost all Americans is living as indebted wage slaves.

One of the tools used by dictatorships to control their populations and prevent uprisings is to impose economic sanctions. Sanctions are easy to recognize when we look at other nations, but not so easy to see at home. The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, and total wealth is growing. But this wealth, much of which is derived from the resources and labor of the population, is flowing to the top 1 percent or above, while the wealth of the bottom 99 percent is falling. There is enough wealth in the United States to provide free education and health care to all and to create a full employment program. The US could invest in a clean energy infrastructure and affordable housing. The failure to do so is equivalent to imposing sanctions on the majority of the people.

Although some do not know it yet, all people in the United States are united by their human rights to have basic needs met. Indeed, the United States has signed onto two international treaties that delineate these human rights. One is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other is the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. These rights, including our right to health care, are being violated. It is up to the people to realize this and to join together in demanding that our rights be honored. Human rights are the glue that binds us to each other. Debt is the shackle that enslaves us to Wall Street.

Starting at the Roots

The commodification of health care is the root cause of medical debt and bankruptcy, but we see the same pattern when it comes to other essentials such as housing, education and more. The Strike Debt campaign on medical debt is part of a broader campaign against our debt-based economy. Debt has been part of human society for thousands of years and, as David Graeber notes, there are “potentially catastrophic social consequences of debt.” In order to avoid a debt crisis:

“It soon became traditional for each new ruler to wipe the slate clean, cancel all debts, and declare a general amnesty or ‘freedom’, so that all bonded labourers could return to their families. (It is significant here that the first word for ‘freedom’ known in any human language, the Sumerian amarga, literally means ‘return to mother’.) Biblical prophets instituted a similar custom, the Jubilee, whereby after seven years all debts were similarly cancelled. This is the direct ancestor of the New Testament notion of ‘redemption.’ ”

Strike Debt seeks to “build popular resistance to all forms of debt imposed on us by the banks. Debt keeps us isolated, ashamed and afraid. We are building a movement to challenge this system while creating alternatives and supporting each other. We want an economy where our debts are to our friends, families and communities – and not to the 1%.”

This type of thinking is fundamental to achieving a society based on equality, prosperity and human rights. A culture shift away from the dominant narrative of the marketplace to one of social solidarity is essential because a population that is empowered and works together is more difficult to oppress and control.

The Strike Debt campaign prepared a Debt Resisters Organizing Manual to provide people with tools to both resist debt and build the society we want to live in. The manual is an ongoing work that is available for free on the Strike Debt website. It explains debt and how it is created. It provides specific actions that people can take to decrease their individual debt. And it provides information so that communities can understand ways that debt controls their collective lives, for example when public debt is used to justify cuts to social services and basic public infrastructure.

Debt is a global problem. It is a tool that has been used for decades to advance a neoliberal agenda of privatization of goods and services. Secretary of State John Kerry’s first trip to Egypt was to push their new government to accept an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan with the requirement that it end subsidies for fuel and food, among other structural adjustments. The United States, through the World Bank and IMF, routinely requires Structural Adjustment Programs as conditions of loans that demand decreased funding for public programs and increased foreign ownership of resources.

Indeed, rather than ending debt as wise rulers of the past have done, for the first time in the 5,000-year history of debt, Graeber writes, “we have begun to see the creation of the first effective planetary administrative system, operating through the IMF, World Bank, corporations and other financial institutions, largely in order to protect the interests of creditors.”

But more civil societies are taking a stand against debt that has been imposed upon them without their consent. In Spain, this is being done through the “No Pagamos” (We Won’t Pay) campaign. Likewise, it is happening in the UK and Greece. We have written previously about successes in Latin America such as Venezuela and Ecuador.

As neoliberal policies take root at home, more communities in the US are building Strike Debt chapters and fighting back. To find a chapter near you or to start one, visit Strike Debt. It is time for Americans to stand together, with the people of the world, and end the systemic problem of debt enslavement. For this, our solidarity is more important than ever.

You can listen to our interview with Thomas Gokey of Strike Debt and Dr. Steffie Woolhandler of PNHP.org on Medical Debt and Bankruptcy on Clearing the FOG.Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-host ClearingtheFOGRadio.org on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

Giant Food Corporations Work Hand-In-Glove With Corrupt Government Agencies To Dish Up Cheap, Unhealthy...

