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Will Trump's Global Attack on Family Planning Cause Side Effects?

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[D-penicillamine–side effects, pathogenesis and decreasing the risks].

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Are We Big Pharma’s Guinea Pigs? 8 Drugs Used by Millions Before Being Pulled...

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An Empire Upside Down

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Presidential Restraint Is Alive and Well

... among people who are not the president.

On Presidents Day, RootsAction.org set up a petition in response to this news:

"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say," the Associated Press reports -- "and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year."

The petition reads:

"Mr. President, Without making any exception for the president, the Constitution requires adherence to the Fifth Amendment. 'Due process' is mandatory, not optional. Legality is a question of law, not policy. You are not allowed to kill whoever you want on your own say-so."

Within the first several hours, over 10,000 people had signed. You can sign it too.

Here are some of the comments that people have posted:

"Has the CONSTITUTION become an - OPTION ???" —S. Schwenchy, CA

"And we thought Bush was a liar!" —Richard Wilkey, TN

"And you are also not allowed to pass judgement on someone before they are judged by a jury of their peers as you did in the case of Pvt. Manning. I thought you were better than that. My bad." —John Nettleton, OR

"Please, just stop murdering suspicious people. This is like what happened to Trayvon Martin, but there's no trial afterward." —Tim Ferguson, CA

"Expedience is not an excuse. We can't be the good guys just because we say so, we have to act on it too. Killing terrorists just creates more terrorists." —Boola Lomuscio, MA

"A country which can imprison indefinitely its citizens without due process, without ever charging them with any wrongdoing is not a democracy. Period. Let alone the country which can KILL citizens without due process, without ever charging them with any wrongdoing. Obey the law. Obey the Constitution." —Jamil Said, CA

"A President is nothing more than a servant, and if he commits a crime, it is ten times the crime and should have ten times the penalty." —Ronald Denner, MI

"According to the Nuremberg Principles if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values. It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters, to speak out." —Robert Stevens

"All labels aside, ANY president who does not follow his oath needs to be impeached. It really is that simple." —Robert Horan, OH

"All presidents seem to think that the Constitution is for the people to obey, not them. The 5th Amendment provides due process for American citizens. If one suspects criminal activity against the USA, then the suspect must have his day in court. This is part of the democratic process, and NO ONE, NOT EVEN THE PRESIDENT, IS ABOVE THE LAW!" —Robert Glasner, CA

"Amendment IV -- 'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures' -- Does that include the life of the person?" —David Bean, OR

"America is supposed to have the rule of law, not of men. I don't care how well-intentioned people are; if the precedent is set, then less well-intentioned people will take advantage of it." —Deborah Goldsmith, CA

"Among other reasons, drone strikes kill innocents without exception, and you know it, Mr. President, and that's not something to accept regardless of what your military advisers believe." —Marianne Kenady, WA

"Are we back in the dark ages where the king decides to behead anyone he wants? Seems that way. I don't think that is where we want to be, none of us." —Kenneth Walton, IA

"Are you still a constitutional lawyer? - - Then, why are you acting as you are? That is, choosing and selecting American citizens for annihilation." —William See, OR

"Believe it or not, murder is murder. Murdering a murderer is still murder." —Frank C Benjamin, NY

"Don't stray from the mandates, including the Constitution, you have been sworn to uphold. People accused of crimes are supposed to be tried by a jury of their peers, not one man on a power trip." —John Davis, ME

"Execution of citizens without any due process, especially a jury of peers, is one of the hallmarks of a totalitarian government -- no matter how much the tyrant pleads otherwise." —Robert Anderson, CA

"Execution without arrest and fair trial is unethical, immoral and goes against all American values." —Patricia Robinett, MO

"Extraordinary renditions and torture perpetrated by the Bush Administration was illegal and immoral. Killing without due process, especially an American citizen, is even worse." —Audrey Bomse, FL

"Following our example, I guess it is ok for foreign governments to send drones over our territory to murder dissidents from their country?" —Michael JamesLong, OR

"For a constitutional lawyer, our President does not honor, in any way, shape or form, the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th & 8th amendments to the U.S. Constitution." —Lisbeth Caccese, CA

Read thousands more, pick your favorites, add your own:
http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=9288

read more

How dangerous is a president who wants to rule by pen and phone?

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Soviet psychiatric drug for dissidents given to US patients

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Inside the December Jobs Report

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Obama Considering Chinese Participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership

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What Is The ACTUAL Risk for Pacific Coast Residents from Fukushima Radiation?

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What Is The ACTUAL Risk for Pacific Coast Residents from Fukushima Radiation? was originally published on Washington's Blog

President Obama, Pardon Both the Turkey and Drug War Prisoners for the Holidays

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Israel’s President Shimon Peres Admits that Israel Ordered the Assassination of Yasser Arafat

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Cape Cod town residents claim to be hit by ‘wind turbine syndrome’

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America’s Economic Dark Side

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Towards a Totalitarian State in South Korea? The “Left Sedition Scandal” and President Park’s...

By Kim Bo-geun, director of the Hankyoreh Unification Institute

In September, Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Seok-ki was indicted on charges of plotting an insurrection. His court battle started on Oct. 14 when he requested that his trial be dismissed in his first pretrial hearing. Lee’s arrest on sedition charges has had a significant impact on South Korean society, and it almost overtook the agenda for reform of the National Intelligence Security (NIS).

This is therefore an appropriate time to look back on the events that led to Lee’s situation and take a careful approach in seeking a thorough understanding. Is there anything that South Korea might have missed out, especially considering the unique situation with the divided Korean peninsula?

Sometimes what we see as natural can appear unnatural from an outside point of view or a different angle, and this becomes particularly true when you compare the different viewpoints between inside and outside. A good example could be a situation when universal rights are disrespected with the justification that the case is unique. This means that we may fool ourselves by looking at only trees and thinking that’s all there is, without actually looking at the whole forest.

With this in mind Hankyoreh interviewed Professor Michel Chossudovsky, an emeritus professor of economics at Ottawa University in Canada and founder of the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG) regarding Lee Seok-ki’s arrest on sedition charges.

It was believed that outside views could help better understand Lee’s case. Professor Chossudovsky is a well-known scholar in South Korea through his publications including, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, War and Globalization, and Towards a World War III scenario: the dangers of nuclear war. He has written many books and given lectures that persistently showed his criticism over the imperialistic features of the US and IMF.

Professor Chossudovsky said he has followed Lee Seok-ki’s case by reading related articles. His understanding of the ‘trees’ may not be as deep as what Koreans can grasp directly, but this widely respected scholar could have the good perspective on the ‘forest’ that Koreans may have missed. The professor said, “Freedom of expression and ideology is absolutely fundamental to the modern democratic society”. He strongly criticized by saying this is essentially corroborative evidence that shows South Korean society is working based on a totalitarian system.

Hankyoreh: The first question is – Are you aware of the so-called Lee Seok-ki sedition case?

Chossudovsky: The arrest of Lee Seok-ki on sedition charges has all the appearances of a personal vendetta by President Park against a political opponent within the parliament. It is taking [his] words and building a national security pretext for his arrest. And in that regard it is not the expression of a democratic government but indeed what I would describe as a democratic dictatorship – a totalitarian rule under the disguise of democracy. And essentially it is characteristic of a bygone era of Korean politics, namely that of military rule. This kind of political action is totally at odds with the nature of Korean society, its institutions, its parliament, and to go after political opponents because they are opposed to the head of state and because they expose the fraudulent behavior of the governing party, particularly in relation to the elections, and of course the KCIA’s involvement in manipulating the electoral process – this is totally unacceptable in any democratic society. It is reminiscent, as I said, of the heyday of military rule in Korea.

Hani: The National Intelligence Service has alleged that at a gathering of 130 people on May 12, Rep Lee Seok-ki said the following-“All actions in North Korea are patriotic, but they are treason in South Korea”; “We not only need a political situation, but also military”; “Let us counter war. Let us prepare for war. We need political and military preparation”; “We can create a Joseon nation with a self-reliant ideology, a unified ideology, kick out the Americans and create a new, self-reliant society without exploitation or corruption. For this, we need to go all out on a nationwide scale for a decisive battle to construct a new future.” Among progressives in South Korea, there are varying responses to the situation.

Rep Lee Seok-ki’s group argues that these quotes are all fabricated and falsely attributed. As long as the National Security Law exists, it is understandable why they need to assert this to protect themselves from the law. Progressives who follow the PD line, on the other hand, contend that by arguing that these quotes are fabricated, Lee Seok-ki’s group and his lawyers give up the opportunity to assert their right to freedom of ideology. What are your thoughts on this?

Chossudovsky: I can’t actually comment on the quotations as they are presented, but I think that to take the statement of a member of the national parliament out of context and accuse him of treason is pushing the analysis of political rhetoric to an unreasonable stage. I think if I read correctly what Lee Seok-ki was saying – is that any kind of critique of the regime in the Republic of Korea of its links to the United States, of the the fact that there are 37,000 troops on Korean soil, that those Korean forces are not under national command but under U.S. command, is an act of treason.

In other words, it is an act of treason to question the legitimacy of the President and the Commander in Chief, both in terms of the election and the relationship between the head of state and the U.S. government. The fact of the matter is that, as it stands, the Republic of Korea is under military occupation, that U.S. military presence has a direct impact on the formulation of policy, the U.S. military controls the Korean military. That is clear because they’ve signed a joint defense agreement, which grants a four-star U.S. general the de facto role of Commander in Chief of the ROK, overriding the powers of the President and Commander in Chief, who is Mrs. Park. “To kick out the Americans and create a new self-reliant society without exploitation and corruption” – I cite the words of Rep Lee Seok-ki – is, I think an objective which ultimately should be sought by all Koreans.

There can only be treason when you work for a foreign power against the interests of the Korean people. And what I would say is that Mrs. Park is committing acts of treason, because she is taking her orders directly from the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon.

She does not exercise her duty as a head of state, nor does she exercise her responsibilities as commander in chief, so that she is the person who is committing treason, not Mr. Lee Seok-ki, who is calling for the unification of the Korean nation under a unified ideology without the presence of American troops. It is not a statement that is necessarily embracing a communist ideology by any means. It is a statement which is embracing a unified national identity and ideology, which is entrenched in Korean history. That’s the way I see it. Acts of patriotism [are] in relation to the Korean nation, but they cannot be expressed in relation to a divided nation. You cannot be a patriot in relation to the Republic of Korea which is occupied by U.S. troops. You can be a patriot in relation to a unified nation where two countries, which have been divided as a result of the Korean War, are reunited.

Hani: In your opinion, how much should freedom of ideology be allowed in modern society? How important is freedom of ideology for the development of modern society? Should a society coerce people to give up ideology that challenges the status quo or allow it co-exist?

Chossudovsky:I think that freedom of ideology is absolutely essential in modern society. There may be certain political tendencies which you wish to control, such as neo-Nazi elements. But in effect if we look at what’s happening in the European Union, even the neo-Nazis have the powers of free expression and they are allowed in the political spectrum. We have to protect freedom of expression but ultimately the freedom to confront political leaders, which is the basis of democracy, the freedom to unseat those leaders if they act in a corrupt or fraudulent way, which is part of the process of impeachments but there are various mechanisms to confront those leaders. And I think that we can look to the experience of other countries. There are certain minimal standards and unfortunately those minimal standards do not prevail under the presidency of President Park in the Republic of Korea.

Hani: How much is freedom of ideology allowed in Canada or the U.S.? The U.S. also experienced extreme anti-communism, as exemplified in McCarthyism. Do you think this is now a thing of the past?

Chossudovsky: I think that in the United States at this moment there is the development of a national security state, or a homeland security state, which is derogating certain fundamental rights. And this is tied into developments, which started under the Bush administration and which continue under the Obama administration. I should mention that in the United States today, there is a U.S communist party, and in Canada there is a Canadian communist party. Canada and the U.S. are not necessarily models of democracy, but people are not normally arrested for expressing their opposition to the government or pointing to corruption and fraud in the election process. And members of the U.S. congress or senators in the United States, and members of parliament and senators in Canada cannot be arrested for criticizing the government.

Hani: How do you see U.S. – North Korea relations? The tensions between North Korea and the U.S. contribute to heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula. What do you think is the fundamental reason why there is no dialogue between the two countries? Is it due to North Korea’s nuclear weapons? Or U.S.’ imperialist policy?

Chossudovsky: The United States has been threatening North Korea for over 60 years, ok? Certainly since the end of the Korean War, the United States has been threatening North Korea. The United States has also been routinely engineering tension between north and south, preventing a dialogue, preventing a dialogue on trade, cultural exchanges, and sabotaging the reunification process.

It has conducted, almost on an annual basis, war games directed against North Korea, involving South Korean forces and U.S. forces. It has contributed to the political indoctrination of the people of South Korea from primary school onwards. It has rewritten history books. Essentially, it wants to prevent that process of reunification from taking place.

Now with regards to the nuclear threat, the United States has threatened North Korea with nuclear weapons for more than 50 years. We can recall that history. And there’s an asymmetry between the United States’ capabilities in term of nuclear weapons and those of North Korea. I should mention that if the United States were to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, these would inevitably engulf the entire peninsula, because the demilitarized zone is approximately 50 kilometers from the capital of the Republic of Korea, namely Seoul.

Hani: South Korea has the National Security Law, which outlaws favorable expressions of North Korea as it is defined as an anti-state organization. What are your thoughts on the National Security Law?

Chossudovsky: It’s a derogation of the right to freedom of expression. It can be used, it can be construed in any way you want to make it go. It essentially means that South Koreans are not in a position to even express their opinion on what’s gong on in North Korea, either in a positive or negative sense, or they’re only allowed to say negative things.

I think this National Security Law is totally at odds with the workings of a democratic society and it really is, at this stage, obsolete. It goes back to the 1950s. I think we are at the stage when expressing one’s views on North Korea at all levels of Korean society is absolutely necessary, because North Korea and South Korea are part of the same cultural and historical entity. They can’t be separated out artificially. And it’s an issue of the identity of the Korean nation. Whether we say positive or negative things about North Korea is not the issue. The issue is it has to be discussed and debated, because it is part of the heritage of the Korean people.

Hani: Some say that the very existence of the National Security Law makes not only conservatives but even progressives to interpret the situation surrounding Rep Lee Seok-ki in a distorted or conservative way. What are your thoughts on this?

Chossudovsky: I think the substance of this question is that this is the “chilling effect”, whereby the arrest of Representative Lee Seok-ki is being used to spearhead an atmosphere of fear and intimidation across the land, throughout the Republic of Korea, so that you have to watch what you say. So you have to apply a form of self-censorship, you have to tow the line, you mustn’t say anything against Mrs. Park, ok? It’s the chilling effect and I think that was one of the intended effects.

It’s not necessarily limited to Representative Lee Seok-ki; it is directed to all progressive elements within Korean society and maybe against everybody, because people are now going to accept the lies as the truth, they’re going to accept U.S. occupation, they’re going to accept a distorted view of history, they’re going to refuse reunification as a concept, which means they’re going to deny the Korean nation, its history, its culture.

Essentially that’s really what a totalitarian system is all about. It prevents people from thinking, from expressing themselves, from criticizing their leaders. And I would suspect that even conservatives within Mrs. Park’s party will also… they will also sway away from any form of critique which they might have even within their own political group. It’s what I call the “chilling effect,” which is a legal term in British law, and it’s very much an element that you want to censor your whole view so that you’re not the object of any kind of political repression, so that you essentially tow the line and you sing the government’s song. And that’s the whole nature of a totalitarian system.

Hani: I guess there’s some debate in South Korea about what strategy is appropriate in this situation. So far the Unified Progressive Party has maintained that these quotes are taken out of context, that they have been manipulated and fabricated by the NIS and have been falsely attributed to Lee Seok-ki. Some other progressives are saying, “You shouldn’t deny that you said these things, if you said these things. Just assert your right. Even if we may not agree with what you think, you have your right to have your own thoughts and talk about your own ideology.” I guess there’s a difference in terms of strategy, of how to respond to this situation. So I think they want to know your thoughts on this.

Chossudovsky: When he says “Let us counter war” – I‘m assuming these quotes are not taken out of context – “Let us Counter War” or “Let us prepare for war,” he is also warning, I would assume, Koreans that their country is occupied by a foreign power. I should mention another thing. The fact that you have 37,000 U.S. troops in Korea has a direct impact on the sovereignty of the government and we saw that in 1997 at the height of the Asian crisis, when the U.S. embassy ultimately demanded – in fact Washington demanded through the U.S. embassy – that the finance minister be sacked, the governor of the central bank be sacked. That was in late ’97; it was during an election campaign, and the outgoing government had no other choice but to sack the finance minister and the governor of the central bank and that would not have taken place had there been no U.S. troops on Korean soil.

If he says “we need political and military preparation,” I understand that to mean that “we need also to take possession of our own armed forces,” because the armed forces of the Republic of Korea are not under the control of the head of state. And it should also be understood that all the weapons which are purchased by the ROK from the United States – advanced weapons systems – are in fact at the service of the Untied States but they are paid by the Korean taxpayers. Please direct questions or comments to [[email protected]]

Towards a Totalitarian State in South Korea? The “Left Sedition Scandal” and President Park’s...

By Kim Bo-geun, director of the Hankyoreh Unification Institute

In September, Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Seok-ki was indicted on charges of plotting an insurrection. His court battle started on Oct. 14 when he requested that his trial be dismissed in his first pretrial hearing. Lee’s arrest on sedition charges has had a significant impact on South Korean society, and it almost overtook the agenda for reform of the National Intelligence Security (NIS).

This is therefore an appropriate time to look back on the events that led to Lee’s situation and take a careful approach in seeking a thorough understanding. Is there anything that South Korea might have missed out, especially considering the unique situation with the divided Korean peninsula?

Sometimes what we see as natural can appear unnatural from an outside point of view or a different angle, and this becomes particularly true when you compare the different viewpoints between inside and outside. A good example could be a situation when universal rights are disrespected with the justification that the case is unique. This means that we may fool ourselves by looking at only trees and thinking that’s all there is, without actually looking at the whole forest.

With this in mind Hankyoreh interviewed Professor Michel Chossudovsky, an emeritus professor of economics at Ottawa University in Canada and founder of the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG) regarding Lee Seok-ki’s arrest on sedition charges.

It was believed that outside views could help better understand Lee’s case. Professor Chossudovsky is a well-known scholar in South Korea through his publications including, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, War and Globalization, and Towards a World War III scenario: the dangers of nuclear war. He has written many books and given lectures that persistently showed his criticism over the imperialistic features of the US and IMF.

Professor Chossudovsky said he has followed Lee Seok-ki’s case by reading related articles. His understanding of the ‘trees’ may not be as deep as what Koreans can grasp directly, but this widely respected scholar could have the good perspective on the ‘forest’ that Koreans may have missed. The professor said, “Freedom of expression and ideology is absolutely fundamental to the modern democratic society”. He strongly criticized by saying this is essentially corroborative evidence that shows South Korean society is working based on a totalitarian system.

Hankyoreh: The first question is – Are you aware of the so-called Lee Seok-ki sedition case?

Chossudovsky: The arrest of Lee Seok-ki on sedition charges has all the appearances of a personal vendetta by President Park against a political opponent within the parliament. It is taking [his] words and building a national security pretext for his arrest. And in that regard it is not the expression of a democratic government but indeed what I would describe as a democratic dictatorship – a totalitarian rule under the disguise of democracy. And essentially it is characteristic of a bygone era of Korean politics, namely that of military rule. This kind of political action is totally at odds with the nature of Korean society, its institutions, its parliament, and to go after political opponents because they are opposed to the head of state and because they expose the fraudulent behavior of the governing party, particularly in relation to the elections, and of course the KCIA’s involvement in manipulating the electoral process – this is totally unacceptable in any democratic society. It is reminiscent, as I said, of the heyday of military rule in Korea.

Hani: The National Intelligence Service has alleged that at a gathering of 130 people on May 12, Rep Lee Seok-ki said the following-“All actions in North Korea are patriotic, but they are treason in South Korea”; “We not only need a political situation, but also military”; “Let us counter war. Let us prepare for war. We need political and military preparation”; “We can create a Joseon nation with a self-reliant ideology, a unified ideology, kick out the Americans and create a new, self-reliant society without exploitation or corruption. For this, we need to go all out on a nationwide scale for a decisive battle to construct a new future.” Among progressives in South Korea, there are varying responses to the situation.

Rep Lee Seok-ki’s group argues that these quotes are all fabricated and falsely attributed. As long as the National Security Law exists, it is understandable why they need to assert this to protect themselves from the law. Progressives who follow the PD line, on the other hand, contend that by arguing that these quotes are fabricated, Lee Seok-ki’s group and his lawyers give up the opportunity to assert their right to freedom of ideology. What are your thoughts on this?

Chossudovsky: I can’t actually comment on the quotations as they are presented, but I think that to take the statement of a member of the national parliament out of context and accuse him of treason is pushing the analysis of political rhetoric to an unreasonable stage. I think if I read correctly what Lee Seok-ki was saying – is that any kind of critique of the regime in the Republic of Korea of its links to the United States, of the the fact that there are 37,000 troops on Korean soil, that those Korean forces are not under national command but under U.S. command, is an act of treason.

In other words, it is an act of treason to question the legitimacy of the President and the Commander in Chief, both in terms of the election and the relationship between the head of state and the U.S. government. The fact of the matter is that, as it stands, the Republic of Korea is under military occupation, that U.S. military presence has a direct impact on the formulation of policy, the U.S. military controls the Korean military. That is clear because they’ve signed a joint defense agreement, which grants a four-star U.S. general the de facto role of Commander in Chief of the ROK, overriding the powers of the President and Commander in Chief, who is Mrs. Park. “To kick out the Americans and create a new self-reliant society without exploitation and corruption” – I cite the words of Rep Lee Seok-ki – is, I think an objective which ultimately should be sought by all Koreans.

There can only be treason when you work for a foreign power against the interests of the Korean people. And what I would say is that Mrs. Park is committing acts of treason, because she is taking her orders directly from the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon.

She does not exercise her duty as a head of state, nor does she exercise her responsibilities as commander in chief, so that she is the person who is committing treason, not Mr. Lee Seok-ki, who is calling for the unification of the Korean nation under a unified ideology without the presence of American troops. It is not a statement that is necessarily embracing a communist ideology by any means. It is a statement which is embracing a unified national identity and ideology, which is entrenched in Korean history. That’s the way I see it. Acts of patriotism [are] in relation to the Korean nation, but they cannot be expressed in relation to a divided nation. You cannot be a patriot in relation to the Republic of Korea which is occupied by U.S. troops. You can be a patriot in relation to a unified nation where two countries, which have been divided as a result of the Korean War, are reunited.

Hani: In your opinion, how much should freedom of ideology be allowed in modern society? How important is freedom of ideology for the development of modern society? Should a society coerce people to give up ideology that challenges the status quo or allow it co-exist?

