Weight Loss - search results
Come post-holiday season, many of us feel a little outside our comfort zone weight-wise, and we look at all kinds of factors: diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, even surgery that might help us tip the scales a little less.
For many women, one question that inevitably comes up is whether contraception is making weight management harder. Modern Western women spend almost 40 years trying not to get pregnant. We have close to 400 fertile cycles out of which we want to get pregnant maybe once or twice or four times or not at all. That’s a lot of women spending a lot of time engaged in some kind of contraception, and consequently rumors abound about contraceptives and weight gain. What’s real?
The real scoop includes some bad news: Normal healthy women gain weight during their fertile years with or without contraception. At age 20, American women weigh on average 125-130 pounds. By age 55, the average iscloser to 165, a total gain of 35 pounds. (Weight gain during the teen years is even more rapid, an average of 30 pounds in six years. Even long-distance runners tend to gain over time.) The net-net is that any time a woman is contracepting is a time she is also likely to be gaining weight, regardless of any effects from contraception. This is borne out in the fact that in all clinical trials of contraceptives some percentage of women complains of weight gain, and consequently, virtually all contraceptives subsequently list weight gain as a possible side-effect. Only after the fact, as data accumulate, are researchers able to tease apart normal weight gain from possible effects of contraceptive hormones.
This means that as a woman trying to figure out what is best for your body, it can be challenging to sort out reality from hype or haze. The best research compares women with and without a given method over a span of months or years, but research like that can be hard to find. The kind of information that spreads the fastest and furthest is stories. Anxiety, in particular, is contagious, which makes scary stories particularly viral.
Sometimes we forget the big picture: Pregnancy and childbearing have such big effects on our bodies that with rare but noteworthy exceptions the most significant health question related to any contraceptive is--how well does it work? Many women don’t realize how often most contraceptives fail with “human factors” built into the equation. On the Pill, 1 in 12 women gets pregnant each year; relying on condoms alone, that rate is 1 in 8. (For no contraception the annual rate is 85%; abstinence commitments may cut that 85% rate by about half.) With a long-acting method like an implant or IUD, the pregnancy rate drops to 1 in 500 or less. If you are concerned about managing weight for health or lifestyle reasons, efficacy should be a primary consideration in choosing among contraceptive options.
Independent of the question of efficacy, the best research available suggests that most contraceptives have little effect on weight, with a few important exceptions. Here is the lay of the land.
IUD’s: The copper IUD is in the top category for efficacy (99%+) and at the same time is a completely non-hormonal method. This means that, despite some challenges in insertion and adjustment, it is the gold standard forwomen who want no artificial hormones. Its only effect on weight is through reducing unintended pregnancies. Hormonal IUDs boost contraceptive effectiveness (and also decrease menstrual symptoms) by releasing a mostly local micro-dose of a progestin, Levonorgestrel. When it comes to weight gain or loss, though, the difference appears minimal. One study showed slightly more gain in hormonal IUD than copper IUD users, but a longer study found that women with hormonal IUDs gained slightly less weight than women with no hormonal contraceptive. Other research reported modest weight loss for women on both kinds of IUD. Since the differences appear small and inconsistent, don’t assume either IUD will prevent normal weight changes.
Implants:Like IUDs, implants are in the top category of contraceptive efficacy (99%+). Unlike an IUD, an implant releases a systemic dose of hormone, which has both advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, information about implants and weight is lacking controlled research. In an online side-effect summary (not controlled research) five percent of women using an implant complained of weight gain, which is right around the rate found when a contraceptive has no significant effect on weight. One study monitored implant users for a year and found no change. Anecdotes include stories of both weight gain, and less often, loss. Such stories may not be good evidence, but they are a good reminder: even when the typical effect of a contraceptive is neutral it is important to listen to your own body.
Depo/Shot:Depo-Provera, also known as the Shot (94% effective), is where things get complicated when it comes to contraceptives and weight. On average, users of Depo-Provera gained an extra pound a year when compared to IUD users. But the average doesn’t tell the whole story. Some women appear to gain a couple of pounds over many years of using Depo, which they find well worth trading for effective contraception and menstrual suppression that they have to think about only four times per year. Other women’s bodies react quite differently, with weight gain that over time is unhealthy. Teenagers who are already heavy (who, incidentally, appear most at risk to develop obesity after pregnancy), may be particularly vulnerable. Fortunately, the difference shows up pretty quickly. It now appears that any woman who gains five percent of her body weight in the first six months on the Shot is at risk for ongoing, contraception-related weight gain and should consider another method.
Patch, Ring, Pill:It is widely believed by women and doctors alike that the Pill and related combination contraceptives (all around 91% effective) cause weight gain. But guess what? The best controlled studies, taken together, don’t find any such effect. Women on the Pill or Patch or Ring absolutely do gain weight over time; remember those 40 pounds we tend to gain between adolescence and menopause? But carefully comparing women who use combination hormonal contraceptives and women who do not suggests the spurts of weight gain some women experience while on these methods are largely caused by other factors like aging, stress, health issues, life changes, and ... the holidays. The best data available to date suggest that the effect of the Pill, Patch or Ring is usually negligible and that women who respond by putting on pounds are roughly equaled by those who respond by dropping pounds.
Barrier Methods:For a barrier method like condoms or a diaphragm (82-88% effective), the primary weight question is going to be unintended pregnancy. With an annual failure rate of one in eight, a woman using a barrier method needs to be prepared for the eventuality of either an abortion or an unplanned child. Needless to say, a pregnancy, even one that is terminated, causes fluctuations in hormones. Fortunately, pregnancies can be identified earlier and earlier, and women who choose to terminate a problem pregnancy don’t go through the same level of hormonal and body changes that were characteristic a generation ago. However, a woman who feels strongly that she is not ready to have a child (or another child) is probably better off with a more effective method of contraception.
Natural Family Planning/Abstinence: Like barrier methods, the primary weight question related to NFP (76% ) or abstinence commitment (58%) is the likelihood of an unintended pregnancy—only more so. Proponents like to say that abstinence is 100% effective. So are diets. The reality is that humans are imperfect, and sex and hunger are two of our most powerful drives. NFP requires not only monthly abstinence but a level of self-monitoring and communication that is not feasible for most people. Plan B or ella can reduce pregnancy risk when an abstinence commitment fails, and—just to stay on topic here--has no effect on weight. But in the end, the only hormone-free methods that are very effective are copper IUDs and nonreversible methods like tubal ligation or vasectomy.
For a woman who wants a child, hormonal changes and weight gain related to pregnancy are a small price to pay, and indeed they are a small part of the price we gladly pay when we decide to have a baby. Surprisingly, except in womenalready prone to gain and retain weight, childbearing itself has little long-term effect on body weight. Within a couple years after a pregnancy, most women tend to be back on a similar weight trajectory as their same-age peers, with an average of an extra pound or so per child.
Women’s bodies respond differently to hormones, as we all know. Some of us have horrid periods and pregnancies. Some of us breeze through. Some of us barely gain a few pounds while incubating a baby; others gain a third or even half of our body weight. It is reasonable to assume that there are differences in how we respond to hormonal contraceptives as well, and every woman needs to listen to her own mind and body. All the same, it helps at times to remind ourselves of what is known—and to update our knowledge, since technology and research are constantly moving forward.
So, the bad news about contraception is this: mostly it isn’t the explanation for those frustrating extra pounds. You are likely to gain some weight over the next decade regardless. So am I. Throwing the Pill pack in the garbage or getting the IUD or implant pulled isn’t likely to be a magic bullet. The great news about contraception is this: mostly it isn’t the explanation for those frustrating extra pounds. We really do have good options when it comes to managing our fertility, better options than most of us thought; better options than our mothers and grandmothers could even imagine.
Here's the down-low on how different methods of contraception impact weight gain.
January 21, 2013 |
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Come post-holiday season, many of us feel a little outside our comfort zone weight-wise, and we look at all kinds of factors: diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, even surgery that might help us tip the scales a little less.
For many women, one question that inevitably comes up is whether contraception is making weight management harder. Modern Western women spend almost 40 years trying not to get pregnant. We have close to 400 fertile cycles out of which we want to get pregnant maybe once or twice or four times or not at all. That’s a lot of women spending a lot of time engaged in some kind of contraception, and consequently rumors abound about contraceptives and weight gain. What’s real?
The real scoop includes some bad news: Normal healthy women gain weight during their fertile years with or without contraception. At age 20, American women weigh on average 125-130 pounds. By age 55, the average is closer to 165, a total gain of 35 pounds. (Weight gain during the teen years is even more rapid, an average of 30 pounds in six years. Even long-distance runners tend to gain over time.) The net-net is that any time a woman is contracepting is a time she is also likely to be gaining weight, regardless of any effects from contraception. This is borne out in the fact that in all clinical trials of contraceptives some percentage of women complains of weight gain, and consequently, virtually all contraceptives subsequently list weight gain as a possible side-effect. Only after the fact, as data accumulate, are researchers able to tease apart normal weight gain from possible effects of contraceptive hormones.
This means that as a woman trying to figure out what is best for your body, it can be challenging to sort out reality from hype or haze. The best research compares women with and without a given method over a span of months or years, but research like that can be hard to find. The kind of information that spreads the fastest and furthest is stories. Anxiety, in particular, is contagious, which makes scary stories particularly viral.
Sometimes we forget the big picture: Pregnancy and childbearing have such big effects on our bodies that with rare but noteworthy exceptions the most significant health question related to any contraceptive is-- how well does it work? Many women don’t realize how often most contraceptives fail with “human factors” built into the equation. On the Pill, 1 in 12 women gets pregnant each year; relying on condoms alone, that rate is 1 in 8. (For no contraception the annual rate is 85%; abstinence commitments may cut that 85% rate by about half.) With a long-acting method like an implant or IUD, the pregnancy rate drops to 1 in 500 or less. If you are concerned about managing weight for health or lifestyle reasons, efficacy should be a primary consideration in choosing among contraceptive options.
Independent of the question of efficacy, the best research available suggests that most contraceptives have little effect on weight, with a few important exceptions. Here is the lay of the land.
IUD’s: The copper IUD is in the top category for efficacy (99%+) and at the same time is a completely non-hormonal method. This means that, despite some challenges in insertion and adjustment, it is the gold standard for women who want no artificial hormones. Its only effect on weight is through reducing unintended pregnancies. Hormonal IUDs boost contraceptive effectiveness (and also decrease menstrual symptoms) by releasing a mostly local micro-dose of a progestin, Levonorgestrel. When it comes to weight gain or loss, though, the difference appears minimal. One study showed slightly more gain in hormonal IUD than copper IUD users, but a longer study found that women with hormonal IUDs gained slightly less weight than women with no hormonal contraceptive. Other research reported modest weight loss for women on both kinds of IUD. Since the differences appear small and inconsistent, don’t assume either IUD will prevent normal weight changes.
With so much profit to be made from keeping people overweight, the public is not hearing the truth about obesity.
Photo Credit: © Tatiana Popova/ Shutterstock.com
January 17, 2013 |
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Did you hear the news? Now it’s healthy to be fat! It turns out that your smug skinny friend who eats broccoli and runs marathons should have been eating fast food and watching TV this whole time. Right?
Well, maybe not. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has made headlines because it found that overweight people have lower mortality rates than people with “healthy” weights and that even moderate obesity does not increase mortality.
This means that an overweight 5’4” woman weighing between 145 and 169 pounds ( Body Mass Index of 25 to 29) has less chance of dying than a woman of the same height who weighs less. If she gains weight and falls within the lower obese range (174 to 204 pounds, BMI of 30 to 35), she is equally likely to die as a woman with a “healthy” BMI of 18.5 to 25. Only once her weight exceeds 205 pounds does her risk of mortality increase.
The study made waves when a recent New York Times op-ed proclaimed that “baselessly categorizing at least 130 million Americans — and hundreds of millions in the rest of the world — as people in need of ‘treatment’ for their ‘condition’ serves the economic interests of, among others, the multibillion-dollar weight-loss industry and large pharmaceutical companies.”
So what’s the story? Is it healthy to be overweight?
As usual, it’s instructive to look back in history – in this case to the mid-1990s when the current standards we use to define “overweight” and “obese” were set. Initially, the U.S. government used a BMI of 27.3 for women and a BMI of 27.8 for men as the lowest BMIs that qualified as overweight.
Across the pond, British scientist Philip James convened the International Obesity Task Force in 1995, and their work, in collaboration with the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO), led to an international standard that defined a BMI of 25 or above as overweight for both sexes, and a BMI of 30 or above as obese.
Back in the U.S., the National Institutes of Health put together an expert panel, chaired by Dr. F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, a recognized expert on obesity, and at the time, the executive director of the Weight Watchers Foundation. In September 1998, they published a document called the “ Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults,” which lowered the U.S. standard for overweight to match the international standard.
Suddenly, a 5’4” woman who weighed 145 or a 5’10” man who weighed 174 were considered overweight. Newspapers published articles on 29 million Americans who went to bed at a healthy weight one night and woke up the next morning to discover they were overweight – although they had not gained one single pound! At the time, these previously “healthy weight” individuals accounted for nearly 30 percent of the overweight and obese people in America.
In the mainstream media, one of the few opposing voices to this change was former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who told the Washington Post that, “weight does not increase the risk of death until the BMI reaches 27 or 28.” Other critics feared that the new standards would result in an increase in the use of diet drugs or discourage Americans, resulting in them giving up trying to lose weight altogether.
Others point to conflicts of interest among the expert panel that defined 55 percent of the nation (at the time) as overweight or obese, or even data showing that a few extra pounds did not result in increased mortality.
The comment below to my eminent domain article merited a detailed response, so I sent it to Professor Robert Hockett, the Cornell University law professor who was the principal author of the Richmond plan. His answer was so useful that I thought I would submit it as a separate post, also below. Thanks Bob and Marc!
I am not in a position to debate the legal theory – which looks plausible. But I think you are missing certain facts which make this situation something far more murky than a plucky local government standing up for the little guy against evil banks.
First, Wall Street has already collected its profits from these securitization deals – in the form of fees paid when the mortgages were bundled 7 or more years ago. While we don’t know exactly who owns all the securities that would be negatively impacted by an eminent domain, we do know that a lot of it is held by public employee pension funds. So instead of taking it to the big banks, you may well be taking it to the humble public servant.
Second, not everyone who took on these mortgages is a poor innocent victim. Some wanted to take cash out of their properties for one reason or another, and actually got the money cheap due to the lending bubble. Also, many homeowners with underwater mortgages in Richmond are not poor. The original pool slated for eminent domain included 3000+ square foot McMansions and waterfront properties. Finally, with the recent rebound in home prices, many fewer homes are underwater and foreclosure rates are down – so you are addressing yesterday’s problem.
As for the council, they need to work with Mortgage Resolution Partners because they want someone to cover their legal costs during the inevitable litigation. The City could be driven into bankruptcy if it is forced into endless litigation or suffers an adverse judgement. More disturbing is the recent expose from the Center for Investigative Reporting showing that Richmond public housing – a Council responsibility – is dilapidated and infested with vermin. If we can’t trust elected officials to provide livable public housing why should we rely on them to resolve blight arising from private foreclosures.
Prof. Hockett’s response:
It never ceases to amaze me how, even after years now of explaining and advocating the eminent domain approach to the underwater PLS loan problem and detailing precisely (a) when it is and when it is not called for, (b) how it works, and (c) the premises upon which it is predicated, people still seem to misunderstand or mischaracterize the plan and entirely overlook or breeze past its fundamental premise. That premise is, again, that deeply underwater loans are subject to enormous default risk (just look at Fannie’s and Freddie’s 10K filings for a hint as to how high that risk is – nearly 70% for non-prime and 40% even for prime loans), such that one actually RAISES the actuarial value of the targeted loans by purchasing them and writing down principal so long as one targets the RIGHT loans. That idea is transparently conveyed, I would have thought, in the VERY TITLE of the NY Fed piece: you can pay Paul AND Peter where these loans are concerned.
