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Robbers Shove Homeowner In Closet, Where He Kept His Guns
Private Security Force To Subject Bilderberg Protesters To Pat-Downs
IRS Official in Charge During Tea Party Targeting Now Runs Health Care Office
Infowars Exclusive: IRS Form Sent to Patriot Groups
Rep. Mike Kelly Rips IRS Chief A New One, Gets Standing O From Gallery
"Big Brother" is big business?
The Fridge Has Eyes: Cara Gives Anything With A Camera Powers To See Faces, Age, Gender, More
New ‘Smart Rifle’ Decides When To Shoot And Rarely Misses
Guantanamo Hunger Strike Enters 100th Day
Infowars Nighly NewsInfowars Nightly News for Monday, May 13, 2013
RT Breaking Newshttp://realnewschannel.com/
The Alex Jones Show - Friday, May 17, 2013 (Full Show): John B. Wells
Military Says No Presidential Authorization Needed To Quell "Civil Disturbances" http://www.infowars.com/military-says... Friday: The Alex Jones Show. The Disintegration of Posse Comitatus and The 2nd Amendment. On the Friday, May 17 edition of the Alex Jones Show, Alex continues waging a full-frontal assault on the lies of the Obama administration, with new information regarding the IRS's targeting of conservative groups showing the IRS withheld knowledge of the scandal until after the 2012 elections. Alex also breaks down the erosion of posse comitatus as the Department of Defense issues new instructions allowing the military to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances. We'll also cover pro-Second Amendment news mainstream outlets conveniently neglect to report. On today's show Alex welcomes the Saturday host of Coast to Coast AM, John B. Wells to examine the massive scandals engulfing the White House and the accelerating panic to demonize all opposing voices.
Updated : Sun, 19 May 2013 21:48:13 +0000
Pentagon plans to fight ‘War on Terror’ for another 20 years
rt.com | Pentagon official predicted the mission against al-Qaeda could continue for another two decades.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 15:43:04 +0000
-New Pro-Second Amendment Gun Show Coming Soon to Infowars
Infowars.com | Coming to the Infowar this June, new episodes of Brothers in Arms and more!
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 16:50:49 +0000
-Natural News challenges Angelina Jolie to denounce corporate patents on human genes
Mike Adams | Anyone who supports corporate ownership of genes must also love Monsanto.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 11:06:20 +0000
-CIA-connected SAIC Awarded Government “Cyber Security” Contract
Kurt Nimmo | A technologically advanced Stasi apparatus is designed for 24/7 surveillance of political enemies, not hackers in Eastern Europe.
Publ.Date : Thu, 16 May 2013 20:22:06 +0000
-News Anchor Who Complained of IRS Harassment ‘Off the Air’
Breitbart | KMOV anchor who asked Barack Obama some tough questions about his family’s vacation habits taken off the air.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 18:27:07 +0000
-YouTube Censors Video Exposing Angelina Jolie Gene Patent Link
Steve Watson | Corporate ownership of human genes controversy declared "commercially deceptive content" .
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 13:37:08 +0000
-More Americans Committing Suicide than During the Great Depression
Washington's Blog | Higher Numbers of Americans Take Their Lives than During the Depths of the Great Depression.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 10:56:31 +0000
-Private Security Force To Subject Bilderberg Protesters To Pat-Downs
Jurriaan Maessen | The good news is, journalists and protesters are allowed to come closer than expected to the hotel; the bad news is, they will be subjected to pat downs by a private security firm.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 10:58:31 +0000
-House Votes to Fully Repeal Obamacare for Third Time
abcnews.go.com | No Republicans opposed repeal.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 03:11:19 +0000
-Ways and Means Committee Chairman: U.S. Tax System “Rotten at the Core”
Kurt Nimmo | Says tax system in the United States “is rotten at the core” and must be uprooted.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 14:46:55 +0000
RT US News
Updated : Sat, 18 May 2013 20:05:31 +0000
Washington DC considers $250k insurance for gun owners
Washington, D.C. already has some of the strictest gun-control laws in the country, but the city council is considering a bill that would require prospective gun owners to purchase a $250,000 liability insurance policy.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Thu, 16 May 2013 19:23:53 +0000
-‘Monsanto Protection Act’ might be repealed in Senate
The so-called Monsanto Protection Act signed into law earlier this year caused such an outrage that people around the world are planning to protest the biotech company later this month. Now a United States senator is expected to try and repeal that law.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 16:46:34 +0000
-Vermont approves assisted suicide bill
Vermont is about to become the third US state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. A bill passed by the state legislature will allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients that want to end their life.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Thu, 16 May 2013 20:37:40 +0000
-Cell phone users ‘have no legitimate expectation of privacy’ – judge
A federal judge recently ruled that if someone has their cell phone turned on, their location data does not deserve protection under the Fourth Amendment, meaning law enforcement can track individuals without a search warrant.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 00:08:03 +0000
-Up to 60 injured after car crashes into crowd at Virginia parade
Dozens of people have been injured after a 1997 Cadillac plowed into a crowd at the Trail Days Parade in the US state of Virginia.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Sat, 18 May 2013 20:05:31 +0000
-FBI investigates exiled Chechen militant in connection with Boston bombing
A former Chechen militant who moved to the United States in 2004 admitted this week to meeting with accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev only weeks before the grizzly terrorist attack.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 18:53:31 +0000
-Obama’s media shield law makes prosecuting journalists even easier
United States President Barack Obama is encouraging Congress to take up a media shield law that was abandoned at the start of his administration, but critics of the bill say it might make it even easier for journalists to be subpoenaed by the government.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 21:16:28 +0000
-Concussion epidemic linked to underreported US military suicide – study
New research suggests a link between concussions and suicide in the US military, two frighteningly common issues that the Armed Forces have struggled to explain and curtail since rates started soaring 12 years ago.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 03:19:35 +0000
-Federal Reserve: rising inequality jeopardizes economic recovery
A top ranking member of the United States Federal Reserve cautioned economists this week that growing inequality within the US was worsening the odds of a quick return to the conditions of the pre-recession days.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 15:58:12 +0000
-Two commuter trains collide in Connecticut, 72 injured
Two trains collided in Bridgeport, Connecticut after what was described as a major derailment about an hour outside of New York City on Friday, with some 72 passengers injured in one of the region’s major commuter corridors. A probe is underway.
Read Full Article at RT.com
Publ.Date : Sat, 18 May 2013 01:57:43 +0000
|Oath Keepers » Oath Keepers – Guardians of the Republic|
Updated : Sun, 19 May 2013 21:51:52 +0000
The Shape Of Things To Come
In an article at Global Research titled:The Cashless Society Arrives in Africa. The “Multipurpose” Biometric National Identity Smart Card, we are informed that Nigeria will be the trial country for the Cashless Society. Every individual will be given a National ID Card that will serve to make all payments. How convenient. Forget that it will be administered by a giant, foreign, multinational financial institution, please; think only of the convenience of such a system.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 16:14:15 +0000
-Lions And Tigers And Terrorists, Oh My!
This article was written by Brandon Smith and originally published at Alt-Market.com The debate over what actions actually constitute “terrorism,” I believe, will become one of the defining ideological battles of our era. Terrorism is not a word often used by common people to describe aberrant behaviors or dastardly deeds; [...]
Publ.Date : Wed, 15 May 2013 20:12:54 +0000
-55 COLORADO Sheriffs Sue State Over Bad Gun Laws
This afternoon, Friday, May 17, 2013, Tim Norton emailed me the following links with the good news that Fifty-five (55) Colorado Sheriffs had their lawsuit against the State of Colorado filed in court today.
Publ.Date : Sat, 18 May 2013 03:51:31 +0000
-Storm Clouds Gathering
This article was written by Andrew Napalitano and originally published at LewRockwell.com Government is bad for personal freedom. That argument is premised upon the truism that everything government does interferes with freedom because it either prohibits or compels. Everything it owns it has taken from others. Much of what it says is divorced from the truth. [...]
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 01:02:55 +0000
-54 Out Of 64 CO Sheriffs File Lawsuit Against New Anti-Gun Law
This article was written by Debra Heine and originally published at Breitbart.com 84% of all Colorado sheriffs have filed a lawsuit against the new gun law that passed earlier this Spring in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. The sheriffs are hoping to have the new restrictions invalidated because they believe they violate the [...]
Publ.Date : Sat, 18 May 2013 07:55:40 +0000
-Top Constitutional Experts: Obama Is Worse Than Nixon
Objective Analysis: Obama Versus Nixon In the wake of the twin scandals of the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Department of Justice spying on AP reporters, the comparisons between Obama and Nixon are everywhere.
Publ.Date : Wed, 15 May 2013 17:09:11 +0000
-The Pacification Of A Nation – Part Three
Keep in mind one idea, please, that being: Before we can consciously do anything, we must first imagine it. Think about that for a while.
Publ.Date : Sun, 19 May 2013 21:51:52 +0000
-Anti-Gun Senators Caught On Hot Mic: “Confiscate, Confiscate, Confiscate”
This article was written by Mac Slavo and originally published at SHTFplan.com While gun control advocates claim that their initiatives are solely designed to protect our children and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the following discussion between three New Jersey state Senators reveals their real motivations. At the conclusion of the New Jersey [...]
Publ.Date : Wed, 15 May 2013 20:06:13 +0000
-IRS As A Political Hit Squad
This article was written by James Hall and originally published at batr.org When the Internal Revenue Service admits to violations of law by targeting limited government advocate organizations, you know that the non-divulged crimes are much worse. The disclosure in the mainstream media is a pleasant astonishment. The usual pattern of [...]
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 09:21:18 +0000
-Media Now Openly Admitting The Government Controls The News
A trio of Obama scandals has forced the corporate media admit its own reports are nothing more than the government-controlled talking points and not the product of a free and open press. If you have been following the news lately you’ll notice there are 3 government scandals that the media is focusing on 1) The DOJ spying on the AP reporters 2) Benghazi gate 3) IRS targeting of activist groups.
Publ.Date : Sun, 19 May 2013 02:09:55 +0000
Ron Paul News
|Ron Paul .com|
Updated : Mon, 13 May 2013 19:16:34 +0000
Ron Paul: Washington Will Keep Spending until there’s a True Economic Crisis
Transcript Neil Cavuto: With the threat rising almost as fast as the deficit itself: two guys in Boston accused of bombing the marathon, two guys in Canada accused of trying to bomb a train headed for New York, so those are two huge issues. The government is nearly 17 trillion dollars into collective debt hole, [...]
Publ.Date : Tue, 23 Apr 2013 20:31:24 +0000
-Ron Paul: We’re Already Very Much Involved in Syria
Transcript Neil Cavuto: This is Neil Cavuto, and whether President Obama ends up sending troops or just some well-placed tomahawks, the President is in a very tough placed now. He’s already warned Syria that if he ever got proof it used chemical weapons on its people, there would be hell to pay, even if we [...]
Publ.Date : Mon, 29 Apr 2013 20:37:05 +0000
-Ron Paul to Liberals: If You Really Care about People You Must Protect Liberty
Transcript Alex Jones: Alright, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Friday, I’m in “Big D” on a short family get-together. I just happen to be in the same building as Dick Cheney right now, I’ll tell you that story briefly later. We’ve got 5 presidents here in town now. Speaking of who I wish would be our [...]
Publ.Date : Sat, 27 Apr 2013 20:47:07 +0000
-Ron Paul: I’m Concerned about the Erraticness of the Dollar
Transcript News Anchor: Are you concerned about this drop that we’ve seen in gold? Ron Paul: I’m concerned about the erraticness of the dollar. The dollar goes up, the dollar goes down, we print a lot of dollar and the dollar gets devalued, that’s really the concern. If people think that the gold price going [...]
Publ.Date : Tue, 23 Apr 2013 20:20:27 +0000
-Ron Paul: Neither Republicans nor Democrats Want to Hear the Real Lesson of Benghazi
by Ron Paul Congressional hearings, White House damage control, endless op-eds, accusations, and defensive denials. Controversy over the events in Benghazi last September took center stage in Washington and elsewhere last week. However, the whole discussion is again more of a sideshow. Each side seeks to score political points instead of asking the real questions [...]
Publ.Date : Mon, 13 May 2013 18:53:34 +0000
-Ron Paul: The Federal Reserve Blows More Bubbles
by Ron Paul Last week at its regular policy-setting meeting, the Federal Reserve announced it would double down on the policies that have failed to produce anything but a stagnant economy. It was a disappointing, but not surprising, move. The Fed affirmed that it is prepared to increase its monthly purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed [...]
Publ.Date : Sun, 05 May 2013 17:10:36 +0000
-Ron Paul Launches Institute for Peace and Prosperity
Publ.Date : Wed, 17 Apr 2013 20:42:30 +0000
-Ron Paul: Rand Paul and I Are about 99% the Same
Transcript Geraldo Rivera: I’m very delighted to welcome back to the program the former Congressman from Texas, the former candidate for president of the United States, the father of someone who is talked about as a future candidate for president of the United States. The son is Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, the father is [...]
Publ.Date : Fri, 26 Apr 2013 21:31:12 +0000
-Ron Paul: Liberty Was Also Attacked in Boston
Forced lockdown of a city. Militarized police riding tanks in the streets. Door-to-door armed searches without warrant. Families thrown out of their homes at gunpoint to be searched without probable cause. Businesses forced to close. Transport shut down. These were not the scenes from a military coup in a far off banana republic, but rather [...]
Publ.Date : Mon, 29 Apr 2013 19:44:32 +0000
-Ron Paul: Congress Exploits Our Fears to Take Our Liberty
by Ron Paul This week, as Americans were horrified by the attacks in Boston, both houses of Congress considered legislation undermining our liberty in the name of “safety.” Gun control continued to be the focus of the Senate, where an amendment expanding federal “background checks” to gun show sales and other private transfers dominated the [...]