Chossudovsky:I think that freedom of ideology is absolutely essential in modern society. There may be certain political tendencies which you wish to control, such as neo-Nazi elements. But in effect if we look at what’s happening in the European Union, even the neo-Nazis have the powers of free expression and they are allowed in the political spectrum. We have to protect freedom of expression but ultimately the freedom to confront political leaders, which is the basis of democracy, the freedom to unseat those leaders if they act in a corrupt or fraudulent way, which is part of the process of impeachments but there are various mechanisms to confront those leaders. And I think that we can look to the experience of other countries. There are certain minimal standards and unfortunately those minimal standards do not prevail under the presidency of President Park in the Republic of Korea.

Hani: How much is freedom of ideology allowed in Canada or the U.S.? The U.S. also experienced extreme anti-communism, as exemplified in McCarthyism. Do you think this is now a thing of the past?

Chossudovsky: I think that in the United States at this moment there is the development of a national security state, or a homeland security state, which is derogating certain fundamental rights. And this is tied into developments, which started under the Bush administration and which continue under the Obama administration. I should mention that in the United States today, there is a U.S communist party, and in Canada there is a Canadian communist party. Canada and the U.S. are not necessarily models of democracy, but people are not normally arrested for expressing their opposition to the government or pointing to corruption and fraud in the election process. And members of the U.S. congress or senators in the United States, and members of parliament and senators in Canada cannot be arrested for criticizing the government.

Hani: How do you see U.S. – North Korea relations? The tensions between North Korea and the U.S. contribute to heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula. What do you think is the fundamental reason why there is no dialogue between the two countries? Is it due to North Korea’s nuclear weapons? Or U.S.’ imperialist policy?

Chossudovsky: The United States has been threatening North Korea for over 60 years, ok? Certainly since the end of the Korean War, the United States has been threatening North Korea. The United States has also been routinely engineering tension between north and south, preventing a dialogue, preventing a dialogue on trade, cultural exchanges, and sabotaging the reunification process.

It has conducted, almost on an annual basis, war games directed against North Korea, involving South Korean forces and U.S. forces. It has contributed to the political indoctrination of the people of South Korea from primary school onwards. It has rewritten history books. Essentially, it wants to prevent that process of reunification from taking place.

Now with regards to the nuclear threat, the United States has threatened North Korea with nuclear weapons for more than 50 years. We can recall that history. And there’s an asymmetry between the United States’ capabilities in term of nuclear weapons and those of North Korea. I should mention that if the United States were to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, these would inevitably engulf the entire peninsula, because the demilitarized zone is approximately 50 kilometers from the capital of the Republic of Korea, namely Seoul.

Hani: South Korea has the National Security Law, which outlaws favorable expressions of North Korea as it is defined as an anti-state organization. What are your thoughts on the National Security Law?

Chossudovsky: It’s a derogation of the right to freedom of expression. It can be used, it can be construed in any way you want to make it go. It essentially means that South Koreans are not in a position to even express their opinion on what’s gong on in North Korea, either in a positive or negative sense, or they’re only allowed to say negative things.

I think this National Security Law is totally at odds with the workings of a democratic society and it really is, at this stage, obsolete. It goes back to the 1950s. I think we are at the stage when expressing one’s views on North Korea at all levels of Korean society is absolutely necessary, because North Korea and South Korea are part of the same cultural and historical entity. They can’t be separated out artificially. And it’s an issue of the identity of the Korean nation. Whether we say positive or negative things about North Korea is not the issue. The issue is it has to be discussed and debated, because it is part of the heritage of the Korean people.

Hani: Some say that the very existence of the National Security Law makes not only conservatives but even progressives to interpret the situation surrounding Rep Lee Seok-ki in a distorted or conservative way. What are your thoughts on this?

Chossudovsky: I think the substance of this question is that this is the “chilling effect”, whereby the arrest of Representative Lee Seok-ki is being used to spearhead an atmosphere of fear and intimidation across the land, throughout the Republic of Korea, so that you have to watch what you say. So you have to apply a form of self-censorship, you have to tow the line, you mustn’t say anything against Mrs. Park, ok? It’s the chilling effect and I think that was one of the intended effects.

It’s not necessarily limited to Representative Lee Seok-ki; it is directed to all progressive elements within Korean society and maybe against everybody, because people are now going to accept the lies as the truth, they’re going to accept U.S. occupation, they’re going to accept a distorted view of history, they’re going to refuse reunification as a concept, which means they’re going to deny the Korean nation, its history, its culture.

Essentially that’s really what a totalitarian system is all about. It prevents people from thinking, from expressing themselves, from criticizing their leaders. And I would suspect that even conservatives within Mrs. Park’s party will also… they will also sway away from any form of critique which they might have even within their own political group. It’s what I call the “chilling effect,” which is a legal term in British law, and it’s very much an element that you want to censor your whole view so that you’re not the object of any kind of political repression, so that you essentially tow the line and you sing the government’s song. And that’s the whole nature of a totalitarian system.

Hani: I guess there’s some debate in South Korea about what strategy is appropriate in this situation. So far the Unified Progressive Party has maintained that these quotes are taken out of context, that they have been manipulated and fabricated by the NIS and have been falsely attributed to Lee Seok-ki. Some other progressives are saying, “You shouldn’t deny that you said these things, if you said these things. Just assert your right. Even if we may not agree with what you think, you have your right to have your own thoughts and talk about your own ideology.” I guess there’s a difference in terms of strategy, of how to respond to this situation. So I think they want to know your thoughts on this.

Chossudovsky: When he says “Let us counter war” – I‘m assuming these quotes are not taken out of context – “Let us Counter War” or “Let us prepare for war,” he is also warning, I would assume, Koreans that their country is occupied by a foreign power. I should mention another thing. The fact that you have 37,000 U.S. troops in Korea has a direct impact on the sovereignty of the government and we saw that in 1997 at the height of the Asian crisis, when the U.S. embassy ultimately demanded – in fact Washington demanded through the U.S. embassy – that the finance minister be sacked, the governor of the central bank be sacked. That was in late ’97; it was during an election campaign, and the outgoing government had no other choice but to sack the finance minister and the governor of the central bank and that would not have taken place had there been no U.S. troops on Korean soil.

If he says “we need political and military preparation,” I understand that to mean that “we need also to take possession of our own armed forces,” because the armed forces of the Republic of Korea are not under the control of the head of state. And it should also be understood that all the weapons which are purchased by the ROK from the United States – advanced weapons systems – are in fact at the service of the Untied States but they are paid by the Korean taxpayers. Please direct questions or comments to [[email protected]]

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Activist Climbs Flagpole Outside LyondellBasell, Hangs Banner Denouncing Investment in Tar Sands

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Today’s protest from activist Perry Graham is in response to a recent announcement by LyondellBasell’s CEO Jim Gallogly that they were “just finishing up” a $50 million upgrade to increase the Houston Refining facility’s capacity to process tar sands. The planned upgrade to the largest refinery in the City of Houston would process 175,000 barrels of tar sands per day, or nearly one-quarter of the capacity of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. If built, the pipeline would carry toxic tar sands from Alberta, Canada to Houston and other Gulf Coast refineries before being primarily exported overseas.

“I'm taking action today to expose LyondellBasell's unjust practices of environmental racism, from the poisoning of the Athabascan Chipewyan people due to tar sands extraction, to the ongoing refinery pollution affecting communities of color in Houston's toxic East End,” said Graham. “After last week's 55 actions across the continent to stop tar sands profiteers, corporations like LyondellBasell that process tar sands should expect active resistance.”

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“The fence-line community of Manchester already deals with the effects of the pollution from surrounding industry,” said Manchester resident and Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Yudith Nieto. “Now LyondellBasell wants to nearly triple dirty tar sands refining in our communities without regard for the safety and well being of the people. Where are the state environmental agencies who have a duty to protect us from this unjust and destructive industry?”

Live updates and photos: http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/19th-action/

Mr. President, It’s Time to Move Forward on Climate

As President Barack Obama’s second term gets underway, Americans are expecting big actions from him — especially on climate disruption and clean energy. The decision to block the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline should be the cornerstone of his positive, solutions-oriented climate legacy.

Tar sands oil is the most toxic fossil fuel on the planet. It leaves in its wake scarred landscapes and a web of pipelines and polluting refineries all the while delaying our transition to a clean energy economy. In addition, tar sands oil production produces three times the climate-disrupting pollution of conventional oil.

Building the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline would destroy the property of farmers and ranchers across the American heartland and put rivers, streams, and underground aquifers that millions of American depend on for drinking water at severe risk of toxic spills.

The time for serious climate action is now. We need Obama to passionately and eloquently show the American people that solving the climate crisis is not a burden, but an incredible opportunity.

This is a fight for something better. We’re on the cusp of a clean energy revolution that will transform our nation, slash carbon pollution, and turn this climate disaster around. We need Obama to commit to this fight with all the ambition and determination he can bring.

The clean energy technologies we need to reverse climate disruption already exist. They’re affordable, competitive, and ready for primetime. Already, we’ve doubled our wind power to 60 gigawatts in less than four years — enough to power nearly 15 million homes. Plus, we generate five times more solar power than we did just a few years ago. Renewable energy can power America. And it can do it without climate-polluting gases.

Here’s how Obama can make that happen:

First, he must follow through and build on one of the biggest accomplishments of his first term: Holding polluters accountable for their costs to our health, economy, and climate. That means directing the Environmental Protection Agency to finish cleaning up power plant pollution.

Second, Obama needs to reject energy sources that would condemn future generations to the effects of runaway climate disruption. There’s no excuse for blasting the mountains of Appalachia for coal, drilling in our Arctic wilderness, building export terminals to ship coal and natural gas overseas, or continuing to allow under-regulated and environmentally devastating fracking for gas and oil.

Third, Obama needs to shift the debate about our public lands from “How can the mining and drilling industries best exploit them?” to “How can their true owners — the American people — most benefit from them?” We’ve allowed oil, coal, and other extractive industries to treat our public lands like their personal piggy banks. That has to stop.

Fourth, Obama must do all he can to help preserve the hard-won momentum from his first term for renewable energy and energy efficiency. He should start by promoting innovative financing and investment that makes it easier for individuals and businesses to install clean energy and adopt energy-efficiency measures.

Finally, we must recognize that the effects of climate disruption are already present in the form of droughts, deadly heat waves, wildfires, and powerful storms. We need to protect communities from these disasters as much as we can beforehand and plan a robust and just response when disaster does strike.

We need Obama to inspire a nationwide groundswell for clean energy, energy efficiency, and a 21st century economy. He must harness every iota of his political skill to forge bipartisan solutions to curbing carbon pollution, and to call out those who persist in trying to hold us back.

When he talks about the destructive power of a warming planet, no one has to wonder what that destruction looks like. We’ve seen it — from the hurricane-ravaged Northeast to the drought-stricken Midwest to the fire-scarred West. It’s all too real.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Michael Brune

Michael Brune is the executive director of The Sierra Club. His book Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal was published by Sierra Club Books in September 2008.

Mr. President, It’s Time to Move Forward on Climate

As President Barack Obama’s second term gets underway, Americans are expecting big actions from him — especially on climate disruption and clean energy. The decision to block the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline should be the cornerstone of his positive, solutions-oriented climate legacy.

Tar sands oil is the most toxic fossil fuel on the planet. It leaves in its wake scarred landscapes and a web of pipelines and polluting refineries all the while delaying our transition to a clean energy economy. In addition, tar sands oil production produces three times the climate-disrupting pollution of conventional oil.

Building the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline would destroy the property of farmers and ranchers across the American heartland and put rivers, streams, and underground aquifers that millions of American depend on for drinking water at severe risk of toxic spills.

The time for serious climate action is now. We need Obama to passionately and eloquently show the American people that solving the climate crisis is not a burden, but an incredible opportunity.

This is a fight for something better. We’re on the cusp of a clean energy revolution that will transform our nation, slash carbon pollution, and turn this climate disaster around. We need Obama to commit to this fight with all the ambition and determination he can bring.

The clean energy technologies we need to reverse climate disruption already exist. They’re affordable, competitive, and ready for primetime. Already, we’ve doubled our wind power to 60 gigawatts in less than four years — enough to power nearly 15 million homes. Plus, we generate five times more solar power than we did just a few years ago. Renewable energy can power America. And it can do it without climate-polluting gases.

Here’s how Obama can make that happen:

First, he must follow through and build on one of the biggest accomplishments of his first term: Holding polluters accountable for their costs to our health, economy, and climate. That means directing the Environmental Protection Agency to finish cleaning up power plant pollution.

Second, Obama needs to reject energy sources that would condemn future generations to the effects of runaway climate disruption. There’s no excuse for blasting the mountains of Appalachia for coal, drilling in our Arctic wilderness, building export terminals to ship coal and natural gas overseas, or continuing to allow under-regulated and environmentally devastating fracking for gas and oil.

Third, Obama needs to shift the debate about our public lands from “How can the mining and drilling industries best exploit them?” to “How can their true owners — the American people — most benefit from them?” We’ve allowed oil, coal, and other extractive industries to treat our public lands like their personal piggy banks. That has to stop.

Fourth, Obama must do all he can to help preserve the hard-won momentum from his first term for renewable energy and energy efficiency. He should start by promoting innovative financing and investment that makes it easier for individuals and businesses to install clean energy and adopt energy-efficiency measures.

Finally, we must recognize that the effects of climate disruption are already present in the form of droughts, deadly heat waves, wildfires, and powerful storms. We need to protect communities from these disasters as much as we can beforehand and plan a robust and just response when disaster does strike.

We need Obama to inspire a nationwide groundswell for clean energy, energy efficiency, and a 21st century economy. He must harness every iota of his political skill to forge bipartisan solutions to curbing carbon pollution, and to call out those who persist in trying to hold us back.

When he talks about the destructive power of a warming planet, no one has to wonder what that destruction looks like. We’ve seen it — from the hurricane-ravaged Northeast to the drought-stricken Midwest to the fire-scarred West. It’s all too real.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Michael Brune

Michael Brune is the executive director of The Sierra Club. His book Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal was published by Sierra Club Books in September 2008.

Fukushima residents to sue Japan govt.

Workers spray water to cool down the spent nuclear fuel in the fourth reactor building at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma, March 22, 2011.

Residents whose houses or farms have been hit by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant will file a class-action lawsuit against the Japanese government.

Japanese lawyers said on Friday that at least 350 residents were to file a case with Fukushima District Court on March 11, the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, to seek damages from the government.

On March 11, 2011, a nine-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that inflicted heavy damage on the six-reactor Fukushima plant. Cooling systems of the plant’s reactors were knocked out, leading to meltdowns and the release of radioactivity.

Japan’s entire nuclear reactors were gradually taken offline for two months for maintenance or safety checks after the tsunami.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs are also planning to sue the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and seek more than 500 dollars in compensation for every month that the residents have been displaced because of the disaster.

The lawyers also called the lawsuit as the largest class-action on the matter against the state with one of them saying that the Japanese government promoted “nuclear power as a national policy and has been closely involved with it.”

“Being fully aware of the danger of losing power due to a tsunami, the government neglected its duty of preventing such an event,” said Izutaro Managi, a Japanese lawyer.


In July 2012, a Japanese parliamentary panel found that the incident at the Fukushima nuclear plant had been a “man-made disaster” and not only due to the tsunami.

The report, which was released on July 5, also criticized “governments, regulatory authorities and Tokyo Electric Power” for lacking “a sense of responsibility to protect people’s lives and society.”

The 2011 incident at Fukushima “could and should have been foreseen and prevented” and its catastrophic effects “mitigated by a more effective human response,” the report said.

MR/HSN

Verbal Tics vs Political Routines: Distorting Concepts, Turning Realities Up Side Down

mind

A lot of what we say and do becomes habit-forming. Groundhog Day 2013 could serve as a reminder that some political habits should be kicked. Here are a few:

**  “Defense budget

No, it’s not a defense budget. It’s a military budget.

But countless people and organizations keep saying they want to cut “the defense budget” or reduce “defense spending.”

Anyone who wants to challenge the warfare state should dispense with this misnomer. We don’t object to “defense” — what we do oppose, vehemently, is military spending that has nothing to do with real defense and everything to do with killing people, enforcing geopolitical control and making vast profits for military contractors. And no, they’re not “defense contractors.”

President Eisenhower’s farewell address didn’t warn against a “defense-industrial complex.”

The fact that there’s something officially called the Department of Defense — formerly the Department of War, until 1947 — doesn’t make its huge budget a “defense budget,” any more than renaming the Bureau of Prisons “the Bureau of Love” would mean we should talk about wanting to cut the “love budget.”

**  “Pro-life”

Last week, midway through a heated debate on the PBS “NewsHour,” the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America said that some politicians get elected while hiding their extreme anti-abortion positions — but would be rejected at the ballot box “if they ran on their pro-life values.”

“Pro-life” values? Not a label that abortion-rights advocates should use for opponents of a woman’s right to choose an abortion. One of the main reasons those opponents keep calling themselves “pro-life” is they want to imply that supporters of abortion rights are anti-life. Why help?

**  “Globalization”

In many realms, globalization can be positive, even essential. For instance, wonderful results flow from globalizing solidarity among workers around the world. Likewise, the planetary spread of awareness and cooperation among people taking action to protect the environment, stop human-rights abuses and end war.

Corporate globalization is another matter. Its destructive effects are lashing every continent with voracious commercialization along with exploitive races to the bottom for cheap labor, extraction of raw materials, privatization, flattening of protective tariffs, overriding of national laws that protect workers and replacement of democratic possibilities with the rule of big money.

Putting “corporate” before “globalization” may seem cumbersome, but it’s worth another three syllables. There’s a world of difference between globalization for human cooperation and corporate globalization. Blurring it all together misses the chance to clarify the distinct possibilities.

**  “Moderates”

Fifty-five years ago, in his book “The Causes of World War Three,” sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote about what he called “crackpot realism” — policy nostrums widely touted by mass media outlets and other powerful institutions as wisely reasonable, yet actually disastrous.

In a similar groove, these days, we hear about how certain elected officials are “moderates.” And we might refer to them that way ourselves. But the grim results of crackpot moderation — climate change and environmental degradation, incessant warfare, more poverty, widening economic inequities, abuse of civil liberties and so much more — are all around us. So-called “moderates” fuel the infernos of catastrophe.

What’s moderate about the extreme injustices and destructiveness of the status quo?

**  Skimming the headlines

We all do it sometimes — glancing at headlines and scarcely reading the stories — one of the reasons why, all too often, what we think we know actually isn’t so.

Case in point: a headline at the top of the New York Times front page days ago, no doubt leaving many quick readers with the belief that President Obama is getting tough on Wall Street.

Well, that’s what the headline conveyed. “SIGNAL TO STREET IN OBAMA’S PICK FOR REGULATORS,” it began, followed by an elaboration in big type just below: “A Renewed Resolve to Hold Financial Firms Accountable.”

Mostly focusing on the appointment of Mary Jo White to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, the article offered a fleeting indication in its eighth paragraph that the “renewed resolve” might actually be wobbly. “While Ms. White is best known as an aggressive prosecutor,” the article noted, “she also built a lucrative legal practice defending Wall Street executives, a potential concern for consumer advocates.”

The basis for that potential concern, however, did not gain any further elucidation until the article’s twenty-sixth paragraph, which provided the other mention of why consumer advocates might be concerned: “Ms. White could face additional questions about her career, a revolving door in and out of government. In private practice, she defended some of Wall Street’s biggest names, including Kenneth D. Lewis, a former chief of Bank of America. As the head of litigation at Debevoise & Plimpton, she also represented JPMorgan Chase and the board of Morgan Stanley.”

So much for headlines.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

GMO Scandal: The Long Term Effects of Genetically Modified Food on Humans

GMO Scandal: The Long Term Effects of Genetically Modified Food on Humans

One of the great mysteries surrounding the spread of GMO plants around the world since the first commercial crops were released in the early 1990’s in the USA and Argentina has been the absence of independent scientific studies of possible long-term effects of a diet of GMO plants on humans or even rats. Now it has come to light the real reason. The GMO agribusiness companies like Monsanto, BASF, Pioneer, Syngenta and others prohibit independent research.

An editorial in the respected American scientific monthly magazine, Scientific American, August 2009 reveals the shocking and alarming reality behind the proliferation of GMO products throughout the food chain of the planet since 1994. There are no independent scientific studies published in any reputed scientific journal in the world for one simple reason. It is impossible to independently verify that GMO crops such as Monsanto Roundup Ready Soybeans or MON8110 GMO maize perform as the company claims, or that, as the company also claims, that they have no harmful side effects because the GMO companies forbid such tests!

That’s right. As a precondition to buy seeds, either to plant for crops or to use in research study, Monsanto and the gene giant companies must first sign an End User Agreement with the company. For the past decade, the period when the greatest proliferation of GMO seeds in agriculture has taken place, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta require anyone buying their GMO seeds to sign an agreement that explicitly forbids that the seeds be used for any independent research. Scientists are prohibited from testing a seed to explore under what conditions it flourishes or even fails. They cannot compare any characteristics of the GMO seed with any other GMO or non-GMO seeds from another company. Most alarming, they are prohibited from examining whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended side-effects either in the environment or in animals or humans.

original

The only research which is permitted to be published in reputable scientific peer-reviewed journals are studies which have been pre-approved by Monsanto and the other industry GMO firms.

The entire process by which GMO seeds have been approved in the United States, beginning with the proclamation by then President George H.W. Bush in 1992, on request of Monsanto, that no special Government tests of safety for GMO seeds would be conducted because they were deemed by the President to be “substantially equivalent” to non-GMO seeds, has been riddled with special interest corruption. Former attorneys for Monsanto were appointed responsible in EPA and FDA for rules governing GMO seeds as but one example and no Government tests of GMO seed safety to date have been carried out. All tests are provided to the US Government on GMO safety or performance by the companies themselves such as Monsanto. Little wonder that GMO sounds to positive and that Monsanto and others can falsely claim GMO is the “solution to world hunger.”

In the United States a group of twenty four leading university corn insect scientists have written to the US Government Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding the EPA  force a change to the company censorship practice. It is as if Chevrolet or Tata Motors or Fiat tried to censor comparative crash tests of their cars in Consumer Reports or a comparable consumer publication because they did not like the test results. Only this deals with the human and animal food chain. The scientists rightly argue to EPA that food safety and environment protection “depend on making plant products available to regular scientific scrutiny.” We should think twice before we eat that next box of American breakfast cereal if the corn used is GMO .


F. William Engdahl
is author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. He may be contacted via his website at www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.


Seeds of Destruction

The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation

by F. William Engdahl

Global Research, 2007 ISBN 978-0-937147-2-2

Seeds of Destruction

by F. William Engdahl

Buy Now!

