Archive for November, 2011

Fukushima Radiation Risks “Severely Underestimated”

November 30, 2011

Published on Tuesday, November 29, 2011 by PanOrient News

Fukushima Radiation Risks “Severely Underestimated”: Greenpeace

TOKYO — Greenpeace today renewed its demand for the Japanese government to keep its nuclear reactors offline as simulation maps of potential accidents at Japan’s nuclear plants – used in the development of nuclear emergency response efforts – “are completely inadequate, and have not been updated since the Fukushima disaster.”

Following a Greenpeace freedom of information request on November 25, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) released SPEEDI simulations of the radioactive contamination spread from all nuclear plants in Japan. Greenpeace said these maps show only extremely low releases of radioactivity over a 10km area around the plants in the event of meltdown, making any emergency response plan based on them totally insufficient should another severe disaster like the Fukushima Daiichi crisis occur.“The Fukushima Daiichi emergency response effort was slow, chaotic and insufficient, and it appears the Government has learned nothing from it so far,” said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director. (photo: SandoCap)

The simulations released under FOI to Greenpeace were made to support emergency preparedness drills of local and central government authorities. They calculate the concentration of radioactivity in the air, contamination on the ground and dose to the population within a range of 10km. Based on these maps, drills on evacuation or sheltering of the population, or distribution of iodine pills are organized.

“The simulation of radioactive releases from the Ohi reactor for example, is scandalously inadequate. It foresees a radiation release in the order of 10,000 times less severe than what could happen during a major incident,” said Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner. “Similar over-optimistic scenarios have been used for reactors all over Japan. Hoping for the best is absolutely the wrong way to devise an emergency response plan.”

A major incident in this case is based on a 15% release of iodine from the core of the reactor, which is still not a worst-case scenario. Nuclear safety authorities from the United States (NRC, Nureg-1150, 1990) and Germany (SSK, Heft 37, 2003) have calculated that under the worst-case conditions, even a release between 50% and 90% of all iodine is possible, though with a lower probability.

Greenpeace met with officials from MEXT and the SPEEDI program today, and they confirmed that the current simulations are limited to low-level releases, and that the system needed upgrading to cover larger releases and wider areas beyond 10km from the plants.

“The Fukushima Daiichi emergency response effort was slow, chaotic and insufficient, and it appears the Government has learned nothing from it so far,” said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director.

“These maps show that there is a strong risk of reactor restarts being pushed through without a proper, science-based assessment on the real risks being conducted, and without proper precautions being taken to protect the communities around the plants.”

Greenpeace is demanding that the Japanese government uses SPEEDI for what it was developed for, and run worst-case scenario simulations for all nuclear plants in Japan so there is a clear understand what effect a Fukushima Daiichi-type incident at other plants around Japan could have.

© 2011 PanOrient News

Nowhere Else in the World Do You See a Political Debate About Whether Climate Science Is Real

November 29, 2011

November 28 News: “Nowhere Else in the World Do You See a Political Debate About Whether Climate Science Is Real”

By Stephen Lacey on Nov 28, 2011 at 8:42 am

As Climate Talks Begin, America is “Not Bringing a Lot to the Table”

Other key stories below: Global Warming 2° C Target “No Longer Attainable”; Can Carbon for the Price of Pizza Save the Planet?

AP Photo/Peter Dejong

 

Ahead of Climate Talks, U.S. Leadership in Question

A new round of United Nations climate talks is getting under way in Durban, South Africa, Monday. And domestic struggles here in the United States are hampering the global talks….

That’s putting a crimp on the 20-year-long struggle to develop a meaningful climate treaty.

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There was a glimmer of hope at a U.N. meeting two years ago in Copenhagen. Nations weren’t going for a binding treaty, but some pledged to take serious action anyway.

President Obama stood before the tense meeting and promised that the United States would do its part.

“Almost all the major economies have put forward legitimate targets, significant targets, ambitious targets,” he said. “And I’m confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made, cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020 and in the range of 80 percent by 2050, in line with final legislation.”

Ambitious targets, indeed, but the last phrase, “in line with final legislation” ended up being a killer caveat.

The promise to cut emissions was contingent on Congress passing an aggressive cap-and-trade bill. But that 2,000-page bill went into the trash instead of onto the president’s desk. The Great Recession briefly achieved what Congress didn’t — national emissions fell for a short time. But no longer.

“Starting in 2010 it looks like we’re starting to see an uptick again, and you would expect to see emissions continuing to increase in a business-as-usual case out to 2020,” says Kevin Kennedy at the World Resources Institute….

“Nowhere else in the world do you see a political debate about whether climate science is real, whether or not the climate is actually changing,” Kennedy says. “That political climate makes it very difficult to move forward in a comprehensive way. And that is something we need to address in this country.”

… Alden Meyer at the Union of Concerned Scientists says the weak actions domestically mean the U.S. doesn’t have much leverage in the international talks.

“The U.S. is not able to show its partners how we are going to meet the 17 percent reduction President Obama committed to,” Meyer says. Also we are struggling to come up with our fair share of the financing for developing nation action on technology, on adaptation, on preserving forests. So we’re not bringing a lot to the table.”

Durban Should Be a Wake Up Call For the World

Climatologists have recently issued a warning over global weather patterns, stating that the world will experience more severe storms, droughts and flooding and that they attribute this to increased man-made global warming. Durban should be a wake-up call for the world to listen and act.

So far the news ahead of the Durban conference has been depressing. Global recession is taking precedence and many of the industrialised countries are reluctant to commit to the financial programmes necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We have been told that a positive and substantial outcome is unlikely, but Greens believe it is essential that a package is negotiated that allows a global agreement to be forthcoming for the post-2012, second commitment period.

From 28 November to 9 December this year, the global community will converge in Durban for yet another round of negotiations to work out a deal to stabilise the climate system and assure vulnerable communities of a promising future.

Global warming 2°C target “no longer attainable”

Munich Re reckons hopes of a successful conclusion to the world climate summit, which starts today in Durban, South Africa, are “extremely slim”.

