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Nuclear Experimentation Year 72: Collectivism over Common Sense

May 11, 2017

Life Arts 5/10/2017 at 12:40:14

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Fascism: “Any program for setting up a centralized autocratic national regime with severely nationalistic policies, exercising regimentation of industry, commerce, and finance, rigid censorship and forcible suppression of opposition.” ~ New Collegiate Dictionary, 1956.

With so many disastrous failures defining its history, the nuclear industry is little more than an experiment, conducted for the benefit of national regimes at the expense of free information, technological innovation, our health and environment, and all life on Earth. Despite the calls of its proponents, such nuclear experimentation and industrial institutionalization is a formation of fascism to the letter, and worse. It is comparable to no other that has ever been, and perhaps, to none that ever will be. It is biological oligarchical collectivism to the extreme, which threatens to turn out world into a netherworld dystopia.

Power and Defense
Nuclear experimentation is presented by the military industrial complex as a modality of self-defense and low-cost power generation. In actuality, however, nuclear experimentation provides the opposite.

Firstly, it removes the ability for all beings and nations to defend themselves. Although governments claim that the notion of Mutually Assured Destruction protects nuclear nations, in the case of all out war, it is an illusion to think that nuclear facilities (both power and military) are not going to be targets of war. They are military targets just waiting to happen, just as fossil power plants have been clear and effective targets in previous wars. The difference is, if a nuclear plant goes up in smoke, most everything and everyone in a hundred miles goes up with it. No-one wins a nuclear war, regardless who strikes first.

Further, it is impossible to “defend” oneself with weaponry so toxic and destructive that it permanently disrupts the very ground we ourselves walk on, poisoning the water we drink and the air we breathe. The industry is unable to properly manage nuclear waste or the contamination created by its nuclear power and weapons development programs (which are inherently entwined), other than to bury solid waste material in the ground, put up a warning sign and leave it for our children’s children to deal with– and that’s when the industry operates to plan. The National Academy of Sciences concluded over a decade ago that most of the sites on which the US government has built nuclear bombs will never be cleaned up enough to allow public access to the land.

Moreover, an analysis regarding the financial cost of nuclear energy shows that nuclear energy, touted as a “cheap” energy solution, is actually more expensive for consumers than other energy sources. U.S. states that use nuclear power to generate electricity pay an average 25 percent more for electricity than states that do not, because nuclear plants are more costly to build, operate and maintain than other forms of power, and are heavily dependent on taxpayer handouts to survive. Nuclear power experimentation is not only an unsustainable risk, it is also an unsustainable business model. Contrast this with nations like Denmark, which generates 140% of its electricity needs from clean wind power, and we see how unnecessary nuclear energy experimentation truly is.

With so many other genuinely-sustainable energy technologies in existence, and more being developed, the continuation of the nuclear experiment is an oligarchical madman’s dream — and a nightmare to the rest of us who are stuck with degraded and altered elements in our biosphere and our bodies. (For more, please see the article, “Oligarchical Collectivism: The Institutional “ism” That Threatens Our Very Biology”.)

Ultimately, nuclear experimentation continues to be about military armament and annihilation, just as it was when these programs were founded. As former-US government nuclear scientist Dr. Andreas Toupadakis explains in the article, “Cancer, Coverups and Contamination: The Real Cost of Nuclear Energy”:

“In the United States, it is the Department of Energy finances and manages the nation’s nuclear weapons programs. In reality the Department of Energy is basically the Department of Weapons. The nuclear weapons programs need nuclear materials to make the bombs. Who provides them? The Department of Energy does. The building of nuclear power plants in the U.S. began in 1943 to produce atomic bombs — it was not until 1957 that plants began to produce electricity, providing a continuous supply of plutonium to the nuclear weapons programs.” ~ Andreas Toupadakis, Ph.D

Now, only 72 years into a million year nuclear waste cycle, we are no closer to solving the problem of mounting nuclear waste and no closer to the promise (propaganda) of “too cheap to meter” power. What we are, however, is arming the military industrial complex with nuclear weaponry at an unprecedented rate, and moving ever-closer to the ultimate in oligarchical madness: nuclear war.

Oligarchy vs. Individualism
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” ~ Albert Einstein

As is always the case, when oligarchies rule, imperialism is the goal. Monopolization is instituted, manipulation applied and powers unduly expanded — that is the defining nature of empire. The difference today is the deadly nuclear element. With nuclear experimentation so perilously dangerous to all life on earth, the energy sector so fraught with failures and coverups, the industry so geared toward weaponry, and the US government so determined to deploy them in its “humanitarian” war on the world, a little legitimate research inevitably brings us to one conclusion: it quickly spawns feelings of helplessness and inevitable doom, both literal and existential.

And yet, however common it may be, this conclusion is a premature one. When we understand that oligarchy and the systems that support it depend on our ongoing collective consent, those feelings of helplessness are surpassed by the realization that the only way to solve the problem of nuclear experimentation (and the broader problem of prioritizing imperial and commercial interests over humanitarian and spiritual ones) is for everyday folks to begin activating and formalizing the opposite of oligarchy — by uniting the brotherhood of humanity. In order to move beyond the fear, helplessness and idleness of the impending nuclear threat, we must unite to create Mutual Agreed Peace instead of Mutually Assured Destruction.

It begins with changing our war ways, which is complex, but possible. But more than that, it is now necessary — to our future and our survival. Until humanity unites as individuals instead of being divided as institutions, we will continue to fall victim to the oligarchical systems that are tailored to benefit those who already control them at the expense of all else — including our most basic common sense. And we will continue to be divided by the “us and them” mentality of war — the psychological glue holding this oligarchical war world together, which upholds a perception of threat and inhumanity in those we are consistently told are our enemies. (For more, please see the article “Your Government Needs You to Dehumanize Foreigners — It’s How They Justify Killing Them”.)

To create peace, we must acknowledge that there is only “us”, and there is no “them”. And I don’t just mean this in terms of the inherent brotherhood of humanity, I mean it in practical terms too. It is no secret that during The Cold War, the USA and the USSR worked together on various high level military engineering and space technology programs. This fact alone confirms that, at least in part war, The Cold War and the threat of Mutual Assured Destruction it heralded was created by mutual design, by “opposing sides” collaborating on technological programs — all seemingly part of a greater war on human consciousness which, to this day, serves to maintain the oligarchical power structure on two major sides of modern geopolitical conflict.

