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Smoking is bad for your health, great for the economy! – think tank

Published time: 7 Aug, 2017 13:58 If you’re trying to break the habit, look away...

Big Tobacco v Global Health: Time for New Strategies

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The Daily Beverage for a Healthy Liver

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‘Spice’ drug mass overdose: 33 people hospitalized in NYC after smoking synthetic marijuana

On Tuesday night, 33 people in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood were hospitalized after consuming Spice, or synthetic...

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No butts about it: California passing law upping smoking age to 21

Nicotine-addicted teens in California should smoke ‘em if they got ‘em because Governor Jerry Brown approved...

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

The proportion of deaths due to cancer around the world increased from 12 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2013. Globally, cancer is already...

Funding crisis, staff shortages leave NHS among world’s worse health services — OECD

Healthcare in the UK is among the worst in the developed world, a new report has concluded, with underequipped and short-staffed hospitals leading to...

Butting in: NYC mayor wants to stop smoking in private homes

New Yorkers may soon be unable to smoke in their own homes, as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pressing landlords and...

Obesity is the new smoking: NHS England

NHS England’s chief executive Simon Steven has warned parents and teachers against high sugar consumption and emphasized the need to tackle overeating with the...

Smoking gun? Britain’s top diplomat to Pakistan rapped for attending tobacco lobby meeting

Britain’s most senior diplomat to Pakistan broke government rules by attending a meeting alongside one of the world’s most influential tobacco lobby groups, it...

Why Is Big Tobacco Suddenly Trying to Warn People About the Risks of Smoking?

Their motives for warning people about the dangers of e-cigarettes are hardly pure. Allegra Kirkland If you’ve stopped into a corner store or gas station recently,...

2 new smoking guns: Psychiatry is a complete fraud

2 new smoking guns: Psychiatry is a complete fraud by Jon Rappoport June 12, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com I’ve published much information revealing psychiatry is a scientific fraud. Now, courtesy of Dr. Fred Baughman (ADHDfraud.net), I have two more smoking guns. The first is a letter, dated November 10, 2008, sent from Supriya Sharma, MD, a director […]

It’s Disturbing That Health Advocates Are Against E-Cigs That Save Lives

I have finally succeeded in quitting...

Smoke the TPP: How Big Tobacco and “Free Trade” Deals Erode Public Health

Australia, like many other nations, has attempted to mandate tough labeling laws for tobacco products. But the industry is firing back and critics say...

Why Walking Is a Wonder Drug for Your Health

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These 7 Charts Show How American Health Has Changed Since The 90s

Kelly Dickerson America's Health Rankings just released their annual report, which analyzes the nation's health every year and ranks the states from healthiest to unhealthiest....

Can Smoking Marijuana Cause Enlarged Breasts In Men?

The next drug-related hysteria? Via CNN, a plastic surgeon claims that his field's experts link pot smoking with gynecomastia, or, as the professionals term...

Are You Smoking Pesticides With Your Pot?

New study finds pesticides on marijuana...

California City Bans Smoking at Home

Government isn't content to control public behavior, it is now clamping down on how citizens act at home, as well. Multiple media outlets are reporting...

European youth unemployment: “A public health time bomb waiting to explode”

By Ajanta Silva21 November 2013 A joint report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and University College London Institute of Health Equity (IHE) reveals...

New drug would let people get drunk without health risks

Tracy Miller nydailynews.com November 11, 2013 A British scientist says he's found a new way to get drunk without a hangover, or even any alcohol. The new drug...

Leno: Obama Would Have Been Better Off Smoking Crack Than Passing Obamacare

Infowars.com November 9, 2013 The rollout of Obama's namesake healthcare initiative has been so detrimental to his approval rating that he would have been better off...

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

September 2013 Report

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

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

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

The condition of Cancer patients in Iran

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

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

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

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

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

Cancer in Iran damages the patient in some respects:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The condition of Asthma patients in Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The condition of M. S. patients in Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The condition of Dystonia and Parkinson’s patients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iranian drug manufacturers’ issues:

The main concerns of the Iranian manufacturing companies are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drug Classification

Drug(Generic/Brand)

Failed calls

Contrast media

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

Visipaque

1760

Iodixanol

180

Omnipaque

1077

Ultravist

955

Iopromide

105

Scanlux

235

Iohexol

106

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

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

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

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

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls

Hemophilia, vonwillebrand’s disease, diabetesbinsipidus

Minirin

179

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air Pollution a Leading Cause of Cancer: World Health Organization

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

Air Pollution a Leading Cause of Cancer: World Health Organization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________

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SEIU Hospital Workers Strike for Affordable Healthcare

Healthcare workers on strike. (Credit: SEIU1199 NW)“Providence Health & Services is a not-for-profit Catholic healthcare ministry committed to providing for the needs of the communities it serves—especially for those who are poor and vulnerable.”

So reads the Providence website. But ask the members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW what they think of the five-state healthcare giant’s commitment to vulnerable workers, and they paint a very different picture. 

More than 700 union workers went on strike in Olympia, Washington, to protest the nonprofit’s unilateral decision while at the bargaining table to switch employees from an affordable healthcare plan to a high-deductible plan. These workers at Providence St. Peter Hospital—which include everyone but the doctors, registered nurses and social workers—and the Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice earn an average of $31,000 annually. 

SEIU says the deductibles increased on January 1 from $750 to $3,000 for family coverage, and the workers face higher co-pays as well. The Segal Company, a benefits and human resources consulting firm, estimates that the workers will pay a total of $75,000 more in premiums under the new plan while Providence will pay $437,000 less. The lower a worker is on the wage scale, the more regressive the new healthcare plan is. 

The problem isn’t that Providence is lacking in resources: the company reported $286 million in profits in 2011, and the CEO’s compensation rose from $3.1 million in 2010 to $6.4 million in 2011; the senior VP and chief administration officer’s pay rose from $1.5 million to $3.3 million; and the executive VP, western Washington region, saw his pay increase from $2.4 million to $3.5 million.

“The major healthcare provider in Thurston County is going in the wrong direction for our community,” said Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela. “[Providence] is increasing costs on workers who are least able to afford it. It’s not a good thing for our community to have workers choosing between their healthcare and other basic needs.”

Providence claims that the high deductibles will largely be offset by payments to workers for participating in a wellness plan, resulting in net deductible increases of roughly $250 for individuals and $150 for families.

But an SEIU source close to the negotiations says that the documents Providence is sharing with the union “show very different things than what they are saying in public.” Further, the wellness initiative was in place last year and only half of the eligible union members were able to meet the requirements—partly because the requirements kept changing, and partly because it was difficult for employees with irregular work schedules to meet with specific providers at prescribed times.

“I now work a second a job just to be able to afford my family’s healthcare,” said Abbey Bruce, a certified nursing assistant at Providence St. Peter Hospital. “My husband has cystic fibrosis and needs to take enzymes to absorb his food. This used to be covered, but now it costs our family $300 a month. We work in a hospital, it’s outrageous that any of us have to work a second job or worry about how we’ll afford our care.”

This dispute is one that should be of concern not only to the SEIU workers in Olympia—and 6,000 SEIU hospital workers in Seattle with a contract that expires in 2015—but any employee who isn’t well off and in optimal health. 

High-deductible “catastrophic” or “consumer directed health plans” shift the cost of healthcare from employers to employees and are a permitted form of coverage under the Affordable Care Act. According to SEIU, companies that have moved all or most of their workers to these plans include: JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, American Express, Whole Foods and General Electric. According to Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, nearly one-fifth of large companies said that catastrophic, high-deductible coverage will be the only kind of plan they offer in 2013.

Studies show that lower-wage workers in these high-deductible plans often skip necessary treatment in order to avoid high out-of-pocket expenses. A 2011 Rand study found a marked decrease in preventive care such as childhood vaccinations, cervical and colorectal cancer screening, and routine blood tests for people with diabetes. Even when catastrophic plans waived the deductible for preventive services, people in these plans still cut back on such care, fearing that a diagnosis would result in further expenses that they wouldn’t be able to afford. In fact, a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that people covered by catastrophic plans were twice as likely to report going without needed medical care as those in other health plans. 

It’s not only the patients who suffer under this approach, providers also often take a hit. Ellis Medicine is the largest provider of hospital services to General Electric workers and retirees in the country. As of June 30 of last year it had reported $7.8 million in bad debt, up $1 million from the year before.

“My guess is that we are seeing more bad debt coming through our ER because of high deductibles,” Ellis Medicine CEO James Connolly told The Business Review.

SEIU says that there is a much better alternative for workers and providers. The union also represents registered nurses at Group Health, a local HMO that has come out against high-deductible plans. When Group Health needed to reduce employee healthcare costs, it joined SEIU in developing a wellness initiative to focus on smoking cessation, weight management and chronic disease management. The result is that healthcare inflation was held to a total of 4 percent over four years, and last year healthcare costs actually went down. 

“We want to do this with Providence but they won’t come to the table and work with us,” said Bob Wilson, a surgical technologist at Providence St. Peter Hospital. “They prefer to slash and burn.”

© 2013 The Nation

Greg Kaufmann
Greg Kaufmann is a Nation contributor covering poverty in America.  He has been a guest on NPR, including Here & Now and Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, and various local radio programs including the Matthew Filipowicz Show.  His work has also appeared on Common Dreams, Alternet, Tikkun.org, NPR.org, CBSNews.com, and MichaelMoore.com.  He previously worked as a staffer for the Kerry campaign, a copywriter and speechwriter for various Democrats in national and local politics, and as a screenwriter.  He serves as an advisor for the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Is Sitting Worse Than Smoking?

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

January 10, 2013  |  

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

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

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

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

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

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Global Research, Countercurrents, RINF, The Nation (Sri Lanka)

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Monsanto. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines for not reporting hundreds of uncontrolled releases of toxic chemicals at its eastern Idaho phosphate plant. It also paid out a string of lawsuit settlements totaling $350,000 as a result of its GMOs tainting wheat in seven US states. Such amounts represent little more than a tap on the wrist for a company that rakes in sales of almost $16 billion dollars annually.

However, on 20 March the World Health Organisation reached a decision that strikes at the heart of the company. The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said that glyphosate was "classified as probably carcinogenic to humans." This is just one step below the risk designation of "known carcinogen." 

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, which was primarily responsible $5.1 billion of Monsanto’s revenues in 2014.  But that’s not all. The herbicide is used to support Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops, which comprise the vast bulk of the balance of its revenue stream.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, herbicide-tolerant biotech plants were grown on virtually all (94%) soybean fields in the US last year and on 89% of all cornfields. Food & Water Watch found the volume of glyphosate applied to those crops increased almost 1,000% between 1996 and 2012, from 15 million pounds to 159 million pounds. The increase in usage has been accelerating in recent years.

Glyphosate has been detected in human bodies, food, water and in the air. Its use is strongly associated with various diseases (see this and this). 

Aaron Blair, a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute who chaired the 17-member working group of the IARC that classified glyphosate as "probably" cancer-causing, says that the classification is appropriate based on current science. Blair also states that there have been hundreds of studies on glyphosate with concerns about the chemical growing over time and added that the IARC group gave particular consideration to two major studies out of Sweden, one out of Canada and at least three in the US.

He stressed that the group did not classify glyphosate as definitely causing cancer:

"We looked at, 'Is there evidence that glyphosate causes cancer?' and the answer is 'probably.' That is different than yes… It is different than smoking and lung cancer. We don't say smoking probably causes cancer. We say it does cause cancer. At one point we weren't sure, but now we are."

By the end of last week, Monsanto's shares had fallen by 2.9% on the back of the IARC’s decision.  

Unsurprisingly, Monsanto has wasted no time in trying to rubbish the WHO findings. The work of cancer specialists from 11 countries was speedily dismissed by Monsanto. In a press release, the company argued the findings are based on ‘junk’ science and cherry picking and are agenda driven. 

Philip Miller, Monsanto's vice-president of global regulatory affairs, said:

"We don't know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe."

Miller implies that regulatory agencies used objective reason supported by credible science when sanctioning glyphosate. Nothing could be further from the truth. The sanctioning and testing of glyphosate for commercial was seriously corrupted (for example, see this,thisthis and this). Moreover, if Monsanto is going to accuse others of ‘junk’ science and ‘bias’, it has a serious credibility issue given that is has been a long-time leading exponent of  junk science and biased agendas

For instance, Sustainable Pulse has discovered documents from 1991 that show how the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was fully aware of glyphosate’s carcinogenic potential. In 1985, the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate was first considered by an EPA panel. This committee went on to classify glyphosate as a Class C Carcinogen with “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.

This Class C classification was changed by the EPA six years later to a Class E category which suggests “evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans.” Sustainable Pulse concludes that the US government is to blame for allowing glyphosate onto the commercial market because it wanted to push it as part of as global campaign to support the US biotech industry in its attempt to dominate global agriculture. In other words, the health of the public was put before the need to protect company profits and foreign policy aims.

We can now expect to see a massive propaganda campaign by Monsanto to deny the science of the IARC and a huge amount of pressure placed on the WHO to retract the study. We can expect to see the usual cheerleaders proclaiming the faith and mouthing the tired cliches about glyphosate's safety, regardless of mounting evidence that demonstrates its harmful health and environmental impacts. 

But who needs science when the cherry-picked type mixed with a good old dose pro-biotech ideology will suffice? Time to wheel out Patrick Moore again... or maybe not!

According to Dave Schubert, head of the cellular neurobiology laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California:

“There are a number of independent, published manuscripts that clearly indicate that glyphosate … can promote cancer and tumor growth. It should be banned.”

Monsanto has for many decades been covering up its toxic practices and poisonous chemicals and has shown no regard at all for human life (read The Complete History of Monsanto). Banning the commercial use of glyphosate (and GMOs) would be a first but significant step on curbing the corrosive impact of a company that has over the decades caused so much misery and suffering. 

However, as we cannot rely on governments or regulatory agencies to act in the public interest, ordinary people should act for themselves. See this by John Rappoport for advice on a practical strategy for activism directed at Monsanto. 



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Irresponsible Scoundrel Media China Bashing

Irresponsible Scoundrel Media China Bashing

by Stephen Lendman

Media scoundrels march in lockstep with Washington's worst policies. They do it egregiously. They do it irresponsibly. They do it ad nauseam.

They're virtual government house organs. They twist vital truths to fit US policy. 

They're bashing China. They're piling on. It followed reprehensible Justice Department charges. A separate article discussed them.

Washington never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to engage other nations responsibly. 

Polar opposite polices substitute. They're standard practice. Washington rules alone apply. Other nations are pressured, bullied and threatened to comply.

Outliers are targeted. No-holds-barred tactics are used. Nothing too extreme is avoided. Rule of law principles don't matter. 

Media scoundrels ignore what deserves headlines. Managed news misinformation rubbish substitutes. One-sided reporting follows.

The New York Times operates as a virtual US propaganda ministry. An earlier editorial claimed "little doubt that Chinese hackers have taken aim at a range of government and private systems in the United States…"

On May 19, The Times headlined "With Spy Charges, US Draws a Line That Few Others Recognize."

It charged China with "commercial, for-profit espionage…Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. (claimed) we-don't-spy-for-corporate-America."

"There is little doubt, based on the evidence published last year, that…companies that compete directly with state-owned Chinese enterprises (are) targets of Chinese espionage," said The Times.

The Washington Post said China spying is longstanding. "High-level executives at US firms frequently complain that they are targeted whether they are bickering with their Chinese counterparts or…acting in concert."

Nonproliferation Policy Education Center executive director Henry Sokolski was quoted, saying "(t)he Chinese want to know everything. What they can't buy, they steal."

Brookings' Kenneth Lieberthal lied, claiming "the US has been vigorous and vehement about drawing a clear distinction between espionage, cyber-intrusions for purposes of national security and for commercial advantage."

"I think that's a distinction that the Chinese don't make…because to them the competitive health of their firms, especially the big state-owned enterprises, is part of their national security."

The Chicago Tribune bashes Beijing often. It said Chinese "hackers targeted US companies in the nuclear power, metals and solar products industries to steal information useful to competitors in China…"

George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute head Frank Cilluffo was quoted, saying:

"…DOJ has 'smoking keyboards' and (is) willing to bring the evidence to a court of law and be more transparent."

He said nothing about lawless NSA spying. He ignored it altogether.

An unnamed FBI official was cited saying multiple cybersecurity-related indictments and arrests are coming. It's unclear if he means against China.

USA Today accused Beijing of "theft of business secrets…beyond espionage. It quoted Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst James Lewis.

He lied claiming "(t)he United States engages in cyber spying activities but does not penetrate commercial companies for the benefit of domestic firms."

The Wall Street Journal bashed China. It regurgitated Justice Department charges. It did so without challenge.

It reported them like gospel. "(O)ther cases relating to China are being prepared," it said.

"(H)ackers in Russia are likely to be charged soon," it added. "US agencies have also been investigating incidents with possible ties to Iran and Syria," it said.

The Journal featured a "WANTED BY THE FBI" posting. It claimed "Conspiring to Commit Computer Fraud."

"Accessing a Computer Without Authorization for the Purpose of Commercial Advantage and Private Financial Gain."

"Damaging Computers Through the Transmission of Code and Commands."

"Aggravated Identity Theft."

"Economic Espionage."

"Theft of Trade Secrets."

Photos of indicted Chinese officials were shown. Alleged aliases were listed. Some disparaging. 

Wang Dong's were Jack Wang and UglyGorilla.

Sun Kailiang was called Sun Kai Liang and Jack Sun.

Posted Wen Xinyu's alias were Wen Xin Yu, WinXYHappy, WinXY and Lao Wen.

Huang Ang Zhehyu was called Huang Zhen Yu and hzy lhx.

Gu Chi Nhui was called Gu Chun Hui and KandyGoo.

The Journal said posting their photos was "unusual." It begs the question. Why did Journal editors do it? What they suggested was out-of-line.

Why instead of just reporting what happened? Why without challenging US accusations. Why without explaining lawless NSA spying? 

"US officials privately acknowledge they spy on companies for foreign intelligence purposes" only, said the Journal.

"(B)ut they say they won't steal secrets to provide an advantage to US companies."

White House press secretary Jay Carney lied claiming "(w)e don't do what those Chinese national were indicted for."

"We don't gather intelligence for the benefit of US companies."

Fact: A separate article explains otherwise.

Fact: It does so in detail.

Fact: NSA spying targets everything and everyone of possible interest.

Fact: It does it domestically and abroad.

Fact: It does it globally.

Fact: No nation is left behind.

Fact: No officials Washington considers important.

Fact: No foreign government agencies it wants to monitor.

Fact: No administrations.

Fact: No parliaments.

Fact: No business sectors and companies it wants to steal proprietary information from. 

Fact: Spies "R" us defines official US policy. 

Fact: It's mostly unrelated to national security concerns.

Fact: It's for control.

Fact: For economic advantage.

Fact: For being one up on foreign competitors.

Fact: For information used advantageously in trade, political, and military relations.

Fact: Don't expect media scoundrels to explain.

A same day Journal editorial bashed China. "The vast extent of China's cyber spying against government and private US targets is well known," it said.

"(S)o the power of this case is its public specificity," it added.

"(M)uch of the American public still doesn't comprehend the magnitude of the cyber assault against US private industry, and in that sense the indictment will be instructive."

It cited an unnamed intelligence source claiming "only two kinds of companies in the US today: Those who've been hacked and those who don't know they've been hacked."

"This isn't some rogue band of hackers," it said. "The five named defendants are part of the Chinese military, which has a formal cyber arm that targets American secrets." 

"These hackers are as much agents of the Chinese state as the pilots of PLA warplanes."

"The proper way to respond to cyber war is to use the tools of statecraft to make China pay a political and economic price."

Journal editors want punitive measures imposed. Likely harsh sanctions targeting Chinese business sectors and specific companies.

Measures aimed at weakening Beijing politically. Similar ways Journal editors urge targeting Russia.

In China's case, they want a "cyber battle plan (attacking Beijing) targets and forc(ing) (it) to play defense rather than devot(ing) all its resources to hacking US targets."

They want Chinese firms punished. They want Sino/US military-to-military ties limited.

They want visas to children of "China's elites" for attending American colleges and universities denied.

They want lots more than indicting five Chinese officials. They barely stopped short of urging all-out cyberwar. 

Perhaps a follow-up editorial will do so. Maybe other irresponsible US editors will do the same thing. 

Expect voices urging good international relations to be silenced. Perhaps the worst of all possible outcomes will follow.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

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


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

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Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement Consultation: A smokescreen For A Corporate Agenda


Global Research and Countercurrents 28/3/2014

The Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) between the US and EU aims to ‘protect’ investment and remove ‘unnecessary regulatory barriers’. Corporate interests are driving the agenda, the public have been sidelined and unaccountable, pro-free-trade bureaucrats are facilitating the strategy (1). 


There is growing concern that the negotiations could result in the opening of the floodgates for GMOs and shale gas (fracking) in Europe, the threatening of digital and labour rights and the empowering of corporations to legally challenge a wide range of regulations which they dislike.


One of the key aspects of the negotiations is that both the EU and US should recognise their respective rules and regulations, which in practice could reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator. The official language talks of ‘mutual recognition’ of standards or so-called reduction of non-tariff barriers. For the EU, that could mean accepting US standards in many areas, including food and agriculture, which are lower than the EU’s.


Even the leaders of the US Senate Finance Committee, in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, made it clear that any agreement must reduce EU restrictions on genetically modified crops, chlorinated chickens and hormone-treated beef.


Food lobby group Food and Drink Europe, representing the largest food companies (Unilever, Kraft, Nestlé, etc.), has welcomed the negotiations, with one of their key demands being the facilitation of the low level presence of unapproved GM crops.


The TAFTA negotiations are shrouded in secrecy and are closed to proper public scrutiny (2,3,4). They amount to little more than grubby back room deals, while striving to give the appearance of somehow being democratic, and effectively constitute part of the ongoing corporate hijack of democracy and the further restructuring of economies in favour of elite interests (5,6,7).


However, despite claims by the European Commission that there is no secrecy (8), the notes of European Commission meetings with business lobbyists released to Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) under the EU’s freedom of information law were heavily censored. The documents showed that the EC invited industry to submit wish lists for ‘regulatory barriers’ they would like removed during the negotiations. There is no way for the public to know how the EU has incorporated this into its negotiating position as all references have been removed (4). The documents show clearly that removing differences in EU and US regulations is the key issue in the talks: in other words, a race to the bottom in setting the lowest barriers possible.


A leaked EU document (9) from the winter of 2013 shows the Commission proposing an EU-US Regulatory Cooperation Council, a permanent structure to be created as part of the TAFTA deal. Existing and future EU regulation will then have to go through a series of investigations, dialogues and negotiations in this Council. This would move decisions on regulations into a technocratic sphere, away from democratic scrutiny. Also, there would be compulsory impact assessments for proposed regulation, which will be checked for their potential impact on trade. This would be ideal for big business lobbies: creating a firm brake on any new progressive regulation in the very first stage of decision-making.


As if all of this isn’t bad enough, there is also the highly contentious trade-investor dispute settlement provision in TAFTA. It would enable UScompanies investing in Europe to bypass European courts and challenge EU governments at international tribunals whenever they find that laws in the area of public health, environmental or social protection interfere with their profits. EU companies investing abroad would have the same privilege in the US.


This constitutes a charter for the systematic destruction and dismantling of legislation that exists to protect the hard-won rights of workers and ordinary people.


Across the world, big business has already used such investor-state dispute settlement provisions in trade and investment agreements to claim massive sums in compensation.  Tribunals, consisting of ad hoc three-member panels hired from a small club of private lawyers riddled with conflicts of interest, have granted billions of euros to companies, courtesy of taxpayers (10).


EU and US companies have used these lawsuits to destroy any competition or threats to their profits by for example challenging green energy and medicine policies, anti-smoking legislation, bans on harmful chemicals, environmental restrictions on mining, health insurance policies and measures to improve the economic situation of minorities.