Why, then, do we continue to encounter, again and again, blithe references to ’securities that would be negatively impacted,’ ‘investors who would lose,’ etc.? The whole POINT of the plan is to target ONLY deeply underwater loans and associated securities that will be POSITIVELY affected. Those are EXACTLY the loans Richmond and other cities are looking at. And they are getting the values of those loans appraised by the industry’s own favored appraiser – MIAC.
Next, on the ‘yesterday’s problem’ meme, this one entirely ignores the locally concentrated nature of the nation’s underwater mortgage loan problem. Well more than half of Richmond’s, Irvington NJ’s, Newark NJ’s, Baltimore MD’s, Wayne County MI’s, … etc. etc. etc. … loans are deeply underwater. (Take a look at the CoreLogic or Zillow ‘heat maps’ for a ‘big picture’ view of the problem’s distribution.) There is no ‘recovery’ worth the name in these places. Note moreover that even nationally the underwater rate is still around 20% – after having been between 25% and 30% at its worst. All this even though we are now approaching year eight – EIGHT! – since home prices began tanking in the summer of ’06! Are we to wait another 12-16 years for the remainder of the problem to ‘take care of itself?’ And just what is the source of future appreciation supposed to be, given continued real wage and income stagnation, continuing high unemployment, and Fed intentions to taper from historically low interest rates - rates that account for all ‘recovery’ that’s thus far occurred – in coming months?
Hope springs eternal, it seems, and that is a beautiful thing. But it is quite beyond the pale to expect Richmond to watch helplessly – and indeed hopelessly - as thousands more of its own residents are rendered homeless in the name of the beautiful ‘hope’ of pontificating well-to-do financiers.
Like remarks hold of one commentator’s observation concerning Richmond’s recent public housing problem. That is indeed a terrifying story, which I’ve followed carefully from the start, but people like this fellow are drawing the very contrary of the right lesson. The lesson is not that ‘we can’t trust local government to manage public housing well, therefore let us sit back and watch thousands more lose their homes and be forced into public housing.’ The lesson, rather, is ‘let us finally end the foreclosure crisis, in order both that there be no more demand on scarce public housing resources and that there finally be a restoration of municipal revenue, which of course shrinks to the vanishing point when wave after wave of foreclosure destroys property value and with it the city revenue base – all while, with cruel irony, municipal abatement costs brought on by abandoned and dilapidating homes shoot through the roof.’
There could be no more effective solution to Richmond’s challenges – including those with public housing – than to get its residents back into their own homes, and to prevent any more residents from needlessly LOSING their homes.
Finally, I don’t think that the ‘endless litigation’ meme deserves any credence either. I have repeatedly assessed every one of the four to five putatively ‘legal’ objections that opponents have tried out over the past several years, and literally not a single one of them – not the Takings Clause ‘argument,’ not the Due Process Clause / jurisdictional ‘argument,’ not the ‘dormant’ Commerce Clause ‘argument,’ and not, funniest of all, the Contract Clause ‘argument’ - is serious. They appear to be meant more to terrorize municipal counsel than actually to impugn the legal bona fides of the eminent domain plan. (Surely that’s why they flew all over the internet on impressive law firm letterhead long before any suits were filed.) Opponents have lost two suits against Richmond already on precisely the grounds that I said that they would within minutes of their filing them back last August and September. I don’t think these opponents are irrational; at some point they are going to stop throwing millions of their own dollars away on comical ’Hail Mary’ lawsuits doomed ab initio to failure, and instead enter into constructive dialogue with the cities on how best to select, and then value, loans locked in PLS trusts whose values can be raised by writing down principal. Surely Richmond’s reliance on MIAC in appraising its targeted loans ought to reassure them of the cities’ good faith.
Because value is now being needlessly lost in the form of continuing – yet avoidable – delinquencies, defaults, and costly foreclosures, what we are talking about here - and what I’ve been talking about all along - is value recoupment. It’s about ending an ongoing, deadweight loss. The salvaged value can be distributed solomonically over homeowner, bondholder, and all other stakeholders alike. And it is precisely this distribution – as well as determining how best to maximize the surplus that is to be distributed – that those who now slander and carp at the cities ought to be JOINING the cities in effecting. To do otherwise is simply to throw away value.
Editor’s comment: “distributed solomonically” – great image! That sums it up.
Filed under: Ellen Brown Articles/Commentary
Despite the prisoners' hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay being acknowledged by the US military, there has so far been little reaction from the international humanitarian organizations to the action, which enters its 42nd day on Tuesday.
The United Nations has yet to acknowledge or comment upon the Gitmo hunger strike. RT has reached out to UN human rights bodies in Geneva and officials have promised to respond to the inquiry with a comment by Tuesday afternoon.
The only international organization to respond to what’s going on in Guantanamo is the Red Cross, which visited the island prison from February 18 to 23. It acknowledged that a hunger strike was really taking place, but so far all the organization has done is release a statement saying that “The ICRC believes past and current tensions at Guantanamo to be the direct result of the uncertainty faced by detainees.”
Military censorship makes it quite difficult to access any information about Gitmo prisoners. It was the attorneys for the detainees that first expressed urgency and grave concern over the life-threatening mass hunger strike that reportedly started in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on February 6.
According to the Center for Constitutional Rights 130 prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest the alleged confiscation of personal items such as photos and mail and the alleged sacrilegious handling of their Korans.
Prison spokesman Navy Capt. Robert Durand, however, acknowledged only 21 inmates to be on hunger strike. He also denied all allegations of prisoners being mistreated.
Even if not for mistreatment and abuse, prisoners could have started the strike just to draw attention to their being kept in Guantanamo, with the US refusing to repatriate them, despite some being cleared for release.
“There are 166 people at Guantanamo. Of those there are probably 20 guys who are bad guys… like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The other people... more than half of them - 86 of them have been cleared at least for three years and some during the Bush administration - cleared as innocent people. And they are still there and they are frustrated,” says Thomas Wilner, a lawyer, who used to represent some of the Guantanamo detainees in court.
According to Durand, none of the inmates on hunger strike is in immediate health danger.
Lawyers for the prisoners believe otherwise. They have reported some of their clients had weight loss of up to or more than 20 pounds (8kg) and have been hospitalized. Medical experts say that by day 45, hunger strikers can experience potential blindness and partial hearing loss.
The Center for Constitutional Rights and habeas counsel have sent a letter to US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, urging him “to address this growing crisis at Guantánamo before another man dies at the prison, this time under his watch. The hunger strike should be a wake-up call for the Obama Administration, which cannot continue to ignore the human cost of Guantánamo and put off closing the prison any longer.”
Meanwhile, JTF-GTMO announced that flights to the island prison from South Florida will be terminated on April 5. The step is seen by the prisoners’ attorneys as an attempt by the Defense Department to limit access to their clients.
Our modern stereotype is that – until recently – people were plagued with rotting teeth, cavities and gum disease.
But the truth is that prehistoric people had much better oral health than we do today.
As NPR reports:
Prehistoric humans didn’t have toothbrushes. They didn’t have floss or toothpaste, and they certainly didn’t have Listerine. Yet somehow, their mouths were a lot healthier than ours are today.
“Hunter-gatherers had really good teeth,” says Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. “[But] as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change. Huge amounts of gum disease. And cavities start cropping up.”
And thousands of years later, we’re still waging, and often losing, our war against oral disease.
Our changing diets are largely to blame.
In a study published in the latest Nature Genetics, Cooper and his research team looked at calcified plaque on ancient teeth from 34 prehistoric human skeletons. What they found was that as our diets changed over time — shifting from meat, vegetables and nuts to carbohydrates and sugar — so too did the composition of bacteria in our mouths.
However, the researchers found that as prehistoric humans transitioned from hunting and gathering to farming, certain types of disease-causing bacteria that were particularly efficient at using carbohydrates started to win out over other types of “friendly” bacteria in human mouths. The addition of processed flour and sugar during the Industrial Revolution only made matters worse.
“What you’ve really created is an ecosystem which is very low in diversity and full of opportunistic pathogens that have jumped in to utilize the resources which are now free,” Cooper says.
And that’s a problem, because the dominance of harmful bacteria means that our mouths are basically in a constant state of disease.
“You’re walking around with a permanent immune response, which is not a good thing,” says Cooper. “It causes problems all over the place.”
According to Cooper, bacteria make up approximately 90 percent of the cells in our bodies. [Background; and graphics.] He believes that we focus too much on ourselves and not enough on this so-called microbiome.
“We brush our teeth and we floss, and we think that we’ve got good oral hygiene. But [we're] completely failing to deal with the underlying problem,” he says. “Ten years from now, I think we’re going to find that the whole microbiome is a key part of what you get monitored for and treated for.“
While this seems counter-intuitive at first, it makes sense after a little reflection. After all, we evolved as hunters and gatherers. We haven’t had time to adapt – in an evolutionary times frame – to a life of farming … let alone processed foods.
No wonder – according to the New York Times:
More than 75% of American adults have some form of gum disease.
The science of healthy internal bugs is in its infancy. As Live Science notes:
“The concept of a probiotic to help reestablish our baseline microbiota after an antibiotic is a good concept,” [microbiologist Martin Blaser of the NYU School of Medicine] told LiveScience. “But the idea that, of all thousand species in our bodies, taking a single species that comes from cow or cheese is naïve.” Current probiotics are very well marketed, Blaser said, but there’s not much benefit. He does think medicine will one day develop probiotics that will be used to treat illness, but as of now, “it’s a very young field,” he said.
Ingesting too many antibiotics has also been linked to obesity, as it kills – often permanently – helpful intestinal bacteria (and see this and this), hypertension. Probiotics – which replace healthy intestinal bacteria – can promote weight loss, at least in people who don’t have a thriving community of natural intestinal flora.
Indeed, a healthy microbiome is also important for mental health:
Live Science reports:
Researchers have increasingly begun to suspect the gut was somehow linked with the brain. For instance, bowel disorders seem linked with stress-related psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression in people.
To learn more, scientists experimented with mice by feeding them a broth containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1. This species naturally lives in our gut, and scientists are exploring whether strains of it can be used as “probiotics” to improve our health. They discovered these rodents displayed significantly less behavior linked with stress, anxiety and depression than mice fed plain broth. Bacteria-fed mice also had significantly lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone in response to stressful situations such as mazes.
“By affecting gut bacteria, you can have very robust and quite broad-spectrum effects on brain chemistry and behavior,” researcher John Cryan, a neuroscientist at University College Cork in Ireland, told LiveScience.
“Without overstating things, this does open up the concept that we could develop therapies that can treat psychiatric disorders by targeting the gut,” Cryan added. “You could take a yogurt with a probiotic in it instead of an antidepressant.”
The investigators found that one GABA receptor component was present in higher levels in bacteria-fed mice in parts of the brain where it is normally lowered during depression. In addition, several GABA receptor components were reduced in parts of the brain where they are normally increased in stressed or anxious animals.
Next, the researchers severed the vagus nerve, which helps alert the central nervous system to changes in the gastrointestinal tract. They found the bacteria-induced effects on behavior and GABA receptors were diminished, suggesting this nerve is the pathway by which changes in the gut can influence the brain.
Vagal nerve stimulations have been used at times to treat depression resistant to other therapies, but “that’s a surgical technique,” Cryan said. “By targeting the gut with probiotics, we could indirectly target the vagus nerve without surgery.”
And see this.
Many native cultures ate a lot of fermented foods containing healthy bacteria. Think yogurt, miso and Inuit fermented seal blubber (gross, we know …)
Given that the modern diet contains less fermented foods, and that antibiotics have killed off some of our healthy intestinal flora, probiotics – sold in health food stores – are an important preventative measure against depression.
In a couple of years, we will be able to get the right probiotics to kill the bad bugs in our mouth without destroying the good guys like antibiotics do.
In the meantime, good oral hygiene – conscientious tooth brushing and flossing – is important. Indeed, an overwhelming number of scientific studies conclude that cavity levels are falling worldwide … even in countries which don’t fluoridate water.
World Health Organization Data (2004) -
Tooth Decay Trends (12 year olds) in Fluoridated vs. Unfluoridated Countries:
This is due to increased education about the importance of oral hygiene.
In addition, we should cut out refined flour and refined sugar. As Live Science notes:
Cooper suggests that one way to help return your microbiome to a healthier, more balanced state might be to cut out all of those processed carbs and start eating like our ancestors.
Cranberry juice contains a chemical that blocks cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to teeth. Drinking some unsweetened cranberry juice during the day can reduce cavities.
US Economy Is A House Of Cards Paul Craig Roberts The US economy is a house of cards. Every aspect of it is fraudulent, and the illusion of recovery is created with fraudulent statistics. American capitalism itself is an illusion.…
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Given that getting people to part with their hard earned cash is one of the toughest skills to get good at both online and offline, it stands to reason that Adsense should be a fairly easy way of generating an income... But like anything, itâ€™s only easy if you know exactly what youâ€™re doing...And in that light I want to share my 3 best tips for...
Poisoned, Marginalised, Bankrupt and Dead: The Role of Agroecology in Resisting the Corporate Stranglehold...
Palestinian minority fears decision will revive legislation to drive tens of thousands of Bedouin off their lands in Negev
Middle East Eye – 15 May 2015
Israel’s Palestinian minority is preparing to hold a “day of rage” to protest against a court ruling last week that cleared the way to destroy an entire Bedouin village so that it can be replaced by a Jewish town.
The Israeli Supreme Court’s decision marks the end of a 13-year legal battle by the 800 villagers of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev (Naqab) to prevent the establishment of the town on the site of their current homes.
The new town – also to be called Hiran – is expected to include 2,500 homes designated for ultra-nationalist religious groups closely identified with the settler movement.
Bedouin leaders and human rights groups criticised the judges for upholding what they termed “racist” government policies that gave weight solely to the housing needs of Israel’s Jewish population.
Fadi Masamra, director of the Regional Council of the Unrecognised Villages (RCUV), a body representing dozens of embattled Negev communities like Umm al-Hiran, said the village’s destruction would be viewed as a major assault on Bedouin rights.
“This is as clear a case of ethnic cleansing as one could imagine – and the courts have given their assent,” he told Middle East Eye. “The government is determined to clear us from as much of our land as possible and force us into ghettoes.”
Eviction for tens of thousands
There are widespread fears that the ruling will reopen the door to controversial legislation requiring the destruction of 36 Bedouin villages in the Negev the state has refused to recognise.
The Prawer Bill was put on hold by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government 17 months ago following mass protests by the Palestinian minority, which comprises a fifth of Israel’s population.
Tens of thousands of Bedouin face being uprooted and forcibly moved into a handful of government-planned towns in the Negev that are classed as the most deprived communities in the country.
The far-right Jewish Home party insisted on the legislation’s revival as a condition of its entry into the government coalition this month. One of its leaders, Uri Ariel, a settler in the occupied territories, was made minister in charge of Bedouin affairs.
In a sign of the increasing pressure being exerted on Bedouin communities in southern Israel, government officials demanded in a separate court case last week that dozens of families from another village, al-Araqib, be billed $500,000.
The sum is to cover the cost of repeatedly demolishing their homes. The villagers have resisted government efforts to evict them by rebuilding their homes more than 80 times over the past five years.
Umm al-Hiran is one of 46 villages – home to some 100,000 Bedouin – that Israel has refused to recognise since the 1960s, leaving the inhabitants effectively criminalised.
While the Bedouin residents have Israeli citizenship, the state refuses to connect the villages to the water and power grids or provide access roads, health clinics and schools. All homes are under demolition order, forcing many villagers to live in tents or tin shacks.
The Supreme Court ruled last week that the residents of Umm al-Hiran had no right to their lands, even while Israeli authorities conceded that they had relocated the tribe to the dusty hills of the eastern Negev six decades ago. The villagers had been left landless in 1948 after the Israeli army destroyed their original homes.