Despite the rhetoric of the oligarchies, the way to global peace is not paved with war. Such thinking is designed only to protect institutions and to rally and collectivize a society’s thinking. The war mentality encourages separation and dependence on institutions, peace encourages respect for our interconnection and common humanity. To create true peace, human rights, free thinking and the co-operation of individuals must become the order of the day for each of us. We need to open our hearts and minds to individuals — to each other — and close our minds to institutions.

We must question and confront the energy systems and social structures where the deck is clearly stacked against us. We must acknowledge that any political “leader” threatening and espousing war stands on the side of oligarchical institutions, not humanity, and therefore poses a threat to humanity regardless of which “side” they’re on. We must deconstruct the mechanisms of propaganda (such as mainstream news) that work to perpetuate the psychology of war within us on behalf of those institutions. We must give peace all our energy, both politically and personally, and, through the power of our will and the weight of our numbers, remove from government any individual who mandates war.

For further exploration of peaceful solutions to this problem, please see the insightful article “Unifying The Global Peace Movement — Challenges and Solutions”.

In closing
Initiating change is actually quite easy for individuals, it is the fear of change we find most difficult. But, in order to truly develop the collective consciousness of humanity, we have to unite and surpass our fears and the manipulations of our adversaries — those institutions of the military industrial complex that keep us thinking and feeling adversarial and disempowered, perpetuate the war mentality, and hinder our path toward genuinely sustainable development.

Below is a brief list of contrasting points of divergence, which illustrates some of the ways our society has been steered toward oligarchical thinking and structures, rather than toward options that would benefit all individuals. They also illustrate the potential ease of change, highlighting areas where one system or option can easily be substituted for another.

Originally shared on wakeup-world.com

The Complete Patriot’s Guide to Oligarchical Collectivism: Its Theory and Practice, is an insightful exploration of history, philosophy and contemporary politics of today’s heavily institutionalized society. An inspiration for positive, peaceful individual action, The Complete Patriot’s Guide is pro-individual in its perspective and, although political, discusses our society and its institutions from neither left-wing nor right-wing perspectives, exploring history, philosophy and contemporary politics relative to the fictional work of George Orwell.

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Ethan Indigo Smith is the son of a farmer and nurse who was later adopted by artists. Ethan was raised in Maine, Manhattan, and Mendocino, California. Ethan is a proud dropout. Ethan has traveled the world and has been employed briefly as (more…)

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Company Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline Spills More Oil Than Any Other Pipeline Operator in US

September 24, 2016

Protesters hold up their arms as they are threatened by private security guards near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, September 3, 2016. (photo: Robyn Beck/AFP)

By Liz Hampton, Reuters

23 September 16

 

unoco Logistics (SXL.N), the future operator of the oil pipeline delayed this month after Native American protests in North Dakota, spills crude more often than any of its competitors with more than 200 leaks since 2010, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.

The lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sit a half mile south of the proposed route of the Dakota Access pipeline. The tribe fears the line could destroy sacred sites during construction and that a future oil spill might pollute its drinking water.

A tribal protest over the $3.7 billion project drew broad support from other Native American tribes, domestic and international environmental groups and Hollywood celebrities.

In response to the tribe’s objections, the U.S. government earlier this month called for a temporary halt to construction along a section of the 1,100 mile line in North Dakota near the Missouri River.

While environmental concerns are at the heart of the Standing Rock Sioux protest, there is no reference to the frequency of leaks by Sunoco or its parent Energy Transfer Partners (ETP.N) in a legal complaint filed by the tribe, nor has Sunoco’s spill record informed the public debate on the line.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II told Reuters the tribe was aware of the safety record of Energy Transfer, but declined to elaborate.

Sunoco Logistics is one of the largest pipeline operators in the United States. Energy Transfer is constructing the Dakota Access pipeline to pump crude produced at North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Once completed, it will hand over the pipeline’s operation to Sunoco.

Sunoco acknowledged the data and told Reuters it had taken measures to reduce its spill rate.

“Since the current leadership team took over in 2012, Sunoco Pipeline has enhanced and improved our integrity management program,” Sunoco spokesman Jeffrey Shields told Reuters by email.

This significantly cut the amount of barrels lost during incidents, he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not make any reference to the company’s spill rate when it decided to stall the project. It highlighted the need for reform in the way companies building infrastructure consult with Native American tribes.

Spokespeople for the Departments of Justice and the Interior, and the Army Corps declined to comment to Reuters on whether they were aware of Energy Transfer’s leak statistics when they jointly decided to halt construction of the line.

High Spill Rate

Reuters analyzed data that companies are obliged to disclose to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) when they suffer spills and found that Sunoco leaked crude from onshore pipelines at least 203 times over the last six years.

PHMSA data became more detailed in 2010. In its examination, Reuters tallied leaks in the past six years along dedicated onshore crude oil lines and excluded systems that carry natural gas and refined products. The Sunoco data include two of its pipeline units, the West Texas Gulf and Mid-Valley Pipeline.

That made it the operator with the highest number of crude leak incidents, ahead of at least 190 recorded by Enterprise Products Partners (EPD.N) and 167 by Plains All American Pipeline (PAA.N), according to the spill data reported to PHMSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Enterprise said it has comprehensive safety and integrity programs in place and that many spills happened at its terminals.

Sunoco and Enterprise both said most leaks take place within company facilities and are therefore contained.

Plains All American did not respond to a request for comment.

Sunoco’s spill rate shows protestors may have reason to be concerned about potential leaks.

The main option that was considered for routing the line away from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation was previously discarded because it would involve crossing more water-sensitive areas north of the capital Bismarck, according to the project’s environmental assessment.

To be sure, most pipeline spills are small and pipelines are widely seen as a safer way to move fuel than alternatives such as rail.

Sunoco and its units leaked a total of 3,406 net barrels of crude in all the leaks over the last six years, only a fraction of the more than 3 million barrels lost in the largest spill in U.S. history, BP Plc’s (BP.L) Macondo well disaster in 2010.

Sunoco said it found that crude lines not in constant use were a significant source of leaks, so it had shut or repaired some of those arteries.

In 2015, 71 percent of pipeline incidents were contained within the operator’s facility, according to a report by the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, a trade group.

While total pipeline incidents have increased by 31 percent in the last five years, large spills of 500 barrels or more are down by 32 percent over the same time, the report said.

Sunoco accounted for about 8 percent of the more than 2,600 reported liquids pipeline leaks in the past six years in the United States.