Progress may be achieved in the second negotiating track, i.e. adaptation aid for the countries worst hit by climate change.

However, after the collapse of negotiations in Copenhagen two years’ ago, global warming issues would appear to be doomed to further failure in Durban, meaning the Kyoto Protocol will expire with no follow-up agreement.

Munich Re argues that the 2°C target that scientists consider the maximum for containing global warming within manageable limits is virtually no longer attainable.

The firm has been analysing climate change for nearly forty years and its database of natural catastrophes worldwide shows the number of registered loss occurrences from extreme weather increasing almost threefold since 1980.

The number of flood loss events has gone up by a factor of more than three and the number of windstorm natural catastrophes has more than doubled.

Can carbon for the price of a pizza save the planet?

Climate negotiators meeting in South Africa this week face fresh worries over saving the planet from global warming now that a tonne of carbon trades at the price of a pizza.

A European steel plant producing a tonne of steel pays as little as $12 for the resulting carbon emissions, spelling trouble for Europe’s carbon emissions trading scheme, the world’s largest.

At those prices, there is little incentive for industry to lower its carbon output, meaning one of Europe’s major tools in fighting climate change is broken.

Analysts say carbon prices would need to return to 2008 levels in order start making a difference. “Given current commodities prices, we would need 20 euros a tonne to achieve a significant emissions reduction,” said Per Lekander, an analyst at UBS.

“I look at the price in the morning and don’t want to get out of bed,” said a London-based emissions trader.

London is the EU carbon market’s hub, with traders, brokers, power generators and project originators responsible for the bulk of trade.

Climate Change: Vulnerable Countries Consider “Occupying” Global Climate Talks

Diplomats from some developing countries may “occupy” the UN climate negotiations that begin on Monday in Durban by staging sit-ins and boycotts over the lack of urgency in the talks.

The move follows a call by the former president of Costa Rica for vulnerable countries to refuse to leave the talks until “substantial” progress has been made.

“I have called on all vulnerable countries to ‘occupy’ Durban. We need an expression of solidarity by the delegations of those countries that are most affected by climate change, who go from one meeting to the next without getting responses on the issues that need to be dealt with,” said José María Figueres.

“We went to Copenhagen [in 2009] with the illusion we could reach an equitable agreement. We went to Cancún [in 2009] where we saw slight but not sufficient progress. Frustration is now deep and building. Now we hear that we will need more conferences. Sometime we have to get serious. We should be going to Durban with the firm conviction that we do not come back until we have made substantial advances.”

Nuclear Power Goes Rogue

As the full cost of the Fukushima nuclear accident continues to climb—Japanese officials now peg it at $64 billion or more—nuclear power’s future is literally headed south. Developed countries are slowing or shuttering their nuclear-power programs, while states to their south, in the world’s hotspots (think the Middle East and Far East), are pushing to build reactors of their own. Normally, this would lead to even more of a focus on nuclear safety and nonproliferation. Yet, given how nuclear-reactor sales have imploded in the world’s advanced economies, both these points have been trumped by nuclear supplier states’ desires to corner what reactor markets remain.

Certainly, nuclear sales opportunities are far less flush than they once were.

This spring, Germany permanently shut down eight of its reactors and pledged to shutter the rest by 2022. Shortly thereafter, the Italians voted overwhelmingly to keep their country nonnuclear. Switzerland and Spain followed suit, banning the construction of any new reactors. Then Japan’s prime minster killed his country’s plans to expand its reactor fleet, pledging to reduce Japan’s reliance on nuclear power dramatically. Taiwan’s president did the same. Now Mexico is sidelining construction of 10 reactors in favor of developing natural-gas-fired plants, and Belgium is toying with phasing its nuclear plants out, perhaps as early as 2015.

Northwest Oyster Die-Offs Show Ocean Acidification Has Arrived

November 28, 2011

Workers harvest oysters in Willapa Bay, Washington. (photo: NOAA/Taylor Shellfish Farms)
Workers harvest oysters in Willapa Bay, Washington. (photo: NOAA/Taylor Shellfish Farms)

 

Northwest Oyster Die-Offs Show Ocean Acidification Has Arrived

By Elizabeth Grossman, Yale Environment 360

27 November 11

 

The acidification of the world’s oceans from an excess of CO2 has already begun, as evidenced recently by the widespread mortality of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists say this is just a harbinger of things to come if greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.

tanding on the shores of Netarts Bay in Oregon on a sunny fall morning, it’s hard to imagine that the fate of the oysters being raised here at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery is being determined by what came out of smokestacks and tailpipes in the 1960s and ’70s. But this rural coastal spot and the shellfish it has nurtured for centuries are a bellwether of one of the most palpable changes being caused by global carbon dioxide emissions - ocean acidification.

It was here, from 2006 to 2008, that oyster larvae began dying dramatically, with hatchery owners Mark Wiegardt and his wife, Sue Cudd, experiencing larvae losses of 70 to 80 percent. “Historically we’ve had larvae mortalities,” says Wiegardt, but those deaths were usually related to bacteria. After spending thousands of dollars to disinfect and filter out pathogens, the hatchery’s oyster larvae were still dying.

Finally, the couple enlisted the help of Burke Hales, a biogeochemist and ocean ecologist at Oregon State University. He soon homed in on the carbon chemistry of the water. “My wife sent a few samples in and Hales said someone had screwed up the samples because the [dissolved CO2 gas] level was so ridiculously high,” says Wiegardt, a fourth-generation oyster farmer. But the measurements were accurate. What the Whiskey Creek hatchery was experiencing was acidic seawater, caused by the ocean absorbing excessive amounts of CO2 from the air.

Ocean acidification - which makes it difficult for shellfish, corals, sea urchins, and other creatures to form the shells or calcium-based structures

The region’s thriving oyster hatcheries have had to scramble to adapt to these increases in acidity.

they need to live – was supposed to be a problem of the future. But because of patterns of ocean circulation, Pacific Northwest shellfish are already on the front lines of these potentially devastating changes in ocean chemistry. Colder, more acidic waters are welling up from the depths of the Pacific Ocean and streaming ashore in the fjords, bays, and estuaries of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, exacting an environmental and economic toll on the region’s famed oysters. 

