Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Con vs. Con

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During the presidential election cycle, liberals display their gutlessness. Liberal organizations, such as MoveOn.org, become cloyingly subservient to the Democratic Party. Liberal media, epitomized by MSNBC, ruthlessly purge those who challenge the Democratic Party establishment. Liberal pundits, such as Paul Krugman, lambaste critics of the political theater, charging them with enabling the Republican nominee. Liberals chant, in a disregard for the facts, not to be like Ralph Nader, the “spoiler” who gave us George W. Bush.

The liberal class refuses to fight for the values it purports to care about. It is paralyzed and trapped by the induced panic manufactured by the systems of corporate propaganda. The only pressure within the political system comes from corporate power. With no counterweight, with no will on the part of the liberal class to defy the status quo, we slide deeper and deeper into corporate despotism. The repeated argument of the necessity of supporting the “least worse” makes things worse.

Change will not come quickly. It may take a decade or more. And it will never come by capitulating to the Democratic Party establishment. We will accept our place in the political wilderness and build alternative movements and parties to bring down corporate power or continue to watch our democracy atrophy into a police state and our ecosystem unravel.

The rise of a demagogue like Donald Trump is a direct result of the Democratic Party’s decision to embrace neoliberalism, become a handmaiden of American imperialism and sell us out for corporate money. There would be no Trump if Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party had not betrayed working men and women with the North American Free Trade Agreement, destroyed the welfare system, nearly doubled the prison population, slashed social service programs, turned the airwaves over to a handful of corporations by deregulating the Federal Communications Commission, ripped down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks that led to a global financial crash and prolonged recession, and begun a war on our civil liberties that has left us the most monitored, eavesdropped, photographed and profiled population in human history. There would be no Trump if the Clintons and the Democratic Party, including Barack Obama, had not decided to prostitute themselves for corporate pimps.

Con artists come in many varieties. On Wall Street, they can have Princeton University and Harvard Law School degrees, polished social skills and Italian designer suits that are priced in the tens of thousands of dollars. In Trump tower, they can have cheap comb-overs, fake tans, casinos and links with the Mafia. In the Clinton Foundation, they can wallow in hundreds of millions of dollars from corporate and foreign donors, including the most repressive governments in the world, exchanged for political favors. But they are all crooks.

The character traits of the Clintons are as despicable as those that define Trump. The Clintons have amply illustrated that they are as misogynistic and as financially corrupt as Trump. Trump is a less polished version of the Clintons. But Trump and the Clintons share the same bottomless guile, megalomania and pathological dishonesty. Racism is hardly limited to Trump. The Clintons rose to power in the Democratic Party by race-baiting, sending nonviolent drug offenders of color to prison for life, making war on “welfare queens” and being “law-and-order” Democrats. The Clintons do a better job of masking their snakelike venom, but they, like Trump, will sell anyone out.

The Clintons and the Democratic Party establishment are banking that the liberal class will surrender once again to corporate power and genuflect before neoliberal ideology. Bernie Sanders will be trotted out, like a chastened sheepdog, to coax his followers back into the holding pen. The moral outrage of his supporters over Wall Street crimes, wholesale state surveillance, the evisceration of civil liberties, the failure to halt the devastation of the ecosystem, endless war, cuts to Social Security and austerity, will, the Democratic Party elites expect, airily evaporate. They may not be wrong. Given the history of the liberal class, they are probably right.

Sanders supporters, however, were given a stark lesson in how the political process is rigged. Some are disgusted and politically astute enough to defect to the Green Party. But once they no longer play by the rules, once they become “spoilers,” they will be ignored or ridiculed by a corporate press, excoriated by liberal elites and chastised by their former candidate.

Liberals, as part of the quid pro quo with the establishment, serve as attack dogs to keep us within the deadly embrace of corporate capitalism. Liberals are tolerated by the capitalist elites because they do not question the virtues of corporate capitalism, only its excesses, and call for tepid and ineffectual reforms. Liberals denounce those who speak in the language of class warfare. They are the preferred group—because they claim liberal values—used by capitalist elites to demonize the left as irresponsible heretics.