If governments and parliaments fail to act to protect the public's interests, powerful corporations will acquire carte blanche to rein in democracy and curb policies devised for the public good.


Despite such major concerns, campaigners from the Seattleto Brussels Network(11) have criticised the European Commission’s recently implemented consultation on the investor rights in the EU-US trade deal as a mock consultation aimed at selling its pro-industry agenda, rather than an honest attempt to have a much-needed open debate on the issue.


Roos van Os of the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), a member of the Seattleto Brussels Network, has said:


“Those who reject the undemocratic and dangerous investor-state dispute settlement system will have no opportunity in this consultation to voice their opposition because the Commission’s biased questions provide no option for that. The Commission should make itself available for a real debate, not a cowardly advertising campaign for its corporate agenda.”

In meetings with the Commission, members of its civil society advisory group on the EU-US trade deal had stressed the need for the consultation to be intelligible for non-experts and for there to be balanced questions. But the Commission’s consultation questionnaire only contains questions about its agenda for minor reforms to salvage the controversial investor-state dispute settlement system, in a 40-page legalistic text which will be difficult for members of the public to understand.


Marc Maes of the Belgian development organisation and also a member of the Seattleto Brussels Network:


 “The Commission’s so-called reform agenda does nothing to address the basic flaws of the investor-state dispute settlement system. Therefore foreign companies will continue to have greater rights than domestic firms and citizens. And international tribunals consisting of three for-profit lawyers will continue to decide over what policies are right or wrong, disregarding domestic laws, courts and democracy.”

Analyses of leaked investment texts from the EU-Canada trade negotiations indicate that the EU’s approach to investment protection does very little to protect the right to regulate (in fact it sometimes does the exact opposite) and it will establish an arbitration system that is far inferior to domestic legal systems in the EU and North America (12).


Pia Eberhardt, trade campaigner with CEO, another member of the Seattleto Brussels Network, said:


“The investor-state arbitration system cannot be tamed. Profit-greedy law firms and their corporate clients will always find a way to attack countries for actions that threaten their profits. The corporate super-rights should be abolished – and people in Europe should not miss this crucial opportunity to tell the Commission to do so.”


To enhance public scrutiny and democratic debate about the controversial investor rights in EU trade agreements, members of the Seattleto Brussels Network have set up a website to publish leaked negotiating texts and critical analyses of these texts: http://eu-secretdeals.info/


The network is also inviting civil society organisations and members of the public to participate in ongoing online actions against the dangerous corporate rights in EU trade deals.


Be informed and take action:



Corporate EuropeObservatory: http://corporateeurope.org/tags/ttip



Notes


11) The Seattleto Brussels Network (S2B) includes development, environmental, human rights, women’s and farmers’ organisations, trade unions and social movements working together for a truly sustainable, just and democratic trade policy in Europewww.s2bnetwork.org

12) See, for example: IISD (2014): A Response to the European Commission’s December 2013 Document “Investment Provisions in the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement (CETA)”, http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2014/reponse_eu_ceta.pdf; Seattle to Brussel Network (2014): Investment in CETA – A response to a lobby document by DG Trade, http://eu-secretdeals.info/upload/2014/03/S2B-Marc-Maes-CETA-Investment_Response-to-DG-Trade-claims-March-7-2014_v2.pdf.



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Americans have until Dec. 23, 2013, pushed back until December 31 now, to purchase insurance that kicks in Jan. 1, 2014, but the website itself that the administration had three years to create, will be responsible for applicants not being insured by the date they are legally required to be or they face a fine (Page #25-26 of the Obamacare Navigator SOP Manual), due to the overwhelming amount of "glitches" to date that have had to be addressed and the continued technical issues.


From the moment Obamacare aka the Affordable Care Act was first proposed it seemed like it was cursed and the curse continues to this very day. From the polling before it was passed to the most recent 50,000 - 60,000 paper applications that have not been processed, the stipulations written into the ACA law have not been met by the administration and due to the incompetence of the admin's rollout, applicants may not be able to meet the laws requirements either.


Quick Recap


Democrats, who at the time controlled both the House of Representatives and the US Senate, along with Barack Obama, passed and signed it into law against the majority opposition of the American public, shown consistently in poll after poll, before it was passed and signed into law, during the battle over it, and after it's passage. (Link to Real Clear Politics collection of polls on the healthcare law)




Then came the portions of the law that were deemed unsustainable, portions that some Democratic lawmakers admitted outright they never bothered to read before passing it, such as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, (Class Act) which was deemed unsustainable before it's passage, but took until October 2011 for the Obama administration to pull the plug on it and admit in a letter to Congress written by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "Despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time."


Then the federal insurance exchange program which assumed that all states would jump on board and provided money within the bill to help states set up the exchanges but never addressed nor set aside the funds for the federally run backup when only 17 states opted in and Obama administration officials were left scurrying to scrape together the money to fund them in the other 33 states. Officials called it an "oversight."


Both the employer mandate and the small business exchange were both arbitrarily postponed by the administration, despite the law having a legal start date.


The 1099 requirement was one aspect that supposedly made Obamacare "affordable" yet it was one of the first parts to be repealed, with total bipartisan support.


More problems plagued the law, even before the disasterous rollout, including the Child Only Plans, the PCIP, the Basic Health Plan and the Obamacare for Congressional staff, just to name a few others.


Then came the two big lies.... one voted the lie of the year, "if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it" and the other that the Individual Mandate was not a tax, which in the video below you will see Barack Obama vehemently assert..... before the Supreme Court said the only way it could survive the constitutional challenge was AS a tax.



Watch the video above before reading the Supreme Court ruling saying the Individual Mandate is a tax, HERE.


The Present:


Jump forward to the problems, the curse, that still plagues the Obamacare law, the rollout of the health care signup website, which the Obama administration had three years to create, test and perfect, yet crashed in the first week, with even media outlets like MSNBC, that were supportive of the law, major proponents, giving up on trying to show the public and actual signup, shown in the video below.





Then the Obama administration vowed to fix it and to investigate the "botched"  rollout.


Another major setback was undercover cameras were brought in to catch the Obamacare navigators encouraging applicants to lie about income and other things in the signup process, money from bank accounts 'accidentally" taken from people who could not afford it causing overdrafts of their accounts, the finding that even convicted felons could become navigators, which have access to confidential sensitive information of applicants, including back account numbers, Social Security numbers, biometrics, tax information, Date of Birth, etc...


The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report found, among other things:


Navigators from the Urban League of Dallas were captured on video encouraging applicants to lie on their health insurance application so the applicants could qualify for tax subsidies. 
Navigators were also recorded advising an applicant to lie about her smoking habits to obtain a lower monthly premium. It was later discovered that two of the so-called Navigators involved in the incident were assisting consumers with their applications even though they had not completed their training and certification requirements. 
One self-identified Navigator gave a television interview in which she told viewers blatantly incorrect information—that applicants’ credit scores could impact their eligibility for certain plans. It later came to light that the woman was not a certified Navigator but rather a volunteer with a Navigator organization. 
Mountain Project, Inc., a Navigator organization in North Carolina, has been collecting and mailing paper applications on behalf of applicants, in violation of Navigator rules and procedures.

Finally, we now see there is a backlog now being reported with 50,000 - 60,000 paper Obamacare applications sitting around unprocessed.




The question now is will the Obama administration actually fine the applicants that are not signed up by the date required by law when it was the incompetent rollout that was responsible?


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The EU is currently negotiating a far-reaching free trade agreement with the USthe Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). There are plans to enshrine extra powers for corporations in the deal as a result of a strong and persistent campaign by industry lobby groups and unscrupulous law firms to allow powerful corporations to challenge regulations both at home and abroad if they affect profits. The watchdog organization Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) states that EU member states could find domestic laws to protect the public interest quite useless as they become challenged in secretive, offshore tribunals where national laws have no weight and politicians no powers to intervene.

It would enable US companies investing in Europe to bypass European courts and challenge EU governments at international tribunals whenever they find that laws in the area of public health, environmental or social protection interfere with their profits. EU companies investing abroad would have the same privilege in the US. This proposed agreement (and others like it around the world) is essentially a charter for the systematic destruction and dismantling of legislation that exists to protect the hard won rights of workers and ordinary people. 

Across the world, big business has already used such investor-state dispute settlement provisions in trade and investment agreements to claim massive sums in compensation. It is often the case that the mere threat of a claim or its submission is enough for legislation to be shelved or diluted. In fact, tribunals, consisting of ad hoc three-member panels hired from a small club of private lawyers riddled with conflicts of interest, have granted billions of Euros to companies, courtesy of taxpayers.

With India and the EU, among others, also currently negotiating a free trade agreement, it all adds up to big companies trying to by-pass legislation that was implemented to safeguard the public’s rights. Kavaljit Singh of the Madhyam research institute in India argues that we could see the Indian government being sued by multinational companies for billions of dollars in private arbitration panels outside of Indian courts if national laws, policies, court decisions or other actions are perceived to interfere with their investments. It constitutes little more than an old-fashioned recipe for imperialist plunder by Western interests (1).

Singh’s concerns should be dismissed at our peril because CEO provides many examples of where and when the by-passing of national legislation has already happened. Through bilateral investment treaties, US tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia over their anti-smoking laws. The company argues that warning labels on cigarette packs and plain packaging prevent it from effectively displaying its trademark, causing a substantial loss of market share.

And then there is the case of Swedish energy giant Vattenfall, which launched an investor-state lawsuit against Germany, seeking €3.7 billion in compensation for lost profits related to two of its nuclear power plants. The case followed the German government’s decision to phase out nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

When Argentina froze utility rates (energy, water, etc.) and devalued its currency in response to its 2001-2002 financial crisis, it was hit by over 40 lawsuits from companies like CMS Energy (US) and Suez and Vivendi (France). By the end of 2008, awards against the country had totalled US$1.15 billion.

On the basis of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico, US company Lone Pine Resources Inc. is demanding US$250 million in compensation from Canada. The ‘crime’: The Canadian province of Quebec had put a moratorium on ‘fracking’, addressing concerns about the environmental risks of this new technology to extract oil and gas from rocks.

At the end of 2012, Dutch insurer Achmea (formerly Eureko) was awarded €22 million in compensation from Slovakia. In 2006, the Slovak government had reversed the health privatisation policies of the previous administration and required health insurers to operate on a not-for-profit basis.

It is also interesting to note that Chevron initiated arbitration to avoid paying US$18 billion to clean up oil-drilling-related contamination in the Amazonian rainforest, as ordered by Ecuadorian courts. The case has been lambasted as egregious misuse of investment arbitration to evade justice. 

EU and US companies have used these lawsuits to destroy any competition or threats to their profits by challenging green energy and medicine policies, anti-smoking legislation, bans on harmful chemicals, environmental restrictions on mining, health insurance policies, measures to improve the economic situation of minorities and many more.  

Various corporate lobby heavyweights all advocate the inclusion of investor-state arbitration in the EU-US free trade agreement. This is also part of a hope that an EU-US deal would set a global ‘gold standard’, a model for investment protection for other agreements around the world. 

If governments and parliaments fail to act to protect the public’s interests, powerful corporations will acquire carte blanche to rein in democracy and curb policies devised for the public good. Before long, countries across the globe could see the opening of the floodgates for GMOs and shale gas, the threatening of digital and labour rights and the empowering of corporations to legally challenge a wide range of necessary and decent regulations which they dislike and label as ‘barriers to trade’.

This represents a clear attack on national sovereignty and democracy and is a damning indictment of the cosy and often ‘revolving-door’ nature of relationships between corporate officials/lobbyists and bureaucrats/government officials. If successful, such free trade agreements would cement corporate ability to raid taxpayers’ coffers even further or to wholly dictate national policies and legislation. 

Are we to see the concept of democracy being totally abandoned in favour of blatant corporate plunder under the guise of 'free trade' but which is anything but!?


Notes

Much of the material for this article was sourced from the website of Corporate Europe Observatory. The only way to roll back the power of corporations and their strategies outlined in the article is by being informed and actively resisting. Visit CEO at:  http://corporateeurope.org/get-involved





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People Die – Live With It

If there is one overlooked aspect of the current federal-government surveillance scandal, it’s modernist America’s attitude toward death. What do I mean? Well, if...

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Socialism or “Castles in the Air”?




It’s hardly a secret that the US left is barely alive. While left-wing movements in the US have hardly shaken the foundations of power in my life time, they have known moments of modest success, reshaping the political landscape in significant and irreversible ways. Since World War II, left activism has stirred and nourished important movements like the struggles for African American equality and against US aggression in Vietnam. The left has also played important roles in fueling struggles for women’s and gay rights and for strengthening environmental protection. While 1960s talk of revolution and radical alternatives were more hyperbole than real, the ferment of those days was real.

Unfortunately, little of the US left’s modest success penetrated the labor movement, a social force defanged and declawed by anti-Communism early in the Cold War. And little of the left’s wave of vitality challenged the two-party system in any serious way. As the risings of the sixties recede further and further in our collective memory, the quantity and quality of popular struggle diminishes as well.
It’s not just the number of actions or the size of the crowds that are shrinking, but also the ideological understanding that purports to animate our US left. That is, the ideas embraced by various elements of the left have grown more and more murky and superficial.
What Ails the Left?
There are many symptoms and causes of the relative decline of the US left.
But always looming in the shadows of struggles for social justice is the demon of anti-Communism. Other peoples have suffered periods of hysterical, paranoid anti-Communism, but few countries outside of the US have elevated it to a state religion. While fear of Islam may have currently replaced Cold War fears as the national obsession, anti-Communism remains deeply embedded in the national psyche. Recent movies featuring West Coast and East Coast invasions of the US by forces from the tiny Democratic People’s Republic of Korea only underscore the persistence of this demon.
Of course the US left is neither immune from nor unwelcoming to Red-baiting. From the fifties, “leftists” could earn respectability and credibility with the public ritual of denouncing Communism. It was from this period that critical financial umbilical chords from the most prominent, most influential left and liberal formations to wealthy donors, foundations, and, in some nefarious cases, the security services were established. Any independent organizations deriving grass roots funding from workers’ organizations or the nationally oppressed were routinely looked at suspiciously for Red ties.
By the early sixties, the purge of everything Red or even Pink was largely completed. Everything—words, ideas, associations—even vaguely linked to Communism had disappeared from the mainstream. And the rise of a “new” left reflected the weight of that legacy. Both opportunism and ignorance led most of the left’s new leadership to establish a political camp to the right or left of Communism, demonstrably distant from Communism: radical democracy and social democracy to the right; Maoism and anarchism to the left.
Arguably this failure to establish an honest, objective encounter with Communism, this Cold War attitude of framing all politics as a counterweight to Communism, contributed mightily to the decline of the left in the next decade. The student base and alienation from working people demonstrated the shallowness of New Left ideology. Most leaders and activists turned to careers, the Democratic Party, the social service bureaucracy, or retreated to the universities.
Anti-Communism continued and continues as a blind faith. The fall of Soviet and Eastern European socialism added a new dimension to the anti-Communist canon: Not only was Communism evil, but it didn’t work.
Without the foil of real existing socialism, the US left drifted aimlessly. Some found an ideological anchor in “market socialism,” especially with the rise of Market-Leninism in the Peoples’ Republic of China. Others found romantic answers in Comandante Zero, a pipe-smoking, inscrutable poet/revolutionary diminutive caricature of Che Guevera. Still others attempted to restore life to the New Left of the sixties. One cannot but be reminded of the situation of Russian revolutionaries after the suppressed 1905 uprising as described by Lenin:
The years of reaction (1907-10). Tsarism was victorious. All the revolutionary and opposition parties were smashed. Depression, demoralisation, splits, discord, defection, and pornography took the place of politics. There was an ever greater drift towards philosophical idealism; mysticism became the garb of counter-revolutionary sentiments. (Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder)
Where most European Communists degenerated into social democrats in this period, US leftists, scarred by anti-Communism and with no similar tradition, found hope in narrow-issue activism, cult-like formations, or the unlikely revival of the New Deal Democratic Party.
Obama and the Left
The candidacy of Barack Obama proved to be a disaster for the US left. Anti-war and social justice activists put aside their signs and plans and flocked to the Obama campaign. Grandiose expectations were conjured out of thin air; a candidate associated in the past with conservative Democrats and a professed admirer of Ronald Reagan was imagined to be the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and even cautious measures of critical support were overwhelmed by wild-eyed enthusiasm.
After the election, most of the US left kept faith with Obama, a faith that has produced very little of the anticipated change, but succeeded in disarming the left. The big loser was the historically most progressive element in US politics: the African American community. Understandably, African Americans rallied to support the first African American president, but his administration has neither represented African Americans nor lifted a finger to relieve the sinking material conditions of life for that community. In fact, often more has been done for African Americans under Republican presidents when the left is actively and vocally pressuring and Democrats are in opposition! As an example, no Republican president would get away with so few African American appointees or nominees in an administration as has the current President!
The US ruling class has successfully and opportunistically gauged the hard won level of racial tolerance of US voters. The new face of US policy and diplomacy presented by Obama was welcomed everywhere—at home and abroad—over the failed Bush regime. A byproduct of this tactic is the disarming of the left and the silencing of African American leaders. Tragically, the US left has accepted the shallow symbolism of an African American president at the expense of the African American masses.
The Crisis and the Left
For the left in the US and internationally, the profound economic crisis beginning in 2008 and continuing today offers a great opportunity to mount an anti-capitalist offensive and project a clear alternative. For over a century and a half that alternative was socialism. The vision articulated over that period differed from time to time, but shared some straightforward features: the theoretical primacy of class relations, public ownership of productive assets, an end to exploitation, a new democracy based upon the rule of the working majority, and social and economic planning. Each feature clearly addresses a glaring, unacceptable shortcoming of capitalism.
But in the US, our left will not address the devastation wrought by capitalism and embrace these features or even discuss them honestly. One of the most prominent and respected national leaders of the anti-war movement recently said: “I used to think I was a socialist… But I also think that people should have the right to be individually enterprising. I have yet to see the society that I would like to live in but I see pieces of it, bits and pieces of it here and there.” This is hardly encouragement for the 11.7 million US citizens looking for a job, the nearly 8 million who would prefer a full-time job over their part-time employment, or the tens of millions who still lack health insurance, all benefits once guaranteed and delivered by real, existing socialism.
Another prominent left pundit, in reviewing another left oracle’s “new economy” manifesto, remarks that the author’s assumptions are “…that socialism, as we have known it in the 20th century did not work.” He blithely concedes that the book’s author “spends little time critiquing 20th century socialism.” Not deterred by the lack of argument, the reviewer affirms that “I was persuaded… that a glimpse into the future is critical largely due to reality of the failure of 20th century socialism, or more accurately, what is better described as the crisis of socialism.” “…did not work,failure,” “crisis” are the unexamined, easy assumptions of our floundering left.
So what do they offer as an alternative?
Anything but the socialism associated with Communism. They take us back to the foolishness that Marx and Engels called “utopian socialism,” the schemes concocted by Fourier and Owen in the early 19th century. In the Communist Manifesto they conclude that utopians “…therefore, endeavor, and that consistently, to deaden the class struggle and to reconcile the class antagonisms. They still dream of experimental realization of their social utopias, of founding isolated phalansteres, of establishing ‘Home Colonies,’ or setting up a ‘Little Icaria”—pocket editions of the New Jerusalem—and to realize all these castles in the air, and they are compelled to appeal to the feeling and purses of the bourgeois… They, therefore, violently oppose all political action on the part of the working class; such action, according to them, can only result from blind unbelief in the new gospel.”
We find a modern incarnation of utopianism in the “New Economy” movement, the US left’s current flavor of the day. Back in late 2011, Professor Gar Alperovitz reached for the golden ring of utopia with his America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming our Wealth, our Liberty, and our Democracy, a book that promised to take the disenfranchised in the US from peasants to lords. Alperovitz, like his utopian predecessors, believes that ideas generously given from a fount of wisdom will, if only embraced by those below, lead to “democratizing capital.” Alperovitz’s magical ideas are the spawning of “thousands of co-ops, worker-owned businesses, land trusts, and municipal enterprises” that will, with time, “democratize the deep structure of the American economic system.” A more romantic version of Marx and Engel’s derisive “new gospel” I cannot imagine.
The very notion of “democratizing” something, let us say “capital,” that doesn’t wish to be “democratized” is mind-boggling. Will capital be embarrassed into sharing the wealth? Will the success of co-ops demonstrate to Exxon that energy should be free to all and produced in an environmentally sound manner? Will the 17-trillion-dollar US-based multinational corporate behemoth shudder in the face of worker-owned enterprises and co-ops, surrendering control of the boards of directors to the people?
I don’t think so.
Alperovitz points to existing self-styled alternative ownership models like ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Programs), community development corporations, co-ops, etc. as the way forward (he concedes that ESOPs have a dubious record). As such, they would offer a relatively painless “evolutionary” road different “from traditional theories of ‘revolution’.” Many “businessmen, bankers, and others, in fact, commonly support the idea [of co-ops] on practical and moral grounds,” Alperovitz proclaims. Of course they do; they see no challenge to capitalism and a possible opportunity to cash in!
The fact that “castles in the air” ideas like Alperovitz’s actually gain traction demonstrates the sad state of the US left. The fact that opinion polls show a decided increase in interest in socialism is encouraging; however, the fact that those new to the idea must taste through the unappealing, non-nourishing gruel currently favored by so many on the left is disappointing. 
For more than a century and a half, socialism—the public and democratic ownership of the essential means of production under a majority peoples’ democracy—continues to be the only ultimate answer to a tenuous and destructive capitalist system.
Zoltan Zigedy


The Fire Last Time: Workplace Safety Still Ignored Across the Globe

Two years ago this week, the 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the issue of workplace safety got a lot of attention.  Two years later things haven’t changed much except now the dangers are world-wide.  Last September nearly 300 workers died when trapped behind locked doors in a Pakistani textile factory fire.  Last November, 120 people died and about 100 others were injured in a fire at an eight-story textile factory Bangladesh. And in the two years since America memorialized the Triangle Fire victims with conferences, speeches, and an HBO special – Republicans in Congress have made sure nothing has been done to improve the situation in the United States, such as expanding the budget for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and giving OSHA stronger regulatory teeth.Relatives mourn the death of a garment worker after a fire swept through the Tazreen Fashion factory in Bangladesh's capital last year killing more than 100 people. (Photo: Andrew Biraj/REUTERS )

A century ago, on March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers, most of them Jewish and Italian immigrant girls in their teens and twenties, perished after a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Even after the fire, the city’s businesses continued to insist they could regulate themselves, but the deaths clearly demonstrated that companies like Triangle, if left to their own devices, would not concern themselves with their workers’ safety. Despite this business opposition, the public’s response to the fire and to the 146 deaths led to landmark state regulations.

Businesses today, and their allies in Congress and the statehouses, are making the same arguments against government regulation that New York’s business leaders made a century ago. The current hue and cry about “burdensome government regulations” that stifle job growth shows that the lesson of the Triangle has been forgotten. Here, to refresh our fading memories, is what happened.

One hundred years ago, New York was a city of enormous wealth and wide disparities between rich and poor. New industries were booming—none more so than women’s and men’s clothing. The new age had created a demand for off-the-rack, mass-produced clothing that could be sold in department stores. The Triangle company made blouses, which were called shirtwaists.

Few of those who bought the new ready-to-wear clothing gave much thought to the people who made them. The blouses, skirts, and sweaters were sewn in miserable factories, often by girls as young as 15 who worked seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a half-hour lunch break, and often longer during the busy season. They were paid about $6 per week, and were often required to use their own needles, thread, irons, and even sewing machines. The factories were overcrowded (they often occupied a room in a tenement apartment) and lacked ventilation. Many were poorly lit fire traps without sprinklers or fire escapes.