Publ.Date : Mon, 22 Apr 2013 23:04:10 +0000
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Elizabeth Warren Is Turning Out as Good as Promised
This story originally appeared at Truthdig.
That’s how I was reminded this week that Congress is about to let the interest rate charged for new student loans double to 6.8 percent at a time when the too-big-to-fail banks that caused the Great Recession continue to be bailed out at the rate of 0.75 percent. Yes, the banks pay less than 1 percent for money that we the taxpayers lend them. I know that such statistics are thought to be boring, but as Warren explained, the rate that students will have to pay “is nine times higher than the rate at which the government loans money to the big banks.”
The student loan interest rate that had been temporarily cut in half back in 2007 was once again set to double, but instead of pushing for the status quo as Congress did last year, Warren has upped the ante with legislation that would cut the student loan rate way down to the near zero that the big banks enjoy. As Warren put it in her characteristically no bull style:
“The federal government is profiting off loans to our young people while giving a far better deal to the same Wall Street banks that crashed our economy and destroyed millions of jobs. That’s why I’ve introduced the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act as my first bill in the Senate: To allow students to borrow money at the same rate as the biggest banks.
” … Why should the big banks get a nearly-free ride while people trying to get an education pay nine times more?” Warren asked. “It isn’t right.”
The justification of near zero rates of interest for the banks is that they will make loans available that will stoke the economy, but quite the opposite has happened. The banks have been slow to make housing and business loans while feathering their own nests with outsized executive bonuses and costly acquisitions of other financial institutions. In contrast, student loans amounting to more than $1 trillion exceed the total outstanding credit card debt in the U.S. and represent a major contributor to consumer purchasing power.
Students actually spend their loan money on surviving as consumers in a tight economy, while learning skills needed for the economy of the future. On the other hand, the already too-big-to-fail banks have used the government’s free money to become even more obscenely powerful.
Then, too, the federal government’s enormous subsidy to the banks extends far beyond the provision of low-interest money. The so-called quantitative easing program, now reaching into the trillions of dollars of government subsidy, continues at the astounding rate of $85 billion in Federal Reserve expenditures every month to take toxic assets off the books of the banks and to otherwise float the very financial institutions that, as Warren never tires of pointing out, caused the great meltdown of our economy.
How astonishing to have a public servant who actually cares to inform the public about the inner workings of the system of crony capitalism that has wedded big government with big business. This comes at the expense of the free market that corporate lobbyists delight in invoking as an ideal while they subvert it as a reality.
Those seeking to join Warren in taking a stand on behalf of students attempting to survive in an economy that the bankers have come close to destroying should get behind her bill. Unless Congress acts, student loan rates will automatically double in less than two months.
They should also heed Warren’s call to aid the campaign of Ed Markey to fill the other Senate seat from Massachusetts made available by the resignation of John Kerry to become secretary of state. As a long serving member of the House, Markey distinguished himself by being a leader in the battle against the radical deregulation of Wall Street. Markey, as early as 1992 when he was chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and finance, sounded the alarm on the danger of the unregulated derivatives in housing mortgages and other collateralized debt obligations that ended up causing the Great Recession.
It would be great if Massachusetts, the home of the real tea party revolt, could now elect a second senator with a powerfully informed record of serving the consumer interest. As Warren put it, “Ed will fight for accountability on Wall Street—to end ‘Too Big to Fail’ and ‘Too Big to Jail’ once and for all.” She could use Markey’s help, and so could we.
Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books)..
Publ.Date : Tue, 14 May 2013 19:03:00 -0700
-Inside the Controversy Over Man Charged with Murder for Slipping an Abortion Pill to Pregnant Girlfriend
John Andrew Welden is charged with the murder of a person who was never born.
As Tampa’s WFTS-TV news reports, Welden is facing first-degree murder charges for allegedly giving his pregnant girlfriend Remee Lee an abortion pill and telling her it was an antibiotic. Welden worked in his father’s Florida clinic, a “specialty infertility practice.” When Lee began bleeding and experiencing cramps, she went to her local hospital, where doctors informed her the container labeled as amoxicillin was in fact the labor-inducing Cytotec. The fetus died in utero. “I was never going to do anything but go full term with it,” she told reporters this week. “And he didn’t want me to.” It’s an appalling tale, which will once again force us to ponder what constitutes a human life — and when one has taken it.
Very different fetal-homicide laws are on the books in roughly 80 percent of American states. In Arizona, for example, the charge can apply toward “any stage of development” for a fetus, while Arkansas limits it to an “unborn child of 12 weeks or more gestation.” South Dakota stipulates the accused must have known, “or reasonably should have known, that a woman bearing an unborn child was pregnant.”
In Welden’s case, he’s being charged under the Protection of Unborn Children Act. His state has tough laws for killing the unborn that also include DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and willful killing. In Ohio, where kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro will stand trial, he faces possible charges of aggravated murder. Castro is accused of allegedly beating one of his reported victims until she miscarried the pregnancies she endured in captivity. Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty has said he will pursue “each act of aggravated murder” — and a conviction could lead to the death penalty.
And in Philadelphia, of course, Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for killing three infants — by severing their spinal cords – who were born live during the late-term abortions he provided. Pennsylvania law has a whole category of offenses, including first- and second-degree murder, for any unborn child “from fertilization until live birth.” What distinguishes the Gosnell case — and has often been lost in all the shouting about it — was that the murder charges were for babies, not fetuses. Yet the issue of what constitutes the taking a life is not always an easy one to discuss or decide.
As much as we need the law to be clear, the reality of life and death is often far more ambiguous. As Jon Hurdle and Trip Gabriel noted this week in the New York Times, much of the furor over cases like Gosnell’s is the question of “why a procedure done to a living baby outside the womb is murder, but destroying a fetus of similar gestation before delivery can be legal.” Remee Lee, meanwhile, was six weeks and five days pregnant when she lost her baby. Should taking a life that wouldn’t have been viable outside the womb carry the same consequences as killing an adult? Would the alleged crime be different if she’d been three months pregnant? Six months? Nine?
I believe that human life begins at conception. I believe that if you force a woman, either by violence or deception, to lose a fetus, you have taken a life. But I also shudder at the prospect of the anti-choice lobby exploiting revolting crimes to prevent women from access to their constitutional right to abortion. We have spent the last several years watching it happen, as abortion opponents have tried to leverage fetal-protection laws to chip away at choice. That’s why we need to continue to be vigilant in articulating the difference between a choice a woman makes and an act of violence against her body and her fetus, an act that robs her of that very freedom she is entitled to. We must be clear that being pro-choice is not tantamount to condoning repulsive, criminal behavior. Remee Lee told reporters this week that she’s grieving because she “dreams of becoming a mom.” And this, she says, “was my chance.”
Publ.Date : Sat, 18 May 2013 12:36:00 -0700
-Keep the Arctic Cold: Why the Rush to Drill Alaska Must Be Stopped
I wrote a letter to the editor as a follow up to the generous review In the Beautiful,Threatened North” by Ian Frazier in The New York Review of Books of the anthology, Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point that I edited. My letter, “Can Shell Be Stopped?” has just been published in the New York Review.After the June 6 issue (with my letter) went to the printer a few significant things happened that relate to the letter that I’ll mention here briefly. On May 10, the White House published a 13-page document, National Strategy for the Arctic Region.” It opens with a one-page introduction by President Obama. He begins with these words: “We in the lower forty-eight and Hawaii join Alaska’s residents in recognizing one simple truth that the Arctic is an amazing place.” All fifty-five contributors in Arctic Voices, I’m sure, will be very pleased with these words from the President. But before the tears of joy could flow down my cheeks, the droplets dried up as I began to read the second paragraph: “Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents…” President Obama hides his excitement for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean by carefully choosing the euphemism—“economic opportunities.” In page 7 the true intent of the report is finally revealed: “The region holds sizable proved and potential oil and natural gas resources that will likely continue to provide valuable supplies to meet U.S. energy needs.” Of course the report mentions protecting the environment but gives no specific details. This major report from the White House was released after we came to know that on midnight on May 7, the average global CO2 concentration had reached 400 parts per million (ppm). The pre-industrial average was 280 ppm. The Scientific American reported, [T]he last time CO2 levels are thought to have been this high was more than 2.5 million years ago, an era known as the Pliocene.” This is so significant that Scientific American now plans to publish in the coming year a “400 ppm” series of articles, “to examine what this invisible line in the sky means for the global climate, the planet and all the living things on it, including human civilization.” And George Monbiot correctly pointed out in The Guardian, “The only way forward now is back: to retrace our steps and seek to return atmospheric concentrations to around 350 ppm, as the 350.org campaign demands.” We may have forgotten, or didn’t pay attention, that the Arctic had reached 400 ppm almost exactly a year ago. A May 31, 2012 press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated, “The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Barrow, Alaska, reached 400 parts per million (ppm) this spring, according to NOAA measurements, the first time a monthly average measurement for the greenhouse gas attained the 400 ppm mark in a remote location. … Carbon dioxide at six other remote northern sites in NOAA’s international cooperative air sampling network also reached 400 ppm at least once this spring: at a second site in Alaska and others in Canada, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and an island in the North Pacific.” Arctic is the barometer of our planet. When it comes to climate change, if you want to know what will happen tomorrow, do not hire an astrologer, instead simply pay attention to what’s happening in the Arctic today. Dr. James Hansen and I are currently engaged in a conversation that will be published in the paperback edition of Arctic Voices in August. As Jim told me, “We must keep the Arctic cold, for us to have a stable planet.” Drilling in the Arctic Ocean is a wrong path for the planet. By asking “Can Shell Be Stopped?” in the NYR, I wasn’t interested in philosophical contemplation but rather to figure out a practical path that might stop oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean–a small but significant step toward helping to “keep the Arctic cold.”
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 14:23:00 -0700
-Outrageous Attacks on Supporters of Church-State Separation: Death Threats, Murdered Pets, and Vandalized Property
When it comes to the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment, which forbids the establishment of a state religion by the government even if a majority supports it, is something most of us heartedly support.
But not all. The religious right despises the First Amendment, since it's constantly foiled their efforts to inject Christian doctrine into government. And when they've lost in court, religious conservatives in the U.S. have often waged campaigns of threats, harassment and outright violence against First Amendment plaintiffs, in the hopes of intimidating them into backing down and achieving by mob violence what they can't achieve under the law.
Last year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation contacted two public school districts in Pennsylvania, in New Kensington and Connellsville, to demand the removal of large stone Ten Commandments monuments prominently placed on school property. When the schools chose to fight, the FFRF and its local plaintiffs, including current students, filed a lawsuit.
As often happens in these cases, FFRF plaintiffs asked to have their identities concealed because they feared harassment and retaliation from the community. It was a well-founded fear, since some of them had already been receiving threats on social media. On a Facebook page supporting the New Kensington school, one person encouraged others to "slam the shit out of the bitch" who filed the lawsuit. Another commenter asked, "Have the families involved in the lawsuit been identified? I cannot believe anyone living in the community would participate in such a worthless cause. Someone needs to send that group back to Wisconsin with several black eyes!"
Because of threats like this, the court granted the request for anonymity, finding that "this basis upon which the Does fear disclosure is substantial and that there is a substantial public interest in ensuring that litigants not face such retribution in their attempt to seek redress for what they view as a Constitutional violation, a pure legal issue." In response, Republican state representative Tim Krieger filed a bill... that would eliminate the right of plaintiffs to sue anonymously over religious symbols on public property.
Thankfully, Krieger's understanding of federalism is as abysmal as his grasp of the Bill of Rights: the FFRF lawsuit was filed in federal court, where state laws have no effect. Still, the ugly, bullying intent behind his bill is obvious: the unsubtle hope is to encourage bullying and retribution against First Amendment plaintiffs, to "punish" them for standing up for the Constitution.
The story of high school activist Jessica Ahlquist, previously reported by Greta Christina on AlterNet, is another example. After speaking out against an illegal prayer banner in her public school (and winning in court), Ahlquist received vivid, violent threats on social media, and even in a handwritten letter. Some of the threats were so serious she was temporarily given a police escort for protection.
These two stories are just the most recent and high-profile examples of the kind of harassment and intimidation of church-state plaintiffs that's been going on literally for decades. Countless other stories could be cited, like these:
Darla Kay Wynne. A Wiccan living in the town of Great Falls, South Carolina in 2004, Darla Kay Wynne was disturbed by sectarian Christian prayers before town council meetings. On one occasion, when she deliberately came late to avoid the prayer, she was denied the opportunity to speak at the meeting even though she had previously signed up to do so and was listed on the official agenda. When she asked for members of other religions to have an opportunity to give the prayers, that too was denied; the mayor, Henry Starnes, said, "This is the way we've always done things and we're not going to change." When she refused to stand for one of the prayers, several people told her she "wasn't wanted" and "should leave town."
Wynne filed a lawsuit, Wynne v. Town of Great Falls, which she easily won based on existing precedent. In response, as reported by a South Carolina newspaper, The State, someone broke into her home and decapitated her pet parrot, leaving a note next to the body that read, "You're next!" Several of her cats were also killed, and her tiny Yorkshire terrier was beaten.
The Santa Fe Does. In 2000, in the case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the Supreme Court struck down student-selected, school-endorsed prayer at high school football games in Santa Fe, Texas. As in FFRF's Pennsylvania cases, the lower courts allowed the plaintiffs to file anonymously to protect them from harassment. The wisdom of that measure was soon demonstrated because employees of the school district apparently spent considerable effort trying to figure out who the plaintiffs were. The judge was forced to issue a further order, threatening criminal contempt if there was "any further attempt on the part of District or school administration... parents, students or anyone else, overtly or covertly to ferret out the identities of the Plaintiffs in this cause, by means of bogus petitions, questionnaires, individual interrogation, or downright 'snooping.'"