Liberals are employed by corporate elites in universities, the media, systems of entertainment and advertising agencies to perpetuate corporate power. Many are highly paid. They have a financial stake in corporate dominance. The educated elites in the liberal class are capitalism’s useful idiots. They are tolerated because they contribute, by discrediting the left, to the maintenance of corporate power. They do not think or function independently. And they are given platforms in academia and on the airwaves to marginalize and denounce those who do think and function independently.

The battle between a bankrupt liberal class and the left will color the remainder of the presidential race. What is predictable, and sad, is that so many self-identified progressives and their organizations will once again serve as the pawns of neoliberalism. They will practice censorship. Progressive sites in the primaries refused to reprint columns by critics such as Paul Street, who did not see Sanders as the new political messiah. And as we move closer and closer to the election, these sites will become ever more hostile to the left and ever more craven in their defense of Clinton.

The system of corporate power, which Clinton and Trump will not alter, will continue to be ignored. The poison of imperialism and corporate capitalism, steadily hollowing out the country and pushing it toward collapse, will be sidelined. The campaign will be a political reality show, this season with a genuine reality star as a presidential candidate. Campaigning will ignore ideas to elicit emotions—fear, anger and hope. Insults will fly back and forth over social media. The race will be devoid of content. Clinton and Trump, in this world of political make-believe, will say whatever their listeners want to hear. They will furiously compete for “undecided” voters, essentially the apolitical segment of the population. And once the election is over, one of them will go to Washington, where corporations, rich donors and lobbyists—who they represent—will continue with the business of governing.

After November, our role will be over. We will no longer be asked to answer polling questions designed to elicit certain responses. We will no longer be asked to play a walk-on part in the tawdry drama called democracy. The political carnival on television will be replaced by other carnivals. The corporate state will claim democratic legitimacy. We will remain in bondage.

The real face of the corporate state, and the evidence that our democracy has been extinguished, will be on display during the party conventions in the streets of Cleveland and Philadelphia. The blocks around the convention halls will be militarized and flooded with police. There will be restricted movement. Pedestrians will be stopped at random and searched. Helicopters will hover overhead. Permits to hold rallies will only be issued to those, such as Sanders supporters, who stay within the parameters imposed by the political charade. Groups suspected of planning protests to defy corporate politics have already been infiltrated. They will be heavily monitored. Those who attempt to organize protests without permits will be arrested or detained before the conventions begin. The cities will be on lockdown.

If you want to see what America will look like soon, across the country, shift your focus from the convention halls to the streets in Cleveland and Philadelphia. It is in the streets that our corporate masters will win or lose. And they know it.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

We Must Understand Corporate Power to Fight It

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In the winter of 1941, a Jewish gravedigger from Chelmo, the western province of Poland, appeared in Warsaw and desperately sought a meeting with Jewish leaders.

He told them the Nazis were rounding up Jews, including the old, women and children, and forcing them into what looked like tightly sealed buses. The buses had the exhaust pipes redirected into the cabins. The Jews were killed with carbon monoxide. He had helped dig the mass graves for thousands of corpses until he escaped.

On the way to Warsaw, he had gone from village to village, frantically warning the Jews. Scores of Jews, in the villages and ultimately in Warsaw, heard his testimony of horror and dismissed it.

A handful of listeners, however, including Zivia Lubetkin, who two years later would help lead the uprising by 500 armed Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, instantly understood the ultimate aims of the Nazi state.

“I don’t know how we intuitively shared the same horrible conviction that the total annihilation of all the Jewish communities in Nazi-occupied Europe was at hand,” she wrote in her memoir, “In the Days of Destruction and Revolt.”

She and a handful of young activists started planning a revolt. From that moment forward, they existed in a parallel reality.