Safety Overhaul

The company has made previous efforts to improve safety, a former Sunoco employee who declined to be identified said. It overhauled safety culture after a spill in 2000, and did so again another in 2005 that dumped some 6,000 barrels of crude into the Kentucky River from its Mid-Valley Pipeline.

Sunoco acknowledged that some of its pipeline equipment dates back to the 1950s.

A 2014 corrective measure regulators issued for Sunoco’s Mid-Valley Pipeline cited “some history of internal corrosion failures” as a potential factor in a leak that sent crude into a Louisiana bayou near an area used for drinking water.

Crude spills on Sunoco’s lines in 2009 and 2011 drew a rebuke from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a settlement announced this year.

The EPA said the settlement aimed to “improve the safety of Sunoco’s practices and to enhance its oil spill preparedness and response.”

In September, Sunoco received another corrective measure for its newly constructed Permian Express II line in Texas, which leaked 800 barrels of oil earlier this month. The company is already contesting a proposed $1.3 million fine from regulators for violations related to welding on that line.

 

Give ‘Em Hell, Bernie

April 30, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty)
Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty)

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

29 April 15

 

any years ago I pitched a magazine editor on a story about Bernie Sanders, then a congressman from Vermont, who’d agreed to something extraordinary – he agreed to let me, a reporter, stick next to him without restrictions over the course of a month in congress.

“People need to know how this place works. It’s absurd,” he’d said. (Bernie often uses the word absurd, his Brooklyn roots coming through in his pronunciation – ob-zert.)

Bernie wasn’t quite so famous at the time and the editor scratched his head. “Bernie Sanders,” he said. “That’s the one who cares, right?”

“Right, that’s the guy,” I said.

I got the go-ahead and the resulting story was a wild journey through the tortuous bureaucratic maze of our national legislature. I didn’t write this at the time, but I was struck every day by what a strange and interesting figure Sanders was.

Many of the battles he brought me along to witness, he lost. And no normal politician would be comfortable with the optics of bringing a Rolling Stone reporter to a Rules Committee hearing.

But Sanders genuinely, sincerely, does not care about optics. He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person. If he’s motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can’t protect themselves, I’ve never seen it. Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.

This is why his entrance into the 2016 presidential race is a great thing and not a mere footnote to the inevitable coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. If the press is smart enough to grasp it, his entrance into the race makes for a profound storyline that could force all of us to ask some very uncomfortable questions.

Here’s the thing: Sanders is a politician whose power base is derived almost entirely from the people of the state of Vermont, where he is personally known to a surprisingly enormous percentage of voters.

His chief opponents in the race to the White House, meanwhile, derive their power primarily from corporate and financial interests. That doesn’t make them bad people or even bad candidates necessarily, but it’s a fact that the Beltway-media cognoscenti who decide these things make access to money the primary factor in determining whether or not a presidential aspirant is “viable” or “credible.” Here’s how the Wall Street Journal put it intheir story about Sanders (emphasis mine):

It is unclear how much money Mr. Sanders expects to raise, or what he thinks he needs to run a credible race. Mr. Sanders raised about $7 million for his last re-election in Vermont, a small state. Sums needed to run nationally are far larger.

The Washington/national press has trained all of us to worry about these questions of financing on behalf of candidates even at such an early stage of a race as this.

In this manner we’re conditioned to believe that the candidate who has the early assent of a handful of executives on Wall Street and in

Hollywood

and Silicon Valley is the “serious” politician, while the one who is merely the favorite of large numbers of human beings is an irritating novelty act whose only possible goal could be to cut into the numbers of the real players.

Sanders offers an implicit challenge to the current system of national electoral politics. With rare exceptions, campaign season is a time when the backroom favorites of financial interests are marketed to the population. Weighed down by highly regressive policy intentions, these candidates need huge laboratories of focus groups and image consultants to guide them as they grope around for a few lines they can use to sell themselves to regular working people.

Sanders on the other hand has no constituency among the monied crowd. “Billionaires do not flock to my campaign,” he quipped. So what his race is about is the reverse of the usual process: he’ll be marketing the interests of regular people to the gatekeeping Washington press, in the hope that they will give his ideas a fair shot.

It’s a little-known fact, but we reporters could successfully sell Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or any other populist candidate as a serious contender for the White House if we wanted to. Hell, we told Americans it was okay to vote for George Bush, a man who moves his lips when he reads.

But the lapdog mentality is deeply ingrained and most Beltway scribes prefer to wait for a signal from above before they agree to take anyone not sitting atop a mountain of cash seriously.

Thus this whole question of “seriousness” – which will dominate coverage of the Sanders campaign – should really be read as a profound indictment of our political system, which is now so openly an oligarchy that any politician who doesn’t have the blessing of the bosses is marginalized before he or she steps into the ring.

I remember the first time I was sold on Bernie Sanders as a politician. He was in his congressional office and he was ranting about the fact that many of the manufacturing and financial companies who asked him and other members of congress for tax breaks and aid were also in the business of moving American jobs overseas to places like China.

Sanders spent years trying to drum up support for a simple measure that would force any company that came to Washington asking for handouts to promise they wouldn’t turn around and ship jobs to China or India.

That didn’t seem like a lot to ask, but his fellow members treated him like he was asking for a repeal of the free enterprise system. This issue drove Sanders crazy. Again showing his Brooklyn roots, Bernie gets genuinely mad about these things. While some pols are kept up at night worrying about the future profitability of gazillionaire banks, Sanders seethes over the many obvious wrongs that get smoothed over and covered up at his place of work.

That saltiness, I’m almost sure of it, is what drove him into this race. He just can’t sit by and watch the things that go on, go on. That’s not who he is.

When I first met Bernie Sanders, I’d just spent over a decade living in formerly communist Russia. The word “socialist” therefore had highly negative connotations for me, to the point where I didn’t even like to say it out loud.

But Bernie Sanders is not Bukharin or Trotsky. His concept of “Democratic Socialism” as I’ve come to understand it over the years is that an elected government should occasionally step in and offer an objection or two toward our progress to undisguised oligarchy. Or, as in the case of not giving tax breaks to companies who move factories overseas, our government should at least not finance the disappearance of the middle class.

Maybe that does qualify as radical and unserious politics in our day and age. If that’s the case, we should at least admit how much trouble we’re in.

Congratulations, Bernie. Good luck and give ’em hell.

