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The Open Source Solution

by James Corbett Global Research TV December 15, 2013 As governments and corporations around the world move to make their actions and products ever more opaque, a counter-movement is rallying around the opposite of flag of openness and transparency. Bo...

Interview 781 — The Power Hour: China, Bitcoin, Open source

James Corbett joins Joyce Riley on The Power Hour every other Monday to discuss matters financial, economic, geopolitical and social. This time they talk about the rise of China as the next big boogeyman on the world stage; the rise of Bitcoin as the next speculative bubble; and the rise of open source as an alternative paradigm for the creation and propagation of media. We also take your calls on a host of issues.

BFP Roundtable #01 — Guantanamo, Iran, Open source

Peter B. Collins, Sibel Edmonds and James Corbett of BoilingFrogsPost.com present the latest BFP series, the BFP Roundtable. In this pilot edition of the series the panel discusses the latest “reporting” on Guantanamo by 60 Minutes, the tru...

Open Source Journalism (video)

James Corbett presents “From Gutenberg to YouTube: the open sourcing of journalism.” This lecture was delivered at the fOSSa 2013 conference in Lille, France on November 21, 2013. For those with limited bandwidth, CLICK HERE to download a s...

Episode 288 — Open Source Journalism

James Corbett presents "From Gutenberg to YouTube: the open sourcing of journalism." This lecture was delivered at the fOSSa 2013 conference in Lille, France on November 21, 2013.

Petition Launched Demanding White House Open Source Disasterous Healthcare.gov Code

White House officials STILL attempting to “spin this turd” Steve WatsonInfowars.comOct 22, 2013A petition...

Adam Kokesh Calls for Decentralized, Open Source March on State Capitols

A “new strategy for Independence Day” Infowars.comMay 30, 2013 Appearing on the Alex Jones Show...

Aaron Swartz’s Open-Source Whistleblower Project Lives On

Aaron Swartz speaking at a Stop SOPA/PIPA rally in January 2012 (Photo: Flickr / Creative Commons / gilly youner)Freedom of the Press Foundation will...

US opens 1st permanent military base in Israel as tensions with Iran rise

Even though the US has routinely deployed forces to Israel, it is only now opening an...

Move to Open US Atlantic Coast to Oil Drilling Meets Increased Opposition

A rare and endangered blue whale spouts near offshore oil rigs after a long dive near Long Beach, California. Now that the Trump administration...

Fulham Broadway tube station to reopen after ‘security alert’ – Met Police

Published time: 16 Sep, 2017 14:36 Edited time: 16 Sep, 2017 15:01 The Fulham Broadway...

Grenfell fire: 1st public inquiry hearing opens

Published time: 14 Sep, 2017 09:54 Edited time: 14 Sep, 2017 10:15 The first hearing...

Will the US Declare Open War on WikiLeaks?

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently passed its Intelligence Authorization Act for 2018 that contains a chilling attack on the First Amendment. Section 623 of...

New front in battle over Confederate monuments opens in Dallas

Protesters from both sides came face-to-face in Dallas, Texas after activists called on city authorities to...

Revolution in Islam? Feminist Muslim to open liberal mosque in UK

Published time: 27 Jul, 2017 20:48 The Muslim feminist behind Berlin’s first liberal mosque is...

Rothbard Opens the Curtain

By Robert Kirk July 22, 2017 This is one fantastic look behind the economic curtains. Rothbard obviously spent a great effort diving into the facts (supported...

US cuts funds for pollution reduction in reopening Harley-Davidson case

Harley-Davidson was fined $15 million last year for selling devices that shut down emissions controls on...

Missile Defense Will Protect You From North Korea, Say USA Today’s Missile Defense-Funded Sources

USA Today (7/17/17) presents a few words from the missile defense industry. “US Missile Defense Plans to Zap North Korean Threats” was the headline of...

Top UK university plans to open German campus post-Brexit

A leading British university is considering a new campus in Germany as response to Brexit ...

Why the Open Access Movement in Agriculture Matters

Western discourse around open access has largely been restricted to academic, scholarly communications circles. In fact, many friends and colleagues have told me they...

Trump administration takes steps to open up federal waters for offshore drilling

Published time: 3 Jul, 2017 18:50 In a move that overturns the Obama administration’s ban on...

‘We stay on bright side’: Kaspersky ready to give source code to US govt

The CEO of Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab says he’s ready to reveal the source code...

Should Media Expose Sources Who Lied to Them?

If an anonymous source knowingly and maliciously feeds a media outlet false information, should they continue to be granted anonymity? If media continue to...

Should Media Expose Sources Who Lied to Them?

CNN (6/27/17) reported the retraction of a Trump/Russia story, but the original is no longer available to see what CNN‘s source had claimed. If an...

‘Pizzagate’ gunman who opened fire in DC pizzeria sentenced to 4 years in prison

A North Carolina man who fired shots inside a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC while investigating...

Jeremy Corbyn didn’t bow to the Queen at state opening of Parliament (VIDEO)

Published time: 21 Jun, 2017 12:29 Edited time: 21 Jun, 2017 13:03 Labour leader Jeremy...

'Is that guy OK?' Moment gunman opened fire on GOP congressmen caught on camera...

Published time: 14 Jun, 2017 22:03 Edited time: 15 Jun, 2017 09:19 Dramatic video has emerged...

House bill opens door for more legal concealed firearms in DC

Published time: 17 Jun, 2017 04:13 Edited time: 17 Jun, 2017 04:14 A looser gun law...

Blimp crashes at US Open, injuring pilot (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Published time: 15 Jun, 2017 18:37 A blimp deflated above thousands of spectators at the US...

2 US soldiers killed after Afghan Army soldier opens fire on them – local...

Published time: 10 Jun, 2017 14:30 Edited time: 10 Jun, 2017 16:14 An Afghan official said...

Corbyn ‘open’ to #indyref2 talks as Sturgeon launches SNP manifesto

Launching the Scottish National Party (SNP) election manifesto on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon repeated...
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Video: Kurdish forces allow ISIS to escape Raqqa towards Palmyra – Russian Defense Ministry...

A Russian Defence Ministry source says, Kurdish forces have allowed ISIS an open corridor to flee the besieged city of Raqqa in Syria. Russian...

Comey to testify in open Senate hearing on alleged Russian interference in 2016 election

Ex-FBI director James Comey has agreed to testify openly to the Senate on alleged Russian meddling...

Trump Order Could Open Up Area Larger Than Yellowstone to Drilling

In addition to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase, monuments now threatened under Trump's newest decision to review national monument protections include Upper Missouri River...

FBI director: I have ‘never’ been anonymous source on Clinton, Trump investigations

During a Senate hearing on FBI oversight, Director James Comey said he had not served as an anonymous news source on investigations into Hillary...

Pro-EU Tories abandon Open Britain over plot to crush Brexit MPs

Three senior pro-EU Tories have quit the cross-party Remain group ‘Open Britain’ after a plan to oust pro-Brexit Conservative MPs in the general election...

Opposition parties come out swinging as snap general election tears open faultlines [VIDEO]

Britain’s political parties launched into combat mode on Wednesday after Parliament backed the prime minister’s...

‘Everyone deserves love’: Pamela Anderson opens up about ‘affair’ with Julian Assange

Former Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson has revealed all about her relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian...

EU: Hungary and Poland Must Open Borders or Leave

France and Germany, along with a host of up to 21 other countries, are set to demand Hungary and Poland either accept...

3 US troops injured as Afghan soldier opens fire inside base

Published time: 19 Mar, 2017 17:49 An Afghan soldier opened fire at Camp Shorab air base in...

Scottish politicians in open conflict as political war for independence relaunched

Scotland’s main political figures are locked in open conflict after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a second independence referendum and Prime Minister...

Jeff Sessions open to investigating Obama’s DOJ

Published time: 10 Mar, 2017 04:08 US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not ruling out an independent...

First drive-through pot shop set to open in Colorado

The first drive through pot store in the state of Colorado will open its doors to...
video

Video: Arbiter of truth? Hunt for fake news rages as Wikipedia bans Daily Mail...

Wikipedia has prohibited the use of the Daily Mail for citations on the open-source encyclopedia, describing the publication as “generally unreliable.” RT LIVE ... Via...

US administration backs away from plan to reopen CIA ‘black sites’ – media

The Trump administration will not proceed with plans to reopen the infamous CIA prisons to interrogate...

RT UK’s bank accounts to remain open after NatWest backs down

NatWest has scrapped its plan to close the bank account of RT UK after the bank’s decision sparked a public outcry. As a result...

Brexit Britain is ‘open for business,’ but only if it pays its £60bn EU...

UK Prime Minister Theresa May might have told world leaders that Britain is ready to freely engage with markets across the globe after it...

Tunisia terrorist attack: Inquests open into deaths of 30 British tourists

Inquests into the deaths of 30 British tourists killed in the Tunisian beach massacre of 2015 are due to start on Monday at the...

Trump open to ending sanctions on Russia & ‘One China’ policy

President-elect Donald Trump has expressed openness to lifting sanctions against Russia under certain conditions, in an...

House approves budget measure, opens door to repeal of Obamacare

The US House of Representatives has approved a budget measure that opens the door for a...

Moment Fort Lauderdale attacker opens fire caught on camera (VIDEO)

Video footage has emerged of a mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale Airport, Florida, showing shooter Esteban...

Moment Fort Lauderdale attacker opens fire caught on camera (VIDEO)

Video footage has emerged of a mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale Airport, Florida, showing shooter Esteban...

OECD Opens Investigation into WWF

This Baka girl was tortured by a WWF-funded anti-poaching squad in Cameroon in 2016. She was 10 years old at the time. © Survival...

Berlin Market Attack Suspect Killed in Shootout in Italy: Security Source

Editor's Note: This story is brought to you by the joys of open borders. A man believed to be the suspect...

‘Calexit’: Yes California movement opens ‘embassy’ in Moscow

A campaign calling for the independence of California from the United States has opened an “embassy”...

Man with assault rifle opens fire in DC pizzeria to ‘investigate’ Hillary Clinton conspiracy

A man has been arrested and charged after shooting an assault rifle inside a Washington DC...

UK govt to utilize Trump’s ‘instincts,’ openness to ‘outside influence’ – leaked memo

A leaked telegram by the British ambassador, sent to Whitehall just hours after Donald Trump’s victory, suggested that his openness to “outside influence” be...

An Open Letter to Young SJWs

Dear SJW: You are young in this world, likely with little knowledge of history or political theory.  The social and political movements of the past...

‘What Open Borders Mean for Corporations Is Really About Restricting Workers’ Rights’ – CounterSpin...

Janine Jackson interviewed Michelle Chen about Samsung’s labor and environmental abuses for the November 4, 2016, CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. Michelle Chen:...

Prince Charles opens new military base in Bahrain despite human rights abuses

Prince Charles has opened the first section of the controversial Mina Salman naval base in...

Cagey May calls for calm US Election Day before polls open

Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a “calm and measured” presidential election in the...

‘Process has begun’: FBI scouring 650k emails on Clinton aide’s laptop in reopened case

The FBI has obtained a warrant to dig through hundreds of thousands of newly discovered emails allegedly related to a private server used by...

FBI reopens Clinton investigation as new emails found ‒ Comey

Published time: 28 Oct, 2016 17:08Edited time: 28 Oct, 2016 17:23 The FBI has learned of more...

World Wide Fund for Nature: Stop Greenwashing Capitalism, Start Holding Corporations to Account (Dr Rosemary...

Colin Todhunter (RINF) - In the 1970s, the agrochemicals industry was able to evade effective regulation in the UK. Robert van den Bosch, wrote in 1978...

Toxic Allegiances and Corporate Power: Open Letter to the Oxford Martin Commission

Colin Todhunter The Oxford Martin School is based at Oxford University in the UK. In what seems to be a laudable aim, the school has...

The Jewish Origins of the Open Borders Movement

In a 2015 essay on ‘Whiteness studies’ I attempted to lay the groundwork and contextualization for a more developed study of the...

NY Attorney-General opens investigation into Donald J. Trump Foundation

The New York Attorney-General has opened an investigation into the Donald J. Trump Foundation, citing “impropriety”...

Open democracy? Brexit negotiations may be kept so secret not even Parliament will be...

Until Article 50 is initiated and Britain officially begins the process of leaving the European...

‘Safe houses’ for young sex abuse victims to open next year

Two ‘safe houses’ offering medical care, psychological support and protection for child victims of sexual...

An Open Letter to the People of Brazil

Robert J. Burrowes As I read of the latest coup in Brazil, once again removing a democratically elected leader from power, my anger surged. Not...
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Video: George Soros HACKED, Thousands of Open Society Foundations Files Online Now

In this video Luke Rudkowski covers the breaking news of how George Soros was just hacked. An organization named DCLeaks just released over 2500...

Another day, another $185mn: Wells Fargo fined for opening fake accounts

A top US bank, Wells Fargo, has agreed an $185 million payout settlement with California and...

The right to openly bear arms: California gun owners challenge open-carry restrictions

Gun rights activists in California are going to court after the Ninth Circuit of Appeals found...

Soros hacked, thousands of Open Society Foundations files released online

More than 2,500 files from the raft of organizations run by billionaire George Soros have been...

‘Hail Satan’: Alaskan council meeting opens with prayer to Lucifer (VIDEO)

The mundanity of a local council meeting in Alaska was astonishingly broken when a decision to...

Linux vulnerability leaves top sites wide open to attackers

A flaw in the Linux operating system lets hackers inject malware into downloads and expose the...

When a door closes, a window opens: Closing Silk Road leads to surge in...

Closing the online black market known as the Silk Road was a success for the FBI, but a short-lived one. Three years later, it...
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Video: Elites Openly Calling To Rise Up Against ‘Ignorant Masses”

In this video Luke Rudkowski covers the brazen admission from James Traub a CFR member and heir to the Bloomingdale empire. Traub recently wrote...

Dallas sniper shootings put spotlight on open-carry gun laws

Following the sniper killings of Dallas police officers, the city's police chief and mayor ridiculed law...

How Assad Declared Open Season on the People of Syria

Syria’s prime enemy of the state is the government. (Photo: Wikipedia) I have twice posted about a paper I am reading from March 2015 titled...

State Dept. to reopen Clinton email investigation

Published time: 7 Jul, 2016 23:36 Just days after the Justice Department followed the FBI's recommendation to...

Federal gov’t opens investigation into first known Tesla Autopilot fatality

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the first known fatality involving a Tesla...

Queen calls for calm but never mentions Brexit in opening Scottish Parliamentary session

Queen Elizabeth II avoided making any direct comments on last week’s historic Brexit vote as...

NASA opens airport research lab in N. Carolina to revolutionize air travel

With more than 4 billion additional passengers expected to start travelling globally over the next 20...

First permanent gallery of Russian & Soviet-era art to open in Britain

A collection of Russian art from the 19th century to the 1990s will be permanently...

Iraqi’s case against MoD for alleged abuse by British troops could open floodgates

An Iraqi man who is suing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for alleged abuse and...

While Canadian Companies Exploit African Resources …

... Canadian "charities" (NGOs) call on Canadians to "walk for hope" in Africa What is wrong here? While Canadian companies exploit African resources for their...

Bums on seats: London’s first ‘naked restaurant’ open for business

London’s first nudist restaurant will raise more than just eyebrows when it opens its doors...

2 federal agencies open fracking door for California

Fracking is getting a new lease on life in oil-rich California, much to the dismay of...

Scotland opens doors to more Syrian refugees than any other UK region

Scotland has welcomed more Syrian refugees than any other region in Britain since Downing Street...

Pakistan’s award-winning 'Burka Avenger' animation opens on London screen

A Muslim warrior girl from a Pakistani animated TV series, “Burka Avenger,” has premiered on...

Monsanto and the Poisoning of Europe: An Open letter to the EFSA Chief Attorney...

This week, a Standing Committee of plant scientists from 28 member states in Europe is likely to endorse the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA)...

Libertarian Open Borders

Angela Merkel’s open borders policy continues to pay dividends in the destruction of open borders as a libertarian concept.  But before I come to...

Indiana primary preview: Open to independents, Sanders and Cruz hope to score comebacks

The Hoosier State’s open primary could set or reset the 2016 election. With access to Democratic...

3 assaults: Texas school resource officer accused of using excessive force against students

A Texas school district is facing legal problems after a school resource officer allegedly assaulted three...

Life or death: Sioux tribe sues federal government to reopen sole ER on reservation

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota has sued the federal government over the closure of...

‘Out in the open’: Half-mile long drug tunnel connects US to Mexico

As Americans argued over the ethics and logistics of building a wall between the US and...

Las Vegas hotels testing 3D porn virtual reality devices as worldwide market opens for...

Virtual reality has been toyed with for 50 years, but there is one industry that could...

'This reopens the pain': Biggest US military base shootings in last decade

The apparent murder-suicide at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas turns attention once again to fatal...

Erdogan opens $100mn Turkish cultural center in Maryland, blasts US elections’ Islamophobic rhetoric

At the opening of the Turkish government-funded Diyanet Muslim center in Maryland, President Recep Erdogan lashed...

Secret Service answers petition to allow open-carry of firearms at GOP convention

The Republican National Convention will be a “gun free zone,” despite a petition to allow the...

Post-Brexit Britain will need open borders to stave off economic turmoil – report

Britain will need to allow in large numbers of migrants from the European Union every...

Major US spy base targeting Europe & Africa to open on British soil –...

US intelligence services will reveal plans for a new £200-million center in Britain this week. The Pentagon says it will be the American headquarters...

FDA opens criminal investigation into urination on Kellogg's assembly line video

A video of a man urinating on equipment used to move Kellogg’s rice cereal products went...

Schizophrenia gene identified in landmark study, opening door to revolutionary treatments

A startling discovery in the field of schizophrenia was made — scientists have pinpointed the brain mechanism that triggers it. The monumental study purports...

From Copenhagen to India, Restoring the Link Between Farmer and Consumer and Challenging the...

  “Food systems have been reduced to a model of industrialised agriculture controlled by a few transnational food corporations together with a small group of...

Safe sex work: Britain declares 1st permanent, legalized ‘red light district’ open for business

A pilot scheme in Leeds to allow sex workers to ply their trade on the streets without fear of arrest will continue indefinitely after...

Crowdfunded challenge to ‘snoopers’ charter’ launched by Open Rights Group

Open Rights Group civil liberties campaigners are trying to raise £20,000 to fund a challenge to the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB), branded the “snoopers’...

Open University staff in Britain protest regional centre closures

By Joyce Smith The Open University (OU) is set to close seven of its regional centres in England. The centres set to shut are in Birmingham,...

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders and His Campaign

Re: Your Campaign for the U.S. Presidency By Eric Zuesse After the first serious debate on the Democratic Presidential side, 51% said Hillary won; 28% said Bernie...

Obama Closes Opening to Iran

Despite prevailing on the Iran nuclear deal, President Obama isn’t following up that victory with a more realistic policy to incorporate Iran into resolving Mideast conflicts....

FBI seeks to re-open Lockerbie bombing case after new evidence emerges

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is trying to re-open the case of Pan Am Flight 103, which crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988...

British Government Push GPs to Open 7 Days a Week

The UK government is hoping to negotiate a new deal with GPs if they agree to open for seven days. Problems surrounding waiting times for...

Snowden Opened This Door for NSA Reform

On the passage of the USA Freedom Act (Freedom of the Press Foundation) - On Tuesday, the Senate passed a version of the USA Freedom Act,...

An Open Letter to the Pope on Institutional Racism at the World Bank and...

Your Holiness, Speaking of the ills of economic and social exclusions you stated that “Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be...

Science, Democracy And Choice: A Response To Professor Tony Trewavas’s Open Letter

The following is in response to an open letter published on the AgBioWorld Facebook page by Professor Tony Trewavas of Edinburgh University. This response is also posted on the GM Watch, Global Research, Countercurrents and RINF websites. 

Tony Trewavais wrote his letter after reading my article ‘So You Want to Help Africa Mr Paterson? Then Stop Promoting Ideology and Falsehoods to Push GMOs’. The article originally appeared on a number of prominent websites. On Global Research, the piece appeared under a different title ‘The Propaganda Campaign in support of GMOs’ (read here).

Professor Trewavas is a prominent supporter of GMOs in Britain. His original letter is provided in full below my response.

Dear Professor Trewavas

I find your response to my piece disappointing. You failed to address many of the issues I discussed (not least that the world can feed itself without GMOs and that hunger and poverty are due to structural factors and not a lack of food, which GMOs have merely exacerbated) and have decided to indulge in the same type of smear-scare tactics that Owen Paterson employed in his Pretoria speech.

You forward the baseless assertions that GMOs are safe, even though there has not been one long-term epidemiological study conducted to show this.

While condemning Greenpeace and other groups for somehow being authoritarian and anti-choice, you say nothing about agribusiness corporations whose financial clout has brought them political influence that allows them to exert huge control over the WTO and capture regulatory bodies and public research institutions. These corporations have had a key role in driving trade policies from India to Europe, not least in terms of the secretive Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture and the world’s largest secretive, pro-corporate trade deal, the proposed TTIP. 

Where is the choice and democracy here? 

You have nothing to say on that but proceed to lecture me on the virtues of choice and democracy.

In your opening paragraph alone, you make four fallacious assertions.

First of all, I did not say GMOs would be a disaster for "any" farmer. In India’s Punjab state, for example, some farmers have done quite well from the introduction of petrochemical farming (‘green revolution’). But water tables are falling drastically, pesticides have contaminated the water supply, there is a big cancer problem and many farmers are experiencing economic distress. In Punjab, this form of agriculture is unsustainable. There is now an agrarian crisis and it is a health, environmental and social disaster. My point is that GMOs would similarly be bad for agriculture in general and would have a systemic, detrimental impact on the environment and human health.

Second, you claim that I fear GMOs will not be a disaster for African farmers but a success. Not true. You have ignored the fact that a number of GMO projects in Africa to date have indeed been failures and in my article I provided a link to a report to highlight this (which you go on to conveniently dismiss as a ‘biased’ source).  

Third, you say that the word ‘choice’ is conspicuously absent from my article. Any objective reader would appreciate that the concept is central to it, not least where I discuss the ‘choices’ imposed on Ethiopia via the West’s ‘structural adjustment’ of agriculture (which I refer to at the end of the article). That was not a case of farmers ‘choosing’ to restructure their agriculture, but a case of policies being forced on them at a macro policy level. And this is one of the issues that I have with GMOs.

Although you conveniently do not mention that part of my piece, Michel Chossudovsky’s analysis takes account of the way by which agribusiness conglomerates can and do set rules at the WTO, manipulate market forces and restructure agriculture in foreign countries for their own ends. That is very much related to ‘choice’ and its denial. You talk a great deal about ‘democracy’ but fail to address how this situation fits with your ideas of giving choice to farmers and not imposing authoritarian agendas on people.

You say I should buy a farm and exert my choice to farm as I wish. Talk about exercising such a choice to the people in South America who Helena Paul wrote about (described in my piece). They are being driven out as agribusiness and the planting of GMOs (mainly for export) takes hold. She describes this as ecocide and genocide. Tell it to the peasant farmers who are being forced from their lands by speculators and corporations as described by reports by GRAIN and the Oakland Institute last year. These are the people who feed 80 percent of the ‘developing world’, without GM technology, yet are being squeezed out. Where is choice and democracy?

Certain words are used cheaply by some.

The issue of choice not only concerns the options made available to people, but those which have been closed off. Owen Paterson’s claims that “primitive, inefficient” farming techniques would condemn “billions” to hunger, poverty and underdevelopment is ridiculous. He engages in hyperbole in order to denigrate credible alternatives that are forwarded by the groups he is attacking and thus trying to deny those alternatives.

Fourth, nowhere do I say that only agroecological farming should be implemented to feed the world, as you claim I do. However, there are many studies and official reports that demonstrate the efficacy of organic and agroecological approaches that are well publicised. In my article, I referred to some of these studies and reports. But rather than regurgitating references, I would say that no matter what data is presented, certain people seek to marginalise agroecological approaches and prefer to focus on external input intensive ‘solutions' and proprietary technologies, such as GMOs.
I find it strange that supporters of GMOs talk so much about choice when the GMO biotech industry has spent $100 million in the US to deny choice by preventing labelling of GM food.

Where is the choice for the farmer who uses non-GM crops but has his field contaminated by GMOs? Where was the choice when parts of the US wheat crop were contaminated as a result of open-field trials or when contamination took place because of Liberty Link 601? Where is the choice in West Bengal where GMOs from Bangladesh have been found?

Where is the choice for farmers when the only ones that end up on the market are company seeds, or where thousands of varieties have been reduced to a relative handful?

In my piece, Daniel Maingi and Mariam Mayet mentioned the squeezing out of alternatives as a result of the impact of Western agribusiness in Africa. Are they to be dismissed as ‘biased’ sources too?

You say the following: 

“Most objectors in this area have a political programme not a scientific one but they like to bend science to their own political point of view. Science is by its nature not politics or political propaganda or anything like it. It deals with evidence not superstition, or political or social philosophies. If you have a political programme then please stop trying to justify it by claiming it has scientific support; it does not.”

First of all, I provided valid references which referred to peer-reviewed science in the article (and have again below), but all you can say is that my ‘political programme’ has “no scientific support”. I say to you: please stop justifying your own pro-GMO stance by smearing critics and rejecting any evidence because it does not fit your own agenda. Please do not talk about ‘choice’ and ‘democracy’ when your own agenda is to support powerful corporations who via the distortion of science and the capture of strategic national and international bodies deny choice.

Your view of science is either deliberately misleading or simply naïve. And for someone in your position, I find it difficult to believe it could be the latter. From acquiring funding and formulating the questions to be addressed, to conducting research, interpreting findings and peer review, politics are present in science throughout. The manufacture of scientific knowledge involves a process driven by various sociological, methodological and epistemological conflicts and compromises, both inside the laboratory and beyond. Writers in the field of the sociology of science have written much on this. I refer you to the following link, which contests your lofty view of science and scientists: ‘Monsanto wants to know why people doubt science’.

The very fact you have responded to me in a certain manner discredits your view of scientists, not least because it becomes difficult to appreciate where the line between science and lobbying is in your case.

There is an authoritarian, political agenda behind the GMO project – not set by some environmental group (as you say) that you like to use as a whipping boy – but by the agribusiness concerns behind GMOs and petro-chemical industrial agriculture. Focusing on Greenpeace with its supposed agenda serves as a convenient diversion.

It is not NGOs, groups, activists and campaigners that have failed to provide convincing arguments. And, by the way, to conflate such groups with intolerance, authoritarianism and killings by brutal regimes or groups is ludicrous and smacks of desperation on your part. You are a scientist but are using all the cheap smears and tactics of a lobbyist!