“We walked along the overcrowded streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, hundreds of thousands of people pushing and rushing about in fright, antagonistic and tense, living the illusion that they were fighting for their lives, their meager livelihood, but, in reality, when you closed your eyes you could see that they were all dead …”

The established Jewish leadership warned the resistance fighters to desist, telling them to work within the parameters set by the Nazi occupiers. The faces of the established Jewish leaders, when they were informed of the plans to fight back, she wrote, “grew pale, either from sudden fear or from anger at our audacity. They were furious. They reproached us for irresponsibly sowing the seeds of despair and confusion among the people, for our impertinence in even thinking of armed resistance.”

The greatest problem the underground movement faced, she wrote, was “the false hope, the great illusion.” The movement’s primary task was to destroy these illusions. Only when the truth was known would widespread resistance be possible.

The aims of the corporate state are, given the looming collapse of the ecosystem, as deadly, maybe more so, as the acts of mass genocide carried out by the Nazis and Stalin’s Soviet Union.

The reach and effectiveness of corporate propaganda dwarfs even the huge effort undertaken by Adolf Hitler and Stalin. The layers of deception are sophisticated and effective. News is state propaganda. Elaborate spectacles and forms of entertainment, all of which ignore reality or pretend the fiction of liberty and progress is real, distract the masses.

Education is indoctrination. Ersatz intellectuals, along with technocrats and specialists, who are obedient to neoliberal and imperial state doctrine, use their academic credentials and erudition to deceive the public.

The promises made by the corporate state and its political leaders—we will restore your jobs, we will protect your privacy and civil liberties, we will rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, we will save the environment, we will prevent you from being exploited by banks and predatory corporations, we will make you safe, we will provide a future for your children—are the opposite of reality.

The loss of privacy, the constant monitoring of the citizenry, the use of militarized police to carry out indiscriminate acts of lethal violence—a daily reality in marginal communities—and the relentless drive to plunge as much as two-thirds of the country into poverty to enrich a tiny corporate elite, along with the psychosis of permanent war, presage a dystopia that will be as severe as the totalitarian systems that sent tens of millions to their deaths during the reigns of fascism and communism.

There is no more will to reform, or to accommodate the needs and rights of the citizens by the corporate state, than there was to accommodate the needs and rights of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. But until the last moment, this reality will be hidden behind the empty rhetoric of democracy and reform. Repressive regimes gradually institute harsher and harsher forms of control while denying their intentions. By the time a captive population grasps what is happening, it is too late.

The elaborate ruses set up by the Nazis that kept Jews and others slated for extermination passive until they reached the doors of the gas chambers, usually decorated with a large Star of David, were legend. Those taken to death camps were told they were going to work. Unloading ramps at Treblinka were made to look like a train station, with fabricated train schedules posted on the walls and a fake train clock and ticket window. Camp musicians played. The elderly and infirm were escorted from the cattle cars to a building called the infirmary, with the Red Cross symbol on it, before being shot in the back of the head. Men, women and children, who would die in the gas chambers within an hour, were given tickets for their clothes and valuables.

“The Germans were quite courteous when they led people to be slaughtered,” Lubetkin noted acidly.

Jews in ghettos, awaiting deportation to the death camps, were divided by those who worked for the Nazis and therefore had certain privileges, and those who did not. This division effectively pitted the two groups against each other until the final deportations. And collaborating with the killers, in the vain hope that they would be spared, were Jews themselves, organized into Jewish Councils, or Judenrat, and formed into units of the Jewish police, along with what Lubetkin called “their cronies, the spectators and profiteers, the smugglers.”

In the death camps, Jews, to stay alive a little longer, worked in the crematoriums as sonderkommandos. There are always those among the oppressed willing to sell out their neighbor for a few more crusts of bread. As life becomes desperate, the choice is often between collaboration and death.

Our corporate masters know what is coming. They know that as the ecosystem breaks down, as financial dislocations create new global financial meltdowns, as natural resources are poisoned or exhausted, despair will give way to panic and rage.

They know coastal cities will be covered by rising sea levels, crop yields will plummet, soaring temperatures will make whole parts of the globe uninhabitable, the oceans will become dead zones, hundreds of millions of refugees will flee in desperation, and complex structures of governance and organization will break down.