The McCollums. Vashti McCollum, her husband John and her son Jim were at the center of one of the earliest and most important First Amendment cases of the 20th century: McCollum vs. Board of Education, a 1948 Supreme Court ruling striking down a "released-time" policy in Illinois that allowed clergy to come to a public school to teach religious education classes to students during the school day.
While the case was going on, the McCollum family was threatened and ostracized by their community. They received harassing and threatening messages, including one that read, "There is no room for you nor yours here. God damn you sons and daughters of bitches.... If you think you can boss us around What fun We are going to have." On one Halloween, a mob broke into the house and threw rotten fruit and vegetables at the family. Vashti was abruptly fired from her job as a phys-ed teacher at the University of Illinois at Champaign. Jim McCollum and his brothers were beaten up while going to and from school. Most shockingly, the McCollum family's cat was lynched and hanged from a tree.
The Bells. In 1981, in the Oklahoma community of Little Axe, school officials allowed a Baptist religious group, the Son Shine Club, to meet in the school building before the start of the day. The buses dropped students off at school 30 minutes before the start of class, and those who didn't want to attend the religious meetings had to wait outside the building, even if it was raining or freezing cold.
Joann Bell and another local parent, Lucille McCord, were both Christians but of different denominations, and didn't want their children exposed to Baptist preaching on school time. When they filed a lawsuit with the help of the ACLU, Bell v. Little Axe, retribution was swift and vicious.
Joann Bell was assaulted by a school employee who smashed her head repeatedly against a car door; he was only fined, and the community rallied around him and raised money to pay the fine. The Bells' home was burned to the ground; fire marshals ruled it to be arson, but no arrest was ever made. McCord's son raised goats, which an unknown person slashed and mutilated with a knife. Both of them received threatening letters, including copies of their own obituaries. The Bells got a phone call from someone who said he would break into Joann Bell's house, tie up her children, rape her in front of them, and then "bring her to Jesus." The local superintendent, Paul Pettigrew, said, "The only people who have been hurt by this thing are the Bells and McCords... They chose to create their own hell on earth."
Although most of these champions of the Constitution persevered through harassment and threats, sadly, that isn't always the case. Sometimes the persecution is too severe to bear, as in the case of the Dobriches, an Orthodox Jewish family who filed a lawsuit in 2005 challenging pervasive Christian influence in their Delaware school district, including explicitly sectarian prayers at parent-teacher meetings and graduation ceremonies, special privileges given to children in Christian clubs, and Bibles handed out at elementary school.
When Mona Dobrich complained on behalf of her son, Alex, a group calling itself the "Stop the ACLU Coalition" publicized the Dobriches' home address and phone number, and they received so many threats, harassing messages and anti-Semitic hate letters that they were essentially hounded out of their community. They ended up moving to another county, and their daughter had to drop out of Columbia University because of the financial strain they were under.
Another church-state plaintiff driven out of her town was Melinda Maddox, a Roman Catholic resident of Brewton, Alabama who joined in a 2001 lawsuit challenging theocratic judge Roy Moore's illegal placement of a Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building. During her honeymoon, someone shot out the windows of her house; her car was vandalized, and she received violent threats like "You should be hog-tied and thrown in the Escambia River." Her parents, both of whom were battling cancer, received threatening and harassing phone calls as well. When she asked community leaders to condemn the threats, they instead counseled her to drop out of the case. The strain destroyed her marriage and her legal firm, forcing her to relocate to Mobile. In spite of this, she says she would do it all over again.
Publ.Date : Mon, 06 May 2013 10:49:00 -0700
-Bill Moyers: Our Media Is Polluted by Toxic Lies About the Risks Posed by Lead
INTRO:Science can be a battleground — witness the politics of climate change, the teaching of evolution, the uncharted terrain of genetic modification and stem cell research, among other contentious issues. But when industries release untested chemicals into our environment — putting profits before public health — our children are the first to suffer. Nowhere is this more troubling than in the ongoing story of lead poisoning.
Bill talks with David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, public health historians who’ve been taking on the chemical industry for years — writing about the hazards of industrial pollution and the neglect of worker safety — despite industry efforts to undermine them. Their latest book, Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children, is the culmination of 20 years of research. Markowitz and Rosner warn that, for young children, there’s no safe level of exposure to this dangerous toxin still lurking in millions of homes.
The authors discuss thwarted efforts to hold the lead industry accountable, failed attempts to find cheap solutions, and the cost to the future of our children. As long as the chemical industry and its powerful lobbies prevail in blocking efforts to reform outdated laws, Markowitz and Rosner say, we will continue to float in a soup of toxins — inhaling, drinking, and absorbing chemicals that we may learn, years later, have put us all in harm’s way.
BILL MOYERS: At the end of a week that reminded us to be ever vigilant about the dangers of government overreaching its authority, whether by the long arm of the IRS or the Justice Department, let’s pause to think about another threat, from too much private power over public policy.
All too often, instead of acting as a brake, government becomes the enabler of corporate power and greed, undermining the very rules and regulations intended to keep us safe.
Think of inadequate inspections of food and those infections which kill 3,000 Americans each year and make many millions sick. Think of the 85,000 industrial chemicals available today. Only a handful have been tested for safety. Think of the explosion of perhaps as much as half a million pounds of ammonium nitrate in that Texas fertilizer plant. People can die when government winks at bad corporate practices.
As long as there are insufficient checks and balances on big business and its powerful lobbies, you and I are at their mercy. Which is why their ability to buy off public officials is an assault on democracy and a threat to our lives and health. Keep that in mind as I introduce you to David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz.
Some years ago, their book, Deceit and Denial, told how the chemical industry tried to conceal the truth about untested and unregulated chemicals in our food, water, and air. Twenty companies responded with a vicious campaign to smear their reputations. That proved hard to do, actually, impossible.
Gerald Markowitz is a distinguished professor of history at both John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. David Rosner is co-director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia University where he also teaches science and history.
This is their new book, which revisits a chemical menace you might have thought was behind us, but isn’t: Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children.
BILL MOYERS: Gerald Markowitz, David Rosner, welcome.
DAVID ROSNER: Thank you.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Thank you.
BILL MOYERS: Your book concludes that after all these years, lead is still a problem.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Absolutely. You know, in some ways the story of lead is a great success. We’ve reduced the amount of lead in children's blood and we've gotten lead out of gasoline and we've gotten lead out of paint. But there are still children who have too much lead in their blood. And it is endangering their life chances, endangering their futures.
BILL MOYERS: Does it kill?
DAVID ROSNER: It doesn't kill anymore. It used to send kids into convulsions, into comas and into paroxysms and ultimately killed them up until the 1980s. But we've gotten lead levels down to the point where we're now discovering new, even in some sense, more troubling problems.
BILL MOYERS: What's the most important thing you've discovered about lead since we last talked?
DAVID ROSNER: Well, that in what we would once have considered miniscule amounts lead in children can cause neurological damage, causes behavioral problems, attention deficit disorders, dyslexia. Studies show that children who are exposed in utero can have permanent neurological changes that put them at risk later in life for learning disabilities that lead to failure in school and IQ loss. There are a whole series of problems that we never even thought about in the old days, so to speak.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: It's shocking that we know that children can be prevented from any kind of lead poisoning if they are, live in a home that is lead free. And this is no longer, you know, a priority of the country. We still have many homes millions of homes that contain lead that are endangering our children.
BILL MOYERS: Is it the cost of getting rid of the lead from homes that are already established and we're living in, is that the main barrier?
DAVID ROSNER: For some it is. But the history of public health, and that's what we are, historians, is rife with examples of decisions that are very costly that we decided are necessary for the population as a whole.
But somehow because we have in some sense accepted a definition of what the problem is and who the victims are and we've devalued their lives, we decided not to address this issue because it's quote, “too costly.”
GERALD MARKOWITZ: We really made a morally bankrupt calculation that it is less costly to endanger the health and futures of our children rather than to protect them by paying to remove lead from their homes.
DAVID ROSNER: The message really should be is we need to really think of lead as one symbol, one symptom of this much larger problem of the pollution of our children, pollution of their lives, the pollution of all of us from a whole host of toxic materials that we are, we've grown accustomed to using and tend to put out of our consciousness.
BILL MOYERS: When I first met you, people were saying, scientists were saying, that the smaller the dose of lead, the exposure to lead, the safer it would be.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Scientists now say that it is very likely there is no safe level of lead, that any amount of lead in a child's body, in a child's blood, you know, causes a variety of neurological and intellectual problems. So this is really a sea-change in our understanding of what, the amount of a toxin that causes a problem for children.
DAVID ROSNER: We no longer have children convulsing and going into comas. In other parts of the world they still are from lead exposures. In Africa, in Nigeria, children still are exposed to huge amounts of lead from a variety of sources. And a recent article indicates that we're still selling lead paint, for example, to other countries despite the fact that we in this country no longer use it on our walls. But if you look at where lead poisoning is most prevalent, when you look at the communities that are most affected by lead they're usually communities, poor communities, working class communities, parts of the cities that are more run down because the lead that is dangerous is the lead that comes off of walls of old buildings. And walls of old buildings that are not maintained give off more lead than walls of old buildings that have been recently renovated. It's hard to believe how much lead there is in an old home. I mean, we often think of paint as just a lot of liquid with a little bit of color. But in fact, when you looked at lead paint and you lifted it in your grandfather's garage or, you know, my grandfather's garage, it was very, very heavy. And that's because about, in that can of paint there was 15 pounds of lead. And that was being painted on walls, three coats on each wall, every five to ten years, whatever the renovation took. We were putting literally hundreds and hundreds of pounds of lead, a deadly toxin at that point, that a small fingernail's worth could actually cause convulsions, into the children's environment.
BILL MOYERS: Well, there were ads actually promoting lead paint as the right paint for your home.
DAVID ROSNER: They said that lead paint was a friend of the child and that it could be spread on any surface and it could be fun to do. And they showed these ads in which children are painting their toys, painting their cabinets, painting their walls, painting their furniture with a poison. At the same time when all these cases are appearing in the medical press about lead poisoned children, at the same time when in their own internal documents they're saying, we have these examples, we have, we're being attacked because children and babies are getting poisoned by lead on their cribs.
And so you see this kind of progression of this problem from the 1930s when it once killed children and sent them into comas straight through the early 2000s and now when the CDC says there are a half million children, I mean half million children at risk, a half million children with elevated blood lead levels. This would be a national epidemic, I mean, if this were meningitis, if this were polio. I mean, could you imagine the reaction of the society?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: And the industry said over 50 years ago that this was an insoluble problem, it was a problem of, caused by slums, it was a problem caused by who they called uneducable parents. And so that they washed their hands of the problem and they have still washed their hands of the problem. Parents have played, excuse me, paid the cost of lead poisoning. Landlords have even paid the cost of lead poisoning. The government has paid the cost of lead poisoning. The industry has not paid to get that lead off the walls so future generations of children can be protected.
BILL MOYERS: What your critics say is, look, it's like gasoline in cars. We didn't intend harmful effects to come from a product that was fueling America's economy. We found out later and we're trying to cut back on emissions.
This applies as well to lead and other toxins in our environment. Nobody intended it, it proved to be a consequence of, as even you say in here, the enormous amount of material we've taken out of the earth and turned into the engine of our prosperity.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Well, unfortunately they didn't give them the information about the dangers of lead that they had. They knew that lead was killing children in the 1930s. They knew that researchers were uncovering lead and they were fighting those, the diagnoses of lead poisoning in children. They, even into the 1970s and '80s, they went after researchers like Herbert Needleman who were uncovering the low levels of lead that were damaging children. They were not innocent purveyors of a product. They were actively involved in the political dialog attempting to increase their profits at the expense of public health.
BILL MOYERS: I interviewed Herbert Needleman some years ago for a documentary on Kids and Chemicals. Let's take a look.
BILL MOYERS in Kids and Chemicals: In the late 1970s Dr. Needleman studied the baby teeth of healthy schoolchildren in two Boston suburbs […]
DR. HERBERT NEEDLEMAN in Kids and Chemicals: When we looked at the data, we found that children who had high lead in their teeth, but who had never been identified as having any problems with lead, had lower IQ scores, poorer language function, and poorer attention.
BILL MOYERS in Kids and Chemicals: It was a stunning discovery, and no one knew it better than the lead industry. Leaded gasoline was the single greatest source of lead exposure, and as a result of Needleman’s work the Environmental Protection Agency sped up efforts to ban it. The lead industry fought back, denying Needleman’s science.
JEROME COLE in Kids and Chemicals: Lead has been used in gasoline for over 60 years. There’s simply no evidence that anyone in the general public has ever been harmed by this usage […]
DR. PHILIP LANDRIGAN in Kids and Chemicals: The lead industry attacked it viciously and they attacked Dr. Needleman himself. They accused him of scientific misconduct and they actually filed charges against him at his university and at the National Institutes of Health.
DR. HERBERT NEEDLEMAN in Kids and Chemicals: It’s like a death sentence. If you’re found guilty of scientific misconduct you’re out of business; your reputation is ruined; you’re through.[…]
BILL MOYERS in Kids and Chemicals: The assault went on for three years. For three years, Dr. Needleman stood his ground.
DR. PHILIP LANDRIGAN in Kids and Chemicals: Those were tough years in Dr. Needleman’s life. Eventually those charges were shown to be baseless and the people that brought them forward who had portrayed themselves as neutral scientists were, in fact, revealed as consultants to the lead industry. It took several years for the truth to out. But he triumphed.