How the Global Economic System Is Destroying People and Planet

April 27, 2015

Passing Fast Track authority will make us even more complicit in the destruction of lives and communities that is produced by our current economic system, with its emphasis on industrial exploitation at any cost and without any local accountability. (photo: xuanhuongho/Shutterstock.com)
Passing Fast Track authority will make us even more complicit in the destruction of lives and communities that is produced by our current economic system, with its emphasis on industrial exploitation at any cost and without any local accountability. (photo: xuanhuongho/Shutterstock.com)

By Carl Pope, EcoWatch

26 April 15

 

art of the genius behind the Goldman Environmental Prize is that it not only rewards

inspiring

individuals, but it also spotlights communities and struggles that would other wise remain off the global community’s radar screen. This year’s prize recipients—the 25th—were no exception.

Few in the audience—or those exposed to the media about this year’s winners—had ever heard of Myanmar’s proposed Myitsone Dam on the Irawaddy River, blocked by the efforts of Myint Zaw. Even living next door to Canada I was utterly unaware of the successful struggle by Marilyn’s Baptists’s XeniGwet’in First Nation of British Columbia to stop an enormous gold and copper mine which would have destroyed Fish Lake, the anchor of their spiritual identify. Nor had I any knowledge of the proposed Agua Zarca Dam in Honduras, a joint project of Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) and Chinese state-owned Sinohydro, the world’s largest dam developer. The indigenous Lenca people who would be displaced by the dam had no voice in the decision to construct it until Berta Cacera, this year’s winner from South America, organized her people to forced Sinohydro to pull out.

Supporting heroes like these in struggles that had previously gone unrecognized also highlights the underlying—and often vicious—architecture of today’s global economy. None of these three projects was driven by local needs, or designed for local benefit. All represented efforts by remote elites to poach yet unindustrialized natural commons—as if British Columbia, Honduras and Myanmar were somehow Robinson Crusoe’s desert island, waited to be appropriated by the first comer under “finder’s keepers” doctrines.

The Myitsone Dam would have generated electricity to be shipped to remote China. The copper and gold from the Prosperity mine were not for the benefit of the XEniGwet’in, but of global mining behemoth TML. The electricity from the Aqua Zarca dam was intended for local use—but not by local communities. Since a 2009 coup, the new Honduran government has awarded a full 30 percent of the nation’s land as mining concessions to global mining interests; the Aqua Zarca dam was going to provide power for these mines. (Just to get a sense of what those mining concessions mean, imagine that foreign mining companies had been given an essentially unfettered right to strip mine all of Texas, California, Colorado, New Jersey, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Michigan, Wyoming, Kentucky Tennessee, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Maryland—and that dams like the Grand Coulee were being redirected to serving these foreign companies).

So there’s a vital educational outcome to the Goldman Prize as well as recognition and support for these front-line defenders of their communities. But front-line narratives—in isolation—have a weakness. They generate empathy, but not community. The audience at the Goldman Ceremony, or those who read the stories or watch the videos, are encountering someone else’s struggle—a weaker motivator for action than learning about their own struggles. This is intensified when our consumption is, indirectly, driving the exploitation, but at the same time most of us feel powerless to make choices that change that—we don’t, after all, have a clue where the iron ore in our stainless steel water flask came from—Honduras?

So I want to book-end this year’s Goldman Prize with two additional data points. The first is a stunning statistic. A large share of the world’s manufacturing capacity has shifted over the past decade from Europe and North America to China. This has powered enormous economic growth, but also generated enormous volumes of climate and health pollution. Of China’s infamous air pollution problem, 36 percent of the sulfur dioxide, 27 percent of nitrogen oxides and 17 percent of black carbon are emitted producing goods for export—about a fifth of this in exports to the U.S.

Manufacturing goods in China for export to the U.S. not only shifts pollution from the U.S. to China, but dramatically increases total global pollution—Chinese manufacturing has emission rates ranging from 6-17 time those in the U.S. and the EU.

So American outsourcing of manufacturing to China has had a major negative impact on the health of the Chinese population. But it turns out that China is not like Las Vegas—what goes on in China doesn’t stay in China. Chinese air pollutants are transported by upper atmospheric winds across the Pacific—and while their concentrations are diluted on this journey, they are not, it turns out, rendered harmless. A new study shows that even in 2007, when the volumes of Chinese pollution were much lower than they are today, air pollutionemitted in China while producing goods for export was responsible for up to 24 percent of total sulfate pollution over the Western U.S., as shown in the chart below.

So the current trade regime between China and U.S. is not just a matter of the U.S. exporting manufacturing jobs to China and importing cheaper consumer goods—we are also dramatically increasing the volume of pollution associated with our consumption, so much that while the worst health impacts are in China, a significant part of U.S. pollution is now generated in China producing goods for U.S. consumers. We import pollution as well as goods. Which brings me to another big piece of news this week—the agreement between President Obama, Congressional Republican leaders and some Senate Democrats (but not Minority Leader Harry Reid) to grant the President “fast-track” authority for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. While the White House maintains that the TPP will be a new kind of trade deal, one that will protect the environment that simply isn’t true. Like NAFTA, and like the WTO, the TPP will take the view that countries cannot set pollution standards for the way in which goods they import are produced. Indeed, while it will prevent the U.S. from setting pollution standards for factories exporting to our consumers, it will actually permit corporations to sue to lower pollution standards that already exist here.

This doctrine was based on the notion that Americans are not affected by pollution control standards in China, and therefore ought not to interfere. This is clearly not the case for climate pollution—CO2 emitted anywhere has the same impact on the California drought. But it is also clearly not clear for conventional health pollution—even for countries separated by the Pacific Ocean, much less for close neighbors those in Central America or Europe.

So we need to recognize that the front line communities in BC or Myanmar or Honduras are not just protecting their health and ecosystems—they are defending ours. What puts them at most risk, however, is our willingness to tolerate a global economic system in which multinational producers are permitted to bribe and bully weak governments into giving them the right to exploit local resources for distant shareholder profits. Passing Fast Track authority will make us even more complicit in the destruction of lives and communities that is produced by our current economic system, with its emphasis on industrial exploitation at any cost and without any local accountability.

 

This scary smartwatch shows how much time you have left to live

October 11, 2014

Dubbed “the death watch,” Tikker calculates its wearer’s life expectancy based on age, gender and medical history

TOPICS: GLOBALPOST, TIKKER, DEATH WATCH, NORTH AMERICA,SMARTWATCH, ,

This scary smartwatch shows how much time you have left to liveThe Tikker “death watch” counts down to the time the user dies. Photo courtesy of Tikker.
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global PostSmartwatches can tell you all sorts of useful things, like how many calories you’ve burned or how far you’ve walked or, even, what time it is.