When peer-reviewed science is provided by critics to support their claims, the onslaught by the GMO agritech industry and its mouthpieces against those who legitimately and scientifically contest the claims about the efficacy of GMOs is relentless. Just ask Arpad Pusztai, P. M. Bhargava, Judy Carman, Terje Traavik, Andrés Carrasco, Ignacio Chapela, Allison Snow, Marc Lappé, Britt Bailey, Bela Darvas and G. E. Seralini.

These scientists have all either been threatened, smeared or hindered in their work because their research called into question the safety and/or efficacy of GMOs or associated products.

The hypocrisy of those from the pro-GMO lobby who call for sound science to inform the debate on GMOs is glaringly obvious. Those who argue against GMOs are accused of not having science or facts on their side and of engaging in propaganda, while it is clear the pro-GMO lobby that hurls such allegations is itself guilty of all such things. This tactic goes hand in glove with a strident populist agenda whereby the pro-GMO lobby portrays itself as on the side of the people, while its opponents are ‘elitists’ and are ‘stealing food from the bellies of the poor’.

If you really do value democracy as much as you say and wish to call to account those who show contempt for it, you would do better by reading Steven Druker’s new book ‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’. Instead of attacking Greenpeace and other groups, you should be more even handed (and employ just a little ‘scientific objectivity’ in your approach) by looking at the fraudulent practices and processes in US government departments that led to the commercialisation of GMOs in that country.

As far as your point on there being a scientific consensus is concerned, it has been well established in recent months by over 300 scientists in a peer reviewed journal that there is no consensus. Furthermore, you bring the issue of climate change into the debate. If I am to accept your claim that there is overwhelming consensus on climate change then I certainly reject your assertion that the same applies to the GMO issue.

What you claim to be ‘biased’ sources have demonstrated that the claims made on the back of many studies on GMOs are not supported by the evidence and that in many instances certain findings are marginalised as not being significant when they actually are (I supply these two links which provide reference to support my claims, the first of which you have already dismissed as being from a biased source, without addressing the issues raised therein:  'An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of GM crops and food' and 'Adverse impacts of transgenic crops/food: a compilation of scientific references with abstracts').  

Moreover, climate change is fundamentally different to the GMO issue. Climate change may or may not be anthropogenic, but scientists are deliberately genetically engineering food and adopting a wait and see attitude towards the impact. Wouldn’t it be better to prove safety beforehand?

But let’s get one thing clear, as Druker shows, GMOs were placed on the commercial market due to political arm twisting and official bodies in the US ignoring science that pointed out the dangers of this technology. The decision to commercialise GMOs was not based on scientific evidence; in fact, it ignored such evidence. Yet you are still placing the onus on scientists to prove that GMOs are unsafe – and when they show that they are, these scientists are attacked. It seems science is only called on when it suits.

Releasing GMOs onto the commercial market is not like boarding a plane, as you suggest. The genetic engineering of food affects every member of the population. It presents a widespread, systemic risk to the human population. Most planes are safe and have been tested. Moreover, we have a choice to board a plane. We have no other choice than to eat (unlabelled) food. GMO food has not been proven safe.

The GMO biotech industry carries out inadequate, short-term studies and conceals the data produced by its research under the guise of ‘commercial confidentiality’, while independent research highlights the very serious dangers of its products. It has in the past also engaged in fakery in India, bribery in Indonesia, smears and intimidates those who challenge its interests and distorts and censors science by restricting independent research. If science is held in such high regard by the GMO agritech sector, why engage in such practices and why in the US did policy makers release GM food onto the commercial market without proper long-term tests?

Despite its claims to the contrary, the sector cannot win the scientific debate, so it resorts to co-opting key public bodies or individuals to propagate various falsehoods and deceptions. Part of the deception is based on emotional blackmail: the world needs GMOs to feed the hungry, both now and in the future. This myth has been blown apart. In fact, the organisation GRAIN highlights that GMOs have thus far have actually contributed to food insecurity!

You say:

“If agroecological approaches can currently match yield that can be attained by using modern farming methods then by all means use it.”

Why doesn’t Paterson adopt this attitude? He denigrates such alternatives, and you deem it necessary to jump to his defence by responding this way.

“But if not and my understanding is that currently it cannot, then they should not be the farming method of recommended choice at present.”

Perhaps you need to do some more reading and consult a few more UN and scientific reports.   

You say that:

“No-one with any concern for humanity or the welfare of its population should currently consider any other alternative. The groups that campaign for this kind or that kind of farming method and destroy crops to try and bounce others into their point of view have lost that fundamental concern for their own species.”

What a ridiculous assertion. Why do you persist in attacking those who clearly do have compassion? Environmental groups have not engaged in decades of massive criminality, in decades of cover ups and serious environmental pollution. You would do better by focussing on one particular leading company whose record clearly shows that it has no regard whatsoever for humanity, yet which claims it wants to ‘feed the word’ with altruistic intent.

If you really do believe in dispassionate, objective discourse, then adopt an even-handed approach. You talk so much about democracy and choice yet there is no mention whatsoever of the crimes, cover ups and decades of environmental pollution that a certain company that forms part of the pro-GMO lobby has been involved in.

You talk about choice and democracy but say nothing about how big agribusiness has at international and national levels captured policy making bodies to effectively impose ‘choice’ on US consumers and poorer nations and devastate local economies. Where is your condemnation? Where is your condemnation of ‘big list’ studies and fallacious claims made by the likes of Jon Entine about safety and efficacy on the back of them? Or are your condemnations, attacks, misrepresentations and ridiculous assertions reserved for those who flag up such things?

While powerful corporations have instant access to policy makers who work closely together, ordinary people and groups have to resort to Freedom of Information legislation to ascertain what happens behind closed doors. They have to rely on whisteblowers or leaked documents or must go through the courts to gain access to studies that formed the basis of regulatory bodies’ approvals for commercial agribusiness products. And you talk to me about democracy and of how I or some campaign group have scant regard for it?

Your response is full of warm sounding notions about democracy and choice and some high-minded words about science and scientists (of course, only the science that fits your paradigm). Rhetoric, platitudes and clichés do not constitute a considered response. Projecting the pro-GMO lobby’s deficiencies onto its critics is not valid. It’s disappointing from a scientist.

You indulge in cheap, fallacious attacks on critics, which is symptomatic of a very transparent and predictable propaganda campaign aimed at critics.  

In finishing, I would like to make clear that I do not belong to any environmental or campaign group. I received no payment for the article you responded to. This is why I refer to myself as in ‘independent’ (not freelance) writer.

I wonder how many scientists can claim such a level of independence from for-profit corporate entities.

With kind regards,

Colin Todhunter


Open letter from Professor Trewavas

Dear Mr Todhunter

I read your article against GM crops (So You Want to Help Africa Mr Paterson? Then Stop Promoting Ideology and Falsehoods to Push GMOs; http://rinf.com/alt-news/editorials/want-help-africa-mr-paterson-stop-promoting-ideology-falsehoods-push-gmos/) but I searched in vain for one small word, ‘choice’.  It seems never to enter the commentaries of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth or WWF or the other odd environmentalist/activist groupings that appear now and again. Your claim is that Africa can do very well just on agroecology. Well, put your money where your mouth is. Buy a farm in Africa and farm it in the way that you want. But allow others to farm as they wish and if they wish to use GM crops that is their right to do so just as it yours, not to. According to you any African farmer using GM crops will be a disaster so in that case they will stop using them. If it’s not a disaster, which I suspect is what you fear most, then they will reap the benefit and perhaps persuade you in due course to farm like them. Do you want to impose your opinions on others without allowing them to make their own minds up and choose how they wish to farm?

It is an unfortunate situation that in our present world many environmentalist groups have become typically authoritarian in attitude. Greenpeace notably decides its opinions must prevail regardless of others, so it arrogates to itself the right to tear up and destroy things it doesn’t like. That is absolutely typical of people who are unable to convince others by debate and discussion and in the last century such attitudes, amplified obviously, ended up killing people that others did not like. But the same personality type the authoritarian, ‘do as I tell you’, was at the root of it all. Such groups therefore sit uneasily with countries that are democracies. It would be nice if you could say you are a democrat and believe that argument is better than destruction but argument that deals with all the facts and does not select out of those to construct a misleading programme. Misleading selection of limited information is causing considerable problems in various parts of the world that leads some into very violent behaviour, particularly in religious belief. I am sure you agree that this is not a good way forward.

There is a consensus amongst scientists, at least those that have made themselves aware of all reasonable scientific facts, that GM is both safe for consumption and with appropriate regulations for the environment too. Do you agree with that consensus or not? There is another scientific consensus over climate change that is impelling governments to take action. The consensus over GM food safety is stronger amongst scientists than that over climate change, according to a current survey. I assume you accept the one over climate change, most do. But science and scientific fact is not a pick and mix situation, if you accept a scientific consensus on one than you have to accept it for the other. I am sure you will be aware that there are minorities of scientists, different in both cases, that object to both. But I have found that those that do object to the consensus on GM crops always fail to provide an acceptable balance of information in their objections. They select out only the very limited data they consider supports their view and neglect everything else that does not. That is not science that can be used to construct policy. It’s like claiming flying is unsafe because several planes a year crash whilst ignoring the hundreds of thousands every day that haven’t. If you want unbiased information on GM crops go to the many university personnel who can provide it for you. But please do not quote the so obviously-biased publication which you have, as though it were scientific fact.

Most objectors in this area have a political programme not a scientific one but they like to bend science to their own political point of view. Science is by its nature not politics or political propaganda or anything like it. It deals with evidence not superstition, or political or social philosophies. If you have a political programme then please stop trying to justify it by claiming it has scientific support; it does not.

All human activities have costs and benefits, that will include agroecological approaches that you apparently favour, but at the start both costs and benefits have to be drawn up to see what is appropriate to the particular circumstance. Given the rapidly increasing African population I would say that currently yield is crucial but that can change just as farming methods are changing in Europe towards increasing environmental concerns. Farming methods that do both such as no-till or integrated farm management currently offer the best compromise. Malawi, I understand, subsidizes minerals for crop growth and has turned the country from a food importer into a food exporter. That seems an excellent approach at present to solve a pressing problem.

If agroecological approaches can currently match yield that can be attained by using modern farming methods then by all means use it. But if not and my understanding is that currently it cannot, then they should not be the farming method of recommended choice at present.

When Africa has got its population increases under control and producing sufficient to feed everybody then alternatives like agroecology may come to the fore. No-one with any concern for humanity or the welfare of its population should currently consider any other alternative. The groups that campaign for this kind or that kind of farming method and destroy crops to try and bounce others into their point of view have lost that fundamental concern for their own species.

I am not dogmatic about the methods that farmers use since I consider that decision is the province of individual farmers themselves. Whatever their choice is their right in the framework of their country but they must be allowed to make that decision in full knowledge of all the scientific information and advice, not the tiny amount available to support alternative points of view. That is the nature of every democracy that I hope all will finally live under.

Good science is not set in stone or concrete, the current view on GM crops is simply based on the wealth of the factual and reproducible evidence that all good scientists recognise. But if the evidence indicates change then scientists change with it. Why not join those whose job it is to provide farmers and the populace with unbiased evidence constructed by independent university personnel? You have nothing to lose but the constraints of closed thinking and everything to gain that comes from reasoned and open scientific debate.

With my best wishes
Professor Tony Trewavas FRS
University of Edinburgh
Professor Anthony Trewavas FRS. FRSE
Institute of Molecular Plant Science
Mayfield Road
Edinburgh EH9 3JH



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1 World Trade Center is seen on the left. Security officials don't want to install a security system for the building because of extra costs, a report said. (John Munson/The Star-Ledger)


Recently, two separate incidents highlighted just how vulnerable the 1WTC is to terrorists.  A teenager managed to evade security last week, which prompted TIME: The daring climb raises questions about the security of America's tallest building.  Noooooo kidding..  In September last year, there was the case of three skydiving from the WTC....They were arrested this week.  Go and check out this report (with video) on USA Today.

Now, the New York Post tells us that yes, there is a security system for this building 'but it’s still sitting in its box in a back office because they didn’t want to pay extra for installation'......Really??????  Go read the rest on that.


From New Jersey.com

1 World Trade Center lacks security system because of hefty price tag, report says


March 24, 2014 


[...]

A "well-placed source" told the Post the $4,000 security system is still sitting in a back office because the Port Authority expressed frustration with paying extra for installation. A report from the Post found that there isn't a single working security camera inside the building.

"He (a Port Authority official) looked at me and my colleague and said, 'Why did I spend $4,000 on this equipment when you could have gone to Home Depot and gotten something cheaper?'" the source told The Post. The source is a veteran electrician who worked on the project for the vendor, Angel Electronics, the report said.

"I was kind of stunned, because that's a pretty bold statement to make considering we got the specs from them, and the Port Authority had it made to order," the source told the Post....

Read the rest here. 

"Kind of stunned"???????  Yes, me too. 

Oh and about those terrorists that Obama refuses to admit still pose a threat to us here?


Homeland Security News Wire:

9/11 terror network in U.S. was never fully dismantled, still a threat


26 March 2014

A joint inquiry co-chaired by a former senator has warned that the American network that supported and trained the 9/11 hijackers was never fully dismantled, and that it remains a threat, pending the release of a secret report from the era. Former Senator. Bob Graham (D-Florida) points out that a 28-page section from the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001” was classified under President George W. Bush and remains so under President Barack Obama.

Graham points out that “Saudi support cells were set up in a number of U.S. cities, coast to coast — including Paterson, N.J., Delray Beach, Fla., Sarasota, Fla., Falls Church, Va., Alexandria, Va., Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix — but were never properly investigated.”...

There is much more here.

If that's not enough to concern you, last month I found this from Clarion Project:

Exclusive: Islamist Terror Enclave Discovered in Texas

FBI documents obtained by Clarion confirm the find and show the U.S. government’s concern about its links to terrorism.

By Ryan Mauro February 18, 2014 

A Clarion Project investigation has discovered a jihadist enclave in Texas where a deadly shooting took place in 2002.

[...]

The enclave belongs to the network of Muslims of the Americas, a radical group linked to a Pakistani militant group called Jamaat ul-Fuqra. Its members are devoted followers of Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, an extremist cleric in Pakistan.
Muslims of the Americas


The organization says it has a network of 22 “villages” around the U.S., with Islamberg as its main headquarters in New York. The Clarion Project obtained secret MOA footage showing female members receiving paramilitary training at Islamberg. It was featured on the Kelly File on FOX News Channel in October. A second MOA tape released by Clarion shows its spokesman declaring the U.S. to be a Muslim-majority country.
A 2007 FBI record states that MOA members have been involved in at least 10 murders, one disappearance, three firebombings, one attempted firebombing, two explosive bombings and one attempted bombing. It states:...

There is much more here.


My long time readers know I am no rabid conspiracy theorist, BUT given the two recent incidents linked to above; given the documented proof of what is coming across US borders every day, and claims of "22 villages around the US," it is beyond time for the current crop of politicians to get serious about the ever-present threat of terrorism in America. Anybody who pays any kind of attention to what is going on, has to know how deadly serious the terrorism threat remains - to all of us..


Former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani nails it:

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

I am on the record as saying I believe there WILL be another terrorist attack within our borders. The two most recent incidents tell me that we have learned nothing from 9/11. If we choose to ignore such glaring lacks of security as detailed above, we WILL live (if we are lucky) to regret that we refused to pay a really 'hefty' price.

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

by Stephen Lendman

Congratulations, Mr. President. You're the latest in a long line of lawless leaders. You achieved rogue status without really trying.

Contempt for rule of law principles, duplicity and moral cowardice define your administration. Pretense otherwise doesn't wash.

Instead of improving lives for ordinary Americans, you created worse than ever conditions.

You more than ever made America a gangster state. Millions worldwide call it a pariah one. They do so for good reason.

You stole public wealth. You handed Wall Street crooks trillions of dollars. You gave war profiteers trillions more. 

You impoverished millions. You left 100 million working-age Americans unemployed. 

You ignore human need. Homelessness and hunger aren't your concerns. 

You're systematically destroying middle class society. You're heading America on a fast track toward third world status. A second one toward full-blown tyranny.

You promised hope and change. You campaigned for peace. You promised all US forces out of Afghanistan in your first year in office.

You assured Palestinian sovereignty free from occupation harshness. You said decades of what Israel imposed would end.

You promised Guantanamo closure once and for all. You pledged within one year of taking office.

Bush administration war criminals will be held accountable, you said. Torture will end by decree. 

So will indefinite detentions. Lawless military commissions trials won't be tolerated.

Labor rights will be supported. So will public education. And you can keep your doctor, you said. 

You guaranteed universal healthcare with a public option. It'll be more affordable than before, you claimed. 

You'll end unconstitutional executive authority. You'll help Americans facing foreclosure keep their homes.

You promised real immigration reform within one year of taking office. You'll "revisit the Patriot Act."

You'll "overturn unconstitutional executive decisions during the past eight years."

You'll be a uniter, not a divider. You'll serve all Americans equitably, justly, fairly and honorably.

"It's time to turn a page," you said. "We'll restore our values." The "days of compromising them are over." 

We'll "secure a more resilient homeland." We'll "adhere to the Geneva Conventions." 

Freedom is too precious to lose. You've gone all-out to destroy it on your watch. You've done so at home and abroad.

You said openness and transparency in government will be a hallmark of your administration. You'll increase whistleblower protections.

Big Brother will be banished. "(N)o more illegal wiretapping of American citizens," you pledged.

No more "spy(ing) on citizens who are not suspected of a crime." No more privacy invasions.

No more human and civil rights violations. "No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient."

No more extrajudicial operations. No more favoring monied interests over popular ones. No more wars for power and profit.

No more less than treating everyone equitably and justly. No more defending the indefensible.

Arundhati Roy once called Tony Blair a "psychopath." She described Bush the same way. She said you're no different from them. And then some, this writer adds.

You did more to make America unfit to live in than any of your predecessors. You've waged political, economic and hot wars on humanity. 

You threaten its survival. Your policies risk WW III. You're unapologetic. Your rampaging continues.

Your waging multiple direct and proxy wars. You target all independent countries for regime change.

You're waging war on Syria. You launched it. You killed tens of thousands. You bear full responsibility. You want a subservient pro-Western stooge replacing Assad.

You ravaged and destroyed Libya for the same purpose. You turned it into a charnel house. You're doing the same thing to many other countries. Countless millions suffer horrifically on your watch.

Ukraine is your latest victim. Congratulations. You claimed another imperial trophy. As long as you can keep it.

It's at the expense of millions of Ukrainians deserving better. You want them marginalized, exploited, impoverished and denied fundamental freedoms.

You want Ukraine run by fascist extremists. You bought victory on the cheap. Keeping it is something else entirely.

Reports estimate you spent $5 - $10 billion transforming Ukraine from a democracy to a pro-Western fascist police state.

It's pocket change compared to multi-trillions waging war on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and other countries below the radar.

You elevated anti-Semitic, hate-mongering, xenophobic, ultranational neo-Nazis to power. 

You expressed support for their extremism. You called them "the voice of the people." You blamed Ukraine's legitimate government for their street crimes.

You endorsed usurpation of power. On Saturday, your press secretary lied, saying:

"We have consistently advocated a de-escalation of violence, constitutional change, a coalition government, and early elections, and today's developments could move us closer to that goal."

Fact check: You planned violence. You initiated it. You stoked it. You funded it. You want total control over Ukrainian policy. You want ordinary Ukrainians having no say.  

"The unshakeable principle guiding events must be that the people of Ukraine determine their own future."

Fact check: You've gone all-out to prevent it. You stole their future.  

"We welcome constructive work in the Rada and continue to urge the prompt formation of a broad, technocratic government of national unity."

Fact check: Usurped Rada (parliament) authority has no legitimacy. It's polar opposite real democracy.

You deplore it. You tolerate it nowhere. You deny Americans what they deserve. You operate the same way globally.

"We welcome former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s release from a prison hospital today, and we wish her a speedy recovery..." 

Fact check: She's a criminal. She stole tens of millions of dollars. She did so at the expense of ordinary Ukrainians. She belongs in prison. Releasing her was lawless.

"We continue to urge an end to violence by all sides and a focus on peaceful, democratic dialogue, working pursuant to Ukraine’s constitution and through its institutions of government."  

Fact check: It bears repeating. You spent billions on violently toppling Ukraine's legitimate government. You want pro-Western fascist extremism replacing it.

You got what you wanted so far. Keeping it may be something else entirely. The battle for Ukraine's soul continues. It has miles to go. It's outcome is very much undecided.

"Going forward, we will work with our allies, with Russia, and with appropriate European and international organizations to support a strong, prosperous, unified, and democratic Ukraine." 

"…(T)he Ukrainian people should know that the United States deeply values our long-standing ties with Ukraine and will support them as they pursue a path of democracy and economic development."

Fact check: Ukrainian youths are ignorant. They're mindless about what's going on. They're easily manipulated. For how long matters most.

Older Ukrainians aren't stupid. They know how America operates. They know wherever it shows up, extreme violence and human misery follow.

They reversed George Bush's Orange Revolution. Don't bet they won't undo your 2.0 version. The battle for Ukraine's soul just began.

Note: Anonymous Ukraine monitors what's ongoing. It's members are divided. Some are brainwashed by Western propaganda.

Others know their country is being colonized for plunder. They'll fight it. They want no part of exploitive EU membership.

They reject US meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs. They oppose NATO membership. They deplore fascist extremists usurping power. They know your dirty hands are involved.

They want peace and stability. They want Ukrainians deciding their own future. They want sovereign independence defended. 

They'll be heard from going forward. They won't stand by idly watching you wreck their country. They won't "go gentle into that good night."

"Operation Independence continues," they said. "Expect us."

One coup d'etat isn't enough for you. You want another. You want Venezuela's democratic government toppled. 

You want Bolivarian social justice destroyed. You want Venezuela returned to its bad old days. 

You bear full responsibility for street violence. You're funding it. You're directing it. You pull the strings.

Destabilization continues. CIA operatives are involved. So are State Department organizations.

Coup plotting is violent. Days of violence caused 10 deaths so far. Scores were injured. Your funded fascists are responsible.

Since 1999, you, Bush and Clinton spent billions of dollars targeting Venezuela for regime change. Bolivarianism survived everything done to destroy it.

It's resilient. It's institutionalized. The vast majority of Venezuelans support it. They won't tolerate your plot to steal what's too important to lose. Or the Hemisphere's most democratic country.

They'll fight to keep hard won gains. Victor Hugo once explained nothing stronger than "an idea whose time has come."

It's deep-rooted in Venezuela. It reflects Simon Bolivar's vision. He wanted the imperial curse "to plague Latin America with misery in the name of liberty" ended.

He wanted national resources distributed equitably and fairly. Chavez was his modern-day incarnation. 

Chavismo reflects his commitment. Maduro carries his torch.

The battle to preserve Bolivarian values continues. They won't wane and die. Your dirty scheme is familiar.

You want Venezuela looking like America. You want police state viciousness replacing democracy. You want neoliberal harshness replacing Bolivarian fairness.

You want what Venezuelans won't tolerate. You want what they won't let you get. 

Maybe Americans will awaken to reality. Maybe they'll react the same way. It's their future. If they won't protect it, no one will do it for them.

It bears repeating what other articles said. Resist or perish. There's no in-between. Spread the word. Tell others. We're all in this together. Defeating your agenda is too important a fight to lose.

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.


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

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As War Lingers in Mali, Western Powers Target its Natural Resources

Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News - France’s intervention in the West African nation of Mali under Operation Serval drove Islamic groups associated with Al-Qaeda out of Northern Mali in February 2013. When the Tuareg rebellion occurred in early 2012, it was against the Malian government lead by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) for the independence of Northern Mali also known as Azawad. There were also Islamic groups such as the Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who originally helped the MNLA. Eventually both Islamist groups turned on the MNLA forcing them out and creating a Sharia based Northern Mali. The government of Mali requested foreign assistance to re-take the north and France answered the call. France restored Mali’s government back to power. France’s military incursion with Western support was described as a “humanitarian intervention” which resulted in a race for Mali’s natural resources. That was the plan after all. New drilling contracts have just been established after Mali’s civil war was contained by the French military with the backing of the United Kingdom and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). The collaboration of Western powers just opened up Mali for business. A new press release by Legend Gold of Vancouver, BC Canada states the intention of gold mine drilling in several regions of Mali. The press release titled ‘Legend Gold Announces Signing of Drilling Contracts for Exploration in Mali’ stated exactly what areas of Mali will be extracted for gold by the new drilling contracts:

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – Jan. 6, 2014) – Legend Gold Corp. (the “Company” or “Legend Gold”) (TSX VENTURE:LGN) is pleased to announce the commencement of drilling for the season. Legend Gold has contracted for a minimum of 5,000 m of reverse circulation (RC) drilling and 10,000 m of air core (AC) drilling for the Diba and Lankafla projects in western Mali and the Mougnina project in southern Mali. 

In western Mali, Legend Gold plans to explore for extensions to the Diba-Badiazila resource which contains 234,000 oz at 1.67 g/t gold of indicated and 26,700 oz of inferred mineralization at 1.9 g/t at 0.8 g/t gold cutoff (AMEC’s NI 43-101 compliant Technical Report, August 2013). There remain a number of gaps in the AMEC resource which can be in-filled by a number of shallow RC holes to bring the oxide resource from the indicated and inferred categories to measured and indicated. The oxide resource evaluated to date extends to about 50 m below the surface. A minimum of 3,000 m of RC drilling will be used to infill gaps in the existing resource as well as testing the immediate on-strike extensions of the Diba deposit. Analysis of previous results derived from drilling completed by Etruscan Resources in 2009 suggests that additional resources remain to be discovered on-strike from the known mineralization, along a 2 km long soil auger geochemistry anomaly to the northwest. Several lines of RC and core holes drilled by Etruscan Resources about 1.5 km to the NNW of Diba yielded multiple mineralized intervals which warrant follow up drilling.

Preliminary results of a ground gravity survey on the Lankalfa project area suggest that areas that have been drilled previously warrant additional exploration. New and upgraded targets revealed by the final interpretation of the gravity survey will also be included in the 2,000 m of RC drilling planned for Lankafla.

In southern Mali, exploration by Legend Gold on the Mougnina exploration license, some twenty kilometers north of the Syama mine, has mapped a series of ancient artisanal workings which are coincident with soil auger gold anomalies. The ancient workings appear to be on splays off the same fault system that controls mineralization at the Syama mine. At least 5,000 m of AC drilling are planned to test the soil auger gold anomalies and artisanal workings.

The drill program is expected to commence in early February 2014.

Douglas Perkins, President and Chief Executive Officer of Legend Gold stated, “The data review and project ranking that took place over the past three months is now complete and the technical team has chosen their priorities for the current drilling season. Given the current state of the exploration business, Legend Gold was able to obtain some very competitive quotes for meters. We look forward to announcing the results as soon as they are available.” 