This skillfully researched book focuses on how a small socio-political American elite seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival: the provision of our daily bread. “Control the food and you control the people.”

This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO.  Engdahl takes the reader inside the corridors of power, into the backrooms of the science labs, behind closed doors in the corporate boardrooms.

The author cogently reveals a diabolical World of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.

Engdahl’s carefully argued critique goes far beyond the familiar controversies surrounding the practice of genetic modification as a scientific technique. The book is an eye-opener, a must-read for all those committed to the causes of social justice and World peace.

What is so frightening about Engdahl’s vision of the world is that it is so real. Although our civilization has been built on humanistic ideals, in this new age of “free markets”, everything– science, commerce, agriculture and even seeds– have become weapons in the hands of a few global corporation barons and their political fellow travelers. To achieve world domination, they no longer rely on bayonet-wielding soldiers. All they need is to control food production. (Dr. Arpad Pusztai, biochemist, formerly of the Rowett Research Institute Institute, Scotland)

If you want to learn about the socio-political agenda –why biotech corporations insist on spreading GMO seeds around the World– you should read this carefully researched book. You will learn how these corporations want to achieve control over all mankind, and why we must resist… (Marijan Jost, Professor of Genetics, Krizevci, Croatia)

The book reads like a murder mystery of an incredible dimension, in which four giant Anglo-American agribusiness conglomerates have no hesitation to use GMO to gain control over our very means of subsistence… (Anton Moser, Professor of Biotechnology, Graz, Austria).

Order now: Seeds of Destruction: Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation
by F. William Engdahl

or click shopcart banner below

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Stop Twisting Truth: Scientific Bodies Should Put The Record Straight On GMOs

Global Research, Countercurrents, RINF

The Royal Society acts as a scientific advisor to the British government. The Society is Britain's Academy of Sciences, which funds research fellowships and scientific start-up companies. A self-governing fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine, its purpose is according to its website to "recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity."

The Society facilitates interaction and communication among scientists and disseminates scientific advances through its journals. It also engages beyond the research community, through independent policy work, the promotion of science information and communication with the public.

The Royal Society is a prestigious institution that feeds into policy formulation processes at national level.

US public interest attorney Steven Druker has written an open letter to The Royal Society calling on it to acknowledge and correct the misleading and exaggerated statements that is has used to actively promote GMOs and in effect convey false impressions. He cites specific instances where members of The Society have made false statements and where The Society’s actions were not objective or based on scientific reasoning but seemingly were little more than biased and stridently pro-GMO.

In his new book, ‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truths’, Druker has exposed the fraudulent practices and deceptions that led to the commercialisation of GM food and crops in the US as well as claims made by bodies like The Royal Society that have misrepresented the case for GMOs and which have effectively engaged in a campaign of disinformation (see here) . 

To coincide with the release of the book, he urges The Royal Society to confront the facts about GM foods and take time to take steps to set the record straight.

Druker states his book ‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’ has been praised for its soundness by several well credentialed reviewers, including five biologists (four of whom are molecular biologists). He asserts that, at minimum, this makes a prima facie case that it is a book of which The Society must take account. He states therefore that The Society cannot justifiably dismiss the book unless it can demonstrate that it is to a substantial degree factually or logically unsound.

If The Royal Society has not addressed pertinent issues by 20 April 2015, Druker claims that the world will have a right to assume that the book is as sound as the experts who reviewed it have affirmed – and that GM foods are therefore unacceptably risky and must be banned.

The text of the letter is provided below, courtesy of the Beyond GM website where the letter including references (which are not included below) can be found (a link to the pdf of the letter can be accessed here).

AN OPEN LETTER – AND A CHALLENGE TO THE ROYAL SOCIETY

From Steven M. Druker, JD Executive Director Alliance for Bio-Integrity

It’s Time to Confront the Facts about GM Foods, Acknowledge the Misleading Statements You Have Made in Your Effort to Promote Them, and Take Steps to Set the Record Straight -

Because clarifying the facts about GM foods is crucial for developing an intelligent, science-based policy on the future of agriculture, and because the Royal Society has significantly contributed to the confusion that currently surrounds this issue, it is imperative that remedial action be promptly initiated. This is especially so considering that:
  • The European Commission is about to approve substantial regulatory changes in regard to GM crops.
  •  The UK is seriously considering allowing them to be commercially planted.
  •  The Society and other proponents of GM foods have inculcated the widespread illusion that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that the safety of these products has been established through rigorous testing.The following paragraphs (a) describe some of the ways in which the Society has been complicit in generating this and other false notions and (b) set forth specific steps it must take in order to start repairing the damage it has done.
1. Although for most of its august history, the Royal Society refrained from taking sides on issues or from even expressing an official opinion on a topic,  by the mid-1990’s, it had become a partisan defender of genetically modified (GM) foods and embraced a proactive policy on their behalf. This proactive stance was acknowledged in the President's Address in The Royal Society Annual Review 1998-99, which declared that “We have contributed early and proactively to public debate about genetically modified plants.” One of these contributions was a 1998 report that called for the rapid introduction of GM foods.

2. However, in pursuing this proactive policy, several individuals holding prominent positions within the Society – and even the Society itself – have issued misleading statements in regard to GM foods that have created significant confusion and illegitimately downplayed their risks.

3. Such regrettable incidents have been noted by journalists and other commentators, and many are also documented in the new book I have written, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth.

4. For instance, during a BBC interview in 2000, the Royal Society’s President, Sir Robert May (who for five years had served as the government’s chief scientist), declared that genetic engineering is “vastly safer” and “vast, vastly more controlled” than conventional breeding.  But although those bold claims were imbued with an aura of scientific respectability, they were not backed by solid scientific evidence.

5. Further, while these claims may have reflected an opinion shared by many other scientists, they clearly did not represent a consensus within the scientific community. By then, numerous well-credentialed scientists had expressed opposite viewpoints, including the majority of the experts on the US Food and Drug Administration’s Biotechnology Task Force. And early the following year, an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada released an extensive report declaring that (a) it is “scientifically unjustifiable” to presume that GM foods are safe and (b) the “default presumption” for every GM food should be that the genetic alteration has induced unintended and potentially harmful side effects.

6. Accordingly, Dr. May’s unequivocal – and hyperbolic – claims imparted false impressions in the public mind, and it was irresponsible for someone in his position of authority to have issued them.

7. Not only did the Society’s President make assertions that were roundly refuted by the 2001 report of its Canadian counterpart, in 2002 the Society released its own report that failed to address the arguments of that preceding one – and essentially avoided even acknowledging them.

8. Moreover, that 2002 report illegitimately inflated the risks of conventional breeding. For instance, it alleged that such breeding methods could give rise to “unknown toxins, anti-nutrients or allergens.”   But because there’s no evidence this has ever happened, it had to prop its claim with a few inapt examples in which toxins that were already present became elevated, but in which not a single “unknown” toxin was produced. Further, not only did the authors employ these invalid examples to bolster their false assertion, they also used them to suggest that the risks of conventional foods are on a par with those produced through recombinant DNA technology, stating that this purported evidence “raises the question” of whether both sets of foods should be required to meet the same safety assessment criteria.

9. But the Society’s most deplorable actions in defense of GM foods were directed at the research on GM potatoes conducted at the Rowett Institute under the direction of Dr. Arpad Pusztai. That research study is still one of the most rigorous yet performed on a GM food, and it continues to be highly relevant because it controlled for the effects of the new foreign protein – which entails that the adverse results it registered were attributable to a broader feature of the genetic engineering process itself. A summary of some of the Society’s offenses against that research follows:

a. In 1999, The Guardian reported it had been informed that “an influential group within the Royal Society has set up what appears to be a ‘rebuttal unit’ to push a pro-biotech line and counter opposing scientists.”  Dr. Pusztai was one of the key scientists the group attempted to counter.

b. In February 1999, nineteen Royal Society fellows “attacked” Dr. Pusztai's work in an open letter.  But the research had not yet been published and the authors of the letter had not even seen all of the data.

c. The next month, the Society broke with its tradition of abstaining from acting as a peer-reviewing body and performed its first-ever review – on Pusztai’s research, even though it was still unpublished and the reviewers, like the authors of the open letter, had not seen the complete data package either. Nonetheless, they saw fit to strongly criticize the research in their report.

d. This highly irregular action prompted the editor of the respected journal The Lancet to publish an editorial rebuking the Society for its “gesture of breathtaking impertinence to the Rowett Institute scientists who should be judged only on the full and final publication of their work.”  He subsequently branded their action a “reckless decision” that abandoned “the principle of due process.”

e. The impertinence was aggravated by the fact that, according to Pusztai, none of the members of the review panel had expertise in nutritional studies, and therefore none was properly qualified to assess some important aspects of the research.  Consequently, several made comments about the quality of the research design that were erroneous. And one apparently failed to read even the abbreviated report in the panel’s possession, because every fact he or she recited about the study was wrong.

f. Having unfairly attacked the research, the Society then strove to prevent it from being published, an endeavor that was unsuccessful.

g. Moreover, after the research was published (in The Lancet in October 1999), the Society continued to unjustly malign it. For instance, in 2002 the Society’s Biological Secretary asserted in its journal, Science and Public Affairs, that the Lancet published Pusztai’s research “in the face of objections by its statistically-competent referees.”   But in reality, five out of the six referees voted for publication; so the assertion imparted the false impression that more than one objected – while also implying that no one with statistical competence voted for publication (which is almost surely false as well.)

THEREFORE, in light of the above facts, it is high time that the Society makes an earnest attempt to set the record straight and, to whatever extent possible, clear up the confusion it has caused. Consequently, I call on you to issue a formal statement acknowledging:

A. That there is not now nor never has been a consensus within the scientific community that GM foods are safe, that many well-credentialed experts do not regard their safety as having been established, and that a substantial number think that the research as a whole casts the safety of many of them in doubt.

B. That neither you nor any other scientific body has directly confronted and refuted the cautionary reasoning in the 2001 report issued by the Royal Society of Canada (which it has never retracted or revised) – and that this report stands as one of the compelling testaments that there is not a scientific consensus that GM foods are safe.

C. That the process of creating new varieties of food crops via genetic engineering is not more precise and predictable than conventional breeding in regard to food safety and instead entails a greater likelihood of unintended effects that could directly impact consumer health.

D. That although there are known instances in which genetic engineering has induced the production of a novel toxin or allergen, there are none in which conventional breeding has done so.

E. That Dr. Pusztai’s research was properly peer-reviewed and gained publication in The Lancet based on its merits, with five out of six referees voting in favor – and that, contrary to claims that the Society and other proponents of GM foods have advanced, the research has never been refuted or in any way discredited by subsequent studies – which entails that it is still relevant today.

F. Your statement should also contain a formal apology to Dr. Pusztai and his colleagues for the irresponsible manner in which the Society and several of its members have besmirched their reputations and derided the integrity of their research.

Unless you promptly take these steps, it will demonstrate that your commitment to promoting GM foods is stronger than your commitment to honoring the truth and upholding the integrity of science.

FURTHER, whether or not you own up to your irresponsible actions and take the steps specified above, I challenge you to read my book and specifically list any inaccurate statements of fact that you find in it, accompanied by an explanation of why the statement is erroneous and a reference to the evidence that corroborates your assertion.

To clarify, I am referring to simple assertions about concrete facts that can be conclusively verified or falsified, such as the erroneous statement in your journal indicating that more than one referee objected to the publication of Pusztai’s research. Further, although I do not expect you to agree with every conclusion I draw from the facts, especially those that make ethical judgments about the behavior of biotech promoters, you should note any instances of faulty logic, with an explanation of the flaw.

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth has been praised for its soundness by several well-credentialed reviewers, including five biologists (four of whom are molecular biologists). At minimum, this makes a prima facie case that it is a book of which you must take account; and you cannot justifiably dismiss it unless you can demonstrate that it is to a substantial degree factually or logically unsound.

If you have not done so by 20 April 2015, the world will have a right to assume that it is as sound as the experts who reviewed it have affirmed – and that GM foods are therefore unacceptably risky and must be banned.

Please note that I will readily acknowledge and correct any genuine errors you point out, and I assume that you will do the same regarding those of yours that I have specified.

The Deceptions And Falsehoods Of The GMO Lobby: Acquiesce Or Europe Will Become “Museum...

British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is a staunch supporter of the GMO sector. Despite mounting evidence pointing to the deleterious health, social, ecological and environmental impacts of GMOs, Paterson has a blind spot that lets him ignore reality and allows him to lend unconditional support to the biotech conglomerates, the very concerns that regard Europe as a massive potential cash cow from which their GM crops have till now mostly been barred or restricted.
Paterson recently told the Oxford Farming Conference that Europe is likely to become "the museum of world farming" because of its failure to embrace genetically modified crops. He went on to state that the longer Europe continues to close its doors to GM crops, the greater the risk that the rest of the world will bypass us altogether:
"Europe risks becoming the museum of world farming as innovative companies make decisions to invest and develop new technologies in other markets."
Paterson said there was "compelling evidence" that GM crops could benefit farmers, consumers, the environment and the economy.
Nearly 50 countries around the world have either banned GM crop production outright, or have put in place extremely tight restrictions on the production and use of GM products. However, EU member states will soon vote on whether to allow cultivation of a variety of maize that has been made insect-resistant through genetic engineering. If licensed, it would be the first GM food crop authorised for planting by the EU in 15 years.
Paterson said any decisions must be based on scientific evidence, in contrast to "politically motivated" delays and blocks to GM crops in the past.
He stated:
"I will continue to make the case for a regime that allows fair market access for products once they have passed Europe's rigorous, independent scientific assessment."

Paterson has previously indicated that he wants to relax British regulations on the cultivation of GM crops, and has said they have “environmental benefits”.

Owen Paterson has a track record of lending blind support to the GM sector with his factually incorrect statements. In 2013, he called concerns over the use of GM foods “complete nonsense” in an attack on public concerns about GMOs (1):

“I’m very clear it (GM) would be a good thing… The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods. There are real benefits, and what you’ve got to do is sell the real environmental benefits. Those benefits include a reduction in the use of pesticides because some GM crops are pest-resistant.”

Paterson also said that consumers were already unwittingly eating GM food on a regular basis, so concerns about human health are misplaced and based on “nonsense” and “humbug.”

In another 2013 speech, Paterson stated that “seven million children” had gone blind or died over the past 15 years because “every attempt” to introduce a GM-rice fortified with sight-saving vitamin A had “been thwarted.”

Owen Paterson vs the reality of GMOs and petro-chemical agriculture

Paterson talks emotive, simplistic sound-bite stuff about dead children that might play well to sections of a wider misinformed public. It conveniently overlooks broader, more complex issues related to global poverty, the international system of finance, the ‘structural adjustment’ of local systems of agriculture that have destroyed indigenous food production, world trade policies and the corporate hijack of much of global farming by the West for its agribusiness industry (2).

Paterson’s stance typifies how powerful interests (or their mouthpieces) distort reality when faced with a situation that curtails their interests and profits. It is in their view their opponents who are ideologically or politically motivated and who engage in emotive scare-mongering, while it is they, the immensely rich and politically well connected, who have humanity’s interests at heart and are driven by science and altruism.

If the likes of Paterson are all too dismissive of those anti-GM/anti-MNC “disgusting enemies of the poor,” “ignoramuses” and “scientific jokers” (eg, Professor Seralni in France and Pushpa Bhargava in India) who supposedly engage in “lies,”, “nonsense” and “deceit” to counter scientific facts and the “safe frontier technology” of GMOs (3), perhaps they might be inclined to pay more heed to millionaire MP Zac Goldsmith, who is a member of the Conservative Party to which Paterson also belongs.

Hardly a dyed in the wool, anti-MNC leftie, Goldsmith last year claimed that Paterson is a puppet of the biotech industry and does not understand the dangers genetically modified crops pose to the ecosystem.

Speaking to The Independent newspaper on 3 July 2013, Goldsmith declared:

"He's swallowed the industry line hook, line and sinker without talking to anyone with a different view. When designing policy that's a dangerous thing, and I'm concerned big business is framing the debate for the government… The story so far suggests that GM is predominantly about the industry getting greater control over the food chain, rather than alleviating poverty or environmental concerns." (4)

Paterson displays blatant disregard for the political hijack of food and agriculture and its regulatory bodies by powerful agribusiness and the consequent lax regulations governing its activities. His stance indicates he is probably part of that very problem. His claim about the reduced levels of pesticides is but one instance of his ignorance. This can be placed alongside his range of ignorance on the actual documented lack of agricultural benefits derived from GMOs and their deleterious health impacts (5,6,7,8,9).

His outbursts persist regardless of the destruction of indigenous, traditional patterns of agriculture whose productivity is often far better than any petro-chemical based and/or GMO-based ’green revolution’. If he wants to talk about “museums” then he may like to look at historical evidence pertaining to traditional farming in India and its much better levels of productivity compared with modern methods (9).

It is such a travesty that a senior politician, a ‘public servant’, seems content to become part of the problem by kowtowing to the massive well-documented GMO industry pressures and its global PR machine, which receives full and active support from the US State Department (10,11).  

And whether the public wanted them or not in the US, GM crops are prevalent there, despite there having been significant concern from scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to the FDA allowing GM products into the food chain. The concerns of the scientists were ignored, and by the time the public became aware, the GM products were firmly embedded into the US food production chain (12).

FDA scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored.

William F Engdahl has written on this and both he and the watchdog body Corporate European Observatory have raised serious concerns about deep-seated conflicts of interests within the European Food Safety Agency as well pertaining to the biotech sector and major food conglomerates (13,14).

As the GM food sector continues to push at India’s door, we should look to what the GM cotton sector has already ‘achieved’ there. The continued use of GM modified cotton has reduced yields, and the cotton bollworm has developed a resistance to the GM crops which contain the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin (15). This is resulting in an ever increasing barrage of profitable ‘innovations’ from the biotech sector. ‘Innovations’ and ‘R&D’ being trendy terms for attempting to keep on top of the damage being done to agriculture as each new 'frontier' product fails the farmer. More destined to fail technology replaces the older destined to fail products under the banner of ‘cutting edge’ developments (16).

The original ‘green revolution’ is now displaying its devastating long-term health and environmental impacts in Punjab (17). What price its potential ‘second coming’ in the form of GM food crops some years down the line? To answer that question, all we need to do is look elsewhere at the emerging outcomes referenced elsewhere in this article, not least five paragraphs further down through a recent article by Helen Paul on the impacts of GMOs in the Americas.    

Paterson’s claims that the use of GM crops reduce the use of pesticides do not hold up. Research by a WashingtonState University team found that the use of herbicides and insecticides has increased dramatically since GM crops were introduced in the US in 1996 (18). And researchers at the University of Arizona found that multi-toxin GM crops (which are the most technologically advanced crops in use) quickly lose their ability to fend off pests, which is likely to lead to a complete failure of the GMO (19).

Moreover, there has been no proper research or monitoring by the companies producing GM crops of the effects on humans consuming products made with GM crops. Scientists like Dr Arpad Pusztai in theUK and Professor Seralini in France, who have published findings critical of GM crops and food, suffered a wave attacks designed to undermine their work (or careers) by supporters of the technology.

Minister Patterson’s pro-GM attitudes come as little surprise, though. The cosy relationship between governments and the biotech companies is well known, especially in the US (20), where there has been legislation passed that allows biotech companies to be totally free of any legal ramifications if their products cause harm (21).

Perhaps Owen Paterson should take heed of mounting concerns about the terrible health impacts of glyphosate and how GMOs drive the sales of this weedkiller and the deleterious impacts of GMOs on plants and humans (22). He could also take note at the provincial government of Chaco province in Argentina issuance of a report on health statistics from the town La Leonesa, which 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 (23).

Or maybe he should read Helen Paul’s recent piece in The Ecologist (24). She discusses the unfolding social, health, environmental and ecological disasters of GM agriculture/petro-chemical agriculture on a country by country basis in the Americas and argues that a powerful message should be sent to the EU (and Paterson) that GMOs are not wanted there and that Europe should stop buying and importing the products of GM-driven genocide and ecocide in the Americas. She reveals how repression and displacement, often violent, of remaining rural populations, illness, falling local food production have all featured in this picture. Yet, she argues, we currently face a desperate, almost farcical push for GM crops in the UK and Europe, characterised by hyperbolic and inaccurate claims of which the frequent claims byPaterson no doubt typify.

Far from being a "museum of world farming" as Paterson, likes to claim, Europe could show the way to a rich and varied GM free, organic-based agriculture that provides nutritious, healthy food and jobs. At the same time, Paul argues, we should address the profound degradation of soils and accelerating biodiversity loss, caused to a great extent by the industrial model of agriculture to which genetically engineered crops belong.

Maybe politicians such as Owen Paterson are (unwittingly) content to be fodder for the wider political and economic that GMOs (and big dam, debt-inducing, dollar supporting, oil-dependent chemical agriculture) are tied to. It’s an agenda encompassing an integrated strategy that involves the (near) monopoly ownership and control and ultimate weaponisation of all water, seeds, food and food retail, land and energy, which in turn both fuels and is fuelled by militarism, conflict, debt and dependency (25,26,27,28). Across the planet, we see this agenda being played out via violent conflict, ‘free’ trade agreements (29,30) and the shaping of political agendas (31).


Notes

A Conversation with Vandana Shiva - Question 5 - Patenting Life

Censored! Science and Nonsense: Retracting Seralini’s Study

The biotech sector often yells for “peer review” when the anti-GMO movement refers to analyses or research-based findings to state its case. Despite Professor Seralini publishing his research findings (rats fed on GMOs) that were critical of the health impacts of GMOs in an internationally renowned peer-reviewed journal in 2012, his methodology and findings were nevertheless subjected to sustained attacks by the sector. Personal smears came his way too (1). Now he finds that his paper has been retracted by the journal.

Peer review or no peer review, it seems to matter little to the biotech sector when research findings have the potential to damage its interests. In any case, peer review is only for the sector’s critics. It doesn’t seem to apply much to it. For instance, in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored (2).  

Commercial interest, political strategy and lobbying, not science, is what really counts for this industry. Much of the research it uses to back up its claims is after all carried out by itself and is not fully open to outside scrutiny. Certain negative findings that would be detrimental to its interests are suppressed. According to Open Earth Source in a 2011 article in Huufington Post, this is certainly the case where glysophate (Round Up) has been concerned (3). It is therefore disconcerting that policy makers willingly accept the industry’s claims and facilitate its aims, not least in the UK.    


GeneWatch UK has revealed how Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, and BASF (all biotech companies) under the guise of the ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Council’ held a meeting in June 2012 with government ministers and academics to formulate a ‘strategy’ to promote GMO in schools, to ‘educate’ the public and to ‘improve’ the regulatory framework favouring GMOs, while encouraging farmers to change their farming methods to fully accommodate the GMO products the companies produce.


Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK said that this shows breath-taking arrogance by these companies which seem to think that British farming must be destroyed to suit their own commercial interest and British children should be brainwashed to support their business strategies. She argues that ministers should not be pushing the GM sector’s propaganda in British schools at taxpayers’ expense (4). It begs the question: where is the role for independent science (not corporate/industry-backed science) in all of this? The sector seems able to secure political patronage or co-opt key players to its cause as and when necessary.


And the reason for this is clear. Writer Rich Murray highlights on Rense.com how top people from the GM sector have moved with ease to take up many top positions with various US government bodies, such as the FDA (5). William F Engdahl has described a similar effect in Europe (6). In both cases, the revolving door between government and biotech sector ensures the latter’s interests are served.


Seralini’s research team based its experiment on the same protocol as a previous Monsanto study but, importantly, were testing more parameters more frequently. And the GMO-fed rats were studied for much longer. The long time span proved critical. The first tumours only appeared four to seven months into the study. In the industry’s earlier 90-day study on the same GMO maize Monsanto NK603, signs of toxicity were seen but were dismissed as “not biologically meaningful” by industry and the European Food Safety Agency. It seems they were indeed very biologically meaningful.


In his recent piece in The Ecologist, William F Engdahl argues Seralini’s research is valid and that biotech pressure has led to the journal’s decision to retract Seralini’s paper (7). Engdahl notes that the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, where Seralini’s paper appeared, has itself violated scientific standards by deciding to retract the paper.


It begs the questions: when does science become ‘non-science’ and when can a journal decide to reinvent criteria for publication and retraction? On the Independent Science News website (8), Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham note that in the run-up to the retraction, the journal’s publisher, Elsevier, announced that it had created a new position, that of 'Associate Editor for Biotechnology'. The person they hired to fill it was Richard E Goodman, a former Monsanto employee. Six months after Goodman took control of GMO issues at the Journal, Dr A Wallace Hayes, the editor of the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, retracted the study by the team of Professor Séralini, citing the ‘inconclusiveness’ of the research findings as the reason.


However, Claire Robinson on the GM Watch site (9) notes that inconclusiveness of findings is not a valid ground for retraction because numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings, which are often mixed in with findings that can be presented with more certainty. She rightly states that it is for future researchers to build on the findings and refine scientific understanding of any uncertainties.


There is something highly suspicious about all of this.


The public is having GMO food pushed on it with no say in the matter thanks to deceit and various forms of institutionalised corruption. Unfortunately, argument stemming from independent scientific findings is too often sidelined in favour of other means of influence. Recall how Dr Arpad Pusztai in the UK was effectively silenced over his research and a campaign was set in motion to destroy his reputation some years ago because his research findings were unpalatable to the biotech sector. Then there is the infamous WikiLeaks cable highlighting how GMOs were being forced into European nations by the US ambassador to France who plotted with other US officials to create a ‘retaliatory target list’ of anyone who tried to regulate GMOs.


In the meantime, evidence questioning the health impacts and efficacy or lack of agricultural benefits derived from GMOs mounts (10,11,12,13). But this is of little concern to the industry and its pressure tactics and global PR machine, which receives full and active support from the US State Department (14).


Is science to fall victim to outside pressures? Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham argue that unless radical reform is achieved, peer-reviewed publication, which many hold to be the defining characteristic of science, will have undergone a remarkable inversion. From its origin as a safeguard of quality and independence, it will have become a tool through which one vision, that of corporate science, came to assert ultimate control. They argue that Richard Goodman now has the opportunity to throw down the stairs only those papers marked “industry approved.”


It’s a valid point. As Don Huber, Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, has indicated, getting research findings published that do not coincide with the aims of key commercial interests can be difficult and comes with certain risks (15). With some hugely powerful players involved, many of whom have influence over journal content and have successfully infiltrated important government and official bodies, much of the science and the debate is being manipulated and hijacked by vested interests for commercial gain.


Notes





Plugging Make-Me-Skinny Pharmaceuticals

This article on the Motley Fool reads like a commercial for a Big Pharma drug – complete with a partial reading of the side effects. Oh wait – it is. I continue to think there’s a potential market for obesity drugs, but the drugmakers are going to have to convince doctors that the benefits justify [...]

MIND GAMES: Cyberspace and Psychiatric Drugs

At least 10 percent of all Americans over six-years-old are on antidepressants. That’s more than 35 million people, double the number from less than two decades ago. Meanwhile, anti-psychotics have eclipsed cholesterol treatments as the country’s fastest selling and most profitable drugs, even though half the prescriptions treat disorders for which they haven’t been proven effective. At least 5 million children and adolescents use them, in part because more kids are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

This raises some troubling alternatives: Are a growing number of people experiencing psychological troubles? Have we just become better at recognizing them? Or is some other dynamic at work?

One possibility is that the criteria for what constitutes a mental illness or disability may have expanded to the point that a vast number appear to have clinical problems. But there’s an even more insidious development: the drugs being used to treat many of the new diagnoses could cause long-term effects that persist after the original trouble has been resolved. That’s the case made by Robert Whitaker in his book, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America.

Speaking of long-term impacts on the brain, we’re also heading toward a world where humans are directly linked with computers that profoundly influence their perceptions and ideas. Despite many potential benefits, there is danger here as well. Rather than simply augmenting our memories by providing neutral information, the brain-computer connection may lead people into separate realities based on their assumptions and politics.

Brain-altering drugs and digital “indoctrination” – a potent combination. Together, they pose a potential threat not only to the stability of many individuals but of society itself. Seduced by the promise that our brains can be managed and enhanced without serious side-effects, we may be creating a future where psychological dysfunction becomes a post-modern plague and powerful forces use cyberspace to reshape “reality” in their private interest.

Do prescription drugs create new mental problems? And if so, how could it be happening? For Whitaker the answer lies in the effects of drugs on neurotransmitters, a process he calls negative feedback. When a drug blocks neurotransmitters or increases the level of serotonin, for instance, neurons initially attempt to counteract the effects. When the drug is used over a long period, however, it can produce “substantial and long-lasting alterations in neural function,” claims Steven Hyman, former director of the National Institutes of Mental Health. The brain begins to function differently. Its ability to compensate starts to fail and side effects created by the drug emerge.

What comes next? More drugs and, along with them, new side effects, an evolving chemical mixture often accompanied by a revised diagnosis. According to Marcia Angell, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, it can go this way: use of an antidepressant leads to mania, which leads to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which leads to the prescription of mood stabilizers. Through such a process people can end up taking several drugs daily for many years.

What may happen after that is deeply troubling. Researcher Nancy Andreasen claims the brain begins to shrink, an effect she links directly to dosage and duration. “The prefrontal cortex doesn’t get the input it needs and is being shut down by drugs,” she explained in The New York Times. “That reduces the psychotic symptoms.” But the pre-frontal cortex gradually atrophies.

Anyone who has been on the psychiatric drug roller coaster understands some of the ride’s risks and how hard it can be to get off. But the new implication is that we may be experiencing a medically-induced outbreak of brain dysfunction caused by the exploding use of drugs. One big unanswered question at the moment: What does Big Pharma really know, and when did they learn it?

Drug companies are not the only ones experimenting with our brains. Bold research is also being pursued to create brain-computer interfaces that can help people overcome problems like memory loss. According to writer Michael Chorost, author of World Wide Mind and interface enthusiast who benefited from ear implants after going deaf, we may soon be directly connected to the Internet through neural implants. It sounds convenient and liberating. Ask yourself a question and, presto, there’s the answer. Google co-founder Larry Page can imagine a not-too-distant future in which you simply think about something and “your cell phone whispers the answer in your ear.”

Beyond the fact that this could become irritating, there’s an unspoken assumption that the information received is basically unbiased, like consulting an excellent encyclopedia or a great library catalog. This is where the trouble starts. As Sue Halperin noted in a New York Review of Books essay, “Mind Control and the Internet,” Search engines like Google use an algorithm to show us what’s important. But even without the manipulation of marketing companies and consultants who influence some listings, each search is increasingly shaped to fit the profile of the person asking. If you think that we both get the same results from the same inquiry, guess again.

What really happens is that you get results assembled just for you. Information is prioritized in a way that reinforces one’s previous choices, influenced by suggested assumptions and preferences. As Eli Pariser argues in The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, environmental activists and energy executives get very different listings when they inquire about climate science. It looks and feels “objective” but they’re being fed data that fits with their existing view – and probably not seeing much that conflicts.

A study discussed in Sociological Quarterly looked at this development by following attitudes about climate science over a decade. Here’s a strange but significant finding: Although a consensus emerged among most scientists over the years, the number of Republicans who accepted their conclusion dropped. Why? Because the Republicans were getting different information than the Democrats and others who embraced the basic premise. In other words, their viewpoint was being reflected back at them.

Does this sound dangerous? Pariser thinks so, and suggests that the type of reinforcement made common by search engines is leading to inadvertent self-indoctrination. For democracy to function effectively, people need exposure to various viewpoints, “but instead we’re more and more enclosed in our own bubbles,” he writes. Rather than agreeing on a set of shared facts we’re being led deeper into our different worlds.

Whether this is a problem depends somewhat on your expectations. For some people it is merely a bump in the road, a faltering step in the inevitable evolution of human consciousness. Techno-shamen and other cosmic optimists see the potential of drug-induced enlightenment and an Internet-assisted “hive mind,” and believe that the long-term outcome will be less violence, more trust, and a better world. But others have doubts, questioning whether we’ll really end up with technological liberation and a psychic leap forward. It could go quite differently, they worry. We could instead see millions of brain-addled casualties and even deeper social polarization.

How will current trends influence democracy and basic human relations? Increased trust and participation don’t immediately come to mind. Rather, the result could be more suspicion, denial and paranoia, as if we don’t have enough. In fact, even the recent upsurge in anger and resentment may be drug and Internet-assisted, creating fertile ground for opportunists and demagogues.

In False Alarm: The truth about the epidemic of fear, New York internist Marc Siegel noted that when the amygdala — the Brain’s central station for processing emotions – detects a threatening situation, it pours out stress hormones. If the stress persists too long, however, it can malfunction, overwhelm the hippocampus (center of the "thinking" brain), and be difficult to turn off. In the long term, this "fear biology" can wear people down, inducing paralysis or making them susceptible to diseases and delusions that they might otherwise resist. Addressing this problem with drugs that change the brain’s neural functioning isn’t apt to help. Either will the Internet’s tendency to provide information that reinforces whatever one already thinks.

More than half a century ago, Aldous Huxley – who knew a bit about drugs – issued a dire prediction. He didn’t see the Internet coming, but other than that his vision remains relevant. “There will be within the next generation or so a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude,” he wrote in Brave New World, “and producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda, brainwashing or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods."

Pretty grim, but there’s no going back. Despite any dangers posed by computer algorithms and anti-psychotic drugs, they are with us for the foreseeable future. Still, what we’ve learned about them in recent years could help us to reduce the negatives. Not every illness listed in the DMS – that constantly growing, Big Pharma-influenced psychiatric bible – requires drug treatment. And the results of your online searches will very likely tell you what you want to know, but that does not mean you’re getting a “balanced” or comprehensive picture.

(Originally published on 6/15/11, based on a radio broadcast)

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

September 2013 Report

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

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

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

The condition of Cancer patients in Iran

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

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

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

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

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

Cancer in Iran damages the patient in some respects:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The condition of Asthma patients in Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The condition of M. S. patients in Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The condition of Dystonia and Parkinson’s patients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iranian drug manufacturers’ issues:

The main concerns of the Iranian manufacturing companies are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drug Classification

Drug(Generic/Brand)

Failed calls

Contrast media

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

Visipaque

1760

Iodixanol

180

Omnipaque

1077

Ultravist

955

Iopromide

105

Scanlux

235

Iohexol

106

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

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

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

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

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls

Hemophilia, vonwillebrand’s disease, diabetesbinsipidus

Minirin

179

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Propaganda And Puppets: The GM Sector And The Battle For The Future Of Humanity

Global Research and Countercurrents 9/7/2013

Last year, the then British Agriculture Minister Jim Paice told the Cereals 2012 conference that the public is softening its views towards GM crops (1). He said more work needed to be done to communicate the ‘full facts’ about GM crops. He stated:
“GM is not the panacea and it isn’t going to produce all the food on its own, but it has a role to play as long as it is applied safely and all the tests on its application are properly carried out… But yes… I do believe that the famous tanker is beginning to turn.”

Reality check for Jim Paice: the public is not ‘softening’ its views, no matter how hard the GM sector tries to soften us up. Moreover, just whose version of the ‘full facts’ are we to be subjected to? Those of the GM sector?

As if Paice’s words were not worrying enough, even more alarming were the comments last year from the British Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson. He called concerns over the use of GM foods “complete nonsense” in an attack on public concerns about GMOs (2):

“Emphatically we should be looking at GM … I’m very clear it would be a good thing… The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods. There are real benefits, and what you’ve got to do is sell the real environmental benefits. Those benefits include a reduction in the use of pesticides because some GM crops are pest-resistant.”

Paterson also said that consumers were already unwittingly eating GM food on a regular basis, so concerns about human health are misplaced:

“There’s about 160 million hectares of GM being grown around the world. There isn’t a single piece of meat being served [in a typicalLondon restaurant] where a bullock hasn’t eaten some GM feed. So it’s a complete nonsense. But, the humbug! You know, large amounts of GM products are used across Europe.”

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth, or more aptly, from a minister acting as a front for the pro-GM lobby – GM food is safe simply because people do not know they are eating it, have no say in eating it and have not dropped dead from eating it. Perhaps Patterson would like to consult the mounting research that contradicts his assertions pertaining to the health impacts.


Such playground logic may wash well in certain quarters, but should we expect such inanity from a senior politician? You do not have to necessarily be a dyed in the wool sceptic to conclude that Paterson’s knowledge of the issues is limited at best and that his words have all the subtlety of a glossy pro-GM brochure.


In a June 2013 speech, Paterson was still peddling the same line and stated that “seven million children” had gone blind or died over the past 15 years because “every attempt” to introduce a GM rice fortified with sight-saving vitamin A had “been thwarted.” Very emotive and simplistic stuff, which conveniently overlooks wider more complex issues related to food poverty.


Surprisingly, however, one of the most damning indictments of Paterson’s recent speech came not from expected anti-GM sources, but from millionaire MP Zac Goldsmith, who is a member of the Conservative Party to which Paterson also belongs. Goldsmith accused his fellow party member of making "nonsensical" claims about the benefits of GM technology, claiming that Paterson is a puppet of the industry and does not understand the dangers genetically modified crops pose to the ecosystem.


Speaking to The Independent newspaper on 3 July, Mr Goldsmith said:


"Any half-way decent GM enthusiast with a scientific background would have blushed during much of the speech Owen Paterson made. You have to wonder about the government's gung-ho attitude to GM… It undermines his credibility on this issue and makes the government look very silly… I think he's falling into a trap over GM and I don't think he understands the issue. He's swallowed the industry line hook, line and sinker without talking to anyone with a different view. When designing policy that's a dangerous thing, and I'm concerned big business is framing the debate for the government… The story so far suggests that GM is predominantly about the industry getting greater control over the food chain, rather than alleviating poverty or environmental concerns." (3)


Is Paterson unaware of the issues related to the hijack of food and agriculture by powerful agribusiness, the lax regulations concerning its activities and the seed patenting and monopolies and resultant difficulties faced by farmers in places like India (4,5)?


Is he also unaware of the documented health risks or the actual efficacy or lack of agricultural benefits derived from GMOs (6,7,8,9,10)?


Or is he content to become part of the problem by kowtowing to the massive well-documented GMO industry pressures and its global PR machine, which receives full and active support from the US State Department (11,12)?  


Based on the overwhelming evidence, it is Paterson who is talking complete nonsense. In response to Patterson, Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said:

“GM crops are not cheaper, they use more pesticides in America not less, and they haven’t increased yields – so Mr Paterson has got most of his facts wrong. He talks about embracing new technology, but there are better ways of breeding crops now that do produce bigger yields, are resistant to drought and salinity. They are helping produce high yields in Africa right now. The minister’s obsession with GM really is backward-looking.” (13)

Melchett also says:

“Owen Patterson is wrong to claim that GM crops are good for the environment.  The UK Government’s own farm scale experiment showed that overall the GM crops were worse for British wildlife. US Government figures show that overall pesticide use has increased since GM crops have been grown there because, as scientists opposed to GM predicted, superweeds and resistant insects have multiplied. The recent British Science Association survey showed public concern has not changed, and the number of people saying that GM food should be encouraged dropped from 46 per cent in 2002 to 27 per cent in 2012. Owen Patterson says that people are eating meat from animals fed of GM feed without realising it. That is because the British Government has consistently opposed moves to label to give consumers accurate information, and he should put that right by immediately introducing compulsory labelling of meat and milk from animals fed on GM feed.” (2)

Friends of the Earth's senior food and farming campaigner Clare Oxborrow has said:

“Owen Paterson’s claims that we need GM crops simply don’t stack up. The industrial farming system, which GM aggravates, has been instrumental in causing the global food crisis we currently face. A fresh approach to agriculture is urgently needed to serve up sustainable diets globally, including reduced meat-consumption in wealthy nations and an end to food crops being used for biofuels.” (14)

Eight European countries have banned the production of GM crops: Poland, Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, and Bulgaria. In nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and most of the countries in Europehave either banned GM crop production outright, or have put in place extremely tight restrictions on the production and use of GM products.

Even though GM crops are prevalent in the US, there was significant concern from scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to the FDA allowing GM products into the food chain. The concerns of the scientists were ignored, and by the time the public became aware, the GM products were firmly embedded into the US food production chain (15).

FDA scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored.

In India, continued use of GM modified cotton has reduced yields, and the cotton bollworm has developed a resistance to the GM crops which contain the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin (16).

The claims that the use of GM crops reduce the use of pesticides do not hold up in either. Research by a Washington State University team found that the use of herbicides and insecticides has increased dramatically since GM crops were introduced in the US in 1996 (17).

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that multi-toxin GM crops (which are the most technologically advanced crops in use) quickly lose their ability to fend off pests, which is likely to lead to a complete failure of the GMO (18).

Moreover, there has been no proper research or monitoring by the companies producing GM crops of the effects on humans consuming products made with GM crops. Scientists like Professor Seralini in France who have published studies critical of GM crops and food have suffered a wave of designed to undermine their work by supporters of the technology.

Minister Patterson’s pro-GM attitudes come as little surprise, though. The cosy relationship between governments and the biotech companies is well known, especially in the US (19), where there has been legislation passed that allows biotech companies to be totally free of any legal ramifications if their products cause harm (20).

In the UK, Genewatch UK has revealed how Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, and BASF (all biotech companies) under the guise of the ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Council’ held a meeting in June 2012 with government ministers and academics to formulate a ‘strategy’ to promote GMO in schools, to ‘educate’ the public and to ‘improve’ the regulatory framework favouring GMOs, while encouraging farmers to change their farming methods to fully accommodate the GMO products the companies produce.

Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK said:

“This dodgy deal shows breath-taking arrogance by Monsanto and its friends, who seem to think that British farming must be destroyed to suit their own commercial interest and British children should be brainwashed to support their business strategies. It is shocking that the Government has done a secret deal to promote GM in Britain and abroad when US farmers are struggling to tackle superweeds and superpests caused by growing GM crops. Ministers should not prop up this failing industry by pushing Monsanto’s propaganda in British schools at taxpayers’ expense.” (21)

Despite recent euphoric claims by some quarters that Monsanto has been placed on the back foot, this is far from the truth. The biotech sector continues to try to hijack legislation for its own gain, as evidenced by the 2013 Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India bill 2013 (22), and is determined to continue to push its global agenda (23).

Maybe politicians such as Owen Paterson are content to be willing servants for the wider military-industrial complex agenda that GMOs (and big dam, oil-dependent chemical agriculture) are tied to. And that agenda encompasses an integrated strategy that involves the (near) monopoly ownership and control of all water, seeds, food and food retail, land and energy, which in turn both fuels and is fuelled by conflict, debt and dependency (24,25,26,27). From Syria and Pakistan, to Egypt, India and Europe, we see this agenda being played out via conflict or war, trade agreements (28) and the molding of political agendas (29).

For the big corporations and the families and individuals behind them, profit and 'full spectrum global dominance' of resources, nations and people is the ultimate aim.

 Notes


Ouput vs. Employment: America’s Disappearing Jobs

jobs

After his State of the Union, President Obama took a jobs tour to call for growth in the manufacturing base where only 6% of US jobs exist.  This was a charade.  It would be like a president touring horse, buggy and blacksmiths in search of jobs when Henry Ford was mass producing cars. 

Real manufacturing output today is near an all-time high. What’s dropped precipitously in recent decades is manufacturing employment.

The technology of automation and robotics is ending manufacturing jobs. The president was on a quest for jobs where none exist, will not exist and should not exist. The US with 4% of the world’s population is responsible for 20% of manufacturing output. More manufacturing is not coming to the United States. – See more at: http://www.globalresearch.ca/ouput-vs-employment-americas-disappearing-jobs/5324614#sthash.WuAZAUmP.dpuf

See also: http://www.bea.gov/iTable/index_industry.cfm and http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/MANEMP

Too Big to Make Money?

Both the president and Mitt Romney embraced the tar sands and pipelines as job sources, but they bring a false promise with devastating consequences for the environment and economy.  It will take only 20 people to run the notorious Keystone XL pipeline once it is completed and estimates vary widely as to how many temporary jobs it will create from 2,500 to 20,000. That is not many jobs. The project is bad for the economy; it will increase the likelihood of climate change, continues to rely on the old carbon market that is cutting jobs and misses an opportunity to build a new sustainable energy economy that will create jobs.

Other policies inadvertently create lousy jobs and underemployment.  The Affordable Care Act is having that effect as employers seek to evade the health insurance requirements by reducing workers hours primarily in retail, food and university sectors. If the US had adopted a single payer Medicare for all system, a 2009 study found it would have created a net 2.2 million jobs.

As we have noted previously, austerity will destroy jobs and send the economy into recession. The most recent study on the sequester shows up to 2.14 million jobs at risk. And, with two-thirds of the Progressive Caucus refusing to sign a letter to protect Social Security and Medicare from cuts, a “Grand Bargain” solution to the sequester could make things even worse. This all comes on top of a rapid decline in government spending that is preventing economic recovery.

The lack of concern for US workers can be found in a report this week that 40% of Americans now earn less than the 1968 minimum wage. If the minimum wage had kept up with productivity, it would be $16.50 not $7.25. In fact, half the population of the US has slipped into poverty or is barely making enough to get by.

While Americans sink into poverty and underemployment with shrinking incomes, the government continues to reward big business interests.  Bloomberg editors last week criticized the fact that taxpayers provide banks with subsidies amounting to $83 billion each year.