In November 1909, over 20,000 shirtwaist makers from more than 500 factories, led by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), walked off their jobs. They demanded a 20 percent pay raise, a 52-hour workweek, and extra pay for overtime. They also called for adequate fire escapes and open doors from the factories to the street. Within 48 hours, more than 70 of the smaller factories agreed to the union’s demands, but many of the largest manufacturers refused to compromise. The New York City police soon began arresting strikers—labeling some of them “street walkers,” which was literally true, since they were carrying picket signs up and down the sidewalks. Judges fined them and sentenced some of the activists to labor camps.

But the strikers held out and by February 1910, most of the small and midsized factories, and some of the larger employers, had negotiated a settlement for higher pay and shorter hours. One of the companies that refused to settle was the Triangle Waist Company, one of New York’s largest garment makers.

That July, another group of garment workers—over 60,000 cloakmakers, mostly men this time—went on strike. As the tensions escalated, both union and business leaders invited prominent Boston attorney (and later Supreme Court Justice) Louis Brandeis to New York to help mediate the conflict. With Brandeis’s nudging, the two sides signed the “Protocol of Peace” agreement that set minimum industry standards on wages, hours, piece-rates, and workplace safety and health. But the Protocol’s weakness was that it was a voluntary agreement, not a government regulation, and not all manufacturers signed on. Once again, one of the holdouts was the Triangle Waist Company.

Owned by Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, who were known as the “the shirtwaist kings," Triangle was one of the most rabidly anti-union firms. On March 25, 1911, on a Saturday at 4:45 p.m., close to quitting time, a fire broke out on the eighth and ninth floors of its ten-story building. Factory foremen had locked the exit doors to keep out union organizers and to keep workers from taking breaks and stealing scraps of fabric. Other doors only opened inward and were blocked by the stampede of workers struggling to escape. The ladders of the city’s fire engines could not reach high enough to save the employees. As a result, workers burned or they jumped to their deaths. Experts later concluded that the fire was likely caused by a cigarette dropped on a pile of “cut aways” or scraps of cloth that had been accumulating for almost three months.

News of the fire spread quickly, catalyzing public opinion, and energizing a broad coalition of unlikely allies. It included immigrants, muckraking journalists, clergy, unionists, socialites, and socialists. Rose Schneiderman, an immigrant worker, socialist, and fiery union organizer, found common cause with Anne Morgan, the daughter of Wall Street chieftain J.P. Morgan. Frances Perkins, a former settlement house worker who was at the time a researcher and lobbyist for the Consumers League (and who later became Franklin Roosevelt’s trailblazing secretary of labor) joined hands with Rabbi Stephen S. Wise to demand reform.

On April 6, 30,000 New Yorkers marched—and hundreds of thousands more lined the march’s route—behind empty hearses to memorialize the fire’s victims. Numerous rallies, broadsides and editorials called for legislative action—ranging from fire safety codes to restrictions on child labor. In response to the outcry, New York Governor John Alden Dix created the Factory Investigating Commission, a pioneering body with broad subpoena powers and teams of investigators, led by two savvy Democratic politicians, state Assemblyman Al Smith and state Senator Robert F. Wagner.

Smith, Wagner, and the Commission members traveled up and down the state holding hearings and visiting factories. Over two years, the commissioners interviewed almost 500 witnesses and visited over 3,000 factories in 20 industries. They found buildings without fire escapes, bakeries in poorly ventilated cellars with rat droppings. Only 21 percent of the bakeries even had bathrooms, and most of them were unsanitary. Children—some as young as five years old—were toiling in dangerous canning factories. Women and girls were working 18-hour days.

After the fire, many city officials acknowledged there was a problem. Edward F. Croker, New York City’s retired fire chief, told the Commission that employers “pay absolutely no attention to the fire hazard or to the protection of the employees in these buildings. That is their last consideration.” His department had cited the Triangle building for lack of fire escapes just one week before the fire.

But the garment manufacturers, the Real Estate Board, and the bakery and cannery industry groups sought to stymie the Commission. The real-estate interests opposed city fire codes. After the Fire Department ordered warehouses to install sprinklers, the Protective League of Property Owners held a meeting to denounce the mandate, angrily charging the city with forcing owners to use “cumbersome and costly” equipment.

As representative of the Associated Industries of New York insisted that regulations would mean “the wiping out of industry in this state.” Mabel Clark, vice president of the W.N. Clark Company, a canning corporation, opposed any restrictions on child labor. “I have seen children working in factories, and I have seen them working at home, and they were perfectly happy,” she declared.

Terence McGuire, president of the Real Estate Board, summed up the business argument against regulation. “To my mind this is all wrong,” he declared. “The experience of the past proves conclusively that the best government is the least possible government.” The board warned that new laws would drive “manufacturers out of the City and State of New York.”

Smith, Wagner, and the political leaders of the time, fortified by a vibrant progressive movement, ignored these opponents of business regulation. In the first year, the Commission proposed and the legislature quickly passed a package of laws requiring mandatory fire drills, automatic sprinklers, and unlocked doors during work hours that were required to swing outward. They also created rules on the storage and disposal of flammable waste, and they banned smoking from the shop floor.

In the second year, the legislature passed additional reforms. They set the maximum numbers of workers per floor. They established codes requiring new buildings to include fireproof stairways and fire escapes. They required employers to provide clean drinking water, washrooms and toilets for their employees. They gave labor commission inspectors the power to shut down unsanitary tenement sweatshops. And they ruled that women could work no more than 54 hours a week and that children under 18 could not work in dangerous situations.

These pathbreaking state regulations, provoked by the Triangle fire, proved that government could play a powerful role in the lives of ordinary people. Other states followed suit, and ultimately President Franklin Roosevelt, prodded by Perkins, Wagner, and other veterans of New York’s progressive movement, introduced New Deal reforms ending child labor, establishing a federal minimum wage and a 40-hour week, and creating a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that would establish the right of workers to form a union that would bargain collectively with employers.

The Triangle company’s owners were indicted and went on trial for manslaughter, but they were found innocent when the judge told the jury that in order to return a guilty verdict, they had to find that the two defendants knew or should have known that the doors were locked. Harris and Blanck also continued to refuse to recognize the union. But the company never recovered from the fire and the controversy surrounding it, and in 1918, it closed its doors.

That didn’t happen to other city businesses. Contrary to the business leaders’ dire predictions, they did not suffer from the new regulations. The New York Times reported in July 1914, that, “[n]otwithstanding all the talk of a probable exodus of manufacturing interests, the commission has not found a single case of a manufacturer intending to leave the State because of the enforcement of the factory laws.” New York’s Seventh Avenue remained the headquarters of the nation’s garment industry for decades until production gradually moved south and overseas after World War II.

Ironically, 100 years after the Triangle fire, we still hear much of the same rhetoric whenever reformers seek to use government to businesses act more responsibly and protect consumers, workers, and the environment. For example, the disasters last year that killed 29 miners at Upper Big Branch and eleven oil rig workers in the Gulf could have been avoided had lawmakers resisted lobbying by mine owners and BP to weaken safety regulations.

Today, the leading foe of reform is the United States Chamber of Commerce, which is on a crusade against the Obama administration’s plans to set new rules on unsafe workplaces, industrial hazards and threats to public health. The Chamber labels every effort at reform a “job killer.” The Chamber’s most vocal proponent is Darrell Issa, the conservative California Republican who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. At the request of the Chamber and other industry lobbies, Issa recently launched a congressional assault on safeguards in workplaces and communities. 

In January, Issa sent letters to more than 170 companies and business lobby groups—including Duke Energy, FMC Corp., Toyota, Bayer, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Association of American Railroads, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, and lobbies representing health care, banking, and telecommunication providers—asking them to identify "burdensome government regulations" that they want eliminated.

The business groups responded with a long wish list, including rules to control “combustible dust” that has resulted in explosions killing workers; rules to track musculoskelal disorders, such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel, or back injuries, that impact millions of workers at keyboards, in construction, or in meat processing; and rules to address workplace noise that leads to hearing loss. And Republicans listened. They are proposing to cut OSHA’s budget by 20 percent, which, coming on top of decades of cuts, would cripple an agency that has been effective at significantly reducing workplace injuries and deaths.

The Republican leadership is trying to drive home the message, in Speaker John Boehner’s words, that “excessive regulation costs jobs” and that the “path to prosperity” is by “getting government out of the way.” Americans of earlier generations—who enjoyed the benefits of the Progressive Era and the New Deal reforms, and the political clout of a vibrant labor movement—understood this was nonsense, but it seems like the lessons of the past have to be relearned again. That’s why it is important to recall the sordid circumstances in which 146 young women lost their lives at the Triangle Waist Company a century ago.

Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program, at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (2012, Nation Books). Other books include: Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City. He writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and American Prospect. 

Donald Cohen

Donald Cohen is currently the Director of the Cry Wolf Project and the Chair of In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible contracting. A co-founder and former president of the Center on Policy Initiatives, a San Diego-based research, and policy center, Cohen has over 25 years of experience in campaigns and organizations dedicated to economic justice, healthcare reform, education reform, environmental protection, and international human rights.  He is also on the board of Green For All.

Child Smokers: Thousands More Take Up Habit

The number of children who have taken up smoking has risen by 50,000 in just one year - the equivalent of 567 a day. About 207,000 children aged 11 to 15 started to smoke in 2011, a sharp rise from 157,000 in 2010, Cancer Research UK said. Almost one ...

Feminism’s Long March: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (Or Have You?)

slims1

In 1968, the Phillip Morris Company launched a memorable campaign to sell Virginia Slims, a new brand of cigarettes targeting women, itself a new phenomenon.  It had a brand-new slogan: “You’ve come a long way, baby.”  The company plastered it on billboards nationwide and put it in TV ads that featured women of the early twentieth century being punished for smoking.  In all their advertising, smoking was equated with a set of traits meant to capture the essence of women in a new era of equality — independence, slimness, glamour, and liberation.

As it happened, the only equality this campaign ended up supporting involved lung cancer. Today, women and men die at similar rates from that disease.

Still, women have come a long way since the mid-twentieth century, and it’s worth considering just how far — and just how far we have to go.

Once Upon a Time

These days it may be hard for some to believe, but before the women’s movement burst on the scene in the late 1960s, newspapers published ads for jobs on different pages, segregated by gender. Employers legally paid women less than men for the same work.  Some bars refused to serve women and all banks denied married women credit or loans, a practice which didn’t change until 1974. Some states even excluded women from jury duty.

Radio producers considered women’s voices too abrasive to be on the air and television executives believed that women didn’t have sufficient credibility to anchor the news. Few women ran big corporations or universities, or worked as firefighters and police officers.  None sat on the Supreme Court, installed electrical equipment, climbed telephone poles, or owned construction companies.  All hurricanes had female names, due to the widely held view that women brought chaos and destruction to society.

As late as 1970, Dr. Edgar Berman, a consultant to presidents and to Medicare, proclaimed on television that women were too tortured by hormonal disturbances to assume the presidency.  Few people ran into women professors, doctors, or lawyers.  Everyone addressed a woman as either Miss or Mrs, depending on her marital status, and if a woman needed an abortion, legal nowhere in America, she risked her life searching among quacks in back alleys for a competent and compassionate doctor.

The public generally believed that rape victims had probably “asked for it,” most women felt too ashamed to report rape, and no language existed to make sense of what we now call domestic violence, sexual harassment, marital rape, or date rape.  One simple phrase seemed to sum up the hidden injuries women suffered in silence: “That’s life.”

On August 27, 1970, in response to such injustice, 50,000 women marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue, announcing the birth of a new movement. They demanded three rights: legal abortion, universal childcare, and equal pay.  These were preconditions for women’s equality with men at home and in the workplace.  Astonishingly, they didn’t include the ending of violence against women among their demands — though the experience and fear of male violence was widespread — because women still suffered these crimes in silence.

Those three demands, and the fourth one that couldn’t yet be articulated, have yet to be met.

The Hidden Injuries of Sex

As the women’s movement grew, women activists did, however, begin to “name” their grievances. Once named, they could be identified, debated, and — with a growing feminist political voice — turned into policy or used to change the law.

It turned out that there were plenty of hidden injuries, which women activists discovered and publicized through consciousness-raising groups, pamphlets, and books.  Rape, once a subject of great shame, became redefined as a physical assault that had little to do with lust. Date rape, for which there was plenty of experience but no name, opened up a national conversation about what constituted consensual sex. Few people had ever heard the words “marital rape.”  (“If you can’t rape your wife,” California Senator Bob Wilson allegedly said, “then who can you rape?”)  In this way, a new conversation began about the right of wives to have consensual sex and the nature of power relations within marriage.

From the very beginning, the mainstream media and the public labeled women activists as “lesbians.” Why else would they complain about male behavior? Provoked by constant efforts to “tarnish” all feminists as lesbians, activists chose to embrace the label, rather than exclude lesbians from the movement. In the process, they also began to write about and then discuss compulsory heterosexuality. Together with a burgeoning men’s gay movement, feminist lesbians and gay men formed the Gay Liberation Front in the 1969. Soon, lesbian feminists created an all-women’s group called the Lavender Menace.

The birth control pill and the sexual liberation movement of the mid-1960s gave women new freedoms.  Grasping the limitations of such changes without abortion being legalized, feminists soon joined the medical abortion rights campaign of that era. Determined to repeal laws against abortion, in New York they testified before the state legislature and passed out copies of a “model abortion bill”: a blank piece of paper. Through “public speak-outs,” they openly discussed their own illegal abortions and explained why they had made such choices. In Chicago and San Francisco, activists created clandestine organizations to help women seek qualified doctors. Some feminists even learned how to perform abortions for those who could not find a competent doctor.

Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its famous Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion and ignited the abortion wars that still rage today. You could even say that this is where the culture wars of the coming decades really began, and you wouldn’t be wrong.

What had feminists started? In essence, they had begun to redefine one “custom” after another as crimes. For instance, one of the greatest hidden injuries suffered by women in those years was the predatory sexually behavior of male bosses. In 1975, a group of women at Cornell University coined the term sexual harassment.  Previously, some women had called it “sexual blackmail,” but when legal scholar Catherine Mackinnon used the new phrase in the title of her 1979 book, Sexual Harassment of Working Women, both feminists and judges began using it in litigation against predatory bosses.  After Anita Hill’s accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, the phrase became a household term. In that same year, Congress added amendments to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, accepting the feminist argument that sexual harassment violated a woman’s right to earn a living and work in a non-hostile atmosphere.

If the naming of sexual harassment changed the workplace, the reframing of wife-beating as domestic violence turned a custom into a felonious crime. At the same time, feminists spread a network of battered women’s shelters across the nation, offering havens from marital violence and possible death.

A Half-Century to Go

If the women’s movement often surprised and sometimes blindsided men, it also radically expanded America’s democratic promise of equality. Women are now everywhere. No one is shocked in 2013 when a woman enters an operating room or a lecture hall.  More than half the undergraduates at most universities are women.

Now, if your boss drives you crazy with sexual advances, you can report him for sexual harassment and sue him in court. If your husband beats you, he can be charged with a felony and, in most urban areas, you can escape to a battered women’s shelter. Women like Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, and Ruchi Sanghvi, head of operations at Dropbox, are some of the most powerful players in the new technology universe. Three women have served as secretary of state and one as national security advisor. Three women sit on the Supreme Court.  Hillary Clinton almost became the first woman president and may still achieve that goal.  Major magazines and newspapers have women executive editors and managing editors — even the New York Times, which waited until 1986 before reluctantly putting “Ms” in front of women’s names on its pages. Hurricanes now bear male and female names. Women in the U.S. military fight alongside men.  They work as firefighters and police detectives, and when a female plumber shows up to fix an overflowing toilet, most people don’t panic.

Because so much has changed, many people, including young women, believe that the longest revolution is over, that we should stop complaining, be proud of our successes, and go home.  Consider for a moment, though, the three demands made in 1970, and the fourth one that couldn’t even be articulated.

As anyone who’s been awake for the last decade knows, despite Roe v. Wade, women can’t access abortion providers in many parts of the country. States have passed laws requiring pregnant women to watch ultrasound “pictures” of their “babies,” and forced them to endure 24- or 48-hour waiting periods so that they can “rethink” their abortion decisions. In May 2012, Utah established the longest waiting period in the nation: 72 hours. In that year, in fact, anti-abortion legislatures managed to pass 43 new laws that, in one way or another, restricted abortion.

In big cities, finding an abortion provider is often not difficult — unless of course you are poor (because the government won’t pay for abortions).  Women in rural areas have, however, been hit particularly hard. They have to travel long distances, pay to stay in hotels while they “rethink,” and then, and only then, can they make the choice that was promised in 1973. So yes, women still have the right to legal abortion, but less and less access to abortion providers.

And what about child care?  In 1971, Congress passed the Comprehensive Childcare Act (CCA), providing national day care to women who needed it.  (Such a law wouldn’t have a chance today.) President Richard Nixon vetoed it that December. Using Cold War rhetoric, he argued that the legislation would harm the family and turn American women into their Soviet counterparts — that is, working drudges. His veto was also payback to his religious supporters in the South who opposed women working outside the home, and so using child care.  It set childcare legislation back until, well, this very moment.

Ask any young working mother about the nightmare of finding day care for her infant or a space in a preschool for her child.  Childcare, as feminists recognized, was a major precondition for women entering the labor force on an equal footing with men.  Instead of comprehensive childcare, however, this country chose the more acceptable American way of dealing with problems, namely, that everyone find an individual solution.  If you’re wealthy, you pay for a live-in nanny. If you’re middle class, you hire someone to arrive every day, ready to take care of your young children. Or you luck out and find a place in a good preschool — or a not-so-good one.

If you’re poor, you rely on a series of exhausted and generous grandparents, unemployed husbands, over-worked sisters, and goodhearted neighbors.  Unlike every nation in Europe, we have no guaranteed preschool or after-school childcare, despite our endless political platitudes about how much we cherish our children. And sadly, childcare has remained off the national political agenda since 1971. It was never even mentioned during the 2012 presidential debates.

And let’s not forget women’s wages. In 1970, women earned, on average, 59% of men’s wages. More than four decades later, the figure is 77%.  When a university recently invited me to give a keynote address at a conference, they asked what fee I expected. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.  The best advice I got — from my husband — was: “Just tell them to give you 77% of whatever they’re paying the male keynote speaker.”  That response resulted in a generous honorarium.

But what about all the women — widowed, divorced, or single — who can’t draw on a second income from a man?  How can we claim we’ve reached the 1970 equal pay demand when 70% of the nation’s poor are women and children? This isn’t about glass ceilings. What concerns me are all the women glued to the sticky floor of dead-end jobs that provide no benefits and no health insurance, women who, at the end of each month, have to decide whether to pay the electricity bill or feed their children.

As an activist and historian, I’m still shocked that women activists (myself included) didn’t add violence against women to those three demands back in 1970. Fear of male violence was such a normal part of our lives that it didn’t occur to us to highlight it — not until feminists began, during the 1970s, to publicize the wife-beating that took place behind closed doors and to reveal how many women were raped by strangers, the men they dated, or even their husbands.

Nor did we see how any laws could end it.  As Rebecca Solnit wrote in a powerful essay recently, one in five women will be raped during her lifetime and gang rape is pandemic around the world.  There are now laws against rape and violence toward women. There is even a U.N. international resolution on the subject.  In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna declared that violence against girls and women violated their human rights.  After much debate, member nations ratified the resolution and dared to begin calling supposedly time-honored “customs” — wife beating, honor killings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation — what they really are: brutal and gruesome crimes. Now, the nations of the world had a new moral compass for judging one another’s cultures. In this instance, the demands made by global feminists trumped cultural relativism, at least when it involved violence against women.

Still, little enough has changed.  Such violence continues to keep women from walking in public spaces. Rape, as feminists have always argued, is a form of social control, meant to make women invisible and shut them in their homes, out of public sight.  That’s why activists created “take back the night” protests in the late 1970s.  They sought to reclaim the right to public space without fear of rape.

The daytime brutal rape and killing of a 23-year-old in India in early January 2013 prompted the first international protest around violence against women. Maybe that will raise the consciousness of some men. But it’s hard to feel optimistic when you realize how many rapes are still regularly being committed globally.

So, yes, we’ve come a long way, but without achieving full access to legal abortion, comprehensive childcare, or equal pay — those three demands from so many decades ago. Nor have we won the right to enjoy public space without fearing violence, rape, or worse.

I always knew this was the longest revolution, one that would take a century or more to unfold.  It’s upended most of our lives, and significantly improved so many of them. Nothing will ever be the same. Yet there’s still such a long way to go. I doubt I’ll see full gender equality in my lifetime.

Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, is Professor Emerita of History at the University of California at Davis and a Scholar in Residence at U.C. Berkeley.  She is the author, most recently, of The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. She is on the editorial board of Dissent magazine and is a monthly contributor to OpenDemocracy.net in England. Her op-eds, commentary and articles can be found on the website www.ruthrosen.org.

The Moral Decoding of 9-11: Beyond the U.S. Criminal State, The Grand Plan for...

911

We are bring to the consideration of our readers this incisive and carefully formulated analysis by Canada’s renowned philosopher Professor John McMurtry. 

The complete text published by the Journal of 9/11 Studies can be downloaded in pdf

*          *          *

I was sceptical of the 9-11 event from the first time I saw it on television. It was on every major network within minutes. All the guilty partieswere declared before any evidencewas shown.The first questions of any criminal investigation were erased.  Who had the most compelling motives for the event? Who had the means to turn two central iconic buildings in New York into a pile of steel and a cloud of dust in seconds?[i]

Other questions soon arose in the aftermath. Why was all the evidence at the crime scenes removed or confiscated?

Who was behind the continuous false information and non-stop repetition of “foreign/Arab terrorists”when no proof of guilt existed? Who was blocking all independent inquiry?

Even 11 years on these questions are still not answered.

But those immediately named guilty without any forensic proof certainly fitted the need for a plausible Enemy now that the “threat of the Soviet Union” and “communist world rule” were dead.  How else could the billion-dollar-a-day military be justified with no peace dividend amidst a corporately hollowed-out U.S. economy entering its long-term slide?While all the media and most of the people asserted the official 9-11 conspiracy theory as given fact, not all did.

A Bay Street broker with whom I was improbably discussing the event in Cuba had no problem recognising the value meaning. When I asked what he thought about the official conspiracy theory, he was frank:

“You can call it what you want, but America needs a war to pull the people together and expand into new resource rich areas. That what it has always done from Mexico on. And that is what it needs now”.  When I wondered why none in the know said so, he smirked: “It would be impolite”, adding, “It affects the entire future prosperity of America and the West”. And all the deaths? “It had to be done –far less than it could have been”. The 19 Arabs with box-cutters reducing the World Trade Center buildings to powder in a few seconds?He shrugged.

Thus everyone since 9-11 is prohibited nail-clippers on planes to confirm the absurd – including 15 of the 19alleged hijackers being from Saudi Arabia and several apparently still alive after crashing the planes into the buildings.[ii]As for the diabolical mastermind Osama bin Laden, he is never linked by credible evidence to the crime and never claims responsibility for the strike since the videos of him are fakes. “Ground Zero” is a double entendre. All doubts are erased apriori.