On December 18th, 2013 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that it would financially assist Mali in a press release ‘IMF Executive Board Approves New Extended Credit Facility Arrangement for Mali and US$9.2 Million Disbursement’ regarding Mali’s economic potential with help from external financial resources. The institution which is based in Washington DC announced what the new arraignments will provide to the war torn country:

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a new arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) for Mali for an amount equivalent to SDR 30 million (about US$ 46.2 million or 32 percent of quota). The approval enables the immediate disbursement of an amount equivalent to SDR 6 million (about US$9.2 million).

The authorities’ program is designed to reduce balance-of-payments vulnerabilities and lay foundations for stronger, more inclusive growth. Reform efforts are focused on tax policy and revenue administration, public financial management and improving the business environment.

The IMF imposes debts on nations and forces its governments to cut back on social services such as education and medical care in order to pay back the debt. An article written by Arthur MacEwan which was published on Third World Network titled ‘Economic debacle in Argentina: The IMF strikes again’ describes how IMF policies affected Argentina’s economy:

During 2001 the Argentine recession grew rapidly deeper. Although the IMF pumped in additional funds, it provided these funds on the condition that the Argentine government would entirely eliminate its budget deficit. With the economy in a nose-dive and tax revenues plummeting, the only way to balance the budget was to drastically cut government spending. Yet, in doing so, the government was both eviscerating social programmes and reducing overall demand. In mid-December, the government announced that it would cut the salaries of public employees by 20% and reduce pension payments. At the same time, as the worsening crisis raised fears that the peso would be devalued, the government moved to prevent people from trading their pesos for dollars; it promulgated a regulation limiting bank withdrawals. These steps were the final straws, and in the week before Christmas, all hell broke loose.

According to www.allafrica.com an online African news source admits an increase in foreign investments and believes that Mali will experience growth “Mali is expected to benefit from relatively stable external conditions in the near term. The region’s prospects are favorable. Sub-Saharan Africa is set to enjoy continued robust growth driven by strong investment in infrastructure and productive capacity, and by rising inflows of foreign direct investment and other financing opportunities” which is further from the truth. RT News reported on June 10th, 2013 what does foreign investment in the gold industry mean for Malian citizens and especially for those who work in the gold mines:

War-worn Mali has tripled its gold exports over the last decade, though the rising profits are being funneled outside what is one of the world’s poorest countries: Foreign corporations appear to be taking over one of Mali’s few thriving industries. Mali, Africa’s third-largest gold producer, has just announced it expects to double annual gold output over the next five years to 100 tons.

Malian officials claim the gold-abundant south has been untouched by the military conflict between government troops and Tuareg insurgents in the north, which prompted an intervention by France in January. The promise of gold has lured investors into one of Mali’s most profitable industries.

However, residents have decried the news, as they feel they will benefit little from the country’s newfound riches. Thousands are employed as ‘traditional miners’ in the town of Yanfolila in southern Mali, the epicenter of the country’s gold rush. Traditional mining is a near-medieval process in which Malian workers dig holes approximately the size of their own bodies using only primitive picks – their gold mines. Without a proper geological survey, workers are essentially hoping to get lucky. The narrow shafts go as deep down as 60 meters, the equivalent of a 15- to 20-story building 

French intervention in Mali had nothing to do with the welfare of the Malian people. It was about the natural resources it has including gold, uranium and oil. With gold demand increasing among nations throughout the world, it is no surprise that the Western powers would intervene in any internal conflict in a resource rich country in the African continent. The French government has interests in Mali. That interest is in natural resources as Katrin Sold of the German Council on Foreign Relations stated in 2013 “In the long term, France has interests in securing resources in the Sahel – particularly oil and uranium, which the French energy company Areva has been extracting for decades in neighboring Niger”. Mali has abundant natural resources. The civil war intensified through a western backed military coup with Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo who was trained by the United States lead a coup against democratically-elected government of Amadou Toumani Touré after the Tuareg Rebellion in Northern Mali. Western Institutions and corporations wasted no time in acquiring natural resources during Mali’s crises. Divide and conquer and then accumulate the resources was the was the Western government’s intentions. During a speech by French President Francois Hollande on February 2nd, 2013 after France intervened in Mali, hypocrisy took hold when he said:

France stands alongside you, not to serve any particular interest – we have none –, to protect this or that faction, or in favour of this or that Malian party… No, we stand alongside you for the sake of the whole of Mali and for West Africa. We’re fighting here to ensure Mali lives in peace and democracy. And you’ve presented the best image today, through your warmth and fervour, after your pain throughout those months when fanaticism held sway in northern Mali.

We’re fighting as brothers – Malians, French, Africans – because I haven’t forgotten that when France herself was attacked, when she was seeking support and allies, when her territorial integrity was threatened, who came along? It was Africa; it was Mali. Thank you, thank you, Mali. Today we’re repaying our debt to you

Mali is the country that has to repay its debts to the IMF and its western powers through its natural resources, not France. A loan from the IMF  is guaranteed to create more debt for the Malian people.  As Western powers such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and France continue to intervene in third world countries for their own interests, it seems like Mali is under their control for the long term pushing China out as a potential business partner with the Malian government. France and AFRICOM are expanding its intervention policies throughout Africa because it is about the resources, besides; the West has been intervening in Africa for the past 500 +years that only resulted in more wars and extreme poverty for the African people.

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Washington Brinksmanship Resolution. The US Senate Approved the “Reopening of the Government”. What Next?

Beltway theatrics don’t surprise.

Late Wednesday, 16 days of government shutdown ended. Denouement came with a whimper, not a bang.

The Senate approved reopening government 81 – 18. The House followed suit 285 – 144. Obama signed the measure shortly after midnight.

HR 2775: Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 authorizes funding through January 15. It raises the debt ceiling through February 7.

It maintains $986.3 billion for five appropriation bills. It includes other unreported provisions. It’s standard Washington sausage-making. It makes the real thing look good by comparison.

Section 122 “(e)xtends authority for activities to counter Lord’s Resistance Army” activities. It’s a Ugandan guerrilla force. It’s waging low intensity war against repressive governance.

Section 123 “Extends authorization for construction of Olmsted Locks and Dams included within the President’s FY 14 budget request, FY 14 House-passed and Senate-reported Energy and Water Appropriations bills and similar to language included in the Water Resources Development Act.”

Doing so earmarks about $3 billion for Kentucky. It’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state. Critics call it the “McConnell Kickback.”

They do so for good reason. He and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. NV) agreed on legislative terms. A few billion for constituents is common Capitol Hill practice. Doing so reflects business as usual.

Section 126 provides $26 million in judiciary funding. Other sections provide additional funding for Interior Department and Forest Service firefighting.

Section 146 provides Senator Frank Lautenberg’s widow a $174,000 gratuity. Numerous other sections include other add-ons.

Note: Five versions of HR 2775 were introduced:

“1. To condition the provision of premium and cost-sharing subsidies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act upon a certification (to) program to verify household income… (Introduced in House).

2. No Subsidies Without Verification Act (Engrossed in House) (Passed House).

 3. No Subsidies Without Verification Act (Placed on Calendar Senate – PCS).

4. Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 (Engrossed Amendment Senate – EAS).

(5) Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 (Enrolled Bill) (Passed House and Senate).”

In three months, high drama repeats. On Thursday, federal employees went back to work.

 Shutdown theatrics left America more than ever discredited. Brinksmanship masked what’s going on.

 Real crisis conditions persist. They aren’t addressed. Venal politicians ignore them. So do media scoundrels.

Poverty, real unemployment, underemployment, hunger, homelessness, and overall deprivation persists at Depression era levels.

America is permanently at war. Imperial direct and proxy ones rage out-of-control. New conflicts are planned.

Police state harshness targets whistleblowers, journalists who report their disclosures, and other right over wrong defenders.

Industrial America is being hollowed out. It’s disappearing in plain sight. Offshoring high pay/good benefit jobs lowers household income. It reduces US tax revenue. It erodes economic growth.

It continues America’s decline. Out-of-control militarism, police state harshness, and corporate favoritism bear full responsibility for today’s deficit.

It approaches $17 trillion. It’s nearly $54,000 for every US citizen. It’s impossible to repay. Fed money printing madness masks a growing debt crisis.

Creating a trillion dollars annually out of thin air debases the currency. It’s the basis of dollar hegemony. It’s why China urges de-Americanizing.

It wants a new world order. It wants out from under beltway banditry. It’s tired of US perniciousness. It wants an entirely new financial architecture. It’s not alone.

According to Paul Craig Roberts, America’s economy isn’t “salvageable in its present form.” It’s too far gone to be fixed.

Collapse “seems the most likely forecast,” he says. Perhaps rebuilding from ruins will change things, he hopes. Not without entirely changing America’s political process.

 Duopoly power subverts responsible governance. It bears full responsibility for crisis conditions. Rogues, crooks and morons run America.

They’re suffocating it. They’re hollowing it out. They’re destroying it. They’re doing it for power, self-enrichment and other benefits they enjoy. They’re doing it at the expense of ordinary Americans.

They’re ruthlessly exploited. The worst is yet to come. What’s emerging is similar to what happened in August 2011 and December 2012.

The debt ceiling was increased in exchange for a $1 trillion in social spending cuts. Another $1.2 trillion in sequestered ones became effective January 2013.

Around $4 trillion of Bush’s $4.6 trillion tax cuts were permanently extended. Bipartisan duplicity agreed on $6.2 trillion irresponsibly. Rich elites benefitted hugely. They did so at the expense of ordinary Americans.

Bipartisan double-dealing intends more massive social spending cuts on top of earlier ones.

At the same time, expect generous corporate tax cuts. They’re agreed on. They’re not discussed. Enacting them under the radar is planned. Don’t expect major media headlines explaining them.

The difference between now and earlier will be enacting more of what corporate America wants. In exchange, the debt ceiling will be increased.

A political armistice will persist through November 2014 mid-term elections. Business as usual will continue.

Cutting Obamacare was a ruse. It was smoke and mirrors. It was red meat rhetoric for Tea Party conservatives. It was never part of resolving things.

Both parties are in lockstep on massive social spending cuts. Details and timing alone separate them. Social Security and Medicare are prime targets.

 They’re erroneously called entitlements. They’re insurance programs. They’re funded by worker/employer payroll tax deductions.

They’re contractual federal obligations. They’re for eligible recipients who qualify. Targeting them reflects grand theft.

Robbing poor Peter to benefit rich Paul is official bipartisan policy. Obama’s as hardline as most Republicans. Public squabbles mask double-dealing complicity.

Social America is being destroyed in plain sight. It’s on the chopping block for elimination. Disadvantaged households are out of luck. So are seniors and retirees.

Washington reform is deform. Neoliberal force-fed austerity reflects it. America is the world’s richest country. It isn’t broke. It misallocates its resources.

Expect much greater misallocation ahead. It’ll be phased in incrementally. It’ll hammer ordinary Americans hugely. They’ll be increasingly on their own.

Millions will be entirely out of luck. A decade from now or earlier, New Deal/Great Society benefits no longer will exist. Dark age harshness will replace them.

 Wall Street crooks demand it. Whatever they want they get. Ripping off ordinary Americans benefits them hugely. Market manipulation lets them use added riches to make more of them.

 The dirty game continues. Grand theft America is policy. Venal politicians are in league with corporate crooks.

The more they get, the more they want, the more political Washington obliges. Brinkmanship theatrics mask it. Public pain is real.

Media scoundrels don’t explain. They support business as usual. They’re in lockstep with what demands condemnation.

Union bosses are just as duplicitous. No one represents Main Street. Ordinary Americans are increasingly on their own sink or swim. Harder than ever hard times loom.

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.

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/washington-brinksmanship-resolution/

US Reforms ‘Open Floodgates’ on Arms Exports

WASHINGTON - Earlier this week, the largest deregulation in the history of U.S. arms exports took place as part of the Barack Obama administration’s export reform initiative.

The military items that will move to Commerce Department oversight are primarily small parts such as aircraft components, electronic equipment, night vision equipment, and automatic firearms. (Credit: West Midlands Police/cc by 2.0) But a day after the new reforms came into effect, former government officials and critics from the human rights community are warning of the serious human rights consequences and of the negative long-term impact for U.S. foreign policy.

The reforms are part of the Export Control Reform Initiative (ECRI) brought forward by the Obama administration in 2010, with the goal of simplifying U.S. export practices by eliminating redundant restrictions and regulations.

The most problematic aspect of the reforms is the extensive deregulation of military exports by categorising them as ‘dual-use’ goods, which currently face no trade restrictions under international commercial law.

But according to critics, this large deregulation of armaments trade will have serious long-term consequences for U.S. military strategy and for human rights abuses across the globe.

“This could further facilitate the commission of human rights abuses around the world.” -- Amnesty's Adotei Akwei

The arms export reforms will transfer the oversight of military export items from the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. Department of Commerce. This change will only increase the risks connected with arms exports, critics say.

“Unlike standard armaments, dual-use goods currently face little or no restriction because they’ve always been considered normal commercial goods,” said William J. Lowell, a former U.S. State Department official and now the managing director of Lowell Defense Trade, a national security consulting firm here.

"What this deregulation does is move as much as 75 percent of our arms exports to the Commerce Department, with no regulation,” Lowell told IPS.

No regulation

The military items that will move to Commerce Department oversight are primarily small parts such as aircraft components, electronic equipment, night vision equipment, and automatic firearms.

But these are the items that will inevitably threaten U.S. military strategy, critics suggest.

“When you allow these items to be traded with no restrictions and no licensing, you’re basically allowing places like China and Iran to obtain our military technology and our spare parts with no restrictions whatsoever,” Steven W. Pelak, a former U.S. Justice Department official and now a partner at Holland & Hart, an international law firm, said here on Wednesday. “In the long-term, this can put American lives at risk.”

And while some emphasise the potential backfiring effect of the new deregulation on U.S. interests, others highlight the damaging effect the reforms will have on the international arms export regime.

Since World War II, the U.S. has been in the forefront in urging other countries to control conventional arms more closely, Lowell says.

“We’re the world’s largest arms provider. And now we’re basically retreating from our leadership,” he told IPS. “This means that other countries, like Russia, will be only too happy to agree with decontrolling some of their international arms transfers.”

Human rights abuses

And as critics consider the implications for U.S. foreign policy and military stability in troublesome areas around the world, human rights advocates warn of the human rights abuses that are going to take place after the deregulation.

“We’re seriously concerned that the reforms will open a floodgate of weapons technology and equipment to governments that have bad human rights records,” Adotei Akwei, the managing director for government relations at Amnesty International USA, a global human rights movement, told IPS. “This could further facilitate the commission of human rights abuses around the world."

Indeed, according to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia, the second-largest arms exporter after the U.S., has provided Algeria, where human rights records are troublesome, with over 90 percent the country’s armaments between 2008 and 2012.

The trend may spread to other problematic spots, including Sub-Saharan Africa. In early 2012, Sierra Leone’s People’s Party raised concerns over large imports of small weapons and ammunition from China, as it feared the weapons could be used to persecute political opponents in the upcoming elections, the SIPRI reports.

Human rights activists fear that these types of scenarios will only increase after the extensive export deregulation measures took effect on Tuesday.

“We in the human rights community have been fighting for the past 30 years to try to bring more oversight and regulation to the global trade in arms because of the link with human rights violations such as killings, displacement of population, and torture,” Amnesty International USA’s Akwei told IPS. “And now we see the U.S. stepping back from these commitments. It is extremely alarming.”

Unclear motives

It is still unclear why the U.S. administration has opted for this arms export deregulation, the largest and most comprehensive in the country’s history.

The shift from the State to the Commerce Department also comes with a change in the definition of what constitutes a “military item.” Before the reforms, the U.S. State Department maintained jurisdiction and control over all items on the U.S. Munitions List, the list containing all military-related items requiring an export license prior to being shipped to foreign countries.

Now, however, the Commerce Department defines a military item as an item that is “inherently military or [one that] possess[es] parameters or characteristics that provide a critical military or intelligence advantage to the United States.”

According to critics, the new definition is alarming.

“This definition is so unclear that the U.S. military industry simply won’t know what will fall under that category. Because of this confusion, we’ll see a real damage for U.S. industry,” Holland & Hart’s Pelak said Wednesday.

And as opponents wonder why the U.S. government will implement reforms that will damage its national industry, U.S. servicemen warn of the deadly consequences of such a massive deregulation.

Kevin McDonnell, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, recently noted that exporting night vision equipment to foreign states, now allowed under Commerce Department rules, would put U.S. lives at risk.

“In enemy hands, these devices can enable hostile forces to track and fire on our aircraft at night,” he says. “The direct result is the loss of American lives.”

© 2013 IPS North America

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Documents to Remain Open in Examiner’s Lawsuit Against Fed

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/documents_to_remain_open_in_examiners_lawsuit_against_fed_20131015/

Posted on Oct 15, 2013

By Jake Bernstein, ProPublica

This story originally ran on ProPublica.

A federal judge rejected the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s plea to seal documents in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former bank examiner who claims she was fired for doing her job. 

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams ruled today in the case by Carmen Segarra against the New York Fed and three employees. Much of the material the Fed hoped to keep off limits, including 67 paragraphs from Segarra’s complaint and multiple exhibits, can be found on ProPublica’s website and others. 

“I am not convinced that anything will be accomplished to seal or redact a complaint that is publicly available,” said Abrams in the hearing held at the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan. 

Segarra worked for the New York Fed for seven months before being fired in May of last year. She was assigned to examine Goldman Sachs and its conflict-of-interest policies, she said. Segarra said she determined that Goldman’s policies did not meet Fed requirements. Her lawsuit alleges that her bosses tried to convince her otherwise and that she was fired after refusing to change her findings. 

Goldman says it has robust methods for managing conflicts of interest and has declined comment on Segarra.

At today’s hearing, New York Fed attorney David Gross accused Segarra of stealing confidential documents, including her own internal emails and meeting minutes. Were the court to allow them to remain public on its own electronic records system, called Pacer, it “would be helping this improper conduct,” Gross said.

Gross compared the New York Fed’s relationship with the financial institutions it supervises to attorney-client privilege. Should the institutions lose faith in the Fed’s ability to keep communications and documents secret, it could spell trouble, he said. 

“If [the supervised banks] don’t think it will be confidential, they will be less willing to give that information, to the detriment of the financial system,” said Gross. 

Although ruling against the Fed, Abrams asked Segarra and her attorney, Linda Stengle, not to reveal any more confidential supervisory information without first consulting with her. “This is not a gag order,” the judge said. “I am not telling plaintiff she cannot talk about her case.”

Linda Stengle said afterward she was pleased about the ruling but unhappy that there were constraints placed on her client. “It’s important that the public have access to the information” in support of Segarra’s case, she said. 

A spokesperson for the New York Fed did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Open War Crimes: US and British-Backed Weapons Airlift From Croatia to Terrorists in Syria

It’s well known by now that the NATO and Gulf States' initial plans to overturn the sovereign state of Syria has been running behind schedule since their operation was launched two years ago. They had hoped for the sort of slam dunk which they enjoyed in overturning the country of Libya in late 2011.

This same formula could not be applied again however, so Plan B, a ground war using proxies has meant a longer drawn out conflict, with western backed terrorist groups sustaining heavy losses in their fight to topple the Assad government on behalf of NATO and its Gulf allies.

The main obstacle with Plan B is that the very idea of directly arming terrorists in Syria is not one which can be sold openly in either the US or Britain. Plan C is to draw in the UN by creating a ‘chemical weapons’ crisis in Syria, but thanks to a prominent online leak of documents relating to UK DOD contractor Britamthe British have been caught brokering a deal transferring ex-Gaddafi stocks from Libya to Syria to be blamed on Assad, paid for by Qatar. The WMD threat still remains a hard sell for western voters…

From the NATO Allied corner, something drastic needed to be done.

Whilst politicians in the West, namely those in Washington DC, London and parts of Europe, have been publicly denying that they were helping to organise running arms into Syria and issuing very public pleads for ‘humanitarian aid’ for those they identify as the Syrian Opposition, activity back stage has been furious. The debate in government and the media has been mere window dressing for the real operation being quietly carried out.

NATO Gun-running via Croatia

It can now be revealed that NATO allied nations were busy using proxy states to drive their war in Syria – putting together one of the biggest international black operation transfers of military supplies in recent history. So it’s official: large caches of hardware from the West have been transferred to the Syrian jihadist mercenary collective known as the ‘Free Syrian Army’ , ‘Syrian Rebels’, or ‘Syrian Opposition’ – depending on who you ask, a brash move which may be vehemently opposed by other UN Security Council members – namely Russia and China.

Multiple media sources reveal the details of this massive airlift comprised of 75 airplanes, and an estimated 3,000 tons of military weaponry on board has left Croatia and has already been delivered… to Syria.

It is also confirmed from these reports that Saudi Arabia has financed a large portion of this purchase secretly transported to al Qaeda and other FSA fighters – who are working with the support of the CIA, MI6 and others, along with other financial and material support of Qatar and Saudi, to further destabilise and overthrow the Assad government in Syria.

Croatia’s daily newspaper Jutarnji List reported:

From the start of November last year, till February this year, 75 planes flew out from Zagreb Airport with over 3,000 tons of weapons and ammunition bound for Syrian rebels…

The newspaper, quoting diplomatic sources, says that besides Croatian weapons the planes were full with weapons from other European countries including the UK. The weapons were organised by the United States of America.

Sources say that the first few flights to leave Croatia bound for Syria with weapons were operated by Turkish Cargo, which is owned by Turkish Airlines. After those flights, Jordanian International Air Cargo took over the flights. The deal to provide arms to the rebels was made between American officials and the Croatian Ambassador to the US.

In addition to this huge gun-running operation, Croatia also appears to be guilty of either having advanced knowledge, or possibly coordinating with Syrian terrorists as evidenced by their recently withdraw all of troops from the UN observer mission in Golan Heights, indicating that the recent kidnapping by Free Syrian Army Terrorists of at least 20 UNIFIL peacekeepers in the Golan Heights was known in advance by Croatia.

The kidnapping incident may have been designed to test the UN, but also to pull Syria’s southern neighbor, Israel, even closer to the conflict, a development which would almost surely prompt the UN to declare this as trigger to a regional crisis, followed by an authorised military intervention. Pulling Israel in would also risk involving Hezbollah from Lebanon, who are already engaging in assisting Assad in training a new specialist paramilitary force in Syria to deal with urban warfare.

If it was known by Croatia, then one can only conclude that this was also known by US and British operatives as well. Both the US and Britain will naturally claim deniability as their legal out in this case, by deniability through the use of proxies makes no innocent parties when the prospect of a multi-regional war beckons as a result of the west’s financial, logistical, political, and now material involvement in the overthrow of a sovereign state and internationally recognised government.

Much worse, however, is that by employing proxies like Jordan, Croatia, Turkey,and others, the NATO allies have guaranteed long-term retribution down the road, should Syria prevail in this fight. For Syria, it is now known which countries collaborated with the West to dismantle their country. This fact alone will ensure conflict in the region for a generation.

US officials are on record as admitting to helping arrange the weapons airlift, as cited in this Feb 25, 2012 article in the New York Times:

“An official in Washington said the possibility of the transfers from the Balkans was broached last summer, when a senior Croatian official visited Washington and suggested to American officials that Croatia had many weapons available should anyone be interested in moving them to Syria’s rebels.”

Terrorist receive recoilless guns from the former Yugoslavia

Revelations are not limited to the Croatian news report, as we see the US and Europe’s mainstream media wall of silence has begun to crack, including here a recent report from London’s Daily Telegraph sent across Syria’s borders with Jordan and NATO-member Turkey. The article entitled, “US and Europe in ‘major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb’“ goes on to give further details of direct European involvement in illegal weapons running:

The United States has coordinated a massive airlift of arms to Syrian rebels from Croatia with the help of Britain and other European states, despite the continuing European Union arms embargo, it was claimed yesterday…

Decisions by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, to provide non-lethal assistance and training, announced in the past week, were preceded by much greater though less direct Western involvement in the rebel cause, according to a Croat newspaper.

The shipments were allegedly paid for by Saudi Arabia at the bidding of the United States, with assistance on supplying the weapons organised through Turkey and Jordan, Syria’s neighbours.

as from Croatia, weapons came “from several other European countries including Britain”, without specifying if they were British-supplied or British-procured arms.

British military advisers however are known to be operating in countries bordering Syria alongside French and Americans, offering training to rebel leaders and former Syrian army officers…

… The weapons, including rocket launchers, recoil-less guns and the M79 anti-tank weapon, have been seen in rebel hands in numerous videos, and were first spotted by an arms expert Eliot Higgins, who blogs under the name Brown Moses. He traced them moving from Dera’a in the south, near the Jordanian border, to Aleppo and Idlib provinces in the north.

Hague: Denies Britain’s involvement in gun-running

It is also no big secret that Britain has deployed a significant contingent of troops and support personnel to Jordan at least as far back as Autumn 2012 as part of its ongoing ‘joint military exercises’ with the Jordan military, but this latest revelation puts into clearer perspective the overwhelming likelihood that high level British military operation have actually been involved in the transfer of arms from Jordan into the hands of the international terrorist confab of mostly foreign fighter running under the west’s media banner of “Syrian Rebels”.

Consequences for Croatia, and Britain

What Britain may be guilty of here, is cynically – and illegally, trying to side-stepping the EU embargo on arms into Syria by using the fledgling EU state of Croatia as their delivery mechanism, because Croatia does not officially join the EU until July 1, and has not implemented any binding EU legislation. This flagrant violation of both EU and international law should mean that Croatia’s entrance into the EU could be appealed by other members states willing to raise an objection, with what are now clear grounds to mount a legal challenge against Croatia.

Regardless of any EU outcomes however, Croatia at least –  is guilty of international war crimes.

International and EU Sanctions Against the US, Britain, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia

As expected, Britain’s Foreign Office denies all of the claims connecting it to the Croatian gun-running program, but if Britain is involved – even indirectly, through a proxy like Croatia, or if British military personnel are aiding and abetting these known terrorist fighters in Syria through the transfer of weaponry, then Britain can also be brought into the international legal framework to answer for what it has done behind the public’s back.

The international war crimes which are now in the public view could test the legal framework of the EU, the UN and the ICC in the Hague. The legal door is now open for charges against state actors including US, Britain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – for the crimes of illegally arming a force of foreign fighters and known terrorists in Syria – designed to destroy the country from within. Many UN resolutions, including the recent Resolution 1973 applied in Libya by the UN, have been implemented on much more spurious and shaky grounds than the overwhelming evidence available regarding Syria.

Consequences for NATO and the UN

Despite any denials in Brussels, NATO are involved through their member states Turkey and Croatia, as well as US, UK, and France from behind. Any involvement should question these country’s NATO status, or at least it begs the question what is NATO for, or even the UN, if their member states are conspiring together to subvert international law?

Moreover, Israel’s unwarranted airstrike against a Syrian Military Research facility last month was also ignored by the UN, but this is not surprising as Israel has long been allowed to operate outside of international law and norms.