Salim Abu Al-Kian, a 41-year-old resident of Umm al-Hiran who led the village’s struggle through the courts, told MEE: “We are being treated like criminals, even though we were placed here by the state. It seems our mistake is in not being Jewish.”
Maysanna Morany, a lawyer for Adalah, which represented Umm al-Hiran in court, said the judges had established a dangerous precedent by overlooking the social and political context of the case.
“The state did not try to argue, as it usually does, that there were important security or environmental reasons for destroying the village,” she said.
“The land will still be used for housing. But both the government and the court agreed that the residents of Umm al-Hiran should be evicted so that Jews can live in their place. That is clearly a racist policy, designed to promote the state’s Jewish character.”
‘Mark of Cain’
Bedouin leaders and the Follow-Up Committee, the main representative body of Israel’s 1.5 million Palestinian citizens, are due to meet in Umm al-Hiran on Sunday to formulate a response to the court decision.
The meeting will be held in the shadow of the 15 May commemorations of the anniversary of the Nakba – the Arabic world for “catastrophe” and a reference to the national disaster that befell the Palestinians in 1948 with the loss of their homeland.
Masamra of the RCUV said the court ruling was proof that the Nakba was not over.
The Palestinian leadership in Israel has grown increasingly concerned about severe land and housing shortages faced by the 1.5 million-strong Palestinian minority.
A one-day general strike was held last month following a new wave of house demolitions in Arab communities.
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List, a broad coalition of Arab political parties that is the third largest faction in the Israeli parliament, has made the housing crisis and Israel’s treatment of the Bedouin his top priorities.
In late March he led a four-day protest march from the Negev to Jerusalem, presenting the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with a proposal to make all the unrecognised villages legal.
Odeh called the failure to provide Bedouin children with water and electricity “a mark of Cain” on Israel.
Israeli officials have been intensifying their campaign against the Bedouin since 2002, when planning authorities approved the founding of 14 Jewish communities in the Negev as part of efforts to strengthen what was termed “national resilience”.
The authorities have insisted that most of the Bedouin villagers relocate to half a dozen government-planned townships established decades ago.
Liad Aviel, a government spokesman for Bedouin affairs, told the Associated Press that the villagers of Umm al-Hiran had been offered housing a short distance away in Hura, east of Beersheva.
However, Ismael Abu Saad, an education professor at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, told MEE that all the townships lacked basic infrastructure and land for farming, and were at the bottom of the country’s social and economic tables.
“The quality of life in these towns is disastrous,” he said. “Poverty and unemployment are sky high, and services are almost non-existent.”
Despite the harsh living conditions in the unrecognised villages, and government pressure to move to the townships, only about half of the Negev’s 200,000 Bedouin have agreed to do so.
Emigration from townships
In recent years, Israeli authorities have grown increasingly concerned by the steady emigration of Bedouin from the townships back into the unrecognised villages, said Abu Saad.
“Any families who can return to their original villages are doing so,” he said.
“I have pointed out to the planning authorities repeatedly that if you want the Bedouin to stay in the towns, then you have to make it worthwhile to live there. Otherwise people will vote with their feet.”
Bedouin in the unrecognised villages argue that they should be allowed to continue their pastoral way of life as farmers and herders.
The villages are located either on land inhabited by the Bedouin for generations or on sites, as at Umm al-Hiran, to which they were moved after their expulsion from their original land following the 1948 war.
Israel rejects claims by the Bedouin to 800 sq km of the Negev – or about 5 per cent of the area – saying all of the Negev is state land.
Launching a fundraising campaign this week to help bring the Umm al-Hiran’s struggle to international attention, Adalah stated: “The court did not ask why the new town had to replace the Arab village, when there are vast and empty lands in the surrounding area.”
Morany said the court should have taken into account that state was expelling the villagers from their homes for a second time.
The judges had also ignored the decades of discriminatory government policies that had created major land shortages for all Arab communities, she added.
Land and housing shortages
Last month the Palestinian minority staged a one-day general strike to protest a renewed wave of home demolitions and a mounting housing crisis. Thousands took their protest to the streets of Tel Aviv.
At the same time, opposition from Jewish parties prevented Arab MPs from holding an emergency parliamentary session to discuss the housing problems faced by the minority.
A recent report by Adalah argued that housing shortages were “the result of deliberate, consistent, and systematic government policy”.
It noted that the 139 Arab communities recognised by the state had jurisdiction over only 2.5 per cent of Israeli territory after years of land confiscations. By contrast, 93 per cent of Israel was classified as state land, with much of it reserved only for the Jewish population.
Israel’s additional refusal to build a single new Arab community since 1948, and Jewish officials’ domination of the planning authorities, had led to an 11-fold increase in population density in Arab localities.
Further, the report observed, Arab communities had been overlooked in state-authorised construction projects. Of the 40,100 homes built last year, less than 5 per cent were in Arab towns or villages.
Worse, the report stated, a new four-year government programme to build affordable homes across the country did not include a single Arab locale.
Identifying with the settlements
In a dissenting opinion from her two colleagues in the Umm al-Hiran case, Supreme Court judge Daphne Barak-Erez proposed that the villagers be given the option to live in the new town of Hiran.
The Haaretz daily noted, however, that government efforts to reserve Hiran for the national-religious population – who identify closely with the settlement movement in the occupied territories – made that an impractical solution.
The first Jewish families due to move into Hiran are currently living in a temporary community they established in 2008 in nearby Yatir Forest in anticipation of Umm al-Hiran’s destruction. The 30 buildings were erected without permits.
Morany said that, contrary to their treatment of the unrecognised Bedouin villages, the authorities had turned a blind eye to the illegal status of the Jewish community. The homes there have been hooked up with water and electricity.
According to plaques on some of the homes, they have been donated by the Jewish National Fund USA, registered as a charity in the United States.
In a video posted by Adalah online, a spokesman for the Jewish group named Shmuel, who refused to be photographed, stated that he saw no difference between Israel and the occupied territories.
Morany said other videos showed that the families were sending their children to a school in a Jewish settlement a short distance away in the occupied territories.
Abu Al-Kian, of Umm al-Hiran, said the villagers would not give up. “We will continue fighting. We are not leaving even if they destroy every one of our homes.”
“In the morning, you make porridge from maize and send the kids to school. For lunch, boiled maize and a few green beans. In the evening, ugali, [a staple dough-like maize dish, served with meat]… [today] it’s a monoculture diet, being driven by the food system – it’s an injustice.”
“If we grow millets and pulses, we will have more nutrition per capita. If we grow food by using chemicals, we are growing monocultures — this means that we will have less nutrition per acre, per capita… The agrarian crisis, the food crisis and the nutrition and health crisis are intimately connected. They need to be addressed together. The objective of agriculture policy cannot be based on promoting industrial processing of food. The chemicalisation of agriculture and food are recipes for “denutrification”… The Green Revolution displaced pulses, an important source of proteins, as well as oilseeds, thus reducing nutrition per acre. Monocultures do not produce more food and nutrition. They take up more chemicals and fossil fuels, and hence are profitable for agrochemical companies and oil companies. They produce higher yields of individual commodities but a lower output of food and nutrition.” (See here, ‘The Real Hunger Games’)
Comprehensive Trade And Economic Agreement And The Transatlantic Trade And Investment Partnership: Don’t Let...
Nile Bowie is an independent journalist and political analyst based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His articles have appeared in numerous international publications, including regular columns with Russia Today (RT) and newspapers such as the Global Times, the Malaysian Reserve and the New Straits Times. He is a research assistant with the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), a Malaysian NGO promoting social justice and anti-hegemony politics. He can be reached at [email protected].
When experts start speaking in terms of "extinction events," and uses terminology which includes "epidemic of historic magnitude," and talks of threats that will "decimate entire population” of species," then people better start paying attention.
If those terms don't terrify you then the term from those same experts "we don't have a clue," should truly send chills up and down your spine.
These are what the experts are saying in regards to "mysterious" death of starfish and the "wasting syndrome," yet since this is along the west coast and radioactive water has been dumped into the Pacific Ocean for over three years from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, it seems as if no one wants to make the connection that is the most obvious.
Oregon St. University, June 4, 2014: Sea star disease epidemic surges in Oregon, local extinctions expected — Just in the past two weeks, the incidence of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded along the Oregon Coast and created an epidemic of historic magnitude, one that threatens to decimate the entire population of purple ochre sea stars. [...] its loss could disrupt the entire marine intertidal ecosystem. [...] the sudden increase in Oregon has been extraordinary. [...] less than 1 percent of the ochre sea stars in Oregon were affected in April, and only slightly more than that by mid-May. Today, [it's] an estimated 30-50 percent [with some areas at] 60 percent [...] Researchers project that the epidemic will intensify and, at some sites, nearly 100 percent of the ochre sea stars could die. “This is an unprecedented event,” said Bruce Menge [...] Professor of Marine Biology [...] “We’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before [...] We have no clue what’s causing this epidemic, how severe the damage might be [...] It’s very serious.” [...] [Prior] outbreaks were associated with warm-water conditions [but] the water temperatures in Oregon “are only at the high end of a normal range,” Menge said
Cross posted at Before It's News
An old question comes to mind.... if a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?
Of course it does.
The same goes with the economic crash that is occurring now, if no one is willing to report it, if the government denies it, if the MSM covers it up, does it mean it isn't really happening?
While the US government's official position is that we are still in "recovery," the signs all point to our upcoming financial demise, from food prices spiking which will ultimately lead to food shortages and riots, retailers closing stores by the hundreds because they are losing revenue, China and Russia among other countries dumping the use of the dollar and the recent news that the US economy has shrunk for the first time (officially) since 2011, we are looking economic death right in the face and most people don't even know the extent of the devastation about to occur.
Starting with the retail apocalypse, we go to ZeroHedge, who provides the raw data:
• Wal-Mart Profit Plunges By $220 Million as US Store Traffic Declines by 1.4%
• Target Profit Plunges by $80 Million, 16% Lower Than 2013, as Store Traffic Declines by 2.3%
• Sears Loses $358 Million in First Quarter as Comparable Store Sales at Sears Plunge by 7.8% and Sales at Kmart Plunge by 5.1%
• JC Penney Thrilled With Loss of Only $358 Million For the Quarter
• Kohl’s Operating Income Plunges by 17% as Comparable Sales Decline by 3.4%
• Costco Profit Declines by $84 Million as Comp Store Sales Only Increase by 2%
• Staples Profit Plunges by 44% as Sales Collapse and Closing Hundreds of Stores
• Gap Income Drops 22% as Same Store Sales Fall
• American Eagle Profits Tumble 86%, Will Close 150 Stores
• Aeropostale Losses $77 Million as Sales Collapse by 12%
• Best Buy Sales Decline by $300 Million as Margins Decline and Comparable Store Sales Decline by 1.3%
• Macy’s Profit Flat as Comparable Store Sales decline by 1.4%
• Dollar General Profit Plummets by 40% as Comp Store Sales Decline by 3.8%
• Urban Outfitters Earnings Collapse by 20% as Sales Stagnate
• McDonalds Earnings Fall by $66 Million as US Comp Sales Fall by 1.7%
• Darden Profit Collapses by 30% as Same Restaurant Sales Plunge by 5.6% and Company Selling Red Lobster
• TJX Misses Earnings Expectations as Sales & Earnings Flat
• Dick’s Misses Earnings Expectations as Golf Store Sales Plummet
• Home Depot Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic Only Rises by 2.2%• Lowes Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic was Flat
Food Prices Spike, via USA Today:
• Beef - Thus far, retailers have absorbed the bulk of a 22% beef price increase the past year, but Nalivka expects retailers to pass more costs to consumers this year.
• Pork: Retail pork prices rose 6.8% in the past year
• Poultry: Poultry prices increased 4.7% last year, the Agriculture Department says
• Milk: Retailers have been hit by a 36% wholesale price increase since December, and Jones says per-gallon retail prices could rise another 25 cents to 50 cents this year.
• Fruits and Vegetables: Orange prices increased 3.4% last month, and strawberry prices are up 12% vs. a year ago. Analyst Michael Swanson says prices for other fruits and vegetables could spike this year
In the videos below we the question of whether China can kill the US Dollar, a discussion on economic death and the news of the US economy shrinking for the first time since 2011, which is being called "temporary."
The numbers don't lie... people do.
Video above details:
Not only this, but China holds around 1.3 trillion dollars of US debt. A debt accumulated by China's stockpile of dollars from international trade which they lend back to the US at ridiculously low interest rates.
But what happens if they stop playing the game? Well, in some respects they already have.
For the last few years, increasing numbers of commentators, including Max Keiser, have been predicting the collapse of the US dollar, a collapse that could be closer than you think. America currently faces a very real, impending threat -- China. China accounts for more global trade than anyone else on the planet, and most of that trade happens in US dollars keeping demand for the dollar high and overseas trade at low costs.
But what happens if they stop playing the game? Well, in some respects they already have.
Cross posted at Before It's News
“We are forced to conclude that the decision to withdraw our paper was based on unscientific double standards applied by the editor. These double standards can only be explained by pressure from the GMO and agrochemical industry to force acceptance of GMOs and Roundup. The most flagrant illustration is the appointment of Richard Goodman, a former Monsanto employee, onto the FCT editorial board, soon after the publication of the NK603 study. Worse, this pro-industry bias also affects regulatory authorities, such as EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), which gives favourable opinions on risky products based on mediocre studies commissioned by the companies wishing to commercialize the products, as well as systematically dismissing the findings of independent scientists which cast doubt on their safety.”
“The GMO debate is far from being over, as some GMO proponents claim. Instead the evidence of risk and actual harm from GM foods and crops to health and the environment has grown in the two years since we brought out the first edition. The good news is that GMOs are not needed to feed the world. The report shows that there are far better ways of ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply.”
1) The report debunks the claims by pro-GMO lobbyists that 1,700 studies show GM foods are as safe. The studies show nothing of the sort. Many of them not only show evidence of risk, but the review also excludes or glosses over important scientific controversies over GMO safety issues. (See page102 of the new report.)
2) A review purportedly showing that GM foods are safe on the basis of long-term animal studies actually shows evidence of risk and uses unscientific double standards to reach a conclusion that is not justified by the data. (p. 161)
3) A laboratory study in human cells shows that very low levels of glyphosate (the main chemical ingredient of Roundup herbicide, which most GM crops are engineered to tolerate) mimicked the hormone estrogen and stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells. The level of glyphosate that had this effect was below the level allowed in drinking water in
Europe and far below the level allowed in the . It was also below the level found in GM glyphosate-tolerant soy, which is imported into USA Europe for animal feed and human food. If confirmed in animal studies, this finding would overturn regulatory assumptions of safe levels of glyphosate. (p. 221)
4) Séralini’s study is far stronger and more detailed than many industry studies that are accepted as proof of safety for GMOs. The European Food Safety Authority had to reject the study in order to protect its own previous opinions on this and other GMOs, for reasons explained in the report. The findings of this study, if confirmed, would overturn regulatory assumptions of safe levels of glyphosate and Roundup. (pp. 94, 147)
“There is evidence that Roundup, even at the low levels permitted in food and drinking water, could lead to serious effects on health over time, such as liver and kidney toxicity. Based on this evidence, it appears that the levels of exposure currently held as safe by regulators around the world are questionable.”
“The GMO industry is built on myths. What is the motivation behind the deception? Money. GM crops and foods are easy to patent and are an important tool in the global consolidation of the seed and food industry into the hands of a few big companies. We all have to eat, so selling patented GM seed and the chemicals they are grown with is a lucrative business model. GMO Myths and Truths offers a one-stop resource for the public, campaigners, policy-makers, and scientists opposing the GMO industry’s attempts to control our food supply and shut down scientific and public debate.”