David Cay Johnston, a top tax and finance policy expert, reports that tax havens for the wealthy cost states $38 billion annually.  Another tax haven sham involving billions of dollars highlighted last week is reinsurance in Bermuda. Send your money to the reinsurnance company and it sends almost all of it back, cleansing the money of tax consequences.

So, what should the US be doing about disappearing jobs?

John Walsh suggests that Americans should be mobilizing for a shorter work week with no cut in pay. He urges “32 hours work for 40 hours pay. For a work force of 139 million as in 2010, that translates into 34.8 million additional jobs, i.e., 25% more jobs.”

Not only should there be no reduction in income, but the minimum wage should be raised.  This would boost the economy and create jobs.

Clean energy advocates urge building a sustainable clean energy economy noting that the solar industry creates jobs six times faster than the overall job market and a clean energy economy could create millions of jobs without the environmental risks of tar sands, fracking or nuclear energy.

As we point out above, a single payer Medicare for all health system would create 2.6 million jobs, netting 2.2 million after the insurance industry lost jobs.

And, getting money back into the system by closing corporate tax loopholes, like some of the tax havens described here as well as putting a small tax on Wall Street’s speculative transactions, would raise  $1 trillion per year as is being done in Europe. This money could be used to fund much needed programs such as building a new energy infrastructure, hiring teachers and other state and local workers while at the same time reducing the wealth divide.

This review of the week’s news contains just a few suggestions consistent with the agenda of It’s Our Economy. Think of the side effects: more leisure time, less poverty, a cleaner environment, health care for all, a shrinking wealth divide and less speculation on Wall Street.  As we have noted before creating jobs has many positive side effects, yet neither party has put forward a serious jobs program or mentions a full employment economy.

That’s why it is up to us to democratize the economy and push for real solutions to our crises. The first step is awareness of the possibilities. Please forward this email to others who might be interested. And visit the website for information about the upcoming Participatory Budgeting and Public Banking Conferences. Mark your calendars for the Democracy Convention Aug. 7 to 11 in Madison, WI.

This article is based on the weekly free newsletter of It’s Our Economy. You can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

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

23 Policies That Would Make It Easier To Save The World

It's been said that the wealthy win because they can always hire half the poor to shoot the other half. Rarely is there a sadder case of this than when it comes to trying to protect the planet that feeds us, clothes us, and generates the only pocket of breathable atmosphere in our solar system.

Baby Weddell seal, by Samuel BlancBecause look, say you're a committed environmentalist, your beloved spouse has treatable cancer, and the only way to save his or her life is to take a job clubbing the last baby seal on the beach. That seal is toast. And so is anything or anyone else that stands between your partner and their chemo.

Don't think the greedy jerks who own everything don't know it; they downright count on it to get their way.

Driving down wages, increasing animosity among the lower classes by scapegoating various segments of also-poor people, decreasing the health and safety of working conditions -- these aren't unfortunate side effects of our current economic incentive structures. They are the point, fueling a vicious cycle where more profits flow to the top while workers are too desperate to do anything about it. The effect, as it was recently said, is this:

The great problem we have today in improving our society, in fixing our economy, is that so many people don't want to give up what they have. . . . [W]hat the past 40 years have proven is this: if you lose your job, you're on your own. If you're in your 40s and 50s and you lose a good job, you'll probably never, ever, have a good job ever again. . . .

People know, they know and they are right, that economic change, in our society, could cost them everything. Their job and any prospect of a good job. Their house. Their marriage. Their health care and even their life.

So they grasp tightly to what they have, and everyone fights to make sure that nothing really changes. Each person, with their little or big piece of the pie, fights viciously to keep it whether it's good for society or not. They are right to do so.

The biggest enemy of our environment, therefore, is mass desperation wielded like a billy club in the hands of the extremely wealthy. The following are some ideas on how to both disarm them and take the next steps towards creating a more awesome society to live in.

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1. Increase the minimum wage. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is lower than it was in the 1970s. It's not a family wage, even though it's all some families can get. Yet the whole time it's been declining, productivity and profits have gone up, but a fair share of the increase hasn't been passed on to workers. Raising the minimum wage would put upward pressure on the share of business profits that go to workers, making life less precarious for millions of people.

2. Shorten the work week and increase paid time off. It's hard to have an engaged citizenry when work demands so much of people's time that they can barely unwind, let alone follow the news. A full-time work week barely leaves time to be a good parent, a good friend, or even a good housekeeper; forget hitting the mark on all three. The idea that a 40 hour work week, plus the 10-20 hours of preparation and commute time involved, is a reasonable base amount of time to demand of someone is premised on the social expectations of a bygone era where a full-time worker had a full-time caregiver at home. Lowering the full-time work week to even 35 hours would not only create more job openings, it would likely boost per hour productivity, as it has done in some European nations.

3. Cut higher education and worker retraining costs to students. In the era of the GI Bill, not only was it free for returning veterans to go to college, it was affordable for almost anyone who could spring a part-time summer job. But federal funding cuts have piled on top of state funding cuts, and tuition is now ridiculous at most public colleges. It's patently ridiculous to saddle new college graduates with a mortgage-worth of debt when they graduate and set out on their own. Particularly when the value of a college education has decreased for so many, but is nonetheless necessary because it's barely possible anymore to find family-wage blue collar employment. And when people lose their jobs, they should be able to retrain, if possible, if they can't find work in their original field.

4. Restore federal funding for university research programs. Research departments have had to increasingly rely on industry funding, a type of ballyhooed public-private partnership, which has reduced the independence and objectivity of the nation's research institutions to everyone's detriment. There are many cases, but you have to look no further than the way the fossil fuel industry has corrupted university research on fracking, such that very little information at all is available about the risks of hydraulic fracturing recovery of natural gas, and the public must mainly rely on anecdotes and independent filmmakers to hear anything negative about its consequences.

5. Expand unemployment insurance. Want workers not to fear the loss of outdated, polluting industries? Make sure they know they won't be out on the street if they have to look for work for a while, and that they don't have to take the first crappy job that comes their way. It would go a long way towards preventing rank-and-file workers from fighting to the death to defend industries that are long past their sell-by date.

6. Break up the big banks. The financial sector has grown significantly in terms of their share of GDP and has been the biggest accelerant of income inequality in the country. Add to that the longstanding investment policies of these very large banks to either refuse loan capital to, or downgrade the ratings of, businesses who refuse to move production overseas, bust unions, liquidate pensions or drive down wages, and they have overweening power to make life miserable for the average worker. They can no longer be trusted in any respect to be good stewards of the capital they've extracted from the rest of us and their power must be dismantled.

7. Financial transaction tax. Rapid-fire speculation, computerized trading, reckless short-term investing, all add to financial insecurity and promote a casino atmosphere in stock exchanges. It doesn't create a good economy for the average person, though, and these tax-free transactions privilege investors over every other sector of society that has to pay taxes when money changes hands. And there's no one it's more fair to ask to pony up for the public good than the people who've been busily dismantling democracy all these years.

8. Tax capital gains as income. Since capital gains are taxed at very low rates, the wealthy have been incentivized to collect more and more of their household income as some form of investment payout, and disincentivized to reinvest in the productive economy. It's just another way to encourage the wealthy to uselessly hoard cash and is grossly unjust. Tax it fairly and spend it on building a better world.

9. Crack down on overseas tax evasion. With feeling, the wealthy must stop unproductively hoarding cash and starving the public of the funds to run a civil society. This must become unacceptable in every country.

10. Move your money. While large, unaccountable international financial institutions have an incentive to starve their native economies and follow the global race to the bottom wherever it may lead, they're not the only banks. The prosperity of independent credit unions and community banks is much more directly tied to the prosperity of their local economies and the well-being of their customers. These institutions can't afford to recklessly gamble with their financial reserves and are among the most responsible actors in the financial sector. If you can take your business to one of them, please do.

11. Uncap Social Security taxes. If FICA taxes were collected on all income, not just that below the inflation-adjusted, currently ~$110,000 threshold, it would make the program solvent for the foreseeable future. Taking Social Security's solvency off the table for the next few decades would remove a significant wedge issue used by the financial elite to distract the public by leaving us terrified that we're going to wind up homeless when we're too old to work anymore.

12. Lower the retirement age. Increases in the retirement age in the last few years have been a significant cause in the higher rates of disability claims. I mean, duh. When people get older, we tend to get sicker and less able to work. You don't need a PhD to know it. And recent life expectancy gains have mostly gone to the wealthy, not the sort of folks who'd be lucky to find a diner or a paper route to work at when they're 67. Our current national retirement programs have decreased elder poverty by ridiculous amounts. We should look at ways to decrease it further.

13. Open Medicare to everyone. Small businesses would on better footing when competing for talent if they didn't have to worry about covering insurance, and would-be entrepreneurs wouldn't have to be afraid to strike out on their own. Medicare's program costs would go down because of the large influx of healthier people and there'd be a much larger constituency for improving the quality of coverage. Baby seal; saved.

14. End crop exclusions. Currently, if a farmer wants to participate in the federal farm subsidy program, which comes with a host of benefits such as ready access to crop insurance and disaster aid, they can only grow what are known as program commodity crops. A program crop is one of a set number of cereal grains (wheat, corn, etc.), oilseeds (like canola) and legumes (usually soy.) A requirement for participation is that no other type of crop be grown on the land, no fruit, vegetables, etc. This severely limits the ability of farmers to use beneficial intercropping and crop rotation techniques. It would bar a farmer from using, for example, the venerable Native Central and North American Three Sisters intercrop, of corn, beans and squash, because squash isn't a program crop. This restricts farmers' freedom to try new techniques, pursue emerging market opportunities and diversify their businesses. And don't get me started on what a disaster it is for soil carbon sequestration.

15. Break up slaughterhouse consolidation. The biggest obstacle to getting rid of CAFOs is that the slaughterhouse industry has been consolidated under the ownership of the meat packing and distribution industry, with independent slaughterhouses closed down and small, on-farm operations mostly regulated out of existence at the behest of industry lobbyists. In a given geographic area, there's often only one slaughterhouse within a reasonable distance, and you can't use it unless you're contracted with the packer who owns it, for a price they can arbitrarily set and change at whim. There is no other single factor more responsible for the fact that animal production is dangerously concentrated on relatively small, virulently unhealthy feedlots, and why it rarely makes economic sense to farm animals any other way. It's also hard to emphasize enough what an incredible disaster this has been for small livestock producers, who've gone out of business in droves, driving up unemployment in rural communities. In addition to making farming a more economically stable enterprise, reversing livestock consolidation shifts animal waste from being an expensive environmental toxin and back towards being a useful, cost-saving soil supplement.

16. Immigration reform. When you have a large, very desperate population of workers who are afraid to go to the police if they're abused or witness a crime, report wage theft, or organize for safer workplaces, it drags down wages, community safety and working standards for everyone. Give immigrant workers a pathway to citizenship and the security to bargain for better working conditions, it raises the bar for everyone, instead.

17. Marriage equality. It's a joke in liberal circles when fundamentalist preachers blame natural disasters on the gays and other hapless scapegoats, but for a lot of desperate people looking for comfort and perhaps not knowing anyone who's out, it redirects their anger away from the rich jerks who are really fleecing them. Functionally, it's a use of religion to preserve the economic power structure. If marriage equality is a reality everywhere though, everyone will eventually get over it and we can do more productive things with our time than argue about who we let in the clubhouse.

18. Gender equality. When women do better, families do better, children are healthier and intimate violence starts trending downwards. The public health and workforce productivity benefits are immense. Women who are in control of their reproductive options, which is to say that they have access and means to prevent pregnancy or freely choose to carry to term and care for a child, make good decisions about how large a family they can reasonably support. But when they're expected to provide vast amounts of free labor, when they're scapegoated for all of society's ills, and when their sociopolitical capital is tied to some impossible standard of virtue, they too often end up in desperate circumstances. A necessitous woman is not a free woman. A society that can put women's considerable talents towards solving more interesting problems than surviving on the raggedy edge, that's a society that can solve a lot more problems.

19. Paid family leave. There need to be government supports for new parents of both genders to take time off work for the birth or adoption of a new child, or for the acute care of sick family members. It's inherently unfair for women to do all of this type of work at significant economic penalty, or to throw up barriers to men who want to be more involved with their families but feel that they have no choice but to put their shoulder to the grindstone at work. The strain on a family's time and resources that result from having no paid leave to care for the very young or the unwell leaves many people in dire straits, and contributes to the birth of a child being a leading cause of a fall into poverty.

20. Expand public sector employment. There are jobs that need to be done that will never be profitable if done well, but that society needs done and can well afford. Teaching young children is a prime example, as the direct recipients of the service have no purchasing power and society as a whole is poorer if children are only taught on the premise that their parents can afford to pay for it. Having a literate workforce is a pearl beyond price, as it were. There are many more cases to be made for expansive public safety and sanitation services, for public transportation, roads and infrastructure maintenance. A society that provides these services is more attractive to commerce, has more good paying public sector jobs, and inherently reduces desperation.

21. Incentivize local production of everything. I don't know the precise policy mechanism that would be best, but one way or another, cheap, long-distance transportation is going to become more scarce and it's already imposing significant costs in terms of environmental devastation. Further, the trend for ever fewer businesses to consolidate supply chains across the globe starves many local economies of employment opportunities, and many individuals of work they'd find meaningful and enjoyable. It might be more 'inefficient' in terms of consolidation of profit, but the consolidation of profit is a big problem in its own right, as discussed.

22. Make it easier to form a union. If it was as easy to call an election for a union as getting a majority of employees to sign a card saying they wanted one, unionization rates would go way up. This would drive up the share of profits that go to workers, boost workplace safety, decrease economic gender and ethnic discrimination, and generally push working conditions upwards for everyone as non-unions workplaces had to compete for workers with more desirable places of employment.

23. Protect the right to vote. A great deal of progress has been made in terms of dismantling the formal structures of white privilege in America and conferring the full benefits of citizenship on communities of color. We're by no means there yet, but current efforts to restrict voting rights and make our electoral system even less representative of a one-person, one-vote ideal, have the potential to significantly delay progress by putting in power reactionaries who'll continue acting to divide working families against each other and further the desperation of historically disadvantaged populations. And people struggling to have their basic rights, dignity and humanity recognized are often a bit hard pressed to lend a hand to save the oceans. Further, the politicians working to preserve as much racial inequality as possible are usually the same politicians working hardest to burn the world to a cinder for cash. Save democracy, save the planet, I say.

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Humanity has been mired for so long in fighting over whether or not there's enough to eat that we almost didn't notice that we'd finally achieved a world in which there's enough for everyone … and we're catching up with the plot of the story just in time to watch that world get wrecked before we can figure out how to share amongst ourselves a little better. But it doesn't have to get wrecked.

Even better, we're wealthy enough that if we'd stop trying to starve each other, we could move on to more interesting questions, like, why can't we mine the asteroids? How healthy *could* everyone be? Would it be possible to achieve a 95 percent global literacy rate? When can we get fusion power? Can we halt species extinction? Where's my goddam flying car? You know, fun stuff. We have the technology, we just need the will.

I should admit that I'm not actually aiming to save the world. I'm hoping we can make it awesome. But I'm pretty sure than can only happen if we also commit to saving each other.

Image credit: Samuel Blanc

South America Goes Critical: Now Chavez Devalues Currency: “This May Well Be the Lighting...

While Europe’s fiscal woes seem to be on everyone’s financial radar recently, and rightfully so, there is instability everywhere.

This is a global economic crisis and it’s affecting hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

Earlier this week Argentine President Cristina Kirchner responded to her country’s sky-rocketing inflation rates by freezing prices on food, a move Forbes magazine says will soon lead to widespread corruption in the business community and government.

In Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez has attempted to control all aspects of his country’s economy, price freezes instituted on essential goods like diapers and cleaning products over a year ago failed to curb soaring inflation which registered at over 22% last year. In response, with their quiver out of arrows, the Venezuelan government announced today that they are devaluing their national currency, the Bolivar, by over a third. The announcement had the immediate impact of increasing the price for a US dollar in Bolivar by nearly 50%.

By boosting the bolivar value of Venezuela’s dollar-denominated oil sales, the change is expected to help ease a difficult budget outlook for the government, which has turned increasingly to borrowing to meet its spending obligations.

But analysts said the move would not be sufficient to end the government’s budget woes or balance the exchange rate with an overvalued currency. Economists predicted higher inflation and a likely continuation of shortages of some staple foods, such as cornmeal, chicken and sugar.

Venezuela’s government has had strict currency exchange controls since 2003 and maintains a fixed, government-set exchange rate. Under the controls, people and businesses must apply to a government currency agency to receive dollars at the official rate to import goods, pay for travel or cover other obligations.

While those controls have restricted the amounts of dollars available at the official rate, an illegal black market has flourished and the value of the bolivar has recently been eroding. In black market street trading, dollars have recently been selling for more than four times the official exchange rate of 4.30 bolivars to the dollar.

Officials said the fixed exchange rate is changing from 4.30 bolivars to the dollar to 6.30 bolivars to the dollar.

Source: USA Today

The free market cannot be controlled in the way politicians and central bankers would like you to believe. Any action to restrict access will lead to an opposite reaction that often involves black markets and panic buying.

Case in point: Americans bought a gun every 1.5 seconds in the last year. Why do you think that is?

Chavez, like the brilliant politicians, economists and financial wizards at the helm of U.S. recovery efforts, has tried to control his economy through central governance for ten years. It has failed on all counts. Inflation has continued unabated. Price controls have led to black markets in everything from goods to currencies. Despite promises to the contrary, people continue to suffer without respite.

But the implications for Venezuela’s latest move could be even more serious than just internal Venezuelan shortages.

Perhaps the Black Swan event that no one saw coming just happened.

One of our insightful readers, Just One Guy, explains:

This is a REALLY big devaluation.

The implications here are really not GOOD.

Venezuela is a smidgen on the map, but as a major OPEC nation, it will have – in short order – BIG implications in the global oil price, say 60 days… no more until the effect hits. In the meanwhile the Venezuelan government will enforce price controls internally while trying to skim the differential off it’s oil sales into the government’s coffers.

The net effect of this will be a stall in the consumer goods imports since the peoples wages will NOT increase…

A very short clock is now ticking since this will ripple through ALL of South America in VERY short order…

This may well be the lighting of the proverbial fuse… everywhere.

Further ‘Nationalizations’ will begin happening and will spread rapidly throughout the continent… as that happens Europe’s life-blood will trickle to a halt.

Our investors will be affected too, but Europe’s sole profitable business’s are overseas…many in South America.

So it begins…

Argentina and Venezuela, two of the region’s largest commodity exporters, just went critical. It will spread. As we noted previously, nationalization efforts were already under way before this week’s developments.

And, in Chile, businesses are already feeling the impact of Argentina’s price freeze:

The Chilean companies Falabella, Sodimac, and Cencosud complying with the freeze do millions of dollars of business in the country.

Some critics of Kirchner’s economic policy say the freeze could lead to food shortages in Argentina and even black market sales of products.

“Price freezes mean no profits for sellers or even losses. Who will import food under these conditions?” said Paul Gregory, an economics professor at the University of Houston.

The freeze is bad for Argentina and bad for Chile, he added.

Source: Santiago Times

Similar side effects will be felt by anyone who does business in Venezuela.

The interdependence of global monetary, financial and economic systems cannot be underestimated in this context.

With Europe in shambles, Chinese growth collapsing, South America in panic, and the US now in recession, the potential for a catalyst that will set off another financial meltdown and full-blown economic collapse has increased exponentially.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong here.

One thing you can be sure of is, just as the people of Venezuela had no forewarning about the devaluation of their currency, we won’t be told until it’s already too late.

Prepare and plan now, or pay the price later.

ECB Preview – Scope For Disappointment?

Thursday’s ECB meeting is important in the context of recent market moves and statements regarding the level of the euro. Citi notes that the rise in short-dated vol indicates considerable investor focus on the meeting. Expectations have been building that ECB President Draghi may offer a more cautious tone to ‘talk down’ the moves seen in the short-term rates and FX. In light of President Hollande’s advocation of an exchange rate policy aimed at ‘safeguarding competitiveness’, Draghi will likely face further questioning on FX. However, Citi does not believe that he will reverse his position and explicitly talk the currency down. Goldman also notes that while 'Taylor-Rule' users might infer a 30-50bps lowering of rates (thanks to growth, FX, and inflation) the improvement in 'fiscal risk premium' balances that dovishness leaving Draghi likely on hold. However, he is unlikely to stand 'idly by' without some comment on the ensuing currency wars.

Short-term, the LTRO repayment (and Fed QE4EVA) leaves EURUSD biased upwards on balance sheet basis...as the ratio of Fed/ECB balance sheets has now round-tripped to the start of LTRO2

though medium-term perhaps EURUSD is discounting the Fed's expansion and ECB stability...

but EURUSD has a bearish bias based on spread differentials...

 
Via Citi,

In the January press conference, Draghi stated that "[he] never comments on exchange rates". While the EUR NEER has appreciated significantly in January, the current levels are not ‘excessive’ when compared to historical averages. The proximity to "historical averages" is something which Draghi highlighted in the January press conference. Furthermore, Hollande’s comments met opposition from German Government Spokesperson Steffan Seibert who suggested "exchange-rate policies shouldn’t be an instrument to strengthen competitiveness,’’ and viewed the euro’s rise as an indication that “confidence is returning to the euro area”. We expect Draghi to largely echo these thoughts, while stressing that the exchange rate is merely an input variable into their monetary analysis.

As our economists have written, Draghi may adopt a more dovish tone to convince market participants that monetary conditions will remain loose, but we view any specific ‘talking down’ of the EUR as unlikely. Based on the check-list of indicators from the ECB’s January press conference (CDS prices, stock market indices, realised volatility, capital inflows, Target 2 imbalances, confidence indices, current account balances), market developments are likely to be viewed as broadly positive by the ECB more than offsetting any negative impact from EUR strength. Therefore, given expectations of a dovish statement, we think risk-reward favours some short-term upside as expectations that Draghi will talk down the euro are re-priced. Over the medium term we hold a bearish EURUSD view, largely as a function of relative growth prospects versus the US but believe expectations for ECB action are slightly overdone.

There are two other important events that will likely grab Draghi's attention:

LTRO impact

Another important area of focus will be Draghi’s views on the impact of the first LTRO repayment. If he suggests that large initial repayment in January is a positive sign indicating stabilization, market expectations of the amount to be paid back from LTRO2 are likely to increase, which will support the EUR. Alternatively he may caution banks about returning cash too early, since the design of the operations was to provide cheap funds in case they are needed at some point in the future and the ECB will be keen to avoid another LTRO unless absolutely necessary. A reduction in market expectations of the amount of LTRO2 borrowing to be paid back will weigh on the EUR.