If the international community does not act in this instance, then it opens the door to more brazen criminality sans borders, which could spawn similar illegal operations against Iran, opening the door to a Third World War.

US uniformed Personnel Training Rebels in Jordan

Der Spiegel also reports this week that, despite denials by Washington DC, Americans are definitely training Syrian rebels in neighboring Jordan. The reports goes on:

It is not clear if the Americans are members of the US armed forces or are part of a private contracting firm, but the trainers wear uniforms, the paper reported.

It added that the training, which also involves Jordanian intelligence officers, had been going on “for some time,” and that the rebels were being taught how to use anti-tank weaponry.

France sends ‘aid’ for Syria to Jordan

France played an integral part in the destruction of Libya in 2011, and they might also have an interest in their former colonial possessions in Syria, but it’s not clear as yet if France’s commitment to overthrowing the Assad government is on par with the US and Britain’s efforts. Back in August 2012, France had also been sending large shipments designated for Syria via Jordan, claiming that these shipment contained ‘aid and medical supplies’ – intended for Syrian refugees. Real Syrian News reported:

An Antonov 124 cargo aircraft landed at the Marka military airport in Amman on Saturday. The cargo is said to include a field hospital and medical supplies for the refugees in the Zaatari camp near the Syrian border. An A310 airliner carrying 85 French military staff and medical equipment arrived in Jordan on Thursday.

After the Croatian airlift, it’s now not a stretch to suspect that other countries could be involved in similar operations under the cover of supplying ‘humanitarian aid’.

Consequences for Jordan

The overwhelming body of evidence proves that Jordan is playing the key role as proxy and facilitator for the West’s wishes and desires to destroy the country of Syria. The consequences for Jordan, should the West’s efforts fail, is that Jordan has now exposed itself as a provocateur and enemy of both Syria, and Lebanon, and indeed Iran also. It is not know how much Jordan has been paid for its services, or what promises have been made to its royal family in exchange for facilitating the Syrian upheaval, but it cannot compensate Jordan for playing the crucial role in possibly fomenting a regional or multi-theatre global war.

Syria Crisis Planned by the US and NATO Allies Before the ‘Arab Spring’

Despite previous denials and avoiding the issue by states persons like Hillary Clinton and William Hague, it is certain that ‘al Qaeda’ terrorists are operating in Syria and receive various kinds of support from the West and their Gulf allies, and that these are many of the same terrorist who are responsible for violence and killing in Iraq. The New York Times confirmed this fact recently:

Iraqi officials said the extremists operating in Syria are in many cases the very same militants striking across their country. “We are 100 percent sure from security coordination with Syrian authorities that the wanted names that we have are the same wanted names that the Syrian authorities have, especially within the last three months,” Izzat al-Shahbandar — a close aide to the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki — said in an interview on Tuesday. “Al Qaeda that is operating in Iraq is the same as that which is operating in Syria,” he said.

Bangkok based analyst, Tony Cartalucci, from Land Destroyer blog, adds another important piece of evidence in this mix, pointing out the fact that the US and its NATO operatives have been engineering the crisis in Syria well before the official ‘uprising’ began in 2011:

Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, in his 2007 New Yorker report titled, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?“stated explicitly that: “To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Cartalucci provides further background to support the west’s own knowledge and involvement is the current crisis:

Is there any doubt that the US has executed this plot in earnest, arming and funding sectarian extremists “sympathetic to Al Qaeda” on both Syria’s northern and southern border? Where else, if not from the West and its regional allies, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, could extremists be getting their weapons, cash, and logistical support from?

And of course, Syria’s borders with Jordan and Turkey have been long-ago identified by the US Army’s own West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) as hotbeds of sectarian extremist/Al Qaeda activity – hotbeds that the West is purposefully funneling thousands of tons of weaponry through, while disingenuously claiming it is attempting to prevent such weapons from falling into the hands of extremists.

The CTC’s 2007 report, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” identified Syria’s southeastern region near Dayr Al-Zawr on the Iraqi-Syrian border, the northwestern region of Idlib near the Turkish-Syrian border, and Dar’a in the south near the Jordanian-Syrian border, as having produced the majority of fighters found crossing over into Iraq throughout the duration of the Iraq War.


Image: (Left) West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center’s 2007 report, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq” indicated which areas in Syria Al Qaeda fighters filtering into Iraq came from during the US invasion/occupation. The overwhelming majority of them came from Dayr Al-Zawr in Syria’s southeast, Idlib in the north near the Turkish-Syrian border, and Dar’a in the south near the Jordanian-Syrian border. (Right) A map indicating the epicenters of violence in Syria indicate that the exact same hotbeds for Al Qaeda in 2007, now serve as the epicenters of so-called “pro-democracy fighters.” These areas are now admittedly the epicenters of fighting, and more importantly, despite being historical hotbeds of Al Qaeda activity, precisely where the West is flooding with cash, weapons, and military “advisers.”

Just like in Libya where the West literally handed an entire nation to sectarian extremists, we are watching a verbatim repeat in Syria – where we are told Al Qaeda terrorists are “pro-democracy” “freedom fighters” that deserve US cash, weapons, and support, when it couldn’t be any clearer they aren’t.  

Not only has the US and UK lied to the world about their policy toward Syria and their current level of support for increasingly overt terrorists committing an array of atrocities – their latest act including the taking of over 20 UN peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights - but have revealed once again the manufactured facade that is the “War on Terror…”

Terrorist Groups Currently Active in Syria

Known terrorist groups are operating in Syria and are receiving the full backing of NATO Allies and Gulf states Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They include – but are not limited to, Saudi Intelligence-backed Jabhat al-Nusra or ‘al Nursa Front’, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group,  Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Al Baraa ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade, the jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham, the PKK (in northeast Syria), Kata’ib Mohadzherin from the Russian Caucus region - to name only a few.

Earlier reports of rogue Russian and Chechen terrorists filtering into Syria appear to be preceded by Salafists killing Sufi leaders in the Russian Federation. The Pakistan Christian Post reports:

Recently in Dagestan the Sufi spiritual leader Said Efendi Chirkeisky was killed by a suicide bomber along with a few followers. This happened in late August and the closeness to the recent attack against Sufi leaders in Tatarstan is a clear reminder that Salafism is a potent force within parts of the Russian Federation. Therefore, not surprisingly the Russian Federation is extremely alarmed by major Western powers once more working in collusion with the FSA, al-Qaeda and a whole array of Salafi terrorist organizations.

It’s worth noting also that like Libya’s new militant governor of Tripoli, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, terrorist group Kata’ib Mohadzherin’s leader Airat Vakhitov was also imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002 after being captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Both were released and filtered back into fighting regions to organise al Qaeda-type Islamist groups – both active in countries which the US and NATO have been actively vying for regime change, in Libya and Syria respectively. You can draw your own conclusions here about what Guantanamo is in reality.

The same New York Times article (above) also mentions terrorists’ theocratic designs of establishing some caliphate in the region:

One Qaeda operative, a 56-year-old known as Abu Thuha who lives in the Hawija district near Kirkuk in Iraq, spoke to an Iraqi reporter for The New York Times on Tuesday. “We have experience now fighting the Americans, and more experience now with the Syrian revolution,” he said. “Our big hope is to form a Syrian-Iraqi Islamic state for all Muslims…"

It’s important to understand that such claims by any shadowy ‘al Qaeda’ figures must also be balance with the reality that these militants have been historically, and are still today, directed and funded at the highest levels of both US and Saudi intelligence, and others. When you see terror spokesman like Ayman al-Zawahri, the alleged leader of Al Qaeda, praise the Syrian fighters by referring to them as “the lions of the Levant,” in messages released exclusively via a known CIA media dissemination outlets like SITE, or INTEL CENTER, then readers should be suspicious of why it’s been released and what political effect it is designed to have.

Now that some of the scope of NATO Allies operation in Syria has been exposed to the public, perhaps political representatives, media journalist, and editors will be able to report more accurately on the Syrian crisis, and demand a withdrawl of NATO, Arab League and others country’s support for the growing and highly dangerous paramilitary and other al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups who are currently working to take power by destabilising the country of Syria.

It’s all happening out in the open now.

The REAL Source of Cavities and Gum Disease

healthcare

Our modern stereotype is that – until recently – people were plagued with rotting teeth, cavities and gum disease.

But the truth is that prehistoric people had much better oral health than we do today.

As NPR reports:

Prehistoric humans didn’t have toothbrushes. They didn’t have floss or toothpaste, and they certainly didn’t have Listerine. Yet somehow, their mouths were a lot healthier than ours are today.

Hunter-gatherers had really good teeth,” says Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. “[But] as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change. Huge amounts of gum disease. And cavities start cropping up.”

And thousands of years later, we’re still waging, and often losing, our war against oral disease.

Our changing diets are largely to blame.

In a study published in the latest Nature Genetics, Cooper and his research team looked at calcified plaque on ancient teeth from 34 prehistoric human skeletons. What they found was that as our diets changed over time — shifting from meat, vegetables and nuts to carbohydrates and sugar — so too did the composition of bacteria in our mouths.

***

However, the researchers found that as prehistoric humans transitioned from hunting and gathering to farming, certain types of disease-causing bacteria that were particularly efficient at using carbohydrates started to win out over other types of “friendly” bacteria in human mouths. The addition of processed flour and sugar during the Industrial Revolution only made matters worse.

“What you’ve really created is an ecosystem which is very low in diversity and full of opportunistic pathogens that have jumped in to utilize the resources which are now free,” Cooper says.

And that’s a problem, because the dominance of harmful bacteria means that our mouths are basically in a constant state of disease.

“You’re walking around with a permanent immune response, which is not a good thing,” says Cooper. “It causes problems all over the place.”

***

According to Cooper, bacteria make up approximately 90 percent of the cells in our bodies. [Background; and graphics.] He believes that we focus too much on ourselves and not enough on this so-called microbiome.

We brush our teeth and we floss, and we think that we’ve got good oral hygiene. But [we're] completely failing to deal with the underlying problem,” he says. “Ten years from now, I think we’re going to find that the whole microbiome is a key part of what you get monitored for and treated for.

While this seems counter-intuitive at first, it makes sense after a little reflection. After all, we evolved as hunters and gatherers. We haven’t had time to adapt – in an evolutionary times frame – to a life of farming … let alone processed foods.

No wonder – according to the New York Times:

More than 75% of American adults have some form of gum disease.

The science of healthy internal bugs is in its infancy. As Live Science notes:

“The concept of a probiotic to help reestablish our baseline microbiota after an antibiotic is a good concept,” [microbiologist Martin Blaser of the NYU School of Medicine] told LiveScience. “But the idea that, of all thousand species in our bodies, taking a single species that comes from cow or cheese is naïve.” Current probiotics are very well marketed, Blaser said, but there’s not much benefit. He does think medicine will one day develop probiotics that will be used to treat illness, but as of now, “it’s a very young field,” he said.

Ingesting too many antibiotics has also been linked to obesity, as it kills – often permanently – helpful intestinal bacteria (and see this and this), hypertension. Probiotics – which replace healthy intestinal bacteria – can promote weight loss, at least in people who don’t have a thriving community of natural intestinal flora.

Indeed, a healthy microbiome is also important for mental health:

Live Science reports:

Researchers have increasingly begun to suspect the gut was somehow linked with the brain. For instance, bowel disorders seem linked with stress-related psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression in people.

To learn more, scientists experimented with mice by feeding them a broth containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1. This species naturally lives in our gut, and scientists are exploring whether strains of it can be used as “probiotics” to improve our health. They discovered these rodents displayed significantly less behavior linked with stress, anxiety and depression than mice fed plain broth. Bacteria-fed mice also had significantly lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone in response to stressful situations such as mazes.

“By affecting gut bacteria, you can have very robust and quite broad-spectrum effects on brain chemistry and behavior,” researcher John Cryan, a neuroscientist at University College Cork in Ireland, told LiveScience.

“Without overstating things, this does open up the concept that we could develop therapies that can treat psychiatric disorders by targeting the gut,” Cryan added. “You could take a yogurt with a probiotic in it instead of an antidepressant.”

***

The investigators found that one GABA receptor component was present in higher levels in bacteria-fed mice in parts of the brain where it is normally lowered during depression. In addition, several GABA receptor components were reduced in parts of the brain where they are normally increased in stressed or anxious animals.

Next, the researchers severed the vagus nerve, which helps alert the central nervous system to changes in the gastrointestinal tract. They found the bacteria-induced effects on behavior and GABA receptors were diminished, suggesting this nerve is the pathway by which changes in the gut can influence the brain.

Vagal nerve stimulations have been used at times to treat depression resistant to other therapies, but “that’s a surgical technique,” Cryan said. “By targeting the gut with probiotics, we could indirectly target the vagus nerve without surgery.”

And see this.

***
Many native cultures ate a lot of fermented foods containing healthy bacteria. Think yogurt, miso and Inuit fermented seal blubber (gross, we know …)

***

Given that the modern diet contains less fermented foods, and that antibiotics have killed off some of our healthy intestinal flora, probiotics – sold in health food stores – are an important preventative measure against depression.

So it should come as no surprise that probiotics can help our oral health, as shown by scientific studies published in the American Journal of Dentistry, European Journal of Dentistry, and elsewhere.

In a couple of years, we will be able to get the right probiotics to kill the bad bugs in our mouth without destroying the good guys like antibiotics do.

In the meantime, good oral hygiene – conscientious tooth brushing and flossing – is important. Indeed, an overwhelming number of scientific studies conclude that cavity levels are falling worldwide … even in countries which don’t fluoridate water.

World Health Organization Data (2004) -
Tooth Decay Trends (12 year olds) in Fluoridated vs. Unfluoridated Countries:

who dmft An Overwhelming Number of Scientific Studies Conclude That Cavity Levels are Falling Worldwide ... Even In Countries Which Dont Fluoridate Water

This is due to increased education about the importance of oral hygiene.

In addition, we should cut out refined flour and refined sugar. As Live Science notes:

Cooper suggests that one way to help return your microbiome to a healthier, more balanced state might be to cut out all of those processed carbs and start eating like our ancestors.

Cranberry juice contains a chemical that blocks cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to teeth. Drinking some unsweetened cranberry juice during the day can reduce cavities.

Finally, brushing with baking soda (or a toothpaste containing baking soda) is safe, and helps to reduce plaque … even in hard-to-reach areas.

Horsemeat: Tesco To Source More Meat From UK

Tesco is to announce a commitment to source more of its meat from the UK at a farming conference in Birmingham later.

The supermarket kingpin will tell the National Farmers Union meeting that by July all its chicken will come from British farms, and pork products will follow.

Tesco will also offer suppliers two-year contracts to help companies plan their business for the longer term.

The company's chief executive, Phillip Clarke, who will address the conference today, told Sky News: "We feel the need to bring the food closer to home.

"We think it's right to bring more of it back to the UK, so long as we can get the demand from the UK."

Earlier this month, Mr Clarke said in a video on Tesco's website that the company would take a more open approach to food processing after it was found to be selling products contaminated with horsemeat.

Tesco was one of the first retailers to pull products from its shelves after the horsemeat contamination was revealed on January 16 after analysis was undertaken by Irish food officials.

Tests on Findus beef lasagne revealed that some of the ready meals were made entirely from horsemeat.

And Tesco found levels of horse DNA exceeded 60% in tests on its Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese.

Since the horsemeat scandal broke, supermarkets have been criticised for not communicating with customers quickly enough.

They have also seen frozen burger sales and ready meal sales plunge dramatically, data by Kantar Worldpanel showed .

In an attempt to be more transparent, Tesco said it would put cameras on the supply chain so shoppers could see where the food they are eating has come from and how it was produced.

"There's nothing for anybody to hide. There never should be," said Mr Clarke.

While it already sources all its beef products from the UK and Ireland, the food retailer admits suppliers had cut corners.

"The impact so far on sales is minimal," Mr Clarke added, though he acknowledged that some customers are buying fewer frozen ready meals.

George MacDonald, Retail Week executive editor, told Sky News, "The shopper can feel fairly confident that anybody involved is going to be looking very closely indeed at how they can sort out these problems."

As the nation's biggest supermarket, Tesco should be at the forefront of campaign to restore trust in food, Mr MacDonald believes.

"It is essential for them to fully reconnect with the customer," he said.

Israeli Soldiers Open Fire on Palestinian Protesters

Israeli Soldiers Open Fire on Palestinian Protesters

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Posted on Feb 25, 2013
AP/Bernat Armangue

A masked Palestinian throws back a gas canister previously shot by Israeli forces, not pictured, during a protest outside an Israeli military prison.

Two teenagers were hospitalized Monday after Israeli soldiers tried to end a Palestinian protest near Bethlehem by firing on the crowd, the New York Times reports.

The West Bank has been in a tumult since a Palestinian prisoner named Arafat Jaradat died in Israeli custody during the weekend. Israeli authorities conducted an autopsy but have yet to determine or confirm the cause of death.

New York Times:

But more serious clashes broke out near Rachel’s Tomb on Monday afternoon and evening. An Israeli military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that soldiers fired .22-caliber rounds at Palestinians who were throwing improvised grenades at worshipers near the tomb, which is next to the Aida refugee camp just outside Bethlehem.

A doctor at Beit Jala Hospital who spoke on the condition that he not be identified said a 13-year-old had been shot in a lung during that protest and was in the intensive care unit Monday night after undergoing surgery. Hours later, a 19-year-old Palestinian was shot as the demonstration raged on, the doctor said.

“He is in a dangerous situation,” the doctor said of the second patient. “Doctors are trying to save his life.”

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—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer. Follow him on Twitter: @peesch.

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Horsemeat: Tesco Promises Open Approach

Tesco has released a video featuring its CEO promising the company will take a more open approach to food processing in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. Downing Street has attacked meat retailers for keeping customers in the dark over the extent of ...

‘Open States’ Connects You to any U.S. State Capitol and Lawmakers

WASHINGTON - February 14 - The Sunlight Foundation today launches OpenStates.org — a website anyone can use to discover more about lawmaking in their state. Open States is a comprehensive database of legislative information for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The website makes it easy to find state lawmakers, review their votes, search legislation and track bill progress, as well as compare legislation from state to state.

Developers at Sunlight Labs, along with dozens of civic hacker volunteers, collected and scraped legislative data from state websites across the country and made it available online in a unified, open source and reliable format. Check out the story of Open States (3-minute video).

“Every state house or senate website is different, but Open States brings them all together in one place,” said Tom Lee, Sunlight Labs Director. “We've made it easy to follow how state legislators are working to represent you and your interests. All you need to get started is your home address. Open States is also a valuable tool for tracking the propagation of model bills and lobbying groups’ ability to influence the spread of policy initiatives across state lines.”

Attend a free training webinar for Open States on Friday, Feb. 22 at 1 pm ET. Register here.

OpenStates.org is simple to use. Start by entering a U.S. address, browse a particular state or enter a term in the search box. The site provides contact information for lawmakers, a map of their district, voting records, committee assignments, campaign finance records from the National Institute on Money in State Politics and even local news articles. When researching a piece of legislation, Open States displays its status, sponsorships, break down of votes and provides the actual bill text and supporting documents. You can also search for bills with similar topics between states or view overview pages for every state.

Create a free Open States account and follow any bill, lawmaker or issue you are interested in learning more about. You can receive email alerts about your favorite topics via Sunlight’s Scout service.

The code for Open States is open source, and we offer both an API and bulk data downloads. Sunlight uses the API for our Open States iPhone and iPad app, and other notable users include NPR StateImpact and MinnPost.com.

The Sunlight Foundation received generous support from the Rita Allen Foundation, Minnesota Historical Society and Open Society Foundations to develop Open States.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-partisan non-profit that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable. Visit http://SunlightFoundation.com to learn more about Sunlight’s projects, including http://PoliticalPartyTime.org and http://influenceexplorer.com.

Live streaming The State of the Union: Full Transcript Open Thread

So let us know what you think.

It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget – decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances. Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really bad idea.

Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits.

That idea is even worse. Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful. We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters. Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.

On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? How does that promote growth?

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring; a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.

I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform won’t be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans. So let’s set party interests aside, and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.

Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than one million new jobs. I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass the rest. Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.
Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.
After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.

If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.

Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America. And let’s start right away.

Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. Today, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it. Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, and housing will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. And that has to start at the earliest possible age.

Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.

Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future. Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do. Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck. To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require. But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally. And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.

But we can’t stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it’s virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my Administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing. We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home. It is also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda. Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda. America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. At the same time, we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands – because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. We know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mail. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy. Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.

Even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not only dangers, but opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.

All this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk – our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military in the world. We will invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our veterans – investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned. And I want to thank my wife Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they serve us.

But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy. Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.

We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.

We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”

We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived, and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside – even as he lay bleeding from twelve bullet wounds.

When asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”
That’s just the way we’re made.

We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title:

We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Obama to Shut Down Southern Air Defense Systems: “It Will Be Open Season for...

Mac Slavo
January 23rd, 2013
SHTFplan.com

Read by 23,958 people

As the U.S. government continues to expand surveillance and monitoring systems to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars within the borders of the United States, a recent announcement regarding the country’s southern air defense systems is raising eyebrows.

Our southern border is, in part, protected by the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS), which utilizes moored balloons hovering at about 15,000 feet to identify low flying aircraft and missiles that may penetrate the border and cross into U.S. airspace.

The system is utilized by the U.S. Air Force, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD),  and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a number of missions including detection of drug smuggling and preservation of the air sovereignty of the continental United States.

According to Exelis Systems Corporation, the company that built and jointly maintains TARS with the U.S. Air Force, the government has ordered a complete shutdown of Aerostat flight operations:

The government also indicated its intent that aerostat flight operations will cease on March 15, 2013, and that the remainder of the fiscal year will be used to deflate aerostats, disposition equipment, and prepare sites for permanent closure. We are currently reviewing all the details of the RfP and evaluating the possible impacts on the program and our workforce. We continue to communicate with the government on this matter, and we will have more information in the coming days and weeks.

An Exelis employee close to the TARS project had this to say about the closure of the sites:

“Not only will this closure mean hundreds of people will be out of jobs, but it also means our borders will not be safe, especially along the remote U.S. Mexico Border like in Texas.

These defense radars detect low flying aircraft infiltrating our borders.

Without these defense radars, low flying aircraft will go undetected.

It will be open season for any drug/gun/slave smugglers, terrorists flying in with nukes, low altitude missiles, or even a full scale low elevation invasion/attack against America.”

With China actively and openly deploying Russian-made low altitude strategic bombers, designing EMP weapons capable of disabling the country’s power grid infrastructure, and establishing economic zones within the United States, it’s difficult to imagine the motivation behind the move to further weaken U.S. air defenses on the southern border.

If September 11, 2001 was any indication of our air defense capabilities, and considering that any ground invasion of the United States would originate on our southern border, then wouldn’t we want as many early warning systems as possible to be actively protecting our country in these specific areas?

The U.S. government has chosen to shutdown this outward facing surveillance system, and has instead turned the surveillance inward, on the American people.

Author: Mac Slavo
Views: Read by 23,958 people
Date: January 23rd, 2013
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

Overnight Summary: Market Fades Open-Yended Monetization

The two month wait is over and the most overtelegraphed central bank news since November 2012 finally hit the tape when the BOJ announced last night what everyone knew, namely that it would proceed with open-(y)ended asset purchases and a variety of economic targets, key of which was 2% inflation. However, the response so far has been one of certainly selling the pent up news, especially since as was further detailed, the BOJ will do virtually nothing for 12 months, except to increase the size of its existing QE (is the current episode QE 10 or 11?) by another €10 trillion for the Bills component. The USDJPY dropped as much as 170 pips lower than its overnight kneejerk highs hit just after the news.

Turning to Europe, where the EURUSD so far has been a bigger beneficiary of the BOJ action than the JPY, as apparently news of open-yended purchases are yen positive and dollar negative, a scary episode took place just around 4 am Eastern when the bottom suddenly seemed to fall out of German risk, especially financial stocks, spreading to the EUR, following a report from the Boersen Zeitung that a Bafin model was simulating a split of the largest German banks - Deutsche Bank and Landesbank Baden-Wuertenberg, due to their size relative to German GDP. Why Germany may be contemplating or even modeling a split of DB is unclear - it is likely that the biggest European bank will ever voluntarily split itself into two separate parts. Luckily fears of the scray reality were prmptly forgotten when one hour later the latest German ZEW sentiment index came out at a ridiculous print of 31.5 for January, up from 6.9, and above expectations of 12.0. Whether this is due to the official negative German GDP print, or to sliding German exports, or both, is unknown. It is also unknown how as part of the survey, the majority of the respondents said they did not believe the economy would change and only a minority see improvement, adding that if some banks gave back LTRO money that would be a sign that the crisis is not worsening. What is known is that once again, optimism and outlook is supposed to trump reality, and so it does, as the EURUSD promptly reverts back to its baseline in the mid-1.33 range, where it continues to be a drag on German and Spanish exports as reported yesterday.

And speaking of Spain, the pain for the insolvent country with the 26% unemployment, rages on following a report that in Q4 house prices fell another 9.8% from a year ago, with the Y/Y deteriorating following "only" a -9.3% drop in Q3, a -2.2% sequential drop from Q3 to Q4. Expect this too to be spun somehow.

Below is a quick post-mortem on the BOJ action from Goldman:

BoJ adopts a 2% inflation target - as expected

Today’s BoJ announcement was the most widely anticipated in a long time, as markets waited to see the steps that the BoJ would take in conjunction with the new administration’s desire to overcome deflation.

As widely flagged, the BoJ adopted a 2% inflation target. Ahead of the meeting, the Japanese media had debated the timeframe over which this target would be reached. In the event, the BoJ specified that it would pursue monetary easing and aim to “achieve this target at the earliest possible time”. However, it went on to suggest that this will take ‘a considerable time’. The BoJ’s forecasts, which were refreshed at this meeting, foresee that core CPI excluding the effects of the consumption tax hike will range between +0.5% and +1% in FY2014 (with a median estimate of 0.9%). While this is a move towards positive inflation rates, it is clearly still a long way from its new objective, underscoring that it will take a considerable time to reach inflation at 2%.

The BoJ increased its APP by JPY10trn to JPY111trn, mostly in JGBs and T-bills, and shifted to open-ended purchases (from 2014, there will be monthly purchases of JPY2trn JGBs and JPY10trn T-bills). The BoJ's announcement states that the monthly JPY2trn JGB + JPY10trn T-bill purchase will increase the APP balance by JPY10trn in 2014, and then maintain the balance thereafter from 2015. We think the Bank is committing to at least maintain the balance, with the possibility of increasing the APP program if necessary as it goes along.

By contrast, the Fed has committed to an increase of its balance sheet by USD85bn per month until certain macro conditions are met (the BoJ’s Rinban operations also increase the bank's balance sheet, but the BoJ has not chosen to ease policy by increasing the Rinban program). At this point, the Fed is continuing to ease more aggressively than the BoJ both in word and deed, and this continues to leave us sceptical about the ability of the Yen to weaken significantly further from here. Today’s BoJ announcement is likely to disappoint foreign investors who are holding relatively stretched short Yen positions, according to the IMM data. It will also be interesting to see what the Japanese investors make of today’s decision; they could be positively surprised by the decision to maintain the size of balance sheet.