They know that the legitimacy of corporate power and neoliberalism—as potent and utopian an ideology as fascism or communism—will crumble. The goal is to keep us fooled and demobilized as long as possible.

The corporate state, operating a system Sheldon Wolin referred to as “inverted totalitarianism,” invests tremendous sums—$5 billion in this presidential election alone—to ensure that we do not see its intentions or our ultimate predicament.

These systems of propaganda play on our emotions and desires. They make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge. They get us to identify with the manufactured personality of a political candidate. Millions wept at the death of Josef Stalin, including many who had been imprisoned in his gulags. There is a powerful yearning to believe in the paternal nature of despotic power.

There are cracks in the edifice. The loss of faith in neoliberalism has been a driving force in the insurgencies in the Republican and Democratic parties. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, of course, will do nothing to halt the corporate assault. There will be no reform. Totalitarian systems are not rational. There will only be harsher forms of repression and more pervasive systems of indoctrination and propaganda. The voices of dissenters, now marginalized, will be silenced.

It is time to step outside of the establishment. This means organizing groups, including political parties, that are independent of the corporate political machines that control the Republicans and Democrats.

It means carrying out acts of sustained civil disobedience. It means disruption.

Our resistance must be nonviolent. The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, condemned to imminent death and alienated from a Polish population steeped in anti-Semitism, had no hope of appealing to the Nazi state or most of the Poles.

But we still have options. Many who work within ruling class structures understand the corruption and dishonesty of corporate power. We must appeal to their conscience. We must disseminate the truth.

We have little time left. Climate change, even if we halt all carbon emissions today, will still bring rising temperatures, havoc, instability and systems collapse to much of the planet.

Let us hope we never have to make the stark choice, as most of the ghetto fighters did, about how we will die. If we fail to act, however, this choice will one day define our future, as it defined theirs.

America's Gestapo - The FBI's Reign of Terror

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As part of the government’s so-called ongoing war on terror, the nation’s de facto secret police force is now recruiting students and teachers to spy on each other and report anyone who appears to have the potential to be “anti-government” or “extremist.”

Using the terms “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably, the government continues to add to its growing list of characteristics that could distinguish an individual as a potential domestic terrorist.

For instance, you might be a domestic terrorist in the eyes of the FBI (and its network of snitches) if you:
  • express libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers)
  • exhibit Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership)
  • read survivalist literature, including apocalyptic fictional books
  • show signs of self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)
  • fear an economic collapse
  • buy gold and barter items
  • subscribe to religious views concerning the book of Revelation
  • voice fears about Big Brother or big government
  • expound about constitutional rights and civil liberties
  • believe in a New World Order conspiracy
Despite its well-publicized efforts to train students, teachers, police officers, hairdressers, store clerks, etc., into government eyes and ears, the FBI isn’t relying on a nation of snitches to carry out its domestic spying.

There’s no need.

The nation’s largest law enforcement agency rivals the NSA in resources, technology, intelligence, and power. Yet while the NSA has repeatedly come under fire for its domestic spying programs, the FBI has continued to operate its subversive and clearly unconstitutional programs with little significant oversight or push-back from the public, Congress or the courts. Just recently, for example, a secret court gave the agency the green light to quietly change its privacy rules for accessing NSA data on Americans’ international communications.

Indeed, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the FBI has become the embodiment of how power, once acquired, can be easily corrupted and abused.

When and if a true history of the FBI is ever written, it will not only track the rise of the American police state but it will also chart the decline of freedom in America.

Owing largely to the influence and power of the FBI, the United States—once a nation that abided by the rule of law and held the government accountable for its actions—has steadily devolved into a police state where justice is one-sided, a corporate elite runs the show, representative government is a mockery, police are extensions of the military, surveillance is rampant, privacy is extinct, and the law is little more than a tool for the government to browbeat the people into compliance.

The FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, harassment and indoctrination, governmental overreach, abuse, misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property.

And that’s just based on what we know.

Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues and mosques; issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records; using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government; recruiting high school students to spy on and report fellow students who show signs of being future terrorists; or persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them, the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work of ensuring compliance, keeping tabs on potential dissidents, and punishing those who dare to challenge the status quo.