- economic strangulation;
- collective punishment for being Muslims, not Jews;
- loss of basic freedoms;
- Gaza under siege;
- enclosures by separation walls, electric fences and border closings;
- regular curfews, roadblocks, and checkpoints;
- bulldozed homes, crops and orchards; as well as
- arrest, imprisonment, and torture without cause.
Anti-Semitic Fliers in Eastern Ukraine: Obama Endorses a Forgery, 300 German Intellectuals Support Putin
In GITMO this week another four days of pre-trial motions was scheduled in the proceedings against the five accused terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers.
On Tuesday, the court was recessed after just one hour, as it became evident that a defence team member had been "approached by a government agency."
From American Forces Press Services (DoD) come this:
Military Commission Judge Mulls Probe of Defense ClaimBy Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., April 15, 2014 – The judge in the military commission proceedings for five suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States called for a recess today to prepare an order allowing defense attorneys time to determine whether current or past defense team members were contacted by a government agency.
The proceedings began yesterday at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and a satellite feed here allows reporters unable to travel to Cuba to cover the case.
Court recessed today at about 11 a.m. when the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said he will issue the order later today.
The order follows the defense team’s request this morning for an investigation after one of the defense attorneys disclosed yesterday that the FBI questioned a member of his team about the suspects.
Pohl told defense attorneys they have until 5 p.m. tomorrow to submit a request if they want the court to subpoena witnesses from agencies that have contacted past or existing defense members. Any information the defense teams find will be disclosed only to the lead defense counsel for each team, Pohl ordered.
“The lead counsel will use his or her professional judgment in bringing the issue to the judge,” explained Army Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale, a Defense Department spokesman.
The court order is to avoid a conflict with any nondisclosure agreement an agency might have required a member of the defense team to file, Breasseale said.
Pohl is considering a court investigation on agencies that contacted defense team members, based on requests from defense team members in today’s proceedings. Because of those requests, the judge told the defense teams to determine which witnesses they believe they need. As yet, there is no indication the judge will proceed with an investigation.
James Harrington, attorney for defendant Ramzi Binalshibh, told the court at the start of yesterday’s hearing that the FBI contacted one of his team members for information. He did not say why FBI agents recently questioned his defense team member, but said the individual handled classified evidence.... [emphasis mine]
Read more of this news report here.
Before the DoD article was published above, TIME.com had this:
FBI Tried to Recruit Member of 9/11 Plotters’ Legal Team, Lawyers Claim
April 14, 2014
The 9/11 accused confer with their defense lawyers during a break in pretrial hearings at the U.S. Navy base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on April 14, 2014.
The defense team for five men accused of planning and launching the Sept. 11 attacks, currently in pretrial hearings at Guantánamo Bay, alleges the FBI attempted to turn one of its lawyers into a confidential informantAt Guantánamo Bay, the wheels of justice turn not so much slowly, as seldom. Twelve and a half years after 9/11, the five men accused of planning and launching the attack are in pretrial hearings at a military tribunal there. On Monday, the tribunal held proceedings for the first time since December. Within minutes, the hearing recessed.
As the indefatigable Carol Rosenberg reports in the Miami Herald, Army Colonel James L. Pohl, who is the presiding judge on the tribunal, called the recess after lawyers for the accused terrorists said the FBI had tried to turn a member of the defense team into a confidential informant:Defense lawyers alleged Monday that in at least one instance, two FBI agents enlisted a civilian on the defense team of accused plot deputy Ramzi bin al Shibh as a confidential informant.The FBI declined several requests for a comment.The development seemed to stun the chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Mark Martins, who told the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, that he was unaware of the FBI activity....
What is missing from these reports, and usually any of the reporting on these Hearings, is the effect of all this on the families of the victims lost on that terrible day in 2001.
It is no secret to regular readers here that I am friends with Diane and Ken Fairben, parents of Keith Fairben, a Paramedic who gave his life saving lives that day (and other EMS 'peeps' who were there on 9/11.) We talk - often.
This latest bump on the slow road to justice has hit Diane and Ken hard. Part of Diane's response shared with me - and here with her permission:
We were home at 11 am again
The short version of today...one of the defense lawyers is the one who sent KSM's letters ( to his wife) and his manifesto, part 1Nevins is his name, the LEAD attorney. So we won't see him again, as he's the one the FBI is investigating. So, Judge Pohl recessed for the day, no hearings, maybe I have no clue as to what will happen to the trial.
Disappointed, sad, frustrated....I don't think I will get the chance to ever tell them about Keith, and let them know what they took from us.
The feeling of not having control of anything regarding this trial is overwhelmingly depressing.
Actually, since that day, we have had no control...13 years. I'm sure it will be all over the media.
Holder must be dancing in the streets, he's really dancing on all their graves and the families hearts.
Diane is always emphatic, unwavering, in her praise and faith in the whole prosecution team.
Over time, she has shared with me details of the families' various meetings and communications with the prosecution team, and I am truly in awe of the patience and the calm even-handedness of Judge Pohl as he navigates these pre-trial Hearings in the face of the tactics continuously thrown up by the defense attorneys.
It is obvious to me that the prosecution team that is diligently affording those terrorists before them all the rights of a fair and balanced trial, is always mindful of the losses of the families who daily face the brunt of the gaping holes in their hearts of their innocent sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, beloved family members, who were murdered on that day.
Sadly, it seems that most of the world, and indeed the majority of American msm, have forgotten the cost in human lives of that day. From what I can tell, most folks are not even aware that a trial is still going on. (Hell, most people don't even know that we still have Troops in harms way in this Global War on Terror.)
Despite all that, I believe that it is imperative that every one of us pay attention. Every day we all need to remember the individual lives lost, the families - like the Fairbens and so many more, who expect JUSTICE to be served.
No, none that I know are naive enough to believe that a verdict ultimately rendered (GUILTY, of course) will bring back their loved ones.
However, I maintain my faith that there will BE American justice served and a price paid by those murdering terrorists who ripped apart the fabric of so many families.
Related link: Military Commission
Taxpayers are paying billions of dollars for a swindle pulled off by the world’s biggest banks, using a form of derivative called interest-rate swaps; and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has now joined a chorus of litigants suing over it. According to an SEIU report:
Derivatives . . . have turned into a windfall for banks and a nightmare for taxpayers. . . . While banks are still collecting fixed rates of 3 to 6 percent, they are now regularly paying public entities as little as a tenth of one percent on the outstanding bonds, with rates expected to remain low in the future. Over the life of the deals, banks are now projected to collect billions more than they pay state and local governments – an outcome which amounts to a second bailout for banks, this one paid directly out of state and local budgets.
It is not just that local governments, universities and pension funds made a bad bet on these swaps. The game itself was rigged, as explained below. The FDIC is now suing in civil court for damages and punitive damages, a lead that other injured local governments and agencies would be well-advised to follow. But they need to hurry, because time on the statute of limitations is running out.
The Largest Cartel in World History
On March 14, 2014, the FDIC filed suit for LIBOR-rigging against sixteen of the world’s largest banks – including the three largest US banks (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup), the three largest UK banks, the largest German bank, the largest Japanese bank, and several of the largest Swiss banks. Bill Black, professor of law and economics and a former bank fraud investigator, calls them “the largest cartel in world history, by at least three and probably four orders of magnitude.”
LIBOR (the London Interbank Offering Rate) is the benchmark rate by which banks themselves can borrow. It is a crucial rate involved in hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivative trades, and it is set by these sixteen megabanks privately and in secret.
Interest rate swaps are now a $426 trillion business. That’s trillion with a “t” – about seven times the gross domestic product of all the countries in the world combined. According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, in 2012 US banks held $183.7 trillion in interest-rate contracts, with only four firms representing 93% of total derivative holdings; and three of the four were JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America, the US banks being sued by the FDIC over manipulation of LIBOR.
Lawsuits over LIBOR-rigging have been in the works for years, and regulators have scored some very impressive regulatory settlements. But so far, civil actions for damages have been unproductive for the plaintiffs. The FDIC is therefore pursuing another tack.
But before getting into all that, we need to look at how interest-rate swaps work. It has been argued that the counterparties stung by these swaps got what they bargained for – a fixed interest rate. But that is not actually what they got. The game was rigged from the start.
Interest-rate swaps are sold to parties who have taken out loans at variable interest rates, as insurance against rising rates. The most common swap is one where counterparty A (a university, municipal government, etc.) pays a fixed rate to counterparty B (the bank), while receiving from B a floating rate indexed to a reference rate such as LIBOR. If interest rates go up, the municipality gets paid more on the swap contract, offsetting its rising borrowing costs. If interest rates go down, the municipality owes money to the bank on the swap, but that extra charge is offset by the falling interest rate on its variable rate loan. The result is to fix borrowing costs at the lower variable rate.
At least, that is how it’s supposed to work. The catch is that the swap is a separate financial agreement – essentially an ongoing bet on interest rates. The borrower owes both the interest onits variable rate loan and what it must pay out on this separate swap deal. And the benchmarks for the two rates don’t necessarily track each other. As explained by Stephen Gandel on CNN Money:
The rates on the debt were based on something called the Sifma municipal bond index, which is named after the industry group that maintains the index and tracks muni bonds. And that’s what municipalities should have bought swaps based on.
Instead, Wall Street sold municipalities Libor swaps, which were easier to trade and [were] quickly becoming a gravy train for the banks.
Historically, Sifma and LIBOR moved together. But that was before the greatest-ever global banking cartel got into the game of manipulating LIBOR. Gandel writes:
In 2008 and 2009, Libor rates, in general, fell much faster than the Sifma rate. At times, the rates even went in different directions. During the height of the financial crisis, Sifma rates spiked. Libor rates, though, continued to drop. The result was that the cost of the swaps that municipalities had taken out jumped in price at the same time that their borrowing costs went up, which was exactly the opposite of how the swaps were supposed to work.
The two rates had decoupled, and it was chiefly due to manipulation. As noted in the SEUI report:
[T]here is . . . mounting evidence that it is no accident that these deals have gone so badly, so quickly for state and local governments. Ongoing investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and the California, Florida, and Connecticut Attorneys General implicate nearly every major bank in a nationwide conspiracy to rig bids and drive up the fixed rates state and local governments pay on their derivative contracts.
Changing the Focus to Fraud
Suits to recover damages for collusion, antitrust violations and racketeering (RICO), however, have so far failed. In March 2013, SDNY Judge Naomi Reece Buchwald dismissed antitrust and RICO claims brought by investors and traders in actions consolidated in her court, on the ground that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the claims. She held that the rate-setting banks’ actions did not affect competition, because those banks were not in competition with one another with respect to LIBOR rate-setting; and that “the alleged collusion occurred in an arena in which defendants never did and never were intended to compete.”
Okay, the defendants weren’t competing with each other. They were colluding with each other, in order to unfairly compete with the rest of the financial world – local banks, credit unions, and the state and local governments they lured into being counterparties to their rigged swaps. The SDNY ruling is on appeal to the Second Circuit.
In the meantime, the FDIC is taking another approach. Its 24-count complaint does include antitrust claims, but the emphasis is on damages for fraud and conspiring to keep the LIBOR rate low to enrich the banks. The FDIC is not the first to bring such claims, but its massive suit adds considerable weight to the approach.
Why would keeping interest rates low enrich the rate-setting banks? Don’t they make more money if interest rates are high?
The answer is no. Unlike most banks, they make most of their money not from ordinary commercial loans but from interest rate swaps. The FDIC suit seeks to recover losses caused to 38 US banking institutions that did make their profits from ordinary business and consumer loans – banks that failed during the financial crisis and were taken over by the FDIC. They include Washington Mutual, the largest bank failure in US history. Since the FDIC had to cover the deposits of these failed banks, it clearly has standing to recover damages, and maybe punitive damages, if intentional fraud is proved.
The Key Role of the Federal Reserve
The rate-rigging banks have been caught red-handed, but the greater manipulation of interest rates was done by the Federal Reserve itself. The Fed aggressively drove down interest rates to save the big banks and spur economic recovery after the financial collapse. In the fall of 2008, it dropped the prime rate (the rate at which banks borrow from each other) nearly to zero.
This gross manipulation of interest rates was a giant windfall for the major derivative banks. Indeed, the Fed has been called a tool of the global banking cartel. It is composed of 12 branches, all of which are 100% owned by the private banks in their districts; and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has always been the most important by far of these regional Fed banks. New York, of course is where Wall Street is located.
LIBOR is set in London; but as Simon Johnson observed in a New York Times article titled The Federal Reserve and the LIBOR Scandal, the Fed has jurisdiction whenever the “safety and soundness” of the US financial system is at stake. The scandal, he writes, “involves egregious, flagrant criminal conduct, with traders caught red-handed in e-mails and on tape.” He concludes:
This could even become a “tobacco moment,” in which an industry is forced to acknowledge its practices have been harmful – and enters into a long-term agreement that changes those practices and provides continuing financial compensation.
Bill Black concurs, stating, “Our system is completely rotten. All of the largest banks are involved—eagerly engaged in this fraud for years, covering it up.” The system needs a complete overhaul.
In the meantime, if the FDIC can bring a civil action for breach of contract and fraud, so can state and local governments, universities, and pension funds. The possibilities this opens up for California (where I’m currently running for State Treasurer) are huge. Fraud is grounds for rescission (terminating the contract) without paying penalties, potentially saving taxpayers enormous sums in fees for swap deals that are crippling cities, universities and other public entities across the state. Fraud is also grounds for punitive damages, something an outraged jury might be inclined to impose. My next post will explore the possibilities for California in more detail. Stay tuned.
Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and a candidate for California State Treasurer running on a state bank platform. She is the author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt and her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, which explores successful public banking models historically and globally.
Recently, two separate incidents highlighted just how vulnerable the 1WTC is to terrorists. A teenager managed to evade security last week, which prompted TIME: The daring climb raises questions about the security of America's tallest building. Noooooo kidding.. In September last year, there was the case of three skydiving from the WTC....They were arrested this week. Go and check out this report (with video) on USA Today.
Now, the New York Post tells us that yes, there is a security system for this building 'but it’s still sitting in its box in a back office because they didn’t want to pay extra for installation'......Really?????? Go read the rest on that.
From New Jersey.com
1 World Trade Center lacks security system because of hefty price tag, report says
March 24, 2014
[...]A "well-placed source" told the Post the $4,000 security system is still sitting in a back office because the Port Authority expressed frustration with paying extra for installation. A report from the Post found that there isn't a single working security camera inside the building.
"He (a Port Authority official) looked at me and my colleague and said, 'Why did I spend $4,000 on this equipment when you could have gone to Home Depot and gotten something cheaper?'" the source told The Post. The source is a veteran electrician who worked on the project for the vendor, Angel Electronics, the report said.
"I was kind of stunned, because that's a pretty bold statement to make considering we got the specs from them, and the Port Authority had it made to order," the source told the Post....
Read the rest here.
"Kind of stunned"??????? Yes, me too.
Oh and about those terrorists that Obama refuses to admit still pose a threat to us here?
Homeland Security News Wire:
9/11 terror network in U.S. was never fully dismantled, still a threat
26 March 2014A joint inquiry co-chaired by a former senator has warned that the American network that supported and trained the 9/11 hijackers was never fully dismantled, and that it remains a threat, pending the release of a secret report from the era. Former Senator. Bob Graham (D-Florida) points out that a 28-page section from the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001” was classified under President George W. Bush and remains so under President Barack Obama.
Graham points out that “Saudi support cells were set up in a number of U.S. cities, coast to coast — including Paterson, N.J., Delray Beach, Fla., Sarasota, Fla., Falls Church, Va., Alexandria, Va., Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix — but were never properly investigated.”...
There is much more here.
If that's not enough to concern you, last month I found this from Clarion Project:
Exclusive: Islamist Terror Enclave Discovered in TexasFBI documents obtained by Clarion confirm the find and show the U.S. government’s concern about its links to terrorism.