Big Food Is Making Us Sick

The Independent reports that small farmers are being challenged by food companies are becoming insanely concentrated:

Increasingly, a handful of multinationals are tightening their grip on the commodity markets, with potentially dramatic effects for consumers and food producers alike.

***

Three companies now account for more than 40 per cent of global coffee sales, eight companies control the supply of cocoa and chocolate, seven control 85 per cent of tea production, five account for 75 per cent of the world banana trade, and the largest six sugar traders account for about two-thirds of world trade, according to the new publication from the Fairtrade Foundation.

***

This is the year “to put the politics of food on the public agenda and find better solutions to the insanity of our broken food system”.

More people may be shopping ethically – sales of Fairtrade cocoa grew by more than 20 per cent last year to £153m – but, according to the report, the world’s food system is “dangerously out of control”.

How is that effecting the safety of our food supply? Reuters notes:

Multinational food, drink and alcohol companies are using strategies similar to those employed by the tobacco industry to undermine public health policies, health experts said on Tuesday.

In an international analysis of involvement by so-called “unhealthy commodity” companies in health policy-making, researchers from Australia, Britain, Brazil and elsewhere said … that through the aggressive marketing of ultra-processed food and drink, multinational companies were now major drivers of the world’s growing epidemic of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Writing in The Lancet medical journal, the researchers cited industry documents they said revealed how companies seek to shape health legislation and avoid regulation.

This is done by “building financial and institutional relations” with health professionals, non-governmental organizations and health agencies, distorting research findings, and lobbying politicians to oppose health reforms, they said.

They cited analysis of published research which found systematic bias from industry funding: articles sponsored exclusively by food and drinks companies were between four and eight times more likely to have conclusions that favored the companies than those not sponsored by them.

How are giant food manufacturers trying to influence legislation?

As Waking Times reports, they’re trying to gag all reporting:

States are adopting laws meant to keep consumers in the dark about where their food comes from.

Do you have a right to know where that steak on your plate came from?

Should it be legal to photograph chicken farms and dairy cows?

Big Agriculture says you don’t and it shouldn’t. Armies of Big Ag lobbyists are pushing for new state-level laws across the country to keep us all in the dark. Less restrictive versions have been law in some states since the 1980s, but the meat industry has ratcheted up a radical new campaign.

This wave of “ag-gag” bills would criminalize whistleblowers, investigators, and journalists who expose animal welfare abuses at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Ten states considered “ag-gag” bills last year, and Iowa, Missouri, and Utah approved them. Even more are soon to follow.

Had these laws been in force, the Humane Society might have been prosecuted for documenting repeated animal welfare and food safety violations at Hallmark/Westland, formerly the second-largest supplier of beef to the National School Lunch Program. Cows too sick to walk were being slaughtered and that meat was shipped to our schools, endangering our kids. The investigation led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

***

Big Ag wants to silence whistleblowers rather than clean up its act. Ag-gag bills are now pending in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, and New Hampshire. Similar legislation may crop up in North Carolina and Minnesota.

The bills aren’t identical, but they share common language — sometimes even word-for-word. Some criminalize anyone who even “records an image or sound” from a factory farm. Others mandate that witnesses report abuses within a few hours, which would make it impossible for whistleblowers to secure advice and protection, or for them to document a pattern of abuses.

Indiana’s version of this cookie-cutter legislation ominously begins with the statement that farmers have the right to “engage in agricultural operations free from the threat of terrorism and interference from unauthorized third persons.” [The Feds are treating people who expose abuse in factory farms as potential terrorists … and the states want the same power.]

Yet these bills aren’t about violence or terrorism. They’re about truth-telling that’s bad for branding. For these corporations, a “terrorist” is anyone who threatens their profits by exposing inhumane practices that jeopardize consumer health.

***

Ag-gag bills aren’t about silencing journalists and whistleblowers. They’re about curbing consumer access to information at a time when more and more Americans want to know where our food comes from and how it’s produced.

The problem for corporations is that when people have information, they act on it. During a recent ag-gag hearing in Indiana, one of the nation’s largest egg producers told lawmakers about a recent investigation. After an undercover video was posted online, 50 customers quickly called and stopped buying their eggs. An informed public is the biggest threat to business as usual.