Now there’s one model that can tell you the precise time you are going to die. Well, sort of.

Dubbed “the death watch,” Tikker calculates the wearer’s life expectancy based on their age, gender and medical history, and then counts down to the moment they can expect to take their last gasp.

The unlikely inventor of this ghoulish gadget is Swedish author and publisher Fredrik Colting, who is better known for his controversial novel “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye,” the so-called unauthorized sequel to J. D. Salinger’s classic “The Catcher in the Rye.”

Colting’s book, which the Swede wrote under the pseudonym John David California, is banned in North America following a copyright dispute with Salinger and, after the author’s death in January 2010, his estate.

That Colting used to be a gravedigger at a cemetery near Gothenburg before swapping a shovel for a pen might explain his morbid interest in death.

The watch face displays three rows: the top two rows show the years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds the wearer has left in the world. The bottom row shows the actual time in case you are interested in that sort of thing.

These are guesstimates at best, of course. No watch is THAT smart (yet).

Despite its shortcomings — i.e. probably inaccuracy — Colting hopes the wristwatch will help people “make better choices” with the time they have left. That’s if the stress of watching their life tick away doesn’t leave them totally paralyzed.

How Science Is Telling Us All to Revolt

October 30, 2013

Author, journalist and activist Naomi Klein says her choice to risk arrest at the XL Pipeline protest 'was a last-minute decision,' 09/02/11. (photo: Shadia Fayne Wood/Tar Sands Action)
Author, journalist and activist Naomi Klein says her choice to risk arrest at the XL Pipeline protest ‘was a last-minute decision,’ 09/02/11. (photo: Shadia Fayne Wood/Tar Sands Action)

go to original article

By Naomi Klein, NewStatesman

29 October 13

 

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

n December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Some scientists need no convincing. The godfather of modern climate science, James Hansen, is a formidable activist, having been arrested some half-dozen times for resisting mountain-top removal coal mining and tar sands pipelines (he even left his job at Nasa this year in part to have more time for campaigning). Two years ago, when I was arrested outside the White House at a mass action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of the 166 people in cuffs that day was a glaciologist named Jason Box, a world-renowned expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

“I couldn’t maintain my self-respect if I didn’t go,” Box said at the time, adding that “just voting doesn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.”

This is laudable, but what Werner is doing with his modelling is different. He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

That’s heavy stuff. But he’s not alone. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

Leading the pack of these new scientific revolutionaries is one of Britain’s top climate experts, Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions. Addressing everyone from the Department for International Development to Manchester City Council, Anderson has spent more than a decade patiently translating the implications of the latest climate science to politicians, economists and campaigners. In clear and understandable language, he lays out a rigorous road map for emissions reduction, one that provides a decent shot at keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, a target that most governments have determined would stave off catastrophe.

But in recent years Anderson’s papers and slide shows have become more alarming. Under titles such as “Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous . . . Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope”, he points out that the chances of staying within anything like safe temperature levels are diminishing fast.

With his colleague Alice Bows, a climate mitigation expert at the Tyndall Centre, Anderson points out that we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else.

Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. That’s because climate impacts come not just from what we emit today and tomorrow, but from the cumulative emissions that build up in the atmosphere over time. And they warn that by focusing on targets three and a half decades into the future – rather than on what we can do to cut carbon sharply and immediately – there is a serious risk that we will allow our emissions to continue to soar for years to come, thereby blowing through far too much of our 2° “carbon budget” and putting ourselves in an impossible position later in the century.

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreedupon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner.

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbonpricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:

. . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high-emitting (post-)industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”.

It’s not a revolution, but it’s a start. And it might just buy us enough time to figure out a way to live on this planet that is distinctly less f**ked.

 

Guns Over Butter: The Military-Industrial Complex and the Destruction of the U.S. Economy

February 2, 2013

Global Research, January 29, 2013
Consortiumnews 28 January 2013
us flag bombs

The American political system continues to ignore President Eisenhower’s dour warning about the Military-Industrial Complex and embrace President Reagan’s happy “We’re No. 1” illusions. The long-term consequences of this choice have been devastating to most U.S. citizens and to the world.

Years ago I read a newspaper story about an elderly man who lived in an impoverished area of Cleveland, Ohio. The man was a friendless loner who seemed to have no caring family members. Neighbors had noticed his mail piling up on his porch, and, with no responses to knocks on the door, they called the police who broke into the man’s house.

What they found is an allegory for our time, especially after another, peculiarly American school shooting, the latest one involving non-hunting weapons and the gunning down of 26 defenseless little children and staff members at an elementary school.

The withered old man was found dead in his bed, surrounded by rifles, pistols and guns of every description. Boxes of bullets and cartridges were stacked on the floor. He had a knife in his cold, dead hand and an actual harpoon was leaning against his refrigerator, which was empty. In a nation of plenty and with grocery stores in the man’s neighborhood, the well-armed man had starved to death.

He had fiercely exercised his precious Second Amendment rights but had ignored his neighbors, family and his health. He had apparently heard the National Rifle Association’s sermons about defending one’s property against intruders – by lethal means if necessary – but he had chosen to remove himself from civil society and starved to death, all alone in his well-defended room.

The man had wasted away, in a paranoid state, while “defending” himself against imaginary “others” who never did come to rob him. He had spent all of his money, including his Social Security and pension checks, on guns and ammunition, but he had spent nothing on food or life-sustaining activities. He was obsessed by the fear of burglars and thieves, and it had cost him his life.

And, what was perhaps a more tragic reality, he had been suspicious of his neighbors, all of whom were potential friends, although manywere probably keeping their distance from the crazy old man with the guns.

Painful Lessons

Our paranoid, militarized and heavily armed nation will probably ignore the lessons that should be obvious from that story. The arms race that financially bankrupted the Soviet Union and morally (and nearly financially) bankrupted the United States during the Cold War, was run at the expense of the sick, hungry, under-employed, homeless and desperate people everywhere, including many who were living, unnoticed, in our own neighborhoods and in our local ghettos on the other side of the tracks.

Mutual fear of the “other” caused the two Superpowers and their allies to spend obscene amounts of money on inedible and unnecessary weapons systems. The training of tens of millions of “kill or be killed” warriors who were both spiritually and emotionally deprived and deformed (often for the rest of their lives) inevitably weakened the moral integrity of the nation as well, all in the name of “national security.”