DR. HERBERT NEEDLEMAN in Kids and Chemicals: I knew I was right. I mean, I knew that the work was good. I knew that my colleagues who worked with me on it were honest people. But I realized that science is not always the polite intellectual activity that it appears to be; that environmental science sometimes becomes something closer to warfare.
BILL MOYERS: So that's why you called this Lead Wars, I assume?
DAVID ROSNER: That's right.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Yes.
DAVID ROSNER: That's where the title comes from. This is one of the, you know, tactics of this industry, of these industries to essentially control the regulators, to find ways of both undermining, in Herb Needleman's case, the integrity or the scientific integrity of the researcher by trying to attack his personality or his research, his data, but also trying to find ways of getting the regulatory agencies in government to see anyone who in any way cast doubt on their product as biased as opposed to a neutral observer. But it wasn't only lead. The more industries we look at, the more like other industries the lead story is.
BILL MOYERS: How so?
DAVID ROSNER: Well, you look at the asbestos story. Our homes are still, you know, covered with asbestos. It's on, in old homes, it's on the shingles that, you know, we use, it's in the floor coverings that, the vinyl that we use, it’s on the roofs. It's on our boil, older boilers still, but when you look at the history of asbestos the knowledge about that product goes back literally decades and decades and decades.
Then you look at the silica industry, the, when you look at the vinyl chloride industry, when you look at the PCB story. And the same unfortunate, the same unfolding of, what can you say but corporate greed.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: And in addition to the corporate greed there is their war on science. The attacks on global warming. There is a war on bisphenol A, which is in a wide variety of products, it is virtually in every human being in the United States--
BILL MOYERS: What is it?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: It is basically an ingredient in plastic that is in the linings of cans, it's even in receipts that we get every day from a clerk at a store, the credit card receipt. And we take that and that has bisphenol A on it. And we end up absorbing that.
There's been a tremendous amount of research that shows that it is an endocrine disruptor, that it causes a disruption of the endocrine system that can affect reproduction, that can affect development of the fetus. But it's also a carcinogen. And so this is a real problem that the industry has been fighting to cast doubt on really amazing science that has been done by a wide variety of people.
BILL MOYERS: Just this April California's Environmental Protection Agency put it on its toxins list. The American Chemistry Council is suing California to keep this off of that list of dangerous substances.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: And they are supporting research that, as David said creates doubt about the independent scientists who are finding these variety of subtle and not so subtle effects. And they are determined, as they did, as we talked about in tobacco, in global warming, in lead, in asbestos, to make people not be convinced. And if they're not convinced, if they have a question in their mind, then they can continue to sell their chemical.
BILL MOYERS: You two have been yourselves the subject of harassment, legal suits, attacks, efforts to discredit you, right?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Absolutely.
DAVID ROSNER: There was an article in a legal journal that kind of warned us about what was going to happen. It talked about the title of our book--
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Which was Deadly Dust.
DAVID ROSNER: --which was called Deadly Dust. And it said, you know, we could let Rosner and Markowitz play by themselves in their own little play yard of historians, but they, their book has appeared in lawsuits against the industry. And it has become the dominant narrative or it's becoming the dominant narrative of how silicosis is understood. Therefore we have to do something about them. They didn't quite say it in those words, but that was the implication.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Well, they said, you know, be an academic and talk only to academics. But when you talk to the public that's dangerous.
DAVID ROSNER: And then very shortly afterwards we found Deceit and Denial, the next book we did came under enormous attack. They actually subpoenaed the press, they subpoenaed the foundation that supported us, the Milbank Foundation.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: They subpoenaed the peer reviewers of the book for a university press.
DAVID ROSNER: And then they hired a historian to call us unethical, lousy historians, to attack minor footnotes in the book that weren't wrong, but he claimed were wrong. It was quite an attack. And I think the biggest thing they do, though, is try to introduce doubt. One of the issues that they constantly are raising is you don't have definitive, you don't have definitive proof that in 60 years, for example, children might develop cancer from exposure to bisphenol A, right. You don't have the long term studies that we think are really essential.
But you introduce doubt about the data and then you find other people to introduce studies that raise questions about it. So you introduce, it's really the production of uncertainty. Produce uncertainty about the issue and we as an industry have no obligation to prevent disease. And it's completely antithetical to everything that public health could, public health's supposed to be about preventing disease and you always work on imperfect data. You never have the long term 60-year study that tells you you're going to have damage 60 years from now. So that's one of the tactics, it's just to keep saying there's a question, there's a question.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: And to attack people like Herbert Needleman, and to create the kind of uncertainty that gives parents pause. Should I act or should I not act? And that is probably the, as David says, the most dangerous thing they do.
BILL MOYERS: But it's consistent with what you have learned as historians this industry and others have done over the years to whistleblowers, to truth tellers, to neutral scientists and journalists who are just simply trying to report what the public should know.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: But if you can't contest the message then you go after the messenger. But think about all the younger academics who are deciding what they're going to study, what they're going to work on. And for those people it is a real decision. Are they going to go up against powerful industries or are they going to do something safe? And our fear is that more and more younger scholars and younger scientists will end up doing something safe rather than something that could really make a difference in the public arena.
BILL MOYERS: Both of you were witnesses in that big case in Rhode Island. Can you summarize that and what happened?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Well, this was the longest civil trial in Rhode Island history, or at least up to that point. And it was a remarkable effort by the attorney general of the state of Rhode Island to prevent future damages for lead’s harm to the children of Rhode Island. It was really a public health lawsuit, an amazing public health lawsuit.
BILL MOYERS: As I understand it Senator Whitehouse whom I have met had this problem before he was a senator. He had inadvertently exposed his own children to lead when he renovated his house. And then he became attorney general and brought this suit to try to hold the industry accountable.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: It took, unfortunately, his personal tragedy to get him to take this extraordinarily important action. And we were asked to testify in that case to provide the historical evidence of what the lead industry knew about the dangers and what did they do with that knowledge, which basically was to deny that there was a problem, to say that this was a public relations problem for them rather than a public health problem.
Our documents showed that they had been, they'd known about what they were creating, they'd known that children would be poisoned, they were discussing children dying as early as the 1920s and '30s, and yet they had created this huge environmental mess of millions and millions of pounds on the walls of Rhode Island, all of which was waiting to poison future generations.
DAVID ROSNER: And that they had done nothing about it, they continued to market. And that really, I think, enraged the jury.
GERALD MARKOWITZ And we were thrilled, just thrilled when at the end of this trial the jury came back and for the first time in lead industry lawsuits they held three lead companies responsible for cleaning up the mess, in the form of lead paint on the walls of houses throughout Rhode Island.
BILL MOYERS: So the jury said the industry has to clean up and pay for it?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Absolutely.
BILL MOYERS: For the first time?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: First time.
DAVID ROSNER: This was the high point of our professional careers, the idea that we could use history and we could use the legal system really prevent disease for the future, not just pay back for the damages already done that were irreversible to children, but to actually prevent future generations. This was a suit that actually was going to demand somewhere between $1 billion and $4 billion from the companies to clean up the mess they had created. The low point of our lives, our professional lives, came two years later when the Supreme Court in Rhode Island overturned the decision.
BILL MOYERS: And what was the basis for them taking it back?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Basically, they said that the lawsuit was filed under the wrong law, that it was filed under public nuisance law rather than under liability law.
DAVID ROSNER: What's interesting now is that there's another suit coming up in California. And there was fear that the California suit would not go forward because they thought the precedent of the Rhode Island Supreme Court denying the legitimacy of the suit would undermine that case. The Court in California rejected the arguments of the Supreme Court in Rhode Island. The Supreme Court of Rhode Island had said this can't go under, there is no standing in future generations to get damages from these companies because they haven't been damaged yet. Until the kids are damaged you can't actually sue. And California has said that absolutely, public health law is all based upon preventing disease. All regulations are in order to prevent future damage, therefore it can go forward in California. So we're quite excited because in June this court is, this case is going to be heard by a California jury.
BILL MOYERS: Tell me about the Baltimore case that you write about.
DAVID ROSNER: In the 1980s, researchers at Hopkins wanted to find a way of remedying the conditions of Baltimore's housing, which lead was all over the place. And they were trying to find a way of doing it cheaply. So what they did is they set up three kinds of housing, one of which has been renovated to $1,650 worth of renovation, another to $3,500 and the last to $7,000 worth of renovation.
And then they recruited mothers, young mothers with children between the ages of six months to five years to live in these different houses, knowing that each house had lead exposures, but that if they could find which was the cheapest and which was the most effective way of lowering the blood lead level, not actually eliminating lead but lowering it a little bit.
GERALD MARKOWITZ: And perhaps the most troubling part of the experiment was that we've seen the consent forms and the consent forms do not tell parents that living in these homes may cause their children to be lead poisoned.
And as a result they ended up exposing 100 kids to less than fully abated homes expecting that most of those blood lead levels of those children would go down. And in fact, for most of the children their blood lead levels did go down. But some of the children, their blood lead levels went up.
DAVID ROSNER: What the court says is they were using children as human guinea pigs, as canaries in the mine so to speak, they were using them to measure the effectiveness of each one of their methods of abating lead. You know, this is young women, single mothers by and large with children, young children. And--
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Overwhelmingly African American.
DAVID ROSNER: And this is the, one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the country, Johns Hopkins.
BILL MOYERS: Weren't they trying to figure out how little could be spent to protect children in the short term? And wasn't that the wrong question altogether, don’t we need to solve these problem for the long run?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Absolutely. And the lead researchers understood that the only way to solve the problem of lead poisoning in children was to get rid of all the lead from the walls. But they didn't think that there would be the political will to do that.
BILL MOYERS: Why don't we have that political will?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Basically the industry has bought that political system.
DAVID ROSNER: For the past 40 years really we've been living under this set of assumptions about the scarcity in our society, how we can't afford anything and how government can't do anything. Government is the problem, not the answer. That's diametrically opposed to virtually all principles of course of public health which sees government as something that really could do something good. And but we've been taught over and over again that it's too expensive and government is the problem. And therefore we're incapacitated.
BILL MOYERS: With millions, billions of dollars at stake in profits aren't they following a kind of logic of capitalism?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: They absolutely are following the logic of capitalism. But we are all research subjects in a grand experiment where we are being exposed to literally thousands of chemicals that we have no data about. And do we want to know in ten, 20, 30 years that these are going to be either making us gravely ill or killing us?
Do we want our grandchildren to be exposed to this toxic soup of chemicals and only to find out when they're in their 30s and 40s that this is endangering their lives? And there really is a way that we can handle that problem. There is legislation in Congress now, the “Safe Chemicals Act,” which would require the EPA to test all existing and, existing chemicals and the 700 chemicals that are introduced every year and to not allow those that are dangerous to continue.
BILL MOYERS: But Jerry, you know that, as you write in here about the politics of science, that the industry went to Congress in 2005 and got fracking, even before it had come to full blossom, got fracking exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act. And you think, and you have hope for any kind of legislation such as you just described?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: Well, I have hope that there were actually 29 senators who were willing to cosponsor this piece of legislation, but no, I don't have hope that it's going to pass. I think only if environmental groups all around the country, and there are hundreds of environmental groups around the country, really mobilize a mass movement to demand that Congress protect our health, we really care about our health, but we are not doing the political mobilizing that is necessary in order to put that caring about health into legislative action.
BILL MOYERS: So how is the politics of science affecting the fate of America's children?
GERALD MARKOWITZ: You know, in our lifetime we have seen the abandonment of the commitment to try to help those who are most vulnerable in our society. And instead of that commitment today we ask how much does it cost. And by that we mean how many dollars does it cost. We don't ask what does it cost in terms of the health of our children, what does it cost in terms of the futures of our children and of our society.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 14:43:00 -0700
-Being a Democracy Hating, Corporate Power-Defending Newspaper Owner Runs Deep in the Koch Family
This article first appeared at Not Safe for Work Corporation.
There’s a rumor going around that the Koch brothers are interested in buying up the Tribune Company, which includes the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun… And there’s a lot of speculation about what would happen if they did.
Some worry, and rightly so, that the Kochs—whose combined wealth makes them the biggest billionaires on the planet—would integrate the Tribune Co. with the rest of their free-market thinktank-industrial complex, and turn its newly acquired news media property into a gigantic business propaganda machine. Half the reporters at the Los Angeles Times even took a vote saying they’d quit if the Kochs bought the paper.
Others are positively enthusiastic about the possible takeover. Slate’s Matthew Yglesias, for one, argued that "America would be better off for it" because the Kochs would spent lots of money building a better "conservative media product."
But while the country’s media commentators busy themselves trying to predict what Koch ownership would mean for newspapers, many of them are overlooking one important fact: We already know. Because the Koch family has a long history of newspaper ownership.
The Kochs and newspapers go waaay back, right back to their grandfather Harry Koch (yep, that’s a real name), who emigrated to America from the Netherlands in 1888 and bought a newspaper in a podunk railroad town in North Texas called Quanah. With the power of the press behind him, ol' Harry Koch went on to make a fortune for himself and his brood by aggressively rah-rahing on behalf of railroad and banking interests, fighting organized labor and savaging New Deal programs.
Not much is known is known about Harry Koch. Charles and David Koch don’t like to talk about him much. And when they do talk about Grandpa Harry, they don’t tell the truth. Like a lot of billionaires, they want the public to think they're self-made, that they came from humble beginnings, and so they portray their grandpa as if he was a po' immigrant who lived on the edge of poverty, barely scratching out an existence from his tiny newspaper business.
"The whole area was very poor and people didn’t have the money to pay for their subscriptions. So they would pay in produce or chickens or eggs," Charles Koch recalled.