An informed public is also the biggest threat to these ag-gag bills. In Wyoming, one of the bills has already failed. According to sponsors, it was abandoned in part because of negative publicity. By shining a light on these attempts, we can make sure that the rest fail as well, while protecting the right of consumers to know what they’re buying.

So what – exactly – are the giant food corporations trying to hide?

They are fraudulently substituting cheaper – less healthy – food for high-quality. food.   And see this.

Indeed, the dairy industry wants to add sweeteners – such as aspartame – to milk without any labeling.

Food fraud is rampant .. including huge proportions of fish.

The bottom line is that collusion between government and big business is dishing up cheap, unhealthy food … just like collusion between D.C. and giant corporations caused the financial crisis, the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, the Gulf oil spill and other major disasters (and see this; and take a peek at number 9).

For example, the FDA:

  • Declared fish from Fukushima a-okay after radiation spewed into the ocean

The Department of Agriculture:

An official U.S. government report finds that Americans ‘are sicker and die younger’ than people in other wealthy nations.  There are a number of factors for this sickness … but unhealthy, cheap food is part of it.

Victory for Climate, Public Health: US Coal Giant to Shut Down Three Plants

In a victory for advocates of clean air and water, energy giant American Electric Power will now be shutting down three coal-fired power plants and significantly reducing air pollution at 13 others across the Midwest and Southern United States.

American Electric Power’s generating station in Rockport, Indiana (Reuters) The agreement was made in a settlement between AEP and a coalition of 13 citizen groups, eight states, and the EPA—bringing an over decade old lawsuit to a close.

In the agreement AEP will also agree to replace a portion of the coal plants with new wind and solar investments in Indiana and Michigan.

“We’re glad AEP is going to retire these aging dinosaurs, and urge the company to ensure an equitable transition for the workers and communities most directly impacted by these retirements,” said Earthjustice attorney Shannon Fisk, who worked on the case.

Coal plants currently supply 32 percent of the nation’s electricity, and are the largest U.S. source of both sulfur dioxide and mercury as well as carbon dioxide linked to global warming.

The cuts will not happen immediately, however. AEP and its subsidiaries will reduce their total SO2 emissions by roughly 90 percent by 2029 from its baseline emissions; however, this agreement means that by 2015 AEP will have to stop burning coal at three power plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

“Today’s agreement will protect public health, reduce the threat of climate disruption, and create a cleaner environment for families in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Across the country, the coal industry faces unprecedented setbacks as its share of electricity generation plummets and the cost of coal continues to skyrocket. This agreement is only the latest sign of progress as our country continues to transition away from dirty, dangerous, and expensive coal-fired power plants.”

"According to estimates from the Clean Air Task Force, 203 deaths, 310 heart attacks, 3,160 asthma attacks, and 188 emergency room visits per year will be averted once the Muskingum River, Tanners Creek and Big Sandy power plants stop burning coal," Earthjustice reports Monday.

In addition to benefiting public health, the settlement is also a victory for the climate in its vast reduction of greenhouse gases. Environment News Service reports that a total of 12 million tons of carbon dioxide and nearly 84,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution will be cut each year.

“Across the Midwest and the Great Plains, in states like Iowa and South Dakota that already get 20 percent of their energy from wind sources, clean energy is powering homes, putting people back to work, and protecting families from dangerous and expensive coal-fired power plants,” said Kerwin Olson, Executive Director of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana. “Indiana has one of the fastest growing wind industries in the nation and is creating thousands of local jobs. This settlement builds on that success and will only accelerate Indiana’s and our nation’s responsible transition to an economy powered by clean, renewable, affordable sources of energy.”

The settlement also involves a $6 million payout from AEP to eight states involved in the settlement: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Those funds will cover programs to "mitigate the effects of air pollution carried east from AEP’s Midwest plants," according to Environmental News Service.

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Efforts to Provide HIV-AIDS and Other Health Services to Migrants Face Major Obstacles

Hands hold an AIDS red ribbon pinPhoto: Trygve.u)Click here to support courageous reporting and commentary by making a tax-deductible contribution to Truthout!