Decoding the U.S. Theater of Wars and the Moral Driver Behind

One already knew that suspension of belief is the first act of fiction, and that instant culture rules the U.S. One already knew that monster technical events are America’s stock in trade. And one already knew the long history of false U.S. pretexts for war – so well established that a young strategic thinker a decade after 9-11 advises the right-wing Washington Policy Institute on how to create a crisis by deadly planned incident to make war on Iran – “it is the traditional way of getting into war for what is best in America’s interests”.[iii]

One further knew from past research that the U.S.’s strategic leadership since 1945 had been Nazi-based in information and connections and the dominant Central-European figures articulating it ever after across Democrat and Republican lineshave a common cause. For over 40 years, Henry Kissinger as Republican and Zbigniew Brzezinski as Democrat have been protégés of David Rockefeller, selected as Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg Group leaders, and capable of any mass-homicidal plan to advance “U.S. interests”. The banker-and-oil imperial line through David Rockefeller as paradigm case goes back to the Nazi period to John Foster Dulles (an in-law) and his brother Allen Dulles (OSS and then CIA Director), who Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg called “traitors” for their support of the Nazi regime.  The Rockefeller Foundation funded and developed German eugenics programs in the pre-war years, Standard Oil supplied oil in collaboration with I.G. Farben, and so on.[iv]

The supreme moral goal and strategic methods governing U.S. covert-state performance have not only have been very similar in moral principle, but have deeply connected Rockefeller protégés Kissinger and Brzezinski, and more deeply still the theoretical godfather of U.S. covert state policy, Leo Strauss, who was funded out of Germany by David Rockefeller from the start.

The inner logic of covert and not-so-covert U.S. corporate world rule since 1945unified under Wall Street financial management and transnational corporate treaties for unhindered control of commodities and money capital flows across all borders is undeniable if seldom tracked. This architecture of the grand plan for a New World Order is evident in both strategic policy and global political and armed action over decades that have seen the objectives increasingly fulfilled with constructed deadly crises as pretexts for war the standard technique.[v]Behind them as first post-Nazi historical turn lies the 1947 National Security Act (NSA) which created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)and explicitly licensesdestruction of life, truth and other societies as institutional methods.

The CIA is charged with designing, planning and executing “propaganda, economic war, direct preventive action, sabotage, anti-sabotage, destruction, subversion against hostile States, assistance to clandestine liberation movements, guerrilla murders, assistance to indigenous groups opposed to the enemy countries of the free world”. The linkage back to Nazi methods and world-rule goal as the highest moral objective is not just one of corresponding ultimate principles and strategic policy formation. It relied on Nazi SS intelligence sources and means from the beginning of the covert terror state.[vi]

There is no heinous means that is not assumed as the highest morality by this long-standing covert institutional formation linking to the presidential office.It is an explicitly secret system involving at least the Defense Department and the CIA, the former with many more operatives and offices.

The Special Activities Division (SAD) to carry out NSA criminal operations, for example, also confers the highest honors awarded in recognition of distinguished valor and excellence – as did the earlier SS prototype in Germany. What people find difficult to recognise is that these actions, whether by the SAD or other system operations,are conceived as the highest duty, however life-system destructive and mass murderous they are. All participants are super patriots in their own view, as were the Nazis. Contradiction between declared and actual values, however, is a central mode of the covert system. For example, what can be considered a high duty in the perpetual U.S.“war on drugs”, the most morally obligatory commitment of the U.S. state,is at the same time a war against and with other drug operations to transport illegal hard drugs into the U.S. itself.[vii]

We might see here a parallel between foreign mass murder and domestic mass murder in 9-11, with both regarded as high patriotism in this supreme morality. In the background of America’s Reichstag Fire and likewise disclosing the unlimited geo-strategic action that can be operationalized as necessary and good, the post-1945 U.S. control of international sea-lanes made the covert U.S. state the world’s dominant narcotics controller so as to fund secret criminal war actions from South-East Asia to Latin America, entailing the addiction of its own peoples.[viii]This woeful method has been long known by experts, but came to be public knowledge in the Reagan-state funding of the death-squad Contras of Nicaragua as “the moral equal of our Founding Fathers” (a tribute he is said to have given later to the drug-running warlords and jihadists of Afghanistan).

These moral contradictions seem insane, but this is so only if one does not comprehend the underlying supreme morality of which they are all expressions.

Even U.S.-sponsored death squads torturing and killing tens of thousands of poor people across Latin America before 2000 and their return as direct covert U.S.-state method from Iraq to Syria after 9-11 – called “the Salvador option”[ix] – is regarded as necessary and obligatory to “defend the Free World and our way of life”. They entail ever more total U.S. world rule and self-maximizing position by strategic deduction from the supreme morality’s first premises.

The covert nature of the mass-murderous operationalization is never from moral embarrassment. It is solely to ensure effectiveness of execution against “soft” and “uninformed” public opinion, to terrorize people in situ from continued resistance, and to annihilate its leadership and community agency all the way down. Throughout the deciding moments of execution of the underlying supreme value program, global corporate money demand multiplication is always the ultimate value driver -as may be tested by seeking any covert U.S. action or overt war which is not so regulated beneath saturating propaganda of lawful intentions of peace and freedom.

These lines of underlying moral institution, policy, strategic plan, and massive life destruction at every level are indisputable facts of the covert and official faces of the U.S. state, but are typically not connected to the September 11, 2001 attack. Since most people cannot believe their own government or the “leader of the free world” could execute such a sabotage action as “9-11” in which thousands of American themselves died, these behavioral reminders forge the unifying meaning.

Worse still occurred in the last “war”before 9-11. In the background providing graphic example of how the covert U.S. state apparatus is structured to attack and murder U.S. citizens themselves to strategically maximize implementation of its supreme value program of transnational corporate money sequences over all barriers, there is the now known Operation Northwoods. Very familiar to the 9-11 truth movement, but unpublicized since its release under freedom of information laws, this Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff plan proposed that the CIA and other operatives covert operatives “undertake a range of atrocities” to be blamed on Cuba to provide pretext for invasion.

“Innocent civilians were to be shot on American streets; boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba were to be sunk on the high seas; a wave of violent terrorism was to be launched in Washington DC, Miami and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did commit; planes would be hijacked”.[x]

All would be blamed on Castro the Communist in place of bin Laden the Islamicist, and invasion of desired resistant territory would be achieved as a triumph of American freedom and interests over its enemies.

 Operation Northwoods was not, however, okayed by President Kennedy – perhaps another reason for his assassination and replacement by more pliant presidents to represent “America’s interests” in accord with the supreme morality. Underneath the stolen election of George Bush Jr.in contrast – whose family made its money, in part, by serving the covert financial requirements of the Nazi regime before and during the 1939-45 War – was a domestic and foreign administration which would push further than any in the past to advance “U.S. interests”to full-spectrum world rule. Its project included reversing the Roosevelt New Deal and the social state within the U.S. itself – “an anomaly” as Bush Jr. expressed the historical perspective and ethic at work.

This plan was more explicit in the published Project for the New American Century formed from 1997 on. It even supplied the need for a 9-11 event in its 2000 version, the year that Bush Jr. was elected and the year before 9-11. To indicate the “non-partisan” nature of the planning, Democrat National security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski had already hinted at the usefulness of a 9-11-style domestic attack to move policy forward in his 1998 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives.[xi]

The Moral Compass of 9-11

As a moral philosopher with social value systems as my primary object of analysis, my first thoughts in understanding “9-11” were of the system motives,known methods, and objective interests driving the event which could coherently explain it.Whatever the immediate hold of the official conspiracy theory on the public mind,a rational explanation is required which is consistent with the suppressed facts and the organising geo-strategic plan on both sides of the event.

For over a decade before 9-11, there were three U.S.-propelled global trends that almost never come into the understanding of 9-11 itself. 9-11 truth seekers themselves have focused on the foreground technics and the transparent motive for oil. But these are undergirded by deeper sea-shifts of geopolitical and economic wars of seizure and destruction by other name against which the world’s people were rising. To compel books of analysis into one unifying frame, transnational corporate-rights treaties from NAFTA to the Maastracht Treaty to the WTO overrode all other rights across borders;the private “financialization”stripping of social sectors and welfare states had advanced across the world; and the totalizing movement of the system across all former “cold war” and cultural borders was “the new world order” in formation. Together these vast shifts towards transnational money-sequence rule of all reversed centuries of democratic evolution. And every step of the supreme value program was life blind at every step of its global operationalization.[xii]

Yet states and cultures were so sweepingly re-set into unaccountable transnational corporate and bank rule that few recognised the absolutist value program being imposed on the world.  Fewer still recognised all was unfolding according to plan.

What has been least appreciated about the long-term strategic plan unfolding on both sides of what was immediately called “9-11” – CallEmergency!–is that supreme banker and global money director David Rockefeller had summarized “the plan” to fellow money-party elites across borders at the Bildersberg meeting in Baden Baden Germany in June 1991 -exactly at the same time that the Soviet Union and its resistant barriers fell.[xiii] Bear in mind that Rockefeller among other initiatives appointed both Kissinger and Brzezinski for the lead in both the supranational Bilderberg and Trilateral strategic bodies of which he was the lead patron, not to mention financed the unemployed academic Leo Strauss out of Germany to be the godfather  “philosopher” of the “new world order”. Rockefeller speaks very precisely to his fellow “elite of the elite” of the Western world where only Americans and Europe are invited and reportage excluded:

“A supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries”, Rockefeller said.[xiv]

Observe the foundational new concepts in place of responsible government and democratic accountability. They are now consigned to “past centuries”. A “supranational sovereignty”has replaced them and is morally“preferable”. Rockefeller is not exaggerating. By 1991 a “supranational sovereignty” had already developed in the form of transnational treaties conferring override rights of “profit opportunity” on transnational corporations and private bank rule of government finances across borders – procedurally trumping any elected legislatures and their laws which are inconsistent with their thousands of treaty articles, even when the system eventually leads to world depression as now.[xv] The source of the legitimacy of governments, ultimate sovereignty, has now passed as preferable to “an intellectual elite and bankers”: more exactly, academic strategy servants and transnational money sequences overriding all human and planetary life requirements a-priori by the supreme moral goal.

Ask which function of the world’s people and means of life is not now in debt to Wall Street and the private global banking system it leads. Ask which means of life from food and water to autos and pension cheques is not thus ultimately controlled, or which commodity is not under oligopolist corporate sway. The “surely preferable” objective was already achieved by 1991 or in advanced global institutional motion. Now supreme over all else so that all else is now accountable to it, and it is not accountable to anything above it, “the plan”seemed all but accomplished by Rockefeller’s own considered words.

But what if people resist the new world rule with no life coordinate or constraint at any level of its execution? We may recall that during the death-squad rule of the Argentina generals at this time in which civilians were murdered and tortured in the thousands, National Security Adviser Kissinger congratulated the junta on their “very good results – - The quicker you succeed the better.”Kissinger also heartily approved of the earlier massacres and torture in Chile.

The resistance was in this way pre-empted long before the Soviet Union fell, and after 1990 had no block in the Middle East and Central Asia either. “The plan” has been very long term. Kissinger the geo-executer was originally appointed to high office by Rockefeller (to lead the Council on Foreign Relations back in 1954), and – to give a sense of the long-range trajectory of the plan design –was,incredibly,the U.S. administration’s first choice for an “independent 9-11 Commission”. The obviously not-independent Kissinger was still not a problem for “the free press” and official discourse. But when he was required to disclose his business connections, he withdrew to stay covert in his ongoing backroom capacities and enrichment.

The 9-11 sacrifice is better understood within the deep-structural context of the unfolding plan. Thus David Rockefeller gave special thanks to media like “the New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion” in co-operating with the plan. Rockefeller was again precise:

This plan for the world would have been impossible for us to develop if we had been subjected to the light of publicity during those years. [xvi]

The plan’s next decisive steps were in fact already in motion as Rockefeller expressed gratitude for the media black-out. A new strategic manifesto from the Pentagon was in preparation entitled “Defense Planning Guidance on Post-Cold- War Strategy,” completed on February 18, 1992.[xvii]Prepared under the supervision of Paul Wolfowitz, then the Pentagon’s Undersecretary for Policy, it was disclosed in March of 1992 by the New York Times.After the first invasion of Iraq, it became known as the Project for the New American Century, publicly released from 1997 to 2000 prior to 9-11.

Again we may note the long arc of planning control, crisis and war as required. Item 6 of the strategic plan defined the agenda in general terms: “In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant power in the region and preserve U.S. and western access to the region’s oil.”

Oil-rich Iraq had in fact been invaded – not only to privatize its peerlessly high-quality surface oilfields but to destroy its region-leading socialist infrastructure.Iraq became accessible for invasion as the arms-bankrupted Soviet Union was in collapse. We may observe that the covertly genocidal destruction of Iraq bridged Republican and Democrat administrations over three changes of government – disclosing how the covert state operates as a moral constant across party fronts.

The actions confirm and express the one supreme moral goal identified above. They bridge from Saddam himself as CIA-payroll killer and war proxy against Iran to recapture lost Iran oilfields dating from 1980 to 1988 to the fall of the USSR in 1991 as the axis of the long-term strategic plan of global turnaround to “America’s century” still to come before and after 9-11.But between 1990 and 2003 Saddam was transmuted from former ally to aggressor against Kuwait in an invasion given an official green light from the U.S. government, to “mushroom cloud”threat with invented “weapons of mass destruction”.

In fact, National Security Adviser Wolfowitz explained after the invasion found nothing of the kind: “[We had] virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil.”

Observe how the invasion is conceived as obligatory for a reason that expresses the supreme value goal. Observe that it occurs less than two years after 9-11, which gave the open-cheque justification for the bombing and occupation which allowed the expropriation of Iraq’s society’s oil resources.

The problem was not the evil Saddam or the “weapons of mass destruction”, the standard reverse projection.[xviii]The problem was the Iraqi people themselves and their developed oil-funded social life infrastructure between the supreme oil-fields and their U.S. corporate control and privatization. 9-11 was,thus, first the justification for invading Afghanistan – to clear the way for pipelines into the former Soviet republics from the Caspian Sea region– pipelines that prompted the U.S. representative to predictively warn the Taliban:“Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.”[xix]9-11 was then the necessary basis of justification for the bombing of Baghdad for the unifying supreme objective.

In fact,seldom published in the corporate media keeping the glare of publicity away from the supreme moral objective, the publicly owned and managed oil revenues of Iraq had been invested since the 1950’s in Iraq’s advanced social infrastructure, leading the Middle East with free higher education, high health standards, and near universal livelihood security. The world’s oldest civilisation was robust in organisational capacities long before the CIA-asset Saddam was installed.

Despite his murdering his way to the top in this function, even Saddam could not destroy the system because socialist government had been achieved decades earlier by a powerful oil-workers’ union base and a population glad to have all education free, an efficient low-cost foods delivery system, and the most advanced public healthcare system in the Middle East. So there was not only the “sea of oil” as a motive to assert U.S. control in the new “supranational sovereignty” of the world. Just as important in this ultimate moral cause, what the U.S. covert state always seeks to destroy by any means, isa successful social infrastructure without private big oil, bankers and transnational corporations free to control it towards higher profit opportunities.

Unravelling the Supreme Moral Doctrine behind the U.S. Covert State

The genocide of Iraq, as the long-opposing “evil empire” was in free-fall, is the most important strategic anchoring prior to “9-11”. Covert strategic policy to forward the supreme goal is by now self-evident, but the inner moral logic is assumed not penetrated.  The most influential of Rockefeller’s protégés in this regard is the “philosopher king” of the U.S. covert state, Leo Strauss. While he never worked in a philosophy department or has any training in logic, his concept of “natural right” fits exactly to the “supranational sovereignty” of private money-sequence rule of the world – what “the intellectual elite” Rockefeller refers to invoke as “moral anchor”, “right” and “justice”.

The moral thought system is not unlike that of Mein Kampf without the racist rant, camouflaged everywhere in practice by the method of big lies – “noble lies” as Strauss exalts them.[xx] The innermost value driver is a perpetual war of dispossession of the weaker for the private transnational money-capital multiplication of the rich.

Nothing in this doctrine is too mendacious, greed-crazed and murderous if it fulfills the plan of this limitless private-capital rule as ultimate moral ground and compass. In Strauss’s canonical teaching of U.S. national security advisers and intellectual following, the ruling moral absolute is expressed by the core master idea behind the “supranational sovereignty” of an “intellectual elite and bankers”:

“limitless capital accumulation – — the highest right and moral duty”.[xxi]

This is the ethical absolute of the covert U.S. state and its strategic decision structure. And there is no internal limit within this moral universe to life means seizure from poorer societies and resource looting for the supreme goal.  It is the natural and absolute Good.

To justify its meaning, the Straussian canon adopts a potted reading of Western moral and political philosophy from Plato through Hobbes, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx and Weber. This impresses American political operatives of the faith, but Strauss is a failed philosopher turned down by Paul Tillich for his post-doctoral Habilitation and only saved from academic ruin in Germany by Rockefeller grant money. While not taken seriously as philosophy anywhere else, it is worth decoding its talmudic involution for the borrowed ideas that drive its covert state disciples and neo-fascist public “intellectuals” in America.

The ultimately organising idea is to commend all forms of conquering and limitlessly expanding private capital as “natural right and law” with genocidal subjugations justified in glowing moral terms. For example, “noble lies” is the moral category for limitless mendacity. One may wonder how educated people can be so bent out of moral shape. So I now concisely provide what cannot be found elsewhere: the inner logic of the supreme doctrine as perversions of great thinkers.

Its framework of meaning and value helps us to understand why the 9-11 event could easily follow for the managers of the covert U.S. state and its Straussian planners as not at all anomalous or evil within their moral logic. 9-11 follows as a maximally rational and unique tool to achieve the objectives in fact achieved by 9-11, and the geo-strategic cabal behind it is servilely linked from the beginning to the dominant private transnational corporate and banking interests exemplified by David Rockefeller.

To understand this brutal moral universe and its connection to 9-11, the 9-11 wars and a globalizing police state, we need to understand the deformations of its basic organising ideas. Plato’s idea of “the noble lie” means, in fact, a myth or parable to communicate an underlying truth about the triadic human soul of reason, spirit and appetite which, Plato argues, should be reflected in the construction of the ideal state (in which the rulers are communist in their common property to keep them uncorrupted and true).

But through the prism of U.S. global money-party rule a la Strauss this idea becomes the principle of lying to the public to keep the vulgar herd – the people themselves – ignorant and obedient. The philosophies of Hobbes and Hegel are also grist for this mill. Hobbes argues that “man is moved by a restless desire for power after power that ceaseth only in death”, but this brute desire in the “State of Nature” is tamed by “the covenant of peace” ordered by the internal sovereign as absolute.

Via Strauss and the U.S. covert state this becomes right is might and the ultimate “natural right” is limitless private capital power and empire with no end of totalization across the peoples and lands of the world. Hegel too suits a fascist-capitalist reading since he argues “the State is the march of God  through the world”, and war itself is history’s test of which State is a higher realisation of “the absolute Idea”. But Hegel still envisaged a “universal state”to supersede the competitive private-property division of capitalism in the “universalization of right and law on earth”.

Once again U.S. private money-capital power with no bound, the supreme moral goal in the Rockefeller-Strauss doctrine, is opposite to the classical philosophy it invokes. Once more dialectical development of reason to more coherently inclusive conception and life is reversed into one-way private money capital sequences maximized to rule the world with the U.S. military as its instrument of force and terror.

However it conceals its meaning, all positions come down to this underlying value code – as may be tested on whatever transnational money-sequence demand, right or war is launched next. 9-11 construction in such a moral world does not violate this value code. It expresses it in self-maximizing strategic turn to achieve the ultimate goal.

Friedrich Nietzsche may provide the best fodder for the doctrine when he advises that “life is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of what is alien and weaker, imposing of one’s own forms, and at its mildest exploitation” in his superman vision of “beyond good and evil”. For philosophical Nietzscheans, this is code for the inner meaning of the angst of artistic creation. But this meaning is predictably lost on the U.S. covert-state school seeking the “supranational sovereignty” of “limitless capital accumulation” as the supreme good with the “intellectual elite” as servants to it. Karl Marx’s link of capitalism’s success to productive force development is the ultimate equivocation upon which this ruling doctrine depends – making no distinction between productive capital providing life goods and unproductive money sequencing hollowing out the world by money-capital multiplication. Marx, it must be acknowledged, did not made the distinction himself since this mutation of capital came a century after his death.[xxii]

Finally Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism does not ground this doctrine of “limitless capital accumulation as the highest right and duty” with the state to serve it, as Strauss again torturously suggests. In fact, Weber deplores any such perversion of public authority. His capitalist model is a young Benjamin Franklin speaking of money saved and invested as like having “a breeding sow”, not a transnational money-sequence juggernaut of eco-genocidal expansion.  Revealingly, Benjamin Franklin and “the protestant ethic” in general were most concerned about non-waste, which Strauss explicitly excludes from the meaning of “limitless capital accumulation”. For Leo Strauss and his U.S. “national security” disciples, the capitalist may waste as much as he wants by “natural right”.

Further, in complete inversion of source, the greed worship of the U.S. state, its patrons and its academy disciples reverses the model of the “spirit of capitalism” exemplified by Benjamin Franklin in proprietary claim on knowledge and inventions. He,in fact,refused to patent his famous Franklin Stove because he believed that no innovation or new knowledge from which other people could benefit should be denied them – just as he himself had benefitted from the community of knowledge and science as the distinguishing feature of being a civilised human being.

In short, it is important to recognise how twisted the covertly ruling doctrine is. No element of it is life coherent or true to the classical thinkers in which it costumes itself. In the end, only the transnational U.S. money party has any place in its rights and obligations, and any sacrifice of other life to its supreme goal is legitimate – linking back to the Nazi-U.S. corporate axis that nearly destroyed the civilised world once before.[xxiii]

Money-Capital Power UeberAlles: How Economic Rationality Leads the Plan

The U.S. culture of money-sequence “rationality” is the underlying intellectual and moral disorder which leads to “limitless money capital accumulation” as the supreme moral goal. In formal terms, the equation of rationality to atomic self-maximization is assumed a-prioriacross domains. With globalizing Wall-Street-led “financialization”, this “rationality” becomes equated to private money-sequence multiplication across all borders as theultimate Good. This is the innermost mutation of value logic and goal, the moral DNA, from which the cancerous world system develops on both sides of 9-11.[xxiv]

This first principle itself is,in fact,built into formal economics, decision and game theory, and strategic science, as I explain step by step in “Behind Global System Collapse: The Life-Blind Structure of Economic Rationality.”[xxv] It is axiomatic but unexamined, life-blindly absolutist but not recognised as morally problematic. To make a long story short, competitive self-maximization in the market is assumed to produce “the best of possible worlds” by mathematical proof. “Pareto efficiency” is believed to demonstrate this by private money exchanges between self-maximizing atoms apriori stripped of all life properties, relations, society, conditions of choice, and all natural and civil life support systems. Pareto himself recognised outside this formula what has since been covered up.

Not only is the formula consistent with most having remaining impoverished by the “optimum” of “no-one worse off”, what none who cite “Pareto efficiency” as a standard academic mantra ever acknowledge or even recognise. Pareto himself is in no doubt of the implication. As the fascist party he belongs to rules Italy and Rockefeller creates the Council of Foreign Relations, he asserts with approval: “Very moral civilized peoplehave destroyed and continue to destroy, without the least scruple, savage or barbarian peoples”.[xxvi]We glimpse here at the roots the supreme morality built into “economic science” itself.

Yet, as demonstrated in “Behind Global System Collapse”, even the most liberal canons of America, including John Rawls’ classic A Theory of Justice, are grounded in the same meta principle.[xxvii] Rationality and value are equated to self-maximizing gain with no limit within game-theoretic interactions as the sole limiting framework of “limitless money capital acquisition”. The generic equation defines, indeed, the dominant intellectual and economic mind-set of America and the global system in action since 1980. The cabal internal to U.S. national security strategic planning follows the moral logic to its most radical conclusions with no constraints by life or law.

The one absolute moral meaning is the spread of U.S. economic, military and political power as good for all, or, more exactly in Straussian language, limitless private transnational money-capital expansion as the highest right and moral duty. Only what is consistent with or serves this supreme morality, it follows, deserves to exist. This is the alpha and omega of the covert doctrine and state, and careful reading can find no disconfirmation beneath the rhetoric of “noble lies”.