The BoJ did not cut IOER, neither did it extend the maturity of bonds purchased under the APP, thus the actions taken were relatively muted considering the adoption of the 2% inflation target, but they were probably the most we could expect given limited room for manoeuvre. Ultimately, today’s announcement means that we will need to wait for the new governor to take over at the end of April and show his stripes.

The market reaction was relatively muted. The Yen is a shave stronger at 89.17, compared with the 89.50 levels ahead of the meeting, suggesting that the market was positioned for a modestly more dovish outcome. JGBs are basically flat and the Nikkei has recovered to flat after selling off slightly as the market digested the outcome. Possibly the most interesting market to watch from here is the Japanese inflation market. While this asset class is very illiquid owing to the lack of inflation-linked issuance since 2008, break-even inflation did rise steadily following the introduction of the 1% inflation goal in February 2012 and the introduction of a 2% inflation target may well push this move further after the pause since last summer. Outside of Japanese assets, the BoJ's decision has pushed the Euro stronger, but the reaction elsewhere was fairly muted.

And a complete event recap of the past 24 hours, as is customary, from DB's Jim Reid:

The two-month wait is finally over with the Bank of Japan announcing overnight that it will formally adopt a 2% inflation target and introduce anopen-ended asset purchase program starting from January 2014, after the current purchase program has concluded. In a 12-page announcement, the BoJ said monthly asset purchases will be targeted at 13trn yen from January 2014, consisting of 2trn in JGB purchases and 10trn in t-bills purchases. As a result of these measures, the total size of the asset purchase program will be increased by 10trn yen in 2014 after accounting for maturities.

The announcement also included a highly-anticipated joint statement from the Government and BoJ in which both parties agreed to strengthen policy coordination and work together to “overcome deflation early”. The joint statement also says that the BoJ will pursue monetary easing to achieve the inflation target at the “earliest possible time”. Meanwhile, the government will “promote measures aimed at establishing a sustainable fiscal structure” and formulate measures for “strengthening competitiveness” such as “concentrating resources on innovative research and development, and carrying out bold regulatory and institutional reforms”. As was expected, the overnight call rate was left unchanged at zero to 0.1%. Board members voted to adopt the above measures with a 7-2 majority vote.

In terms of the market reaction, the Nikkei and USDJPY went into the BoJ announcement trading 0.7% and 0.5% higher respectively, steered by widespread pre-empting of the new measures from domestic media in the hours prior to the formal BoJ announcement. Perhaps in a case of “sell the fact”, the Nikkei and USDJPY have more than retraced those moves and are now are sitting on losses of 0.40% and 0.45% for the day respectively. Across other assets, 10yr JGB yields are unchanged on the day after having been 2bp higher prior to the BoJ announcement, the TOPIX is down 0.7% (or a -0.9% move lower post-BoJ) and S&P futures have pared earlier gains to trade 0.2% higher overnight.

Outside of Japan, most Asian equities are trading marginally firmer overnight although earlier gains have been pared. The Hang Seng, ASX200 and KOSPI are 0.15%, +0.03% and 0.3% higher on the day respectively. Responding to the recent appreciation of the KRW against the USD and JPY,  South Korea’s finance minister said that the government would increase support for exporters, citing that gains in the won were causing damage to companies such as automakers.

Returning to yesterday’s session, the EuroStoxx 600 finished with a gain of 0.26% bringing it to just a few points shy of its four-year high of 291. With US markets closed for Martin Luther King Day, there was little news flow or volume to move markets in either direction. In the US, House Republican leaders have scheduled a vote on a near-four-month extension of the debt ceiling for this Wednesday.

In an interesting twist, the House bill is not expected to specify a hard dollar increase in the debt ceiling, but will instead suspend (rather than lift) the debt ceiling until May 19th, after which the debt limit will be automatically increased from $16.4trn to accommodate whatever additional borrowing the Treasury had done during that time frame. According to the Hill, the bill was designed to allow Republicans to avoid having to vote on a specific dollar increase in the debt ceiling that could be used against them in later election campaigns (The Hill).

Elsewhere in Washington, Obama’s inauguration contained no major surprises from a markets point of view, but the President outlined pledges to preserve health-care programs, pressed for gun controls and an overhaul of the tax code (WSJ).

Turning to Europe now and the first Eurogroup meeting of 2013 concluded with Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem confirmed as the new President of the Eurogroup. Other items on the agenda last night included direct ESM bank recaps, to which there appeared to continued disagreement on the treatment of “legacy assets”, and Cyprus where a decision on a bailout has been pushed back to at least March. The Eurogroup did manage to agree on one thing though, authorising the next EUR9.2bn bailout disbursement to Greece. The payment will be broken into a EUR7.2bn for bank recaps and a EUR2bn for government budget needs.

In other headlines, Spain is reportedly planning to issue a new 10yr bond in the next week which would be the first benchmark 10 year bond issue since November 2011. The news perhaps explained some of the weakness in Spanish yields yesterday with the 10yr yield closing 8.5bp higher at 5.163%.

Turning to the day ahead, the highlights on the data front are Germany’s ZEW survey for January and existing home sales in the US. Eurozone finance ministers reconvene today for the ECOFIN meeting in Brussels. On the earnings docket, Unilever will be reporting annual results this morning London time. In the US, Johnson & Johnson and Texas Instruments report before the opening bell while Google and IBM report after the close.

Your rating: None

How Did the Gates of Hell Open in Vietnam?

For half a century we have been arguing about “the Vietnam War.” Is it possible that we didn’t know what we were talking about? After all that has been written (some 30,000 books and counting), it scarcely seems possible, but such, it turns out, has literally been the case.

Now, in Kill Anything that MovesNick Turse has for the first time put together a comprehensive picture, written with mastery and dignity, of what American forces actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth.  Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records, Pentagon reports, and firsthand interviews in Vietnam and the United States, as well as contemporaneous press accounts and secondary literature, Turse discovers that episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country.

It has been Turse’s great achievement to see that, thanks to the special character of the war, its prime reality -- an accurate overall picture of what physically was occurring on the ground -- had never been assembled; that with imagination and years of dogged work this could be done; and that even a half-century after the beginning of the war it still should be done. Turse acknowledges that, even now, not enough is known to present this picture in statistical terms. To be sure, he offers plenty of numbers -- for instance the mind-boggling estimates that during the war there were some two million civilians killed and some five million wounded, that the United States flew 3.4 million aircraft sorties, and that it expended 30 billion pounds of munitions, releasing the equivalent in explosive force of 640 Hiroshima bombs.

Yet it would not have been enough to simply accumulate anecdotal evidence of abuses. Therefore, while providing an abundance of firsthand accounts, he has supplemented this approach. Like a fabric, a social reality -- a town, a university, a revolution, a war -- has a pattern and a texture.  No fact is an island. Each one is rich in implications, which, so to speak, reach out toward the wider area of the surrounding facts. When some of these other facts are confirmed, they begin to reveal the pattern and texture in question.

Turse repeatedly invites us to ask what sort of larger picture each story implies. For example, he writes:

“If one man and his tiny team could claim more KIAs [killed in action] than an entire battalion without raising red flags among superiors; if a brigade commander could up the body count by picking off civilians from his helicopter with impunity; if a top general could institutionalize atrocities through the profligate use of heavy firepower in areas packed with civilians -- then what could be expected down the line, especially among heavily armed young infantrymen operating in the field for weeks, angry, tired, and scared, often unable to locate the enemy and yet relentlessly pressed for kills?”

Like a tightening net, the web of stories and reports drawn from myriad sources coalesces into a convincing, inescapable portrait of this war -- a portrait that, as an American, you do not wish to see; that, having seen, you wish you could forget, but that you should not forget; and that the facts force you to see and remember and take into account when you ask yourself what the United States has done and been in the last half century, and what it still is doing and still is.

Scorched Earth in I Corps

My angle of vision on these matters is a highly particular one. In early August 1967, I arrived in I Corps, the northernmost district of American military operations in what was then South Vietnam.  I was there to report for the New Yorker on the “air war.” The phrase was a misnomer.  The Vietnamese foe, of course, had no assets in the air in the South, and so there was no “war” of that description.

There was only the unilateral bombardment of the land and people by the fantastic array of aircraft assembled by the United States in Vietnam.  These ranged from the B-52, which laid down a pattern of destruction a mile long and several football fields wide; to fighter bombers capable of dropping, along with much else, 500-pound bombs and canisters of napalm; to the reconfigured DC-3 equipped with a cannon capable of firing 100 rounds per second; to the ubiquitous fleets of helicopters, large and small, that crowded the skies. All this was abetted by continuous artillery fire into “free-fire” zones and naval bombardment from ships just off the coast.

By the time I arrived, the destruction of the villages in the region and the removal of their people to squalid refugee camps was approaching completion. (However, they often returned to their blasted villages, now subject to indiscriminate artillery fire.) Only a few pockets of villages survived. I witnessed the destruction of many of these in Quang Ngai and Quang Tinh provinces from the back seat of small Cessnas called Forward Air Control planes.

As we floated overhead day after day, I would watch long lines of houses burst into flames one after another as troops moved through the area of operation.  In the meantime, the Forward Air Controllers were calling in air strikes as requested by radio from troops on the ground. In past operations, the villagers had been herded out of the area into the camps.  But this time, no evacuation had been ordered, and the population was being subjected to the full fury of a ground and air assault. A rural society was being torn to pieces before my eyes.

The broad results of American actions in I Corps were thus visible and measurable from the air. No scorched earth policy had been announced but scorched earth had been the result.  Still, a huge piece was missing from the puzzle.  I was not able to witness most of the significant operations on the ground firsthand. I sought to interview some soldiers but they would not talk, though one did hint at dark deeds.  “You wouldn’t believe it so I’m not going to tell you,” he said to me. “No one’s ever going to find out about some things, and after this war is over, and we’ve all gone home, no one is ever going to know.”

In other words, like so many reporters in Vietnam, I saw mainly one aspect of one corner of the war.  What I had seen was ghastly, but it was not enough to serve as a basis for generalizations about the conduct of the war as a whole. Just a few years later, in 1969, thanks to the determined efforts of a courageous soldier, Ron Ridenhour, and the persistence of a reporter, Seymour Hersh, one piece of the hidden truth about ground operations in I Corp came to light.

It was the My Lai massacre, in which more than 500 civilians were murdered in cold blood by Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, of the Americal Division. In subsequent years, news of other atrocities in the area filtered into the press, often many years after the fact. For example, in 2003 the Toledo Blade disclosed a campaign of torture and murder over a period of months, including the summary execution of two blind men by a “reconnaissance” squad called Tiger Force.  Still, no comprehensive picture of the generality of ground operations in the area emerged.

It has not been until the publication of Turse’s book that the everyday reality of which these atrocities were a part has been brought so fully to light. Almost immediately after the American troops arrived in I Corps, a pattern of savagery was established. My Lai, it turns out, was exceptional only in the numbers killed.

Turse offers a massacre at a village called Trieu Ai in October 1967 as a paradigm.  A marine company suffered the loss of a man to a booby trap near the village, which had in fact had been mostly burned down by other American forces a few days earlier.  Some villagers had, however, returned for their belongings. Now, the Marine company, enraged by its loss but unable to find the enemy, entered the village firing their M-16s, setting fire to any intact houses, and tossing grenades into bomb shelters.

A Marine marched a woman into a field and shot her.  Another reported that there were children in the shelters that were being blown up.  His superior replied, “Tough shit, they grow up to be VC [Vietcong].”  Five or ten people rushed out of a shelter when a grenade was thrown into it.  They were cut down in a hail of fire. Turse comments:

“In the story of Trieu Ai one can see virtually the entire war writ small.  Here was the repeated aerial bombing and artillery fire… Here was the deliberate burning of peasant homes and the relocation of villagers to refugee camps... Angry troops primed to lash out, often following losses within the unit; civilians trapped in their paths; and officers in the field issuing ambiguous or illegal orders to young men conditioned to obey -- that was the basic recipe for many of the mass killings carried out by army soldiers and marines over the years.”

The savagery often extended to the utmost depravity: gratuitous torture, killing for target practice, slaughter of children and babies, gang rape.  Consider the following all-too-typical actions of Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th infantry beginning in October 1967:

“The company stumbled upon an unarmed young boy.  'Someone caught him up on a hill, and they brought him down and the lieutenant asked who wanted to kill him...' medic Jamie Henry later told army investigators. A radioman and another medic volunteered for the job.  The radioman... ’kicked the boy in the stomach and the medic took him around behind a rock and I heard one magazine go off complete on automatic...’

“A few days after this incident, members of that same unit brutalized an elderly man to the point of collapse and then threw him off a cliff without even knowing whether he was dead or alive...

“A couple of days after that, they used an unarmed man for target practice...

“And less than two weeks later, members of Company B reportedly killed five unarmed women...

“Unit members rattled off a litany of other brutal acts committed by the company... [including] a living woman who had an ear cut off while her baby was thrown to the ground and stomped on...”

Pumping Up the Body Count

Turse’s findings completed the picture of the war in I Corps for me.  Whatever the policy might have been in theory, the reality, on the ground as in the air, was the scorched earth I had witnessed from the Forward Air Control planes. Whatever the United States thought it was doing in I Corps, it was actually waging systematic war against the people of the region.

And so it was, as Turse voluminously documents, throughout the country.  Details differed from area to area but the broad picture was the same as the one in I Corps. A case in point is the war in the Mekong Delta, home to some five to six million people in an area of less than 15,000 square miles laced with rivers and canals. In February 1968, General Julian Ewell, soon to be known by Vietnamese and Americans alike as “the Butcher of the Delta,” was placed in charge of the 9th Infantry Division.

In December 1968, he launched Operation Speedy Express. His specialty, amounting to obsession, was increasing “the body count,” ordained by the high command as the key measure of progress in defeating the enemy. Theoretically, only slain soldiers were to be included in that count but -- as anyone, soldier or reporter, who spent a half-hour in the field quickly learned -- virtually all slain Vietnamese, most of them clearly civilians, were included in the total.  The higher an officer’s body count, the more likely his promotion. Privates who turned in high counts were rewarded with mini-vacations. Ewell set out to increase the ratio of supposed enemy soldiers killed to American soldiers killed.  Pressure to do so was ratcheted up at all levels in the 9th Division. One of his chiefs of staff “went berserk,” in the words of a later chief of staff.

The means were simple: immensely increase the already staggering firepower being used and loosen the already highly permissive “rules of engagement” by, for example, ordering more night raids.  In a typical night episode, Cobra gunships strafed a herd of water buffalo and seven children tending them. All died, and the children were reported as enemy soldiers killed in action.

The kill ratios duly rose from an already suspiciously high 24 “Vietcong” for every dead American to a completely surreal 134 Vietcong per American.  The unreality, however, did not simply lie in the inflated kill numbers but in the identities of the corpses.  Overwhelmingly, they were not enemy soldiers but civilians.  A “Concerned Sergeant” who protested the operation in an anonymous letter to the high command at the time described the results as he witnessed them:

“A battalion would kill maybe 15 to 20 a day.  With 4 battalions in the Brigade that would be maybe 40 to 50 a day or 1200 a month 1500, easy. (One battalion claimed almost 1000 body counts one month!)  If I am only 10% right, and believe me its lots more, then I am trying to tell you about 120-150 murders, or a My Lay [My Lai] each month for over a year.”

This range of estimates was confirmed in later analyses. Operations in I Corp perhaps depended more on infantry attacks supported by air strikes, while Speedy Express depended more on helicopter raids and demands for high body counts, but the results were the same: indiscriminate warfare, unrestrained by calculation or humanity, on the population of South Vietnam.

Turse reminds us that off the battlefield, too, casual violence -- such as the use of military trucks to run over Vietnamese on the roads, seemingly for entertainment -- was widespread.  The commonest terms for Vietnamese were the racist epithets “gooks,” “dinks,” and “slopes.”  And the U.S. military machine was supplemented by an equally brutal American-South Vietnamese prison system in which torture was standard procedure and extrajudicial executions common.

How did it happen? How did a country that believes itself to be guided by principles of decency permit such savagery to break out and then allow it to continue for more than a decade?

Why, when the first Marines arrived in I Corps in early 1965, did so many of them almost immediately cast aside the rules of war as well as all ordinary scruples and sink to the lowest levels of barbarism?  What chains of cause and effect linked “the best and the brightest” of America’s top universities and corporations who were running the war with the murder of those buffalo boys in the Mekong Delta?

How did the gates of hell open? This is a different question from the often-asked one of how the United States got into the war. I cannot pretend to begin to do it justice here. The moral and cognitive seasickness that has attended the Vietnam War from the beginning afflicts us still. Yet Kill Anything that Moves permits us, finally, to at least formulate the question in light of the actual facts of the case.

Reflections would certainly seem in order for a country that, since Vietnam, has done its best to unlearn even such lessons as were learned from that debacle in preparation for other misbegotten wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here, however, are a few thoughts, offered in a spirit of thinking aloud.

The Fictitious War and the Real One

Roughly since the massacre at My Lai was revealed, people have debated whether the atrocities of the war were the product of decisions by troops on the ground or of high policy, of orders issued from above -- whether they were “aberrations” or “operations.” The first school obviously lends itself to bad-apple-in-a-healthy-barrel thinking, blaming individual units for unacceptable behavior while exonerating the higher ups; the second tends to exonerate the troops while pinning the blame on their superiors.

Turse’s book shows that the barrel was rotten through and through.  It discredits the “aberration” school once and for all. Yet it does not exactly offer support for the orders-from-the-top school either. Perhaps the problem always was that these alternatives framed the situation inaccurately.  The relationship between policy and practice in Vietnam was, it turns out, far more peculiar than the two choices suggest.

It’s often said that truth is the first casualty of war. In Vietnam, however, it was not just that the United States was doing one thing while saying another (for example, destroying villages while claiming to protect them), true as that was.  Rather, from its inception the war’s structure was shaped by an attempt to superimpose a false official narrative on a reality of a wholly different character.

In the official war, the people of South Vietnam were resisting the attempts of the North Vietnamese to conquer them in the name of world communism.  The United States was simply assisting them in their patriotic resistance.  In reality, most people in South Vietnam, insofar as they were politically minded, were nationalists who sought to push out foreign conquerors: first, the French, then the Japanese, and next the Americans, along with their client state, the South Vietnamese government which was never able to develop any independent strength in a land supposedly its own.  This fictitious official narrative was not added on later to disguise unpalatable facts; it was baked into the enterprise from the outset.

Accordingly, the collision of policy and reality first took place on the ground in Trieu Ai village and its like. The American forces, including their local commanders, were confronted with a reality that the policymakers had not faced and would not face for many long years. Expecting to be welcomed as saviors, the troops found themselves in a sea of nearly universal hostility.

No manual was handed out in Washington to deal with the unexpected situation. It was left to the soldiers to decide what to do. Throughout the country, they started to improvise. To this extent, policy was indeed being made in the field. Yet it was not within the troops’ power to reverse basic policy; they could not, for instance, have withdrawn themselves from the whole misconceived exercise.  They could only respond to the unexpected circumstances in which they found themselves.

The result would combine an incomprehensible and impossible mission dictated from above (to win the “hearts and minds” of a population already overwhelmingly hostile, while pulverizing their society) and locally conceived illegal but sometimes vague orders that left plenty of room for spontaneous, rage-driven improvisation on the ground. In this gap between the fiction of high policy and the actuality of the real war was born the futile, abhorrent assault on the people of Vietnam.

The improvisatory character of all this, as Turse emphasizes, can be seen in the fact that while the abuses of civilians were pervasive they were not consistent. As he summarizes what a villager in one brutalized area told him decades later, “Sometimes U.S. troops handed out candies.  Sometimes they shot at people.  Sometimes they passed through a village hardly touching a thing.  Sometimes they burned all the homes. ‘We didn’t understand the reasons why the acted in the way they did.’”

Alongside the imaginary official war, then, there grew up the real war on the ground, the one that Turse has, for the first time, adequately described.  It is no defense of what happened to point out that, for the troops, it was not so much their orders from on high as their circumstances -- what Robert J. Lifton has called “atrocity-producing situations” -- that generated their degraded behavior. Neither does such an account provide escape from accountability for the war’s architects without whose blind and misguided policies these infernal situations never would have arisen.

In one further bitter irony, this real war came at a certain point to be partially codified at ever higher levels of command into policies that did translate into orders from the top. In effect, the generals gradually -- if absurdly, in light of the supposed goals of the war -- sanctioned and promoted the de facto war on the population.  Enter General Ewell and his body counts.

In other words, the improvising moved up the chain of command until the soldiers were following orders when they killed civilians, though, as in the case of Ewell, those orders rarely took exactly that form.  Nonetheless, the generals sometimes went quite far in formulating these new rules, even when they flagrantly contradicted official policies.

To give one example supplied by Turse, in 1965, General William Westmoreland, who was made commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam in 1964, implicitly declared war on the peasantry of South Vietnam. He said:

“Until now the war has been characterized by a substantial majority of the population remaining neutral.  In the past year we have seen an escalation to a higher intensity in the war.  This will bring about a moment of decision for the peasant farmer.  He will have to choose if he stays alive.”

Like his underlings, Westmoreland, was improvising. This new policy of, in effect, terrorizing the peasantry into submission was utterly inconsistent with the Washington narrative of winning hearts and minds, but it was fully consistent with everything his forces were actually doing and about to do in I Corps and throughout the country.

A Skyscraper of Lies

One more level of the conflict needs to be mentioned in this context.  Documents show that, as early as the mid-1960s, the key mistaken assumptions of the war -- that the Vietnamese foe was a tentacle of world communism, that the war was a front in the Cold War rather than an episode in the long decolonization movement of the twentieth century, that the South Vietnamese were eager for rescue by the United States -- were widely suspected to be mistaken in official Washington.  But one other assumption was not found to be mistaken: that whichever administration “lost” Vietnam would likely lose the next election.

Rightly or wrongly, presidents lived in terror of losing the war and so being politically destroyed by a movement of the kind Senator Joe McCarthy launched after the American “loss” of China in 1949.  Later, McGeorge Bundy, Lyndon Johnson’s national security advisor, would describe his understanding of the president’s frame of mind at the time this way:

"LBJ isn't deeply concerned about who governs Laos, or who governs South Vietnam -- he's deeply concerned with what the average American voter is going to think about how he did in the ball game of the Cold War. The great Cold War championship gets played in the largest stadium in the United States and he, Lyndon Johnson, is the quarterback, and if he loses, how does he do in the next election? So don't lose. Now that's too simple, but it's where he is. He's living with his own political survival every time he looks at these questions.”

In this context, domestic political considerations trumped the substantive reasoning that, once the futility and horror of the enterprise had been revealed, might have led to an end to the war. More and more it was understood to be a murderous farce, but politics dictated that it must continue. As long as this remained the case, no news from Vietnam could lead to a reversal of the war policies.

This was the top floor of the skyscraper of lies that was the Vietnam War. Domestic politics was the largest and most fact-proof of the atrocity-producing situations.  Do we imagine that this has changed?

This is a joint TomDispatch/Nation article and appears in print in the Nation magazine.

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The Double Standards And Crumbling Myths Of The GMO Biotech Setor

Global Research 19/5/2014 and Countercurrents 20/5/2014

The GMO biotech sector is involved in a multi-pronged campaign to influence governments and the public about the benefits of its products. It uses various means.


It sets up or infiltrates institutions and co-opts prominent political and scientific figures to do its bidding (1). It hijacks regulatory and policy making bodies (2,3). With help from the US Government, it assumes strategic importance in international trade negotiations and is then able to set a policy and research agenda, as has been the case in India with the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture and the funding of agricultural research within the country (4,5). It is shaping ‘free’ trade agreements to its own advantage (6). It mounts personal attacks on and tries to discredit key scientists who question its claims (7,8). And it arguably regards contamination as a means of trying to eventually render the whole debate about GMOS meaningless (9).


With its huge financial resources and the full backing of the US State Department (10), the sector is a formidable force. However, despite all its wealth and influence, it is turning out to be a bad week for the GMO biotech industry.


When is good science bad science and bad science good science? When the industry says so


In 2012, a study led by Professor Gilles Seralini called into question the safety of GMOs and Round Up herbicide. The paper that conveyed the results was last year retracted by a prestigious scientific journal (11). The publisher of Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), Elsevier, has now compelled the journal editor A. Wallace Hayes to publish a right of reply by the Séralini team.


According to the Séralini team, the editor of FCT uses double standards when it comes to publishing in favour of the industry. Hayes retracted the study despite the fact that he found neither fraud nor conscious misinterpretation. In a new article published in FCT, the scientists explain why they do not accept his conclusion. They denounce the lack of scientific validity of the reasons given for the retraction, explain why the Sprague-Dawley rat strain used is appropriate and describe the statistical results in depth concerning the blood and urine parameters affected, proving that the liver and kidney pathologies and the mammary tumours are solidly based.


Hayes justified his retraction by arguing that it is impossible to conclude a link between GMO and cancer, even though the word cancer was never used in the paper. Not all the tumours were cancers but they nevertheless brought death through internal haemorrhages and compressions of vital organs. Hayes also argued that ten rats per group, of the Sprague-Dawley strain, did not allow the level of statistical strength to conclude about the toxicity of the GMO and Roundup. But FCT has published two studies (Hammond & al., 2004; and Zhang & al., 2014) measuring the same number of rats of the same strain, without calling into question the strength of the statistics, let alone their conclusion – that the GMOs tested were safe.


The recent study by Zhang et al, like the study by Séralini et al, measures the potential chronic effects of the consumption of a GMO (transgenic rice producing a modified Bt insecticide). It uses the same strain and measures the same number of rats. The only substantive difference was in the results: Zhang and colleagues concluded that the GMO under test was safe.


Professor Séralini says:

“We are forced to conclude that the decision to withdraw our paper was based on unscientific double standards applied by the editor. These double standards can only be explained by pressure from the GMO and agrochemical industry to force acceptance of GMOs and Roundup. The most flagrant illustration is the appointment of Richard Goodman, a former Monsanto employee, onto the FCT editorial board, soon after the publication of the NK603 study. Worse, this pro-industry bias also affects regulatory authorities, such as EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), which gives favourable opinions on risky products based on mediocre studies commissioned by the companies wishing to commercialize the products, as well as systematically dismissing the findings of independent scientists which cast doubt on their safety.”

Genetically modified crops and foods are neither safe nor necessary to feed the world


On the same day that the Seralini team issued its press release on the matter (19 May), a new report was released saying that genetically modified crops and foods are neither safe nor even necessary to feed the world.