Juan stopped in Tapachula, Chiapas to rest for a few days and to receive a routine medical check-up before heading out on the treacherous 1,700-mile long journey to Mexico’s northern border. Since he was already sitting in the Doctor’s office, he figured he might as well get one of the free quick tests offered by the Belenmigrant shelter on Monday and Thursday afternoons. In under a minute, the test confirmed his worst fears: he was HIV-positive.

It wasn’t the first time he’d received the diagnosis. Before being deported back to Honduras the previous year, he had been tested while in U.S. custody at a detention center in Texas. Convinced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was using a scare tactic to justify his deportation, he didn’t believe the results. He also hadn’t told his wife, who sat outside the doctor’s office with their two kids waiting to receive medical care. Ten minutes later, she knew his status as well as her own.

Health at the Margins

Since 2007, HIV and AIDS rates have gone up throughout rural Mexican states, partly as a result of returning migrants who have engaged in high-risk behaviors in the United States and not been able to receive diagnosis or treatment.  Medical experts are shifting their attention to the particular dangers faced by Central American migrants—human trafficking, sexual abuse, prostitution, isolation, depression, and drug use—as vectors driving these numbers, especially in the southernmost state of Chiapas, where 40,000 to 60,000 migrants cross through in the hope of finding a better life in Mexico or the United States.

According to the most recent report by the National Center for the Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS (CENSIDA), Chiapas is the sixth state for highest accumulated AIDS cases with a registered 6,717 individuals living with the. Within the state, Tuxtla Guttierrez, Tonalá, Cintalapa and Tapachula were labeled “red flags” (Focos Rojos’)— municipalities where rates of infection and the presence of at-risk groups, like sex workers and increasingly migrants, are statistically higher than the rest of the state. Tapachula, where an estimated 95% of transiting migrants pass through, registered a total of 2,045 HIV-cases and has drawn the attention of local organizations, health groups, and migrant shelters.

Led by the charismatic Rev. Florencio Maria Rigoni of the Scalabrini Order of Missionaries, the Belen migrant shelter sits a few meters away from the brackish banks of the Cahoacan River and only 20 miles away from the Mexico-Guatemala border. The shelter’s orange and electric blue walls houses one of the starting gates for a multi-actor health response seeking to stem HIV-transmission rates.

These efforts begin from a modest 200 square foot office, where Dr. Ramos, his wife Leni Pundt and brother Victor Ramos offer free, voluntary medical services every Monday through Saturday afternoon to the shelter’s transient inhabitants. On Monday and Thursday, Dr. Ramos, a semi-retired general practitioner with a dead-pan sense of humor and a thick head of pewter hair, gives his HIV-prevention talks in the shelter’s mess hall with the help of graphic flip-boards and Pinocchio, a varnished wooden penis sporting plastic Mickey Mouse-style gloves, baby blue clown shoes, googly eyes and a condom as a hat.

“[Girls] would see a dildo and get embarrassed and leave,” the doctor explains. “Even the boys sometimes.”

Tact and humor, he believes, are the best medicines. But combined with the story of Juan—which always draws strong reactions from the crowd— he drives home an effective point: if you want to make your American Dream a reality, protect yourself and get tested.

Mechanics of Prevention

Funded in part by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and the Mexican Institute for Public Health (INSP), these HIV-prevention activities are part of the Reproductive and Sexual Health Project (SSR). The program initiated in migrant shelters like the Belen Shelter at high-density ‘transit stations’—towns like Tapachula that experience a high presence of migrants—in 2005. The SSR’s goal is to increase access to healthcare, HIV-prevention, testing, and treatment, and human rights protections for mobile groups, including non-citizen migrants, foreign sex workers, drug users, trafficked women and children, truck drivers, and merchant sailors, as a means to stem border town infection rates. Coordinated with the consulates of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the project is a local incarnation of the broader 2005 Mesoamerican Project on Mobile Populations and HIV/AIDS.

Under the aegis of these programs, the Belen Shelter’s medical team has worked tirelessly since Dr. Ramos took over three years ago: Between 2009 and 2012, 14,117 migrants participated in HIV-prevention talks and received testing. Only .9% received a positive diagnosis. For the three weeks I was there in June 2012, approximately 200 people got tested. No one turned up positive.