By Ryan Mauro February 18, 2014
A Clarion Project investigation has discovered a jihadist enclave in Texas where a deadly shooting took place in 2002.
The enclave belongs to the network of Muslims of the Americas, a radical group linked to a Pakistani militant group called Jamaat ul-Fuqra. Its members are devoted followers of Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, an extremist cleric in Pakistan.
Muslims of the Americas
The organization says it has a network of 22 “villages” around the U.S., with Islamberg as its main headquarters in New York. The Clarion Project obtained secret MOA footage showing female members receiving paramilitary training at Islamberg. It was featured on the Kelly File on FOX News Channel in October. A second MOA tape released by Clarion shows its spokesman declaring the U.S. to be a Muslim-majority country.
A 2007 FBI record states that MOA members have been involved in at least 10 murders, one disappearance, three firebombings, one attempted firebombing, two explosive bombings and one attempted bombing. It states:...
There is much more here.
My long time readers know I am no rabid conspiracy theorist, BUT given the two recent incidents linked to above; given the documented proof of what is coming across US borders every day, and claims of "22 villages around the US," it is beyond time for the current crop of politicians to get serious about the ever-present threat of terrorism in America. Anybody who pays any kind of attention to what is going on, has to know how deadly serious the terrorism threat remains - to all of us..
Former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani nails it:
Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com
I am on the record as saying I believe there WILL be another terrorist attack within our borders. The two most recent incidents tell me that we have learned nothing from 9/11. If we choose to ignore such glaring lacks of security as detailed above, we WILL live (if we are lucky) to regret that we refused to pay a really 'hefty' price.
Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
Since the economic crisis hit
According to a stunning new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly a third of all food produced in the United States gets wasted. We are probably the most wasteful society in the history of the planet, and we are also one of the most gluttonous. More than 35 percent of all Americans are [...]
An interview with Jonathan Cook
Five Books – 25 February 2014
Interviewed by: Bethan Staton
Outside of the Middle East, many people understand Palestine to mean the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinians as the people living in these areas. But Palestinians who remained in Israel after the creation of the state in 1948 – when some 700,000 were displaced in the Nakba or catastrophe – now make up around 20% of Israel’s population. Could you explain a bit more about this community, and why it has been overlooked?
The difficulty for Palestinians remaining in what becomes Israel after 1948 is that the Palestinian national movement develops in exile, in the occupied territories and the neighboring Arab states. Palestinians in Israel are excluded and shielded from these developments and left in what amounts to a political and social ghetto. Israel strictly circumscribes their understanding of who they are and anything to do with their history, heritage and culture. Israel controls the education system, for instance, and makes it effectively impossible to talk about Palestinian issues there: you can’t discuss what the PLO is or the nakba, for example. This is designed to erode a sense of Palestinian-ness.
For most of the Palestinian minority’s history inside Israel, there’s also a reliance on the Israeli media, which won’t allow discussion of Palestinian identity either. In the state’s early years, Israel does not even refer to Palestinians as Arabs; they are described as ‘the minorities’, purely in sectarian or tribal terms as Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouin. It’s an innovation later on that the state recognises them as generic “Arabs”.
Another thing to remember is that the urban, educated middle class is destroyed in 1948. The elites are almost completely expelled. Nazareth is the only city where an urban population survives in any significant numbers. What you are left with is a series of isolated rural peasant communities, and these are not likely to a be the vanguard of a Palestinian national movement. So after 1948 we are already looking at an isolated, severely weakened Palestinian community within Israel, and it is very easy to manipulate this community, to strip it of its identity.
But this system of control starts to break down, first with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in 1967. That releases the ‘virus’, as some would see it, of Palestinian nationalism to the Palestinians inside Israel. They start to reconnect with people on the “other side” in places like Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah. Families are reunited. Palestinians in Israel begin to realise how much they have been held back, oppressed.
The shift is only reinforced later with Israel’s loss of control over the media. When Arabic satellite television comes along, for example, the state is no longer able to control what its Palestinian citizens hear and see. And Palestinians are provided with an external window both on the ugliness of the occupation and their own situation, and on the centrality of the Palestinian cause to the rest of the Arab world.
So in more recent decades have we seen an increase in the kind of literature that deals with these identity issues? And a change in how these issues are considered?
The greatest problem facing Palestinians inside Israel is how to respond to their situation. They are cut off, isolated, excluded from the centres of power and even from the self-declared identity of a Jewish state. They’re an alien, unwelcome presence within that state. So the question is: how do you respond?
There are two main possibilities: through resistance, whether violent or non-violent, whether military, political, social or literary; or through some form of accommodation. And herein lies the tension. And this is what is especially interesting about the Palestinians in Israel, because to remain sane in this environment they have to adopt both strategies at the same time.
You see this politically in the Israeli Communist Party, the most established of the non-Zionist parties Palestinians vote for. The Communist movement is a Jewish-Arab one, so its Palestinian members are especially exposed to this tension. It is no surprise that some of the leading figures of Palestinian literature and art in Israel have been very prominent in the Communist party. Emile Habiby, for instance, was the editor of the Communist newspaper Al-Ittihad. The tension is obvious in the philosophy of the Communist party, which supports the idea of Jewish-Arab equality but within the framework of a Jewish state. This is a very unusual kind of communism: one that still thinks it’s possible to ascribe an ethnic identity to the state and yet aspire to the principle of equality within it. Palestinian Communists have been struggling with this paradox for a long time.
How successful is the attempt at reconciliation? Is there continued belief in, and support for, a Jewish state?
A central tenet of the Israeli Communist Party is “two states for two peoples”. So who are the “peoples” being referred to? One is the Palestinian people. But what is the other? Is it the Israeli people or the Jewish people? For Israeli Jews at least, it is clearly the Jewish people. In fact, within Israel there is no formally recognised Israeli nationality – only a Jewish nationality and an Arab nationality. The idea of “two states for two peoples” is vague, and it’s meant to be vague to keep Palestinians comfortable within the Israeli Communist Party. But the implication is that we are talking about two states, one for the Palestinians and one for the Jews.
The Communist Party stands for elections as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash). The implication is that peace (a Jewish state) is reconcilable with equality. This is very problematic: the Palestinian intellectuals at the forefront of the party try to evade this contradiction. But you can’t really fudge it, you can’t square the circle.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Emile Habiby ends up writing the quintessential character in Israeli Palestinian literature: Saeed the Pessoptimist. This character represents the tension the minority lives: pessimism imbued with optimism. The Jewish state is the situation you’re trapped in, that’s pessimistic; the optimism looks to the equality you think you can aspire to, despite the reality. Saeed is always trying to square the circle. This very much becomes a theme of Palestinian literature in Israel.
Somebody like the poet Mahmoud Darwish, on the other hand, chooses a side. He does not try to keep a foot in both camps. Darwish says ‘I’m with the resistance’, and he leaves.
Sabri Jiryis also left Israel, after the publication of his book The Arabs in Israel, which is on your list. Could you tell us a bit more about the book, which could perhaps serve as an introduction to the background to this context?
That’s right. The book came out in English in 1976, but in Hebrew it was published in 1966. That is a very important date: it marks the end of the military government, the first 18 years when Israel imposes a system of military rule over its Palestinian citizens, separate from the democratic system that governs the Jewish majority. It is rather like the system of military rule that operates in the occupied territories today. When Jiryis was writing, of course, he didn’t know the military government was about to end, but he produces the definitive book on that period.
Jiryis is a lawyer writing a largely academic book, and it’s the first of its type to be written by a Palestinian inside Israel. Interestingly, like several other prominent Palestinian writers, he chooses to write in Hebrew – as do, for example, Anton Shammas and Sayed Kashua. In resorting to the language of your oppressor, you accommodate. Jiryis is resisting through content, but the language he employs is an accommodation.
He is writing at the close of the military government, and giving a victim’s view of it. It tells the Palestinian side but it is accessible to the Jewish population. So the work is highly subversive. It is also a counterpoint to Jewish academics who are writing books about Palestinians inside Israel in this period, people like Ori Stendal, who works with the intelligence services. The Israeli ‘experts’ studying the minority, and this is true to this day, are mainly working within the security paradigm, trying to understand the threat posed by the ‘Arab Israelis’ and refining the system of control. Jiryis is doing the exact opposite: he is trying to expose and shame the system.
Many of the Palestinians in Israel who write of the horrors of this period end up leaving. We see this, for example, with Fauzi el-Asmar, a Palestinian poet and a contemporary of Jiryis, who is forced out. His writings and activism are subversive, and so the state jails him. In his book To Be an Arab in Israel, he recalls his interrogators telling him ‘We will only make your life easy once you sign this piece of paper to say you’re leaving’. The task here is to get him out of the country, because the last thing Israel wants is people who are defining and shaping an identity for Palestinians within Israel. El-Asmar ends up leaving and becomes an American academic. Jiryis, too, leaves and goes to Lebanon and joins the PLO there. Those who stay but want to keep their integrity keep trying to square the circle: accommodating on one level, while resisting on another.
And I guess this process has the effect of shaping the landscape of Palestinian literature and identity within Israel – making it more accommodating?
More pessoptimist! Nazareth and Haifa are the only two places where a Palestinian middle class, an intellectual elite survived. They had to find some way to be true to themselves as intellectuals, but they also had to find a way to accommodate with the oppressor. And the ways they accomodate are interesting: their subversion is subtle, ironic, and so on. Kashua ends up living among Jews, speaking Hebrew with his kids, half in the Jewish camp and half in the Arab camp, ashamed and proud of his Arabness at the same time. This is the eternal problem of the pessoptimist.
One also has to understand where this comes from: choice. Early figures like Jiryis end up leaving. The process of writing his book seems to resolve in his own mind his status. He confronts the problem of his half-citizenship and rejects it.
So the Jiryis book you have chosen is this book, the book he wrote in Israel before he left. What precisely does he produce before leaving?
He is like a political scientist examining a Kafkaesque situation. He is analysing these absurd laws that look like they are the foundations of a democracy while they are really the walls of a prison. He is trying to explain the paradoxes in the law, and in the wider concept of a Jewish and democratic state. The abuses of the military government simply clarify things.
Take, for example, the Fallow Lands Law, an Ottoman law adopted by Israel that requires landowners to farm their land. If they leave the land untended for more than three years, it can be taken by the ruler and reassigned to those who need it. Under the Ottomans, it is a piece of almost-socialist legislation.
Israel, however, totally subverts the law’s intent. Now the military governor has each Palestinian land owner in his malevolent grip. In this period, no Palestinian resident can leave his or her community without a permit from the military government. So the farmer who needs to get to his land to tend it must either accommodate with the military government (i.e. become a collaborator) or resist and lose his land. In short, he has two awful choices.
As a lawyer, Jiryis is trying to understand how these laws work, how they cohere, how they create a system of control. And he’s really the first Palestinian to try and do that. Another writer, Fauzi el-Asmar embodies the emotional, poetic, artistic response to the situation, but Jiryis grasps the dynamics of it and breaks down the complexity. Really he is describing Israel’s version of Apartheid.
As you said, the book documents the period of military rule, which came to an end in the 1960s. How do you think a reader coming to the book should understand those details in relation to what has happened since, and what the situation is today?
This is one of the things I find interesting about Jiryis. The book is an act of resistance: he was trying to produce a road map that would allow Palestinians to understand the nature of their oppression, so they could be better equipped to fight it. If you don’t understand a problem you can’t fix it, and what Jiryis is trying to do is make the hidden and veiled visible: he’s taking apart the clock to see how all the mechanisms fit. When people understand the system, they can challenge it, try to remake it.
What may not be clear to him when he is writing is whether the system is reformable or needs overthrowing. In the end, Jiryis sides with the military resistance: he goes off and joins the PLO in exile. Although he’s not a fighter, he takes a side. He’s no longer a Palestinian Israeli: he’s simply a Palestinian.
At the same time, though, he’s rooted to the idea of steadfastness, or sumud – this is another feature of Palestinian literature. As soon as Oslo is signed, he returns. In fact, he is the first of the PLO exiles to apply and come back to Israel under the terms of the Oslo Accords. But when he returns, he chooses to live in Fassuta, his ancestral village way up in the north, next to Lebanon. The place is really out in the sticks. But this is where he wants to be: it is his home, his village, his land.
This is very much a response to the peculiarity of Israeli citizenship, which lacks a corresponding Israeli nationality. For most citizens their nationality is Jewish or Arab. That means for Palestinians there is no common nationality that connects them with the Jewish population. And unlike Jewish Israelis, those with Arab nationality have no national rights, only inferior individual rights. In other words, Palestinians in Israel have a very deprived form of citizenship, almost like a guest worker. That creates a very strong feeling of insecurity, impermanence, temporariness: the antithesis of sumud. So they root themselves to a place. Jiryis is a good example of this. I think it is incredible for a man who was such a central figure in the legal establishment of the PLO to come back to the anonymity of Fassuta the first chance he gets.
Perhaps that would be a good time to mention Sayed Kashua’s Let it be Morning?
Sayed Kashua is a great example of the pessoptimist, especially in terms of the way he writes and what he writes about. He has developed a semi-autobiographical character over many years in the Hebrew newspaper Haaretz. He also has the only sitcom on mainstream Israeli TV written by a Palestinian, in which the main character Amjad tries to square the circle: he aspires to live in a Jewish community, to live like a first-class citizen, while constantly fearing that the pretence on which he has constructed his life will be exposed and shattered. Fear of exposure and humiliation drives him. In other hands it would be tragedy, but because Kashua has a wicked sense of humour it is uproariously funny.
It is never quite clear how much Amjad or Kashua’s other characters are really him. He is always playing around with identities, and this is another interesting feature of Palestinian art inside Israel, especially cinema. When reality is so strange, a hybrid documentary style – fact merged with fiction – helps to capture the truth while also offering the protection of distance. Humour does the same. Good cinematic examples of this are films like Hany Abu Assad’s Ford Transit or Eli Suleiman’s Divine Intervention.
Palestinian identity in this context has to be very fluid. One weakness of Jewish academic studies of Palestinians in Israel is that they ascribe the population linear identities. One professor, Sami Smooha, is famous for identity surveys in which he tries to assess whether the minority is becoming ‘more Palestinian’ or ‘more Israeli’. That is really wrong-headed: for Palestinians in Israel there has to be a fluidity of identity to cope with these terribly complex legal, political, emotional situations. And that’s reflected in the character of the pessoptimist.
In Let it be Morning there’s definitely a sense of tension between what the narrator wishes to be the case, and the reality of what’s going on in his life. When he returns from Tel Aviv to the Arab village where he grew up it’s difficult to tell what reality is, and what is coloured by his needs and desires. And the sense of everything slipping out of control is very overwhelming.
Let It Be Morning is unusual for Kashua because it is a serious, nightmarish work – it is the pessoptimist at his very darkest. There is a reason for that: Kashua is writing in the early days of the second intifada when things reached a nadir for Palestinians in Israel. They were living in Israel, often under threat from suicide bombings just like Israeli Jews, but at the same time constantly under suspicion as terrorists themselves from the Jewish population. This is precisely the problem faced by the narrator, a journalist like Kashua working for a Hebrew newspaper and who feels increasingly alienated from his workplace and the Jewish city where he and his family live. He craves a sense of security and so decides to return to his Arab village, right next to the West Bank.
But the relocation offers him no real comfort. He has become too Jewish after a 10-year absence to fit back into the village, torn itself between lingering patriarchal Palestinian traditions and the faux-modernity and materialism its residents aspire to as “half-Israelis”. Their constant accommodations and dependence on their state, Israel, are simply vulgar reminders of the narrator’s own more sophisticated efforts at the same. So the narrator finds himself a “dancing Arab” – the title of his first, seemingly very autobiographical novel – trying to please everyone, and failing dismally.