The second edition of GMO Myths and Truths, co-authored by genetic engineers Dr John Fagan and Dr Michael Antoniou and researcher Claire Robinson, has been published as a free online download by the sustainability and science policy platform Earth Open Source (12).

John Fagan, one of the report’s authors, said: 

“The GMO debate is far from being over, as some GMO proponents claim. Instead the evidence of risk and actual harm from GM foods and crops to health and the environment has grown in the two years since we brought out the first edition. The good news is that GMOs are not needed to feed the world. The report shows that there are far better ways of ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply.”
The report’s main findings are as follows.

1) The report debunks the claims by pro-GMO lobbyists that 1,700 studies show GM foods are as safe. The studies show nothing of the sort. Many of them not only show evidence of risk, but the review also excludes or glosses over important scientific controversies over GMO safety issues. (See page102 of the new report.)

2) A review purportedly showing that GM foods are safe on the basis of long-term animal studies actually shows evidence of risk and uses unscientific double standards to reach a conclusion that is not justified by the data. (p. 161)

3) A laboratory study in human cells shows that very low levels of glyphosate (the main chemical ingredient of Roundup herbicide, which most GM crops are engineered to tolerate) mimicked the hormone estrogen and stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells. The level of glyphosate that had this effect was below the level allowed in drinking water in Europe and far below the level allowed in the USA. It was also below the level found in GM glyphosate-tolerant soy, which is imported into Europe for animal feed and human food. If confirmed in animal studies, this finding would overturn regulatory assumptions of safe levels of glyphosate. (p. 221)

4) Séralini’s study is far stronger and more detailed than many industry studies that are accepted as proof of safety for GMOs. The European Food Safety Authority had to reject the study in order to protect its own previous opinions on this and other GMOs, for reasons explained in the report. The findings of this study, if confirmed, would overturn regulatory assumptions of safe levels of glyphosate and Roundup. (pp. 94, 147)

5) Claims that an EU-funded research project shows GMOs are safe are not evidence-based, since the project did not even test the safety of any commercialized GMOs. Some animal testing data gathered by the project actually reveal health risks from the GMOs tested. (p. 166)


6) Claims that Europe is becoming a “museum” of farming because of its reluctance to embrace GM crops are shown to be nonsensical by research showing that Europe’s mostly non-GM agriculture out-yields the USA’s mostly GM agriculture with less pesticide use. The USA is falling behind Europe in terms of productivity and sustainability. (pp. 232–233)


7) Risks from an important new type of GMO that is designed to silence genes are not being properly assessed by regulators. (p. 78)


8) Contrary to claims by GMO proponents, the real reason GM golden rice isn’t available has nothing to do with anti-GMO activists and everything to do with basic research and development problems. (p. 197)


9) Conventional breeding continues to outstrip GM in delivering crops that yield well, resist disease, are nutritious and tolerate drought and other types of extreme weather. (pp. 284, 318–321)


10) Crop genetics are only part of the solution to our food and agriculture challenges. The other part is agro-ecological farming methods that build soil and focus on growing a diversity of naturally healthy and resilient crops. (p. 303)

Author Michael Antoniou said: 

“There is evidence that Roundup, even at the low levels permitted in food and drinking water, could lead to serious effects on health over time, such as liver and kidney toxicity. Based on this evidence, it appears that the levels of exposure currently held as safe by regulators around the world are questionable.”
Author Claire Robinson said: 

“The GMO industry is built on myths. What is the motivation behind the deception? Money. GM crops and foods are easy to patent and are an important tool in the global consolidation of the seed and food industry into the hands of a few big companies. We all have to eat, so selling patented GM seed and the chemicals they are grown with is a lucrative business model. GMO Myths and Truths offers a one-stop resource for the public, campaigners, policy-makers, and scientists opposing the GMO industry’s attempts to control our food supply and shut down scientific and public debate.”
The report’s authors are not alone in doubting the safety of GMOs. In late 2013, nearly 300 scientists and legal experts signed a statement affirming that there was “No scientific consensus on GMO safety.” (13)

It all raises the question: if there is no consensus, and there clearly is not, if double standards exist, and they certainly do, then why are we, the public, and for that matter the environment, being used as guinea pigs in a massive experiment?

We know why. It is an agenda that is based on arm-twisting, deception, false promises, duplicity and flawed science to benefit the bottom line of a handful of commercial enterprises and the wider geo-political aim of controlling the planet’s food supply.


Notes




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Global Terrrorism increases in last five years: BHO ignores the numbers

*cross posted from Assoluta Tranquillita*

Everybody remembers the MIC asserting that we have the terrorists 'on their heels, and on the run, ' right?  As John Kerry continues his global tour to talk about gorebull warming (because this IS the biggest threat on the planet today,) a recent study gives FACTS that the Global War On Terror is alive and well, no matter the claims of the current US administration.

From Homeland Security News Wire:


17 February 2014

Increase in global terrorism and insurgency in last five years

  Terror attacks rise by 150 percent of 2009 level // Source: presstv.ir  

 A new study from IHS Jane reports that the number of attacks by non-state armed groups around the world has rapidly increased in just five years. In 2009, 7,217 terrorist and insurgent attacks were recorded by open sources. In 2013, that number increased by more than 150 percent, to 18,524. [emphasis mine] The study’s author says that the epicenter of 2013 activity was in the Middle East, with significant pockets of violence radiating out to neighboring regions in Africa and South Asia. 

The top 3 most active non-state armed groups in 2013 were Barisan Revolusi Nasional (Thailand), the Taliban, and Islami Chhatra Shibir (Bangladesh)

The number of attacks by non-state armed groups around the world has rapidly increased in just five years, according to the IHS Jane’s 2013 Global Terrorism & Insurgency Attack Index.
“In 2009, a worldwide total of 7,217 attacks were recorded from open sources.

 In 2013, that number increased by more than 150 percent to 18,524,” said Matthew Henman, manager of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC), which carried out the study.
IHS says that key highlights from the Index include:
  • Global: Significant rises in global militant and non-militant fatalities
  • Arab Spring countries see attacks spike
  • Syria: Attacks almost double between 2012 and 2013
  • Iraq: Suicide attacks quadruple and Al-Qaeda in Iraq re-enters the top five most active non-state armed groups in the world...

This report only goes to 2013, but as anybody who has been paying attention knows, terrorist slaughters around the world continue unabated. The politicians ignore this, and the msm aids and abets the ongoing ignorance.

Read the rest of this chilling report here.   

What happens over there...

Meanwhile, MIC goes to California to preach the gorebull warming philosophy, because...priorities.

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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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Our Food In Their Hands: Whose Interests Does The European Food Safety Authority Serve?

According to the website of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), it is the keystone of European Union (EU) risk assessment regarding food and feed safety. The website also states that the EFSA provides independent scientific advice and clear communication on existing and emerging risks and that it is an independent European agency funded by the EU budget. The authority operates separately from the European Commission, European Parliament and EU Member States.


Nice sounding words, but over half of the 209 scientists sitting on the agency's various panels have direct or indirect ties with the industries they are meant to regulate. Indeed, according to a recent independent screening performed by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and freelance journalist Stéphane Horel, almost 60% of experts sitting on EFSA panels have direct or indirect links with industries regulated by the agency.


The report ‘Unhappy Meal. The European Food Safety Authority’s independence problem’ identifies major loopholes in EFSA's independence policy and finds that EFSA's new rules for assessing its experts, implemented in 2012 after several conflicts of interest scandals, have failed to improve the situation (1).


The authors warn that this situation casts a severe doubt on the credibility of the scientific output of the key body responsible for food safety at the EU, with the agency issuing recommendations and risk assessments on crucial public health issues such as food additives, packaging, GMOs, contaminants and pesticides.

According to the report, the EFSA's new rules for assessing its experts' interests enable dozens of experts with multiple commercial interests (consultancy contracts, research funding, etc) to still be granted full membership of EFSA panels, including a majority of panel chairs and vice-chairs.

Main author Stéphane Horel said:
“We were shocked by our findings. Even without checking for undeclared interests, the number of conflicts of interest in this agency is very worrying. Experts with conflicts of interest dominate all panels but one. We found that the bulk of conflicts are from research funding and private consultancy contracts, but certain crucial institutions for scientists (scientific societies, journals) are also targeted by industry lobbying, and EFSA seems to ignore this”.


The report also shows that EFSA failed to properly implement its own new rules in several instances and that there is no visible difference between panels assembled under the new policy and those composed using the old policy.


Martin Pigeon, researcher and campaigner at CEO, said:
“There are specific cases the agency was warned about years ago which remain a problem… We hope this report is an eye-opener on the necessity to defend public research integrity from the threats posed on public health by industry influence”.


Further concerns


On the heels of that report now comes the news that the European Commission's Health and Consumers Directorate (SANCO) has short-listed a director of the biggest EU food industry lobby group FoodDrinkEurope among the candidates to the Management Board of the EFSA (2).


Ms Beate Kettlitz works in a leading position for the lobby group, which represents all major European food and drink corporations. Moreover, it is the second year in a row that the Commission has tried to appoint representatives from FoodDrinkEurope as Members of EFSA's Management Board.


A year ago, the European Commission nominated FoodDrinkEurope's Executive Director Mella Frewen (a former Monsanto lobbyist). Her appointment was rejected by the European Parliament and the MemberStates.


EFSA’s Management Board is key: it is the food agency's governing body. Everyone eating food in Europe is affected by its decisions. 


Martin Pigeon of CEO:

“The fact that the European Commission shortlists a food industry lobbyist, once again, for EFSA's Management Board is an incomprehensible signal for all those concerned about the protection of consumers and the environment. Such a professional on EFSA's board would by definition be a permanent threat to the EU's food safety agency's independence”


Seven seats on EFSA's Management Board are up for renewal in June 2014. The European Commission has published a list of 23 names, mostly from national food safety agencies, research institutes and academia for the EU Parliament's consideration and the Member States' decision. But four persons among those short-listed also have interests in the food industry:


 Jan Mousing, re-applying for the position, is the CEO of the Danish Knowledge Centre for Agriculture, a private company describing itself as the “main supplier of professional knowledge for the agricultural professions” in Denmark;

 Piet Vanthemsche, who is also re-applying for the position, holds a leading position in industrial farmers union COPA and also sits in MRBB holding, an agri investment fund which also has shares in companies selling GMOs.

Alan Reilly, Chief Executive of the Irish Food Safety Authority (Ireland's public food safety administration), is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), a Brussels-based food lobby group financed by the some of the largest private food and drink companies in Europe.

Milan Kovac, from the Slovak Ministry of Agriculture, was a board member of ILSI Europe until 2011. ILSI Europe, an industry research institute supported by all the biggest agrofood multinationals, is a central actor in the agrofood industry's scientific influence over EFSA.


The Commission's justification for these nominations is an industry-friendly interpretation of EFSA's founding regulation, which states that four of the 14 board members “shall have a background in organisations representing consumers and other interests in the food chain”.


In their recent joint press release, CEO and Testbiotech note that nowhere is it mentioned that the food industry should be involved, in fact quite the contrary: EFSA's 2011 independence rules stipulate that “persons employed by industry shall not be allowed to become members of EFSA's Scientific Committee, Scientific Panels and working groups.”


Such trends are worrying to say the least. Writer and researcher William F Engdahl has already alluded to a ‘cancer of corruption’ between the biotech sector and the EFSA (3). And this year, Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE) and GM Freeze released their own research report that expressed serious health-related concerns over the excessive and largely unmonitored use of glyphosate (weedkiller) in Europe (4). Very valid concerns, considering recent research pertaining to the health impacts (5). In 2011, Earth Open Source said that official approval of glyphosate had 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 Europe had known for years that glyphosate causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. Questions were thus raised about the role of the powerful agro-industry in rigging data pertaining to product safety and its undue influence on regulatory bodies (6).  


The aim of powerful private companies is to make money, to maximise profit for shareholders. Any safety requirements are secondary concerns, if they are concerns at all. Therefore, we expect bodies like the EFSA to take up these concerns on our behalf and to resist the food lobby and agribusiness in their attempts to translate their massive financial clout into political influence, not least where its own Management Board and ‘expert panels’ are concerned.   


On its website, the EFSA states:


“Food is essential to life. We are committed to ensuring food safety in Europe.”


Is it?

Get involved and resist the corporate takeover of Europe: Visit http://corporateeurope.org/get-involved#


Notes

Interview 780 — James Corbett on Self-education Radio

James Corbett joins Prince Avery of Self-education Radio to discuss education, Japanese society, Fukushima, third world war scenarios, open source journalism, and much more. Listen to Self-education Radio on Blogtalkradio every day at 3:30 PM Central or subscribe to the YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/dropoutrebellion/

Interview 779 — Carlo De Micheli Introduces OSVehicle

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Afghan Opium Record, GCHQ spoofs LinkedIn, GMO Apples — New World Next Week

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What’s Your View on Bitcoin? — QFC011 (video)

As James prepares to deliver a keynote address to an open source conference in France this month, he takes some time out of his schedule to answer some of the questions that have come in for #QFC. Topics include the depopulation agenda, localization, J...

What’s Your View on Bitcoin? — Questions For Corbett #011

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Arafat Poisoned, India To Mars, Fukushima Cleanup — New World Next Week

Welcome to http://NewWorldNextWeek.com — the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. This week: Story #1: Swiss Study Shows Polonium Found In ArafatR...

Russell Brandwagon, CIA Healthcare, Food Stamp Riots — New World Next Week

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ASEAN Union, Petition Shutdown, Monsanto’s Nobel — New World Next Week

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Obamacare sites pirated copyrighted web scripts, British company plans to sue

Published time: October 18, 2013 16:52
Screenshot from healthcare.gov

Screenshot from healthcare.gov

The list of complaints waged at the White House over its Healthcare.gov site continues to grow, but the latest incident involving the online home of the Affordable Care Act is one that could end with legal action being taken.

The main “Obamacare” website has been marred with bugs and glitches since it went online over two weeks ago, and the problems are still piling up. Now according to The Weekly Standard, the Department of Health and Human Services could be sued by the British developers who coded part of the site but were never credited.

Standard reporter Jeryl Bier noted on Thursday that one of the scripts used in powering Healthcare.gov is called DataTables, and it was released by a British company called SpryMedia on condition that anyone who utilized the open-source software provide proper attribution.

“DataTables is free, open source software that you can download and use for whatever purpose you wish, on any and as many sites you want,” Bier quotes from SpryMedia’s website. “It is free for you to use! DataTables is available under two licenses: GPS v2 license or a BSD (3-point) license, with which you must comply (to do this, basically keep the copyright notices in the software).”

HHS, apparently, didn’t read that memo and now might end up in hot water. Bier has provided a number of examples showing how the Obama administration essentially pilfered the code piece-by-piece, except for the attribution that its developers insisted be included.

The Standard said a representative for SpryMedia said they were “extremely disappointed” to hear about the misuse and would be pursuing the matter further with HHS. According to Bier, the company could pursue legal action over the unauthorized use of its copyrighted web script.

The incident comes amid ongoing reports about a number of issues that have plagued Healthcare.gov and other Obamacare websites since they went online on the first of the month. One week after the Oct. 1 launch, CNBC health care reporter Dan Mangan wrote that as few as 1-in-100 applications submitted through the federal exchange system contained enough information to properly enroll that person in one of the president’s plans. A week later, Andrew Couts of the website Digital Trends determined that the cost of getting those sites up-and-running exceeded $500 million, making them more expensive than the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

SpryMedia’s Allan Jardine, the author of the script utilized on HealthCare.gov, told RT over Twitter that it was “[E]xcellent to see DataTables being used!”

“Leaving the copyright head in place isn’t too much to ask,” he added along with a smiling emoticon.

Black Sites, Designer Babies, FDA Shutdown — New World Next Week

Welcome to http://NewWorldNextWeek.com — the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. This week: Story #1: Obama Swaps ‘Black Sites’ for ...

Are You Roundup Ready? Spray, Poison, Eat: Glyphosate In Our Food

Countercurrents 14/6/2013, Global Research and GreenMedInfo16/6/2013, Pravda 20/6/2013 and Ki Kisan Awaaz, vol.4, no.7, July 2013

Historians may look back and write about how willing we are to sacrifice our children and jeopardize future generations with a massive experiment that is based on false promises and flawed science just to benefit the bottom line of a commercial enterprise. So said Don Huber in referring to the use of glyphosate and genetically modified crops. Huber was speaking at Organic Connections conference in ReginaCanada, late 2012.
Huber is an emeritus professor in plant pathology at Purdue University in the US and has worked with the Department of Homeland Security to reduce the impact of plant disease outbreaks. His words are well worth bearing in mind given that a new study commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE) and GM Freeze has found that people in 18 countries across Europehave been found to have traces of glyphosate in their urine (1).

Friends of the Earth Europe commissioned laboratory tests on urine samples from volunteers in 18 countries across Europeand found that on average 44 percent of samples contained glyphosate. The proportion of positive samples varied between countries, with Malta, Germany, the UK and Poland having the most positive tests, and lower levels detected in Macedonia and Switzerland. All the volunteers who provided samples live in cities, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run-up to the tests.

The influence of the biotech sector on safety and regulation

Although ‘weedkiller in urine’ sounds alarming, Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King's College London, says the levels found are unlikely to be of any significance to health because they are 300 times lower than the level which might cause concern. Alison Haughton, head of the Pollination Ecology Group at Rothamsted Research, said that if FoE and GM Freeze want their work to have scientific credibility and provide a genuine contribution to the debate on pesticide residues, they should submit their work for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Valid points, you might think. But 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. New research published in the journal Entropy sheds disturbing light on such concerns (discussed later in this article).


In 2011, Earth Open Source said that official approval of glyphosate had 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 Europe had known for years that glyphosate causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. Questions were raised about the role of the powerful agro-industry in rigging data pertaining to product safety and its undue influence on regulatory bodies (2).


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.


Of course there are certain scientists (usually with links to the agro-industry) who always seem to be strident in calling for peer-reviewed evidence when people are critical of the biotech sector, but then rubbish it and smear or intimidate the scientists involved when that occurs, as has been the case with Dr Arsad Pusztai in the UK or Professor Seralini in France. It is therefore quite revealing that most of the data pertaining to glyphosate safety came from industry studies, not from peer-reviewed science, and the original data are not available for independent scrutiny.   


Increasing use


With references to a raft of peer-reviewed studies, FoE also brings attention to the often disturbing health and environmental dangers and impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides throughout the world (1). 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. It is after all good for business. And the biggest producer of glyphosate is Monsanto, which sells it under the brand name ‘Roundup’.


“The figures don’t lie; GMOs drive glyphosate sales.” (3)


Despite its widespread use, there is currently little monitoring of glyphosate in food, water or the wider environment. The FoE commissioned study is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in human bodies. FoE Europe’s spokesperson Adrian Bebb argues that there is a serious lack of action by public authorities and indicates that this weed killer is being widely overused. 


This certainly needs to be addressed not least because the prediction concerning increasing exposure to glyphosate is not without substance. The introduction of Roundup Ready crops has already resulted in an increase of glyphosate use. Using official US government data, Dr Charles Benbrook, research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, states that since 1996 the glysophate rate of application per crop year has tripled on cotton farms, doubled in the case of soybeans and risen 39 percent on corn (4). The average annual increase in the pounds of glyphosate applied to cotton, soybeans, and corn has been 18.2 percent, 9.8 percent, and 4.3 percent, respectively, since herbicide tolerant crops were introduced.


Glyphosate is used on many genetically modified crops. 14 new GM crops designed to be cultivated with glyphosate are currently waiting for approval to be grown in Europe. 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.  


Increasing dangers


Evidence suggests that Roundup could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson's, infertility and cancers, according to a new peer-reviewed report, published recently in the scientific journal Entropy (5). 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 study says that negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.


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 (6).


Professor Huber also notes the health risks associated with the (increasing) use of glyphosate. He says a number of plant pathogens are emerging, which when consumed could impact human health. Based on research that he alludes to (he refuses to make his research public or identify his fellow researchers, who he claims could suffer substantial professional backlash from academic employers who received research funding from the biotechnology industry), Huber notes that the use of glyphosate changes the soil ecology, killing many bacteria, while giving other bacteria a competitive advantage. This makes plants highly susceptible to soil borne diseases. At the same time, glyphosate has a negative effect on a number of beneficial soil organisms (7).


Huber’s concerns about the impact of long term use of glyphosate on soil sterility are similar to concerns expressed by Elaine Ingham, a soil ecologist with the Rodale Institute, and also research carried out in by Navdanya in India (8).

As for GM crops, Huber says they have lower water use efficiency, tend to be nutrient deficient, have increased bud and fruit abortion and are predisposed to infectious diseases and insect damage. He suggests that Roundup Ready crops, treated with glyphosate, have higher levels of mycotoxins and lower nutrient levels than conventional crops.

“… you could say that what you’re doing with glyphosate is you’re giving the plant a bad case of AIDS. You’ve shut down the immune system or the defense system.” Professor Ron Huber (7)

He concludes that, when consumed, the GM crops were more likely to cause disease, infertility, birth defects, cancer and allergic reactions than conventional crops.

Huber claims that consumption of food or feed that was genetically modified could bring the altered genes in contact with the microbes in the guts of the livestock or people who eat them. He feels this increases diseases, such as celiac disease, allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, gluten intolerance, irritable bowel disease, miscarriage, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome.

While none of these findings conclusively prove that plant (or animal) diseases are caused by the glyphosate, Huber feels safety evaluations have been inadequate, suggesting that previous (GM sector) research was substandard and extremely misleading in its interpretation of results - or worse.

With some hugely powerful players involved here, many of whom have successfully infiltrated important government and official bodies (9), much of the science and the ensuing debate surrounding glyphosate is being manipulated and hijacked by vested interests for commercial gain.

“… publishing in this area can also be difficult. I know from the International Symposium on Glyphosate that they had to find a journal publisher outside this country (the US) to publish the research data and symposium proceedings. It’s pretty hard to get it published in the States. There are also some hazards to publishing if you’re a young researcher doing research that runs counter to the current popular concepts. A lot of research on safety of genetic engineering is done outside of this country because it’s difficult to gain access to the materials, or the statements you have to sign to have access to those materials stating that you won’t publish without permission of the supplier. I think the 26 entomologists who sent their letter to EPA in 2009 stated it aptly when they said that objective data wasn’t available to the EPA because the materials haven’t been available to them or that they’re denied the opportunity to publish their data.” Professor Ron Huber (7)


Notes 





In Walmart and Fast Food, Unions Scaling Up a Strike-First Strategy

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Small but highly publicized strikes by Walmart retail and warehouse workers last fall set the labor movement abuzz and gained new respect for organizing methods once regarded skeptically.

“The labor movement is all about results,” says Dan Schlademan, who directs the Making Change at Walmart project of the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). “The results are creating the energy.”

Walmart is a particularly rich target because the company is so large that it sets wages and prices among suppliers and competitors.

What’s the strategy behind the latest surprising wave of activism?

Like most new organizing in the private sector, decades of attempts to unionize Walmart stores in the U.S. and Canada have been met with firings, outsourcing, and even closings.

So retail workers who staff the stores, warehouse workers who move Walmart’s goods, and even guest workers who peel crawfish for a supplier are ignoring the path laid out by U.S. labor law, in which workers sign a petition asking to vote on a union.

Instead, they’re exercising their rights to redress grievances together, whether a majority can be rallied to support the effort or not.

One-day strikes in dozens of stores last October and November protested illegal retaliation against those who had spoken up at their workplaces and joined the Organization United for Respect at Walmart. Several had been fired and many experienced threats and cuts in hours for their participation.

“We have a way to respond to illegal actions,” Schlademan said: “the power of the strike.”

SPREAD TO FAST FOOD

Last summer, following the OUR Walmart model, the Service Employees (SEIU) started funding an effort to organize fast food workers in New York, Chicago, and other cities.

Inspired by the Walmart warehouse and store strikes, workers launched one-day strikes in New York City a week after Black Friday. Workers marched back in with clergy, elected officials, and press, shaming managers who had hoped to retaliate, and reinstating one Wendy’s striker when her manager fired her for participating.

But the next steps are far from certain. “Are you trying to have a union like we have now? If so I would say forget it, don’t do it,” said Rick Smith, who was involved in a 2005 pilot project to organize Walmart in Florida. Instead, he advised activists to “figure it out as you go along.”

That’s pretty much the attitude of organizers who are making interesting things happen in warehouses, retail, restaurants, fast food, and along Walmart’s supply chain from the ports to the stores.

Their efforts are part “non-majority” organizing on the job site, part strategic besmirching of their employers’ brands, part community-labor coalescing—and several parts chutzpah.

BORN OF DESPERATION

“The labor movement has tried a range of strategies over the last 20 years,” said Mark Meinster, who’s organizing Walmart warehouse workers in Illinois. “Comprehensive campaigns, neutrality agreements, NLRB organizing—and while we’ve learned a lot through those strategies, none of it has reversed the decline.

“So now we’re at a point where there’s openness to new strategies. There’s an understanding that we won’t get labor law reform soon, that employers will continue to take a more aggressive stance toward workers and their unions, and so unions are looking at ways to impact those employers economically.”

Meinster also praised the skills labor has learned in its decades of operating from weakness: research, using the law, capital strategies, international work. The trick now, he said, is to combine those staff skills with building leaders in the workplaces and a willingness to use pre-majority organizing and, if workers so choose, strikes.

“I don’t know how to grasp corporate attention,” said Martha Sellers, a cashier in Paramount, California, who struck on Black Friday. “I expect we get to them through their paycheck.”

INTERESTINGLY QUIET

Despite Walmart’s fearsome reputation, the Black Friday strikes did not produce additional firings. “We’re not assuming a new reality inside the company, but it’s interestingly quiet,” said Schlademan.

The walkouts involved some 500 workers in dozens of stores. In some stores as few as two workers struck; in others half the shift walked out.

Around 13 walked out of the Walmart in Paramount. “We were all scared, but we did it,” said Sellers. Though the store is now more understaffed than ever, managers have not taken action against the strikers, she said, and are “being very careful about what they say.”

That calm may be because the public eye is on Walmart. The actions at 1,000 stores held by community supporters, ranging from small informational pickets outside to musical flash mobs inside, gained plenty of media glare.

Walmart also wants to protect its image because it’s trying to convince city councils to let it build in urban areas that have thus far rejected the big box, markets like New York City and Seattle. Having paved rural and suburban America with its stores, Walmart is desperate to grow in cities.

Nick Allen of Warehouse Workers United believes Walmart cares about “reputational harm” that can’t be quantified, like the hit the company took when 112 apparel workers at a supplier were burned to death in Bangladesh. “When you’re the biggest employer it puts a level of scrutiny on you,” he said.

But even with Walmart on its best behavior for now, it’s unclear—even to organizers—how to take today’s retail effort to the next level. Many worker complaints, such as those about health care or pay, hit the heart of Walmart’s low-road business model and solutions can’t be extracted from local store managers.