If anyone had received a positive status and elected to stay in Tapachula, medical staff would refer them to the local Ambulatory Center for the Prevention and Attention to HIV-AIDS and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (CAPASITS, by its Spanish initials), where previous cases have been given a free Western Blot test to determine their viral load. If a viral load falls below 400, they’re logged into the System of Administration, Logistics and Vigilance of Anti-Retrovirals (SALVAR), a national database that keeps track of patients, citizen and non-citizen alike, who receive antiretroviral drugs.

“Sometimes it’s harder for a Mexican citizen to get in the system than a foreigner,” said Judith Salazar, a social worker at the Tapachula CAPASITS, one of two modules operating in the state of Chiapas. “A Mexican would need—basically it ends up being seven documents. Foreigners usually require one form of identification, like a license, and are uploaded into the system as foreigners. If they don’t have ID we have agreements with several consulates to obtain documents for this purpose. They can then be annexed to the state insurance system to receive free antiretroviral drugs.”

However, Salazar recognized that this process takes time—nearly one to two months if things move at the normal pace. The Western Blot tests are sent to labs in the capital city of Tuxtla Gutierrez. Most don’t linger for the necessary time period to fulfill their prescribed treatment regime, let alone receive their antiretroviral drugs.

“Many leave before they can ask for routes to connect with other CAPASITS so we can streamline them and track their movements. There are fears of discrimination, deportation in both men and women, so they keep moving,” said Salazar.

In Dr. Ramos’ opinion, HIV prevalence among migrants is getting worse. His plan is to one day set up a more streamlined, digital manner of identifying and treating HIV-positive migrants as they go from shelter to shelter. “We don’t know how many are not in shelters, how many get stuck in the jungle. There’s hundreds of thousands of people coming from Central and South America, Africa, even South Asia. Not all of them come through here.”

But for migrants transiting Mexico, acknowledged the doctor, streamlining healthcare services and antiretroviral drug dispensation programs is not enough. The temporary position of undocumented migrants among the shadowy intersections of government policy, corruption, and cartel violence combined with the overarching question of who should be responsible for providing them healthcare and protection obstructs his work on a daily basis.

Sexual assault, a health hazard for women migrants

Eileen, 19, and her friend Silvia, 22, had traveled from Honduras to the Guatemala-Mexico border by bus without incident. But once crossing on foot, a gang of thugs held them up at gunpoint and demanded all their money. When they refused, the men brutally raped and assaulted them. Both were about four-months pregnant when the attack happened.

“I don’t think we’ll try again. I worked as a secretary in Tegucigalpa and wanted to do better for us in the United States because it’s no good for women there,” said Silvia as she rubbed her stomach, “Now, I also have to worry if I caught [a disease].”

The young women were suffering from severe vaginal and throat infections and had been turned away from the local hospital four times due to scheduling conflicts with the resident gynecologist. Unfortunately, Dr. Ramos could not legally treat the girls to expedite their return because they were quite literally the bodies of evidence.

“I can write up a statement on how their condition might advance after I give a preliminary check-up, but they need a forensic gynecologist or legal doctor. Whatever treatment they receive needs certification from a legal authority or else their statement against the criminals won’t be valid,” said Dr. Ramos.

Reports estimate that 30% of migrant women are sexually assaulted on their way to the United States and account for 27%t of newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Chiapas. Prevention is prominently featured in Dr. Ramos’s lectures. His discussions on the subject are always punctuated with the generous distribution of condoms to male and female audience members. But what good would a condom do in cases of rape?

“My wife and I were talking about that the other day. In these cases like [the Honduran girls’], what do you do? Tell your rapist to give you a little second so he can put a condom on and not give you AIDS or whatever else?”

Stumbling Towards Universal Healthcare and Access Guarantees

Because of the efforts of medical staff like Dr. Ramos and social workers like Judith Salazar, the number of new infection rates per year has decreased—only 108 new cases of HIV were registered since 2008. Moreover, the program has drawn attention to other health problems faced by migrants and prompted greater response from general practitioners. In 2011, over 8,000 migrants were able to access free healthcare services for conditions like dehydration, gastrointestinal and upper respiratory tract infections brought on by prolonged exposure to the elements; and broken bones, infected wounds, and severed limbs caused by train hopping. Psychic wounds are also receiving increased attention as more medical experts on the ground are calling for subsidized counseling services to treat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental illnesses.