Spanish auction

Another major risk event sees Spain returning to the bond market for the first time since negative headlines over Mariano Rajoy emerged last weekend. Widening periphery spreads to Germany were a driver of euro weakness on Monday and the close relationship should hold once more today. The treasury will auction €3.5-4.5bn of the SPGB Mar ’15, SPGB Jan ’18 and SPGB Jan ’29.

Via Goldman Sachs,

So how is the ECB likely to react to the recent exchange rate appreciation? Since the December ECB Governing Council meeting, the Euro has appreciated by about 3.5% on a real trade-weighted basis. Our ‘real time’ Taylor rule implies that a 3.5% appreciation would lead to a 15bp-20bp lower ECB policy rate. Combining this effect with that implied indirectly via the impact on growth and inflation, our results imply lowering policy rates by between 30bp and 50bp, depending on how much of the recent Euro appreciation reflects exogenous factors. On our current forecasts, we expect the Euro trade-weighted index to appreciate by a further 1.5% over the next quarter (with the EUR / USD cross reaching 1.40). Accounting for this further appreciation, the total downward impact on ECB rates, according to our ‘real time’ Taylor rule estimates and subject to the degree of exogenous factors driving the exchange rate appreciation, is between 45bp and 75bp.

However, we cannot hold all other determinants of the policy rate constant in this exercise. In particular, the fiscal risk premium has also moved sharply since December. And our empirical results suggest that we need to control for this effect if we are to rely on our estimated direct impact of the exchange rate on rates. Our ‘real time’ Taylor rule estimates imply that the 250bp decline in the fiscal risk premium would equate to a rise in ECB rates of around 80bp-90bp. Thus, the decline in fiscal risk would more than counter the effect of recent Euro exchange rate appreciation on ECB rates.

Hence, on our ‘real time’ Taylor rule estimates, we think the Euro exchange rate appreciation has not been sufficient to warrant a cut by the ECB, so far. Even if the Euro were to appreciate further to our forecast level of EUR / USD at 1.40, our results suggest rates would be on hold.

For all the recent talk of ‘currency wars’ and the vulnerability of the Euro area economy should the ECB ‘stand idly by’ while the other advanced economies engage in competitive devaluation, our empirical work suggests that we are still some way from an ECB policy rate cut driven by concerns about Euro appreciation.

...

This has the potential to be a mixed blessing:

  • On the one hand, it has been widely argued that, while competitive devaluations are self-defeating (since it is a logical impossibility for all countries to depreciate simultaneously), the implied monetary easing in each jurisdiction – and thereby in the world as a whole – is ultimately what is required to reflate the global economy. Via the pressure exerted by Euro appreciation, even a more independent and conservative central bank like the ECB will eventually be compelled to make a contribution in this direction.
  • On the other hand, by undermining international economic cooperation, competitive devaluations threaten to weaken the global economic system and institutions. Protectionist pressures may re-emerge. Capital controls and financial repression may re-segment global financial markets. Having benefited over the past two decades from the favorable supply-side effects of globalization, such setbacks would threaten global growth.

Source: Citi and Goldman Sachs

Your rating: None

UK Deficit To Be £64bn Above Osborne’s 2015 Target

The UK will borrow £64bn more than expected by 2015 despite Chancellor George Osborne's repeated attempts to control the country's deficit, a report warned today.

As a result, spending on services like the police, defence, transport and justice could be cut by a third by 2017/18 under current Government spending plans, .

The plans suggest 1.2 million job losses in the public sector by that date, 300,000 more than predicted by the Government's official forecasters, according to the Green Budget published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The respected economic think-tank said Chancellor George Osborne's failure to hit deficit reduction targets means tax rises or "substantial" additional cuts in welfare benefits are likely after the 2015 general election to avoid "hard to contemplate" cuts in Whitehall budgets.

The fiscal position may force the Chancellor to raid pensioner benefits, the NHS, schools or overseas aid, hitherto protected from cuts, said the report.

"Over the last 30 years, tax rises announced in the year after a general election have averaged £7.5 billion," said the IFS.

"Considering this trend, and in the context of the current fiscal situation, further tax rises following the next election would not be surprising."

With the public finances failing to come into balance as quickly as Osborne had hoped, IFS director Paul Johnson questioned whether the Chancellor can continue to shield the NHS, schools and overseas aid from cuts.

The Government has said it will continue to protect these three areas from cuts in the spending review for 2015/16, now being negotiated.

But Johnson said extending the protection further would mean spending on other departments - like the Home Office, Defence and Environment - falling by a third by 2017/18.

If the budget for defence equipment was protected, as Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested, that figure would rise to 35%.

Whitehall departments have so far relied heavily on job losses to meet the Chancellor's austerity demands, and if they continued to do so at the same rate, 1.2 million public sector jobs could go by 2017/18, compared with the 900,000 forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, said the IFS.

Johnson said: "As economic performance and forecasts have worsened, the Chancellor has followed a dual strategy. He is allowing borrowing to increase substantially in this Parliament - allowing the automatic stabilisers to work - whilst promising another dramatic dose of public spending cuts in the next Parliament.

"The effects of concentrating all those cuts on currently unprotected areas of public service spending look hard to contemplate. A more likely scenario perhaps is that other choices will be made after the next election.

"Taxes could rise, hitherto protected elements of public spending, like the NHS and pensions, could be hit, or the date at which we reach fiscal balance will be pushed further out."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The IFS is right. If the Government does not change course then there could be well over a million job losses in the public sector and savage cuts to vital services.

"This is the direct consequence of austerity policies that have shrunk the economy and cut living standards for millions.

"Even policies designed to boost investment are failing; now we learn that the Bank of England's lending boost has failed to help business and instead gone to mortgages.

"The Chancellor needs a budget for growth, jobs and families. His medicine is failing to cure the patient, and has toxic side effects. As the IMF now recognises, it's time for a new approach."

Forced Contraception of Jewish Ethopian Women Is Tip of Global Iceberg

The hands of an Ethiopian Jewish woman during 'Sigd' prayers in Jerusalem. A report has revealed 'Ethiopian women have been given injections of Depo-Provera without sufficient understanding of the purpose or side effects of the drug'. (Photograph: Dan Balilty/AP)Should gynaecologists need to be told not to give women contraceptive injections without establishing fully informed consent? Of course not. But that is what has happened in Israel after it was revealed in a report by a women's rights organisation that Ethiopian women have been given injections of Depo-Provera without sufficient understanding of the purpose or side effects of the drug. Some Ethiopian women in transit camps were refused entry to the country if they refused the injection, and others wrongly believed they were being inoculated against disease. While Israeli demographers discuss the need to "preserve a clear and undisputed Jewish majority among Israel's total population", it may seem anomalous that women in the Jewish Ethiopian population are forced or coerced into using this highly effective contraceptive method.

However, the conclusions of the report, written by Hedva Eyal, are that the injections given to Ethiopian women are "a method of reducing the number of births in a community that is black and mostly poor".

Many people may be unaware that the Israeli case is merely the tip of a global iceberg of human rights abuses in the field of reproductive health. Forced sterilisation of people with learning disabilities and people of minority ethnic groups was documented across Europe and the US in the 20th century. Under the state of emergency in India between 1975 and 1977, thousands of men and millions of women were bribed, coerced and sometimes forced to undergo sterilisation. As recently as 1996 in Peru, a demographic policy led to a sevenfold increase in sterilisations in just two years, effected through widespread violations of women's rights. A provider explained: "Many [providers] did not inform women that they were going to be sterilised – they told them the procedure was something else. But I felt this was wrong. I preferred to offer women a bag of rice to convince them to accept the procedure and explained to them beforehand what was going to happen."

And on into the 21st century. What litany of coercive practice would be complete without reference to China's one-child policy, the violent implementation of which was highlighted in two particularly horrific cases last year? From Uzbekistan also come reports that doctors working to quotas have been sterilising women without their consent during caesareans. Likewise in 2010, HIV-positive South African women reported being sterilised while undergoing caesareans, abortions or shortly after childbirth without their knowledge. Others were made to consent under duress: "She [the nurse] snatched something that I wanted, you know? She made up a choice. She made up a choice for me." These are just the abuses that spring to mind – many more are being reported around the world.

The flipside of these is the concerted attempt by reactionary groups to deny women access to reproductive and contraceptive healthcare altogether. Right now Republican politicians in the US are fighting for the right of employers to refuse women contraceptive cover in their health insurance, and clogging up state legislatures around the country with bills aimed at eradicating abortion services. It has taken 15 years to pass a reproductive health bill in the Philippines that will allow poor women access to affordable contraception for the first time: the Catholic church fought it every step of the way and began its campaign to overturn the bill minutes after it was passed. Meanwhile 47,000 women a year die from complications of unsafe abortion in countries where abortion is legally restricted, or where services are inadequate to meet their needs. In Latin America, women and doctors are imprisoned for having or providing abortions, and women such as Savita Halappanavar are dying unnecessarily because of laws that prevent the termination of pregnancies that are life-threatening – even when they are not viable.

These cases are all connected – whatever the detail, wherever they are happening. They are all indicative of a fundamental disregard for women's lives. Forcing women to bear children, or preventing them from doing so, denying them life-saving treatment during pregnancy, or carrying out medical interventions without establishing informed consent, these all threaten women's safety, dignity and bodily integrity. They are serious violations of women's reproductive and human rights and must not be supported or countenanced by governments or doctors any more.

Israeli health official addresses claims of forced contraceptions for Ethiopians

Reuters / Jacquelyn Martin / Pool

Reuters / Jacquelyn Martin / Pool

Israel's health ministry has admitted to injecting Ethiopian Jewish women on their way to Israel with a birth control drug. It follows increasing publicity to the claim that it was administered without patient consent in a population control bid.

­The official acknowledgement came on Sunday with the publication of a letter written by Ron Gamzu, the director general of the Israeli Health Ministry, in response to comments made by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). The letter, published in Haaretz, ordered several organizations treating Ethiopian immigrants to immediately cease administering Depo-Provera injections to them.

The Israeli government had previously denied that it was administering the contraceptive drugs in a deliberate attempt to cut the birth rate among poor black immigrants.

Gamzu's letter stated that gynecologists currently treating Ethiopian women at Health Ministry-associated clinics should not renew prescriptions for the drug if there was a possibility that the patient did not understand “the ramifications of the treatment,” and to procure translators from now on if needed.

In a letter to Gamzu, ACRI had accused Israeli authorities of “a paternalistic, haughty and racist attitude” that limits the freedom of Ethiopian immigrants to choose their birth control method.

The ministry's response did not indicate whether there were explicit policy guidelines or clarify how long government-funded health facilities have been administering the drug to the Ethiopian women, or to how many.

Medical staff made Ethiopian women take the contraceptive at Israeli-linked transit centers in their home country that prepare them for immigration to Israel, according to last month’s report by Israel Educational Television. Officials at such centers allegedly threatened to deny an unspecified number of applicants entry into Israel if they refused to be injected.      

The issue was first raised almost five years ago, when investigative journalist Gal Gabbay interviewed 35 Ethiopian women who had immigrated to Israel, in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically. The birth rate among Ethiopian Jews in Israel has declined by 50 per cent over the past ten years.

The television investigation broadcast testimony where immigrants claimed that they had been forced to receive the injection while waiting in transit camps in Ethiopia.

Medical staff"told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to,” one of these women is quoted as saying in the interview.

Depo-Provera is thought to be a highly effective and long-lasting contraceptive, and is to be injected every three months. The drug’s side effects include menstrual irregularities, abdominal pain, weight changes, headaches, depression, hair loss, nervousness and skin blemishes. 

About 100,000 Ethiopians have moved to Israel since the 1980s, but many Israelis doubt the authenticity of their Jewishness. Ethiopian immigrants often complain of discrimination in jobs, education and other areas.

Chemicals banned in Europe still make their way into US foods

Have you ever tasted a soft drink so good you thought it should be illegal? In some parts of the world, ingredients used in beverages available across the United States are outlawed — but not because they’re dangerously delicious.

Drinks including Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Powerade and Squirt are all commonly available at restaurants and convenience stores across the US. If you’re overseas and thirsty for one of many products made by PepsiCo, Cocoa-Cola or the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, you might get something entirely different. Brominated vegetable oil, an ingredient used by those manufacturers in an array of beverages, is banned in locales like Europe and Japan.

The New York Times reports that around 10 percent of drinks sold in the US contain brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, but elsewhere things are a bit different. Beverages overseas are stripped of the chemical, used usually to help distribute flavor, with foreign health officials citing some serious medical concerns as the reason for the ban.

Sarah Kavanagh, a teenager from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, only became aware of BVOs recently while examining a bottle of Gatorade. A quick Web search had her rethinking what she drinks, though.

“I knew it probably wasn’t from an animal because it had vegetable in the name, but I still wanted to know what it was, so I Googled it,” she tells the Times. “A page popped up with a long list of possible side effects, including neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones. I didn’t expect that.”

Most Americans are in the same boat, but the substance is still completely legal in the US.

“BVO is banned other places in the world, so these companies already have a replacement for it,” Kavanagh tells the Times. “I don’t see why they don’t just make the switch.” According to the paper, companies say the switch would simply cost all too much.

After becoming aware of the compound, she started a campaign on Change.org to help raise awareness of BVO. Since that petition was launched in November, she has collected over 205,000 signatures from others urging a federal ban on BVOs.

"I was shocked that they'd put their consumers at risk like that and that the FDA would allow something like that to be put in products," she tells the Chicago Tribune.

The US Food and Drug Administration maintains that all foods sold legally in the US are safe for human consumption. In a statement to the Tribune, in fact, the FDA says the US food supply is “the safest in the world” and that the agency’s foremost promise is to “protect public health by ensuring that foods are safe and properly labeled.” Even if American labels advertise the use of BVOs, though, that doesn’t do much to dismiss the concerns that have caused bans of the chemical internationally.

Brominated vegetable oil isn’t addictive and it hasn’t been proven to be fatal just yet. According to some studies, rodents subjected to the substance developed reproductive and behavioral problems.

"The FDA has been extremely lenient in evaluating food additives and it's almost impossible to get the FDA to ban an additive once they have approved it," Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest adds to the Tribune. "It's just not as public health oriented as it should be."

“I just don't think they're doing enough to protect the public's health with regard to food additives,” he says.

That one additive, BVO, certainly doesn’t seem safe to Kavanagh. On her Change.org petition, she notes that one of the elements of BVO, bromine, is used most often to make products flame retardant. It’s also been included in gasoline additives and pesticides, and was originally used as a general sedative until only a few decades ago. Scientific Americans says BVO “links to impaired neurological development, reduced fertility, early onset of puberty and altered thyroid hormones.”

“I’m not a scientist, but if there are lots of suspicious things about putting a flame retardant chemical in Gatorade (most flavors don’t even use it!) then why would Gatorade want to put it in a product designed for people like me who are into sports and health?” Kavanagh asks on Change.org.

The petition, which needs fewer than 95,000 more signatures before it is complete, will be sent to Gatorade, PepsiCo and other American beverage companies. “Please stop deceiving consumers and remove this chemical from your products,” the petition insists.

Treat Depression … Naturally. Little-Known Secrets to Boosting Mood

mind

Little-Known Secrets to Boosting Mood …

If you’re depressed, you might consider asking your doctor to prescribe anti-depressants.

But as best-selling author Christiane Northrup, MD, notes:

In 2008, we learned that the benefits of antidepressants had been greatly overstated. Former FDA psychiatrist Erick H. Turner, M.D. uncovered some startling information about Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. In reviewing all the medical literature, he learned that 94 percent of the reports showing the therapeutic benefits of SSRIs were published compared to only 14 percent of the reports showing either no benefits or inconclusive results (of taking SSRIs were published). When he weighed all the literature, Dr. Turner determined that SSRIs were no more effective than a placebo for treating most depressive patients. Those with severe depression were helped, sometimes greatly, but those with mild to moderate depression, the majority of cases, received little relief. British researchers using the Freedom of Information Act uncovered identical findings.

In January 2010, another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirms these findings. The newest study also evaluated another class of antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants. Again, researchers determined that the typical patient, one with mild to moderate depression, gets the same amount of relief from a placebo as from an antidepressant.  The first author of the study, Jay C. Fournier, MA, told Medscape, “I think the most surprising part of the findings was how severe depression has to be in order to see this clinically meaningful difference emerge between medication and placebo, and that the majority of depressed patients presenting for treatment do not fall into that very severe category.”

The New York Times reported that the co-author of the study, Robert J. DeRubeis, shared this important insight: “The message for patients with mild to moderate depression is ‘Look, medications are always an option, but there’s little evidence that they add to other efforts to shake depression–whether it’s exercise, seeing the doctor, reading about the disorder or going for psychotherapy.’”

(In addition, modern SSRI anti-depressants have been shown to increase violent and suicidal behavior in a certain percent of the population.)

So what can those with depressive tendencies do?

Secret of Human Evolution

Getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet is also crucial in preventing depression. As Science Daily notes:

Researchers from Inserm and INRA and their collaborators in Spain collaboration, have studied mice fed on a diet low in omega-3 fatty acid. They discovered that reduced levels of omega-3 had deleterious consequences on synaptic functions and emotional behaviours.

Details of this work are available in the online version of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

***

The researchers studied mice fed a life-long diet imbalanced in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They found that omega-3 deficiency disturbed neuronal communication specifically ….This neuronal dysfunction was accompanied by depressive behaviours among the malnourished mice.

***

Consequently, the researchers discovered that among mice subjected to an omega-3 deficient dietary regime, synaptic plasticity … is disturbed in at least two structures involved with reward, motivation and emotional regulation: the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens.

***

“Our results can now corroborate clinical and epidemiological studies which have revealed associations between an omega-3/omega-6 imbalance and mood disorders,” explain Olivier Manzoni and Sophie Layé. “To determine if the omega-3 deficiency is responsible for these neuropsychiatric disorders additional studies are, of course, required.”

In conclusion, the authors estimate that their results provide the first biological components of an explanation for the observed correlation between omega-3 poor diets, which are very widespread in the industrialized world, and mood disorders such as depression.

Dr. Northrup writes:

One of the best ways to support health brain chemistry is by taking fish oil. Fish oil has been shown time an again to relieve mild to moderate depression. The omega-3 fatty acids are essential to brain health and, according to Capt. Joe Hibbeln, M.D., these important fats support the serotonin system, may help reduce stress and lower your risk of all kinds of mental illness. Dr. Hibbeln, Chief of Outpatient Services for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), is one of the world’s leading researchers on omega-3 fats. His findings have been compelling and encouraging.

***

Also encouraging is the largest ever clinical trial presenting in 2009 showing that fish oil may benefit half of all people with moderate to severe depression.

How could something as obscure as Omega 3s be so critical in preventing depression?

We’ve previously explained that humans evolved to eat a lot of Omega 3s:

Wild game animals have much higher levels of essential Omega 3 fatty acids than domesticated animals. Indeed, leading nutritionists say that humans evolved to consume a lot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more), and that a low Omega 3 diet is a very new trend within the last 100 years or so.

In other words, while omega 3s have just now been discovered by modern science, we evolved to get a lot of omega 3s … and if we just eat a modern, fast food diet without getting enough omega 3s, it can cause all sorts of health problems.

So something just discovered by science can be a central fuel which our bodies evolved to use.

Here’s further detail focusing on beef:

For all of human history – until the last couple of decades – people ate beef from cows (or buffalo or bison) which grazed on grass. The cows were usually strong and healthy. Their meat was lean, with very little saturated fat, as the critters ate well and got outdoor exercise. Their meat was high in good Omega 3 fats. See this and this, and humans evolved to consume a lot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more).

Today, on the other hand, beef is laden with saturated fat and almost entirely lacking healthy fats like Omega 3s, because the cows are force-fed food which makes them sick. Specifically, instead of their natural menu – grass – they are force-fed corn, which makes them sick. Because their diet makes them ill, they are given massive amounts of antibiotics.  Even with the antibiotics, the diet and living conditions would kill them pretty quickly if they aren’t slaughtered.

Science Daily explains:

In industrialized nations, diets have been impoverished in essential fatty acids since the beginning of the 20th century. The dietary ratio between omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid omega-3 increased continuously over the course of the 20th century. These fatty acids are “essential” lipids because the body cannot synthesize them from new. They must therefore be provided through food and their dietary balance is essential to maintain optimal brain functions.

So insufficient Omega 3s is a major source of depression in modern industrialized countries.

The flip side of getting enough healthy Omega 3s is to stay away from the kind of fats which cause depression: trans fats.

(Contrary to what you’ve heard, getting enough of the right kind of healthy cholesterol also decreases depression.)

Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants …

Antioxidants also help to prevent depression.  Specifically, oxidative stress has been correlated with depression (and see here).

On the other hand, antioxidants reduce depression. See this, this and thisHere are the tricks for finding the least expensive, most powerful antioxidants.

Moreover, a multivitamin might be smart.  Specifically, Hugh D. Riordan, M.D., argues:

It is possible to become depressed because of the lack of a sufficient amount of a single trace element.

And as we’ve previously noted, modern foods can be nutritionally depleted:

We evolved eating foods which were high in vitamins and minerals ….

But as the Journal Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology notes:

With soil depletion, overfarming and transportation of foods over hundreds of miles with loss of nutrients en route, together with the increased use of convenience and fast foods, women can be over-fed, but under-nourished in our modern society.

The Nutrition Journal points out:

In 1927 a study at King’s College, University of London, of the chemical composition of foods was initiated … to assist with diabetic dietary guidance. The study evolved and was then broadened to determine all the important organic and mineral constituents of foods, it was financed by the Medical Research Council and eventually published in 1940. Over the next 51 years subsequent editions reflected changing national dietary habits and food laws as well as advances in analytical procedures. The most recent (5th Edition) published in 1991 has comprehensively analysed 14 different categories of foods and beverages. In order to provide some insight into any variation in the quality of the foods available to us as a nation between 1940 and 1991 it was possible to compare and contrast the mineral content of 27 varieties of vegetable, 17 varieties of fruit, 10 cuts of meat and some milk and cheese products. The results demonstrate that there has been a significant loss of minerals and trace elements in these foods over that period of time.

Scripps Howard News Service noted in 2006:

The nutritional content of America’s vegetables and fruits has declined during the past 50 years — in some cases dramatically.

Donald Davis, a biochemist at the University of Texas, said that of 13 major nutrients in fruits and vegetables tracked by the Agriculture Department from 1950 to 1999, six showed noticeable declines — protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and vitamin C. The declines ranged from 6 percent for protein, 15 percent for iron, 20 percent for vitamin C, and 38 percent for riboflavin.

“It’s an amazing thing,” said Davis, adding that the decline in nutrient content has not been widely noticed.

Many other studies have reported ongoing soil depletion around the world.

***

And many people eat highly processed foods in which most antioxidants have been destroyed.

So – just as with the low levels of omega 3s – there might be less antioxidants like vitamin C in the modern diet than the levels we evolved to run on.

Good Bugs

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.

As with Omega 3s, this sounds strange until you realize how humans evolved.