For the past six years, wild oysters in Willapa Bay, Washington, have failed to reproduce successfully because corrosive waters have prevented oyster larvae from forming shells.

Wild oysters in Puget Sound and off the east coast of Vancouver Island also have experienced reproductive failure because of acidic waters. Other wild oyster beds in the Pacific Northwest have sustained losses in recent years at the same time that scientists have been measuring alarmingly corrosive water along the Pacific coast.

The region’s thriving oyster hatcheries have had to scramble to adapt to these increases in acidity, which pose a threat to their very existence. Some of the largest operations, such as Whiskey Creek, are buffering the water in which they grow their larvae, essentially giving their tanks a dose of antacid in the form of sodium bicarbonate.

While the operation may look modest – a handful of small buildings just yards from the shore of a wide bay – Whiskey Creek is one of the largest suppliers of oyster seed on the West Coast. Its baby oysters are grown all along the U.S. Pacific coast, where the oyster industry is currently valued at about $73 million annually. Washington’s Taylor Shellfish Hatchery - the country’s largest producer of farmed shellfish and one of the largest oyster producers – has also experienced dramatic losses. Its hatchery on Hood Canal, which has had some of the Pacific Northwest’s highest levels of ocean acidification, experienced the loss of about three-quarters of its oyster larvae before the owners began buffering the high acidity.

Together, Whiskey Creek and Taylor Shellfish, which also raises clams and mussels, account for most of the West Coast’s commercial shellfish production. Oysters are the biggest product, making up more than 80 percent of the Pacific coast shellfish produced and more than 60 percent of the revenue. According to industry and federal officials, the West Coast oyster industry generates about 3,000 jobs and has a total annual economic impact of about $207 million – significant numbers for their coastal communities.

The situation at the hatcheries has improved substantially in the past couple of years, thanks largely to an ongoing, intensive scientific monitoring effort and to measures to control the pH of seawater in the tanks where oyster larvae are raised. But ocean acidification continues apace, which makes understanding what’s been happening to Whiskey Creek oysters vital to grasping what will eventually threaten every ocean organism that builds a shell or coral branch.

Because of the way seawater circulates around the world, the deep water now washing ashore in Oregon and Washington is actually 30 to 50 years old and absorbed its CO2 long before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This time lag is important because oceans absorb about 50 percent of the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels, emissions that have been rising dramatically in recent decades. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ocean acidity has increased approximately 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and if we continue our current rate of carbon emissions, global oceans could be 150 percent more acidic by the end of the century than they have been for 20 million years.

“This problem is real,” says Hales. “There are measurable human impacts.”

Once absorbed by seawater, CO2 undergoes chemical reactions that make the water more acidic, says Richard Feely, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and an expert in the ocean’s carbon chemistry. The chemical reactions that lower the ocean’s pH also reduce the availability of the kind of calcium carbonate that a variety of sea creatures need to build shells. On a 2007 research cruise along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to Baja California, Feely discovered that “corrosive waters were everywhere we looked.”

When seasonal wind patterns change in spring, north winds create upwellings of deep and more acidic seawater off the Pacific Northwest coast. These waters – with their lowered pH and lack of available calcium carbonate in the form of what’s called aragonite – are what have been killing the oyster larvae. The availability of aragonite is particularly vital at an oyster’s earliest stages of development. In the first 24 to 48 hours of an oyster’s life, as it forms its first shell, the larvae go from being almost 0 percent shell to at least 70 percent shell before they begin to grow more tissue, explains George Waldbusser, assistant professor of ocean ecology and biochemistry at Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. Lower aragonite saturation means the tiny larvae – much smaller than a poppy seed – need to expend more energy to make their shells.

“If too much energy is used at one stage, they may not be able to survive to a subsequent stage or overcome the stress,” says Waldbusser.

Acidic water sometimes kills oyster larvae outright, so that they fail to survive past the egg stage. At other times, the eggs hatch, but larvae fail after a week or two.

“A lot is happening to an egg in the first 24 hours,” says Benoit Eudeline, chief scientist at the Taylor Shellfish Hatchery. “It goes from what’s essentially a blob to a creature with a shell, a digestive tract, organs. The oyster has to use a lot of aragonite to make its early shell and there seems

‘If too much energy is used at one stage, larvae may not be able to survive to a subsequent stage,’ says an expert.

to be a strong correlation between aragonite saturation and survival of larvae at a later stage.” 

Waldbusser and colleagues are now researching the impacts of the stress induced by low aragonite saturation – how it may be affecting the oyster larvae’s use of its food reserves, and how it may impact development. “At this stage they’re floating around and eating as much as they can,” explains Christopher Sabine, director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. “Anything that’s going to take energy away from shell-building is going to cost them.”

In response to the devastating die-off of larvae from 2006 to 2008 – and with the help of Hales, Waldbusser, and other scientists – Whiskey Creek and Taylor Shellfish began a program of ongoing monitoring to help avoid the intake of acidic water. Particularly at Netarts Bay, where the deep ocean water is on shore in early morning, they discovered they could improve pH conditions by varying the time of day they took water into their tanks. A better, less acidic time to pull in water is later in the day, after growth of phytoplankton has been stimulated by sunlight, thus soaking up some of the excess CO2. Buffering the acid also was crucial. A half-million dollars in federal funds has helped cover the expensive work of monitoring and controlling the seawater chemistry.

At the Taylor Shellfish Hatchery, where water takes much longer than it does at Netarts to move in and out of the bay, organic matter – dead algae for example – can build up, die, and become food for bacteria that use up oxygen and further increase CO2 concentrations. This underscores the fact that controlling the flow of excess nutrients into the ocean, such as fertilizers and sewage, can to some degree offset the impacts of growing acidity.

Feely said problems with ocean acidification are also starting to be seen on the U.S.’s Atlantic coast and in Australia. Agricultural runoff and sewage have been taking a toll on the once-thriving oyster business in the Chesapeake Bay, and now rising ocean acidity is further exacerbating the problems of CO2-laden waters there. But for shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest, these impacts are already too clear. As Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish put it, Pacific Northwest oysters may be “the canary in the coal mine.”