When I travelled to Quanah for the Texas Observer in 2011 to investigate the life of Harry Koch, and to understand the environment that spawned the most powerful brother-oligarchs of our time, I discovered that the truth is much more interesting than Charles' tale. Quanah, Texas, is the world as Harry Koch made it, through his newspapers and railroad. His sons have been remarkably true to the Darwinian-capitalist views Harry ceaselessly proclaimed in his newspaper. So, if you want to know what the Koch brothers have in mind for our country, start by taking a look at the newspaper that their Grandpa Harry Koch ran.
Harry Koch was born in Holland in 1867 into a wealthy family that owned farmland, ran a linseed oil mill and operated a shipping business that ran sailboats between his seaside hometown of Workum, and Amsterdam. Harry Koch's mother died when he was a child, and his father remarried a much younger woman—the daughter of a local banker—and had seven new kids with her.
Life at home didn’t satisfy young Harry. As soon as he turned 21, he emigrated to the United States, hoping to get in on the railroad boom of the late 19th C.
Real estate speculation was a major part of the railroad racket. Railroad companies had acquired huge tracts of public land for free by government grant, and needed to sell it off as quickly and as profitably as possible. That meant railroads were on the constant lookout for sympathetic newspaper publishers to help promote and sell the countless boom towns that had been planned around railroad platforms all across the nation. The railroad town newspaper publishers' job was to hype up local real estate booms and land grabs, providing an opportunity for railroads to dump their properties on gullible settlers at inflated prices
Enter: Harry Koch.
After bouncing around and learning the ropes of the newspaper business, Harry settled in the tiny frontier town of Quanah up near the panhandle, bought two of the town’s newspapers, merged them into the Quanah Tribune-Chief, and quickly established himself as the region’s most ambitious railroad booster.
When Harry moved to Quanah, the town barely existed. There was a cluster of wooden shacks, a crude railroad platform and a whole lot of sunbaked dirt — all of it owned by the Fort Worth and Denver Railway Company. The company had created Quanah just a few years earlier, and wanted to sell as much land in the area as quickly as possible.
Harry’s job was simple: sell Quanah land to as many suckers as he could con. So he dutifully filled his newspaper with wild stories of prosperity, boasting about Quanah’s fertile soil, and the fine qualities of its inhabitants, and the curative properties of the climate.
It wasn’t an easy sell. In the 1890s, North Texas was hit by a massive crop failure, a severe economic depression and low commodity prices, a triple hit that devastated the region and sent many farmers looking for greener pastures. But that didn’t faze Grandpa Harry Koch, who acted like nothing bad had happened, and went about his business hard-selling the superb productivity of the parched, dead land: "Crop failures have been unknown in this valley for twenty years," Grandpa Koch declared in his paper.
He’d print anything, so long as it lured settlers with some loose change in their pockets.
Harry Koch ran his newspaper, the Tribune-Chief like an unofficial sales and advertising division of the Fort Worth and Denver Railway Company, working on commission and kickbacks. Records show that the Ft. Worth-Denver Railway paid Harry directly for his "advertising services." Sometimes the railroad remunerated him in land instead of cash, allowing him to cash in on a real estate bubble that he was helping to inflate. The more he hard-sold the riches of Quanah, the more cash he pocketed.
Grandpa Koch worked hard, and he was credited with helping turn the town into a major regional transportation hub with three different railroad lines going through it. It didn't hurt that he got rich in the process.
Over time, Harry took an increasingly active role in regional development, investing in local businesses and branching out into oil exploration. In 1910, he finally hit the big time: Harry Koch became the founding director, and one of the biggest shareholders, of a local railroad company, the Quanah, Acme & Pacific, which covered a short spur through a handful of towns in North Texas.
After two decades of promoting other people’s railroads, Harry got in on the railroad action himself — and all the perks that went along with it, including the easy money railroads made by bribing and extorting towns desperate to be connected to the railway line. And of course, Harry Koch's Tribune-Chief went all out in the promotional department, printing full-page advertisements for company shares and land in towns created and owned by Koch’s railroad.
Harry Koch went from being a booster to a small time railroad baron, an Ayn Rand hero of the Texas scrub. It was a huge step up in prestige and wealth, and he owed his rise to the way he used his newspaper business.
But Harry Koch wasn’t just about making money for himself. Harry saw himself as a civic-minded publisher who worked for the greater good of his community. He used his paper to educate his readers about complex political, economic, religious and cultural matters. And given that railroad workers were constantly striking for better pay, and farmers in the Populist movement agitated for nationalizing the railroads, regulating Wall Street and breaking up monopolies, the people of Texas were in dire need of the sort of proper education about the free-market facts, that Grandpa Harry Koch heroically provided.
Here are some of Grandpa Harry Koch's editorial highlights:
On unions & strikes:
Harry Koch was no friend of unionized labor. In 1897, not long after he moved to Quanah, Harry penned an impassioned editorial expressing his outrage over the way he was treated by the street railway workers of Galveston, Texas, who decided to strike on the day the National Editorial Association came to town for its annual convention, thereby rudely interrupting a procession of lavish dinners, boozing and partying. Harry was there, and described how the respectable guests were put in the awful predicament of having to walk, with their feet, from one bar to the next. But the newsmen didn’t have to endure the humiliation for long. "Santa Fe officials took pity on the suffering newspaper men and made up a train to Woolman’s lake where the oyster roast was to be held," Grandpa Harry wrote.
On government regulations:
Harry disapproved of financial regulations—or, for that matter, regulations or laws of any kind. He was an anarcho-libertarian before the term was invented! "If we depended upon laws to make us perfect the United States should be a near Utopia and Texas would be the most heavenly spot on earth," wrote Harry, sounding like one of the gazillions of libertarians paid to imitate Grandpa Harry in the Cato Institute, Reason magazine, and elsewhere. This insight didn't stop Grandpa Harry from laughing at the thousandsof people who had been defrauded by Charles Ponzi, calling them "suckers" and "idiots."
"In dear old Boston, 11,126 suckers are to hold a conference to discuss ways and means to recover some of the money they entrusted to Ponzi, a former convict. We sincerely hope most of these creditors will bring a guardian along, otherwise it may endanger the peace of the community to have so many idiots come together."
On Rockefeller and oligarch philanthropy:
Harry Koch defended fellow industrialist John D. Rockefeller from critics who accused the robber baron of setting up Chicago University to whitewash his crimes:
"True, Rockefeller’s money is tainted, but how much money is there in circulation that has not at one time or another been possessed by dishonorable men or women? … No person is altogether good or bad, and it seems to us that as long as a bad man is willing to put his money to a good cause, build universities, churches or hospitals, he should not be refused and encouraged to use his money to baser ends."
On ethnic diversity:
Harry Koch frequently weighed in on matters of race. Among other things, Charles Koch's grandpa wrote that he believes "Jews are poor politicians" and that black folks can’t be expected to live up to the moral standards of the white race.
"Marrying comes as easy to some negroes as changing their places of residence. One old negro who died here not long ago, had at least three wives living in Quanah, and several more in neighboring towns. Nobody ever thinks about prosecuting a negro for bigamy, and we suppose it is right not to hold Africans but partly civilized too strictly amenable to laws made by and for white people."
On monopoly power:
Koch published a passionate defense of monopolies and trusts, which he said got a bum rap for no reason at all.
"It is fashion this day and time for democratic newspapers to jump on to trusts and denounce them, whether good or bad. As for the Tribune-Chief, we are enough of a heretic to look upon them with a passive eye and believe that capital has the right to combine. Trusts mark a natural and important and interesting phase of our development. There is nothing in them to be afraid of: they cannot hurt the people, although we, if we pleased, could crush them. We are the people, they are our servants, our creation, altogether ours. We should therefore hold ourselves towards the trusts as masters, proud of what is good in them, anxious to remedy what is evil. And when Europe pales at the tramp of our industrial march, let us remember that we owe to the trusts much of this new-borne prestige… "Let this thing be borne in mind as significant, that all real trusts, all that are destined to succeed and endure, are established on a basis of permanent lower prices for their products. Everybody knows that sugar and oil have been considerably cheaper since these industries have been under trust control. And the same is true, barring periods of fluctuation, of all industries under effective monopoly, from steel rails to cigarettes…"
Harry loved monopolies — but not so much democracies, which he called "Mob-ocracy."
In a 1934 editorial headlined "Democracy’s Problem," Charles Koch's grandpa expressed to readers his concern that democracy might not be all that it’s made out to be: "Mobocracy has long since been discarded as undesirable, even if attainable, and representative democracy has in operation disclosed many defects. . ." (According to the Cato Institute, founded by Harry’s grandson Charles, our wise Founding Fathers agree with Mr. Koch: "Contrary to what propaganda has led the public to believe, America’s Founding Fathers were skeptical and anxious about democracy. They were aware of the evils that accompany a tyranny of the majority. The Framers of the Constitution went to great lengths to ensure that the federal government was not based on the will of the majority and was not, therefore, democratic.")
On public pensions:
Harry Koch raised the "welfare queen" alarm even before the country passed its first welfare laws.
In 1935, Harry Koch described how a dangerous mob of black people descended on his newspaper after a rumor spread "among Quanah’s colored population that the Tribune-Chief contained a request from the government that every man past sixty should report as an applicant for an old age pension." Harry says that was enough to get "every elderly negro in town" cramming into Tribune-Chief‘s offices. It was proof positive that African-Americans (whom you might recall Harry considered "partly civilized" and unable to observe "laws made by and for white people") were already scheming to exploit government programs made for honest white folk.
The Quanah Tribune-Chief kept readers entertained with funny tales about the local black community's zany hijinx in racist, segregated Texas. Here’s one:
An old Negro, passing a graveyard, saw the grave of a man he had known and paused to read the words on the tombstone. Finally he had it: "I still live," read the inscription. "Jes’ look at dat," exclaimed Old Ned. "Who he think he fooling’? If I’m ever dead, I sho’ll be man enough to own up to it."
Blame Heredity, Not Nature Both the Texas Senate and House are reported to be favoring bills providing for the sterilization of some of the inmates of insane asylums and prisons. Such measure is expected to greatly cut down the number of habitual criminals and mental freaks.
On the assassination of elected officials:
In the 1930s, Harry Koch’s Tribune-Chief joined the smear campaign against Huey Long, the popular Democratic Senator from Louisiana who was keen on challenging FDR from the left. To Harry, Huey was a covert Bolshevik for proposing to cap individual' net worth, and to set up a genuine welfare system that would redistribute the wealth. After the Louisiana Senator was by a killed by a lone gunman in 1935, Harry all but approved of the murder:
"Huey Long was shot by a doctor Sunday evening after he had left the Louisiana legislature. Fighting people like he did and depriving them of a livelihood, the shooting did not come unexpectedly. Bill Maddox, who went to school with him said Huey was very bright but greatly disliked by the other boys, while Huey’s younger brother says he had to do his fighting for him."
Of course, Huey Long wasn’t the only covert commie plotting to undermine the United States. As he fought against the New Deal, Harry Koch became a chronic Red-baiter. In a 1938 editorial, he warned his readers (particularly the ones who were "Americans who believe in America") that "Communists were working particularly within the schools" and that "it is the duty of every parent to inspect closely material of a radical nature which is infiltrated ever as skillfully into the public school system."
What Harry didn’t tell his readers was that his own son, Fred Koch, had just come back from the Soviet Union, where he was under contract with Comrade Stalin to build 15 refineries, train commie engineers and beef up Soviet energy independence. Fred made a killing working for the Soviet Union, taking home a $5 million nut for himself, but that didn’t stop Fred Koch from carrying on his father’s red-baiting tradition. Fred Koch took the obsession to new paranoid heights when he helped found the John Birch Society in 1958, after which he toured Elk Lodges and YMCAs across America, arguing for the reimposition of segregation, denouncing President Kennedy as communist agent and traitor, and warning people of a diabolical commie plot to subvert America using labor unions, gays, Jews, blacks and that most evil and cunning of all Soviet-trained commie traitors, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
When I stepped out of Quanah’s little courthouse, my eyes squinting from hours of staring at dim microfilm, it was as if I was still in Harry Koch’s horrible little dreamworld, because Quanah today is the perfect expression of the Koch family’s ideal world — as ignorant, poor and powerless as Harry would have wanted it to be. Every local I met acted like a pliant peasant: they were too poor, too sick and too tired to care.
In 2011, the Koch family still owned most of downtown Quanah, as well as the gypsum factory on the outskirts of town. Another billionaire owned a massive cattle ranch outside the city limits, where hired hands earn $150 a day—flat rate. "I gotta make sure there enough water, I gotta move them from one patch of land to another, I gotta round em up and drive them into a pen for transportation... you name it, I gotta do it. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get it done. Five hours, two hours or 18 hours. It pays $150," one of the ranch hand told me. "That’s just the way it is."
If Harry Koch were still alive, he wouldn’t even have to keep putting out his paper, because Quanah, and all the hundreds of other towns like it all over Texas, have so internalized the Kochs' Darwinian ideology, now under the banner of "libertarianism," that heavy-handed persuasion is no longer as necessary as it was in the days when labor unions and socialism were powerful forces.
Perhaps that’s the real reason why the Kochs are so interested in applying Grandpa Harry's formula to the few remaining newspaper holdouts, especially targeting a major coastal city like L.A. — one of the last regions in America that hasn't yet been Quanah-fied.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 14:16:00 -0700
-Fuel on a Mideast Fire: U.S. Intervention in Syria Would Make Catastrophic Situation Even Worse
Politically-driven demands for direct US intervention in Syria – more arms to the rebels, establishing a 'no-fly' zone, creating a safe area somewhere – have been flying around for months. So far, President Obama and the Pentagon leadership have resisted the political pressure. But Obama’s resistance has been weak and cautious; we don’t have enough evidence yet, it’s not clear the red line has been crossed. The clear implication is that if there is more evidence, if some claimed red line is crossed, then all bets are off – and in today’s diplo-speak, “all options are on the table.”