Yet even with the best of intentions, this public health achievement continuously stumbles over the disjuncture between migration politics, government corruption, and resource scarcity. The ordeal thetwo Honduran girls went through is often the norm for migrant women. The inability to stem sexual violence against migrant women is part of the reason why AIDS rates are on the rise and are increasingly feminized. Prevention and sanitation should not override a woman’s right to not be raped. While groups and patrols exist to guarantee the safety of migrants, law enforcement frequently engages in sex trafficking, a lucrative business raking in $1.6bn a year across Latin America and the Caribbean, only adding fuel to the epidemic fire.

Access to healthcare and medication for HIV is also problematic. Due to international standards, Mexico ranks as a middle-income country. This means that the price tag on brand-name antiretroviral drugs—currently between $7,000 and $8,000 per person—is difficult to negotiate. Since Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, it is also subject to strict patent laws that make the production of generic drugs virtually impossible.

While antiretroviral drugs are free for all who are HIV-positive, the Mexican government has to pay way more, making their distribution to historically marginalized areas, like Chiapas, a question of cost-benefit analysis. Who gets treatment first is often based on who is sickest and who will adhere to their prescribed treatment regime. Individuals living in areas with limited access to public transportation or clinics, and migrants who will most likely leave, are sometimes seen as a liability and waste of government money.

Moreover, shortages of antiretroviral drugs are not uncommon in states like Chiapas. A recent news article stated that HIV-positive patients living in Chiapas had not received antiretroviral drugs since July 2012. The article revealed that shortages were a persistent problem, reflective of the ‘lack of coordination between the Sanitary Offices and the state council had led to dozens of people going without medication.’ Moreover, Una Mano Amiga en la Lucha Contra el Sida, a community organization based in Tapachula, declared that up to 10,000 detained migrants, non-citizen sex workers and temporary farm workers, had not received any treatment whatsoever despite having the required viral load to enroll for free antiretroviral drugs therapy.

Despite an increasingly prevalent human rights discourse on the condition of transiting migrants, discrimination is very real. Often, it is two-fold in the case of Central American’s who are undocumented and perceived as pathogenic. Amended from its harsher 1974 version in 2000, the General Law for the Population stresses that illegal immigration into Mexico is punishable with up to 2 years in prison, and up to 10 years for repeat offenders. The law reserves the Mexican government the right to deport foreigners who are considered a detriment to “economic or national interests” and lack the “mental or physical health” or “the necessary funds to support themselves.” Added to this, the state of Chiapas approved a law in 2009 on the criminalization of HIV-transmission involving carriers of the disease who knowingly engage in sexual relations with another person or infect them through some other direct means.

Bi-polar at best, the media both exemplifies and shapes this ambivalence of the state towards migrants, doing more damage than laws that may or may not be effectively enforced. In 2007, Milenio ran an article that proclaimed “Migration Spreads HIV/AIDS in Mexico”, citing a “failure of adherence to treatment” and the high rates of incidence among transiting Central Americans and returning migrants as the main cause of concentrations of the disease such as in Tapachula. So while charity is doled out, dangerous stereotypes are inadvertently created that are unfortunately trumpeted by the media.

“By paying attention to the health of migrants, we become aware of the social problems through which they traverse, so often in solitude,” writes Dr. Jorge Arellano Estrada, for Migrante magazine, “We try to heal the body, to listen to it, to heal the soul, and the evils that many migrants we attend are victim to, sometimes so far from the limits of my comprehension. Yet, these are the things that motivate me to keep helping these people which society is abandoning.”

For those who don’t pay with their lives, physical, mental, and chronic illness is how many migrants traversing Mexico and living in the United States come to bear witness to a market system that sees their bodies as disposable commodities. But unlike the United States, healthcare in Mexico is not viewed as a coveted item that requires regulation.  Along the Mexico-Guatemala border, AIDS-prevention initiatives are part of broader health and human rights activism that stresses a sense of national and international responsibility. However they may stumble, these organizations, advocates, and healthcare professionals are interweaving a unified response to guarantee individual safety and universal healthcare as a human right for all people regardless of their migratory status. Their attempts pose alternatives to the way that access to healthcare has come to epitomize citizenship and privilege across the globe.