Yet on a November morning, with the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains just visible through the fog, the landscape around Taylor Shellfish looks much as it always has: the sea, the mountains, and a shore lined with fir trees. But as Dewey understands, the green-gray water is changing in a way it hasn’t for eons – changes that will be with us well into the next century, and possibly longer.

“We have to find a way in our industry to adapt,” says Dewey.
Elizabeth Grossman is the author of “Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry, High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health,” and other books. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Salon, The Washington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, Grist, and other publications. In earlier articles for Yale e360, she explored how the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster could affect marine life off the Japanese coast and reported on recent studies suggesting a possible link between prenatal exposure to pesticides and the mental abilities of children.

DU, White Phosphorus and the Story of Fallujah

November 28, 2011

In September 2009, Fallujah General Hospital, Iraq, had 170 newborn babies, 24 percent of whom were dead within the first seven days, and 75 percent of the dead babies were classified as deformed. A significant number of babies who survived also have severe disabilities. (photo: BBC News)
In September 2009, Fallujah General Hospital, Iraq, had 170 newborn babies, 24 percent of whom were dead within the first seven days, and 75 percent of the dead babies were classified as deformed. A significant number of babies who survived also have severe disabilities. (photo: BBC News)

DU, White Phosphorus and the Story of Fallujah

By Hannah Gurman, Foreign Policy in Focus

27 November 11

 

even years after the US invasion of Fallujah, there are reports of an alarming rise in the rates of birth defects and cancer. But the crisis, and its possible connection to weapons deployed by the United States during the war, remains woefully under-examined.

On November 8, 2004, US military forces launched Operation Phantom Fury 50 miles west of Baghdad in Fallujah, a city of 350,000 people known for its opposition to the Saddam regime.

The United States did not expect to encounter resistance in Fallujah, nor did it initially face any in the early days of the war. The first sign of serious hostility appeared in April 2003, after US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne division fired into a crowd of protesters demonstrating against the occupation and the closure of their local school building, killing 17 civilians and injuring 70. The following February, amid mounting tensions, a local militia beheaded four Blackwater employees and strung their bodies from a bridge across the Euphrates River. US forces temporarily withdrew from Fallujah and planned for a full onslaught.

Following the evacuation of civilians, Marines cordoned off the city, even as some residents scrambled to escape. Thirty to fifty thousand people were still inside the city when the US military launched a series of airstrikes, dropping incendiary bombs on suspected insurgent hideouts. Ground forces then combed through targeted neighborhoods house by house. Ross Caputi, who served as a first private Marine during the siege, has said that his squad and others employed “reconnaissance by fire,” firing into dwellings before entering to make sure nobody inside was still alive. Caputi later co-founded the group Justice for Fallujah, which dedicated the week of November 14 to a public awareness campaign about the impact of the war on the city’s people

By the end of the campaign, Fallujah was a ghost town. Though the military did not tally civilian casualties, independent reports put the number somewhere between 800 and 6,000. As The Washington Post reported in April 2005, more than half of Fallujah’s 39,000 homes were damaged, of which 10,000 were no longer habitable. Five months after the campaign, only 90,000 of the city’s evacuated residents had returned. The majority still lacked electricity, and the city’s sewage and water systems, badly damaged in the campaign, were not functional. A mounting unemployment crisis – exacerbated by security checkpoints, which blocked the flow of people and goods into and out of the city – left young residents of Fallujah especially vulnerable to recruitment by the resistance.

The Official Success Story

Although the initial picture of the devastated city looked grim, by 2007 Fallujah had become a key part of the emerging narrative of successful counterinsurgency in Iraq. At a press conference in April of that year, Marine Colonel Richard Simcock declared that progress was “phenomenal” and that Fallujah was an “economically strong and flourishing city.” According to the official narrative that has since crystallized, the second siege of Fallujah turned out to be a major turning point in the war. “By taking down Fallujah, the Marines denied a sanctuary for the insurgents,” said Richard Natonski, commander of the 1st Marine Division during Phantom Fury, in an oral history published by the Marines in 2009. In contrast to the insurgents who relied on “brutal tactics,” he explained, the Marines were able to w in over the good will of the people. This contributed to the larger “Awakening” in Anbar province, the linchpin of counterinsurgency’s “success” in Iraq.

Official “progress” narratives of war rarely tell the whole story, especially when it comes to the war’s long-term effects on the civilian population. Seven years after the second siege of Fallujah, despitelucrative US-funded contracts to rebuild infrastructure, much of the city is still in ruins, and unemploymentremains high. As terrorist attacks in Anbar and across the country have risen in the past year, security is increasingly tenuous. In August, a car bomb exploded at a police station near Fallujah, killing five officers and wounding six more.

Of the current problems in Fallujah, the most alarming is a mounting public health crisis. In the years since the invasion, doctors in Fallujah have reported drastic increases in the number of premature births, infant mortality, and birth defects-babies born without skulls, missing organs, or with stumps for arms and legs. Fallujah General Hospital reported that, out of 170 babies born in September 2009, 24 percent died within the first seven days, of which 75 percent were deformed – as compared to August 2002, when there were 530 babies born, only six deaths, and one deformity. As the years go by, the problem seems to be getting worse, and doctors are increasingly warning women not to have children.

Many residents have suspected a link between the drastic rise in birth defects and the weapons deployed by US military during the war. The United States has admitted to using white phosphorus in Fallujah, a toxin in incendiary bombs that causes severe burns. But it denies targeting civilians or employing a class of armor-piercing weapons that contain depleted uranium, a byproduct of nuclear weapons used in the production of munitions and armory and known to cause mutagenic illnesses.