The Iraq Paradigm:  Genocide Strategy From 1990 On

The Iraq line of the geostrategic plan from 1990 to 2001 and after is a paradigmatic articulation of the covertly ruling moral logic. It launches into the theatre of war as direct war attack when U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, is instructed to green-light Saddam’s already known plan to invade Kuwait in 1990: “The US. has no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait”, she advises. To formalize the lie as official and traditional, she reports: “Secretary Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America”.[xxviii]

The dispute was, in fact, over Kuwait’s drawing out oil from reserves underlying Iraq as enabled by the colonial split of the oil-rich Kuwait province from Iraq – the classic divide-and-rule policy holding also in the division of oil-rich Kurdistan among four manufactured states. Saddam had good reason to trust the U.S., not only by the long-term official promise of neutrality but as blood-mix ally when he waged a U.S.-supported war of aggression against Iran – which still remains the target. Note the big lie to provoke the supreme crime of war has remained without any glare of publicity that might derail the plan.

When Saddam did exactly as planned by invading Kuwait, Bush Sr. raved about the Nazi-like aggression against a weaker country in the reverse projection that always defines the covert U.S. state before, through and after 9-11. So in the same name of “preventing aggression” U.S. “defense” forces invaded Iraq to destroy any life capacity it had to defend itself – always the strategy since the defeat in Vietnam. The genocide began by the massacre of many tens of thousands of fleeing soldiers. Recall the weeping young woman, the Kuwait ambassador’s daughter, planted next to baby incubators falsely claiming the monster Saddam had murdered the babies. This reverse projection was soon to be made real thousands of times over inside the victim society of Iraq.

Reverse projection of evil is the meta law of U.S. psy-ops propaganda in the deadly conflicts and wars it covertly starts. This is the supreme moral program in action as “noble lies”. In this case, the air-bombing after surrender continued from U.S. and “special ally” Britain as “sanctions of Iraq” to “prevent aggression” – again the reverse projection. In fact the bombs continually fell on the water and electricity infrastructures of the defenceless people and against all lines of repair to restore either – “the line in the sand against Iraq aggression”. We might bear in mind that Wolfowitz was Undersecretary of Defense under Secretary Cheney at this time, their positions not unlike those at the time of 9-11.

Air-bombing, as Bertrand Russell long ago pointed out, is inherently fascist in erasing the killed and maimed from sight while ensuring impunity for the bombers of defenceless people.  But all such mass murder is only collateral damage to the supreme moral goal as “natural right and law”.  The air bombing of Iraq’s water and electricity supplies dressed in one big lie after another continued in slow mass-murderous destruction of the people and their social life infrastructures years on end.

Denis Halliday, United Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the mission finally called it “genocide” (Wikipedia calls it “the Persian Gulf War”) when he resigned in 1998 to protest against “the crimes against humanity”. But no-one knew until the U.S. Department of Defense Intelligence got out that the first sweep of Iraq was planned down to the mass killing of the infants and children. September 11 in 2001 is better understood in this wider context of strategic planning by the covert U.S. terror state. For years the non-stop bombing of the people’s central life-water support system deliberately engineered mass dying from diseases of children in the hundreds of thousands.

What was predicted by Harvard Medical School researchers from the continuous civilian infrastructure bombing by the U.S. military – the deaths of over 500,000 children- was verified by the counts scientifically taken at the risk of researchers as the bombing continued month after month with NATO support.[xxix]

Full-spectrum corporate money-sequencing through Iraq under the Comprehensive Privatization Program would only be enabled by “9-11”down the road. But first the bases of advanced social life organization needed to be destroyed. The later-leaked U.S. Defense Intelligence document entitled “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities” expresses the moral DNA at work. I cite the key lines of U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency reports because they reveal the character of the supreme moral goal and its strategic planning.“With no domestic sources of water treatment replacement or chemicals like chlorine”and “laden with biological pollutants and bacteria”, the leaked Defense Intelligence Agency report says (italics added), “epidemics of such diseases as cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid” will “probably take six months before the [drinking and sewage water] system is fully degraded”.

The document continues, Conditions are favorable for communicable disease outbreaks [by the one-way air bombing] with the “most likely diseases during next sixty-ninety days of diarrheal diseases (particularly children) acute respiratory diseases (colds and influenza); typhoid; hepatitis (particularly children); measles, diphtheria, and pertussis (particularly children); meningitis including meningococcal (particularly children), cholera”. “Medical Problems in Iraq”, dated March 15, 1991, reports that the “water is less than 5 percent of the original supply – - diarrhea is four times above normal levels – - Conditions in Baghdad remain favorable for disease outbreaks”. The fifth document in June reports “almost all medicines in critically short supply” and “Gastroenteritis killing children – - in the south, 80 percent of the deaths are children”.[xxx]

In short, no limit to covert U.S. planning of indiscriminate mass murder for the supreme goal exists. The number who died in 9-11 suddenly pales in comparison. In all cases, it lets “those inimical to U.S. interests” know that there is no limit to how far the covert terror state will go for the supreme moral code not yet decoded. Combined with wars of aggression before and after 9-11, raining fire and explosions on civilians from the air so that no defense or escape can be made, saturating the fields of public meaning with big lies civilly dangerous to unmask, and bringing vast enrichment and new powers to transnational corporate conglomerates and their past and present CEO’s of the acting U.S. state – all become clear in their ultimate meaning once decoded. As the Democrat U.S. Secretary of State responded to the question of the 500,000 killed children, “we think the price was worth it”. No price is too much to pay for fulfilment of the transcendent project of the global U.S. state and its private capital rule as “the Free World”. “Those inimical to our interests” are those who oppose or are in the way of it, and thus “hate our freedom”.

The  Strategic Logic of Value through 9-11

By 2000 it was very clear to the U.S. strategic planners that the opening up of the Middle East and Central Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union had to be further pursued before it was too late.The great regret for the planning personnel of the coming Bush Jr. administration such as Paul Wolfowitz was that Iraq had not been taken over on the first invasion. The need for “full spectrum dominance” across the Middle East and Central Asia was thus the essential argument of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), with the prescription that no other “regional power”was able to contest this dominance.

The PNAC more explicitly recognised the strategic necessity for what Zbigniew Brzezinski had already called for in 1998 in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives – namely,“the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat” to ensure public support for “the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power”. The now once untouchable Central Asia, formerly of the USSR, was thus targeted as essential not only for its vast oil reserves, but to complete rule of the “first truly global power”.

The Project for the New American Century was more explicit than Brzezinski in 2000, the year before 9-11. As former Defence Minister of Canada, Paul Hellyer, lucidly puts it in a recent address (italics added): “The authors of this American ‘Mein Kampf’ [the PNAC] for conquest recognized the difficulty of persuading sophisticated Americans to accept such a gigantic change in policy. So they wrote the following (subsequently removed from the record):  ‘Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary changes, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.’”[xxxi]

Excepting the Vietnam War ending in military defeat – but vastly enriched armaments and connected private bank and corporate interests – the hitherto favoured strategic-plan mode had been local death squads along with pervasive American media propaganda against the victims as “communists” and “sponsored by the USSR”. But once there was no remotely equal opponent in mass-kill capacities and transnational trade treaties now bound governments within corporate-rights law as overriding domestic laws and policies, anything became permissible. The plan for the “supranational sovereignty” of “limitless capital accumulation” in “full-spectrum power”required only 9-11 to derail world-wide peace, environmental and anti-corporate globalization movements growing into uncontrollable civilian capacity across borders and continents.

People were waking up to the one-way destruction of life systems at all levels. Iraq was not alone in the genocidal clearance of formersocialist infrastructures uniting peoples across ethnic lines. A far more democratic Yugoslavia was set up and destroyed by financial means in the same year by the 1991 U.S. Foreign Operations Appropriations Law after the 1980’s multiplication of public interest rates to over 20percent primedevoured social life support structures across the world.

This was the unseen financialization base of a global war against public and worker economic and political powers that was reaping a cumulative global civilian reaction of opposition to “the plan”. 9-11 ensured against the fightback of financially dispossessed peoples with the signature reverse operation – diversion to an external “terrorist threat” that stood in the way of more sweeping transnational corporate wars on more peoples being dispossessed. Civil war in Yugoslavia long targeted by Reagan’s secret National Security Directive 133 as early as 1984 was predicted and occurred after the underlying employment and welfare structure of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia collapsed under deliberate financial destabilization. (The villain of the piece, Slobodan Milosevic, was himself a major banker).

In oil-rich Somalia, two-thirds of its territory had been leased out to four transnational oil companies by 1993 – a condition of lost grounds of life for Somalians behind the primeval civil war ever since. These are merely expressions of the underlying logic of value and the plan for its supranational rule beneath the lights of publicity as “discretion”. The examples are myriad from Latin America to South-East Asia to sub-Sahara Africa and the Middle East to Israel and Canada today. But a descriptive law of the supreme moral goal holds across all diverse instances of its expression.

Strategic planning for the destruction of social life infrastructures of peoples for private money capital gain without limit is the ultimate value program throughout from the U.S. to China.

The people of the U.S. are not exempt from their own system of covert state rule, although democratic heroism here joins with the larger world against it. This is the ultimate moral struggle on earth today. The moral politics of the disorder are the enforcement of the descriptive law.  This is the ruling meta program, and it is carcinogenic by its nature. The supreme motive force it multiplies by is privately self-maximizing money possession (individual and corporate)seeking to be limitlessly more.More = Better. Less = Militant Demand for More.

The “9-11” event is the epicentre of the supreme moral objective seated in Wall Street. Itis best understood as an ultimate strategic maximizer of theitalicizedformula. Exactly expressed, its ultimatelyregulating axiology is private money inputs through all life to maximally more private money outputs in ad infinitum progression: Money àLife as Meansà More Money or, formally, $àLasMà$1,2,3,4— N.

At the highest level of anchoring moral meaning, this private money-demand rule seeks to beabsolute and total across borders with no quarter. “Full spectrum dominance” is its military method. Yet what distinguishes it from theNazirule it connects with as prior transnational corporate partner in war making is that in the U.S. private money demand multiplication at the top is the only organising value meaning. 97% of its money command is produced by private bank notes of others’ debt to the private bank system centred in Wall Street. Yet despite this very narrow centre of control,almost no global territory or field of life is outside its rule and strategic plan.

The “Trans-Pacific Partnership” is but its latest expression – focusing on private knowledge-patent money sequencing to rule out generic pharmaceuticals and other life-and-death knowledge commons from which higher profits cannot be made. The one underlying common principle throughout all phases is transnational corporate and bank money sequencing to more. Its converse is to overrideall life requirements at all levels, and strategically planned crises and wars are the advancing lines of control and enforcement.

What is not recognized through all the genocidal wars,ecocidal results, collapsing social life support systems and falling wages, however,is that this ruling value sequence rationally leads to9-11” as maximal strategic payoff progression.“Absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event”, the Project for the New American Century declared before 9-11,

“ – - the U.S risks the loss of a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity”.

Decoded, this meant in theory and practice more transnational private money sequence progression to ever more control over all still-uncontrolled assets for more and richer returns without limit of take or life destruction. But these are unspeakable lines of value meaning, and that is likely why, for example, Wikipedia keeps altering the entry of my name with conspiracy theory attributions and smears to ensure that such deep-structural diagnosis does not gain currency. That is how this system works, and analysis will provide more variations of this gagging method on 9-11 ahead.

The strategic necessity of the 9-11 event for “global security order”can even be asserted by the principal architects of the administration under which it happened, and those who observe this can be dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”. Reverse projection is, as always, the essential psychological operation. The documented but shouted-down logistics included V-P Cheney having control of the air-de

Richard Briers Dies: Good Life Actor Aged 79

Actor Richard Briers - known to millions for TV's The Good Life - has died at the age of 79. The star, who was also famous for his Shakespearean roles, had been battling a serious lung condition for a number of years. Briers, who starred in shows such...

Actor Richard Briers dies aged 79

Actor Richard Briers, known to millions for his enduring role in TV sitcom The Good Life, has died at the age of 79. The star, who was also known for his Shakespearean roles, had been battling a serious lung condition for a number of years. Briers, wh...

Dire Warnings About New Regulations Don’t Come to Pass

WASHINGTON - February 14 - The results of regulations to protect consumers not only tend to discredit industry’s dire predictions but often show that the safeguards benefit businesses, a Public Citizen report released today shows.

The report, “Regulation Issue: Industry’s Complaints about New Rules,” compares the business lobby’s predictions to the results of five significant regulatory policies. The safeguards ranged from San Francisco’s paid sick leave law to smokefree workplace policies. To say that industry’s warnings look foolish in retrospect is an understatement.

“Business groups always predict that proposed regulations will cause the sky to fall, but they’re never right,” said Adam Crowther, researcher with Public Citizen. “Given industry’s track record as forecasters, policy-makers would be wise to greet their new claims with extreme skepticism.”

The research is particularly timely this week, which marks two years since the passage of the Office of Management and Budget’s deadline to finish its work on a proposed rule to protect workers from deadly exposure to silica. Many suspect industry pressure is to blame.

The cases Public Citizen examined include:

• San Francisco’s paid sick leave policy. Under this ordinance, businesses were required to give sick leave to their employees. The San Francisco Republican Party said the law amounted to “a job-killing attack” on the city’s economic engine. But employment in San Francisco subsequently increased and the number of businesses grew.

• The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. This law gave workers the right to take unpaid leave to recover from an illness, or care for a sick or newborn child. U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted that if the measure passed, “the light of freedom will grow dimmer.” In fact, the act had virtually no impact on the vast majority of businesses covered by the bill, government data show.

• Unleaded gasoline. Leaded gasoline once was a serious public health menace. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1973 issued rules reducing the amount of lead in gasoline, then banned it entirely in 1986. Industry groups said this move would jeopardize 43 million jobs in the petrochemical industry. In reality, the industry has flourished for decades, and reduction in atmospheric lead has been credited with enormous public health benefits. Further, the reduction of lead in the environment has been linked to improved public health.

• Smokefree workplace laws. Since the early 1990s, jurisdications encompassing more than 200 million people have banned smoking in bars and restaurants. Secondhand smoke has been shown to cause lung cancer and heart disease. The tobacco industry warned that smoking bans would reduce bar and restaurant profits by as much as 30 percent. Instead, profits increased after the laws were enacted. A document unearthed during litigation against the tobacco industry revealed that a Philip Morris executive admitted that “our dire predictions in the past rarely came true.”

• The CARD Act. Passed in 2009, this law protects consumers from unfair credit card company policies by regulating interest rates and fees, and mandating better disclosure. The American Bankers Association predicted that it would hurt consumers and small businesses. But survey data indicates that now even businesses praise the legislation.

Read the report here.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: The Horsemeat Summit

The ten things you need to know on Wednesday 13 February...

1) THE HORSEMEAT SUMMIT

"Now it's British horsemeat in burgers," screams the Daily Mail on its front page. The paper says:

"Meat from British horses was discovered in takeaway burgers and kebabs yesterday.

"The shocking find, which implicates the UK for the first time in the food fraud scandal, came during police raids in Yorkshire and West Wales.

"Environment Secretary Owen Paterson described the development as ‘utterly and totally disgraceful’ but pulled out of making an emergency statement to the House of Commons."

His opposite number, Labour's Mary Creagh said she wouldn't be buying mince of any kind for the moment: "Let's just say that I'm not very keen on mince at the moment, I think I know a bit too much now."

And you know you're in the middle of a crisis when our rulers start having 'summits'.

The BBC reports that "Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will travel to Brussels on Wednesday for a meeting of European countries linked to the horsemeat scandal.

"Ministers from the Irish Republic, France, Romania, Luxembourg, Sweden and Poland will attend."

I can't wait for the official picture of the French and Romanian ministers shaking hands...

2) NO POUND OF FLESH

From the Huffington Post:

"University graduate Cait Reilly has won her Court of Appeal claim that requiring her to work for free at a Poundland discount store was unlawful.

"Three judges in London ruled that the regulations under which most of the Government's back-to-work schemes were created are unlawful and quashed them. The Department for Work and Pensions has not been given leave to appeal, but has said that, regardless, it will appeal to the Supreme Court."

The papers are divided on straight left-right grounds - the Telegraph leader says: "Workfare can still do the job for Britain." The Guardian, however, pens an editorial "in praise of... Cait Reilly", noting: "[T]he point is that Whitehall had assumed a free hand in foisting arbitrary, harsh conditions on unemployed people. Cait Reilly has caught it out – for failing to play by the rules."

Writing in today's Sun, 'compassionate Conservative' Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is defiant: "Let me be very clear — our back to work schemes are successful and are not slave labour." He adds: "I disagree with the part of the ruling that found against our regulations and we will appeal against that, but crucially the court did not find that anyone's humans rights have been breached because we asked them to do a work placement in return for Jobseeker's Allowance."

3) 'OUR GENERATION'S TASK'

The issue of in-work poverty isn't just a big issue in the UK - last night, President Obama decided to tackle the issue head-on during his State of the Union speech:

From the Huffington Post:

"President Barack Obama on Tuesday night laid out a vision for a society in which everyone has a fair shot at a decent education, adequate health care and a job that pays a living wage.

"'It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class,' said the president in the first State of the Union address of his second term. 'It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.'

"The president's most notable proposal was to raise the minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour."

Will George Osborne follow Obama's lead in the Budget next month? Two stats are always worth remembering: 1) the majority of the children living in poverty in Britain live in working, not workless, households, and 2) the UK's minimum wage is now worth less in real terms than it did in 2004.

4) WATERBOTTLEGATE

Obama may have been giving the SOTU speech, but all eyes were on the Republican 'rebuttal' - my US colleague Jon Ward reports on the speech from 41-year-old Florida senator Marco Rubio, who is one of the favourites for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination:

"In his remarks, Rubio hit two things hard: stereotypes of conservatives, and the president. He came out against the former stronger than the latter, devoting an entire passage to rebutting the charge that Republicans want to protect the rich from higher taxes, and another to making clear his devotion to Medicare, in an attempt to stake out a politically viable position on entitlement reform."

Amusingly, Ward adds:

"The media-savvy Republican got favorable reviews, but his night was almost derailed by a bottle of water. When Rubio came to the 10-minute mark in his 14-minute speech, he paused, looked down and to his left, and then looked back at the camera as he bent and reached for a small Poland Spring bottle. For a few brief, excruciating seconds, Rubio took a sip of the water as he looked directly into the camera, and then put it quickly down and resumed speaking.

"Twitter exploded. Video of the moment was quickly posted, Democratic operatives cackled, and journalists complained about the volume of chatter about Rubio's thirst."

5) LEGISLATING FOR LEVESON

David Cameron's plans for a Royal Charter to regulate the press may be nowhere near as tough as the system recommended by Lord Justice Leveson but, according to a story on the front of today's Independent, a 'compromise' deal is close:

"Parts of David Cameron's blueprint to regulate the press could breach European law, the newspaper industry warned yesterday, as his plan to implement the Leveson Report was attacked from all sides.

"But despite criticism from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, some sources suggested the compromise was still possible with all-party talks due to begin tomorrow."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Off the back of Obama's State of the Union last night, why not re-watch this classic video of the US president slow-jamming the news on Jimmy Fallon's late-night show from April 2012?

6) EYE ON EASTLEIGH

From the Guardian:

"As the author of a seminal account of an activist's life during Labour's 'wilderness years', and later as a writer of jokes for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, John O'Farrell has been cheering up the party's rank-and file for decades as the self-deprecating chronicler of middle class, left-wing angst.

"But after local members in Eastleigh last night selected him to be the party's candidate in the upcoming byelection, the comedy writer was settling down for the challenge of capturing the south-coast seat - although not quite immediately.

"'There is a great deal of hard work ahead. But first I am going to the pub,' he tweeted immediately after news emerged of his official selection over two other Labour members."

O'Farrell won't win in Eastleigh - where the two coalition parties are slugging it out for the top spot - and, thankfully, nor will Ukip's Diane James, who is reported to have said yesterday that all immigration into the UK should be halted in order to prevent Romanians from coming to the country and committing crimes here. Who says Ukip are a bunch of bigots, eh?

7) CLEGG THE CREDIT TAKER

Whatever happens to the Lib Dems in Eastleigh, for now, their leader continues be mauled by the papers - from the Telegraph front page:

Nick Clegg has been ridiculed after he appeared to claim credit for his part in securing a cut in the European Union budget.

Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, last year claimed that Conservatives who wanted a budget cut had 'absolutely no hope'.

"At his weekly Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions session in the Commons yesterday, however, Mr Clegg claimed that he had spent 'months making the case for the tough approach' adopted by David Cameron in Brussels last week.
Tory backbenchers have described Mr Clegg’s comments as 'ludicrous and implausible'.

8) CASH-FOR-ACADEMIES

Ever wondered why so many schools are so keen to become academies? The Independent this morning splashes on news that

"Officials from Michael Gove's department are offering £65,000 'bribes' to convince reluctant headteachers to convert their schools to academies.

"The sweeteners are being offered to schools which drop their opposition to academy status – sparking claims that taxpayers' money is being spent on "buying off" critics of the Education Secretary's pet project."

Follow, as they say, the money...

9) 'GET OFF OUR PLANES'

To those of you who think Islamophobia is a myth, meet New Zealand MP Richard Prosser - from the Huffington Post:

"A New Zealand politician who sparked condemnation for suggesting Muslim men should be banned on Western airlines will not stand down.

"Writing in his column in Investigate Magazine, First Leader Richard Prosser said: 'If you are a young male, aged between say about 19 and about 35, and you're a Muslim, or you look like a Muslim, or you come from a Muslim country, then you are not welcome to travel on any of the West's airlines.'

"Labelling Islam a 'stone age religion', and claiming most terrorists are 'angry young Muslim men who hate the West', Prosser added: 'I will not stand by while my daughters' rights and freedoms, and those of other New Zealanders and Westerners, are denigrated by a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from 'Wogistan'.'"

Charming.

10) 'POLITICALLY CORRECT CENSORSHIP'

From the Telegraph:

"The BBC has been criticised as 'Stalinist' and 'politically correct' for allegedly trying to play down Harold Wilson’s pipe smoking in a five hour television special tomorrow night.

"However, Lord Donoughue, a former right hand man to Mr Wilson in Number 10, claimed that producers had been told to downplay Mr Wilson’s pipe smoking.

"Describing it as 'Stalinist', he said: 'Is the licence payers money being paid for these people. It is censorship – politically correct censorship. How many people do they have monitoring politically correct behaviour?'"

Donoughue adds: “He didn’t smoke it much in private. It was not always lit because he had to put it away in his pocket.

“If he was being interviewed or questioned, the moment he was asked a difficult question he would take out his lighter and light the pipe to give him time to think of an answer.”

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"The position is this. One of the most powerful, talented, intelligent and trusted women in the country wishes you to think that when she took some points for her husband in 2003 she had no real choice in doing so. It is the prosecution's function, if they can, to disprove that before she can be convicted." - Andrew Edis QC, who is prosecuting the Vicky Pryce case at Southwark Crown Court, giving his closing speech yesterday.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 43
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 10
Ukip 9

That would give Labour a majority of 116.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@LizMair: [email protected] asks what Republicans want to hear in #SOTU. My guess: "I'm resigning and handing this job off to a stealthily preserved Reagan."

@EJDionne Poor Marco Rubio: It was the gulp that roared. TV can be a cruel medium #sotu

@ShippersUnbound Don't understand the fuss over food. I love Haggis and I definitely don't want to know what goes into that...

900 WORDS OR MORE

Seumas Milne, writing in the Guardian, says: "Michael Gove is not just a bungler, he's a destructive ideologue."

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Ed Miliband can draw a line under the Labour Party’s war by opposing plans for secret courts."

Martin Wolf, writing in the FT, makes the "case for helicopter money".


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

Ed Davey Attacks ‘Dogmatic’ Climate Change Deniers

Energy Secretary Ed Davey went on the offensive against climate "deniers" today, saying evidence of man-made climate change "screams out from decade upon decade of research".