As NPR notes, our bodies are largely made up of – and supported by – bacteria:

Jeffrey Gordon, a professor at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, who studies the microbes that live on and in us, offers this factoid: “We think that there are 10 times more microbial cells on and in our bodies than there are human cells. That means that we’re 90 percent microbial and 10 percent human. There’s also an estimated 100 times more microbial genes than the genes in our human genome. So we’re really a compendium [and] an amalgamation of human and microbial parts.”

***

Gordon’s research shows that these microbes living in our bodies aren’t just there for the ride — they’re actively contributing to the normal physiology of the human body. He points to the trillions of microbes that live in our gut, doing everything from encoding enzymes to serving as pathways for vitamin production to digesting the parts of food we can’t digest on our own.

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

In addition, antibiotics kill a lot of the healthy bacteria in our gut.  (The over-use of antibiotics has also been linked to obesity and other health problems. See this and this.  Indeed, the prestigious journal Nature suggests that antiobiotics may permanently kill off healthy gut bacteria.).

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.

Sunshine …

The New York Times points out:

A new, carefully designed randomized controlled trial— of the kind considered the gold standard in medicine — suggests bright light therapy deserves a closer look.

The study was small, involving only 89 patients ages 60 and older, but the results were remarkable. Compared with a placebo, light therapy improved mood just as well as conventional antidepressant medications, said Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse, the paper’s lead author and a psychiatrist at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

The effect sizes we found in this study are comparable to those reported for antidepressants, so I think efficacy is of comparable magnitude,” Dr. Lieverse said in an e-mail.

***

Since depression is often accompanied by poor sleep and other symptoms suggestive of circadian rhythm disruption, the scientists also examined markers of circadian function. The theory is that bright light therapy may act to elevate mood by activating the brain’s so-called circadian pacemaker, a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. As part of the study, researchers assessed sleep quality and measured patients’ melatonin, a hormone critical for sleep-wake cycles, and urinary cortisol and salivary cortisol levels, measures of stress.

Dr. Lieverse said bright light therapy may also work by targeting depression-associated neurotransmitter systems that regulate serotonin and dopamine.

Sunshine has many if not all of these properties.  So getting some sun will help with depression.

Exercise and Sex

Many studies show that exercise reduces depression.   For example, see these reports by the Mayo Clinic, New York Times and WebMD.

Sex also helps to prevent depression.

Testosterone

And naturally boosting your testosterone level also wards off depression.

Mindfulness Meditation

Last – but not least – meditation can prevent depression.  Psychology Today reports:

Imagine if you could cure depression with a therapy that was more effective and long-lasting than expensive drugs, and which did not have any side effects. These are the claims being made for a form of Mindfulness meditation.

Psychologists from the University of Exeter recently published a study into “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy” (MBCT), finding it to be better than drugs or counseling for depression. Four months after starting, three quarters of the patients felt well enough to stop taking antidepressants.

***

MBCT was developed in the mid-Nineties by psychologists at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Toronto to help stabilize patients’ moods during and after use of antidepressants. About half of patients relapse into depression – even if they continue taking the medication. One common reason for a relapse is when a normal period of sadness turns into obsessive brooding.

***

The MBCT technique is simple, and revolves around “mindfulness meditation”. In this, you sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. (See box for details). Concentrating on the rhythm of the breath helps produce a feeling of detachment. The idea is that you come to realize that thoughts come and go of their own accord, and that your conscious self is distinct from your thoughts. This realization is encouraged by gentle question-and-answer sessions modeled on those in cognitive therapy.

In the University of Exeter study, funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council, 47 per cent of patients with long-term depression suffered a relapse; the figure was 60 per cent among those taking medication alone. Other studies, including two published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, had comparable outcomes. As a result, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has recommended MBCT since 2004. Availability is still patchy though, with many sufferers seeking courses at Buddhist centers.

“One of the key features of depression is that it hijacks your attention,” says Professor Williams. “We all tend to bring to the forefront of our minds the thoughts and feelings that reflect our current mood. If you are sad, depressed or anxious, then you tend to remember the bad things that have happened to you and not the good. This drives you into a downward spiral that leads from sadness into a deeper depression. MBCT prevents and breaks that spiral.”

Psychology Today provides an example of a typical MBCT meditation:

1. Sit upright in a straight-backed chair, with your spine about an inch from the back of the chair, and your feet flat on the floor.

2. Close your eyes. Use your mind to watch your breath as it flows in and out. Observe your sensations without judgment. Do not try to alter your breathing.

3. After a while your mind will wander. Gently bring your attention back to your breath. The act of realizing that your mind has wandered – and bringing your attention back – is the key thing.

4. Your mind will eventually become calm.

5. Repeat every day for 20-30 minutes.

Postscript:  If you are severely depressed and suicidal, contact a mental health professional. 

We are not health professionals, and this does not constitute mental health or medical advice.

Treat Depression … Naturally

If you’re depressed, you might consider asking your doctor to prescribe anti-depressants.

But as best-selling author Christiane Northrup, MD, notes:

In 2008, we learned that the benefits of antidepressants had been greatly overstated. Former FDA psychiatrist Erick H. Turner, M.D. uncovered some startling information about Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. In reviewing all the medical literature, he learned that 94 percent of the reports showing the therapeutic benefits of SSRIs were published compared to only 14 percent of the reports showing either no benefits or inconclusive results (of taking SSRIs were published). When he weighed all the literature, Dr. Turner determined that SSRIs were no more effective than a placebo for treating most depressive patients. Those with severe depression were helped, sometimes greatly, but those with mild to moderate depression, the majority of cases, received little relief. British researchers using the Freedom of Information Act uncovered identical findings.

In January 2010, another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirms these findings. The newest study also evaluated another class of antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants. Again, researchers determined that the typical patient, one with mild to moderate depression, gets the same amount of relief from a placebo as from an antidepressant.  The first author of the study, Jay C. Fournier, MA, told Medscape, “I think the most surprising part of the findings was how severe depression has to be in order to see this clinically meaningful difference emerge between medication and placebo, and that the majority of depressed patients presenting for treatment do not fall into that very severe category.”

The New York Times reported that the co-author of the study, Robert J. DeRubeis, shared this important insight: “The message for patients with mild to moderate depression is ‘Look, medications are always an option, but there’s little evidence that they add to other efforts to shake depression–whether it’s exercise, seeing the doctor, reading about the disorder or going for psychotherapy.’”

(In addition, modern SSRI anti-depressants have been shown to increase violent and suicidal behavior in a certain percent of the population.)

So what can those with depressive tendencies do?

Secret of Human Evolution

Getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet is also crucial in preventing depression. As Science Daily notes:

Researchers from Inserm and INRA and their collaborators in Spain collaboration, have studied mice fed on a diet low in omega-3 fatty acid. They discovered that reduced levels of omega-3 had deleterious consequences on synaptic functions and emotional behaviours.

Details of this work are available in the online version of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

***

The researchers studied mice fed a life-long diet imbalanced in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They found that omega-3 deficiency disturbed neuronal communication specifically ….This neuronal dysfunction was accompanied by depressive behaviours among the malnourished mice.

***

Consequently, the researchers discovered that among mice subjected to an omega-3 deficient dietary regime, synaptic plasticity … is disturbed in at least two structures involved with reward, motivation and emotional regulation: the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens.

***

“Our results can now corroborate clinical and epidemiological studies which have revealed associations between an omega-3/omega-6 imbalance and mood disorders,” explain Olivier Manzoni and Sophie Layé. “To determine if the omega-3 deficiency is responsible for these neuropsychiatric disorders additional studies are, of course, required.”

In conclusion, the authors estimate that their results provide the first biological components of an explanation for the observed correlation between omega-3 poor diets, which are very widespread in the industrialized world, and mood disorders such as depression.

Dr. Northrup writes:

One of the best ways to support health brain chemistry is by taking fish oil. Fish oil has been shown time an again to relieve mild to moderate depression. The omega-3 fatty acids are essential to brain health and, according to Capt. Joe Hibbeln, M.D., these important fats support the serotonin system, may help reduce stress and lower your risk of all kinds of mental illness. Dr. Hibbeln, Chief of Outpatient Services for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), is one of the world’s leading researchers on omega-3 fats. His findings have been compelling and encouraging.

***

Also encouraging is the largest ever clinical trial presenting in 2009 showing that fish oil may benefit half of all people with moderate to severe depression.

How could something as obscure as Omega 3s be so critical in preventing depression?

We’ve previously explained that humans evolved to eat a lot of Omega 3s:

Wild game animals have much higher levels of essential Omega 3 fatty acids than domesticated animals. Indeed, leading nutritionists say that humans evolved to consume a lot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more), and that a low Omega 3 diet is a very new trend within the last 100 years or so.

In other words, while omega 3s have just now been discovered by modern science, we evolved to get a lot of omega 3s … and if we just eat a modern, fast food diet without getting enough omega 3s, it can cause all sorts of health problems.

So something just discovered by science can be a central fuel which our bodies evolved to use.

Here’s further detail focusing on beef:

For all of human history – until the last couple of decades – people ate beef from cows (or buffalo or bison) which grazed on grass. The cows were usually strong and healthy. Their meat was lean, with very little saturated fat, as the critters ate well and got outdoor exercise. Their meat was high in good Omega 3 fats. See this and this, and humans evolved to consume a lot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more).

Today, on the other hand, beef is laden with saturated fat and almost entirely lacking healthy fats like Omega 3s, because the cows are force-fed food which makes them sick. Specifically, instead of their natural menu – grass – they are force-fed corn, which makes them sick. Because their diet makes them ill, they are given massive amounts of antibiotics.  Even with the antibiotics, the diet and living conditions would kill them pretty quickly if they aren’t slaughtered.

Science Daily explains:

In industrialized nations, diets have been impoverished in essential fatty acids since the beginning of the 20th century. The dietary ratio between omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid omega-3 increased continuously over the course of the 20th century. These fatty acids are “essential” lipids because the body cannot synthesize them from new. They must therefore be provided through food and their dietary balance is essential to maintain optimal brain functions.

So insufficient Omega 3s is a major source of depression in modern industrialized countries.

The flip side of getting enough healthy Omega 3s is to stay away from the kind of fats which cause depression: trans fats.

(Contrary to what you’ve heard, getting enough of the right kind of healthy cholesterol also decreases depression.)

Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants …

Antioxidants also help to prevent depression.  Specifically, oxidative stress has been correlated with depression (and see here).

On the other hand, antioxidants reduce depression. See this, this and thisHere are the tricks for finding the least expensive, most powerful antioxidants.

Moreover, a multivitamin might be smart.  Specifically, Hugh D. Riordan, M.D., argues:

It is possible to become depressed because of the lack of a sufficient amount of a single trace element.

And as we’ve previously noted, modern foods can be nutritionally depleted:

We evolved eating foods which were high in vitamins and minerals ….

But as the Journal Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology notes:

With soil depletion, overfarming and transportation of foods over hundreds of miles with loss of nutrients en route, together with the increased use of convenience and fast foods, women can be over-fed, but under-nourished in our modern society.

The Nutrition Journal points out:

In 1927 a study at King’s College, University of London, of the chemical composition of foods was initiated … to assist with diabetic dietary guidance. The study evolved and was then broadened to determine all the important organic and mineral constituents of foods, it was financed by the Medical Research Council and eventually published in 1940. Over the next 51 years subsequent editions reflected changing national dietary habits and food laws as well as advances in analytical procedures. The most recent (5th Edition) published in 1991 has comprehensively analysed 14 different categories of foods and beverages. In order to provide some insight into any variation in the quality of the foods available to us as a nation between 1940 and 1991 it was possible to compare and contrast the mineral content of 27 varieties of vegetable, 17 varieties of fruit, 10 cuts of meat and some milk and cheese products. The results demonstrate that there has been a significant loss of minerals and trace elements in these foods over that period of time.

Scripps Howard News Service noted in 2006:

The nutritional content of America’s vegetables and fruits has declined during the past 50 years — in some cases dramatically.

Donald Davis, a biochemist at the University of Texas, said that of 13 major nutrients in fruits and vegetables tracked by the Agriculture Department from 1950 to 1999, six showed noticeable declines — protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and vitamin C. The declines ranged from 6 percent for protein, 15 percent for iron, 20 percent for vitamin C, and 38 percent for riboflavin.

“It’s an amazing thing,” said Davis, adding that the decline in nutrient content has not been widely noticed.

Many other studies have reported ongoing soil depletion around the world.

***

And many people eat highly processed foods in which most antioxidants have been destroyed.

So – just as with the low levels of omega 3s – there might be less antioxidants like vitamin C in the modern diet than the levels we evolved to run on.

Good Bugs

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.

As with Omega 3s, this sounds strange until you realize how humans evolved.

As NPR notes, our bodies are largely made up of – and supported by – bacteria:

Jeffrey Gordon, a professor at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, who studies the microbes that live on and in us, offers this factoid: “We think that there are 10 times more microbial cells on and in our bodies than there are human cells. That means that we’re 90 percent microbial and 10 percent human. There’s also an estimated 100 times more microbial genes than the genes in our human genome. So we’re really a compendium [and] an amalgamation of human and microbial parts.”

***

Gordon’s research shows that these microbes living in our bodies aren’t just there for the ride — they’re actively contributing to the normal physiology of the human body. He points to the trillions of microbes that live in our gut, doing everything from encoding enzymes to serving as pathways for vitamin production to digesting the parts of food we can’t digest on our own.

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

In addition, antibiotics kill a lot of the healthy bacteria in our gut.  (The healthy bacteria-killing property of antibiotics has also been linked to obesity and other health problems. See this and this.).

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

Sunshine …

The New York Times points out:

A new, carefully designed randomized controlled trial— of the kind considered the gold standard in medicine — suggests bright light therapy deserves a closer look.

The study was small, involving only 89 patients ages 60 and older, but the results were remarkable. Compared with a placebo, light therapy improved mood just as well as conventional antidepressant medications, said Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse, the paper’s lead author and a psychiatrist at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

The effect sizes we found in this study are comparable to those reported for antidepressants, so I think efficacy is of comparable magnitude,” Dr. Lieverse said in an e-mail.

***

Since depression is often accompanied by poor sleep and other symptoms suggestive of circadian rhythm disruption, the scientists also examined markers of circadian function. The theory is that bright light therapy may act to elevate mood by activating the brain’s so-called circadian pacemaker, a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. As part of the study, researchers assessed sleep quality and measured patients’ melatonin, a hormone critical for sleep-wake cycles, and urinary cortisol and salivary cortisol levels, measures of stress.

Dr. Lieverse said bright light therapy may also work by targeting depression-associated neurotransmitter systems that regulate serotonin and dopamine.

Sunshine has many if not all of these properties.  So getting some sun will help with depression.

Exercise and Sex

Many studies show that exercise reduces depression.   For example, see these reports by the Mayo Clinic, New York Times and WebMD.

Sex also helps to prevent depression.

Testosterone

And naturally boosting your testosterone level also wards off depression.

Mindfulness Meditation

Last – but not least – meditation can prevent depression.  Psychology Today reports:

Imagine if you could cure depression with a therapy that was more effective and long-lasting than expensive drugs, and which did not have any side effects. These are the claims being made for a form of Mindfulness meditation.

Psychologists from the University of Exeter recently published a study into “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy” (MBCT), finding it to be better than drugs or counseling for depression. Four months after starting, three quarters of the patients felt well enough to stop taking antidepressants.

***

MBCT was developed in the mid-Nineties by psychologists at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Toronto to help stabilize patients’ moods during and after use of antidepressants. About half of patients relapse into depression – even if they continue taking the medication. One common reason for a relapse is when a normal period of sadness turns into obsessive brooding.

***

The MBCT technique is simple, and revolves around “mindfulness meditation”. In this, you sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. (See box for details). Concentrating on the rhythm of the breath helps produce a feeling of detachment. The idea is that you come to realize that thoughts come and go of their own accord, and that your conscious self is distinct from your thoughts. This realization is encouraged by gentle question-and-answer sessions modeled on those in cognitive therapy.

In the University of Exeter study, funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council, 47 per cent of patients with long-term depression suffered a relapse; the figure was 60 per cent among those taking medication alone. Other studies, including two published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, had comparable outcomes. As a result, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has recommended MBCT since 2004. Availability is still patchy though, with many sufferers seeking courses at Buddhist centers.

“One of the key features of depression is that it hijacks your attention,” says Professor Williams. “We all tend to bring to the forefront of our minds the thoughts and feelings that reflect our current mood. If you are sad, depressed or anxious, then you tend to remember the bad things that have happened to you and not the good. This drives you into a downward spiral that leads from sadness into a deeper depression. MBCT prevents and breaks that spiral.”

Psychology Today provides an example of a typical MBCT meditation:

1. Sit upright in a straight-backed chair, with your spine about an inch from the back of the chair, and your feet flat on the floor.

2. Close your eyes. Use your mind to watch your breath as it flows in and out. Observe your sensations without judgment. Do not try to alter your breathing.

3. After a while your mind will wander. Gently bring your attention back to your breath. The act of realizing that your mind has wandered – and bringing your attention back – is the key thing.

4. Your mind will eventually become calm.

5. Repeat every day for 20-30 minutes.

Postscript:  If you are severely depressed and suicidal, contact a mental health professional. 

We are not health professionals, and this does not constitute mental health or medical advice.

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Teargas, clashes at funeral for Bahraini protester

Bahraini Shiite Muslims hold national flags on the top of a van during the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

Bahraini Shiite Muslims hold national flags on the top of a van during the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

Bahraini government forces clashed with protesters on Sunday at the funeral of a demonstrator killed by teargas at a previous rally. Violent crackdowns continue as the demonstrators protest against the royal family, ruling for more than 40 years.

Scores of Bahrainis attended the funeral of the protestor Haj Habib Ibrahim Abdullah, which resulted in another demonstration against the ruling Al-Khalifa family’s regime.

Protesters shouted slogans against the regime and called for release of jailed activists. Government forces fired teargas and birdshot to disperse the crowd.

A demonstration on Sunday was held at the funeral of Abdullah, who died after inhaling poisonous teargas. He and his grandson were exposed to lethal gas fired by government forces during a peaceful anti-regime demonstration last Monday. The nine-year-old grandson is now suffering from side effects and is being treated abroad, Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports.

Abdullah and his grandson were exposed to gas during a previous peaceful demonstration which was held in Malkiya village last Monday aftertop Bahraini court overturned an appeal by 13 anti-regime activists on their sentences for protesting in 2011. Seven of the activists received life sentences, the other sentences ranged from five to 15 years in prison.

The 13 whose appeals were overturned were originally part of a group of 20 activists convicted by a military tribunal of conspiring against Bahrain’s Sunni royal family and “setting up terror groups to topple the regime.” They then lost an appeal in civilian court in September 2011. Seven chose not to appeal again.

Bahraini Police forces run to disperse protestors during clashes following the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
Bahraini Police forces run to disperse protestors during clashes following the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

Thousands of Shiites protested against the jailing of 13 activists on charges of plotting to overthrow Bahrain’s monarchy on Saturday near Manama, witnesses said, AFP reports.

The demonstrators shouted “we will not resign ourselves to it" and "we will not forget the prisoners”, while some carried photos of the convicted. The protest was held under close supervision of police forces.

Anti-government protesters have been holding peaceful demonstrations across Bahrain since February 2011, calling for an end to the Al-Khalifa family rule which continues in the country since 1974. The protesters also stand for an end to the discrimination of the state’s Shiite majority by the predominant Sunni government.

Eighty people have been killed and thousands arrested since the unrest began. Many opposition figures have been arrested on the allegation of planning to topple the government.

According to a 2011 reports by Human Rights Watch, the government regularly abuses its citizens. The abusesinclude denying defendants the right to counsel and to present a defense, denial of medical access to protesters injured by security forces, torture and ill-treatment during interrogation.

Bahraini Shiite Muslim protestors cover their faces to protect themselves from tear gas during clashes following the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
Bahraini Shiite Muslim protestors cover their faces to protect themselves from tear gas during clashes following the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

Bahraini Shiite Muslim protestors run towards riot police holding petrol bombs during clashes following the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
Bahraini Shiite Muslim protestors run towards riot police holding petrol bombs during clashes following the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

Bahraini Shiite Muslim women hold national flags as they take part in the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
Bahraini Shiite Muslim women hold national flags as they take part in the funeral of Habib Ebrahim Abdullah on January 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

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Humanity Struggles In The Face Of New Levels Of Government Propaganda

Bernie Suarez  RINF Alternative News First, it is important for readers to understand that propaganda is only a bad thing to those who seek truth. For...

New Study finds Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide 125 Times More Toxic Than Regulators Say

Sayer Ji RINF Alternative News A highly concerning new study published in the journal Biomedical Research International reveals that despite the still relatively benign reputation of agrochemicals such...

Psst, kid, want drugs? I’m a psychiatrist.

Psst, kid, want drugs? I’m a psychiatrist. by Jon Rappoport June 10, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com Look at it this way. The kid doesn’t have to pay for drugs out of his pocket. He gets them in a shrink’s office. Insurance covers it. His parents may be able to work a Social Security disability claim and receive […]

Honey Found To Have Potent Anti-Influenza Activity

Honey is appreciated the world over as one of Nature's most delicious foods, but did you know it may have potent anti-flu activity as...

Gates and Big Pharma; “Guinea pigs for the drugmakers”

Despite annual revenues approaching $1 trillion, the global pharmaceutical industry has lately experienced a critical decline in the rate of profit, for which it...

TEPCO Receives OK to Build “Ice Wall” Around Fukushima

Jon Queally An official at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant demonstrates an experimental ice wall aimed at blocking groundwater from seeping into...

Fox News anchor arrested after leaving rehab and stuffing himself with vodka and pills

Police in Minnesota recently arrested a Fox News anchor who had left rehab and reportedly got drunk at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, possibly...

Monsanto Threatens People and Planet

Duncan Roden RINF Alternative News An international March Against Monsanto is scheduled for May 24. Hundreds of events around the world have already been scheduled to...

This Is What’s REALLY In A McDonald’s Hamburger

Glorious McDonald’s! Great food at very affordable prices -or so we all wish. There is no doubting that McDonald’s has done a great job...

“Conspiracy Theorist”, The Derogatory Smear Phrase

The phrase “conspiracy theorist” is a derogatory smear phrase thrown at someone in an attempt to paint them as a lunatic. It’s a tactic...

5 Reasons the War on Drugs Is a Costly Economic Disaster

April M. Short  The global war on drugs is the cause of some of the biggest public health and social justice disasters of our time,...

Attorneys for accused Boston bomber move to suppress statements taken by FBI

Ed Hightower  RINF Alternative News Defense attorneys representing accused Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev filed a series of motions last Wednesday, including a 21-page document urging...

Psychedelic Mushrooms Could Cure Anxiety for Cancer Patients

 April M. Short When O.M. was 21 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was a pre-med student at the time. His first reaction was denial,...