The Science and Its Critics

Two recent studies led by Dr. Christopher Busby, a chemistry professor at the University of Ulster who specializes in environmental toxicology, have attempted to document and explain Fallujah’s health crisis. The first was an epidemiological study conducted by a team of 11 researchers who visited 711 households in Fallujah. Published in the December 2010 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, it found that congenital birth defects, including neural tube, cardiac, and skeletal malformations, were 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to their highest levels in 2010. The study also found a seven-to-38-fold increase in several site-specific cancers, as well as a drastic shift in the ratio of female-to-male births, with 15 percent fewer boys born in the study period.

In a follow-up study, Busby and his team tested hair samples from 25 mothers and fathers of children with genetic abnormalities in Fallujah. In addition to normally occurring elements, they found uranium. The study, published in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of Conflict and Health,concluded that this was a “primary” or “related cause” of the increase in birth defects and cancer in Fallujah. In a recent interview on Russia TodayBusby explained that, although the research team expected to find depleted uranium, they actually found a slightly enriched form of the element. This has led him to speculate that a “whole new set of anti-personnel weapons” was secretly deployed in Fallujah and possibly elsewhere.

Busby, who wears a black beret and speaks with a burning intensity in his voice, is not your typical laboratory scientist prone to avoid superlatives or qualify claims. “This is like nothing we’ve ever found in any epidemiological study ever,” he said. Yet the journal Lancet rejected his studies without explanation.Busby believes it is part of an intentional sabotage: “There are some serious operators out there,” he says, “and they don’t want the story to get out.” These stark conclusions and provocative conspiracy theories deliberately blur the line between science and politics. In a world in which these two realms are generally sharply divided, there is something refreshing about a scientist who is not afraid to get political.

Yet, as experts at NYU Medical Center confirmed in their response to my queries about the quality of these studies, Busby’s findings are not without their problems.

In their assessment of the epidemiology study, NYU Professors Paolo Toniolo, Judith Zelikoff, and George Friedman-Jimenez were critical of the study’s methodology and cast doubt on the accuracy of its conclusions. They acknowledged the challenge of conducting epidemiological research in wartime and postwar conditions, but argued that the study did not adequately address the inevitable biases involved. Toniolo questioned the report’s claim that the researchers conducted a random sampling of houses in the study area and observed that, among other biases, the study did not address socioeconomics as a factor in the health of the population still living in Fallujah. Zelikoff explained that the findings omitted important information concerning the background of the individuals in the study, including smoking, contagious disease, and the quality of maternal health care.

Friedman-Jimenez noted that, especially in a climate of fear and mistrust, the method of gathering information through questionnaires to households would likely result in an overestimate of risk. “The magnitude of these biases, however, is not likely to be big enough to completely explain the extraordinarily large observed relative risks,” he said. “What fraction of the increased risk is due to these and other biases is very unclear. The role of ‘quick and dirty’ studies like this one, conducted under difficult conditions, is not to inform policy, but rather to generate hypotheses about important questions when resources are not yet available and other research methods are not possible.”

Terry Gordon, a professor in NYU’s Department of Environmental Medicine, referred to the toxicology study as both “strange” and “interesting.” He too cited methodological issues, including the lack of a baseline for local levels of uranium. (The study compared levels in Fallujah to those in southern Israel, Japan, Brazil, Sweden, and Slovenia.) Several of the experts challenged the study’s conclusion that the discovery of mutagens can be indisputably linked to a rise in cancers. Zelikoff explained that the study does not address the lack of information about duration or amounts of exposure. Gordon also noted that, “While congenital effects can be seen after such short term exposures, it is unlikely that cancers would be elevated 6 or 7 years after the war.” Toniolo was critical of the statement that the goal of this second study was to determine “the cause of the increased risk” and its specific connection to US weaponry deployed during the war. “This is a statement that most scientists would not have the guts to make. One cannot determine the cause of anything.”

Despite the serious problems with Busby’s findings, the respondents generally agreed that the studies should not be dismissed but instead should be regarded as prompts for more investigation and attention to the issue

Further Investigation

Unfortunately, the situation in Fallujah today makes further investigation difficult. The Fallujah Hospital is understaffed and lacking in research capacity. The Shia-dominated Iraqi government has not made studies of health risks in Fallujah, a center of the Sunni-based insurgency, a priority.

According to Busby, his own team had barely completed gathering their data when the government declared them terrorists and threatened to jail anyone who responded to further questionnaires. For obvious reasons, the US Defense Department isn’t lining up to support any further study of the issue and routinely rejects or ignores any claim that there is a serious health crisis in Fallujah or that the US military is responsible for it.

In November 2009, British and Iraqi doctors petitioned the UN to investigate the cause of Fallujah’s health crisis. In response, the World Health Organization (WHO) agreed to conduct its own investigation, although it too has been delayed. A WHO representative in Iraq said the delay was due to changes in methodological design and informed me that the Iraqi Ministry of Health will gather data from households in 18 districts from January-February 2012. Meanwhile, the United States has simply dismissed the petitions as “anecdotal” and “inconclusive.”

Media Response

Scientists are not the only ones with a role to play here. It is also the job of the media and other public commentators to report on the situation. In addition to giving us a better picture of what is happening from the perspective of the population living in Fallujah, they should draw attention to the Iraqi and US governments’ obfuscations as well as convey the strengths and weaknesses of the studies done thus far. The issue demands principled, critical journalism.

So far, the media’s coverage of the birth defects and cancer epidemic in Fallujah has been disappointing, to say the least. In 2010, major British newspapers-including the Guardian, the Telegraph, and the Independent-ran brief, suggestive stories on Busby’s first study. These simply reported the study’s conclusions without addressing the methodological problems or framing the political challenges. In the short run, these kinds of reports are valuable for drawing attention to the issue. In the long run, however, such superficial reportage fails both to inform readers and to advance the possibility of formal justice for the population of Fallujah. None of these newspapers has covered the second study at all.

Feurat Alani’s 2011 documentary, Fallujah: A Lost Generation?, shown on French television earlier this year and screened in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles as part of Justice for Fallujah’s awareness campaign, offers one of the few in-depth reports on the evolving issue. Alani is French, with parents from Fallujah. In the film, he interviews doctors and parents of deformed children in Fallujah and Iraqi and American participants in the 2004 battle, as well as researchers and activists. Although the film also glosses over the problems concerning the current science, it is nonetheless extremely informative and an invaluable tool for raising public consciousness.