For example, workers want regular shifts. But managers get bonuses (and preserve their jobs) by keeping labor costs down using a hated just-in-time scheduling system, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a historian who writes about Walmart.

Still, “Walmart will accommodate various kinds of pressures,” said Lichtenstein, as long as it doesn’t mean recognizing a union. The penny-pinching corporation contradicted its own forecasts and raised wages in 700 of its stores in 2006, according to recently revealed company communications. The increase was likely a result of vigorous non-majority organizing in 2005 and 2006 (see sidebar).

And on January 15 there was a sign the strikes have made top management defensive about scheduling. Walmart CEO Bill Simon announced vague intentions to change the company’s scheduling practices, which elicited a skeptical response from OUR Walmart: “We need these words to translate into real action.”

RAISING PAY

If the current effort ends up raising Walmart pay substantially, it will be good news for retail and grocery workers around the country—another reason for organizers to target the company.

Walmart employs nearly one out of every 100 U.S. workers. It also sells more groceries than any of the largest U.S. grocery chains and undermines wages for grocery and other retail workers, many of them UFCW members. Walmart’s poor standards are used to justify low pay and unpredictable schedules everywhere from big box Target to New York boutiques.

OUR Walmart’s demands include $13 an hour, and fast food workers in New York and Chicago recently united under the banner of “Fight for $15.” Politicians are limping behind. In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested that the state’s minimum wage should increase by $1.50 to $8.75, still miserably low. Nationally, the average Walmart worker makes around $8.81.

Trying to pit workers against customers, naysayers claim that higher wages will increase Walmart’s prices. But a recent study by the think tank Demos calculated that if all big low-wage retailers raised store workers to $12.25 a hour, it would lift three quarters of a million Americans above the poverty line—and cost customers only 15 cents per shopping trip.

Meanwhile, those same customers’ own wages have been dragged down by the Walmartized economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Walton family controls $100 billion, more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.

‘OPEN SOURCE’ ORGANIZING

Walmart has more than 4,000 stores and 1.4 million employees in the U.S., so OUR Walmart has just scratched the surface. Hoping to grow quickly, organizers describe the group as “open source,” meaning that workers can stumble upon it, talk to existing activists, and then organize themselves. The group boasts thousands of members, up from 100 in early 2011, in 43 states.

Members pay dues of $5 a month. UFCW has put in considerable resources and is “in it for the long haul,” said Schlademan.

Walmart managers are spreading the word, too. As Black Friday protests approached, workers around the country reported meetings warning them not to participate.

There is a spontaneous quality to the group. OUR Walmart’s Facebook page bustles with discussions of goings-on at the stores. Workers compare their quarterly profit-sharing bonuses (measly), tell stories about crazy managers (one in Alabama recently held a 30-minute meeting in the freezer to punish staff), compare their hours (dropping since Christmas), and write in to ask for help.

“I work at the Walmart in Moultrie, Georgia,” wrote Michael Brady on December 30. “Managers use their power to fire people just because they don’t like you… I heard about this group from a friend and we really need some help here.”

Others are frustrated at work but express skepticism about organizing. “There will never be respect for us, we just work, that’s all we do… The ones that bitch get fired, so good luck with your little deal here,” wrote Travis Ratajcyzk, an unloader in Covina, California.

OUR Walmart activists in other stores reassured him they had been active for over a year and had not been fired.

It’s possible the current composition of the National Labor Relations Board is helping forestall retaliatory firings. In 2000, Walmart faced board charges for retaliation against store employees across the country. Forty-one were fired for concerted activity between 1998 and 2003, says UFCW.

The union hoped to win a broad injunction against the company, which might have given workers nationwide breathing room to organize. But, according to Lichtenstein, Walmart made a call to the White House, and the incoming Bush administration promptly fired sympathetic NLRB General Counsel Leonard Page. The complaint went nowhere.

Under President Obama, the board and general counsel have been more sympathetic to worker organizing and have even sought injunctions against anti-union activity at other companies.

The board could be helpful if the company returns to its “fire first, deal with the legal problems later” attitude.

“We’re assuming the worst and hoping for the best,” said Schlademan of the company’s recent behavior. “Walmart is good at being patient and waiting until the spotlight is off of them.”

In preparation, the union and OUR Walmart have been trying out adopt-a-store ideas, so community members can immediately raise a fuss if workers are fired. They’ve also been developing an electronic rapid-response system and connecting with sympathetic local clergy and elected leaders. And they plan more strikes.

Reprinted with permission from Labor Notes.

New from Labor Notes: The Steward's Toolbox is a how-to resource guide that gives labor activists the skills and orientation they need. Pick up a copy today!

In Walmart and Fast Food, Unions Scaling Up a “Strike-First Strategy”

Small but highly publicized strikes by Walmart retail and warehouse workers last fall set the labour movement abuzz and gained new respect for organizing methods once regarded skeptically. “The labour movement is all about results,” says Dan Schlademan, who directs the Making Change at Walmart project of the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). “The results are creating the energy.”

Walmart is a particularly rich target because the company is so large that it sets wages and prices among suppliers and competitors.

What’s the strategy behind the latest surprising wave of activism? Like most new organizing in the private sector, decades of attempts to unionize Walmart stores in the U.S. and Canada have been met with firings, outsourcing, and even closings.

So retail workers who staff the stores, warehouse workers who move Walmart’s goods, and even guest workers who peel crawfish for a supplier are ignoring the path laid out by U.S. labour law, in which workers sign a petition asking to vote on a union. Instead, they’re exercising their rights to redress grievances together, whether a majority can be rallied to support the effort or not.

One-day strikes in dozens of stores last October and November protested illegal retaliation against those who had spoken up at their workplaces and joined the Organization United for Respect (OUR) at Walmart. Several had been fired and many experienced threats and cuts in hours for their participation. “We have a way to respond to illegal actions,” Schlademan said: “the power of the strike.”

Spread to Fast Food

Last summer, following the OUR Walmart model, the Service Employees (SEIU) started funding an effort to organize fast food workers in New York, Chicago, and other cities. Inspired by the Walmart warehouse and store strikes, workers launched one-day strikes in New York City a week after Black Friday. Workers marched back in with clergy, elected officials, and press, shaming managers who had hoped to retaliate, and reinstating one Wendy’s striker when her manager fired her for participating.

While last fall was the first time Walmart has faced strikes in the U.S., it’s not the first time groups of Walmart workers have organized successfully. The Service Employees (SEIU) and the Food and Commercial Workers funded a pilot project in 2005 to form store committees in Florida, where the company was expanding rapidly at the time, and then in California.

After a year, the Florida Walmart Workers Association (WWA) had 800 dues-paying members in around 40 stores, according to Rick Smith, a co-director of the project. “The goal was 25 per cent [membership] in the store, then do shop floor actions to get people some gains in the stores,” he said.

It worked. Workers in South St. Petersburg got a co-worker unfired after half the day shift quit in protest. After their hours were cut, workers in a small town circulated a petition in the community and got their schedules restored. Others won a place to park their bikes.

A chief complaint was skimpy schedules, so WWA organized workers to apply for unemployment checks when their hours were cut back. The jump in claims meant that Walmart had to pay higher unemployment insurance premiums, leading the company to rethink its scheduling at stores where WWA was strong.

Simultaneously, the unions created leverage by hindering Walmart’s expansion in Florida, by attending hearings and challenging permits for new stores and distribution centers.

“Walmart is all about logistics,” said Smith.

No one was fired for organizing, and WWA filed no charges with the Labor Board.

Don’t Use the Hotline

Although Walmart maintains a hotline to corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, for any manager who suspects union activity, some Florida store managers avoided calling it, said Smith. They feared that anti-union teams sent by headquarters would blame them and transfer or demote them.

WWA members took advantage of management’s jumpiness, occasionally suggesting they would call Bentonville themselves if a problem could not be solved, Smith said. Store managers would back down, saying they were sure issues could be handled locally.

The Florida effort fell apart when the unions withdrew support, partly due to a fight between them. “It was frankly an experiment,” said Smith, who currently works for SEIU. “We believed you could build a workers’ organization without having collective bargaining.”

He described the effort as “outrageously successful… In some ways it’s harder now because of the economy.”

But the next steps are far from certain. “Are you trying to have a union like we have now? If so I would say forget it, don’t do it,” said Rick Smith, who was involved in a 2005 pilot project to organize Walmart in Florida. Instead, he advised activists to “figure it out as you go along.”

That’s pretty much the attitude of organizers who are making interesting things happen in warehouses, retail, restaurants, fast food, and along Walmart’s supply chain from the ports to the stores. Their efforts are part “non-majority” organizing on the job site, part strategic besmirching of their employers’ brands, part community-labour coalescing – and several parts chutzpah.

Born of Desperation

“The labour movement has tried a range of strategies over the last 20 years,” said Mark Meinster, who’s organizing Walmart warehouse workers in Illinois.

“Comprehensive campaigns, neutrality agreements, NLRB organizing – and while we’ve learned a lot through those strategies, none of it has reversed the decline.

“So now we’re at a point where there’s openness to new strategies. There’s an understanding that we won’t get labour law reform soon, that employers will continue to take a more aggressive stance toward workers and their unions, and so unions are looking at ways to impact those employers economically.”

Meinster also praised the skills labour has learned in its decades of operating from weakness: research, using the law, capital strategies, international work. The trick now, he said, is to combine those staff skills with building leaders in the workplaces and a willingness to use pre-majority organizing and, if workers so choose, strikes.

“I don’t know how to grasp corporate attention,” said Martha Sellers, a cashier in Paramount, California, who struck on Black Friday. “I expect we get to them through their paycheck.”

Interestingly Quiet

Despite Walmart’s fearsome reputation, the Black Friday strikes did not produce additional firings. “We’re not assuming a new reality inside the company, but it’s interestingly quiet,” said Schlademan.

The walkouts involved some 500 workers in dozens of stores. In some stores as few as two workers struck; in others half the shift walked out. Around 13 walked out of the Walmart in Paramount. “We were all scared, but we did it,” said Sellers. Though the store is now more understaffed than ever, managers have not taken action against the strikers, she said, and are “being very careful about what they say.”

That calm may be because the public eye is on Walmart. The actions at 1,000 stores held by community supporters, ranging from small informational pickets outside to musical flash mobs inside, gained plenty of media glare.

Walmart also wants to protect its image because it’s trying to convince city councils to let it build in urban areas that have thus far rejected the big box, markets like New York City and Seattle. Having paved rural and suburban America with its stores, Walmart is desperate to grow in cities.

Nick Allen of Warehouse Workers United believes Walmart cares about “reputational harm” that can’t be quantified, like the hit the company took when 112 apparel workers at a supplier were burned to death in Bangladesh. “When you’re the biggest employer it puts a level of scrutiny on you,” he said.

But even with Walmart on its best behavior for now, it’s unclear – even to organizers – how to take today’s retail effort to the next level. Many worker complaints, such as those about health care or pay, hit the heart of Walmart’s low-road business model and solutions can’t be extracted from local store managers. For example, workers want regular shifts. But managers get bonuses (and preserve their jobs) by keeping labour costs down using a hated just-in-time scheduling system, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a historian who writes about Walmart.

Still, “Walmart will accommodate various kinds of pressures,” said Lichtenstein, as long as it doesn’t mean recognizing a union. The penny-pinching corporation contradicted its own forecasts and raised wages in 700 of its stores in 2006, according to recently revealed company communications. The increase was likely a result of vigorous non-majority organizing in 2005 and 2006.

And on January 15 there was a sign the strikes have made top management defensive about scheduling. Walmart CEO Bill Simon announced vague intentions to change the company’s scheduling practices, which elicited a skeptical response from OUR Walmart: “We need these words to translate into real action.”

Raising Pay

If the current effort ends up raising Walmart pay substantially, it will be good news for retail and grocery workers around the country – another reason for organizers to target the company.

Walmart employs nearly one out of every 100 U.S. workers. It also sells more groceries than any of the largest U.S. grocery chains and undermines wages for grocery and other retail workers, many of them UFCW members. Walmart’s poor standards are used to justify low pay and unpredictable schedules everywhere from big box Target to New York boutiques.

OUR Walmart’s demands include $13 an hour, and fast food workers in New York and Chicago recently united under the banner of “Fight for $15.” Politicians are limping behind. In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested that the state’s minimum wage should increase by $1.50 to $8.75, still miserably low. Nationally, the average Walmart worker makes around $8.81.

Trying to pit workers against customers, naysayers claim that higher wages will increase Walmart’s prices. But a recent study by the think tank Demos calculated that if all big low-wage retailers raised store workers to $12.25 a hour, it would lift three quarters of a million Americans above the poverty line – and cost customers only 15 cents per shopping trip.

Meanwhile, those same customers’ own wages have been dragged down by the Walmartized economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Walton family controls $100-billion, more wealth than the bottom 42 per cent of Americans combined.

‘Open Source’ Organizing

Walmart has more than 4,000 stores and 1.4 million employees in the U.S., so OUR Walmart has just scratched the surface. Hoping to grow quickly, organizers describe the group as “open source,” meaning that workers can stumble upon it, talk to existing activists, and then organize themselves. The group boasts thousands of members, up from 100 in early 2011, in 43 states. Members pay dues of $5 a month. UFCW has put in considerable resources and is “in it for the long haul,” said Schlademan.


Bargaining Without a Majority?

OUR Walmart members aren’t a majority even in stores where they are relatively strong, and they aren’t seeking Labor Board elections because Walmart has a track record of closing stores in retaliation.

Labour law protects them when they take action together, but without collective bargaining, will they ever be able to establish the schedules, job security, pay, and health care they’re demanding?

U.S. labour law in the 1930s provided that any group of workers could bargain on behalf of its members, even if they weren’t a majority of the workforce, according to labour law scholar Charles Morris.

This is how fast food workers in New Zealand have gained contracts with better pay – which the employer then extends to all workers lest everyone join the union (see article here). In the U.S., though, the labour board and the courts have not recently allowed non-majority bargaining.

The United Electrical Workers have organized the most sustained examples of non-majority (or pre-majority) unions, in both private and public sector workplaces in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. UE is among several unions that have asked the NLRB to allow non-majority bargaining, arguing that the law clearly provides for it.

However, even if the Obama administration’s Labor Board did recognize non-majority bargaining, the concept would face an uphill battle in the courts and in Congress, said UE’s general counsel, Joseph Cohen.

Nonetheless, the general crisis in private sector organizing and the non-majority organizing at Walmart have stimulated some union strategists to take a new look.

The Illinois AFL-CIO is co-sponsoring a conference at the University of Illinois at Chicago on March 7 to discuss “New Models of Worker Representation,” including that employed by the UE’s Warehouse Workers for Justice. Charles Morris and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will speak.


Walmart managers are spreading the word, too. As Black Friday protests approached, workers around the country reported meetings warning them not to participate.

There is a spontaneous quality to the group. OUR Walmart’s Facebook page bustles with discussions of goings-on at the stores. Workers compare their quarterly profit-sharing bonuses (measly), tell stories about crazy managers (one in Alabama recently held a 30-minute meeting in the freezer to punish staff), compare their hours (dropping since Christmas), and write in to ask for help.

“I work at the Walmart in Moultrie, Georgia,” wrote Michael Brady on December 30. “Managers use their power to fire people just because they don’t like you… I heard about this group from a friend and we really need some help here.”

Others are frustrated at work but express skepticism about organizing. “There will never be respect for us, we just work, that’s all we do… The ones that bitch get fired, so good luck with your little deal here,” wrote Travis Ratajcyzk, an unloader in Covina, California. OUR Walmart activists in other stores reassured him they had been active for over a year and had not been fired.

It’s possible the current composition of the National Labor Relations Board is helping forestall retaliatory firings. In 2000, Walmart faced board charges for retaliation against store employees across the country. Forty-one were fired for concerted activity between 1998 and 2003, says UFCW.

The union hoped to win a broad injunction against the company, which might have given workers nationwide breathing room to organize. But, according to Lichtenstein, Walmart made a call to the White House, and the incoming Bush administration promptly fired sympathetic NLRB General Counsel Leonard Page. The complaint went nowhere.

Under President Obama, the board and general counsel have been more sympathetic to worker organizing and have even sought injunctions against anti-union activity at other companies.

The board could be helpful if the company returns to its “fire first, deal with the legal problems later” attitude.

“We’re assuming the worst and hoping for the best,” said Schlademan of the company’s recent behavior. “Walmart is good at being patient and waiting until the spotlight is off of them.”

In preparation, the union and OUR Walmart have been trying out adopt-a-store ideas, so community members can immediately raise a fuss if workers are fired. They’ve also been developing an electronic rapid-response system and connecting with sympathetic local clergy and elected leaders. And they plan more strikes. •

Jenny Brown is a staff writer for Labor Notes where this article first appeared.

San Francisco streetlights will spy on passersby

The Columbus Tower is shown at right as the Transamerica Building looms in the background in San Francisco.(Reuters / Robert Galbraith)

The Columbus Tower is shown at right as the Transamerica Building looms in the background in San Francisco.(Reuters / Robert Galbraith)

San Francisco, California is the second-most densely populated urban area in the US, but those nearly one million residents of the City by the Bay are about to lose what little amount of privacy they have.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has started work on a program that will update a number of the city’s 18,000 streetlights during the next few years. Those new installations might do a whole lot more than just illuminate sidewalks and keep streets lit for cars, though. Through part of a pilot program, city officials can send data wirelessly between more than a dozen of those streetlights.

What kind of data can a lamppost collect, though? In San Francisco, the answer is a lot. According to a report in the SF Bay Guardian, Paradox Engineering of Switzerland has already started testing streetlamps in the city that have the ability to wirelessly transmit data from traffic signals and surveillance cameras from one device to another. Soon, though, there will be more than just 14 cameras with that kind of capability. Additionally, the city is currently searching five vendors to test even more advanced lampposts across the city.

During last year’s Living Labs Global Award in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the LLGA gave Paradox the go-ahead to start testing lights in San Francisco. In a just-issued Request for Proposals, the city calls on others to pitch similar products. In the request, the City writes that as they begin replacing the 18,000 streetlights, the SFPUC “also plans to install an integrated wireless communication monitoring and control system” in order to manage the devices.”

“Ideally, the wireless system will accommodate other wireless devices, unrelated to street lighting, in a common wireless system mesh network,” the request reads.

When the City goes more into detail, the kind of devices that will need to connect to the lamps are brought to light. “Future needs for the secure wireless transmission of data throughout the City,” reads the report, may include gunshot monitoring, electric meter reading, street surveillance, public information broadcasts and other types of monitoring.

"San Francisco thought they were upgrading their 18,000 lamps with LEDs and a wireless control system, when they realized that they were in fact laying the groundwork for the future intelligent public space," LLGA cofounder Sascha Haselmeyer tells Open Source Cities.

San Francisco isn’t the first city to bring this new form of surveillance to light — literally — but it might be the biggest. In 2011, Farmington Hills, Michigan became the first city in the US to rely on something called the Intellistreets project to watch over pedestrians. For $3,000 a piece, those high-tech luminaries don’t just provide light, but also record audio and video, all data that can be sent from device to device.

“This is not a system with spook technology,” Intellistreets founder Ron Harwood told WXYZ News when his small Michigan town first started trying out the devices. With 18,000 traffic lights in a city of 800,000 possibly embracing that same technology, though, it says a lot about the growing trend of secretive surveillance in the US.

“We've become somewhat accustomed to being visually monitored by the surveillance cameras that dot our urban landscapes, but audio monitoring and widespread, covert monitoring are not so common,” the PrivacySOS.org blog reports.

San Francisco first began installing public surveillance cameras in 2005, and four years later a report from the University of California Berkeley found that the devices failed to detersviolent crimes, including homicide, as well as rapes and drug dealing.

“Precious public safety dollars need to be spent on solutions that actually work to reduce violent crime, like community policing, intervention programs and improved lighting, not on more ineffective and intrusive cameras,” Nicole Ozer of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California office said in 2009. Four years later, however, it seems as if the city is deadest on installing even more devices.

“In a few years, there may be no place to hide from San Francisco police surveillance – unless you drive to get around,” PrivacySOS adds. “The increasingly aggressive San Francisco surveillance regime appears to disproportionately affect low income people. In the privacy of your own car, you are probably free from city monitoring. But if you walk to work or take the bus, you better mind what you say.”

Retail Rebellion: Reinventing Organized Labor in the Walmart Economy

In 1962, Arkansas businessman Sam Walton opened the first Walmart discount store, setting in motion the rapid ascendance of a corporate giant that would redefine markets around the world. With its focus on competitive prices and vast distribution networks that revolutionized the industry, Walmart grew over the course of the 20th century to become the world’s largest company.

Today, its retail empire covers 15 countries with over 8,900 stores employing 2.2 million people. Like all empires, its success is built on contradictions and exploitation.

It’s no secret that Walmart’s low-cost business model relies heavily on paying its employees what can reasonably be called poverty wages. The average worker makes about $8.80 an hour. Even a full-time employee makes roughly $15,500 per year, well below the official poverty line for a family of four. Walmart’s low pay and poor-to-nonexistent benefits forces many of its workers to turn to public assistance in order to survive.

These conditions extend beyond the boundaries of Walmart’s own business. As a dominating force in the global economy, Walmart is a standard bearer across multiple industries. Its model of cost-cutting and squeezing workers has been adopted by competitors, suppliers and contractors alike.

Substandard wages are just one facet of the Walmart economy – just as notably, its stores have resisted workers’ attempts to unionize for their entire history. A recent wave of strikes by workers at Walmart stores and warehouses in the U.S. has challenged the mega-retailer’s sophisticated anti-union machinery. That machinery runs on a combination of intimidation, harassment, illegal firings, court injunctions, and systematic anti-union inoculation.

Walmart has successfully beaten back every attempt at unionization among its U.S. employees since the 1970s.

But the latest surge of labor unrest may signal a turning point for Walmart and its workers – and the labor movement.

Walmart has sparred with many groups that have raised concerns about its business practices, including community organizations, environmental groups and class actions. But robust “union avoidance” has been at the center of its operations for decades. A 1997 manual titled “A Manager’s Guide to Remaining Union-Free” instructs managers to be on constant alert for any signs of organizing among store associates, and derides labor unions as “a big business.”

In 2000, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) successfully organized meat cutters at a Walmart store in Texas. The company responded by closing its 180 meat counters and replacing them with prepackaged cuts. Walmart staved off other organizing efforts by UFCW and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in the 1990s and 2000s, and it quashed an earlier Teamster campaign to organize drivers the 1980s.

Then something different started happening in 2012.

In June, workers at CJ’s Seafood, a Walmart supplier in Louisiana, went on strike against wage theft and threats by management. The workers’ bold action forced Walmart to drop the supplier, while the Labor Department ordered CJ’s to pay over $200,000 in back wages. This spark ignited a much larger and unprecedented wave of strikes that spread through Walmart’s supply chain and hit hundreds of its stores nationwide.

Walmart warehouse workers in Southern California and Illinois launched a historic campaign in September. Under the banners of Warehouse Workers United and Warehouse Workers for Justice – two groups formed by the Change to Win labor federation and the United Electrical Workers (UE), respectively – workers and activists engaged in a series of walkouts and acts of civil disobedience highlighting dangerous working conditions, wage theft and intimidation.

Although it does not directly employ the striking warehouse workers, Walmart was the target of worker protests because it dictates industry standards for contractors in its network of distribution centers. This month, a California judge named Walmart as a defendant in a class action suit over wage theft at contractor warehouses, boosting warehouse workers’ claim that Walmart is responsible for conditions at supplier facilities. After 21 days on strike in September, Illinois warehouse workers won their principal demand for an end to company retaliation and received full back pay for the days they were out on strike.

Acting Like a Union

Inspired by this victory and the new vulnerability of Walmart that it exposed, store employees struck at 30 locations in 12 states in October. More job actions at other stores the following month helped to build momentum for the big day of action on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

The Black Friday Rebellion was a massive step forward for the movement to change Walmart. Hundreds of store employees and thousands of supporters in 46 states took part in walkouts and rallies, demanding living wages, better conditions and respect on the job. The actions were buoyed by the effective use of traditional and social media that helped spread the walkouts and win public sympathy for the strikers.  

Even while company spokespersons diminished the strikes and called them mere “publicity stunts,” Walmart filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that the rolling pickets were illegal because the workers had not begun working toward an NLRB election for union representation. But the new worker-powered formation that coordinated the Black Friday strikes has been clear that is it separate from UFCW. The Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart, is not a union. Although it is supported by UFCW and its community coalition, Making Change at Walmart, OUR Walmart’s protests are aimed at pressuring Walmart to improve working conditions, not unionization.

This is perhaps the most important thing to understand about the recent strikes at Walmart stores and what sets them apart from previous campaigns. Workers and labor organizers know that Walmart has mastered the process of cutting down traditional union organizing drives; now they are attempting to apply a different model of workplace organizing that circumvents the typical roadblocks built in to U.S. labor laws, a regime tilted against employees and one which Walmart is an expert at manipulating.

The alternative organizing strategies being attempted by Walmart workers could have implications throughout the labor movement. In particular, their emphasis on industry-wide mobilizing, disruptive tactics, and self-organization could help inject a new militancy into labor struggle.

OUR Walmart’s approach also differs from previous coalition efforts to change Walmart, which were focused more on disrupting its glossy public image. Union-backed groups like Wake Up Walmart and Walmart Watch ran campaigns in the 2000s that were less focused on worker involvement and more dedicated to media messaging designed to expose Walmart’s bad practices.

In contrast, OUR Walmart is a membership-based organization whose strength is defined by the size and activity of its membership rather than foundation funding and non-profit expertise. It began a year and a half ago with fewer than 100 members. Today it has over 1,000 members in chapters across 43 states. While it’s still too small to have a decisive impact on Walmart’s operations, its rapid growth and appeal among Walmart workers joining its ranks is remarkable.

Using management retaliation charges as the basis for work stoppages, OUR Walmart is able to secure some legal protection for non-union workers who otherwise have little recourse in taking collective action against their employer. Ultimately, OUR Walmart members would like to unionize Walmart stores, but that isn’t the immediate goal. For now, organizers are focused on growing an organization which they describe as “open source” in that it functions as a network providing tools for workers to self-organize.

“Workers can engage in actions that both make them feel powerful and that impact the company, and they don’t need to just spend their life waiting for some [government-supervised] processes to demonstrate they want a union,” former SEIU organizer Stephen Lerner told The Nation. Lerner, the originator of the Justice for Janitors campaign, argues that what’s important about OUR Walmart is that it’s acting like a union.

Striking Back Against the War on Workers

Another important part of the new Walmart campaign is the climate in which it’s unfolding.

Over the past two years, the labor movement has been under the gun of anti-union right-wing ideologues and austerity-driven politicians in both parties. Unions have suffered massive setbacks in states like Wisconsin, where tea party conservatives won an effort to strip collective bargaining rights in the public sector.