Survival for Palestinians depends on creativity and adaptability, and a sense of communal cohesion. This is at the heart of the concept of sumud (or steadfastness). But the village is put to an extreme test in Kashua’s book when it is surrounded by tanks and its inhabitants find themselves cut off from the modern world, Israel, and from the old world, Palestine. This is a clear metaphor for the Palestinians inside Israel: they are cut off from both sides. Suddenly the villagers are isolated, and their society and sense of solidarity quickly break down. They stop being a community and become instead competing families, capable of cruelty and inhumanity.
Kashua is playing with a very familiar nightmare scenario for Palestinians inside Israel – the continuing fear of transfer, the threat of being expelled this time, of not holding on to what was kept in 1948. This is something I did not understand until I was living here. There really is a tangible fear that at any moment they and their families could be transferred, that the war of 1948 never finished. This is a large part of the incentive for accommodation: there is a huge sword hanging over your head. You could be expelled; if you put a foot wrong, you could be out the door; the trucks are waiting.
In the book, Kashua seems to communicate an unsureness about the extent to which he’s cooperating or collaborating. The mechanisms and institutions of society are always working towards strengthening themselves. Just by participating in society you are necessarily a part of that, contributing to it. I’ve spoken to many people about this sense, even in the West Bank.
The difference in the Occupied Territories is that for Palestinians there the Israelis are basically the Shin Bet, the army, the police and possibly the settlers – agents of the state. These people appear as unfamiliar, hostile beings. When Palestinians encounter them, it is clearly a master-slave relationship.
Inside Israel it is different. If you are a Palestinian taxi driver in Israel you spend all day speaking Hebrew to people in the back of your cab. You are constantly accommodating, performing as the Good Arab. For most Palestinian youth in Israel this experience arrives as a shock when they start a first job or go to university. They move from a familiar place where all the children around them are like them, speaking Arabic, and then suddenly they are in a world where they are seen as something alien. Often they face hostility, contempt, aggression, subtle or otherwise, from those they must spend time with.
So one thing you often see with Palestinians in Israel is a need to declare their separateness, to make a statement about their identity. That may not necessarily be as a Palestinian; it can be a sectarian identity. So, for example, you see many young Muslim women wearing the hijab, while Christian girls walk around with a cross around their neck. People don’t want to be caught in embarrassing or humiliating situations. It is a way to avoid the danger of being accepted and then rejected, revealed as the Other.
The next book on your list is Hatim Kanaaneh’s A Doctor in Galilee. I guess this gives a very human perspective on some very practical issues and material manifestations of the situation now and historically, obviously through the context of healthcare.
Hatim is a friend, and he sought my opinion on the book while he was drafting it. I find his story, again, illustrative of the problems we’ve been talking about. His family realises he has a talent and they make major sacrifices to send him to Harvard to get a medical degree. This is at the end of the military government, and a very difficult time for Palestinians inside Israel. They are a very isolated community, cut off from the world, barely connected to the transport infrastructure, living in a ghetto, and Hatim makes this incredible leap to go and train as a doctor at Harvard.
Hatim, I think, embodies the qualities of the pessoptimist, even if a very self aware one, one who understands early on that he is trying to square the circle. He has a set of impressive skills, ones denied to other Palestinians in Israel, and acquired because his family suffered to make this possible for him. It is both a huge burden and a considerable weapon. So he wants to put his new skills to good use, to the benefit of his society. The pessimist understands the disastrous circumstances of his community, but the optimist wants to believe his community – and the relationships between Jews and Arabs – can be improved.
He is not simply fixing broken bodies, he is trying to create an infrastructure of public health care for his community. He’s trying to create sewage systems and bring fresh water into the villages, to liberate the inhabitants from the prisons created for them by the state. Israel is a modern country, but it has left the Palestinian villages a hundred years behind. Kanaaneh comes with the tools of modernity to save these villages. The optimist wants to believe this can be done, and that once Israelis see what Palestinians are capable of they will warm to them, see them as human, as equals.
Hatim’s struggle is conducted through the Health Ministry, where he rises to the most senior position ever held by a Palestinian citizen. He assumes he is going to break down the stereotypes, that he will win over the Jews as friends, and that when they revise their opinion of him they will do the same with the rest of the Palestinian minority. He is a man with vision and optimism, but he is trapped in a world that demands pessimism. He starts to see himself more and more as an Uncle Tom and to lose faith in the Jewish colleagues around him. He identifies the racism as so entrenched that he doubts there is a way to circumvent it. He becomes deeply disillusioned. But despite all that he chooses sumud as his act of part-accomodation, part-resistance.
I think the sense of responsibility among people to give back to one’s community is quite common, but in this context the feeling of being ‘unwanted’ within a state structure, so to speak, adds an element of feeling the need to justify one’s own existence. And in the book everything seems pretty hopeless at points. You get a real sense of banging your head against a brick wall.
When Hatim finally quits the Health Ministry, he sets up the first real NGO for Palestinians inside Israel with an international perspective, the Galilee Society. This is an act of subversion. He is trying to bypass Israel and go directly to the international community, because he realises that otherwise no help will be forthcoming from his own state. But at the same time it is not a completely rejectionist stance: he also knows he must work with Jewish society. By reaching out to the international community, he hopes to shame Israel into action.
So the potential for the community to create alternative structures to serve itself is limited, and when it comes to things like infrastructure and healthcare, the state is very necessary. And this makes cooperating and working with the state necessary.
He is resisting by setting up the Galilee Society, but he is also doing it within the framework of accommodation. He’s got a foot in both camps because that is the only option for those who stay. Leaving is a defeat for sumud, for steadfastness. That is why Palestinians see the need to come back to the place where they started: that is the only thing that distinguishes them from other Palestinians, it is the only strength they have.
You’ve also selected So What by Taha Muhammad Ali. It’s a selection of his poetry from 1971-2005. How does this deal with ideas of longing and return?
Taha Muhammad Ali was an internal refugee, or a “present absentee”, this gloriously Orwellian term Israel assigns to those who after 1948 are still present in Israel but absent from their property. Safuriya, his village, which is right next to Nazareth, represents this tension acutely – of presence and absence. Many of the refugees, like Taha’s family, fled to Nazareth and set up their own neighborhood called Safafri that overlooks the old, destroyed village. So they wake up in the morning and open the curtains to look out on the land that they lived on before they were expelled in 1948. He is so present he is almost there, but at the same time he is always absent. This is not an untypical condition: one in four Palestinians in Israel are present absentees.
Here you have another way of looking at the pessoptimist: the present and the absent. The present person is the optimist, the absent person is the pessimist. Some of the best Palestinian poets, including Darwish, were internal refugees, always living with this tension in their being.
Poetry has a very important place in the Palestinians’ artistic pantheon, and it becomes particularly powerful as a vehicle for the Palestinians because it speaks to the whole Arab world. People set poems to music, so it was more than literature, it became part of a wider Arabic culture. It was a way to tell the Palestinian story, the Palestinian sense of loss to the whole Arab world; it was the best kind of newspaper you could have and at the same time gave a sense that the loss of the Palestinian homeland was also a loss for all Arabs, a loss of independence and a sense of self respect that they all shared.
Darwish, the most famous Palestinian poet, faces the tension and stays inside Israel for quite a while. But in the end he, like Jiryis, cannot live with it. Taha Muhammad Ali is a pessoptimist. He does not have the heart for pure resistance. He prefers to find the middle ground, some kind of accommodation.
And how is that expressed in the poetry?
Famously he said ‘There is no Israel and there is no Palestine’, which is something you could never imagine Darwish saying. In fact, invariably there is from Taha a rejection of posturing, self-importance and, above all, a deep disquiet at all-consuming hatred, however justified it might seem by circumstance. In one poem,’Twigs’, he focuses on the things he remembers – small things, details like the taste of bread and water. It ends with an assessment that at our death “hate will be / the first thing / to putrefy / within us”. But at the same happiness is never quite present either. One of his lines, used as the title of a great biography in English, is “My happiness bears no relation to happiness”.
There is also a poem, Revenge, where he talks about how he wants to kill the man who stole his family’s home in 1948, thereby “expelling me into a narrow country”. He says “if I were ready – / I would take my revenge!” So for a brief, deceptive moment it seems as though he has found an inner voice of resistance. But in true Taha style he then subverts it all. He recites all the reasons why he would not be able to kill him, such as if the man had loved ones, or friends or even casual acquaintances who might miss him. But even that is not enough of a concession. He also argues that he would leave the man be even if he had no one who cared for or loved him. “Instead I’d be content / to ignore him when I passed him by / on the street – as I / convinced myself / that paying him no attention / in itself was a kind of revenge.” So here is the pessoptimist; a man who starts with grand talk of resistance, but in the end despite himself recognises a need to accommodate, to live with others, to refuse to bow to their level.
Do you think it’s as if there’s a sense of humanity – both in the sense of practical needs and sympathy for others – getting in the way of taking any kind of action?
Taha died a couple of years ago, but there are videos of him on YouTube. You see when he talks, there is a wonderful boylike mischief in his face, a kind of perpetual smile even as he talks about very sad things, the losses endured by himself and his family, and his community. There is an eternal optimism in tiny things: he says “the best drink is water and the best food is bread”. The tiny things in life can give you a great deal of pleasure, and maybe you have to focus on the small things because the big things are too depressing, too overwhelming.
But the day to day is so important because it keeps people going, and it’s also what keeps people accommodating, in a sense.
Taha had four years of formal education because his whole schooling was brought to an end by the Nakba. In 1948 the present absentees lose everything – it is year zero. Taha and his brothers start to rebuild their lives in Nazareth, selling bread from a street trolley. Eventually he opens a souvenir shop next to the Basilica, selling trinkets to tourists, and probably regales them with his stories too. But most of the time there is nothing to do. You can see shop owners like him today, sitting there or dozing or listening to the radio. But you can imagine Taha reading loads of poetry, teaching himself because he understands that only through poetry can he reclaim his voice and reach out to people with his stories.
As a self-taught poet, he finds his own language. Unlike Darwish, he does not use classical Arabic, the heavy, serious Arabic. Instead he uses the street language. He talks to the ordinary man and woman. He does not want poetry to be this big, weighty thing. The subject for him is not the grand Palestinian drama, but the small, inconsequential things that have been lost or destroyed, the efforts to rebuild on the personal scale, to take pleasure in the tiny things that survive. He seeks the reasons for optimism, love and compassion over the urge for hatred and revenge. There is a bitterness too but it must never be allowed to trump what really matters.
Your final book choice is Sleeping on a Wire, by David Grossman.
I felt we should have one work from an Israeli Jew, because they have done so much to shape Palestinian identity inside Israel. There are some great books on Palestinians in Israel, as well as some truly awful ones. I see David Grossman’s book as interesting because it is really the first attempt to grapple with the Palestinian identity issue in Israel from a Jewish perspective. I do not think it is entirely successful, and I have a problem with his politics, but it is clear he is trying to do it honestly, that he is seeking to understand.
The problem is that he is a liberal Zionist, and there is a constant tension between his liberalism and his Zionism. So the liberal in Grossman wants to understand the trauma that befell the Palestinians in Israel, wants to reach out to them, wants to understand them. But at the same time the Zionist in him fears what their narrative represents. So what happens in each chapter, like a nervous tic, which I find fascinating, is Grossman immersing himself in their stories deeply, allowing them to speak unmediated, but then afterwards he can’t stop himself from interpreting for them, or judging them.
So what’s the structure of this, what form does this take in the book?
It is a very common liberal Zionist position: the need to have the last word, and to create the framework of the narrative. His book is subversive because he is an Israeli Jew giving Palestinians the chance to tell their story, to explain their situation in great depth. He’s very good about letting Palestinians speak clearly and honestly and transparently, you sense that he’s not manipulating the conversations and he’s not editing out stuff, he just wants to hear, he gives you it all. But the context for this act of generosity is a Zionist one. He and his subjects are in a Jewish state, and it has to be one as far as Grossman is concerned. So however much he sympathises with the Palestinians, and however much he understands, however much he feels their pain: sorry, but at the end of the day the Jewish State is more important.
I found the book very frustrating, because he has this great ability to tell his subjects’ stories, but then the narrator, himself, comes in at the end to tell us what we should make of what we have just heard. He cannot leave it to us to make up our own mind; he has to create for us a prism to see through.
This is an important point when we talk about the tension faced by Palestinian Israelis: that profound tensions exist for Israeli Jews too. It’s a hard thing to face, with honesty, the problematic realities of a state that one supports and is a part of. Perhaps this is a different kind of struggle, of individuals coming to terms with the structures of their own privilege, and trying to accommodate difficult truths into a particular vision.
And I think this is a general problem for Israeli Jews: that the narrative of Palestinians, including or maybe especially those inside Israel, is too overwhelming, too threatening, too disconcerting, too guilt-inducing to cope with. Which is why most Israeli Jews won’t really listen. What is interesting about Grossman is he has enough emotional strength to hear it, but then needs to package it up in a way that he and his readers can cope with.
So do you think the book is valuable as a document of the Palestinian story in Israel, or as an example of attitudes towards that, of Jewish Israeli considerations of the issue?
I think it’s useful as both. Grossman’s motive was probably to write something that, because it was written by an Israeli Jew, would be accessible to people who find it difficult to hear the Palestinian narrative. He hoped to bridge a kind of social divide and help heal wounds.
The book is also a fascinating historical document. One chapter is dedicated to the Islamic movement in its early years, a subject little written about apart from in Arabic. It’s very interesting to see how the Islamic movement saw its role in the early 1990s, caught in a certain moment, at the end of of the first Intifada and just before Oslo. Or the unrecognised villages and their struggle at that time to live in a twilight world of being present and absent in a different sense: on the ground but off the map. Visible to the eye but invisible to Israeli bureaucrats, at least in terms of public services.
Grossman was writing at a moment when Israeli Jews were very pessimistic. Soldiers had been told by their prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to break the bones of Palestinians in the occupied territories to crush the first intifada. It was a time when Israeli Jews were realising that there was serious and organised opposition to the occupation, that their supposed benevolent rule was rejected by Palestinians.
The question of who the Palestinians inside Israel were, and how they were connected to these events, becomes important. Grossman is trying to reach out to the Palestinians in Israel to find some common ground, in the hope of defining an Israeliness. Possibly there’s an element of the security mentality – ‘let’s understand the enemy’. But he is too intelligent and sensitive just to be doing that. He is genuinely trying to find out whether some kind of accommodation can be reached, to ask: are they going to move closer to us, or further away? Because from a Jewish Israeli perspective, the Palestinians inside Israel are seen as the Achilles’ heel of the Jewish state.
At the beginning you alluded to a relatively recent sense of changing and developing Palestinian identity in Israel, through literature, media and so on. How are these books, which explore that, being received? And are things changing in terms of their relationship in wider Israeli society?
It’s an interesting question. Where’s Israeli Jewish society heading? If you look at the Israeli Jewish books about Palestinians in Israel they date from certain periods. In the late 1970s there is a rash of books written as a result of Land Day, when Palestinians in Israel engaged in a major confrontation with the state to stop confiscations of their land. Six demonstrators are killed during the protests. It’s a crisis for both sides: the Palestinians realise their citizenship is not real citizenship; and Israeli Jews appreciate that their rule over this group is contested. The lens through which this is seen is chiefly then a security one. How do we control them better? More books emerge during the 1990s, the Oslo period, because the question then is: what kind of citizenship can a Jewish state concede to the Palestinian minority after a peace agreement? How is the state’s security to be defined? Nowadays it seems to me Israeli Jewish society is much less interested in understanding Palestinians inside Israel.
I think now they are seen as more of a threat, and the chief interest is how to separate from them, not how to live with them. They are seen as a demographic problem, framed in the language of security. The issue is about “us”: how to protect the Jewish majority. This is the material of policy papers, not books.
Aside from that do you think the issues facing Palestinians within Israel are becoming more important in terms of wider questions about Israel and Palestine, and the possibility of a final settlement?