So far, the mainstream press in the United States has been completely silent. As far as I can tell, no major US news outlet has devoted even a single article or segment to the issue.

A generous explanation of this US media blackout might grant that, in light of questions about the quality of the scientific evidence backing the anecdotal claims, American journalists are just being cautious. But considering the huge stakes, there is no reason they could not report on the studies with a tentative critical eye, just as the researchers who responded to my query did. And given the kind of rampant speculation that regularly peppers mainstream news in the United States, caution is probably not the main factor here. It is more likely that this is yet another example of the US media’s complicity when it comes to America’s wars.

As long as the US press continues to ignore the issue, the US government will feel free to do the same, and the chances of making much progress on the interrelated fronts of scientific investigation, international law, and policy will remain slim.

Illusory Visions of a Post-American Iraq

The current silence of the US press on the health crisis in Fallujah reflects an understandable, though problematic, desire to leave behind a shameful chapter in the history of US foreign policy. If we give in to that desire, we risk losing sight of what is actually happening in Iraq right now. This has implications not only for how we understand the ongoing health crisis in Fallujah but also for how we understand the current and future role of the United States in Iraq more broadly.

Since Obama’s election, coverage of Iraq has followed the administration’s public emphasis on the drawing down of the war. Following the announcement in October of a full withdrawal of US troops by the end of the year, reports in major US newspapers have focused on issues of security in Iraq after the US military’s departure from the country. On November 6, for example, The New York Times ran a front-page story with the title, “Leaving Iraq, US Fears New Surge of Qaeda Terror.” This echoed a news analysis piece published two weeks earlier, which focused on the scaling back of plans to build huge US consulates in politically and economically important cities in Iraq.

This picture of an Iraq emptied of US influence is illusory. In the end, the neocon dream of Iraq as a US client state didn’t come true. But long after December 31, 2011, the United States will continue to have a significant diplomatic and military presence there. Although the Iraqi parliament rejected the US proposal to allow 5-10,000 US troops to remain in Iraq, Obama and Prime Minister Maliki are scheduled to meet in December to continue discussing the issue. Meanwhile, the United States has already established an agreement to keep at least that many troops in neighboring Kuwait. Within Iraq, there will be private security contractors, and Baghdad will be host to the largest embassy in the world – the main base for an army of diplomatic personnel that will carry out security and covert intelligence operations throughout the country.

For Americans who opposed the war, visions of a post-American Iraq are especially tempting. But they are also deceptive. In addition to sparking our consciousness about the health and environmental impact of the war, the ongoing crisis in Fallujah should wake us up to the fact that in multiple ways – most of which are currently ignored or suppressed by the US spin machine – the legacy of the US war in Iraq is far from over.

Hunger in America, By the Numbers

November 28, 2011

Hunger in America, By the Numbers

Published: Sunday 27 November 2011
48.8 million: People who lived in food insecure households last year.
Article image

Last year, 17.2 mil­lion house­holds in the United States were food in­se­cure, the high­est level on record, as the Great Re­ces­sion con­tin­ued to wreak havoc on fam­i­lies across the coun­try. Of those 17.2 mil­lion house­holds, 3.9 mil­lion in­cluded chil­dren. On Thanks­giv­ing Day, here’s a look at hunger in Amer­ica, as mil­lions of Amer­i­cans strug­gle to get enough to eat in the wake of the eco­nomic cri­sis:

17.2 mil­lion: The num­ber of house­holds that were food in­se­cure in 2010, the high­est num­ber on record. They make up 14.5 per­cent of house­holds, or ap­prox­i­mately one in seven.

48.8 mil­lion: Peo­ple who lived in food in­se­cure house­holds last year.

3.9 mil­lion: The num­ber of house­holds with chil­dren that were food in­se­cure last year. In 1 per­cent of house­holds with chil­dren, “one or more of the chil­dren ex­pe­ri­enced the most se­vere food-in­se­cure con­di­tion mea­sured by USDA, very low food se­cu­rity, in which meals were ir­reg­u­lar and food in­take was below lev­els con­sid­ered ad­e­quate by care­givers.”

6.4 mil­lion: House­holds that ex­pe­ri­enced very low food se­cu­rity last year, mean­ing “nor­mal eat­ing pat­terns of one or more house­hold mem­bers were dis­rupted and food in­take was re­duced at times dur­ing the year be­cause they had in­suf­fi­cient money or other re­sources for food.”

55: The per­cent­age of food-in­se­cure house­holds that par­tic­i­pated in one or more of the three largest Fed­eral food and nu­tri­tion as­sis­tance pro­grams (SNAP, WIC, School lunch pro­grams.

19.4: The per­cent­age of food in­se­cure house­holds in Mis­sis­sippi, which had the high­est rate in the na­tion last year.3.6 per­cent: The amount by which food prices in­creased last year.

30 per­cent: The amount by which food in­se­cu­rity grew dur­ing the Great Re­ces­sion.

44: The per­cent­age in­crease in house­holds using food pantries be­tween 2007 and 2009.

20 mil­lion: The num­ber of chil­dren who ben­e­fit from free and re­duced lunch per day.

10.5 mil­lion: The num­ber of el­i­gi­ble chil­dren who don’t re­ceive their free and re­duced lunch ben­e­fits.

$167.5 bil­lion: The amount that the U.S. lost in 2010 due to hunger (lost ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment + avoid­able ill­ness + char­i­ta­ble giv­ing to fight hunger). This doesn’t take into ac­count the $94 bil­lion cost of SNAP and other food pro­grams.

8: The num­ber of states (FL, TX, CA, IL, NY, OH, PA, GA) where the an­nual cost of hunger ex­ceeds $6 bil­lion.