Now, allegations of chemical weapons being used in Syria and Israeli airstrikes against Syrian military targets have given rise to a whole escalating campaign for direct US military intervention. And it’s getting very dangerous.
Most, though not all, of the calls for intervention come from the same people who led the calls for invading Iraq: neo-cons and other hard-line militarists, pundits and Congressmembers, mainly Republicans but plenty of Democrats too, including the 'humanitarian hawks', those who never saw a human rights crisis that didn’t require US military involvement to solve. It’s not a coincidence that many of the loudest voices – people like Republican Senator and defeated presidential contender John McCain and others – have been calling for direct intervention and regime change for more than two years now, starting way before any allegations of chemical weapons ever surfaced.
Making the rounds of the Sunday talk shows last week in the midst of the 'chemical weapons' hysteria, McCain’s call for escalating US intervention in Syria was that Obama needs to do “what we've been demanding for more than two years.” It was actually a fascinating acknowledgement that McCain's concern isn't with any alleged chemical weapons use – it's the same regime change he's been demanding since Syria's edition of the Arab Spring erupted more than two years ago, when no such chemical weapons allegations were on the table.
But the bi-partisan support for militarism remains. At least as far back as President Johnson in the 1960s, too many liberal Democrats believed they could only advance a domestic social agenda of civil rights, health care, education, etc., if they were prepared to out-macho the Republicans. They reversed the lesson Martin Luther King taught us, of the need to link civil rights to the struggle for peace if either is to have any chance. And what we’ve seen instead is a pattern of Democrats in government who still act on the belief that a hawkish, militarized foreign policy is necessary to advance any social policy that benefits anyone beyond the 1%.
The drumbeat is spreading. Former New York Times editor Bill Keller, reprisinghis 2003 “reluctant” support for the Iraq war, once again supports US armed intervention in Syria. Why will this time be better? Well this time, unlike Iraq ten years ago, Syria represents a “genuine, imperiled national interest, not just a fabricated one. A failed Syria creates another haven for terrorists, a danger to neighbors who are all American allies, and the threat of metastasizing Sunni-Shiite sectarian war across a volatile and vital region."
Guess he hasn’t looked very carefully at Iraq today. His point about what happens if Syria collapses is true (despite his leaving out the far more dire impact on the Syrian people), but he ignores the crucial point that his description of a future failed Syria if we don’t intervene, matches precisely what exists today in Iraq – as a direct result of US intervention. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the exploding Sunni-Shi’a violence across Iraq and over the borders into Syria among other places; today’s post-intervention Iraq is precisely what Keller warns of if the US doesn’t join the Syrian civil war. He didn’t look at Lebanon, where the already-shaky confessional system French colonialists imposed in the 1930s is under renewed strain from the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees pouring into the country, as well as the political-military pressure of the Syrian civil war itself. He didn’t look at Jordan, where more than 500,000 Syrian refugees have stretched the country’s social fabric to a near-breaking point.
Oh yeah, as to his abject years-later apology for getting it wrong on Iraq, a mistake he recently called “humbling?" Not to worry – he’s figured it all out. This time will be different, because “getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.” For Keller, and for too many like him, it seems that “getting over Iraq” is today’s equivalent of the Iraq-era “getting over Vietnam.”
It is important to recognize one of the key differences between this drumbeat for war and that of the pre-Iraq period in 2002-03: unlike the years of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith, the most important war hawks are not occupying the White House and the top echelons of the Pentagon. While not enough – Obama’s resistance to the calls for war is dangerously weak – the administration’s position is a far cry from echoing those calls for war. The Vice-President, Secretaries of State and Defense, none of them are pushing for war. And in the Pentagon, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described himself as “cautious” regarding greater US military intervention in Syria, because of explicit “doubts that it would halt the violenceor achieve political reconciliation.” That’s all important – even though so far the proponents of a new US war in the Middle East have shown far more energy and intensity than its opponents. That’s what has to change.
The failure of militarism
What neither side of the Washington debate have considered, however, is that the overall escalating crisis in the Middle East is taking place in the context of the significant decline of US power and influence. With US economic and diplomatic power reduced, military force remains the one arena in which the US is the indisputable champ. The $800 billion annual US military budget has become largely irrelevant in determining history. The US-NATO campaign in Libya was partly, though not entirely, an attempt to remilitarize problem-solving in the region and thus re-legitimize US centrality. But it failed.
What the civil war in Syria and the Arab spring have exposed is that the massive political and social transformation and real regime change underway is led by people themselves – largely without military force and certainly with no role for the US. US military involvement serves only to escalate the destruction, while distracting from other failures. The people on the ground engaged in those political struggles don’t want US military intervention; the only ones who benefit are the arms manufacturers whose CEOs and shareholders continue to reap billions of blood dollars in profit.
War hurts civilians, but US wars hurt and kill civilians far from the US – so consequences remain far from US public consciousness. The problem for US policymakers is that an arms embargo also hurts their key campaign contributors: the arms dealers. The US remains the largest arms exporter in the world; can anyone doubt that sending US arms to one side of Syria’s civil war (even, or especially, if it extends the war) helps justify things like the pending $10 billion arms deal to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE? Or that instability in Syria, whatever its cause, can only help reinforce calls for increasing the existing $30 billion ten-year commitment of US military aid to Israel? No wonder the international Arms Trade Treaty – not to mention any potential for global gun control – remain far from the top of the agenda in Washington.
Let's start with the 'even if' argument. Use of chemical weapons is illegal; there are separate international laws prohibiting such weapons, and any use, by any side, is undoubtedly a war crime. But how would escalating the civil war with more arms to the opposition side, or creation of a Libya-style US or US-NATO no-fly zone, prevent any further use of chemical weapons – inherently something as easily hidden in a civilian garage as in a military storage facility? It would not; it would only insure that more Syrians would die and be forced from their homes.
As it was in Libya, creation of a no-fly zone is widely understood as a step towards regime change. According to Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense during the US intervention in Libya, the first act in imposing a no-fly zone is an extensive bombing campaign – an act of war. This time around, that would mean bombing Syria, to destroy its sophisticated anti-aircraft system. How many civilians would die in that bombardment, given the widespread presence of anti-aircraft facilities across the country, including in populated areas?
We should also note that Israel’s ability to send bombers to attack several discrete sites in Syria, apparently from the skies above Lebanon, has little relation to the consequences of flying the dozens of US sorties flown directly into Syrian airspace that would be needed to neutralize the entire strategic Syrian anti-aircraft system. Drones won't be enough for this one. So when the first US bomber pilot is shot down, and special forces are sent in to rescue him, what happens to the 'no boots on the ground' rule? Ignore it because the special forces guys wear sneakers instead of boots? Do we really want to claim that killing more Syrians with conventional bombs, to prevent the future possible use of alleged chemical weapons, is somehow a legitimate 'humanitarian' effort?
Second, we should note that even the US government officials themselves acknowledge they don't have specific enough evidence chemical weapons were used at all. And even if they were (which is certainly a possibility), they appear to have no evidence of who used them. Reports from UN human rights investigator Carla del Ponte point to use by the rebel forces, not the regime. Footage circulating on the Internet shows several ill people whose symptoms appear to include dilated pupils and a bit of foaming from their mouths, but no evidence of who and where they are, when or where they were injured or got sick. A Syrian doctor who treated them tells al-Jazeera that since they showed no sign of bombing or other trauma, no broken limbs or shrapnel, than it must be chemical weapons – but he provides no evidence of why it could not be one or more of the variety of other diseases and poisons (including several common fertilizers) that a quick Internet search indicates can cause those same symptoms. In a hugely complicated civil war, where the fighters on one side include many defectors and weapons from the other side, that means there's simply no definitive evidence of what side, if any, may have used chemical weapons at all.
That's an awful lot of "no evidence" on which to base a new threat of a massive military escalation. And of course, it sounds way too familiar. Who among us has forgotten the certainty of George Bush's lying claims of WMDs in Iraq – yellowcake uranium from Niger, aluminum tubes from China, and of course the ubiquitous Curveball, the source of all that secret information…?
Third, the chemical weapons issue is being used very much as a partisan issue. For neo-conservatives and Republicans there is little downside to supporting unlimited militarism: if Obama and the Democrats resist using military force, they are deemed weak on national security. If they do use force, Obama and the Democrats will be blamed for the inevitable disasters that follow [see Benghazi…]. Certainly there are Democratic hawks, including supporters of so-called “humanitarian intervention,” who never saw a human rights crisis that didn’t need a military response, crying for greater US military involvement. But it's also being used for Republican attacks on Obama. Republicans remain far more supportive of many of Obama’s war policies – his troop surge in Afghanistan, the Libya attack (despite the claimed outrage over Benghazi), the escalating drone war and more – than most Democrats. So they are all too eager to use the current Syria crisis to portray the president as soft on “terrorism,” unwilling to enforce his own “red lines,” and overall insufficient as commander-in-chief.
Finally, the presence or even use of chemical weapons does nothing to change the fundamental illegality of any US military escalation. The fact that use of those weapons represents a violation of international law does not legitimize any military action by an outside party. The international laws of war have not changed – the only two ways a military attack by one country against another can be legal is in response to a UN Security Council authorization, which does not exist, or in the case of immediate self-defense. And there is no way even the most hawkish warmongers among the pundits or the Congress can claim that an unconfirmed small-scale use of an illegal weapon against a few Syrians somehow represents an immediate national threat to the United States. Any US attack – with or without a Congressional mandate (which unfortunately would be all too likely forthcoming if requested) – would still be a violation of international law.
Israel enters the fray
And right now there’s the new question of Israel’s recent attacks on Syria. The rationale for those missile strikes, reported to have killed scores of people including both civilians and high-level Syrian military officers, remains opaque. Ordinarily, the assumption would be that Israel is striking Hezbollah, the key ally of its sworn enemy Iran, in the interest of both weakening Iran and ratcheting up pressure on Washington to escalate military involvement against Syria. The distinction this time is that while Tel Aviv’s focus may well have been on Iran and Hezbollah, the impact of its attack on Syria’s civil war doesn’t serve Israeli interests. Israel has not been leading the charge against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, nor urging the US or others to escalate their involvement in Syria for the simple reason that Assad’s regime, like that of his father from 1970 till 2000, has been very helpful to Israel. Despite all the puffed up rhetoric about Syria as part of a regional 'axis of resistance', the Assad family has largely kept the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights pacified, the border quiet, and the Palestinians in Syria under their control. Instances of cross-border violence were short-lived and rare.
It should not be forgotten that the Assad regimes have also been very useful to the United States. In 1991 Hafez al-Assad sent his air force to join Bush Senior’s Operation Desert Storm attack on Iraq. By 2002 Bashar al-Assad was a partner in Bush Junior’s “extraordinary rendition” program of the global war on terror – accepting prisoners from the US, including Canadian Maher Arar, for interrogation and torture at the hands of Syria’s feared security police.
The great Israeli journalist Gideon Levy described the Israeli attacks on Syriain Ha’aretz:
The truth is, this is just a pilot run. Israel is prodding U.S. President Barack Obama, catching him in his use of the words ‘red line,’ challenging and provoking him to reach the real thing: bombing Iran. Israel wants to reveal the president's nakedness on the Syrian matter in order to present him as naked on the Iranian issue. Perhaps he won't bomb Syria, as Israel requested; the key thing is that he should bomb Iran. This policy of manipulating the American president, at the expense of Syrians' blood, perhaps will pan out in the short run. But it will also make Israel even more loathed in Washington.
The real purpose, as well as the outcome of Israel’s strikes remains uncertain. But whatever the goal, what remains clear is their complete illegality. As is the case with Israel’s nuclear arsenal, unacknowledged by Israel but universally documented outside Washington and Tel Aviv, the Israeli attacks on at least three sites in Syria have neither legitimacy nor legality and must be condemned. No international law allows preventive attacks (these were not even the legally-ambiguous preemptive strikes), not even when they are carried out by Washington’s most-favored ally. Again it’s the 'even if' rule:Even if one of the targets was indeed a shipment of missiles heading for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel still has no legal right to attack Syria.
The silence of not only the US (where it is expected) but in Europe, in capitals in the global South and in the United Nations in response to the Israeli bombing represents the serious problem of double standards in the application of international law. That means global apartheid in foreign policy: not only in the distinction between how poor people’s weapons (suicide attacks, chemical weapons, close-up and personal killing with guns….) and rich countries’ weapons (nuclear arsenals, cruise missiles, drones, B-52 bombing…) are responded to, but in the broader dualism of good/bad violence. It’s the acceptable, perhaps regrettable but necessary violence of the cowboy, the colonizer, the conquistador, the rich, in the form of the US, NATO, Israel, versus the unacceptable, inherently evil violence of the Indians, the colonized, the occupied, the poor.
What if, just for another example, Syria decided it had had enough of Jordan allowing Saudi and Qatari weapons to transit its territory en route to Syrian rebels, and Syria took preventive action by bombing Jordanian military targets near Amman? What if dozens of Jordanian civilians and military officers were killed by Israeli bombs – and what if those killed included some of the 200 or so CIA officers now training Syrian rebels in Jordan? Would the US government simply acknowledge Syria’s right to prevent its enemies from getting arms? Would the United Nations secretary general confine himself to an expression of “concern” and urge “all sides” to be calm?
The Israeli airstrikes ultimately raise the political pressure on President Obama; they don’t change the situation on the ground or change the illegality of any US military attack on Syria.
(And note, this is all besides the hot-button question of just who these armed rebels really are, anyway…)
So what should the US do?