The FBI was established in 1908 as a small task force assigned to deal with specific domestic crimes. Initially quite limited in its abilities to investigate so-called domestic crimes, the FBI has been transformed into a mammoth federal policing and surveillance agency. Unfortunately, whatever minimal restrictions kept the FBI’s surveillance activities within the bounds of the law all but disappeared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The USA Patriot Act gave the FBI and other intelligence agencies carte blanche authority in investigating Americans suspected of being anti-government.

As the FBI’s powers have grown, its abuses have mounted. 

The FBI continues to monitor Americans engaged in lawful First Amendment activities.

COINTELPRO, the FBI program created to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralize” groups and individuals the government considers politically objectionable, was aimed not so much at the criminal element but at those who challenged the status quo—namely, those expressing anti-government sentiments such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon. It continues to this day, albeit in other guises.

The FBI has become a master in the art of entrapment.

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks the FBI has not only targeted vulnerable individuals but has also lured them into fake terror plots while actually equipping them with the organization, money, weapons and motivation to carry out the plots—entrapment—and then jailing them for their so-called terrorist plotting. This is what the FBI characterizes as “forward leaning—preventative—prosecutions.”

FBI agents are among the nation’s most notorious lawbreakers.

In addition to creating certain crimes in order to then “solve” them, the FBI also gives certain informants permission to break the law, “including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies,” in exchange for their cooperation on other fronts. USA Today estimates that agents have authorized criminals to engage in as many as 15 crimes a day. Some of these informants are getting paid astronomical sums: one particularly unsavory fellow, later arrested for attempting to run over a police officer, was actually paid $85,000 for his help laying the trap for an entrapment scheme.

The FBI’s powers, expanded after 9/11, have given its agents carte blanche access to Americans’ most personal information.

The agency’s National Security Letters, one of the many illicit powers authorized by the USA Patriot Act, allows the FBI to secretly demand that banks, phone companies, and other businesses provide them with customer information and not disclose the demands. An internal audit of the agency found that the FBI practice of issuing tens of thousands of NSLs every year for sensitive information such as phone and financial records, often in non-emergency cases, is riddled with widespread violations.

The FBI’s spying capabilities are on a par with the NSA.

The FBI’s surveillance technology boasts an invasive collection of spy tools ranging from Stingray devices that can track the location of cell phones to Triggerfish devices which allow agents to eavesdrop on phone calls.  In one case, the FBI actually managed to remotely reprogram a “suspect’s” wireless internet card so that it would send “real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI.”

The FBI’s hacking powers have gotten downright devious.

FBI agents not only have the ability to hack into any computer, anywhere in the world, but they can also control that computer and all its stored information, download its digital contents, switch its camera or microphone on or off and even control other computers in its network. Given the breadth of the agency’s powers, the showdown between Apple and the FBI over customer privacy appears to be more spectacle than substance.

James Comey, current director of the FBI, knows enough to say all the right things about the need to abide by the Constitution, all the while his agency routinely discards it. Comey argues that the government’s powers shouldn’t be limited, especially when it comes to carrying out surveillance on American citizens. Comey continues to lobby Congress and the White House to force technology companies such as Apple and Google to keep providing the government with backdoor access to Americans’ cell phones.

The FBI’s reach is more invasive than ever.

This is largely due to the agency’s nearly unlimited resources (its minimum budget alone in fiscal year 2015 was $8.3 billion), the government's vast arsenal of technology, the interconnectedness of government intelligence agencies, and information sharing through fusion centers—data collecting intelligence agencies spread throughout the country that constantly monitor communications (including those of American citizens), everything from internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails.

Today, the FBI employs more than 35,000 individuals and operates more than 56 field offices in major cities across the U.S., as well as 400 resident agencies in smaller towns, and more than 50 international offices. In addition to their “data campus,” which houses more than 96 million sets of fingerprints from across the United States and elsewhere, the FBI is also, according to The Washington Post, “building a vast repository controlled by people who work in a top-secret vault on the fourth floor of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington. This one stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor.”