Contrary to what patriots who believe in American exceptionalism (and expect the rest of us to believe as well), America hasn’t been able to afford both guns and butter without borrowing money in order to keep that delusion going.

The Pentagon’s wars ever since the Reagan years have been mostly paid for with massive amounts of borrowing and huge indebtedness rather than with increased taxes, and the return on that “investment” has been lousy. The investor classes and lending institutions were happy however for they are the ones who receive the guaranteed interest payments on the T-bills and Treasury bonds.

But the increasing number of under-water private citizens are finding themselves forced to use credit cards to even pay for basic human necessities like food, water, clothing, health care, shelter and education. The increasing amount of joblessness, homelessness, home foreclosures and bread lines shouldn’t surprise anybody.

Emaciation of Militarized Nations

During the Cold War, the two saber-rattling superpowers each spent/wasted an irretrievable $12 trillion. America spent trillions of dollars recruiting, training and retaining troops; researching, developing and producing expensive weapons systems; maintaining hundreds of budget-busting military bases in countries ruled by brutal dictators and friendly fascist states as well as quasi-democracies, all the while virtually ignoring the growing numbers of impoverished and under-privileged people of color who helplessly watched their health, savings, civil rights, jobs and food security wither and disappear.

America has been ruled by a powerful insider group of over-privileged, body-guarded, chauffeured and essentially conscienceless Wall Street elites who live in gated communities. They are also among the One Percenters who have been fingered by the Occupy Wall Street movement as the criminal culprits who created the financial mess America is in.

The so far unindicted and not yet behind bars One Percenters were responsible for the Great Recession, which may still become the 21st Century’s version of the Great Depression. The nefarious corporations that are responsible for the economic crash of 2008 have, with their ill-gotten gains, bought and paid for most of the major media and also many of the bribed politicians and judges, all of whom are faithfully serving their paymasters by helping to implement their agendas in statehouses around the nation.

Most of these pro-corporate political leaders (both un-elected and elected, including five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices) are dutifully promoting their greedy agendas. These traitors to real democracy only preach fiscal responsibility when the bottom lines of their paymasters are at risk, but they never seem to act when people in the lower 99 percent are in a financial crisis – including those needing jobs, healthcare, relief from Hurricane Sandy or protection from illegal foreclosures.

The moneyed ruling class, with large fortunes and investments to hide and protect, has conveniently forgotten that its Reaganomics-inspired predatory lending and the massive borrowing and spending tactics (the propaganda trick called “trickle-down” economics) sky-rocketed America’s national debt to its current unsustainable level.

The debt crises that follow are only being met with more borrowing and cutting spending for programs of social uplift, while never questioning the obscene, nearly $1 trillion annual budgets that continue to bloat the Pentagon. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) budget requests are, year after year, approved by nearly unanimous majorities of our chicken-hearted legislators of both political parties in the dark of night, when the daily news cycle is at hibernation status.

Chickens Home to Roost

And now, predictably, the chickens (in more than one sense of the word) have come home to roost. Strongly deluded that there is “glory” in war – and with blank-check borrowing and spending on weaponry – America has spawned tens of millions of sick, hungry, homeless, under-employed, under-educated, addicted, psychologically-traumatized and impoverished people, many of whom are conveniently hidden in inner cities that the out-of-touch policymakers never see.

Universal health care, which large majorities of the population desire, is habitually rejected by the powers that be in the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. After all, the politicians who have been financed by such industries have great health insurance and health care themselves. So why would greedy One Percenters want to have their taxes go up to help those whom they have made sick, poor and hungry? (For that matter why should the One Percenters want to pay taxes that support public libraries and parks when they themselves have personal libraries and private playgrounds?)

“Let ‘em eat grass” was the fateful comment made to starving Indians by the thoughtless Minnesota territory Indian Agent who was later found dead with his mouth stuffed full of grass.

But America’s rapidly deteriorating infrastructure can’t and won’t be fixed while bloated and wasteful military budgets go unopposed in Congress. You can’t afford both guns and butter!

If you are seeing cuts to the programs that make life worth living, understand that much of the blame should be placed on the massive Pentagon borrowing and spending that has gone on every year since the massive increases in spending on nuclear weaponry during the administrations Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Who’s in Charge?

What is the eventual outcome of putting a society’s basic human needs last? Poor mental and physical health, poor educational opportunities, a poorly trained workforce, underemployment, drug use (both illicit and prescription), hopelessness, suicidality, homicidality, addictive behaviors (including gambling), domestic abuse, street gangs, prostitution, ignorance, malnutrition, desperation, poverty and, inevitably, anger at and a desire to retaliate against a system of government and corporate control that neglects its people and then shows no signs of remorse for having done so.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the Occupy Wall Street  emerged and then was put down by the powers-that-be.

Are average Americans going to continue to be perpetually sickened and impoverished while blindly cheering our unaffordable #1 Military Superpower status? Are we going to continue to waste scarce resources on bankrupting wars and military occupations worldwide while refusing to make investments at home that would ensure a sustainable economy, a healthy planet and citizens whose physical and mental-health needs are met?

Are the weapons-makers, the gun-runners, the Pentagon, the FBI and the CIA (and the dozens of other intelligence agencies) really just expensive make-work jobs programs that protect the global investments of the obscenely-wealthy war-profiteering, multinational corporations that further impoverish the rest of society? Knowing that the “black box” budgets of the dozens of American intelligence agencies now approximate $1 trillion a year makes one wonder if our nation has a military or if our military has a nation.

Are we going to continue ignoring the fact that wasteful war-industry jobs cost twice as much to generate and fund as jobs in health care, education, infrastructure repair or green technology? Are we going to continue to allow excessive military spending at the expense of the disappearing middle-class and an expanding lower class?

Are we going to continue fearing the wrath of the 800-pound gorillas of the One Percent that intimidate and threaten us into silence and inaction? Or are we going to courageously organize and band together to refuse to cooperate with the One Percenters?

Is It Too Late?

The military/industrial/congressional (MIC) complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address has increasingly parasitized the U.S. economy since World War II, and it has proven to be disastrous for average Americans.

President Dwight Eisenhower delivering his farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961.

The MIC has caused the extinction of many family farms, family businesses and trade unions starting with Reagan, and it has created the heartless union-busting multinational corporations that yearn to pay slave wages to its workers.