The first thing is to de-escalate the fighting – to staunch the horrific bloodletting that Syria’s civil war is creating for the Syrian people. Initially, that means stopping the arms shipments to all sides. That means negotiating directly with Russia, on a quid pro quo agreement to stop US and allied training and arms shipments to the rebels, in return for an end to Russian and allied arms shipments to the Syrian government.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent Moscow meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the follow-up diplomacy underway hold out a small bit of optimism. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced a joint commitment to “undertake an obligation to use the possibilities that the US and Russia have to bring both the Syrian government and the opposition to the negotiating table.” The first move was a Russian-US call for an international conference with the Syrian government and the opposition. So far, there is no indication that either the US or Russia are prepared make any concession towards pulling back from military support of their respective Syrian sides – but renewed calls for such a conference could be an important start. We should also push to insure that negotiations look carefully at what the economic incentives and pressures are for each of the players as part of seeking non-military approaches to move forward.
The US should also take more responsibility for funding the huge cost of caring for the millions of Syrian refugees and internally displaced. The UN’s humanitarian funding appeals for Syria remain seriously under-resourced– yet Washington’s “humanitarians” continue to debate only military action. A new US policy would include full funding for all United Nations agencies’ appeals, as well as a campaign of diplomatic pressure on all sides to honor international obligations to protect non-combatants.
And instead of debating between a no-fly zone and bombing Syrian weapons depots, or which factions to arm, why not consider deployment of an international human rights observer force? Even without a peace to keep or enforce, a thoroughly international observer team sent under UN auspices (who would have to volunteer as individuals for an extraordinarily risky assignment) might serve to deter some of the worst attacks on all sides.
The US should also support a broad UN mandate for a truly internationally credible inspection team authorized and empowered to investigate all claims of chemical weapons use, by any side in the conflict. The White House cavalierly dismissed del Ponte’s report that her UN team found potential chemical use by the rebel side, not the Syrian regime. But any serious UN investigation must be based on a mandate to identify all violations by all sides. (Perpetrators of any violations of the chemical weapons convention must be held accountable, but the timing of achieving such justice may have to wait for an end to the fighting.)
With an arms embargo and chemical weapons investigation in place, the parties on the ground and their regional and international backers must begin serious negotiations to end the whole set of wars (national, regional, sectarian, global) now being waged in Syria, and to resolve the conflict on a political basis. Those negotiations will have to include the government of Syria, the armed rebels, and the still-struggling non-violent democratic opposition movement that first launched the Syrian spring more than two years ago. To bring the sides to the table, their strategic backers will have to be involved as well – Iran and Russia, and the US, France and Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, will all have to play a role to push their recalcitrant allies to negotiate. The United Nations will have to take the diplomatic lead. And problematic as it is in so many ways, the Arab League will probably need to be involved as well, though perhaps in the form of individual member states of the Arab League participating separately.
To have any hope of long-term viability, those negotiations must be grounded in the broader effort towards creation of a WMD-free zone throughout the Middle East. Once and for all the UN goal articulated back in 1991 must finally be implemented. When the Security Council passed resolution 687 that year to end the first Gulf War, Article 14 called for “establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons.” No exceptions. That means Israel's unacknowledged arsenal of 200-400 high-density nuclear bombs in its Dimona plant would have to be brought under international supervision and destroyed. It means neither Iran nor anyone else in the region would ever be able to create a nuclear weapon any time in the future. And it means all the existing chemical and biological stockpiles – the poor countries' WMDs – would be identified and destroyed. The US drafted and supported that resolution 22 years ago. It's time Washington moved to implement it.
Finally, there should be consideration in the UN – and especially among civil society organizations around the world – of the need to create an international 'conflict oil' regime similar to the work on conflict diamonds, conflict minerals, etc. While continuing to oppose the broad economic and oil sanctions imposed by the US and its allies that have so undermined diplomatic potential and harmed civilian populations in Iran, Iraq, and Syria, international civil society can shape campaigns with Syrian and regional civil society to challenge the use of oil resources as a fuel for conflict and war.
That's the context within which a Syrian arms embargo would really begin to mean something. None of this will be easy. But proposing military escalation as a response to fuzzy, uncertain allegations of chemical weapons, or imposing a no-fly zone because Israel attacked Syria, let alone threatening military force to overthrow a regime, is a far too dangerous road. We've been there before. President Obama needs to get out in front and say “We will not allow ourselves to be bamboozled into war again by unproven claims of WMDs. We will not allow supporters of regime change to hide their intentions in the anodyne language of ‘humanitarianism.’ We have learned the lessons of our dumb war in Iraq. We will not go to war.” But so far, he refuses to say anything so definitive.
That puts the obligation squarely on our shoulders. As we’ve seen with the rising power of global and US civil society movements to use boycotts, divestment and sanctions to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, we must take responsibility as people to raise the political costs of a new war in the Middle East so high, that it stays off the table for good.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 09:22:00 -0700
-Punk at the Met: For People Who've Never Had to Safety-Pin Their Clothes
The new “Punk: Chaos to Couture” exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is sort of like its very own Costume Institute Gala co-chair, Rooney Mara. You know: the type who’d sport some fake tattoos, a new haircut, a blank look, and pretend to be a hacker anarchist within the glamorous context of cinema, when in actuality her family owns the New York Giants and she’s probably never dipped so much as a pinkie toe into the Pirate Bay to acquire what she can’t afford to buy, let alone honed her skills to hack it like Anonymous.
And that’s what this exhibit at the Met is: “punk” for people who never had to safety pin anything themselves. Perhaps this fashion spectacle is what Guy Debord—famed Situationist thinker and influence on Malcolm McLaren in his molding of the punk movement—was talking about all along: a world of spectacle where "all that was once directly lived has become mere representation." We’ve come to the Met to see “Clothes for Heroes,” as promised on the door of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s 1970s London shop at 430 King’s Road, but what we get are clothes for rich people. Really stunning ones, though.
At the entrance of the exhibit, we are presented with a confrontation: one mannequin, clad in revolutionary-red bondage pants—a staple of the Westwood/McLaren shop in the 1970s—faces off with a second mannequin in head-to-toe glitzy Dior from the 2006-2007 collection. The Westwood/McLaren mannequin gestures lewdly at her Dior adversary. The audio is the Sex Pistols versus Rossini. Clearly, this means war.
This confrontation between '70s punk and modern couture sets the tone for the displays that follow, and it’s worth noting that throughout the exhibit, pre-runway Westwood/McLaren ensembles are the sole examples of punk’s “then” in the then-now comparison, or I suppose the “Chaos” part of “Chaos to Couture.” There is no display of actual DIY clothing from actual punk individuals of the late 1970s to represent the bulk of punk’s adherents, who existed outside of the fashion business. The works of these nameless creators might have stood in sharper contrast to the inventions of the couture fashion houses that adopted punk’s DIY ideas and spun them out, but this exhibit prefers to compare fashion with fashion.
While Westwood and McLaren started out clothing punk rock’s brightest stars, instead of runway models and social elites, they were marketing what was, and still is, a fashion business. There was little chaos about it; in fact, their marketing seems to have been pretty direct when you consider that the style and aesthetic of the clothing, as well as the careers of some of the punk rock stars who wore the clothing, were both under McLaren’s management.
So “Chaos,” as it is applied to this exhibit, is a misnomer. To confuse the alternative marketing strategy employed by Westwood and McLaren with chaos is like confusing anarchy itself with chaos, when in fact, the lack of formal government does not mean the same thing as chaos, or disorder, at all. Even Guy Debord and the original Situationists, from which Malcolm McLaren derived much of his inspiration as the impresario of punk, were not proponents of chaos. And McLaren, as impresario, by definition and by his actions was an organizer of spectacle, not a disorganizer of it. One man’s disruption is his seditionary’s well-strategized plan, and for Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, the SEX/Seditionaries shop was always a boutique business with a street look. Those vintage Westwood duds in the exhibit’s main room have silk fringe and mohair knits. Boutique to Couture: this is the real comparison. And there’s nothing wrong with that, so why not call it what it is?
In spite of being fashion-world-centric, the main theme of the exhibit is DIY. Don’t be alarmed, though. This is no Conceptual art show, so you won’t leave saying, “I made better art in third grade.” If you can manage to DIY even a fraction of the clothing on display at this exhibit, then you are definitely in rare company and you might well be the next Alexander McQueen. Sure, trying to relate such unattainably high fashion to punk is like imagining a bunch of squatters on amphetamines attempting to construct a Fabergé egg, but in terms of displaying a collection of beautifully constructed fine art apparel, the Met succeeds mightily.
Even the most seemingly pedestrian pieces, like the Balmain ripped jeans and American flag T-shirt ensemble in the final DIY Destroy room, are truly works of art. Forget the perfectly positioned tears and rust stains; that tattered flag tee is no cotton blend—it’s linen! Understated as old money, and in the shape of working-class fortitude, this shirt is where radical anarchy, rustic Americana and the filigree lacework of a tobacco habit weave seamlessly into one another. It’s excellent.
The other DIY rooms are dedicated to Hardware, Bricolage and Graffiti & Agitprop. The exclusively black-and-white heavy contrast of the DIY Hardware room immortalizes Sid Vicious in grey-scale LED light, illuminating a hallway of black-and-white apparel adorned with flowers of safety pins and staples that could pass for bugle beads. The DIY Bricolage room makes recycling glamorous (as well it should be), with bottle cap masterpieces from Prada and Helmut Lang, as well as the juxtaposition of Gareth Pugh’s 2013-2014 real trashbag designs with Alexander McQueen’s 2009-2010 faux trashbag ones.
But it seems to me that the Bricolage room would have been one step closer to divinity if it featured Imitation of Christ, as this label in so many ways embodies a more recent expression of the punk ethos in fashion, and certainly the Bricolage theme, with its slash-and-sew resurrection of thrift store gems. Also, the radical activist-style spectacles that Imitation’s runway shows inevitably became, and the way that the label spontaneously combusted onto the scene and stumbled into obscurity just as quickly—all this would have made it an even more ideal design house to feature in an exhibit devoted to all things punk. I could have easily seen one of Tara Subkoff’s earlier works, or the dress made of cell phone bills that she created this past February, on display here. It would have added something just a bit more authentically punk to the spirit to the space.
In the DIY Graffiti & Agitprop room, T-shirts were king—though the paint-splattered Marie Antoinette gowns from Dolce were most assuredly queen. But overall, it seemed that the shirt showings could have been more radical. The Maison Martin Margiela T-shirt stating, “There is more action to be done to fight AIDS than to wear this T-shirt but it’s a good start” from the Spring/Summer 2009 collection—which Margiela himself probably had little to do with since he formally left the fashion business later in 2009—would have been a lot more radical 20 years earlier.
I’m thinking of the “I’m HIV positive” T-shirts that were being worn by members of ACT UP as early as 1987 to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic at a time when no one in government or elsewhere wanted to acknowledge it. This is a case in which the fashion was the action, and it was a big deal. Activists wearing those shirts on the New York City subway or in the street in the '80s both frightened people and made them think, because no one was entirely sure how you got the disease then, so the extent to which people with HIV were stigmatized was tremendous. It seemed like this section of the exhibit could have had a lot more of that type of punch—a greater focus on outlining the designers’ activist actions, which in the case of designers like Vivienne Westwood are plenty.
So, in spite of the beautiful garments and the stylish video and sound design accompanying them, such thematic weaknesses leave the astute folks who came for more than the hemlines wondering what this exhibit is trying to say. Is it somehow flaunting the truth: that consumerism swallowed up even the ethos and spirit of a great non-consumerist, DIY production-oriented movement? That in so much swallowing up of the past, there really is “No Future,” just like the Sex Pistols said? The wall of the final room, DIY Destroy, states this:
Anything, that is, except touching or photographing the exhibit.
And this is where, in spite of itself, “Chaos to Couture” does manage to capture the essence of punk in ways that none of its creators could have expected. As alarms go off to reprimand those standing too near the mannequins, museum employees engage in a hypnotic, if threatening, chant of “No photos! No video!” They’re making sure there won’t be any Brian Eno action on those CBGB replica urinals at the front of the exhibit…or anywhere else. This is no Temporary Autonomous Zone.
The Met, simply by being the Met, has created a police state environment that tells us “No!” at every turn—no touching, no photos, no standing too close—even as we stand amidst the larger-than-life images of Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, glittering spikes and staples and spray-paint. Is it an accidental act of détournement? Or just a bit of cheeky irony? With the roar of those alarms sounding off in the name of upholding museum law, it might be enough to propel even the most docile among us into an act of sedition. With so much flash and noise, they might make punks of us yet.
Publ.Date : Wed, 15 May 2013 07:53:00 -0700
-Why You Can't Sleep: The Science of Insomnia
We've all experienced a sleepless night or two, and for some people that's actually the norm. But why do we experience insomnia at all? What is going on in our minds and bodies, to cause this awful condition? Here's what scientists know so far.
The prevalence of insomnia in adults varies widely, depending on how the condition is defined. Most broadly, someone has insomnia if he or she simply suffers from difficulty falling asleep, waking up over and over during the night, or nonrestorative sleep — and according to that definition, up to 50 percent of adults experience insomnia. But only around 20 percent of the population deals with insomnia, if we're going by the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, where insomnia is considered a sleeping disorder (pdf) that lasts at least a month and causes daytime distress.
In any case, our understanding of insomnia is constantly evolving. For many years, insomnia was considered just a symptom of other issues, including depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. The prevailing thought was that if you treated the dominant condition, insomnia would subside as well. Insomnia is now known to be a syndrome in its own right, one that occurs alongside (is comorbid with) other disorders. So if you suffer from depression and insomnia, both issues should be treated at the same time — rather than just treating your depression alone.
To doctors, this type of insomnia, which is not caused by other medical issues or medicines, is called primary insomnia (as opposed to its sibling, secondary insomnia). They further describe the condition by how long it lasts — acute insomnia occurs for days or weeks, while chronic insomnia goes on for a month or more.