Exclusive: an interview with investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson

Exclusive: An interview with investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson by Jon Rappoport April 25, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com Before her recent resignation from CBS, Sharyl Attkisson was a mainstream news star. Multiple Emmys. CNN anchor, CBS anchor on stories about space exploration. Host of CBS’ News Up to the Minute. PBS host for Health Week. Investigative reporter for […]

Cannabis Derived CBD Used To Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

Joe Martino  RINF Alternative News Recent research out of Australia took mice that were bred to mimic symptoms of Alzheimers and who were given CBD from...

Enough Already: The G-20 and the US Tell the Bank of Japan to End...

Mike Whitney  It looks like QE is going to end with a whimper instead of a bang. The bigwigs in the G-20 have put the kibosh...

Gluten Intolerance Isn’t Just a Trendy Fad – It Can Wreck Your Whole Life

Just playing off gluten intolerance as some random trendy diet fad or a make believe food hysteria is not just misleading...it is dangerous. It could kill someone.

Roche Hid Drug Trial Results: Pandemic Flu Drug Works No Better Than Acetaminophen

“This review is the result of many years of struggles to access and use trial data, which was previously unpublished and even hidden from view. It highlights with certainty that future decisions to purchase and use drugs, particularly when on a mass scale, must be based on a complete picture of the evidence, both published and unpublished."

The External Cost of Spying

Not only is the spying perpetrated by the failing nation states of the so-called "West" and their accomplices the worst crime in Earth history,...

Water fluoridation — human rats and cockroaches

Lenin Nightingale Truth suddenly dawned on me. Governments are mass doping people with a substance which is a product of the fertilizer industry, which is...

10 Health Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out To Be Real

by Michael Snyder Originally Published at The Truth Note from Daisy: Last week I wrote about the survey that marginalized the beliefs of those of us who prefer to avoid Big Pharma and the AMA, calling our beliefs “medical conspiracy theories.”  Michael Snyder took it further with this excellent piece,Read the Rest...

10 Health Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out To Be Real

Do you believe in any “health conspiracy theories”?  Do you believe that there are “natural cures” for diseases that the medical establishment is not telling you about?  Do you believe that vaccines, cell phones or the fluoride in the water can have a harmful impact on the health of your family?  If you answered [...]

Why Is Gut-Wrecking Carrageenan in So Many Organic Food Products?

Note from Daisy:  Truthstream’s article has appeared on numerous sites across alternative media and it is on-point to the extent that one particular person has taken issue with it on almost every outlet where it appeared.  Interestingly enough, the woman, named Debbie, happens to work for the world’s largest supplierRead the Rest...

Guns, schools, mind control, revolution

Guns, schools, mind control, revolution by Jon Rappoport March 4, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com “Padre, these are subtleties. We’re not concerned with motives, with the higher ethics. We are concerned only with cutting down crime–and. . .with relieving the ghastly congestion in our prisons. He will be your true Christian: ready to turn the other cheek, ready […]

Efficiency is a Problem: Irrational Use of Medicines

Zhenchao Ren  RINF Alternative News My PCP recently prescribed me azithromycin for the "sore throat" without obvious symptom of fever at an urgent-care encounter of esophageal...

It’s the Drugs, Stupid! Prescription Psychotropic Drugs Causes brain Injury

Charles Gant, MD, PhD and Greg Lewis, PhD  RINF Alternative News Psychotropic drugs have been used for the purpose of suppressing fear and enabling murderous rage...

The Free Trade Agreement TTIP – New Edition of the “Golden Age”

Christine Wicht  RINF Alternative News Lobbyists and think tanks of transnational corporations dreamt of a global market without limits. Lobby organizations and politics joined together in...

How Pharma Got Doctors to Prescribe Risperdal, Wellbutrin, Bextra, Neurontin, Prempro and More

Martha Rosenberg RINF Alternative News Until 2010 when the Physician Payments Sunshine Act which requires disclosure of Pharma payments passed, the only thing better than working for...

Botanicals Show Promise for Sickle Cell Anemia Treatment

blood cells sickle cell

Multiple clinical studies have found that several traditional herbs and botanicals reduce pain and sickle cell crises for patients with sickle cell anemia.

Research Confirms Herb Extract Treats Alzheimer’s Disease

Huperzine A and alzheimers disease

Multiple studies now confirm that an herbal extract called Huperzine provides a significant treatment strategy for Alzheimer's disease.

The truth behind new GMO allergies, toxins and diseases

Colin Todhunter  RINF Alternative News The Deceptions and Falsehoods of the GMO Lobby: Acquiesce Or Europe Will Become “Museum of World Farming” British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson...

Were These Knife Attacks Caused by SSRI Antidepressants?

Martha Rosenberg  RINF Alternative News It's a crime to jolt the most jaded TV News watchers. Last week, a 14-year-old girl in a Chicago suburb allegedly...

Consciousness, art, and psychiatry

Consciousness, art, and psychiatry by Jon Rappoport January 22, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com With the NSA scandals, many more people have read and heard the term “metadata.” It means “data about data.” Well, there is also “metalife.” It means “life about life.” Which means Art. Art is a way of reaching life on another level. When the […]

Kava’s Anti-anxiety and Other Medicinal Uses Validated — Liver Risk Diminished

Kava kava medicinal value

Kava kava has all but been dismissed as a serious herbal medication due to a few overblown and misunderstood reports of liver toxicity. Its time to take a serious look at this valuable herbal medicine.

Flu Happens: Here’s What You Can Do About it Naturally

Despite your best efforts at prevention, sometimes the flu just happens.  If you work with the public or have children in school, you and your family will be exposed, and sometimes those viruses are simply tougher than your immune system. Transmission rates are increasing to a worrisome point, according toRead the Rest...

Israeli WMD Institute Used Soldiers as Guinea Pigs in Untested Anthrax Experiment

Richard Silverstein RINF Alternative News A six year struggle by a group of IDF soldiers and officers for justice has ended with the Stateagreeing to pay...

Big Pharma’s Best Kept Secret: A Mediterranean Diet Can Save Your Life

This diet wards off heart attacks,...

Forget the Flu Shot: Hand-washing and Elderberry Extract Are the Best Defenses Against the...

H1N1, or “swine flu” is sweeping across the country, prompting the mainstream media to trumpet, “DOOM APPROACHES!!! GET YOUR FLU SHOT BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!” Don’t fall for the escalating propaganda that is being propelled by a fear campaign.  The flu vaccine is NOT the best way to protect yourselfRead the Rest...

Eugenics, American-Style

In 1952, Charlie Follett, a wayward orphan, was a resident of the Sonoma County State Boys Home. One day when he was 14-years old,...

Does Steam Speed Up Healing the Common Cold?

Steam and the common cold

Most of us assume a steam or humidifier will speed up healing of the common cold. But is it true? Or is this just a myth?

Did You Know that Nasal Flu Vax Recipients Can Pass the Flu to Everyone...

Did you know that when a person receives the “FluMist” flu vaccine that anyone around them becomes exposed to the flu as the recipient “sheds” the viruses contained within the vaccine?  With all of the propaganda about how you MUST be vaccinated in order to protect those around you, you’dRead the Rest...

7 Things Better than Drugs for Health and Healing

by Sayer Ji Green Med Info Natural medicine is an amazing field, full of inspiring stories and an ever-accumulating body of scientific research to support its increasingly popular view of health. In fact, at GreenMedInfo.com we specialize in dredging up from the National Library of Medicine’s 23-million citation deep, seemingly oceanic database,Read the Rest...

Best films of 2013

By ...

More Doctors Prescribing Antipsychotics to Kids for Off-Label Uses

According to an article published this month in Consumer Reports, the number of children taking antipsychotic drugs is rising at alarming rates. Research shows...

The Importance of Integrative Medicine in the Treatment of HIV/AIDS (Part I)

Gary Null, PhD RINF Alternative News On December 2, 2013 president Obama marked the 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day by pledging $100 million toresearch on...

Big Dairy Wants to Medicate our Milk

The Ontario Dairy Council shared in funding a study showing that the anti-cancer properties of green tea can remain bioavailable when extracted and placed...

Heart Attack and Water

It is popular in Japan today to drink water immediately after waking up every morning. Furthermore, scientific tests have proven its value. We publish...

Pregnant Nurse Fired for Refusing Flu Vaccine

Vaccine's insert warns it is “not known” whether shot “can cause fetal harm” Adan SalazarInfowars.comDecember 23,...

The Rising Threat Of Antibiotic Resistance In The United States

Is this the beginning of the...

Antibiotic Resistance Is A Major Rising Threat to Public Health

Is this the beginning of the...

The Media’s Absurd Hysteria About Teens and Pot

There's very little data to suggest...

The Indispensable Leader of the Marijuana Movement

Last weekend at the Emerald Cup, a sprawling hempfest held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Dennis Peron got a lifetime achievement award and I...

Mulberry Leaf Reduces Triglycerides and Cardiovascular Inflammation

mulberry leaves lowers LDL

Clinical research has confirmed that the ancient herbal remedy Mulberry leaf significantly lowers triglycerides, reduces low-density lipoprotein levels and lowers artery inflammation.

Newtown School-shooting Anniversary Marked by Anti-gun Protests

Saturday, December 14, is the first anniversary of the ghastly unprovoked attack on innocents at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and...

Why Walking Is a Wonder Drug for Your Health

It's been proven to help treat...

Ecoscience pdf — John Holdren Really Did Say Those Things

lou!Planet InfowarsDecember 12, 2013 EcoScience: Authored in 1977 advocates for extreme totalitarian measures to control the population Click here to download the pdf to Ecoscience—-> https://ia601506.us.archive.org/2/items/Ecoscience_17/JohnHoldren-Ecoscience.pdf p796:...

The Surprising Healing Qualities … of Dirt

A doctor discovers exposure to healthy...

Why the Fight to Legalize Marijuana Is Part of a Much Larger Populist Struggle

The marijuana issue has galvanized activist...

Bipolar Disorder Simplified: Light, Sleep and Perfectionism

bipolar disorder simplified

Bipolar disorder affects more than 13 million Americans and over 170 million people around the world. New research confirms bipolar disorder may be a lot simpler than previously thought.

Activists Make a Last Ditch Effort to Block Bloomberg’s Forcible Flu Shot for Kids

Michael Bloomberg may be nearly finished with his term as the mayor of New York City, but he is pushing his “health” mandates until the very last minute.  When he isn’t busy peddling gun control, he’s threatening parents with the choice of injecting their kids with poison or the loss of childcareRead the Rest...

What is Kynurenic Acid — Nutrient or Toxin?

Kynurenic Acid

New research is finding that the biochemical called kynurenic acid is necessary for many metabolic processes. But increased levels are linked with mental disorders and other conditions. So is it a nutrient or a toxin?

Biotechnology, GMO and Scientific Analysis: The Powers of Corporate Manipulation

The biotech sector often yells for “peer review” when the anti-GMO movement refers to analyses or research-based findings to state its case. Despite Professor...

Fluoride: Killing Us Softly

There's nothing like a glass of cool, clear water to quench one's thirst. But the next time you or your child reaches for one,...

The Sandy Hook Massacre: The Official Cover-up Continues. Who and/or What Messed up Adam...

Dr. Gary G. Kohls It will soon be the first anniversary of the school shooting massacre at Sandy Hook. With plenty of family and friend...

ObamaCare is an Overstuffed Turkey

Across America, families are emerging from their Thanksgiving turkey comas, and have returned home after battling Black Friday 'sales' buying things they do not need, with money they do not have. Both of these events put me in mind of the tur...

How to Reduce Your Risk of Radiation from Fukushima

Is There Anything We Can Do to Reduce Radiation Risks? Doctors in Hawaii and the West Coast of North American are being bombarded with questions about how to protect ourselves from radiation from Fukushima. This essay provides an introduction to … Continue reading

How to Reduce Your Risk of Radiation from Fukushima was originally published on Washington's Blog

The Insurance Industry’s Pre-Existing Condition: Greed

Although Coachella Valley in Southern California has become synonymous with music festivals, Goldenvoice, the company that produces those events, also helped sponsor the first...

On Not Leaving Afghanistan

Actually, we're not leaving. That is confirmed by the news this week of Washington's having reached agreement with President Hamid Karzai on the terms...

What’s Behind ‘Grain Brain’: Are Gluten and Carbs Wrecking Our Brains and Our Health?

Two months after publication, "Grain Brain"...

Video: West Architect of Terrorism in Syria

Press TV has conducted an interview with Michel Chossudovsky, Center for Research on Globalization, Montreal, about the issue of the Western proxy war in...

Nuts Drop Risks of Pancreatic Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease

nuts are nutritionally superior

Adding to their heart-healthy benefits, Harvard researchers have determined that increasing our intake of nuts decreases our risk of diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

West architect of terrorism in Syria: M. Chossudovsky

Press TVNovember 18, 2013 Press TV has conducted an interview with Michel Chossudovsky of the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal about the issue...

The West is the Architect of Terrorism in Syria

Press TV has conducted an interview with Michel Chossudovsky of the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal about the issue of the Western...

Herbal Medicine Treats Children with Learning and Behavioral Problems

depressed children improve with herbal medicine

German researchers have determined that a formula of three herbs successfully treats children with learning difficulties, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression and attention deficit issues.

The Real Reason Your Partner Might Lose Interest in Sex … And What To...

When your partner is depressed, their...

Caraway Seed Proven to Produce Weight Loss

caraway seed and weight loss

In new clinical research involving overweight women, scientists have determined that caraway seed extract has the ability to stimulate weight loss.

Johnson & Johnson $2.2 Billion Settlement Just a Slap on the Wrist

Fines are just another cost of...

Low Testosterone Is a Gold Mine for Snake Oil Salesmen

You'll find hundreds of offerings to...

Cox-inhibitor NSAIDs Deplete Body’s Vitamin B-6 Levels

NSAIDs block vitamin B6

New research has determined that COX-inhibitors, which include numerous NSAIDs - Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – reduce Vitamin B-6 levels within the body.

Messing with Our Minds: Psychiatric Drugs, Cyberspace and “Digital Indoctrination”

Brain-altering drugs and digital “indoctrination” pose a potential threat not only to the stability of many individuals but of society itself. At least 10...

Celery Seed Extract Effective for Treatment After Stroke

celery and stroke

New research finds that treatment with a constituent of celery seed produces better outcomes than treatment with a leading post-stroke drug.

Smartphones Are Killing Us – and Destroying Public Life

Hey, you -- look up! Our...

Romanian Scientists Invent Artificial Blood

Presumably to be enjoyed along with your artificial sweetener and decaff coffee, from Transylvania comes synthetic substitute blood, Medical Daily reports: Researchers from the Transylvanian...

Solar Radiation Management, Geoengineering and Chemtrails

The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that, despite global side effects and long-term consequences, geoengineering techniques involving...

Many Herbal Supplements Nothing But Rice and Weeds

If you're looking to try an herbal supplement it looks like you'd be best off growing your own. Via Newser: Tests to determine what's really in...

RINFORMATION

USA Topics 9/11 Agenda 21 Assassinations Banks Bush, George Jr Boston Bombings Bohemian Grove CIA Cointelpro Corruption DARPA Democrats Disinformation Congress Drones Eugenics FBI Federal Reserve Guantanamo HAARP ...

Gates Foundation Pushing Dangerous Contraceptives on Black Populations

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is taking fire from leaders of Black organizations and human rights advocates for funding and promoting a new...

For First Time Ever, Majority of Americans Say: Legalize It!

Everybody must get stoned. Three years after Bob Dylan penned these lyrics, a scant 12 percent of the nation believed marijuana should be legal. On...

For Transgender Patients, a Growing Fight Over Health Coverage

Or so she thought. Blair was born a male, undergoing gender-reassignment surgery a decade ago. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which...

8 Pink Foods that Fight Breast Cancer

There are plenty of "pink" products in support of breast cancer awareness, but why not just cut out the middle man and eat naturally...

Anti-Monsanto Activism

Anti-Monsanto Activismby Stephen LendmanMonsanto perhaps is the world's most hated corporation. Considering the competition, it's not easy taking top honors.GMO foods and ingredients are toxic. They're unsafe to eat. They're hazardous to human health. ...

Anti-Monsanto Activism

Anti-Monsanto Activism by Stephen Lendman Monsanto perhaps is the world's most hated corporation. Considering the competition, it's not easy taking top honors. GMO foods and ingredients are...

Please Stay Away from These Drugs for Type 2 Diabetes

Introduction The research is quite clear — oral medications to treat type 2 diabetes do not alter the long-term progression of the disease. While these...

UNICEF Attacks Health Reporters and Monitors Their Readers

Truth becomes treason in an empire of lies. Attacks against health web sites like yours truly and others, and our readers—yes, that would be...

Medical insanity: Prozac prescriptions rise sharply in family pets

Jonathan Benson Natural News The culture of prescription drug addiction in America seems to be spreading to the pet population, as an increasing number of pet...

Proven: Statin drugs significantly increase risk of cataracts

Jonathan Benson Natural News Oct. 2, 2013 If you regularly pop statins, you could eventually go blind. These are the candid findings of a new study recently...

An Important Message From the Ministry of Truth

From Propdep The DC Navy Yard shooting marks yet another disturbing and tragic event that illustrates the dangers of lax gun laws and limited access...

Desperate and Poor, Addicts Turn to Injecting Gruesome, Flesh-Rotting Cocktail

Poverty and desperation has led two drug users in Arizona to inject a flesh-devouring concoction, made from codeine, gasoline, paint thinner, oil and alcohol...

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_ipccs_fifth_assessment_report_20130927/ Posted on Sep 27, 2013 ...

Garlic Beats Best-Selling Blood Pressure Drug In New Study

A groundbreaking new study published in Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences has revealed that garlic is at least as effective as the blockbuster blood...

Did Psychiatric Meds Cause Navy Yard Tragedy?

Congress is investigating whether prescription medications played a role in last week's massacre at the Washington Navy Yard when former reservist-turned-military contractor Aaron Alexis...

Girl severely damaged by Gardasil recounts horrifying medical ordeal while doctors call her a...

Mike AdamsNatural NewsSeptember 13, 2013 Young girls everywhere are being permanently damaged by Gardasil. But instead...

Do vaccines cause autism?

Mike Adams Natural News September 11, 2013 There is systematic suppression in the United States on the truth about the links between vaccines and autism. Drug companies...

HPV Vaccines and Government Agencies: How valuable is ‘expert’ advice?

Norma EricksonActivist Post Every government in the world has some sort of committee established to provide advice on vaccines and vaccination practices to those who...

Merck developer admits vaccines contain hidden cancer viruses derived from diseased monkeys

Mike AdamsNaturalNewsSeptember 8, 2013 If you haven’t yet realized the truth about how vaccines contain hidden...

Thousands of Genetically Modified Insects Set For Released

Anthony Gucciardi Natural Society September 6, 2013 Just when you thought genetically modified mosquitoes and mutated dinner entrees were the extent of biotech’s...

Ancient Ayurveda Beats Clonazepam in Clinical Trial for Anxiety Disorder

Researchers from India have proven in a randomized clinical study using international protocols that an ancient Ayurveda remedy for anxiety outperformed the benzodiazepine drug...

Antipsychotic meds make children three times more likely to develop diabetes

Natural News August 30, 2013 Two detailed studies shine light on the devastating side effects that antipsychotic medications have on children and adolescents. One study, recently...

UNICEF Surveils, Defames Health Sites Over Vaccines – GreenMedInfo, Mothering.com, Mercola.com, NaturalNews

Cover page of the UNICEF report.A stunning new report reveals that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has been monitoring independent health sites and...

Imperial Madness

Imperial Madness by Stephen Lendman Benjamin Franklin once said there's no such thing as a good war or bad peace. His advice went unheeded. Big Lies launch...

Blood Pressure Drugs Increase Risk for Breast Cancer

Introduction: More than 60 million Americans have high blood pressure (high BP) including more than half (54.3%) of all Americans age 65...

Meet the Outlaw Capitalists of America’s Underground Weed Trade

The following is an excerpt from The Weed Runners: Travels with the Outlaw Capitalists of America's Medical Marijuana Trade by Nicholas Schou ( Chicago...

Big Pharma invents yet another disease to sell deadly drugs: ‘Shift Work Disorder’ now...

Mike Adams Natural News August 26, 2013 Ever heard of “shift work disorder?” It’s a new disease being played up by the pharmaceutical industry...

Monsanto’s Glyphosate: Impacts on Human Health and Plant Life

The December/January 2010 issue of The Organic & Non-GMO Report featured an interview with Robert Kremer, an adjunct professor in the Division of Plant...

Monsanto’s Glyphosate: Impacts on Human Health and Plant Life

The December/January 2010 issue of The Organic & Non-GMO Report featured an interview with Robert Kremer, an adjunct professor in the Division of Plant...

The Human Race Is Dying: DNA Degeneration Would Eventually Lead To The Total Extinction...

The human race is dying. It certainly won’t happen this year or even this decade, but the steady degeneration of human DNA would eventually...

Confessions of a Renegade Psychiatrist

I felt this sensation in the pit of my stomach — it was a combination of sympathy and anger — listening to Annie tell...

Lead Developer for HPV Vaccine Admits it is Useless, Likely Dangerous

Mike Barrett The two vaccines currently available to ‘treat’ human papillomavirus (HPV), Gardasil, distributed by Merck & Co., and Cervarix, distributed by...

The Failed Medical Experiment: PSA Screening for Prostate Cancer

A Case of an Elevated PSA Jim Smith is a 55-year old athlete and outdoorsman, who runs marathons and camps out. He was not at all...

Amazon.com running deceptive pharmaceutical ads on its website, promoting dangerous drugs as if they...

Mike Adams Natural News August 19, 2013 While completing a recent purchase on Amazon.com, I was hit with a Prilosec ad served up on...

Coffee, tea may keep liver healthy

A new research carried out by an international team suggests that regular consumption of coffee and tea can reduce fatty liver in people with...

Early human safety study of turmeric oil (Curcuma longa oil) administered orally in healthy...

OBJECTIVE: Turmeric extract and turmeric oil have shown chemoprotective effect against chemically-induced malignancies in experimental animals. They can reverse precancerous changes in oral submucous...

Oregon Expands “Death Panel” Healthcare System

The state of Oregon is rationing healthcare to Medicaid recipients, says Gayle Atteberry, the executive director of Oregon Right to Life, following a trend...

Chamomile Proven to Fight Anxiety and Clinical Depression

Recent clinical and laboratory research has determined that chamomile is not only relaxing, but it can significantly decrease anxiety and even fight depression. The most...

Study: Millions Treated for Hypothyroidism At Risk for Lung Cancer

A new study has uncovered a link between the synthetic thyroid hormone (trade name Synthroid) used to treat millions diagnosed with hypothyroidism and lung...