It is becoming clearer to Israel that Palestinians inside Israel are a key fault line in the peace process. Netanyahu has made the Palestinians’ recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a precondition for an agreement. So in terms of the peace process, Palestinians inside Israel are now a – if not, the – core issue.
During 1948 Israel created a demographic structure – through mass expulsions, and through laws to ensure that only Jews could immigrate – to guarantee that the state was and would remain incontestably Jewish. Now in the current peace talks, what Israel wants from the Palestinian leadership is for them to sign up to this, saying, we’re fine with it. And this is supposed to close the 1948 file, which is still an open file for the Palestinians. And this is why I think Palestinians inside Israel are seen increasingly less as a community in themselves and more as another one of the final status issues. The Palestinians’ fight inside Israel for equality and democracy ultimately risks creating a right of return – because real equality requires that Palestinians have the same rights of naturalisation as Jews enjoy under the Law of Return. And then you would have refugees returning and Israel’s Jewish majority being eroded.
And this puts another layer onto what you mentioned about accommodation: that’s a very big question resting on the shoulders of Palestinians in Israel. Yet as I mentioned earlier, I have the sense the reality of Palestinians living within Israel is not really recognised widely. When outsiders are introduced to the reality for the first time, they tend to find it puts everything in a very new perspective.
And it’s overwhelming. It’s overwhelming for everybody. The reason Grossman is reframing all the time is because it is overwhelming. The reason Sabri Jiryis and Mahmoud Darwish leave is because it’s overwhelming. The reason Taha Muhammad Ali and Sayed Kashua adopt the pessoptimist worldview is because it’s overwhelming. The reason Hatim Kanaaneh digs in his roots as deep as he can is because it’s overwhelming. And for outsiders it is overwhelming too; the reality is more complex and more paradoxical and more entrenched and more irreconcilable than anyone could have imagined.
It’s not just a case of drawing a better border. It’s much more complicated than that. It’s redressing decades and decades of injustice, and in doing so maybe creating new injustices. Because so many Jewish immigrants came and settled here and gave up lives elsewhere. What happens to them? You can’t just create a new set of injustices. How do you reconcile these problems? How do you square all these circles?
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"Sending up the count" is something that's done when troops are out somewhere dark and dangerous, and the leader, normally up in front, wants to make sure everyone's still there. The leader whispers, "send up the count" to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person and so on until it gets to the last person in line. That person starts the whispering back forward again, only this time, they start off by tapping the shoulder of the person in front of them saying "one". The next person taps the shoulder of the person in front of them and says "two". This continues until the person behind the leader in front taps the leader's shoulder with the number of people behind the first person in line.
We do this especially at night, when we can't see to the end of the line, or even see the next person. We do this to make sure all is well. We do this to make sure everyone knows that whoever's supposed to be there, front and back, is there. We do this to make sure those on the team are still with the team. And if someone is missing, we find them and bring them back into the group. [Emphasis mine]
In the last month, four Canadian Combat Veterans - who having survived deployment - have died at home, within days of each other. Now add one more, as in the last few days, another young Canadian Soldier ended his own life. Although each death is being investigated, (as are the other 70+ still being investigated) initial reports are calling these deaths suicide. I read somewhere the other day that since the current phase of this ongoing Global War On Terror, Canada has lost more than one hundred Veterans to suicide. Quite apart from the huge gaping holes left within those families, those communities, that number is beyond staggering when you consider that thus far in Afghanistan, 158 Canadian losses have occurred in the sandbox due to enemy action. In the US, various statistics claim that we lose 22 Veterans a day to suicide now outpacing Combat fatalities.
Those are just the ones we hear about. These numbers, which represent a horrific new 'normal' for their families after such a devastating loss, tell me that we are failing our Military men and women.
Veterans Day (US) and Remembrance Day(Commonwealth countries) may be over for another year, but we cannot just return to 'business as usual'. WE - yes, all of us - bear responsibility: our Military leadership; our politicians; our mainstream media, and yes, we civilians are failing our Military.
From where I sit, a very basic question arises: How can we fix this?
Dated 2009, I found this from the US:
September 23, 2009
The Sergeant and suicide prevention
The theme for this year’s “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” is “Improving our Soldiers and Families Health: A Healthy Force Combating High Risk Behaviors.” At the conclusion of this article, there are many resources/links.
I was saddened (but not surprised) to learn of the difficulties and problems some of the soldiers experience while deployed. I can cite many articles about the deployment cycle and its’ affect on the military, it is worth mentioning however that difficulties such as depression, suicide, aggression (some of the symptoms of PTSD) aren’t necessarily exclusive to the ‘multi-deployed’, often, it can be ‘first time’ deployers. In fact, the military is studying the ‘mind set’ of the multi-deployed v. first or second timers to examine the element that helps them cope with extreme psychological pressures and extreme battle fatigue (both mental and physical).
My son is on his fourth deployment, a platoon sergeant (SFC) with approximately 70% ‘first time’ deployers. He is extremely proactive, carefully observing, listening and taking care of his men or any others who seek or need help. The NCO is almost always the first line of defense for troops who are experiencing hardships. I know my son has moved the earth and stars to intervene on the behalf of a trooper in trouble. He is also the same one who will allow the Private on duty with him to catch some ‘sleep’ during 24 hour CQ (Desk/phone duty in the company headquarters/on base) instead of the other way around because he remembers what it was like to be the ‘sleep-less’ private.
He asks much from his men but makes sure he gives them the training, tools and personal time they need to achieve the unit’s mission objectives and succeed as individuals.
While in the process of completing this article, I read an excellent article “Going Beyond the Book Answer: How to Be a Better Leader, written by Specialist Ben Hutto. In the article, Spc Hutto writes:
“Army leadership, as I learned it for my promotion board, is the ability to influence others by providing purpose, direction and motivation in order to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.” [Emphasis mine]
He talks about ‘leadership by the book’, and states how “the best NCOs are able to communicate the “purpose” behind a command or task no matter how mundane or difficult. ...
There is much more here, with an extensive list of Military resources available. What strikes me as I read this, and as I listen to our men and women today, is that even with all these programmes in place, something is missing, and to this civilian the missing ingredient is leadership. In the last few weeks I have seen videos from both the US Military and Canadian Military leadership as a response to the ongoing - and most recent - crisis within the Military community. Take a look here and here.
All well and good, but as the article linked above clearly shows, part of the solution to current issues is about leadership that is connected to our Troops.
I asked a Military Veteran (Platoon Sargeant in the Army) friend where we should begin. The truth he gave me is universal and, even to this civilian, makes sense:
The only thing that is going to fix this is good leadership. F******' know your troops.Know when they're out of character and figure out why....[...] If a soldier has any doubt that they can tell their leader anything they need to, that leader is wrong.. [...]
If you're going to be in charge, BE in charge. It's like I've said MANY many times: the way to "fix" this is good old fashioned leadership, but the Army doesn't allow time for that anymore.
It means returning to the old climate, where leaders led, and trained rather than sat in a bunch of CYA, meaningless politically correct powerpoints. Those briefings are knee jerk reactions to the need "to do something," by those that have no clue what really can be done.
And that real leadership I've preached so often goes against the political correctness and professional managers the out of touch generals are pushing, so they are even further out of touch with any real means of doing something.
[Yes, real leadership is teaching] ...knowing when to break s***, and when to turn it off and protect your kids.
This simple concept of leadership is not new, and to this day, real leaders understand what their role is. Just this last weekend, I found another article about leadership. While this compelling article is addressing corporate leadership, it IS written by a Veteran, and it is directly related to leadership within our Military. Every aspect echoes what the Veteran above has told me, and adds weight to how crucial leadership is to our men and women within our Military:
Care, and make sure — without being too obvious or hackneyed — that your people know you care. Fight for them, even occasionally when you know you will lose … it engenders loyalty, and sometimes you need that to hold them together when the “big” reasons for all they’re giving just aren’t enough.No one will follow you until they know you care. You have to be demonstrative enough that they know you’re invested — not just in the shared mission you’re pursuing together — but in their fate and future. Know their stories. Know the texture of their lives. Know what makes them tick....
Go read Reflections on Leadership here.
We are losing our men and women who know what leadership really is, and who are committed to the values of leadership. I came across another column, also written by a Veteran, which painfully demonstrates the disconnect that so obviously exists between our Military community and the rest of society.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
We are the expendable and the forgotten. I want to be your voice, but I wish I was able to be someone elses voice. I loved him like a brother. Deployed with him. Slept five feet from him. Taught him to surf. Laughed my ass off when he came down to the beach from the parking lot with Scottish, both with their wetsuits on backwards, looking like they lovingly got each other dressed without their grranimals for the first time. What could have been saved with the ringing of a phone and a hello instead ended with a gunshot in Warner-Robbins without the chance to say goodbye.
When we leave the life we know and try and build something new for ourselves, we miss the brotherhood, the way that your life depends on the man or woman to your left or right. We miss the hugs that the family we were thrown into and grew to love are now replaced by empty memories of better times and the jokes that only made sense to the people who were closer than family could only get away with telling....
One veteran dies by their own hands every 65 minutes. That is 22 a day. One active duty Soldier kills themselves every 25 hours. I do this for them. I do this for you....
For the enormity of the pain of the loss, that most of us will never understand, go read the rest of this one.
Epic failure by all of us. Again: How can we fix this?
Yes, I do mean all of us, since we as civilians must speak out, stop enabling the failure of our politicians and the Military Chain of Command to adequately support our Military.
Let's start with the politicians. To anybody who is half wake, even the casual observers, it is no surprise, not news, that our current batch of politicians are failing to fulfill their duty - as OUR elected representatives - as they daily fail to meet the sacred obligation we all have to our Military community: our Active Duty; our Veterans; our Military families.
As the most recent headlines have shone a spotlight on the Canadian losses, our politicians have rushed to the media to express their concern about what they are calling 'troubling losses'.
Read this, an article that pulls no punches about politician's hypocrisy.
As politicians loudly proclaim that they are 'bringing the Troops home' and that 'Combat is over' (nary a whisper of the word 'Victory,' have you noticed?) our Troops and our Veterans are used as pawns in political gamesmanship. It is our Veterans and their families who are bearing the brunt of budget cuts, in all our countries. Yes, the various Defence Departments may have publicised transitional programs as a measure of how they support the Troops, which is better than nothing, I suppose, since according to a survey released in September, Canadian employers - for example - 'have little interest in hiring Veterans.'. Meanwhile, the Canadian government is proposing to close Veterans Affairs Offices across the country.
From CBC, comes this from November 29, of an interview with retired Colonel, and former Veterans' Ombudsman, Pat Strogan. Hard to miss his message of our failure to our Veterans:
As Stogran says "this is not news" to those of us paying attention over the years. Neither is it news that politicians persist in pointing to the millions of dollars that have been designated to supporting our Troops and Veterans.
The fact is, politicians can puff out their self-righteous chests and claim how much they do for our Troops and Veterans, how much money they profess to be throwing at support, but obviously whatever they, and the Military, are doing is not working. Period. Don't take my word for it. Watch the video above, and read what one of the most recent grieving families has to say about the Military "dropping the ball."
"Dropping the ball" by both politicians and Military is not unique to Canada. I read recently that in the UK (for example) Falkland Island Veteran suicides now outnumber those we lost in Combat, and then I read that within the current Troops/Veterans that more British soldiers commit suicide than die in battle.
From the US, headlines like this, this, this and this bear witness to the price that our Veterans are expected to continue to pay once they return from Combat.
Canada's Duty to its veterans is to act, not just talk.
It is my belief that it is the sacred duty of each of our countries to honour the Service by our Troops.
The FACTS clearly demonstrate the Canadian government is failing our current Troops and Veterans, and our Military families.
Yes, it is true that there ARE official resources available in Canada, such as Canadian Forces Members Assistance Programme, found within the official site of Veterans Affairs Canada, and they also have a page that lists the Guide to Benefits, Programs, and Services for CAF Members and their Families
They also list a 24 Hour Crisis Line Help Line
Despite all these services, clearly, the crisis is going unanswered for some seeking help.. What about the families? Regular readers here know well that I also always acknowledge that the family also serves. As one Military Wife told me recently: As a Military family, there is no personal life; there is only the Military life. For those families, there is the Family Information Line - which supports the 'Military Families: The Strength Behind the Uniform'. All terrific, of course, and the absolute minimum we should be doing. But the numbers of suicide (both those we know of, and those we do not) tell me that these programmes are not helping everybody, and that many, many - who we may only hear about when disaster strikes - are falling through the bureaucratic cracks.
Over the years I have heard - first-hand - from deployed Troops, and now Veterans, of how they feel our Military leadership, and their political bosses, are failing them.
You may remember back in 2010 I shared an open letter here written by a Military Wife who chose to be called "Anonymous". She wrote, in part:
To the American Public From a Military Spouse An Open Letter (to anyone who can help) Written by: A Military Spouse December 14, 2009
This is a open letter to the Commander in Chief, First Lady Michelle Obama, the leaders of our Armed Forces, and the American Public. If it moves you, contact your elected officials.
News stations count the casualties of the War on Terrorism; by using body counts. Those numbers represent the service members who have not come home breathing to their family members. What about those that came home breathing, but dead inside? Those who suffer daily from some form, or extreme of Depression, PTSD, TBI, or any other of a half dozen syndromes? What about the families left behind whose soldiers are not getting the medical and mental health treatment the government has promised?
Our leaders stand in front of the American public and talk about how much the war is costing, and how much help is available to our returning soldiers and their families. We throw billions upon billions of dollars to artificially hold up the banking system and the value of our dollar. Yet, we sit by and do nothing while our American families fall apart.
I am the spouse of an Active Duty Soldier;
I have held up my end of the bargain; the Military and American Government has not. I was on the front lines during the initial invasion. My husband’s military unit deployed on the day the war started in March of 2003...
I have watched as the man I married has died inside. I have waited for him to work through his demons. ...I have asked for help from the military; I have sought help in the laws written to protect my family. I have received none....
There is much more from this "anonymous" Military spouse here.
I wish I could tell you that "Anonymous" from 2010 was just an anomoly, but I know she is not.
Over the past decade or so since I started writing on Military matters, I have come to know and love more than a few of the Military and Veteran Families from this current Global War On Terror. These families are some of the most amazing people it is my privilege to know, and yes, they do share their thoughts with me. It is through them that I see and hear what life is really like for these "Girls Behind the Men Behind the Guns." That poem, written about the women in a long ago war, reminds us that the issues faced by women then and now, and their families, are timeless and universal. (Yes, I did write a column on that very topic long ago, but I can't find it now.)
FACT is that today Military Wives (of both Active Duty and Veterans) do sometimes fall through the bureaucratic cracks, and as they fall not yards of red tape, nor government-sanctioned organisations, can provide a lifeline. From one long-time reader I recently got this (and yes, I DO have her permission to share) :
[...] Behind every soldier/veteran who suffers in silence with "invisible" wounds called PTSD there is a family and loved ones who suffers in silence as well. We have all read and heard about men who were soldiers who took their own lives in the last two weeks. We are angry, upset, and want to find a way to help stop even one more soldier or veteran from taking their lives again. As we try to find away to help soldiers/veterans we also need to keep in mind their families and loved ones.
It is near impossible to do if you are a wife of a soldier who is still serving...the unwritten rule is wives are seen but are not to speak. We too suffer in silence literally and there is not much help out there for us or loved ones of soldiers dealing with PTSD....
I'm very glad there are many programs for soldiers who suffer from OSI/PTSD but there needs to be something for the families of soldiers. We have issues/concerns/problems at 3 am that keep us awake and there is no one we can talk to. OSI/PTSD doesn't only come up during business hours and civilian crisis lines are not equipped to understand nor offer much help/advice. I am not the only military wife who also suffers in silence nor is our family the only one who suffer in silence! We need support as well. There needs to be help for wives/families of soldiers still serving and for families whose soldiers are no longer serving. How many suicides will it take for someone to start helping us!...