The basic models
In the past few decades, scientists have proposed a number of models to describe how chronic primary insomnia arises. One of the foundational paradigms was the "3-P model," referring to the supposed Predisposing, Precipitating and Perpetuating factors of the condition.
The model says that certain attributes, including being highly anxious or a perfectionist, may first make you more susceptible to insomnia. Then, some precipitating event, such as a death in the family or a new job, throws your sleep out of balance, causing acute insomnia. Finally, poor attitudes and perceptions perpetuate insomnia — these can include heightened uneasiness and tension regarding sleep, or poor sleep hygiene.
Over the years, other models have come along, some of which adapted concepts of the 3-P model. For example, the cognitive model, proposed a little over a decade ago, explains that insomniacs are overly worried about sleep and about what happens if they don't get enough of it. These negative thoughts trigger arousal and emotional distress, which essentially plunges people into an anxious state, causing them to actively monitor themselves and the environment for sleep-related threats (noises, body sensations and the like). Of course, this only exacerbates sleeplessness.
But insomnia (and the models to explain it) isn't limited to the psychological realm. Theneurocognitive model explains that people with insomnia show more high-frequency electrical activity in the brain (EEG) when they're going to sleep compared with normal sleepers. This cortical arousal suggests that insomniacs have enhanced sensory or information processing and long-term memory formation during a time when normal sleepers do not, which could ultimately affect sleep. For example, the enhanced sensory processing may make insomniacs more sensitive to and aware of what's going on in the environment.
A common theme in these models and others is this idea of arousal. In fact, many researchers now consider insomnia to be a state of 24-hour hyperarousal, brought on by the interplay between psychological and physiological factors.
Current models suggest insomnia is caused by an interaction between behavioral and neurobiological factors. Courtesy of Elsevier.
On the psychological side of things, we have some of what we've already discussed. One useful cognitive model called the AIE (attention–intention-effort) pathway says that people with insomnia focus their attention on sleep, which leads to an active intention and effort to fall asleep.
The idea here is that normal sleep is automatic and involuntary — it's the result of a de-arousal process that allows homeostatic and circadian factors to engage sleep. But by actively trying to engage sleep themselves, insomniacs are impeding these natural processes and actually maintaining a state of arousal.
Interestingly, scientists have seen evidence of AIE even in the daytime naps of insomniacs. Numerous studies have looked at the Multiple Sleep Latency Test, which involves four or five 20-minute nap opportunities set two hours apart. If someone has gotten poor sleep because of insomnia, it stands to reason that they would be able to fall asleep quicker than someone who slept well the night before — but test after test has shown just the opposite. Some researchers are now speculating that the increased nap latency of insomniacs is due to the demands of the test, which directly asks participants to attempt to sleep at that very moment (insomniacs have basically conditioned themselves to enter a state of arousal when they make a conscious effort to sleep).
This induced arousal, at night and during naptime, has several lines of supporting physiological evidence. For example, studies have shown that insomniacs have higher whole-body metabolic rates — measured by looking at oxygen consumption at periodic intervals throughout the day — than normal sleepers.
Using PET scans, researchers have also investigated brain metabolism differences between insomniacs and normal sleepers. They saw similar results: insomnia patients had elevated global brain metabolism, both asleep and awake. Moreover, the study showed that insomniacs had smaller metabolism declines in wake-promoting regions of the brain when going from waking to non-REM sleep. In addition to this, a recent study found that insomnia patients have increased waking EEG.
Scientists have also examined the body temperatures, galvanic skin responses and heart rates of insomniac patients (all of which are physiological indicators of arousal). The results are not entirely conclusive, but suggest insomniacs have elevated electrodermal activity during the day, and may have elevated heart rates and altered heart rate variability during sleep; also, elderly insomnia patients have elevated core body temperatures at night (given the inconsistencies in the research, we can't say much else about other insomniacs).
Studies on hormone levels have also yielded interesting results, supporting the hyperarousal theory. Patients with primary insomnia apparently secrete less nighttime melatonin, which is known to regulate sleep and wake cycles. On the other hand, norepinephrine, which helps mediate wakefulness, is increased in insomnia patients, even at night. Stress hormones, including cortisol and ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) may also be elevated in insomniacswhen compared with controls.
Scientists' understanding of insomnia points to the condition being a state of hyperarousal, which is mediated by cognitive and physiological factors. But the exact mechanisms behind the arousal are not clear.
Some research suggests that the neurobiology of sleep-wake regulation may provide some answers. To put it simply, the tendency to sleep is regulated by a balance between sleep-promoting neurotransmitter systems and wake-promoting neurotransmitter systems. To facilitate sleep, a group of neurons in the hypothalamus called the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus (VLPO) release the inhibitory neurotransmitters galanin and GABA to shut off the arousal (wake) system. So a faulty VLPO flip-flop switch may prevent the brain from de-arousing.
At the same time, however, other evidence suggests that sleep arises from bottom-up processes. In this sense, sleep may be a local process, an intrinsic property of individual neurons or group of neurons. This concept of local sleep would suggest that hyperarousal is not something that happens globally in the brain — it may instead be a "use-dependent dysfunction" in specific neural circuits.
Future research will no doubt tease out these finer details. And other work may elucidate the role that genetics play in chronic primary insomnia. But the ultimate goal of insomnia research, of course, is to find an effective way to stop the condition in its tracks. Given that insomnia apparently costs us billions of dollars each year, curing the syndrome could have a huge positive impact in a lot of areas.
Publ.Date : Thu, 16 May 2013 11:35:00 -0700
-Popular Resistance Is Percolating Across the Country -- Inspiring Activism That the Corporate Media Always Ignores
Every week we are inspired by the many people throughout the country who are doing excellent work to challenge the power structure and put forward a new path for the country. The popular resistance to plutocracy, concentrated wealth and corporatism is decentralized, creative and growing.
One growing series of protests has been the “Moral Monday” demonstrations in North Carolina. They do not have ‘one demand’ but rather are challenging the systemic corruption, undermining of democracy and misdirection of a state government that puts human needs second to corporate profits – which they have dubbed ‘Robin Hood in Reverse.’ This week 49 of 200 protesters inside the capitol were arrested singing, chanting and echoing many of the same concerns that demonstrators have for the past three Mondays. Last week there were 30 arrests, the week before 17. Among those arrested was an 83 year old retired minister, Vernon Tyson, who was merely a spectator, but he gave a great interview cheering on the protests after his release. And, a group of historians were among those arrested who put these protests in the context of US history.
Another courageous protest involved seven undocumented immigrants who blocked the Broadview Detention Center where immigrants are being incarcerated. They blocked the doors to the detention facility, linking arms together using pipes, chains, and locks. They were protesting the record-high deportations under President Obama, and the lack of leadership from Illinois representatives to call for a suspension of deportations. On the West coast, the always creative Backbone Campaign supported allied faith communities with a giant banner lift over the private for-profit immigration detention center asking “Who Would Jesus Deport?” and an inflatable lady liberty exposing the unjust policies that break up families.
There was a recent victory for Seattle teachers and students that resulted from their citywide protests against standardized testing. The school district announced that testing in the high schools would not occur next year. The teachers said they will keep protesting until the tests are banned from lower grades as well.
We hope the Chicago teachers, who won a major battle with Mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier this year when they went out on strike, have great success this weekend when three days of marches are held against the mass school closings in Chicago. The teachers union has developed a great organizing strategy that unites teachers with students, parents and communities. This battle is one of many across the country to stop the thinly veiled corporatization of education.
In another education protest, the students @FreeCooperUnion continue to occupy the office of the president after one week. They are painting the walls black until he agrees to step down, and are highlighting his $750,000 annual salary. They are protesting a plan to begin to charge tuition at the university; this plan will not affect these students, but future students who attend Cooper Union.
The heart of the conflict faced in the United States is the inequity of an unfair economy supported by a corrupt two party system. This week there was a very creative protest in New York City against the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim of Mexico. He’s made his billions with the help of government allowing a monopoly on phone service resulting in Slim gouging the public. Now he gives a small percentage of that wealth back in philanthropy and people applaud him. But, the protesters were very effective, laughing out loud whenever he spoke. They responded when someone asked “Why is everyone laughing?” with “Because Slim’s philanthropy is a joke!” and followed with mocking kazoos.
In contrast to the world’s wealthiest was the Poor People’s Campaign which marched from Baltimore to Washington, DC ending at Freedom Plaza. The march occurred on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign and raised issues of poverty, police violence, unfair economy and non-responsive government. Another march was announced in Pennsylvania from Philadelphia to Harrisburg from May 25 to June 3 to stop spending on prison construction and instead invest in building communities. Also, from Philadelphia the ‘Operation Green Jobs’ March from Philadelphia to Washington, DC will begin on May 18 and is organized by the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign.
A campaign that is growing every week is the fast food worker strikes. The largest fast food walk out was held in Detroit last week, even the scabs walked out, and this week the strikes spread to their fifth city, Milwaukee, WI. It is great to see these workers, who no doubt saw themselves as powerless, standing up and demanding fairness. If you eat at fast food restaurants, this would be a good time to stop, and let them know why – you support the workers who are demanding a living wage.
US Empire and imperialism continue to cause protest. Obama’s Asia Pivot, moving 60% of the US Navy to the Asian Pacific is causing a lot of distress. On Jeju Island people are fighting for their survival against a massive Navy base. Jeju is the “Peace Island” that was harshly abused during the US occupation of South Korea after World War II before the Korean War. And, South Koreans, who regularly protest against the US military, are protesting the US war games that are practicing dropping nuclear bombs on North Korea and invading it.
Protests are mounting in the United States against the abusive Guantanamo Bay prison where more than 100 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike and two-dozen are being brutally force fed. These prisoners have been held without trial for over 10 years, and even though 88 have been approved to leave, they remain. The Green Shadow Cabinet came out with a statement describing how Obama could close the prison (and why Congress is not an excuse) and what you can do on the 100th day of the hunger strike this Friday. Show solidarity with these prisoners who are being abused by the US government.
Diane Wilson, a shrimper from the Gulf Coast who works with CODE PINK and Veterans for Peace, is on her 15th day of an open-ended solidarity hunger strike in Washington, DC. She explains why she is taking the extreme step of a hunger strike to support the Guantanamo prisoners. And S. Brian Willson is joining Diane in hunger strike.
Another protest related to US Empire occurred in Oak Ridge, TN where Transform Now Plowshares activists protested nuclear weapons by cutting through four chain-link fences and spray-painting biblical messages of nonviolence on a building that warehouses an estimated 400 tons of highly enriched uranium, the radioactive material used to fuel nuclear weaponry. This week an 83 year old nun, Sister Megan Rice, and two other activists were found guilty of damaging government property. As the jury left the courtroom the people in the courtroom sang to them “Love, love, love, love. People, we are made for love.” Sentencing is several months away and they face a potential 30 years in prison.
Environmental protests are boiling up throughout the United States. When President Obama came to New York for a fundraiser (where he raised $3 million), protesters greeted him with signs calling for him to “End the War on Mother Earth” and opposing the KXL pipeline.
Protesters from the Appalachian Mountains came to the EPA in Washington DC to protest polluted water caused by Mountaintop removal for coal. The protesters displayed the dirty, opaque water in jars in front of the EPA. And Climate Justice activists from CoalIsStupid.org blocked a freighter delivering coal in Boston with two men on a lobster boat on May 15th.
But more and more Americans are realizing that while we protest the extraction of oil, gas, uranium and coal, the reality is that the root of the problem is in the American Way of Life (AWOL). One activist from Portland made the point that the Tar Sands starts in our driveways and we need to change the AWOL in order to truly combat it. We agree that our strategy has two prongs: protest and build i.e. Stop the Machine and Create a New World.
In addition to how much energy we each use, we need to look at where our food comes from. An Occupy group in Berkeley, Occupy the Farm, made that point this week when they took over University of California land to grow farm for the community locally.
Another area where we are seeing continued growth in the movement is in thinking through how we do our work and in developing strategy to achieve our goals. We published a live streamer “Code of Ethics” developed by people who work in the citizen’s media. Note the high ethics and cooperative approach they take to getting the media out.
Many are thinking about strategy to make the movement more effective. Gar Alperovitz, a political economist who has been writing about alternatives to big finance capitalism in the United States has a new book out focused on strategy, “What then Must We Do,” and we published a review of the book by Sam Pizzigati of Inequality.org entitled: A Promising Path for Pummeling Plutocracy.
May 17th, Support the Guantanamo hunger strikers on the 100th Day of their hunger strike with phone calls and tweets to the White House and protests in DC, NY, Chicago and other cities.
May 18th, ‘Operation Green Jobs’ March from Philadelphia to Washington, DC organized by the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign.
May 18th to 23rd the Home Defenders League Week of Action against the banks and foreclosures in Washington, DC.
May 18th to 20th there is a weekend of protests against the closure of schools in Chicago.
May 22nd Stop the Frack Attack People’s Forum in Washington, DC.
May 25th Protests against Monsanto everywhere
May 25th to June 3rd March from Philadelphia to Harrisburg against prison spending.
June 1st, Get on the Bus For Bradley Court Martial Trial with buses leaving from Baltimore, MD, Washington DC, New York City and Willimantic, CT.
June 14th to 16th Trade Justice Action Camp in Bellingham, WA by the Backbone Campaign
You can order or print OccuCards to bring with you to these actions. There are cards for all of the issues being protested above and new cards are being created.
And watch for the transformation of October2011/Occupy Washington DC into Popular Resistance, daily news and resources for effective activism, coming in June. Sign up here if you want to be notified of the launch.
Publ.Date : Fri, 17 May 2013 13:44:00 -0700