Mr Davey said 200 years of science had laid the foundation for the "irrefutable" evidence that showed greenhouse gases warmed the atmosphere and human activity was significantly contributing to the warming of the planet.

Those "dogmatic and blinkered people" who denied that climate change was happening wanted to take a huge gamble with humanity's future, Mr Davey told a meeting at the Royal Society.

"When I am confronted by some of the most dogmatic and blinkered people who deny that climate change is happening, I am reminded of the sentiment of the famous USA Today cartoon: 'If we really are wrong about climate change, we will have created a better world for nothing'.

"In reality, those who deny climate change and demand a halt to emissions reduction and mitigation work want us to take a huge gamble with the future of every human being, our children and grandchildren and every other living species.

"We will not take that risk," he told a symposium on climate change and climate science by the Government-funded Avoid programme, which provides scientific and technical analysis to inform UK strategies on avoiding dangerous global warming.

Mr Davey said people accepted scientific advice that smoking caused health problems such as heart disease, and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sun rays led to skin cancer, and questioned there would be an exception for climate science.

He admitted there were uncertainties over climate change but said the evidence was "overwhelming".

"Two hundred years of good science - testing out uncertainties, considering risk - has laid the foundation of what we now understand. It screams out from decade upon decade of research.

"The basic physics of climate change is irrefutable. Greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere and cause changes to the climate. Human activity is significantly contributing to the warming of the planet."

He said that while every extreme weather event could not be attributed to climate change, "the pattern is building and the costs are rising", warning that the cost of the 2012 floods in the UK could easily top £1 billion.

Senior Tories including Chancellor George Osborne have raised concerns that pushing ahead with cutting emissions risks the UK's competitiveness because other countries are not doing their bit.

But Liberal Democrat Mr Davey pointed to efforts in Europe to push for strong emissions reductions targets, and action by countries such as South Korea, Australia, China and the US.

"Those who advocate the view that 'no one else is doing anything, so why should we' have not opened their eyes to the real world," he warned.

He said the real danger the UK faced was being outpaced by other countries which were investing in low-carbon economies, and said the move to a green economy would provide growth, jobs, tax revenues and insulation from volatile fossil fuel prices.

Mr Davey said he was hopeful of securing a new global deal to tackle climate change in 2015, but it would be easier if technologies were being developed to help cut emissions and that the scientific community had a key contribution to make.

Genetically Engineered Meat, Coming Soon to a Supermarket Near You

If you’re one of the 91 percent of Americans who opposes genetically engineered (GE) meat, you may have limited time to act: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed approval of the first-ever GE animal, called “AquAdvantage Salmon.” If this first approval proceeds, the process is likely to become top secret in the future: we won’t find out about new GE animals until after they’re approved for human consumption, and they won’t be labeled. Welcome to the new world of genetically engineered meat — unless we act now.

The Process

The problems begin with FDA’s bizarre decision to consider GE meat using its “New Animal Drug Approval” (NADA) process, a process designed for evaluation of new animal drugs (hence the name), not genetically engineered animals. The GE salmon themselves are, according to this analysis, the animal drug. As food blogger Ari LeVaux explains on Civil Eats, “the drug per se is AquaBounty’s patented genetic construct... Inserted at the animal’s one-cell stage, the gene sequence exists in every cell of the adult fish’s body.”

Of course, NADA was not designed to analyze the human health or environmental consequences of new animal drugs, and because the animals are the drugs in this process, their welfare is also ignored. In all three areas, there is ample reason for concern.

Human Health

Since they aren’t consumed by humans, new animal drugs are not evaluated for their human health impact, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that FDA’s analysis in this area has been almost nonexistent. Health and consumer rights advocates have raised alarms, noting among other concerns, that: 1) these animals will require massive doses of antibiotics to keep them alive in dirty, crowded aquaculture conditions, and we don’t know these antibiotics’ effect on human health; 2) the limited testing that has been conducted was carried out by or for AquaBounty and included shockingly small sample sizes; and 3) what studies have been done indicated increased allergic potential and increased levels of the hormone IGF-1, which is linked to various cancers — an outcome ignored in FDA’s approval according to the Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, and the Center for Food Safety.

Our Environment

The process of examining new drugs’ environmental impact is also lax, so it’s also not surprising that FDA bungled this analysis as well. As just one glaring example, the agency looked only at how one small pilot project in Canada and Panama will affect U.S. waters, ignoring its legal obligations to consider the likelihood of salmon escaping as the pilot program expands—an expansion the company has already announced. Similarly, FDA suggests that the GE salmon’s lack of fear and rapacious appetite means that they could not survive escape. Another possibility, ignored by FDA and feared by environmental groups including Friends of the Earth, is that escapees would “wreak havoc on the ecosystem.” The Center for Food Safety (CFS) points out that every year “millions of farmed salmon escape, outcompeting wild populations for resources and straining ecosystems.” Regarding GE salmon, CFS continues: “Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes that a release of just sixty GE salmon into a wild population of 60,000 would lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations.” FDA totally ignores this scenario and its vast implications for our aquatic ecosystems.

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is the one area where we might expect NADA to do a passable job because the process is supposed to guarantee drug safety in the target animal. Sadly, FDA ignored animal welfare in its decision to recommend approval of GE meat, perhaps because it considers the GE animals to be drugs, not animals. In 2010, the American Anti-Vivisection Society and Farm Sanctuary detailed more than a dozen concerns with the AquAdvantage salmon, any one of which should have precluded approval. Yet, in its proposal, FDA ignored animal welfare concerns entirely.

Here are just a few of our concerns, none of which were addressed in FDA’s proposal:

  1. Although AquaBounty supplied limited animal welfare data, its own application indicates that it engaged in “extensive culling” of deformed, diseased, dying, and dead fish from its analysis. This would be like studying smoking’s impact only on long-distance runners who had shown no signs of cancer or heart disease.
  2. All aquaculture causes physical deformities and makes fish sick; nevertheless (and even after culling the sickest animals), the limited data supplied by AquaBounty indicates that AquAdvantage fish are even sicker and more prone to abnormalities and death losses than other farmed fish
  3. Even within these parameters, there were problems with the studies. For example, sample sizes provided were tiny and included limited data, and all analysis was done by the company (do you recall how this worked out with the tobacco companies?).
  4. Salmon in the wild are remarkable animals, swimming thousands of miles, including up streams and waterfalls; and of course, they feel pain and have similar cognitive, emotional, and behavioral complexity to other animals. AquAdvantage salmon will be crammed into tanks in grossly unnatural conditions, and slaughter will be completely unregulated (see video below). Imagine living your entire life, day and night, in an elevator with 20 other people — you can’t even stand up; you live in a pile of everyone else’s limbs and excrement. That’s aquaculture.

Brave New World

The scariest thing about approving GE animals through NADA is that once a type of technological drug advance is approved (here, genetic animal engineering), future approvals become much easier and much less transparent: the process that protects corporate drug development secrets will protect the GE process, resulting in reduced scrutiny and no transparency at all for future approvals. The American public will probably not even find out about future GE animals until after they’re approved for sale. As Friends of the Earth notes, FDA’s approval “will open the floodgates for other genetically engineered animals, including pigs and cows, to enter the food supply.” 

Conclusion

FDA’s process for approving genetically engineered meat is rotten to the core, and the effects of such a bad process on human health, our environment, and animals cannot be overstated. In the 2010 process, FDA received more than 400,000 comments and letters from more than 300 health, consumer advocacy, environmental, animal protection, and other organizations. All were ignored. We have one more chance before litigation becomes necessary. Click here to take action.

Bruce Friedrich

Bruce Friedrich is Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives for Farm Sanctuary.

New Database Puts Patients Privacy at Risk

Privacy campaigners and medical groups have warned the confidentiality of NHS patients could be in jeopardy as GPs are forced to hand over patient records to a central database.

Hip-Hop and the Politics of Social Engineering: Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z and Barack Obama’s Inauguration

lupofiasco2

One particular story during President Obama’s inauguration did not make headlines in the main stream media.  Rapper Lupe Fiasco was performing live at the StartUp RockOn concert to celebrate the re-election of President Barack H. Obama on January 21st at the Hamilton in Washington D.C. 

Lupe Fiasco (Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) was kicked off the stage by Obama’s secret service detail because he was singing Anti-Obama lyrics that annoyed many of the President’s Supporters.

He was singing one of his most political songs called “Words I never said” which was released back on 2011.

The lyrics to the song that got Fiasco escorted off the stage was “Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist. Gaza strip was getting bombed.  Obama didn’t say sh*t. That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either.” 

In an article published by the London based newspaper The Guardian who interviewed Lupe Fiasco in April of 2008 called “Lupe’s Dreams”.

Lupe said “With my mother in the ‘hood, it was a house full of National Geographics, political and social discourse and no television,” he remembers. “Then all this stuff I would read about in those books, my father would be doing. I saw him shut down crackhouses, open karate schools for free, run non-profit organisations, pass out Black Panther party literature…”

Lupe Fiasco in Washington DC (right)

Lupe Fiasco is not a rapper like Jay-Z or Kanye West.

Lupe Fiasco in Washington DC

His parents had positive influences in his life early on, despite living in Chicago, one of the most crime-ridden cities in the United States.  In a CBS interview, an online segment called ‘What’s Trending’ with Shira Lazar on June, 8th, 2011, Lupe Fiasco made it known, who he thought was a terrorist:

“My fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama in the United States of America. I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s actually causing the other forms of terrorism. You know, the root cause of terrorism is the stuff the U.S. government allows to happen. The foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists.”

Lupe Fiasco reiterated his stance on the Obama administration in a Fox News interview with Bill O’ Reilly of the ‘O Reilly Factor’:

O’REILLY: You know, President Obama is not a terrorist. He’s trying to do what he believes is the right thing to do. The United States is not a bad nation. It’s a noble nation. We’re trying to defend ourselves against people who killed us on 9/11. And then you go out there and you talk to a lot of younger people. And this is what gets me, that your constituency are not exactly political science Ph.Ds, OK? They’re impressionable kids.

FIASCO: I don’t think that that matters. I don’t think you need to have a political Ph.D…

Lupe Fiasco with Bill O'Reilly

Lupe Fiasco with Bill O’Reilly

O’REILLY: But they listen to you…

FIASCO: …to understand — to understand politics. To understand politics I don’t think you necessarily need that. And I don’t think that politics are as complex as people like to make them seem or out to be.

Richard Nixon said that, you know, if you — they reduced fear by reducing the causes of fear. And then in that same interview, which I spoke about, you know, calling Obama a terrorist and every president before and after him a terrorist, right? Is that if you’re going to fight terrorism, right? True terrorism, you know, weaponized fear. In defense of ourselves, we’re fighting — actively fighting something else. But if you’re going to fight terrorism, to me, you fight the root causes of terrorism.

Fox news pundit Bill O’Reilly was stating that Fiasco’s fan base were “Impressionable kids” that did not have any sense of politics because they did not have PhDs.

Therefore, Fiasco should not call President Obama a terrorist because it will have a negative impact on how Obama is seen by Hip-Hop fans across the world.

Bill O’ Reilly comes from a news station that had a poll conducted on November 21st, 2011 by Farleigh Dickinson University called the Public Mind Poll with the result that Fox News viewers knew less than people who did not watch any news at all.  Lupe Fiasco was correct to point out what President Obama’s foreign policy was responsible for, which includes drone strikes that has claimed many lives in Pakistan and Yemen.  In an interview with Philadelphia’s Power 99 with Mina SayWhat in July 2012, Lupe Fiasco explained what President Obama’s Foreign Policy is:

“One hand, you have someone who is a great speaker, but kills little children—our president,” Lupe told Philadelphia’s Power 99. “I’m talking about ordering a drone attack. Ordering drone attacks that go and kill mothers, innocent bystanders, children. Militants, too, but the collateral damage. You’re responsible for that, too.

“Drug dealers can say the same thing, Lupe continued. “‘I didn’t mean to kill all the people in the restaurant. I was just trying to get that one dude who killed my cousin. Just so happened that that little girl was there.’ Same thing.”

President Obama’s foreign policy is the same as that of former President George W. Bush with the expansion of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) where US troops would be stationed in more than 35 African nations. Obama declared war on Libya which led to Muammar Gaddafi’s death.

Barack and Michelle Obama dance at the inauguration ball

Barack and Michelle Obama dance at the inauguration ball

He continued wars in Afghanistan and maintained a military presence in Iraq and continued war threats against Iran and Syria.   Obama is also responsible for the erosion of civil liberties within the United States.  Obama has secretly sent US Special forces to more than 75 countries.  Obama has signed an agreement with Colombia to open several bases.  Obama was instrumental in opening a base in Chile. There are many other actions Obama undertook during his presidency.  But there is one important factor to take in consideration, Black America.Under President Obama, the Black population in the United States has witnessed a steady decline in their living standards.

According to the Washington Times, an interview with NAACP President Ben Jealous with Dick Gregory on Meet the Press, Jealous said:“The country’s back to pretty much where it was when this president started,” said Jealous. “White people in this country are doing a bit better. Black people are doing far worse.”The black unemployment rate was 12.7 percent when Mr. Obama took office. While the unemployment rate in the U.S. as a whole is below 8 percent, the Labor Department reported the black jobless rate was up from 12.9 percent to 14 percent for December.The worst during Mr Obama’s first term was in September 2011, with 16.7 percent unemployment for blacks — the highest since 1983, the Department of Labor reports. The black teen jobless rate hit a staggering 39.3 percent in July 2012.”According to Jealous, African-Americans “are doing far worse” under President Obama than under President George W. Bush.  With Obama bailing out Banks and the Obamacare (which imposes healthcare taxes on small businesses will lead to more layoffs) to take effect in 2014, the future for employment within the Black community in America will be bleak.

 Corporate Exploitation of the African-American Community 

Rappers such as Jay-Z and Kanye West who are supporters of President Obama associate themselves with the political and corporate elites are immune to reality of the problems Black America faces although they both come from inner-city ghettos.  Money and influence has corrupted their minds with music that has “dumbed–down” their fan base.  Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) actually helped Lupe Fiasco with the production of his debut album in 2008 called ‘Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor’ . However, Jay-Z has reached a plateau where he became partners with major corporations.  The major corporations include Budweiser, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, Reebok and Microsoft.  Jay-Z collaborated with Coca-Cola, a product that affects the Black community with obesity, diabetes epidemics and high-rates of heart disease.Jay-Z and Kanye West with the illuminati sign. They are not part of any Secret Society. They are exploited by the elites.

Jay-Z and Kanye West with the illuminati sign. They are not part of any Secret Society. They are exploited by the elites.

According to the Office of Minority Health (OMH) which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) stated that African American adults are twice as likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician” and “in 2009, African Americans were 2.2 times as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to die from diabetes.”  The Obesity problem in the United States affects African-Americans more than any other group.  The Office of Minority Health also stated that African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S.  About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.” Coca-Cola has a number of dangerous ingredients in their sodas including Aspartame.

Keep in mind that Aspartame has been linked to hallucinations, diarrhea, seizures, depression, migraine, fatigue and insomnia, tumors, cancer and infertility according to numerous complaints made to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which was submitted by the Department of Health and Human Services back on April 20th, 1995.It was also responsible for having union leaders in Latin America murdered by paramilitary death squads which Coca-Cola denies.  For more information watch the 2010 Documentary ‘The Coca-Cola Case’ by directors German Gutierrez and Carmen Garcia and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.  Microsoft is another major corporation that Jay-Z represents owned by Bill Gates who has a philanthropy called the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Bill Gates wants to help third world nations with vaccines with the continent of Africa as one of his main targets.

Bill Gates has stated publicly that “The world today has 6.8 billion people… that’s headed up to about 9 billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent.”

Major corporations are exploiting many rap stars that target their communities to sell their products which are harmful to Black and Latino communities.  Jay-Z also represents Budweiser.  Alcoholism is a major problem for the black community.  Jay-Z is not the only rap star exploited by corporations.  You have hundreds of artists that contribute to the degradation of the African-American, Latino, White and Asian communities such as Nikki Manage, Kanye West, 50 Cent, DMX and many others whose lyrics degrade women and glorify gangsters.  They rap about how much money they got and all of the gold chains they possess.  These are songs that have a hidden message to consume or to become a “Gangster”.  Rap music is a weapon used by the elites to keep certain segments of society in control.

Propaganda Then and Now

Corporations that exploit certain groups of people such as women or the black community is nothing new.  Corporations have been interested in finding ways to attract consumers to their products for decades regardless of race or sex.  The Psychological use of Rap music to socially engineer Black and Latino Youth to the life of crime which contributes to the Prison-Industrial Complex, consumerism and the mistreatment of women has been in the making since the late 1920’s.

In 1928, Edward Bernays’ ‘Propaganda’ was used as a manual to entice consumers to buy certain products.  One of the most known tactics used in the business world was Bernays use of women for cigarette companies.  Bernays used women to show how cigarettes can be made fashionable to the public. Bernays actually helped the smoking industry overcome one of the most problematic obstacles for the cigarette industry which was women smoking in public which was illegal in the 1920’s.  Bernays used Women models to smoke ‘Lucky Strikes’ to show the ‘Torches of Freedom’ to the public.  It boosted the profits of cigarette companies since Bernays created a new consumer for their product.  Bernays was also involved in politics when he worked under President Woodrow Wilson on the Committee of Public Information in order for America to be involved in the aspect of bringing democracy to all of Europe”.  In ‘Propaganda’ Bernays laid out ways how corporations can use ‘aesthetic’ values in various forms of art:

“In applied and commercial art, propaganda makes greater opportunities for the artist than ever before.  This arises from the fact that mass production reaches an impasse when it competes on a price basis only.  It must, therefore, in a large number of fields create a field of competition bases on aesthetic values.  Business of many types capitalizes the aesthetic values.  Business of many types capitalizes the aesthetic sense to increase markets and profits.  Which is only another way of saying that the artist has the opportunity of collaborating with industry in such a way as to improve the public taste, injecting beautiful instead of ugly motifs in the articles of common use, and, furthermore, securing recognition and money for himself.                                        

Propaganda can play a part in pointing out what is and what is not beautiful, and business can definitely help in this way to raise the level of American culture.  In this process propaganda will naturally make use of the authority of group leaders whose taste and opinion are recognized”    

In an Association for Consumer Research article published in 1992 by M. Elizabeth Blair and Mark N. Hatala of Ohio University called ‘The Use of Rap Music in Children’s Advertising” stated that:

“Music in advertising is being studied by marketing scholars in an increasingly diverse number of ways. Initially, there was an emphasis on the measurement of aesthetic qualities of the music (Holbrook and Huber 1979; Holbrook and Bertges 1981). In these studies a number of semantic differential items were factor analyzed and the factors were given names that corresponded with certain qualities of the piece of music (e.g. activity, coolness, heaviness, and sadness). Several years later, Gorn (1982) stimulated interest in the use of music in the background of advertisements. This study provided evidence that preferences for products could be classically conditioned through the use of music.  Bruner (1990) recently reviewed the diversity of ways in which music has been studied by marketing scholars and, like the Holbrook studies cited above, emphasizes the decomposition of the music into components such as time (includes rhythm and tempo), pitch and texture. A new rhetorical approach to the study of music in advertising was introduced by Scott (1990). This article criticizes previous music-in-advertising research for ignoring the cognitive involvement of the listener. It is emphasized that music can be informative or affective, and should not be separated from its social context and meanings that are culturally shared. Culturally-shared meanings in music have been largely ignored in previous studies and the current research is one of the first to examine advertising music from an anthropological/ sociological perspective.

Rap music, with its boastful rhymes and synthesizer-created claps and pops, has moved out of the ghetto and into the mainstream of popular culture. In rap music, African-Americans have found a powerful expression of their culture. Some rap artists have attempted to use this force to bring about social change, for example, by speaking out about black-on-black violence. Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola and the British Knights athletic footwear company have all signed popular rap artists to promote their products. Rap’s rhythmic chants and hip style fit the image of products like sneakers and soft drinks, especially with young consumers. Because children and teens are the major consumers of rap music, it is only logical that rap should be used to promote products to these age groups. Advertisers believe that rap music facilitates memorization of the product information and creates excitement (Barber 1987). Rap music also allows more lyrics per 30 seconds than any other form of music (Winters 1990)”

Corporations have been using Edward Bernays model to gain advantage on what consumers would desire instead of what they need.  Rap music is a tool used by corporations to sell their products or services.  Many artists were signed with major record companies in the 90’s including Jay-Z in 1996 with ‘Reasonable Doubt” with a single ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’ about drug dealing and life on the street.  Rap Music does not cause crime per se as much as the Columbine massacre in Colorado was not caused by the music of Marilyn Manson who was blamed for the incident.  It is fair to say that there are other factors that contribute to crime such as poverty and the War on Drugs.  However, Rap music is persuasive towards consumerism.  It glorifies women as sexual objects or as “Strippers”.  Gangster Rap songs involve drug dealing and foments rivalries between gangs and regions (East Coast vs.

The West Coast rivalry of the 1990’s).  The history of Rap music dates back to the 1970’s in New York City when block parties in African-American communities were popular with DJ’s and rappers who created Hip-Hop music.  Corporate interests and the globalist elites turned Hip-Hop into a negative genre not just for the black community but every other community that listens to Hip-Hop. Lupe Fiasco is positive especially towards Women where many rappers call women “Bitches”.  In one of his singles “Bitch Bad” about how the word “bitch” is normalized among youths when they are talking about women.  In comparison to many rap artists who call women “bitches” is accepted as normal.  This type of influence on youths will have a negative perception of women.  They will be seen as sex objects, not worthy of respect.

Will the FBI consider Lupe Fiasco a “Security Threat” to the United States?

In 1956, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had files on Elvis Presley due to an extortion case involving Elvis’s safety and his performances.  J. Edgar Hoover received a letter from Army Intelligence that stated Elvis Presley’s performance was a danger to the United States because his “actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth.”  Imagine Lupe Fiasco’s criticism of Barack Obama and several other rappers that are in the same category such as Mos Def, Taleb Kweli, Immortal Technique, Calle 13 (Puerto Rico) and London-based rapper Lo-Key.  Lupe Fiasco would be targeted for criticizing the President and can be labeled a terrorist himself.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Anything is possible in the United States, especially after Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2011.

Can Rap Music bring change to Urban Youths?

Hip-Hop music can be used in a positive direction to spread awareness on many issues, including drugs and crime.  Lupe Fiasco has demonstrated that his music can be a positive force for the youth in the United States as well as the World.  Rap music including “Gangster Rap” is a mind control mechanism that allows youths to be controlled by corporate interests to become consumers or to be used by political interests through the influence of Rap stars such as Jay-Z and Kanye West.  Rap music can be used in a positive direction in terms of educating the public or by informing them on what the real issues are.  One thing is for sure, as long as the Music industry continues to reap billions of dollars in profits with Hip-Hop music that involves gangsters, drugs and sex, youths in America and throughout the world will continue down a path that would not benefit their families or communities.

Jay-Z and all other rappers who are exploited by the elites will continue their talents that will only benefit corporations and the elite that own them.  Who knows why Obama invited Lupe Fiasco to the inauguration event.  Maybe Obama never heard Lupe Fiasco’s music.  If he did, Obama would have never invited Lupe Fiasco in the first place.    At least one thing is certain, as they say in the world of Hip-Hop, Lupe Fiasco is keeping it “Real.” Maybe other rappers would wake-up one day and create music that inspires, not music that destroys the mind.  Then maybe urban youths would be interested in knowledge, not gold chains and fancy cars to pick up the “Bitches”.

Then hope for a better life out of the ghettos can become a reality.

Will the FDA Crack Down on E-Cigarettes?

An important debate over the safety of the e-cigarette is raging.