The Complex has been behind the “fouling of the nest” (the poisoned environment) with tens of thousands of lethal, immune system destroying and cancer-causing industrial pollutants, radioactive waste disposal sites and toxic military dumpsites that will continue to foul the food, water, soil and air for generations unless effective programs are instituted.

Unsustainable levels of personal credit-card debt, college loan debt, healthcare debt and home mortgage debt among the lower 99 Percent, who were tempted, by predatory lenders, to imitate what seems to be the norm for the One Percenters, have resulted in an epidemic of home mortgage foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and homelessness.

Although it might already be too late, the lower 99 may finally be waking up and trying to reverse the nation’s descent toward total economic collapse, at which time the One Percenters, with their fortunes intact, will snap up everything they covet at fire sale prices. However, for the nation as a whole, being armed to the teeth and universally feared and hated (because America’s exploitative bullying behavior around the world) is not a sustainable path to global security.

Because of America’s bullying behavior and its misbegotten generations-long over-spending on its weapons systems (that continues to victimize billions of people, including its own citizens), we will soon have nobody interested in rescuing us from our massive indebtedness and our self-imposed, suicidal path towards collapse.

Without a change, America is destined to become a despised pariah state – a national version of that heavily armed dead man in Cleveland – as the U.S. sinks further and further into moral and spiritual depravity.

We Americans have to stop deluding ourselves into thinking that we can spend borrowed money on both guns and butter. America cannot continue to go the route of empty refrigerators and lethal weapons everywhere.

Gary G. Kohls is a peace-and-justice activist and retired mental health physician.

First Global Assessment of Land and Water ‘Grabbing’

January 23, 2013

Jan. 22, 2013 — As world food and energy demands grow, nations and some corporations increasingly are looking to acquire quality agricultural land for food production. Some nations are gaining land by buying up property — and accompanying water resources — in other, generally less wealthy countries.

Sometimes called “land grabbing,” this practice can put strains on land and water resources in impoverished countries where the land, and needed water, has been “grabbed” for commercial-scale agriculture.

A new study by the University of Virginia and the Polytechnic University of Milan, and currently published in the online edition of the Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences, provides the first global quantitative assessment of the water-grabbing phenomenon, which has intensified in the last four years largely in response to a 2007-08 increase in world food prices.

“Over less than a decade, the rates of land and water grabbing have dramatically increased,” said Paolo D’Odorico, Ernest H. Ern Professor of Environmental Sciences in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences, and a study co-author. “Food security in the grabbing countries increasingly depends on ‘grab-land agriculture,’ while in the grabbed countries,local populations are excluded from the use of large parcels of land. Even just a fraction of the grabbed resources would be sufficient to substantially decrease the malnourishment affecting some of the grabbed countries.”

The study shows that foreign land acquisition is a global phenomenon, involving 62 grabbed countries and 41 grabbers and affecting every continent except Antarctica. Africa and Asia account for 47 percent and 33 percent of the global grabbed area, respectively, and about 90 percent of the grabbed area is in 24 countries.

Countries most affected by the highest rates of water grabbing are Indonesia, the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The highest rates of irrigated water grabbing occur in Tanzania and Sudan.

Countries most active in foreign land acquisition are located in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. Overall, about 60 percent of the total grabbed water is appropriated, through land grabbing, by companies in the United States, United Arab Emirates, India, United Kingdom, Egypt, China and Israel.

D’Odorico said that in most cases where land has been acquired, there is a switch from natural ecosystems — such as forests and savannas — or small-holder agriculture run by local communities, to large-scale commercial farming run by foreign corporations.

He said one possible positive effect of foreign land acquisition is that “corporations can afford investments in technology, such as irrigation systems, that increase agricultural productivity while creating employment opportunities for local populations.”

However, there also are negative implications, D’Odorico said, such as that the local populations are excluded from the direct use and management of their land and water resources and concern that in the long run, foreign land acquisitions could lead to overuse of water and land with negative effects on the environment (whereas local small-holder farmers are often in a better position to be good stewards and managers of their land and water).

“By losing control of part of their land and water, in many cases local people are giving up to wealthier nations their most precious natural resources — resources that could be used now or in the future to enhance their own food security,” D’Odorico said.

He noted that countries such as Sudan and Tanzania have the potential to become new “breadbaskets” because of either rain or river flow, but lack investments in agricultural technologies that would enhance productivity. For this reason, he said, foreign corporations see in them strong potential for high-profit investments and thus are rushing to “grab” these lands and water.

“It is hard to think that this phenomenon may be stopped,” D’Odorico said. “However, both the United Nations and the national governments should ensure that some of the wealth generated by foreign investments in agricultural land are used to benefit local populations, for example by sustainably improving their food security and enhancing the productivity of small-holder agriculture.

“There is also the need for institutions that can make sure that locals are involved in decisions about the reallocation of rights on land and water resources.”

D’Odorico’s study co-authors are Maria Cristina Rulli and Antonio Saviori of Politecnico di Milano (Polytechnic University of Milan) in Italy.

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Democrats push for ban of assault weapons over Sandy Hook, but stay silent on nuclear power after Fukushima

December 20, 2012

December 19, 2012

 

By Lori_Price_CLG

There was no ‘wall-to-wall’ media coverage as the disasters unfolded at Fukushima, unlike the commercial-free coverage of the events that transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Far more than 20 kids will die from Fukushima.

::::::::

Original printed at CLG
December 19, 2012 by legitgov

 

Democrats push for ban of assault weapons over Sandy Hook, but stay silent on nuclear power after Fukushima by Lori Price, www.legitgov.org

20 Dec 2012 Democrats want to implement a ban on military-style assault weapons in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings.

Several lawmakers and liberal pundits assert that certain guns–by their very existence–are a threat to human life. Well. Why no similar outcry demanding an end to nuclear power–after four nuclear plant meltdowns at Fukushima?

Nuclear power plants, history has shown–by their very existence–are a threat to human life. In fact, President Barack Obama sent officials to Japan to ensure that the Japanese government wouldcontinue to build new plants.

There was no ‘wall-to-wall’ media coverage as the disasters unfolded at Fukushima, unlike the commercial-free coverage of the events that transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Surely, thyroid cancer will kill far more than the twenty children who were among the twenty-six who perished in Newtown, Connecticut. Yes, Sandy Hook was a ‘mindless, senseless’ tragedy. Ditto the Obama Administration’s unabated–albeit hushed, so as not to offend the ‘Left’–love affair with nuclear power and its Wall Street profiteers.