Last year, “nearly half of the house­holds seek­ing emer­gency food as­sis­tance re­ported hav­ing to choose be­tween pay­ing for util­i­ties or heat­ing fuel and food. Nearly 40 per­cent said they had to choose be­tween pay­ing for rent or a mort­gage and food.” This Thanks­giv­ing, as you sit down to enjoy a meal with fam­ily and friends, please spare a thought for those who, due to the coun­try’s con­tin­u­ing eco­nomic woes, may not have enough to eat.

This hol­i­day sea­son, please con­sider do­nat­ing to a local food bank. You can find one nearbyor do­nate on­line through the Feed­ing Amer­ica web­site. You can also give to Op­er­a­tion Home­front, a group that pro­vides as­sis­tance to mil­i­tary fam­i­lies.

Author pic
ABOUT TRAVIS WALDRON

Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

Elimination of Nukes (Red Cross and Red Crescent declaration)

November 28, 2011

Working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons
Draft Resolution
&
Background document
Document prepared by
The International Committee of the Red Cross in consultation
with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
and National Societies
Geneva, October 2011
EN
CD/11/4.1
Original: English
For decisionCD/11/4.1 2
DRAFT RESOLUTION

Working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons
The Council of Delegates,
deeply concerned about the destructive power of nuclear weapons, the unspeakable human
suffering they cause, the difficulty of controlling their effects in space and time, the threat
they pose to the environment and to future generations and the risks of escalation they
create,
concerned also by the continued retention of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, the
proliferation of such weapons and the constant risk that they could again be used,
disturbed by the serious implications of any use of nuclear weapons for humanitarian
assistance activities and food production over wide areas of the world,
believing that the existence of nuclear weapons raises profound questions about the extent
of suffering that humans are willing to inflict, or to permit, in warfare,
welcoming the renewed diplomatic efforts on nuclear disarmament, in particular the
commitments made by States at the 2009 United Nations Security Council Summit on
Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament, the 2010 Review Conference of the
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty Between the United
States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and
Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms,
welcoming also the commitments made by States at the highest levels in the above fora to
create the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons through concrete actions in the
fields of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament,
recalling the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which confirmed that
the principles and rules of international humanitarian law apply to nuclear weapons and
concluded that the threat or use of such weapons would generally be contrary to the
principles and rules of international humanitarian law,
drawing upon the testimony of atomic bomb survivors, the experience of the Japan Red
Cross and ICRC in assisting the victims of the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and
Nagasaki and the knowledge gained through the ongoing treatment of survivors by the
Japanese Red Cross Atomic Bomb Survivors Hospitals,
bearing in mind the resolutions on weapons of mass destruction in general and the abolition
of nuclear weapons in particular, adopted by the International Conferences of the Red Cross
and Red Crescent in 1948, 1952, 1957, 1965, 1969, 1977 and 1981; the Council of
Delegates in 2009; and the statements on nuclear weapons made by the President of the
International Committee of the Red Cross to the Geneva diplomatic corps in April 2010 and
by the President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to
Nobel Laureates in Hiroshima in November 2010,CD/11/4.1 3
convinced that the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has an historic and important
role to play in efforts to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons,
1. emphasizes the incalculable human suffering that can be expected to result from any use
of nuclear weapons, the lack of any adequate humanitarian response capacity and the
absolute imperative to prevent such use,
2. finds it difficult to envisage how any use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with the
rules of international humanitarian law, in particular the rules of distinction, precaution and
proportionality,
3. appeals to all States:
- to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used, regardless of their views on the
legality of such weapons,
- to pursue in good faith and conclude with urgency and determination negotiations to
prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding
international agreement, based on existing commitments and international obligations,
4. calls on all components of the Movement, in light of our common commitment to
humanitarian diplomacy:
- to engage, to the extent possible, in activities to raise awareness among the public,
scientists, health professionals and decision-makers of the catastrophic humanitarian
consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, the international humanitarian law
issues that arise from such use and the need for concrete actions leading to the
prohibition of use and elimination of such weapons,
- to engage, to the extent possible, in continuous dialogue with governments and other
relevant actors on the humanitarian and international humanitarian law issues
associated with nuclear weapons and to disseminate the Movement position outlined in
this resolution.

Resolution and Background Document:

http://homepage1.nifty.com/thinkbook/CD11_Nuclear_Weapons_EN.pdf

Black Friday Turns Violent At 9 US Walmart Stores

November 27, 2011

Black Friday shoppers attempt to push through security staff moments after the doors opened at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, 11/25/11. (photo: AP)
Black Friday shoppers attempt to push through security staff moments after the doors opened at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, 11/25/11. (photo: AP)

Black Friday shoppers attempt to push through security staff moments after the doors opened at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, 11/25/11. (photo: AP)

By Associated Press

26 November 11

iolence erupted overnight during Black Friday shopping as at least 24 people were injured in a series of incidents, including nine at Walmart stores in the US.

The violence included a California shopper who was shot during a failed robbery attempt, a fight over $1.88 towels, a trampled girl in western Michigan, a police officer who used pepper spray to quell a crowd, and a pepper-spraying shopper who injured 20 people in her haste to keep other people away from the merchandise she wanted to buy.

Among the incidents:

In Fruitport Township, authorities say a teenage girl was trampled at a western Michigan Walmart store and suffered minor injuries after getting caught in a rush to a sale in the electronics department.

The Muskegon Chronicle reports the girl was taken to a local hospital this morning. Fruitport Township Supervisor Brian Werschem says the girl was knocked down and stepped on several times in the store near Muskegon.

In Los Angeles, authorities said a woman shot pepper spray to keep shoppers from merchandise she wanted during a Black Friday sale, and 20 people suffered minor injuries.

The incident occurred shortly after 10:20 p.m. Thursday in a crowded Walmart as shoppers hungry for deals were let inside the store.

Police said the suspect shot the pepper spray when the coverings over electronics items she wanted were removed.

“Somehow she was trying to use it to gain an upper hand,” police Lt. Abel Parga told The Associated Press early today.

Parga said police were still looking for the woman. The store remained open and those not affected by the pepper spray continued shopping.

In Florence, Ala., a shopper was subdued with a stun gun at a Walmart store as shoppers gathered for Black Friday sales.