Wives can only seek out so much help. They have to be careful not to draw attention to their husband's PTSD for fear the military will catch on and put their husband's military career at risk. To this day being an active soldier seeking treatment for PTSD you run a very high chance of ending your military career even if your PTSD is considered mild. Your personal life is not personal when you are a Military family.
The soldier can lose his job for doing what his employer, the government, is asking him to do: seek help for his PTSD.
FACT: although this Wife is anonymous, I have heard over the years of more than a few Troops afraid of seeking help because it is a "career killer." I may not be directly connected to our Military in this current GWOT (although I do come from a family with centuries of Military service, and have been directly affected by the generational ripples of suicide.) I have heard many times over these last few years of how reaching out to access help has resulted in an extremely negative career impact. There is a stigma that kicks a Soldier (or his family) who reaches out for help from the official Military programmes.
Given the escalating number of suicides, I asked another Military Wife - a long time friend - for her thoughts on what needs to be done to fix our struggling Military families. From her I got this (again shared with permission):
A veteran should get every stinking possible piece of assistance to make sure they are at peace with the wars they have had to endure.
There is a way to do 24/7 help. At no cost to the veteran. I did it, and it ended up becoming the Vet Hut Resource Centers locally here. Just gather up some volunteer-friends, and make a phone tree. Take the phone tree to the local VA-type deal you have, and let them know your group is willing to be a 24/7 crisis call group to aide veterans who suffer from PTSD and suicidal problems.
Then leave it with your version of the VFW and the American Legion (or whatever your local equivalent is) and so forth, until all groups of veteran support centers have the phone tree. Then be prepared for the phone to never ever ever stop ringing.
IT WORKS THOUGH! Then, when the calls are too many, you take ALL that statistical information you have gathered about the number of calls, durations, and crisis problems without mentioning names etc, and go to your local veteran support centers and show them IN THEIR FACE how vital a small office of round-the-clock crisis call support is for the suffering veterans. Not just ideas. Empirical theoretical studies that proved successful. It does work. The only problem is finding volunteers to actually answer the phone constantly.
This workable plan echoes what the first Military Wife quoted above calls for.
Pretty basic, huh, and doesn't require a gazillion dollars. I have seen this ingenuity, and this front-line commitment to 'knowing your Troops, looking out for them' extend into the Veteran community, and their families. too. Just as in a Combat zone it is a matter of life and death to know that you can count on the battle buddy to your left and your right to 'cover your six,' so I see Veterans and families applying that after deployment. Veterans - sick and tired of waiting for governments' broken promises/contracts to be honoured - have created support groups specifically designed and run by Veterans - for Veterans.
In Canada, for example, there are Veteran groups that reach out in the way only a fellow Veteran can, as they continue their battles on the home-front. There is:
The Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Their name says it all, as they advocate, both in front of the mainstream media, and behind the scenes among the politicians, for all Veterans. I also found a very informative article in the Ottawa Citizen where they quote directly from CVA on the history and meaning of our sacred obligation to our Veterans.
Veterans sharing their common experiences, and solutions, to the issues they all face.
VETS - Veterans Emergency Transition Services
"...formed to reach out and help the many of Canada’s veterans who had not made successful transitions from their military careers to healthy civilian lives...."
Our Duty - which also has a petition that I urge you to sign, calling on the government to give our Veterans the support they have earned.
These are but a small sampling of Veteran-led groups in Canada that talk MilSpeak.
These groups DO work, DO pick up the dropped ball that governments and Military bureaucracies fumble. The Military Veteran friend quoted above reinforces the bond found among Veteran groups:
Sadly this generation ignores the most obvious “support groups” already established. In an electronic world, VFW’s and American Legions are brick and mortar gathering places for Veterans It’s not all cheap beer and war stories, but an employment network of established Veterans that made their way through the post-Military world. It is just sitting in the company of those that “know” without saying a word, what a Veteran has been through, and is going through, even if the overt topic is an argument about the Iron Bowl, Superbowl, NASCAR, World Series, or World Cup.
For several years now, in Canada, Equitas has been pursuing a class action suit representing Veterans who have been severely short-changed under the New Veterans Charter of 2006. All Canadians who support our Troops, our Veterans and their families should check that site out. Let it be noted that the Canadian federal government has spent thousands of dollars, in legal fees, fighting this lawsuit; money that could have helped a lot of Veterans. However, also comes news, recently, of an individual Soldier who has submitted his own $20-million statement of claim with the Federal Court. [ He...] alleges the Canadian military did not adequately address his post-traumatic stress disorder.
How sad is this that our Veterans have to fight the governments when they return home. Sure, the politicians may say they "support our Troops" but talk is cheap. In the week prior to Remembrance Day, Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberals, challenged the Prime Minister to honour our commitments to Veterans.
Our politicians continue to fail our Veterans, and our Veterans continue to do at home what they did in the sandbox: fight for rights, but now they are fighting for their own rights. I came across a stunning statistic out of the US which claimed huge numbers of homeless and hungry Veterans. How can this be, that in NYC, for example and according to a recent article, thousands of Veterans are having to eat at soup kitchens??? That is just one city, and I have no way of verifying the truth of their claims. However, I wrote back in October of how the cuts to Military budgets in the UK are swelling the number of homeless Veterans there. Again, at least one volunteer group is working tirelessly to address that very real issue: Soldiers Off the Street.
Thank God there are these volunteer groups throughout Canada, the US and the UK who stand up for each other, while the fat-cat politicians obviously remain sitting down on their job. Something in the system is very broken, and regardless of the actual number, if there is even one Veteran living on the streets, that is an epic fail, in my opinion.
So what about the current batch of politicians who appear to be clueless about Military matters, and whose ignorance woefully fails our Troops and our Veterans? As things stand right now, not one of the leaders in the UK, Canada, or the US has served in our Military. They have no clue what it means to BE a Veteran. As I have watched our Troops and Veterans in the Global War on Terror, I have been anticipating that some of them would enter the political arena, but this is proving to be a very slow process. In Canada, as of May 2013, out of 4,210 Parliamentarians, a paltry 14 are listed as having Military Service (and one of those is an Honorary.) That is 0.3325416% in control of our Defence Department, all our Military policies..
From the US, I found this dated 2012:
And yes, there was this underneath the graph:
Military service by politicians is quickly nearing zero. Perhaps this is why many of our politicians are so trigger-happy these days. No one has fought and no one knows just what they are doing when they commit our soldiers overseas.
Ya think? What this underscores for me is that we need more politicians who ARE Veterans, who know what being in the Military actually means. When I was discussing this with another Veteran friend, they were quick to remind me of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan both being non-Veterans. Good point, but I would also suggest that both of those leaders, even as civilians, demonstrated their governmental, bureaucratic support for our Troops and Veterans. The Troops then knew they were supported. The world was a very different place then. Unlike today, where our political leaders continue to prove that they don't *get it*, even as they pay lip service to 'support the Troops' when absolutely necessary, it seems to me that Troops from the Reagan/Thatcher era never doubted the support from those leaders. It also seems to me, through the lens of hindsight, that Reagan and Thatcher were smart enough to listen to our Military leaders and defer to their expertise and experience (unlike the current crop of political leaders.)
As another Veteran friend (yes, I know a few!) pointed out to me recently: another part of the difference is the very low fatality rate in our current and recent wars. These low fatality rates are in large part due to military successes in trauma treatment, so that fewer troops have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan than on single days of earlier wars.
This obviously means that we have more Veterans, returning as Wounded Warriors, who have earned all the benefits that we as a society are obligated to provide. Our Veterans today, who would most assuredly have died in previous wars, are more visible, and yes, they are dealing with long-term issues that we, as a society, are failing to adequately and effectively address..
One of those issues is the terrible belief by some of our Troops and Veterans that the only option they have is to choose suicide.
As I heard somewhere recently: suicide is a symptom that becomes an unacceptable solution.
The Veteran friend initially quoted above had this to say about suicidal Veterans:
The reality is that suicidal veterans sometimes get raided because they admit they have a gun, who the hell is going to call that line?
Suicide is not prevented by strangers. It's prevented by friends, who notice their friend needs help, before it becomes suicidal ideation.
Powerpoints can’t fix this. Generals can’t fix this. Only individuals can fix this.
Too often civilians and even fellow veterans say and do all the wrong things. When a veteran’s life begins to derail, often those around him withdraw, making it worse. Often, those “friends” he had before the war, suddenly have nothing in common with him. Instead of just listening, they’re more concerned with their own, in his eyes, trivial, problems.
But, when veterans see broken promises, such as promises that “getting help won’t be held against you,” while those that do get help get screwed by the very military that makes the promise, they’re not going to get help. And getting (real) help isn’t seeing a shrink that has never been there, done that. It is finding someone that can help him find his own way through the challenges he’s facing, those challenges that seem to be becoming insurmountable.
Veterans are withdrawing from society, because increasingly society is self-absorbed and disconnected from what is important to our veterans.
A column from War On Terror News in 2009 reminds that this is not a recent phenomenon, but that within the GWOT environment, we must find solutions:
June 09, 2009
Victimizing Our Veterans: Suicidal StrugglesAs the Army struggles to stem the tide of rising suicides, it seems to be at a loss to how to overcome the stigmas attached to seeking help for the underlying causes. It seems to understand that the Warrior Culture is adverse to asking for help but while the leadership is truly seeking a means to turn the tide that has brought suicide rates up to the same level as the civilian population, it has not realized the self-destructive tactic of encouraging victimization.
The military leadership continues to search with noble motivation for a solution, currently encouraging Soldiers to demonstrate strength by admitting mental wounds. But it describes the symptoms of PTSD and depression as causes of suicide. It describes these as mental illnesses, even as it has created less boring mandatory briefings for the troops to endure. Shrinks continue to prescribe medications to overcome chemical inbalances that lead to the symptoms, not the causes.
It has however realized that the illnesses which are symptoms are caused by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, but not what the root causes are. The Military creates Warriors capable, motivated, and ready to overcome all challenges, but military life and tours of duty can be a challenge to overcoming those challenges. Too often, the military's answer to a challenge is to add paperwork, briefings, and responsibilities to all Troops when it identifies that the Troops are buckling under the burdens.
The military has a habit of taking a simple, successful program and developing it into a cumbersome, complicated problem. There are so many examples of this that it becomes redundant to point to AAR's, OER's, Counseling Statements, NCOER's, and weeks upon weeks of mandatory briefings. Each of these has a noble, positive purpose that once discovered was forcefed into a paperwork feeding frenzy that destroy the purpose itself in too many cases.
Muttered too often these days is "If I have to sit through one more 'suicide awareness' briefing, I'm going to kill myself." Those uttering such phrases are not suicidal but would prefer to train and tired of the training distractors that eat up their time. They are often fans of their own sarcastic irony, even as they often realize the danger of being referred to a shrink for their "suicidal tendencies."
Yet, the Army has more than once not only cancelled training, but also pulled Troops out of the field, during training exercises in knee-jerk reaction to correct issues. In Roughneck Nine-One, SFC Antenori tells of just such an event from approximately 2002, as Fort Bragg responded to a rash of negative actions by returning Troops that led to his SF team being brought back in at the very climax of an exercise. More recently, FT Campbell Troops were stood down for 3 straight days of "suicide awareness."
Overcoming depression for a Warrior is not a matter of victimizing the Warrior. It is not a matter of taking pills. It is not a matter of justifying their feelings. For a Warrior, it is a plan of action to overcome the challenges that have led to the loss of control. [Emphasis mine] A Warrior often trudges through the bogs of mud mentally and physically, despite conditions that would cause others to quit. As the upper eschelons see the Warrior successfully complete extraordinary missions, it adds to the taskings, it adds to the weight a Warrior must physically and mentally carry....
I could copy and paste all of this article, but instead would suggest you go read it here. For all the commonsense within it, it would be really helpful if some Generals also read it:
But with the advancement of communications, a General can watch a squad level engagement on the other side of the world in real time. The danger comes in when he tries to command that battle from the safety of his office....
Leadership, again. From where I sit, it is lack of leadership, both in the Military and governments that is sorely lacking. Our Troops, our Veterans and their families are paying the price.
Not only our Troops, but our Veterans, are missing the 'old style' leadership; leadership that undoubtedly saves their lives while in Combat, and can certainly save their lives once they become Veterans.
Today we see the old school Military leadership being deliberately being purged, as our politicians continue to declare - ignorantly and shortsightedly in my opinion - that "war is over." NO, it is not.
Still, our Military leaders, who know Combat first-hand, are leaving. Don't believe me? Take a look:
DISTURBING: The List Of Purged Military High Officers Under Obama
And there is this: [US] Army will cut almost 2,000 captains, majors
Where does all this leave our Veterans? In the same place as they were in the front-lines of the GWOT: relying on their battle buddies from the sandbox, the battle buddies who have been there, done that, and know what hell they have survived.
As another Veteran friend of mine recently commented: We are not broken. We are changed.
Who better to understand, and address those changes than another Veteran? As the politicians, and the Military leadership who has perhaps never seen Combat continue in their failure to understand, and implement, real help that could save lives, our Veterans are 'sending up the count', and adapting what worked in Combat into their post-combat lives.
Take a look at what Sgt Brian Harding has to say..
"We are reaching out to find guys who maybe have fallen through the cracks."
To this civilian, that even one of our Troops, our Veterans falls through the cracks is unacceptable.
I recently heard Canadian former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier interviewed on CBC radio, and his insights reinforce what Sgt Brian Harding and any other Veteran I know has said:
Hillier, who also served in Afghanistan as the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul in 2004, said he suffered only minuscule symptoms of PTSD when he returned home, having the occasional dream or waking up at night.
He credits his strong circle of friends and family for making him feel healthy and comfortable upon his return, but warns that not all soldiers are so lucky.
His final message to troops is to not be alone this holiday season.
"Don't be alone. Do not be alone over this period of time.
"If you've got a problem, we learned long ago in combat that there is no embarrassment in admitting a weakness. No embarrassment in approaching somebody else," Hillier said.
"You know, we entrust our battle buddies with our very lives on the battlefield, this is now a different battlefield, so trust them. Go talk to your battle buddies. Talk to them and tell them you've got a problem. [Emphasis mine]
There is much more here, which includes a link to the radio interview I mentioned above. If you haven't read Rick Hillier's biography, A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War, I highly recommend it.
As Pat Strogan says in the video above, these issues faced by our Troops and our Veterans are not just 'flavours of the day...there will be more suicides.' These issues our Troops and Veterans face on a daily basis MUST be addressed in the months and years to come. To do any less is to dishonour each and every one of our Military and their families. It is an epic fail by all of us.
Weeks ago, as I decided to write this column, I planned only to write a one-off. However, I have been reminded of the enormity of the failure of all of us to actively 'Support OUR Troops'... I deliberately say 'all of us' because from where I sit, there is more than enough failure to go around for all of us.
Despite my familial ties to our Military, and my close 'family' ties to many in the current Global War On Terror, as a civilian, no, I do not have the authority of our men and women who have risked and sometimes given all in Combat; nor would I ever claim such authority. However, after years of caring about our Troops, our Veterans, and our Military families - of watching and listening to them - I maintain my belief that we as civilians do have an irrefutable responsibility to stand with them.
We all must listen, learn and be educated by those most knowledgeable, our Combat Veterans. If we truly mean to respect and honour the Service and Sacrifice of our Troops, Veterans and their families, we need to do more than pay lip service. To say we 'support the Troops' is not enough. We ALL need to walk the walk. We need to demand our politicians also honour our Military Family. We need to address this 'unacceptable solution,' which - even during the course of my researching and writing this one article - has claimed more lives from our Military Family.
WE must not fail. Period.
[cross-posted from Assoluta Tranquillita ]