Submitters Website: http://www.legitgov.org

Submitters Bio:

Lori Price is the Editor-in-Chief of the news service Citizens for Legitimate Government, http://www.legitgov.org

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When Half a Million Americans Died and Nobody Noticed

May 13, 2012

How many people died from Vioxx? (photo: Suresh Anthikad)
How many people died from Vioxx? (photo: Suresh Anthikad)

By Alexander Cockburn, The Week

12 May 12

 

Was the US drug Vioxx responsible for far more deaths than has been acknowledged so far?

RE American lives cheaper than those of the Chinese? It’s a question raised by Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative, who has produced a compelling comparison between the way the Chinese dealt with one of their drug scandals – melamine in baby formula – and how the US handled the Vioxx aspirin-substitute disaster.

The Chinese scandal surfaced in 2008, shortly before the Beijing Olympics. Crooked dairymen diluted their milk products, then added a plastic chemical compound called melamine to raise the apparent protein content back to normal levels. Nearly 300,000 babies across China suffered urinary problems, with many hundreds requiring lengthy hospitalisation for kidney stones. Six died.

Long prison sentences were handed down and a couple of the guiltiest culprits were tried and executed for their role. Throughout these events, American media coverage was extensive, with appropriate sneering about the Chinese leadership’s indifference to human life.

Four years earlier, in September 2004, Merck, one of America’s largest pharmaceutical companies, issued a sudden recall of Vioxx, its anti-pain medication widely used to treat arthritis-related ailments.

The recall came just days after Merck discovered that a top medical journal was about to publish a study by an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) investigator indicating that the drug in question greatly increased the risk of fatal heart attacks and strokes and had probably been responsible for at least 55,000 American deaths during the five years it had been on the market.

It soon turned out Merck had known of potential lethal side effects even before launching Vioxx in 1999, but had brushed all such disturbing tests under the rug.

With a TV ad budget averaging a hundred million dollars per year, Vioxx swiftly became one of Merck’s bestsellers, generating over $2 billion in yearly revenue. Twenty-five million Americans were eventually prescribed Vioxx as an aspirin-substitute thought to produce fewer complications.

There was a fair amount of news coverage after the recall, but pretty slim considering the alleged 55,000 death toll. A class-action lawsuit dragged its way through the courts for years, eventually being settled for $4.85 billion in 2007.

When the scandal first broke, Merck’s stock price collapsed, and many believed that the company could not possibly survive, especially after evidence of a deliberate corporate conspiracy surfaced. Instead, Merck’s stock price eventually reached new heights in 2008 and today it is just 15 per cent below where it stood before the disaster.

The year after the scandal unfolded, Merck’s long-time CEO resigned and was replaced by one of his top lieutenants. But he retained the $50 million in financial compensation he had received over the previous five years. Neither he nor any other Merck executives was charged with corporate malfeasance.

Senior FDA officials apologised for their lack of effective oversight and promised to do better in the future. The Vioxx scandal began to sink into the vast marsh of semi-forgotten international pharmaceutical scandals.

Then in 2005, as he now remembers it, Ron Unz “was reading my morning newspapers, as I always do, and noticed tiny items about an unprecedented drop in the American death rate. Hmm I said, I wonder if that might have anything to do with all those other stories about that deadly drug recently taken off the market and all the resulting lawsuits.”

The year after Vioxx was pulled from the market, the New York Times and other media outlets were running minor news items, usually down-column, noting that American death rates had undergone a striking and completely unexpected decline. These were what Unz, a dedicated news browser, was reading.

Typical was the headline on a short article that ran in the 19 April 2005 edition of USA Today: ‘USA Records Largest Drop in Annual Deaths in at Least 60 Years.’ During that one year, American deaths fell by 50,000 despite the growth in both the size and the age of the nation’s population. Government health experts were quoted as being greatly “surprised” and “scratching [their] heads” over this strange anomaly, which was led by a sharp drop in fatal heart attacks.

For his Chinese melamine/Vioxx comparison, Unz went back to those 2005 stories. Quick scrutiny of the most recent 15 years worth of national mortality data provided on the US Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offered Unz some useful clues.

“We find the largest rise in American mortality rates occurred in 1999, the year Vioxx was introduced, while the largest drop occurred in 2004, the year it was withdrawn,” says Unz. “Vioxx was almost entirely marketed to the elderly, and these substantial changes in the national death-rate were completely concentrated within the 65-plus population.

“The FDA studies had proven that use of Vioxx led to deaths from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, and these were exactly the factors driving the changes in national mortality rates.”

The impact of these shifts, Unz points out, was not small. After a decade of remaining roughly constant, the overall American death rate began a substantial decline in 2004, soon falling by approximately five per cent, despite the continued ageing of the population. This drop corresponds to roughly 100,000 fewer deaths per year. The age-adjusted decline in death rates was considerably greater.

“Patterns of cause and effect cannot easily be proven,” Unz continues. “But if we hypothesise a direct connection between the recall of a class of very popular drugs proven to cause fatal heart attacks and other deadly illnesses with an immediate drop in the national rate of fatal heart attacks and other deadly illnesses, then the statistical implications are quite serious.”

Unz makes the point that the users of Vioxx were almost all elderly, and it was not possible to determine whether a particular victim’s heart attack had been caused by Vioxx or other factors. But he concludes: “Perhaps 500,000 or more premature American deaths may have resulted from Vioxx [my italics], a figure substantially larger than the 3,468 deaths of named individuals acknowledged by Merck during the settlement of its lawsuit. And almost no one among our political or media elites seems to know or care about this possibility.”

I remarked to Unz that it seemed truly incredible that a greater than expected death rate of this dimension should scarcely have caused a ripple.

“I’m just as astonished,” he said. “From 2004 onwards, huge numbers of America’s toughest trial lawyers were suing Merck for billions based on Vioxx casualties – didn’t they notice the dramatic drop in the national death rate?

“The inescapable conclusion is that in today’s world and in the opinion of our own media, American lives are quite cheap, unlike those in China.

“Besides,” says Unz laughing, “it shows the stupidity of our political leaders that they didn’t seize upon this great opportunity. They should have just renamed Vioxx the ‘Save Social Security Drug,’ and distributed it free in very large doses to everyone, starting on their 65th birthday. Maybe they should have even made it mandatory, three times per day. At sufficiently large levels of national consumption, Vioxx could have almost singlehandedly eliminated all our serious budget deficit problems. ‘Vioxx – The Miracle Anti-Deficit Drug’.”