January 31, 2013  |  

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Cigarette smokers in the United States have been under steady attack. To smoke is no longer considered glamorous, cool or socially acceptable. Smokers are confronted and shamed by non-smokers and have been banished to huddle and inhale in remote locations far from public view. A series of state laws prohibit smoking in almost all workplaces, restaurants and bars. The most common exceptions to smoking bans are casinos, strip clubs and brothels. Signs outside of buildings order smokers to stand a specific distance away from the entrance. 

Last May, New York City banned smoking in parks, beaches, boardwalks and pedestrian plazas. Mayor Bloomberg said, "When you ask people in our parks and beaches they say they just don't want smokers there." 

Smoking cigarettes, which are still legal, has become as stigmatized as smoking crack. An addiction that was once ubiquitous and promoted is now routinely demonized. 

As a result of public health campaigns waged over decades against the lies of the tobacco industry, the number of smokers in the United States has declined. Still, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 443,000 Americans die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses and secondhand smoke. The World Health Organization reports that tobacco kills nearly 6 million people worldwide every year.

Currently, about 45 million Americans smoke tobacco. Seventy percent say they would like to quit and every year 40 percent do for at least one day. The 80 percent who quit relapse within one month and each year only 3 percent of those who quit are successful.  

To help people quit, a number of nicotine replacement products are available: gums, lozenges, inhalers, nasal sprays and transdermal patches. 

The electronic cigarette (e-cig) is the newest nicotine delivery device and has been available since 2008. Electronic cigarettes look and feel like cigarettes but with one crucial difference: They don’t contain tobacco. Smoking-caused disease is a consequence of repeated exposure to carcinogens in tobacco smoke, not to the ingestion of nicotine.

About 2.5 million people use e-cigarettes in the U.S., according to an estimate by the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association. The number of e-cig smokers is sure to grow as they become more widely available and the cost drops. The price of a starter kit ranges from between $60 to $100. Cartridges of liquid nicotine, one equals one pack of cigarettes, costs about $2. 

Big Tobacco views e-cigarette companies as a threat to its profits and is moving to buy them up. Forbes reports that Lorillard, the third largest tobacco company, just bought Blu Ecigs for $135 million. The company earned $30 million in revenue in 2011 and the electronic cigarette market as a whole, generates between $250 million to $500 million. With a long track record of addicting people to tobacco through aggressive marketing campaigns, deception and disinformation, the danger is that these corporations will do the same with e-cigarettes.  

The battery operated e-cigarette is easy to use. An atomizer heats and vaporizes a cartridge filled with nicotine, which is inhaled by the user. The water vapor that is exhaled has no odor because there is no combustion. The e-cig contains five ingredients: nicotine, water, glycerol, propylene glycol and flavorings like cherry and vanilla. Both glycerol and propylene glycol are used in other nicotine replacement products. 

An important debate has been ignited over the safety of the e-cigarette. 

Several years ago, the Federal Drug Administration found trace amounts of toxic ingredients in several samples and attempted to regulate e-cigarettes as drug-delivery devices. A federal judge ruled in 2010 that the FDA lacked the authority. Now the FDA is moving to regulate them as tobacco products. This is nonsensical. The e-cigarette is a drug delivery device and not a tobacco product. And in a confusing move, the FDA has seized shipments of electronic cigarettes on the grounds that they are illegal drug-delivery devices.  

Major Cuts Needed to $1.2 Trillion National Security Budget

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Lawrence Wilkerson: Pressure from arms manufactures and politicians protecting jobs make it difficult to have a rational approach to US military budget

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week's edition of The Wilkerson Report with Larry Wilkerson, who joins us now from William & Mary College, where he is the adjunct professor of government. He is also the former chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Thanks very much for joining us, Larry.

LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Thanks for having me, Paul.

JAY: So what have you been working on, thinking about this week?

WILKERSON: Reducing the Pentagon budget, which really boils down to reducing the national security budget.

JAY: And what conclusions did you come to? I once heard a speech you made at the Samuel Adams awards, and you said that what United States governing powers have to come to terms with is, one way or the other, the American empire is going to weaken and be less or wither away, and it can either be managed reasonably or it can be fought kicking and screaming. So what does that mean in terms of military budgets?

WILKERSON: This is a huge component of that, Paul. If you can't take money away from the security component, the national security component, and either use that money in more advantageous ways for the country, then you're trapped, I mean, you're really trapped into the national security state, and your discretionary spending is extremely little and growing less as your interest payments on your debt grow larger and larger.

So if you look at the national security budget across its entire [li], that is to say, holistically, you see a number of different accounts. You see, of course, the soft power account, which is the 150 account at the State Department, the international affairs account. You see the Homeland Security account. You see the Veterans Administration account. You see the nuclear weapons account buried in the Department of Energy. You also see the account that now is, I think, approaching if not over $100 billion for this massive intelligence structure we've set up since 9/11.

So if you look at all of those accounts, you're talking about spending not as the military people say all the time, including myself, 3, 4, 4.5 percent of GDP; you're spending 7 or 8 percent of GDP. You're spending, for example, in FY 2010 $1.2 trillion. At that really impacts your discretionary spending. You hardly have any spending for anything else.

So we've got to do something about this. And I think the time, very opportunistic time, convergence of Tea Party interests, Democratic interests, Republican interests, progressive interests, and real interests of this republic are to reduce this spending across the board. And I think we can do that.

JAY: What would it look like?

WILKERSON: It would like like, I think, a ten-year program, adjusted wisely—not the way sequestration's going to do it, like a hammer, but adjusted wisely for the different threats that we think we envision and the different capabilities we think we need over about the next decade. I do think you could reduce spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 to $100 billion each of the years of that decade. Now, in one year you might reduce it by only $45 billion; in another decade you might reduce by $80 billion. But it's got to be in consonance with the way we perceive the threats, developing and otherwise, and the way we perceive the capabilities we need to counter those threats.

JAY: Now, you're talking about actual cuts, not just slowing down growth, because some of the things that have—I know President Obama has said they've already made some cuts, but if I understand it correctly, a lot of that is really just slowing down growth.

WILKERSON: That's absolutely right, Paul. I mean, let's face it. We are last year still in a spending spree. We're spending more than we spent at the height of the Cold War. Our expenditures are phenomenal in that respect, particularly when you look out and see no existential threats, and the threats you do see are very different from the past. We need to reshape our capabilities to accommodate those threats, and at the same time to save enormous amounts of money by this reshaping.

For example, drones don't cost nearly as much as F-22 fighters. Submarines don't cost nearly as much as aircraft carriers. And, incidentally, submarines are the most invulnerable weapons platform in the world and need to be augmented and need to be retained and need to be made even more sophisticated than they are now. You want to bring a nation to its knees, a nation, for example, like China, then you impact its commerce with submarines.

So we need to think hard about how we reshape our capabilities, saving money in the process, working out inefficiencies—and waste and fraud and abuse, too, of course—and at the same time look at the management of our Armed Forces. For example, we have more general and flag officers, general officers, admirals and generals, on active duty today with a much less force than we had when we had 16 million men under arms in World War II. That's crazy. We need to get rid of some of these generals and admirals.

So there are all manner of ways you can do this, but it's basically reshaping your capabilities to meet the threats you think you're going to meet in the next 25 to 30 years.

JAY: But isn't it also about rethinking what you want to accomplish with the military? I mean, it's one thing about defending your own country. It's another thing to want, to quote you, bring a nation to its knees. I mean, why be in a position to have to or be capable of bringing a nation to its knees? Why not just be in a position to defend the country?

WILKERSON: Excellent point. And what I mean when I say you need to look at the national security budget holistically is just that. We need to rebalance that budget. For example, we need to put a lot more money into soft power. And the dominant element there is the 150 account at State, the international affairs account. We need to hire more foreign service officers. We need to empower them. We need to let them take risks. We need to use them for intelligence gatherers. And their intelligence, by the way, Paul, will be infinitely better than this billion-dollar complex we've created to gather intelligence, which has done nothing but fail catastrophically over the last 30 years.

So we need to shift the balance in that national security set of accounts to favor soft power. And what you do when you do that is you create situations in the world that are not going to require military force. So you reduce the need for the military. I'm not saying you reduce it to zero, but I am saying you can reduce it dramatically if you apply diplomacy, political and economic power, and so forth more adroitly, more smartly, more wisely over the next 25 to 30 years.

JAY: Now, I mean, there's lots of ways you could approach this rationally, either from the point—even if you want to maintain the American empire—I mean, I would argue it'd be a good thing not to, but either way there's a lot more rational approaches that could be taken than the current one, which begs the question, then, how much of military policy and expenditure, military budget, is really the result of lobbying by arms manufacturer, the military-industrial complex. I mean, is it possible to have change? And you've been in on the inside. How big a pressure is that, coming from those places?

WILKERSON: It's enormous. Take the NRA for example. The NRA's not in business to protect the Second Amendment or individual gun owners. It's in business to protect those who sell arms. It's that clear. It's that simple. Anybody who thinks differently is smoking something. By the same token, Lockheed Martin is in business to sell arms. So is Ratheon. So is [groUn]. So you've got enormous influences that will tend to want to keep the military-industrial complex as big as it is, even grow it, expand it, and want to keep the jobs and everything associated with it. So this is not going to be an easy task.

As I was talking at this recent conference, I talked about Norfolk, for example, Norfolk, Virginia, my home state. This is real jobs, this is real economic might to people in Virginia. So if you talk about cutting the complex over at Norfolk and the environs surrounding and you talk about cutting the jobs and so forth, you're going to have two Virginia senators and some representatives and a governor and everybody else in your face.

So this is not going to be easy, but it's time to do it. And it's time to do it not just for the satisfaction of reducing the security budget, but for the benefit of this country. And if you want to maintain an empire, make it a commercial empire, make it an empire of things we do best, arguably (used to be, at least) better than anybody else in the world. The Chinese are giving us some competition. The Japanese did previously. But it's healthy competition, though. Let's make it a commercial empire and let's maintain that empire in terms of commerce and not in terms of killing people, killing people for oil or killing people for human rights. I think both are just as bad as the other.

JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Larry.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Paul.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Sugary drink tax ‘could pay for school meals’

Sugary drinks should be taxed at up to 20p a litre, say health campaigners – with the proceeds helping to pay for free school meals.

Food and farming charity Sustain said the Government could raise £1bn a year from the duty, while also saving lives by cutting excessive consumption of unhealthy drinks.

The report has been backed by more than 60 organisations, including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Friends of the Earth, the National Heart Forum and the Royal Society for Public Health.

Diet-related illness is now costing the NHS £6bn every year, said the report.

Sustain urged Chancellor George Osborne to introduce the duty in his March 20 Budget and to channel most of the cash raised into a Children's Future Fund for programmes to improve children's health.

Money could be spent on campaigns to encourage youngsters to eat more fruit and vegetables, the report said.

The group's campaigns manager, Charlie Powell, said: "Sugar-laden drinks are mini-health time bombs, contributing to dental diseases, obesity and a host of life-threatening illnesses which cost the NHS billions each year.

"We are delighted that so many organisations want to challenge the Government to show it has a public health backbone by including a sugary drinks duty in Budget 2013.

"It's a simple and easy-to-understand measure which will help save lives by reducing sugar in our diets and raising much-needed money to protect children's health."

Sustain chairman Mike Rayner, of Oxford University's Department of Public Health, added: "Just as we use fiscal measures to discourage drinking and smoking and help prevent people from dying early, there is now lots of evidence that the same approach would work for food.

"Our obesity epidemic causes debilitating illness, life-threatening diseases and misery for millions of people. It is high time Government did something effective about this problem."

‘Obamacare’ to hit smokers with huge penalties

AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan

AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan

Smokers, beware: tobacco penalties under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act could subject millions of smokers to fees costing thousands of dollars, making healthcare more expensive for them than Americans with other unhealthy habits.

The Affordable Care Act, which critics have also called “Obamacare”, could subject smokers to premiums that are 50 percent higher than usual, starting next Jan 1. Health insurers will be allowed to charge smokers penalties that overweight Americans or those with other health conditions would not be subjected to.

A 60-year-old smoker could pay penalties as high as $5,100, in addition to the premiums, the Associated Press reports. A 55-year-old smoker’s penalty could reach $4,250. The older a smoker is, the higher the penalty will be.

Nearly one in every five U.S. adults smokes, with a higher number of low-income people addicted to the unhealthy habit. Even though smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, cancer and lung problems and would therefore require more health care, the penalties might devastate those who need help the most – including retirees, older Americans, and low-income individuals.

“We don’t want to create barriers for people to get health care coverage,” California state Assemblyman Richard Pan told AP. “We want people who are smoking to get smoking cessation treatment.”

Nearly 450,000 US residents die of smoking-related diseases each year, making the unhealthy habit a serious concern for lawmakers. One legislator is trying to criminalize smoking in his state, while others have raised taxes on cigarettes and the Obama administration has tried to inflict hefty fines upon smokers’ premiums.

Karen Pollitz, a former consumer protection regular, told AP that no insurers want to provide coverage for Americans who have been smoking for decades, and that the penalties might prompt people to abandon the habit.

“You would have the flexibility to discourage them,” she told AP.

But quitting is not easy, and charging older smokers up to three times as much as younger ones could make it difficult for them to seek care in the first place. A 60-year-old smoker charged with the penalty could be paying about $8,411 per year for health insurance, which is about 24 percent of a $35,000 income and is considered “unaffordable” under federal law.

“The effect of the smoking (penalty) allowed under the law would be that lower-income smokers could not afford health insurance,” said Richard Curtis, president of the Institute for Health Policy Solutions.

Ultimately, the law that is meant to make health care more affordable could have the opposite effect on older smokers at a time when smoking-related illnesses usually arise.

Smoke and Mirrors: Obama DOE Fracked Gas Export Study Contractor’s Tobacco Industry Roots

At first, it was kept secret for months, cryptically referred to only as an "unidentified third-party contractor."

Finally, in November 2012, Reuters revealed the name of the corporate consulting firm the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hired to produce a study on the prospective economic impacts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

LNG is the super-chilled final product of gas obtained - predominatly in today's context - via the controversial hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") process taking place within shale deposits located throughout the U.S. This "prize" is shipped from the multitude of domestic shale basins in pipelines to various coastal LNG terminals, and then sent on LNG tankers to the global market

The firm: National Economic Research Associates (NERA) Economic Consulting, has a long history of pushing for deregulation. Its claim to fame: the deregulation "studies" it publishes on behalf of the nuclear, coal, and oil/gas industry - and as it turns out, Big Tobacco, too.

Alfred E. Kahn, the late "Father of Deregulation," founded NERA in 1961 along with Irwin Stelzer, now a senior fellow and director of the right-wing Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy. 

The NERA/Obama DOE LNG export economic impact study, released in early-December 2012, concluded that exporting the U.S. shale gas bounty is in the best economic interest of the country. The commenting period for that study closes today at 4:30 PM EST

This conclusion drew metaphorical hisses from many analysts, including prominent shale gas market economist and former Wall Street investoDeborah Rogers, who now maintains the blog Energy Policy Forum. Her critique cut straight to the very foundation of the study itself, stating that "economic model[s] are only as good as their inputs."

She proceeded to explain,

In fact, it is neither difficult nor unusual for models to be designed to favor one outcome over another. In other words, models can be essentially reverse engineered. This is especially true when the models have been commissioned by industries that stand to gain significantly in monetary terms. Or government agencies which are perhaps pushing a political agenda.

Beyond its history working as a hired gun for the fossil fuel industry, NERA also has deeper historical roots producing "smoke and mirrors" studies on behalf of the tobacco industry. The long view of the firm's past is something NERA would likely rather see "go up in smoke," forever buried in the historical annals. But that would be a disservice to U.S. taxpayers since NERA continues to receive government contracts to produce tobacco-era disinformation to this day. 

NERA and the "Tobacco Playbook"

Many fossil fuel industry public relations flacks learned the tactics of mass manipulation by reading the "tobacco playbook," meticulously documented in Naomi Oreskes' and Erik Conway's classic book, "Merchants of Doubt." 

"Doubt is our product," a tobacco industry CEO once said of the playbook, "since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy."  

NERA Health "Benefits" of Smoking

The University of California-San Francisco's Tobacco Archives reveal NERA worked on behalf of the tobacco industry dating back at least to 1986.

A May memo from that year written by then NERA Vice President William B. Shew (who now works at the previously mentioned Hudson Institute as an Adjunct Fellow alongside NERA Founder, Irwin Stelzer) addressed to Arnold & Porter attorney Thomas Silfen says the tobacco industry should aim to explain the so-called health "benefits" of smoking.

Most studies don't explain "the satisfactions that induce smokers to put up with health hazards," Shew explains in the memo. "This imbalance would be rectified by looking at the satisfaction derived from smoking."

At the time of the internal memo's publication, Arnold & Porter served as national counsel for Philip Morris.

A memo published in 1988 by Silfen posits that Big Tobacco has an obligation going forward to overcome its "long agony over health issues--to get the industry out of the 'it hasn't been proven' trap once and for all."

Attempt to Defeat L.A.'s Restaurant Smoking Ban 

Working alongside public relations industry giant Ogilvy-Mather and the Tobacco Institute, NERA also attempted to defeat the then-proposed smoking ban in Los Angeles County in 1990, the Tobacco Archives reveal. 

SourceWatch details that the Tobacco Institute hired Ogilvy "to provide public affairs consulting services aimed at helping the Instutitute fight cigarette excise taxes, public smoking restrictions and to help with coalition building issues," proceeding to explain that it helped to "devise ad campaigns to take the public's focus off the health hazards of secondhand tobacco smoke."

Among other accolades, Ogilvy helped BP rebrand itself "Beyond Petroluem," a propaganda campaign which won the corporation now infamous for its Gulf Coast oil disaster the PR Week "Brand of the Year" in 2001. Critics at the time called it a case of "greenwashing." 

Yet in the end, it was a case of "too little, too late" for NERA, Ogilvy and the Tobacco Institute. 

In 1990, San Luis Obispo, CA "became the first city in the world to ban indoor smoking at all public places, including bars and restaurants," according to the San Francisco Gate. By 1998, California adopted these regulations as the law of the land statewide.

NERA Offers Philip Morris Advertising Analytics

In 1992, tobacco giant Philip Morris hired NERA to analyze whether cigarette advertisements made an impact on consumption habits. This came during a time when the industry faced sharp scrunity for whitewashing the dangerous health impacts of smoking in its ads.  

Given this premise, it's no shock NERA concluded that the concerns about the effectiveness of Big Tobacco's advertising charm offensive were overblown. 

"The issue of whether cigarette advertising has had any effect on cigarette consumption per adult in Western countries over the last several decades remains uncertain," NERA explained in the lenghty report now posted on the Tobacco Archives. "However, it seems clear that advertising has had at most a minor effect, if any, on consumption per adult."

NERA/Philip Morris' War on OSHA and Maryland Workplace Smoking Regs 

Later, in 1994 and 1995, the Tobacco Archives also reveal that NERA served as a contractor for Philip Morris (now owned by Altria Group), taking the fight to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposal to implement regulations for smoking on the job. 

OSHA proposed banning smoking everywhere within the workplace except for in small, desiginated and isolated lounges.

Dr. Albert L . Nichols authored a Dec. 1995 NERA economic study contracted out by Philip Morris which critiqued OSHA regulations. That study predictably concluded that OSHA's regulations were "draconian" in nature, suggesting OSHA relied on "patently ludicrous" economic assumptions.

While NERA/Philip Morris waged its battle against OSHA, NERA also devoted itself to fighting back against Maryland's state-level workplace smoking regulations.

A Feb. 1995 Associated Press article quotes Nichols saying that cigarette sales in Maryland "could fall by $27 million" on an annual basis if the regulations are implemented.

Much to NERA's chagrin, a month later, the proposed regulations became Maryland state law.

Should Firm with Big Tobacco Roots Be Trusted?

The Sierra Club is skeptical of the Obama DOE's choice of NERA as the contractor to perform the fracked gas LNG export study. The Club just filed a Freedom of Information Act request to ascertain exactly how the Department went about choosing NERA for its "study" that will play a large part in shaping the future of global energy markets.

"Deciding to export the U.S. gas supply is a major public decision,” Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign, said in a press release. “We deserve a full and fair conversation about it. That’s why we deserve to know how and why DOE picked this anti-environmental, pro-corporate consultant for this crucial report."

With easily apparent deep-seated roots dating back to the halcyon days of Big Tobacco, the DOE's NERA selection begs the question: Can one view the NERA/Obama DOE economic findings on LNG exports as anything but a deeply cynical PR ploy?

Update (5:33 PM CST): Over 200,000 public comments were delivered to the DOE, according to a Sierra Club press release. “The public should be outraged to hear that domestic supplies of gas would be shipped overseas and that households which rely on a paycheck will see no benefit, which is clearly stated in the report,” said Nardone. “Most Americans rely on a paycheck. Meanwhile communities all across the country are left footing the bill to clean up contaminated water supplies and with increased medical bills due to air pollution. Exporting fracked gas is clearly not in the best interest of the United States. DOE and President Obama must not accept this flawed study.” 

© 2012 De

Steve Horn

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist, and a Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog. Follow him on Twitter at @Steve_Horn1022.

A Prescription for Injuries of the Soul: Healing the Earth Healing Us

(Photo: Pimthida via Flickr)Most people suffer from a sense of moral failure over environmental matters. The mismatch between being told to change our light bulbs when the planet seems in free fall—melting ice caps, polluted water supplies, drought—creates a needling angst and anxiety.  We know that we are in deep trouble, but feel that there is little we—or anyone—can do individually. Anne Karpf writing about climate change in the Guardian last year said “I now recycle everything possible, drive a hybrid car, and turn down the heating. Yet somewhere in my marrow I know that this is just a vain attempt to exculpate myself – it wasn’t me, guv.”

To fully acknowledge our complicity in the problem, but to be unable to act at the scale of the problem creates cognitive dissonance. And this “environmental melancholia,” results in hopelessness. It is not apathy we are feeling, but sadness that can be eased only with taking actions, mostly collective, scaled to the problems we face.

The moral failure and the inability to act leads to what some now identify as a moral injury, which is at the root of some post-traumatic stress disorders, or PTSD. The U.S. military has been investigating the causes of PTSD because the early interpretations of it being fear-based didn’t match what psychologists were hearing from the soldiers themselves. What psychologists heard wasn’t fear, but sorrow and loss. Soldiers suffering from PTSD expressed enormous grief over things like killing children and civilians or over not being able to save a fellow soldier. They discovered that at the core of much of PTSD was a moral injury, or a soul wound resulting from the dissonance between their actions and their moral code.

The moral injury stemming from our participation in destruction of the planet has two dimensions: knowledge of our role and an inability to act. Our culture lacks the mechanisms for taking account of collective moral injuries and then finding the vision and creativity to address them.  The difference between a soldier’s moral injury and our environmental moral injuries is that environmental wounds aren’t a shattering of moral expectations, but a steady, grinding erosion—a slow-motion relentless sorrow.

Environmental lawyer Bob Gough says that he suffers from pre-traumatic stress disorder. Pre-traumatic stress disorder is short hand for the fact that he is fully aware of the future trauma, the moral injury that we individually and collectively suffer, the effects on the Earth of that injury, and our inability to act in time.  Essentially pre-traumatic stress disorder, the environmentalist’s malady, is a result of our inability to prevent harm.

Much of the environmental and health messaging speaks to individuals. Stop smoking, get more exercise, switch from incandescent to LED light bulbs, etc.  Sure, we need to do all that we are able as individuals–that is part of preventing any further damage to the planet and our own souls.  But that isn’t enough. These are not things we can address individually. We have to do them together.

Healing the moral injury we suffer individually and collectively from our participation in destruction of the planet will require strong intervention in all spheres of life. Actions like creating a Cabinet level office of the Guardian of Future Generations or 350.org’s campaign for colleges to divest of oil stocks, or revamping public transportation are beginning steps. Can we think of a hundred more bold moves to make reparations and give future generations a sporting chance? Our moral health, our sanity—and our survival—depend on it.