Alexandra McAnarney is a communications consultant and recent graduate from the University of Chicago’s Latin American Studies M.A. Program. As part of her field research, she lived at a migrant shelter along the Mexico-Guatemala border. Before studying at the University of Chicago, she worked as a Communications Coordinator at the Florida Immigrant Coalition and as an HIV/AIDS Journalist in South Florida. She writes for the CIP Americas Program www.cipamericas.org. A native of El Salvador and former resident of Mexico City, her work focuses on migration, youth, gangs, and health and can be found at perishmotherland.tumblr.com

All names of interviewed participants except Dr. Jorge Ramos and Judith Salazar have been shortened or changed.

Mentally retarded Georgia man scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday

Warren Hill (AFP Photo / Georgia Department of Justice)

Warren Hill (AFP Photo / Georgia Department of Justice)

A Georgia prison inmate found by doctors to be mildly retarded is scheduled to receive lethal injection on Tuesday, despite constitutional protections that exist to prohibit the execution of the mentally disabled.

More than 20 years after being convicted of murdering a fellow inmate while already behind bars, Warren Hill, 52, is slated to be killed on Tuesday. Now with only hours left to live, attorneys for Mr. Hill and human rights activists are demanding a last-minute intervention.

Back in 1991, the judge overseeing the murder case against Mr. Hill said the defendant was “mentally retarded” by a “preponderance of the evidence,” contradicting testimonies from physicians who examined the inmate. Decades later, though, those doctors who examined Hill say they acted in too much of a hurry to reach that conclusion and today agree that the inmate is unfit for execution.

"The whole process, including my evaluation of Mr. Hill, was rushed … my previous conclusions about Mr Hill's mental health status were unreliable because of my lack of experience at the time," one of the doctors, neuropsychiatrist Thomas Sachy, now claims.

All three physicians that gave their original evaluation 12 years ago say today that their decision was rushed and ill-conceived, reports The Guardian. Additionally, the jurors involved in his murder trial and the family of the man he was convicted of killing while in prison has stated that they would not like to see Hill put to death.

“Several jurors who sat on Warren’s original jury have since stated under oath that they would have sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole had that been an option at the time of his 1991 trial, particularly after learning of the evidence of his intellectual disability and history of childhood abuse,” Amnesty International reported last year.

Brian Kammer, a Georgia lawyer who has worked close to the case, tells the Guardian that with the latest testimonies in the case, "There is now no daylight between any of the experts who have evaluated Mr Hill – in an innocence context this would now be a clear case for exoneration.”

Mr. Hill was expected to be killed last July, but a last minute hold was granted to reassess the method of execution only an hour-and-a-half before he was scheduled to die. Now just a few months later, the state of Georgia is once again readying to make the kill.

One day before he is scheduled to die, Judge Thomas Wilson said on Monday that he would not consider a request for habeas relief, essentially leaving just the US Supreme Court as the only available option to save him from execution. Attorneys for Mr. Hill had asked Judge Wilson to see testimonies from the doctors who initially examined the inmate, but according to the Associated Press, he has refused it on the basis that the request for reconsideration is procedurally barred and that the new evidence doesn't establish a miscarriage of justice.

Attorneys for Mr. Hill have submitted a petition with the US Supreme Court, asking for intervention due to the 2002 federal ruling that found executing a person considered “mentally retarded” was in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution: the provision that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. In lieu of federal law, however, individual states can determine their own definition of “mental retardation.”

Eric Jacobsen, a columnist for Huffington Post, says that the state-wide requirement for what is and isn’t mental retardation in Georgia is “a powerful legal concept that does not translate into the way individuals are assessed to determine if they have an intellectual disability. So, while Georgia never contested Mr. Hill's intellectual disability or I.Q. of 70, he was not able to meet the burden of proof.”

In 2002, the Eleventh US Circuit Court of Appeals said they couldn’t touch the case because national law "mandates that this federal court leave the Georgia Supreme Court decision alone — even if we believe it incorrect or unwise."