WAFF-TV reports police said they used a stun gun twice to gain control of 22-year-old Christopher Blake Pyron before arresting him.

Police said they made the arrest around 11 p.m. Thursday, about an hour after the Alabama Walmart opened its doors for late-night and early-morning shopping. Authorities said he is charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

In Northern California, authorities said a Black Friday shopper is in critical but stable condition after being shot by armed robbers outside a Walmart store.

San Leandro police Sgt. Mike Sobek says the victim and his family were walking to their car around 1:45 a.m. when they were confronted by a group of men who demanded their purchases. When the family refused, a fight broke out and one of the robbers shot the man.

Sobek says other family members wrestled down one of the suspects, who was taken into police custody.

Investigators are reviewing store surveillance video to identify at least three other suspects.

Witnesses say the Walmart parking lot was crowded with Black Friday shoppers at the time, and the store was briefly closed as police investigated.

In North Carolina, one man was arrested after a holiday shopping scuffle at a Walmart store in Kinston which police quelled with pepper spray.

Public Safety Director Bill Johnson says the incident happened early Friday. An off-duty Kinston officer was working a security detail for the store when some customers began trying to get electronic equipment that wasn’t yet available for purchase.

Johnson says the off-duty officer used a short burst of pepper spray in the air to control the scene. Johnson says no one was sprayed in the face or eyes.

One man was arrested, but information on the charges he is facing was not immediately available.

Shopper Angel Bunting told WITN-TV that the incident began when a man waiting in line for discounted cell phones fell into a display.

In central Florida, a man is behind bars after a fight broke out at a jewelry counter during Black Friday.

Kissimmee, Fla., police tell the Orlando Sentinel that two men were fighting at a Walmart store during Friday’s early hours. One man resisted when a police officer tried to escort him out of the store. Officers had to force him to the ground to put him in handcuffs.

The unidentified man is charged with resisting arrest. No shoppers were hurt.

In the Toledo suburb of Oregon, police responded to three separate reports of fighting at a Walmart on Thursday night. One officer told The Blade newspaper that one of the fights was over towels selling for $1.88.

In upstate New York, police said two women were injured and a man charged after a fight broke out at a Walmart.

In Colorado, a bomb threat today prompted the evacuation of employees and customers of a Woodland Park Walmart for about four hours as police and federal agents checked for explosive devices but found none.

Woodland Park police dispatch supervisor Karen Glenn says the threat arrived around 8:30 a.m. CST today during one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season. Police from Colorado Springs as well as agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau responded.

A check of the store that included the use of a bomb sniffing dog found nothing.

Glenn said officials declared the store safe around 11:30 a.m. and were planned allow employees back inside around noon.

WalMart Stores Inc. officials did not immediately return a message.

In non-violent shopping related Walmart news, in northern Ohio, Black Friday shoppers had to leave their bargains behind when a car accident knocked out power, forcing the store to be evacuated.

A driver hit a utility pole near the store just before midnight near the town of Port Clinton, along Lake Erie.

Authorities from around the area including police, firefighters and agents from the U.S. Customs & Border Patrol were called in to get hundreds of Black Friday shoppers out of the Walmart.

The State Highway Patrol says the driver who caused the blackout had been drinking and was arrested.

In the Phoenix suburb of Buckeye, police are coming under fire for a video posted online Friday that shows a grandfather unconscious on the floor of a Walmart with a bloody face after police said he was caught trying to shoplift.

The video shows 54-year-old Jerald Allen Newman unconscious and covered in blood after a police officer took him to the ground Thursday night.

Officers in the video are shown trying to sop up blood as outraged customers yell expletives and say, “That’s police brutality,” and “He wasn’t doing anything.”

The man’s wife and other witnesses say that Newman was trying to help his young grandson after the boy was trampled by shoppers, and only put a video game in his waistband to free his hands to help the boy.

The Shocking Truth About the Crack down on Occupy

November 27, 2011

OWS protester Brandon Watts lies injured on the ground after clashes with police during the eviction of Zuccotti Park. (photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
OWS protester Brandon Watts lies injured on the ground after clashes with police during the eviction of Zuccotti Park. (photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

 

The Shocking Truth About the Crack down on Occupy

By Naomi Wolf, Gurdian UK, 26 November 11

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality.

S citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in acoordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

Government debt explained (in a few minutes) – YouTube

November 26, 2011

Government debt explained (in a few minutes) – YouTube
International monetary system resulting in our current debt crisis is explained in a short video.

http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=141876

From Occupy Together to a Worldwide March of Millions

November 26, 2011

From Occupy Together to a Worldwide March of Millions

                                                                                                                                                                   By  (about the author)

In every respect, we need to put humanity on the move.

Whether it’s economic equality we’re concerned about or political freedom, we need to move away from the arrangements of the past and into a new way of doing things in the future.

That new way needs to take into account the needs of the 99% as well as the needs of the 1%. It isn’t that we want one group to be deprived so that another group can live well. We want all to live equally.

In the past we’ve conceived of life as a zero-sum proposition. If some are to win, others will need to lose. And the ones who will win, we’ve thought, are those who can command the most resources — the “strongest” in the language we’ve used to understand life.

But life has never been a zero-sum affair. It has always been a constantly-expanding affair if we factor in things that have been withheld from us.

One example is in the area of energy. We have concentrated our energy production on materials that are irreplaceable, like oil.

But we have had, since the middle of the last century, energy devices that run on free energy from the vacuum. These devices have already been produced and have been used by our militaries but have not been released to the general public. When they are, they will power our needs without dependence on oil or any other kind of scarce resource.

Our society has been planned to run on consumerist lines. But it has turned a blind eye to areas of social policy that require funding such as health care and education. This policy has seen our tax dollars go to matters such as defense spending which benefitted the 1% but held out no benefits for the 99%. There are no enemies in the world that require us to continue defense spending. Most people in the world are already on the march for world peace and freedom.

It’s time to switch our focus from an occupation of the unworkable to the forward march of humanity. Humanity is on the move and we’re marching for world peace, freedom, and prosperity for all.


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