Carolyn Raffensperger

Carolyn Raffensperger is the Executive Director of the Science & Environmental Health Network, www.sehn.org.

Women smokers’ death risk soars

Women smokers are far more likely to be killed by their habit today than they were in the 1960s, a major study has found. The increased risk greatly outweighs improvements in medicine that have cut death rates among the majority of the population in t...

EastEnders Actress Was ‘Abusive’ To Brother

The brother of former EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie endured months of abuse from her, culminating in her threatening him with a knife, a court has heard. Tony McCluskie, 35, said his sister's behaviour had become volatile and she regularly shoute...

Obama EPA Shut Down Weatherford, Texas Shale Gas Water Contamination Study

The Associated Press has a breaking investigative story out today revealing that the Obama Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) censored a smoking gun scientific report in March 2012 that it had contracted out to a scientist who conducted field data on 32 water samples in Weatherford, TX.

That report, according to the AP, would have explicitly linked methane migration to hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in Weatherford, a city with 25,000+ citizens located in the heart of the Barnett Shale geologic formation 30 minutes from Dallas.

It was authored by Geoffrey Thyne, a geologist formerly on the faculty of the Colorado School of Mines and University of Wyoming before departing from the latter for a job in the private sector working forInterralogic Inc. in Ft Collins, CO. 

This isn't the first time Thyne's scientific research has been shoved aside, either. Thyne wrote two landmark studies on groundwater contamination in Garfield County, CO, the first showing that it existed, the second confirming that the contamination was directly linked to fracking in the area.

It's the second study that got him in trouble.

"Thyne says he was told to cease his research by higher-ups. He didn’t," The Checks and Balances Project explained. "And when it came to renew his contract, Thyne was cut loose."

From Smoking Gun to Censorship: Range Resources Link

The Obama EPA's Weatherford, TX study was long-in-the-making, with its orgins actually dating back to a case of water contamination in 2010. The victim: Steve Lipsky. 

"At first, the Environmental Protection Agency believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order in late 2010 that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane," the AP wrote

AP proceeded to explain that Lipsky had "reported his family's drinking water had begun 'bubbling' like champagne" and that his "well...contains so much methane that the...water [is] pouring out of a garden hose [that] can be ignited."

The driller in this case was a corporation notorious for intimidating local communities and governmental officials at all levels of governance: Range Resources. Range, in this case, set up shop for shale gas production in a "wooded area about a mile from Lipsky's home," according to the AP

As DeSmogBlog revealed in November 2011, Range Resources utilizes psychological warfare techniques as part of its overarching public relations strategy.

Due to the grave health concerns associated with the presence of methane and benzene in drinking water, the Obama EPA "ordered Range...to take steps to clean their water wells and provide affected homeowners with safe water," wrote the AP

Range's response? It "threatened not to cooperate" with the Obama EPA's study on fracking's link to water contamination. The non-cooperation lead to the Obama EPA suing Range Resources. 

It was during this phase of the struggle where things got interesting. As the AP explained,

Believing the case was headed for a lengthy legal battle, the Obama EPA asked an independent scientist named Geoffrey Thyne to analyze water samples taken from 32 water wells. In the report obtained by the AP, Thyne concluded from chemical testing that the gas in the drinking water could have originated from Range Resources' nearby drilling operation.

Despite this smoking gun, everything was soon shut down, with the Obama EPA reversing its emergency order, terminating the court battle and censoring Thyne's report. The AP explained that the Obama EPA has "refused to answer questions about the decision."

"I just can't believe that an agency that knows the truth about something like that, or has evidence like this, wouldn't use it," Lipsky, who now pays $1,000 a month to have water hauled to his family's house, told the AP.

"Duke Study" Co-Author Confirms Veracity of Thyne's Study 

Robert Jackson, a Professor of Global Environmental Change at Duke University and co-author of the "Duke Study" linking fracking to groundwater contamination did an independent peer review of Thyne's censored findings. He found that it is probable that the methane in Lipsky's well water likely ended up there thanks to the fracking process. 

Range predictably dismissed Thyne and Jackson as "anti-industry."

Americans Against Fracking: An "Unconscionable" Decision

Americans Against Fracking summed up the situation best in a scathing press release:

It is unconscionable that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is tasked with safeguarding our nation’s vital natural resources, would fold under pressure to the oil and gas industry...It is again abundantly clear that the deep pocketed oil and gas industry will stop at nothing to protect its own interests, even when mounting scientific evidence shows that drilling and fracking pose a direct threat to vital drinking water supplies.

There's also a tragic human side to this tale. 

"This has been total hell," Lipsky told the AP. "It's been taking a huge toll on my family and on our life."

Abortion as a Blessing, Grace, or Gift: Changing the Conversation about Reproductive Rights and...

How can we reclaim the moral high ground in the debate about abortion as a part of thoughtful, wise loving and living?

Most Americans think of childbearing as a deeply personal or even sacred decision. So do most reproductive rights advocates. That is why we don’t think anybody’s boss or any institution should have a say in it. But for almost three decades, those of us who hold this view have failed to create a resonant conversation about why, sometimes, it is morally or spiritually imperative that a woman can stop a pregnancy that is underway.

My friend Patricia offers a single reason for her passionate defense of reproductive care that includes abortion: Every baby should have its toes kissed. If life is precious and helping our children to flourish is one of the most precious obligations we take on in life, then being able to stop an ill-conceived gestation is a sacred gift. Whether or not we are religious, deciding whether to keep or terminate a pregnancy is a process steeped in spiritual values: responsibility, stewardship, love, honesty, compassion, freedom, balance, discernment. But how often do we hear words like these coming from pro-choice advocates?

Our inability to talk in morally resonant terms about abortion has clouded the broader conversation about mindful childbearing. The cost in recent decades has been devastating. In developing countries millions of real women and children have died because abortion-obsessed American Christians banned family planning conversations as a part of HIV prevention efforts. Those lost lives reveal the callous immorality of the anti-choice movement.

Back home, here in the U.S., our inability to claim the moral high ground about abortion has brought us one of the most regressive culture shifts of a generation. We are, incredibly, faced with “personhood rights” for fertilized eggs, pregnancies that begin legally before we even have sex, politicians with “Rape Tourette’s,” and a stunningly antagonistic debate about contraceptive technologies that could make as many as ninety percent of unintended pregnancies along with consequent suffering and abortions simply obsolete.

The voices that are strongest on reproductive rights often falter when it comes to the cultural dialogue. At least part of this absence is because so many of the pro-choice movement’s leaders and funders are secular and civic in their orientation, awkwardly uncomfortable with the moral and spiritual dimension of the conversation, or, for that matter, even with words like moral and spiritual. From language that seems moderately wise–Who decides?–we fall back on “safe, legal and rare” (a questionable effort to please everyone) or even the legal jargon of the “right to privacy.”

The other side talks about murdering teeny, weeny babies and then mind-melds images of ultrasounds and Gerber babies with faded photos of late term abortions. And we come back by talking about privacy?? Is that like the right to commit murder in the privacy of your own home or doctor’s office? Even apart from the dubious moral equivalence, let’s be real: In the age of Facebook and Twitter, is there a female under twenty-five in who gives a rat’s patooey about privacy, let alone thinks of it as a core value?

The right to privacy may work in court. But it is a proxy for much deeper values at play. Privacy simply carves out space for individual men and women to wrestle with those values. In the court of public opinion, it is the underlying values that carry the conversation.

Far too often those who care most about the lives of women and children and the fabric of life on this planet limit themselves to legal and policy fights. Fifty years ago, reproductive rights activists took the abortion fight to the courts and won, and they have kept that focus ever since. But the legal fight has drawn energy away from the broader conversation. And the emphasis on “privacy” has meant that even the most powerful stories that best illustrate our sacred values are too often kept quiet.

Legal codes and cultural sensibilities are never independent of each other. Abortion rights were secured legally because of a culture shift that was aided by anguished stories andstatements by compassion-driven Christian theologians during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The brutal deaths of American women every year, at a peak of thousands in the 1930’s, was, beyond question or doubt, a profound immorality that many Americans were desperate to stop. Protestant leaders across the theological spectrum took a moral stand in support of legal abortion. In contrast to the Vatican, they had long agreed that thoughtful decision-making about whether to bring a child into the world serves compassion and wellbeing—the very heart of humanity’s shared moral core.

At this point it should be clear that the tide has turned. Opponents, having lost in court, instead took their fight to conservative churches, where they have been refining their appeals for forty years. The last few years have seen a systematic erosion of legal rights driven by a culture shift that had been building long before. It has also seen a complete reversal of the once-stalwart moral support for reproductive rights among American Protestants, which in the 1950s was seen as a moral good by almost every denomination from the most liberal to the most conservative. Unless this shift is challenged and stopped, there is every reason to fear that abortion will once again become inaccessible for most women in the U.S.

Can pro-choice advocates reclaim the moral and spiritual high ground? Yes. But to do so will require a challenge to the status quo on two fronts. Rather than ignoring the right’s moral claims, we must confront their arguments. We must also express our pro-choice position in clear, resonant moral and spiritual terms. In other words, in combination, we must show why ours is the more moral, more spiritual position.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Most “pro-life” positions aren’t really pro-life; they are no-choice. They are designed to protect traditional gender roles and patriarchal institutions and, specifically, institutional religion. The Catholic Bishops and Southern Baptist Convention—both leaders in the charge against reproductive rights– represent traditions in which male “headship” and control of female fertility have long been tools of competition for money and power. They use moral language to advance goals that have little to do with the wellbeing of women or children or the sacred web of life that sustains us all.

The arguments they make to attain these ends are powerful emotionally but not rationally. They appeal to antiquated and brittle conceptions of God. They appeal to the crumbling illusion of biblical and ecclesiastical perfection—and the crumbling authority of authority itself. They corrupt the civil rights tradition and turn religious freedom on its head. They play games with our protective instinct and cheapen what it means to be a person. Theylie.

That adds up to a lot of vulnerability in what should be the stronghold of the priesthood: their claim to speak for what is good and right.

Republican Strategist Karl Rove will go down in history for his strategy of attacking enemies on their perceived strength — for example, by attacking John Kerry on his war record. In the recent election, we saw this strategy in play on both sides. Obama proved to be less vulnerable than his opponents hoped on his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. But by the time the election was over, Romney’s strongest credential, his background in business, was seen by many as parasitic “vulture capitalism.” If we want Americans to understand and distance from the moral emptiness of the “pro-life” movement, we will have to challenge the patriarchs in on their home turf, in their position as moral guides.

Here, for openers, are a few ways we might change the conversation:

1. Talk about the whole moral continuum. A moral continuum ranges from actions that are forbidden, to those that are allowed, to those that are obligatory. When it comes to abortion, we talk only about one half of this continuum—Is it forbidden or is it allowed?—when, in actuality, a women faced with an ill-conceived pregnancy often experiences herself at the other end of the continuum, wrestling with a set of competing duties or obligations. What is my responsibility to my other children? To society? To my partner?To myself? (To cite a personal example, my husband and I chose an abortion under circumstances where it would have felt like a violation of our core values to do otherwise.) The current conversation doesn’t reflect the real quandaries women face, one in which moral imperatives can and do compete with other moral imperatives. Nor does it reflect the wide range of spiritual values and god concepts that enter into the decision making process.

  • No-choice advocates say: Abortion is immoral. God hates abortion.
  • We can say: For me, bringing a child into the world under bad circumstances is immoral. It violates my moral and spiritual values. / Whose god decides?

2. Challenge the personhood/fetus-as-baby concept both philosophically and visually. The history of humanity’s evolving ethical consciousness has focused on the question of who counts as a person, and if the arc bends toward justice it is because it is an arc of inclusion. Non-land-owning men, slaves, women, poor workers, children—our ancestors have fought and won personhood rights for each of these, and abortion foes are smart to invoke this tradition. But their ploy involves a sleight of hand. The civil rights tradition is built on what a “person” can think and feel. By contrast, the anti-choice move is about DNA, and it seeks to trigger visual instincts that make us feel protective toward anything that looks remotely like a baby, even a stuffed animal. In reality, the tissue removed during most abortions is minute, a gestational sac the size of a dime or quarter, which is surprising to people who have been exposed to anti-abortion propaganda. It strikes almost no-one as being the substance of “personhood.”

  • They say: Abortion is murder. Abortion kills little babies.
  • We can say: A person can think and feel. My cat can feel hungry or hurt or curious or content; an embryo cannot. / Thanks to better and better pregnancy tests, over 60 percent of abortions now occur before 9 weeks of gestation. Want to see what theyactually look like?

3. Admit that the qualities of personhood begin to emerge during gestation.Pregnancy is no longer the black box it was at the time of Roe v. Wade. Ultrasound and photography have made fetal development visible, and research is beginning to offer a glimpse into the developing nervous system, with the potential to answer an important question: What, if anything, is a fetus capable of experiencing at different stages of development? Although this isn’t the only question in the ethics of abortion, it undeniably relevant. How we treat other living beings has long been guided by our knowledge of what they can experience and want. By implication, ethics change over the course of pregnancy. A fertilized egg may not be a person except by religious definitions, but by broad human agreement a healthy newborn is, and in between is a continuum of becoming. Most Americans understand this argument morally and emotionally. The Roe trimester framework also codified it legally. Ethical credibility requires that we acknowledge and address the ethical complexities at stake.

  • They say: A fetus is a baby. A baby is a living soul from the moment of conception.
  • We can say: In nature, most fertilized eggs never become babies. A fetus is becoming a baby, grows into a baby, is a potential person, or is becoming a person.

4. Pin blame for high abortion rates where it belongs – on those who oppose contraception—and call out the immorality of their position because it causes expense and suffering. Unintended pregnancy is the main cause of abortion. Right now half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. For unmarried women under 30, that’s almost 70%. A third of those pregnancies end in abortion. The reality is that abortion is an expensive invasive medical procedure. For the price of one abortion, we can provide a woman with the best contraceptive protection available, something that will be over 99% effective for up to twelve years. If every woman had information and access to state-of-the-art long acting contraceptives, half of abortions could go away before Barack Obama gets out of office.

  • They say: Liberals are to blame for abortion. Planned Parenthood is an abortion mill.
  • We can say: Obstructing contraceptive knowledge and access causes abortion and unwanted babies. That’s what’s immoral. We have the technology to prevent almost all of the suffering and expense caused by unintended pregnancy, but many women don’t have access to that information or technology because of the twisted moral priorities of religious and cultural conservatives. Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood have done more to prevent abortions in America than all of the choice opponents combined. The no-choice position is anti-life. It kills women. It puts faith over life.

5. Acknowledge and address the powerful mixed feelings surrounding abortion. The most common emotional reaction to abortion is relief. That said, women react physically and emotionally in a variety of ways to terminating a pregnancy. Sometimes, even those who are clear that they have made the best decision feel a surprising intensity of loss. Women should be given the support they need to process whatever their experience may be. We also need to understand that some abortion opponents actively induce guilt and trauma in women who have had abortions.

  • They Say: Abortion is psychologically scarring. Women end up haunted by guilt and permanently traumatized after having an abortion.
  • We can say: No one should do something that violates her own values. Violating your values is wounding; that is why each woman should be supported in following her own moral, spiritual and life values when making decisions about pregnancy.

6. OWN religious freedom. Religious freedom is for individuals, not institutions. If the women and men who work for religious institutions all perceived the will of God in the same way, their employers wouldn’t be trying to control them by controlling their benefits package. Religious institutions have always tried to override the spiritual freedom of individuals, and they use the arm of the law as a lever whenever they can, and that is what they are doing now.

  • They say: Employers shouldn’t be forced to provide contraceptive or abortion coverage.
  • We Can Say: The freedom to choose how your employees spend their hard earned benefits and the freedom to choose whether to have a child are two very different things. No institution—and nobody’s boss–should have a say in one of the most personal and sacred decisions we can make: whether to have child. That is why all women, regardless of who they work for, should have access to the full range of contraceptives and reproductive care.

7. Talk about children and parenting, not just women. Responsible and loving parents do what they can to give their kids a good life. We take our kids to doctors, get them the best schooling we can afford, love them up, and pour years of our lives into helping them acquire the skills that will let them be happy, kind, generous, hard-working adults. But parenting starts before we even try to get pregnant. We consider our own education and finances and whether we have the kind of partnership or social support that would help a child to thrive. We may quit smoking or drinking to be as healthy as possible during pregnancy. More often than not, the decision to stop a given pregnancy is a part of this much bigger process of mindful, responsible parenting.

  • They say: Abortion is selfish. Women just want to have sex without consequences.
  • We can say: A loving mother makes hard decisions to bring her kids the best life possible. A responsible woman takes care of herself. A caring father wants the best life possible for his children. Wise parents know their limits.

8. Embrace abortion as a sacred gift or blessing. For years we have talked as if abortion were a lesser evil, rather than a remarkable gift. In reality, no medical procedure is pleasant and yet the option to have the treatments and surgeries we need is an unmitigated good. The term “safe, legal and rare” confuses things because it implies that what should be rare is the treatment rather than the problem, unintended pregnancy. An abortion should be exactly as safe, legal and rare as a surgery to remove swollen tonsils or an infected appendix. If we think about abortion like we think about other medical services, then the attitude is one not of shame or ambivalence but of gratitude.

  • They say: Abortion is bad. An abortion is regrettable.
  • We can say: An ill-conceived pregnancy is bad. An unintended pregnancy is regrettable. An abortion when needed is a blessing. It is a gift, a grace, a mercy, a cause for gratitude, a new lease on life. Being able to choose when and whether to bring a child into the world enables us and our children to flourish.

9. Honor doctors who provide abortion services as we honor other healers.The human body fends off most infections and cancers, but not all. It spontaneously heals most broken bones and closes many wounds but not all. Similarly, it spontaneously aborts most problem pregnancies, but not all. Nature tends to abort pregnancies where there are problems with cell division or fetal development, where there is little chance for a fetus to become a healthy, thriving person. Through medical or surgical abortion, as through every other medical procedure, doctors and healers extend the work of nature—of God, if you will—to promote health and wellbeing. By ending pregnancies that don’t have a good chance to turn into thriving children and adults, they are—literally or metaphorically–doing God’s work.

  • They say: Abortionists are murderers.
  • We can say: God (or Nature) aborts most fertilized eggs. Abortion doctors are compassionate healers who devote their lives to helping women and men ensure that they have strong, well-planned, wanted families. Their work is as sacred as any in the field of medicine.

10. Honor women who decide to terminate pregnancies just as we honor motherhood. Sometimes the decision to end a problem pregnancy is clear and simple. Other times not. Either way, a woman often has to fight off a sense of shame and blamethat she has internalized from religious and social conservatives — too often, including other women. She may feel bad even when her own values are clear and the decision has been thoughtful. How often do we affirm and honor the wisdom of women who make difficult childbearing choices (abortion, adoption, waiting) so as to best manage their lives and their parenting?

Most women chose an abortion so that they can later choose a well-timed pregnancy; or so they can take good care of the kids they have, ensuring those kids have the best possible chance in life. Sometimes a woman ends a pregnancy because she is choosing to put her life energy elsewhere. Even then, she is accepting that to embrace life fully she must choose among the kinds of good available to her and take responsibility for avoiding harm. She may or may not put it in these terms, but those are moral and spiritual questions, the kind that religion has long sought to guide. That is why many religious traditions support a woman or couple in weighing their own deepest values when it comes to reproductive decisions.

As individual stories show, the decision to end a pregnancy may be based in humility, responsibility, nurturing, prudence, forethought, vision, aspiration, stewardship, love, courage. . . . or some combination of these qualities. Mere tolerance fails to affirm the many strengths that go into reproductive decisions including the decision to end a pregnancy. These are virtues worthy of honor.

  • They say: An abortion is shameful. An abortion should be kept secret. An abortion needs to be forgiven by God.
  • We can say: Choosing abortion can be wise and brave. It can be loving and generous. It can be responsible and self-sacrificing.

In the end the real morality of our position lies in the right of babies to be truly loved and wanted and in the right of parents to bring babies into this world when they’re fully ready to welcome them with open arms. As my friend Patricia said, every baby should have its toes kissed. Her simple message speaks volumes. Parents who get to plan and choose are more likely to eagerly await that toe kissing. They are more likely to have the emotional energy that makes those little toes irresistible even after sleepless nights and days of work. They are more likely to have a supporting community that can kiss toes when they are busy. They are more likely to have what it takes when a baby turns into a kid, and toe kissing turns into play dates and homework and I-think-we-need-to-talk. And they are more likely to still be kissing when they have to stand on their own toes to plant a peck on the cheek of a kid who’s on the way out the door with the car keys.

Toe kissing is a small, spontaneous celebration of love and life, the same values that are at the heart of our spiritual traditions. They are the values that no-choice, anti-abortion leaders claim to represent, but represent so poorly. We would do well to say so.

5 Celebrities Who Shill For Pathetic Junk Food and Drinks

Beyoncé for Pepsi, Jennifer Aniston for Smartwater: Many celebrities shill for products that are worthless, or worse.

January 14, 2013  |  

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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This article was published in partnership with  GlobalPossibilities.org.

Super Bowl season is upon us, and with that time of year comes a slew of new celebrity endorsements on our TV sets and billboards. Last year around this time AlterNet published an article about celebrities with endorsement deals for dubious products and financial services – think Hulk Hogan for Rent-a-Center and Alec Baldwin for Capital One.

This week, in a blog post for the New York Times Mark Bittman wondered why celebrities think it’s acceptable to shill soda -- “a product that may one day be ranked with cigarettes as a killer we were too slow to rein in.”

That made us think it’s time to update our year-old list with an exploration of questionable food and beverage endorsement deals. But first, let’s hear more from Bittman on why he’s so bothered by stars selling their likeness to soda companies:

Some will say that soda is food and that there’s no smoking gun as there is with tobacco. But food provides nourishment, and soda doesn’t. In fact, it packs calories that provide no satiety and directly cause weight gain, and despite the recent Journal of the American Medical Association meta-analysis questioning the link between obesity and early death, we know there is a link between obesity and diseases like diabetes.

Two things can slow down this machine: anti-tobacco-style legislation and public opinion.

There’s one group of people that excels at turning around popular opinion: celebrities. Below are several (among many) stars who we generally like, but whose endorsement deals might not be so wholesome.

1. Beyoncé for Pepsi

Bittman cites a number of celebrity soda endorsers in his Times piece, but he mostly focuses on superstar singer Beyoncé, who is “eager, evidently, to have the Pepsi logo painted on her lips and have a limited-edition Pepsi can bearing her likeness” as part of a larger $50 million campaign pegged to the upcoming Super Bowl. Bittman points out that “unless she’s donating some or all of that money, this is an odd move for a politically aware woman who, with her husband, Jay-Z, raised money for President Obama and supported Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, meant to encourage children to exercise.”

That is an odd paradox, and we all know that Beyoncé is too smart not to have picked up on it. And in a broader sense, given soda’s known health risks, it’s strange that soda endorsements are perceived as some of the more wholesome deals out there; everyone from Elton John to Britney Spears to Cindy Crawford has had one. Is it really just because of the money (which is clearly substantial)? Or is it possible that celebrities don’t think soda is “that bad”?

2. Jennifer Aniston for Smartwater

Smartwater may not be as unhealthy as Pepsi, but it is a pretty big waste of money and plastic bottles.

For the uninitiated, Smartwater is simply bottled water with added electrolytes that allow parent company Glacéau to jack up the price. Electrolytes are important for staying hydrated, but most people do not need them added to their water. On a more fundamental level, the bottled water industry is doing terrible things for our planet by creating an enormous amount of plastic waste.

Perhaps Jennifer Aniston felt better about endorsing a bottled water product than a brand