House Representatives Introduce Bill To Protect Public Health in Appalachia

WASHINGTON - February 6 - Today U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act (H.R. 526) in an effort to protect families and people across Appalachia from harmful impacts of an extreme form of coal mining called mountaintop removal mining. In mountaintop removal mining, explosives are used to blast apart mountaintops and extract coal, and the remaining rubble and waste is dumped into the streams and valleys below.

More than 20 recent peer-reviewed scientific studies have revealed shocking correlations between this extreme form of mining and the poor health of the people living closest to it. People in areas closest to mountaintop removal have significantly higher rates of birth defects, major diseases, cancer, and early mortality than people living elsewhere in Appalachia. The Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act would require comprehensive studies on the health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining on the surrounding communities, and freeze new mountaintop removal permits until those studies are conducted.

“We commend Representatives Yarmuth and Slaughter for standing up for the people living near mountaintop removal mining sites in Appalachia who have been pleading for help, and for leading this effort to protect the lives and health of Appalachian communities,” said Earthjustice Vice President of Policy and Legislation Marty Hayden. “It is time to put public health ahead of King Coal’s greed and pass this common-sense measure. We also applaud our Appalachian partners, the mountain heroes who have been tirelessly advocating for their communities and families in Washington even while suffering the impacts of mountaintop removal back at home in Appalachia.”

“With increasing evidence of health damage for those who live near mountaintop removal mining sites, people living in Appalachia desperately need Representatives Yarmuth and Slaughter’s bill to pass,” said Sierra Club environmental quality director Ed Hopkins. “It’s long past time for Congress to take action to protect Appalachian families. We thank all the sponsors of this bill for working for the well-being of the people at a time when far too many of their colleagues would rather protect powerful corporate special interests.”

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

Effects of Fluoride on Human Health: “Can Damage the Brain and Bones”

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U.S. National Research Council Scientists: Fluoride Can Damage the Brain and Bones

Concern grew in the late 1970s that even low levels of exposure to lead caused adverse changes in the mentally functioning of children.

The same thing is now starting to happen with fluoride.

We have extensively documented that:

The following video interviewing National Research Council scientists, a Nobel laureate in medicine, a professor of dentistry and other professionals summarizes the evidence fairly succinctly … and makes the case that our understanding of the damage fluoride can cause to our brains is like our growing understanding in the 1970s of the dangers of lead:

We started the video at 18 minutes in; but the whole video is worth watching.

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Health Care in Syria before and During the Crisis

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by Kherallah M, Alahfez T, Sahloul Z, Eddin KD, Jamil G.

Syrian International Coalition for Health, Global Health Equity Foundation, Geneva

The Syrian International Coalition for Health (SICH) is a consortium of organizations and health professionals who are committed to improving health care and healthcare delivery in Syria. SICH was formed in 2012 in response to increasingly urgent calls for comprehensive reform. The coalition adopted five principles: Quality, equity, sustainability, broad participation and shared responsibility. Global Health Equity Foundation (GHEF), as a major contributor to human and community development worldwide, combines its core strategies of research, advocacy and capacity building to host this coalition. From administrative headquarters in Geneva, GHEF supports the SICH agenda in an equitable and neutral fashion. The coalition with its affiliates (Syrian American Medical Society, Syrian British Medical Society, Middle East Critical Care Assembly and others) along with its experts and specialists will play a major role in the Post-Conflict Needs Assessment in Syria and will evaluate the capacity and functionality of the health system to develop and implement the needed strategies and projects.

Before the crisis: Baseline health status

Health indicators improved considerably in the Syrian Arab Republic over the past three decades according to data from the Syrian Ministry of Health with life expectancy at birth increasing from 56 years in 1970 to 73.1 years in 2009; infant mortality dropped from 132 per 1000 live births in 1970 to 17.9 per 1000 in 2009; under-five mortality dropped significantly from 164 to 21.4 per 1000 live births; and maternal mortality fell from 482 per 100 000 live births in 1970 to 52 in 2009. [1] The Syrian Arab Republic was in epidemiological transition from communicable to non- communicable diseases with the latest data showing that 77% of mortalities were caused by non-communicable diseases. [2] Total government expenditure on health as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was 2.9 in 2009. [3] Despite such low public investment access to health services increased dramatically since the 1980s, with rural populations achieving better equity than before. [1]

Despite the apparent improved capacity of the health system, a number of challenges prevail which need to