In 2012, two new states joined the ranks of so-called “right to work” states, bringing crippling restrictions on the collection of union dues to a region that has historically been a stronghold for labor. If the passage of right-to-work-for-less legislation in Indiana earlier in the year was a painful strike against unions, its recent and sudden passage in Michigan, the birthplace of the modern labor movement, was a devastating body blow.

In the meantime, working-class living standards continue to decline, as they have for decades. While income inequality has soared to levels not seen since the 1920s, the shrinking union movement has been largely on the defensive. The war against workers has accelerated since 2011 as unions find themselves embroiled in state-level battles in which their very existence is at stake.

Against this backdrop, it is significant that Walmart workers have chosen to go on the offensive. Workers are being battered in the private and public sectors, and unions have been making huge concessions in industries that have typically been more union-friendly in the past. Walmart workers have linked arms with allies in the labor movement to mount a highly organized and aggressive campaign in an environment that is quintessentially anti-labor.

“Walmart has designed a particular business model that demands inhumane and unsustainable working situations and poverty wages,” says UE Political Action Director Chris Townsend. “At a certain point, workers rebel, they push back. Walmart and the employers who imitate Walmart rely on astronomical turnover as a safety valve. But when workers stay on the job – now because of sheer desperation – more and more will choose to fight back rather than quit.”

Walmart isn’t the only place where workforce turmoil has given way to tenacity. On November 28, some 200 fast food workers from dozens of New York City restaurants staged a flash strike. Protesting the notorious low wages of fast food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell, workers risked retaliation and walked off the job in a rare strike targeting a mostly non-union industry. With the support of New York Communities for Change, the workers formed the Fast Food Workers Committee and have been aided by other community-based groups and SEIU.
 
Unlike OUR Walmart, the fast food workers are explicitly demanding a fair process to unionize at their restaurants. But the workers, most of whom make little more than minimum wage, are also asking for a raise to $15 an hour. It’s a bold demand, but it’s one that Townsend argues is desperately needed if labor is going to survive as a movement.

“One of the tragedies of the current moment is that just at the time when wages have hit sub-poverty levels, the labor movement as a whole is afraid to ask for a raise, or even resist the wage-cutting offensive of the employers,” he says. “Asking for a raise has been replaced by elaborate begging for ‘shared sacrifice.’ That’s not going to inspire anyone to join a union. Militant struggles demanding a raise are long overdue, especially in low-wage industries like retail and fast food.”

A New Era for Organized Labor?

The organizing model being pursued by both OUR Walmart and the Fast Food Workers Committee – using strikes to raise workplace demands prior to unionization – could point to a new era for organized labor in the U.S. as it adapts to an increasingly adversarial corporate and political environment.
 
Under the NLRB structure, unions gain recognition to represent workers based on exclusive representation of an entire worksite after majority support is demonstrated. Companies like Walmart easily use this structure to their advantage in blocking union drives, and the penalties they suffer for breaking the law are negligible at best.
 
That’s why organized labor and Walmart workers have turned to a model that resembles what’s known as minority unionism, a strategy that involves collective action to press for change before majority support among the workforce has been reached. It also relies on the collaboration among different unions to mobilize workers on a regional basis.

As labor reporter Josh Eidelson writes, union leverage under this model doesn’t hinge on majority representation at a single worksite. Instead, Walmart workers and organizers “are hoping that aggressive strikes will make majority support possible, rather than the other way around.”

However, the minority union model at Walmart is still experimental and its paradigm-shifting possibilities are yet to be seen.

“Most of the work is shaped and led in NGO form, and not traditional union form,” says Townsend. “That’s not necessarily a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ issue, but as is the case with all organizing, the ultimate goal is to construct union organizational structures which can continue as effective forces once the initial paid staff and NGO staff move on.”

Townsend argues that not many of the organizing efforts being undertaken – including UE’s – could stand for long without outside support, owing to Walmart’s fierce anti-union attacks.
 
Certainly, the wave of walkouts and protests in 2012 mark only the beginning of what will necessarily be a years-long campaign for justice at Walmart. But the workers have already made history by putting their jobs on the line and standing up against a juggernaut.

If there is a tipping point in the struggle between corporate America and workers, then we are surely on the verge of breaching it. Workers are being backed into a corner and increasingly have little to lose in fighting back. While companies like Walmart and McDonald’s have been abusing employer-friendly labor laws for decades to keep wages low and unions out of their businesses, corporate lobbyists and conservative billionaires have teamed up with politicians to chip away at the few protections and rights afforded to workers under existing labor law.

Walmart workers – who for so long have stood outside of the labor movement – may be clearing a new path toward a revived labor movement in the U.S. If they should fail, the race to the bottom for workers will continue uninterrupted.

But if they win, it will mean nothing less than the surrender of an empire and a path-breaking comeback for the working class.

Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 by The Neoprogressive

Brian Tierney

Brian Tierney is a freelance labor journalist in Washington, DC. Read more of his work at Subterranean Dispatches, where this article first appeared.

“The PirateBox”: WiFi + USB Drive = Your Own Mini-Internet (Freedom)

internet1

Worried about draconian Internet laws? Creeping surveillance? The inability to share with others without being criminalized? The Internet is still a tool of tremendous power, but a deep rot has set in. We have caught it early and we are fighting to stop this rot, but there are other options we can begin exploring to hedge our bets, enhance our current efforts of fighting against corporate monopolies, and eventually, build an Internet of the people, by the people, for the people – big-telecom monopolies not welcomed.

Image: The PirateBox in use on a handheld device. Once the PirateBox is up and running, either on a standalone device like the one pictured to the right (background), or on your laptop as described here, it will appear as another WiFi network for people in range to connect to. Once connected files can be freely shared, and there is even a chat client users can communicate with. It is just as useful as a file server for a small business, as it is for circumventing the draconian criminalization of Internet file sharing. 

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In last week’s “Fighting Back Against the “Intellectual Property” Racket,” the “PirateBox” was introduced. The PirateBox transforms a laptop, router, or single board computer into a mini-Internet hub where files can be freely shared, and even features a chat program so users can communicate. It is a lite version of the mesh networks described in December 2012′s “Decentralizing Telecom” where independent mesh networks featured many software alternatives to emulate popular online programs such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and others. The PirateBox is an introductory project anyone with a WiFi adapter and a USB thumbdrive can do on their own with a little motivation and an hour to experiment.

In a busy office, a PirateBox can serve as a simple local wireless file server and chat client. In an apartment complex, it can become the center of a social experiment, an opportunity to reach out to neighbors and organize constructively, or just for fun – building badly needed local communities back up.

Instructions for perhaps the easiest of PirateBox’s implementations can be found on blogger, designer, and activist David Darts’ website here. The instructions are nearly fool proof, and a lot of the common problems ran into are described and their solutions linked to throughout the explanation.

The PirateBox does not connect to the Internet, nor does it operate from your hard drive. It works entirely on the USB thumbdrive you install it on, simply using your computer’s WiFi to network all who are in range.

Ideally you’d want to make a dedicated, standalone PirateBox to serve your space, office, and neighbors. A great place for beginners to embark on this is at your local hackerspace. If you don’t have a local hackerspace, look into starting one up.

Protesting is important, but protesting alone will not stem the problem at its source. The rot will continue to spread unless we develop tangible tools to pragmatically excise it and repair the damage it has already done. The problem of corporate monopolies ensnaring and subjugating us through their telecom monopolies can and is being solved by solutions like mesh networks, the PirateBox, and the onward march of open source software and hardware, simply displacing proprietary products and services. The best way to ensure success is to have as many informed and constructive people as possible join in the problem-solving process.

….

Since posting about the PirateBox, LocalOrg has received several success stories of people who have either already been using it, or have looked into it, prompting this follow up. Continue sharing your success, and if you would like, contact us and have them covered here on LocalOrg.

3D Printed Guns Render Gun Control Moot

guncontrol

Forbes has recently published an article about New York Congressman Steve Israel’s promise to ban 3D printed high capacity ammunition magazines. The congressman’s comments come after Defense Distributed, an open source DIY gunsmith group working to manufacture both guns and their accessories using 3D printing technology, successfully printed and tested a 30-round AR-15 magazine.

Congressman Israel stated:

“Background checks and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print high-capacity magazines at home. 3-D printing is a new technology that shows great promise, but also requires new guidelines. Law enforcement officials should have the power to stop high-capacity magazines from proliferating with a Google search.”

It seems that Congressman Israel doesn’t realize that background checks and gun regulations both in the United States and just over America’s border with Mexico, already don’t work – without advanced manufacturing and open source paradigms even playing a role. Criminals intent on breaking laws have existed since laws themselves. Additionally, technology like 3D printing, as Forbes correctly points out, will pose a serious challenge to gun control advocates in terms of enforcement. Forbes stated specifically:

“But for either [Congresswoman Diane] Feinstein or Israel’s bill, the same problem arises: How to enforce that prohibition in every garage and workshop in America that houses a 3D printer?”

Of course, without becoming Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union, or something far worse, there is no way to enforce these gun regulations. Criminals in particular will continue trumping the law, and because of the government’s refusal to actually tackle the socioeconomic factors driving violence and its insistence on instead punishing law abiding citizens, their authority, legitimacy, and ability to enforce even sensible legislation will be compromised.

And 3D manufacturing isn’t the only way to build your own gun. As a matter of fact, around the world where criminals are unable to buy guns, they do indeed already make their own – and then, as criminals are wanton to do, commit crimes with them, including, murder.

In Thailand, vocational schools are plagued by fierce gang-style rivalries. With standard tools, these students construct homemade guns which they frequently murder each other with. And just this New Year’s Eve, a British tourist was killed when a fight broke out at a party, and a homemade gun was fired. The difference between a Thai vocational education, and say a German or Japanese vocational education is one of culture and socioeconomics – not access to tools.

Image: This homemade handgun was made by an unruly Thai party-goer who claimed the life of a British tourist this New Year’s Eve. Despite the ubiquitous nature of guns, both homemade and manufactured in Thailand, and nearly no means of enforcing whatever legislation may or may not be on the books, gun violence (and violence overall) is still less than in the United States.

….

Preventing people from manufacturing guns, or worse yet, from possessing or using tools that can be used to create guns, is both ludicrous and impossible. Like with cars or anything else, laws are there to ensure we don’t harm others by abusing any given right or implement – not preventing us from having those rights or implements responsibly in the first place. In the end, one must address the factors in any given society that drive large numbers of people to commit violent crimes in the first place – regardless of their chosen means or method.

In reality, an honest public representative would already be far too busy improving education, infrastructure, and the economic prospects of their people to waste time on banning every conceivable implement that could be used in a crime, directly or indirectly. The goal of Congress members like Feinstein or Israel, is not to prevent violence – but to simply disarm the population as the corporate-financier interests they represent seek to be further unhindered as they loot people and nations both abroad and at home.

The fact that the White House is taking such bold actions against “guns,” citing “mass shootings” which account for a fraction of 1% of all homicides, indicates a far more insidious agenda – and one based not on real priorities, but built upon a carefully exploited, emotional campaign to exact an obvious but not forthcoming final goal.

Get Involved.

Defense Distributed has a website – DefCAD.org – and the files for building their various designs available for downloading and use – for free. The files are in .IGS format and require a computer aided design program (CAD) to view them. FreeCAD is an open source, free to download program that works well. This is where, again, a local hackerspace pooling people’s resources together would help infinitely, especially when most hackerspaces come equipped with 3D printers and people capable of operating them and more importantly, capable of teaching you how to use them.

Image: Distributed Defense’s 30 round magazine opened in FreeCAD.

….

Right now, there seems to be only Distributed Defense pursuing this project in any meaningful manner – which should be a cause of concern for anyone who thinks this is a good idea. One group of people working on this alone is a giant, slow-moving target prone to failure from both within and beyond. Many people working on this in parallel, however, presents the same problem the movie and music industry face with file sharing – impossible victory/inevitable defeat.

Starting your own open source “distributed defense” group would be a good way to hedge the risk of having just one group coordinating efforts toward developing open source firearms accessible to all. DefCAD could be infiltrated, co-opted, or derailed in so many conceivable ways considering the implications the work it is doing have, it would be foolish not to hedge such risk.

The lack of direct participation in preserving our rights, and instead depending on lobbyists and protesters alone to to do it for us is one problem. Another problem is the purposeful polarization of the “gun debate” – of gun advocates and their critics along predictable political lines. The Washington Post, which is ironically run by a right-wing Neo-Con editorial board, recently celebrated President Obama’s “clever” use of the Constitution to turn the gun debate on its head. It also noted gleefully that part of the plan was getting the “people” themselves to demand stricter gun control. This will be done by getting half of America (the left) to take the guns away from the other half (the right).

Faux right-wing leaders take particular care in ensuring that to be a “gun rights activist,” you must also be a xenophobic crypto-racist, Islamophobic, and a conservative who believes the problem facing the world are closet-Communist liberals. Likewise, the faux left’s leadership ensures that their followers believe conservatives, their religion, and their guns are the root of all problems. In reality, the corporate-financiers run both sides of the debate and direct the talking points of prominent personalities on both the faux-left and faux-right.

Obviously, instead of digging in and playing along, our goal should be to reach across the aisle and close this artificial divide – by abandoning the leaders claiming to represent our particular political proclivities and working together to address the true causes of violence – social injustice, socioeconomic decay, and inadequate, impractical education.

Getting involved includes creating local institutions that find common ground and reject this artificial polarization – common ground that includes improving education, health care, and local economic prospects, which in turn reduces violence and leaves only responsible people with firearms (and the means to make them). Local efforts must be apolitical and all-inclusive – because if we are reduced to talking politics, it is because we don’t have a pragmatic solution to solve our problems.

DefCAD has a pragmatic solution – leveraging tangible, modern technology to ensure our rights are not trampled upon by insidious politicians. Taking away guns is not an option politically, and soon, not an option practically. All sides who truly seek to reduce the violence in society will be forced to look elsewhere for the solution. Since guns were never the problem to begin with, the advent of 3D printed guns and the insurmountable deterrence they present to “gun control,” may be a blessing in disguise for all who seek a more peaceful and just world.

We Are All Aaron Swartz! Fighting Back Against the “Intellectual Property” Racket

Aaron Swartz’ passing becomes even more tragic if we do not recognize what he spent his life fighting for, and realize that no matter where we think we stand on the issue of Internet freedom, the interests driving the debate from Wall Street and Washington, do not have any of our best interests in mind.

In your standard dictatorship, activists are brought out back and shot.

In the United States’ crypto-dictatorship, activists are bullied by the state until they go bankrupt, are buried under a mountain of legal woes, are publicly discredited or humiliated, or as in the case of activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, made to crack under the constant pressure, and commit suicide.

While superficially the United States may seem more progressive, a dead activist bullied to death for his political views, is a dead activist – whether it was a bullet in the back of the head by SS officers, or a mountain of litigation dumped upon someone by the US Department of Justice.

We are All Aaron Swartz.

Aaron Swartz protesting SOPA (image right)

Swartz was an active opponent of the media industry’s various assaults on Internet freedom and sharing, including the scandalous SOPA/PIPA and ACTA bills. He was the director of Demand Progress, which pursued the following campaigns:

The big business lobbyists who are behind the Internet Blacklist Bill are already making the sequel. The “Ten Strikes” bill would make it a felony to stream copyrighted content — like music in the background of a Youtube video, movies and TV shows — more than ten times.

Click here to read the text of the bill and voice your opposition.

2. Oppose Protect-IP We knew that members of Congress and their business allies were gearing up to pass a revised Internet Blacklist Bill — which more than 325,000 Demand Progress members helped block last winter — but we never expected it to be this atrocious. Last year’s bill has been renamed the “PROTECT IP” Act and it is far worse than its predecessor.

The new PROTECT-IP Act retains the censorship components from COICA, but adds a new one: It bans people from having serious conversations about the blacklisted sites. Under the new bill, anyone “referring or linking” to a blacklisted site is prohibited from doing so and can be served with a blacklist order forcing them to stop.

3. Bin Laden Is Dead. Will The Patriot Act Live On?The Patriot Act was enacted as a supposedly temporary measure in the wake of 9-11. With Bin Laden’s passing, the era of the Patriot Act, of spying on Americans who aren’t suspected of crimes, of heavy-handed abuse of our dearly held civil liberties, must come to an end.We need to act now to make sure we win this fight. Tens of thousands of Demand Progress members have already urged Congress to fix the Patriot Act. Will you ask Congress and the President to return us to the legal norms that existed before 9-11 and start respecting our civil liberties?
4. Tell Facebook: Stop Censoring Political SpeechA range of Facebook users, from political dissidents to technology bloggers, are reporting the sudden blocking of their pages. Facebook provided no prior warning, nor was there a clear process established to restore access to the blocked pages.

Will you fight back?

5. Tell The DOJ: Investigate Goldman Sachs

Investigators discovered that Goldman traders bragged about selling “shitty” deals to clients and the mega-bank bet against the same financial products it was selling to investors. And they’ve lied about it all the way to the bank.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and small-time homeowners are in jail for mortgage fraud, but no CEOs have been prosecuted for their roles in the financial crisis. It’s time to change that.

6. Tell Your Lawmakers: Shut Down The New Debtors’ Prisons

Americans are in more debt than ever before, and the banks are going to new extremes to squeeze us for every last penny: If you can’t pay up, they’ll try to get you locked up.

7. Could the Government Really Shut Down Facebook?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are out of control. They’ve been seizing domain names without due process: they shut down 84,000 sites by accident last month, arrested a man for linking to other websites, and government officials think ICE and DHS are claiming powers that would even threaten sites like Facebook.

8. Fight Internet ‘Kill Switch’

Are our leaders better than Egypt’s? Across the globe, governments know that the Internet is increasingly the lifeblood of democracy — that’s why Egypt’s oppressive regime just shut down the Internet there.

But even as American politicians condemn Egypt for doing so, they’re pushing legislation to give our government the power to do the exact same thing here at home! The so-called ‘Kill Switch’ would let the president turn off our Internet — without a court even having to approve the decision.

Join over 40,000 in fighting it. Add your name!

9. Let the PATRIOT Act Expire

The most noxious parts of the USA PATRIOT Act are about to expire — but Congress wants to extend them again. These provisions let the government spy on people without naming them in a warrant, and secretly access your library and bank records under a gag order prohibiting anyone from letting you know.

Join over 60,000 in opposing extension. Add your name!

10. No Mandatory Internet IDs!

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke just announced that he’s developing virtual ID cards for Internet users — and they could pose a severe threat to our privacy! The program’s called the “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” and the draft proposal indicates that we’d be forced to use the IDs for any online transactions with the government, and for online interactions with businesses that use them.

Over 30,000 have told Gary Locke to back off. Add your name!

11. Protect Whistleblowers at Big Banks

Crimes committed by the big banks helped crash our economy — and WikiLeaks is saying that a whistle-blower has sent them enough evidence to take down Bank of America. So now the big banks are fighting back by trying to get the government to muzzle future whistle-blowers.

Tell the SEC not to listen to them. Add your name!

12. Don’t Let them Outlaw WikiLeaks!

Politicians are leading the charge to outlaw WikiLeaks and undermine freedom of the press. First Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) successfully pressured Amazon.com to stop hosting the WikiLeaks website and now, as Julian Assange has been arrested in the UK, he’s introduced a new bill changing the law to make WikiLeaks illegal.

More than 30,000 have signed our petition to stop him. Add your name!

13. Stop the TSA’s Nude Scanners!

Across the country, TSA is replacing airport metal detectors with scanners that take nude photos of you — violating your rights, zapping you with X-rays that could cause cancer, and slowing down the lines. And if you opt-out, they feel up your “sensitive regions.”

Lawmakers in New Jersey and Idaho are trying to stop them. Let’s get a similar bill introduced in every state! Contact your lawmaker!

14. Stop the Internet Blacklist!

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are out of control. They’ve been seizing domain names without due process: they shut down 84,000 sites by accident last month, arrested a man for linking to other websites, and government officials think ICE and DHS are claiming powers that would even threaten sites like Facebook.

Over 300,000 signers! Add your name!

PLUS: Download our new flyer for our Stop The Internet Blacklist campaign and start a grassroots movement in your area!

Clearly, Demand Progress is not just another faux-NGO working in tandem with special interests under the guise of “human rights,” “freedom,” and “democracy” to peddle further exploitation and expansion of the powers that be – but rather identified these special interests by name, and exposed both their agenda and the means by which they attempt to achieve it. Swartz’ death is a tragic one, and compounded by the dismissive, almost celebratory atmosphere across the corporate-media of the passing of a man they labeled a suspected criminal.

Swartz was targeted by the US Department of Justice, MIT, and their corporate-financier sponsors because he was a prominent and particularly effective voice against real creeping oppression. He was a pragmatic, technical individual and proposed solutions that short-circuited the typical and ineffectual political infighting that drives most disingenuous or misguided causes.We all stand the potential of being targeted like Swartz if we allow these monopolies to continue dictating the destiny of human progress. We are all Aaron Swartz – and must realize his targeting and subsequent suicide is the manifestation of the real danger these insidious monopolies pose to us.

Sharing is Not a Crime.

Technologically empowered openness and generosity across the corporate-financier dominated Western World is no more a real offense than was being Jewish inside Nazi Germany. But like Nazi Germany, anything can be “outlawed” if it suits political and economic special interest. Are we truly “criminals” for not respecting laws born of special interests, detached from the will and best interests of the people? No, we most certainly aren’t.

Swartz allegedly downloaded scholarly files from an open and unsecured academic archive (and here). The original files are still very much intact and at the disposal of the organization that maintains the archives. Nothing was stolen, yet Swartz was accused of “theft,” facing 30 years in prison and a 1 million dollar fine – this in a nation where rapists and murders can spend less time in prison, and elected representatives involved in willfully selling wars based on patently false pretenses walk free without even the faintest prospect of facing justice.

Swartz’ crusade against the corporate-financier interests attempting to monopolize and control communication and technology is surely why he was targeted by the federal government, academia, and their corporate-financier sponsors. It is no different than an activist being brought out back of a kangaroo court in a third-world dictatorship, and shot. The silence from so-called “human rights” advocates over the treatment, and now death of Aaron Swartz is deafening – exposing them yet again as another cog in the machine.

It is time to fight back – and time to fight back without the help of these disingenuous NGOs and their purposefully futile tactics of solely protesting and petitioning. Pragmatic, technical solutions must also be explored and deployed at the grassroots to shatter these corporate-financier monopolies at the very source of their power – that is – our daily patronage and dependence on their goods and services.

The Plan.

An alternative to the networks, media, services, and even hardware must be devised and deployed across our local communities. Laws born of special interests and flying in the face of the people’s best interests must be exposed, condemned, and entirely ignored. Taking away a human being’s freedom because they copied and shared a file is unconscionable – as unconscionable as imprisoning a human being because of their political, religious, or racial background. We would ignore laws imposed upon our society singling out blacks or Jews, but not laws criminalizing sharing solely for the benefit of corporate special interests?

In December 2012′s “Decentralizing Telecom,” a plan for establishing a second Internet, locally built and maintained, and connected with neighboring networks to run parallel to the existing Internet – but be free of large telecom monopolies – was proposed.

Also published in December of 2012, was “Sharing is Not a Crime: A Battle Plan to Fight Back,” which illustrated the importance of shifting entirely away from proprietary business models and instead, both using and producing open source hardware, software, news, and entertainment.

Establishing local, and eventually national and even international parallel networks is possible, but will take time. Turning toward open source software can begin today, with a visit to OSalt.com and exploring alternatives that are already being used by millions today.

A bridge between where we are now and a truly free Internet made by the people, for the people, and entirely maintained in a decentralized, local manner, is what are called “Pirate Boxes.” David Darts, an artist, designer, and coder, describes a Pirate Box as:

PirateBox is a self-contained mobile communication and file sharing device. Simply turn it on to transform any space into a free and open communications and file sharing network.

Share (and chat!) Freely Inspired by pirate radio and the free culture movements, PirateBox utilizes Free, Libre and Open Source software (FLOSS) to create mobile wireless communications and file sharing networks where users can anonymously chat and share images, video, audio, documents, and other digital content.

Private and Secure PirateBox is designed to be private and secure. No logins are required and no user data is logged. Users remain completely anonymous – the system is purposely not connected to the Internet in order to subvert tracking and preserve user privacy.

Easy to Use Using the PirateBox is easy. Simply turn it on and transform any space into a free communication and file sharing network. Users within range of the device can join the PirateBox open wireless network from any wifi-enabled device and begin chatting and sharing files immediately.

Under David’s FAQ’s regarding Pirate Boxes, a particularly useful question is answered:

Can I make my own PirateBox?

Absolutely! The PirateBox is registered under the GNU GPLv3. You can run it on an existing device or can be built as a stand-alone device for as little as US$35. For detailed instructions, visit the PirateBox DIY page.

For the media-industry to stop the spread of local hardware solutions like Pirate Boxes, they would have to literally be in every single community, inside every single person’s house, to prevent people from taking legally purchased or freely available media, and sharing it – akin to publishers policing the entire population to prevent readers from lending their friends and family their copy of a particular book.

The basic principles and experience one gets from building and using a Pirate Box can allow them to tackle larger mesh networks and eventually, decentralize telecom. By encouraging local meetings where PirateBoxes are used, the foundation for new local organizations and institutions can be laid.

New Paradigms Require New Institutions – Join or Start a Hackerspace

Not everyone possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to create local networks or develop alternatives to the goods and services we currently depend on corporate-financier monopolies for. Even those that do, cannot, by themselves, effectively research, develop, and deploy such alternatives. By pooling our resources together in common spaces called “hackerspaces,” we can. Hackerspaces are not just for technically talented individuals, but a place where anyone with the inclination to learn can come and participate.

Hackerspaces can be organized under a wide range of templates – including clubs where dues are paid, spaces that earn income through providing courses or services to the community, and many others. It will be in hackerspaces, and local institutions like them, that a truly people-driven paradigm shift takes place – one of pragmatism and progress, not endlessly broken political promises from elected officials.

People can visit Hackerspaces.org to see the closest organization near them where they can join in. Conversely, for those who either don’t have a hackerspace nearby to join, or simply want to start their own, see, “How to Start a Hackerspace,” for more information on where to begin.

Finally…

Aaron Swartz’ passing becomes even more tragic if we do not recognize what he spent his life fighting for, and realize that no matter where we think we stand on the issue of Internet freedom, the interests driving the debate from Wall Street and Washington, do not have any of our best interests in mind.

We are all Aaron Swartz – to reclaim the battle cry abused so flagrantly by the West’s faux-democratic “awakening” in the Arab World and beyond. And we must all become active opponents of this agenda to usurp our ability to determine our own destiny. Aaron Swartz was an exceptional proponent of Internet freedom and openness – but by all of us joining the ranks of this cause, we exponentially complicate the system’s ability to target and destroy any one of us. If your cause is just, and your means constructive and pragmatic, there isn’t just “safety” in numbers, there is invincibility.

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