If there’s one word to describe the FBI’s covert tactics, it’s creepy.

The agency’s biometric database has grown to massive proportions, the largest in the world, encompassing everything from fingerprints, palm, face and iris scans to DNA, and is being increasingly shared between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to target potential criminals long before they ever commit a crime.

This is what’s known as pre-crime.

If it were just about fighting the “bad guys,” that would be one thing. But as countless documents make clear, the FBI has no qualms about using its extensive powers in order to blackmail politicians, spy on celebrities and high-ranking government officials, and intimidate dissidents of all stripes.

It’s an old tactic, used effectively by former authoritarian regimes.

In fact, as historian Robert Gellately documents, the Nazi police state was repeatedly touted as a model for other nations to follow, so much so that Hoover actually sent one of his right-hand men, Edmund Patrick Coffey, to Berlin in January 1938 at the invitation of Germany’s secret police. As Gellately noted, “[A]fter five years of Hitler’s dictatorship, the Nazi police had won the FBI’s seal of approval.”

Indeed, so impressed was the FBI with the Nazi order that, as the New York Times revealed, in the decades after World War II, the FBI, along with other government agencies, aggressively recruited at least a thousand Nazis, including some of Hitler’s highest henchmen, brought them to America, hired them on as spies and informants, and then carried out a massive cover-up campaign to ensure that their true identities and ties to Hitler’s holocaust machine would remain unknown. Moreover, anyone who dared to blow the whistle on the FBI’s illicit Nazi ties found himself spied upon, intimidated, harassed and labeled a threat to national security.

So not only have American taxpayers been paying to keep ex-Nazis on the government payroll for decades but we’ve been subjected to the very same tactics used by the Third Reich: surveillance, militarized police, overcriminalization, and a government mindset that views itself as operating outside the bounds of the law.

This is how freedom falls, and tyrants come to power.

The similarities between the American police state and past totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany grow more pronounced with each passing day.

Secret police. Secret courts. Secret government agencies. Surveillance. Intimidation. Harassment. Torture. Brutality. Widespread corruption. Entrapment. Indoctrination. These are the hallmarks of every authoritarian regime from the Roman Empire to modern-day America.

Yet it’s the secret police—tasked with silencing dissidents, ensuring compliance, and maintaining a climate of fear—who sound the death knell for freedom in every age.

Our Bodies Are Rife With Cancer-Causing Chemicals, Landmark Study Shows

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The first inventory of its kind has found that hundreds of cancer-causing chemicals are building up in the bodies of Americans.

The analysis from Environmental Working Group (EWG), based on more than 1,000 biomonitoring studies—which measure the burden of certain chemicals present in the human body—and other research by government agencies and independent scientists, found that up to 420 chemicals known or likely to cause cancer have been detected in blood, urine, hair, and other human samples.

“The presence of a toxic chemical in our bodies does not necessarily mean it will cause harm, but this report details the astounding number of carcinogens we are exposed to in almost every part of life that are building up in our systems,” said Curt DellaValle, author of the report and a senior scientist at EWG.

According to the report, Pollution in People, carcinogens detected in biomonitoring studies come from diverse sources, including:

  • Industrial chemicals
  • Commercial products including flame retardants in furniture and other items; dry cleaning chemicals; styrene in plastics; nonstick, waterproof and grease-resistant chemicals in cookware, clothing and food wrappers; other chemicals in paints and hair coloring; and flavoring and fragrance ingredients
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals
  • Byproducts of combustion, heating and disinfection
  • Solvents
“Many of the carcinogens this study documents in people find their way into our bodies through food, air, water, and consumer products every day,” added EWG president Ken Cook. “Dozens of them show up in human umbilical cord blood—which means Americans are exposed to carcinogens before they’ve left the womb.”

EWG, which is known for its health guides and online consumer tools to help people avoid toxic cancer-causing chemicals in their daily lives, said the findings underscored the need for greater public awareness of our everyday exposure as well as urgent action on the part of elected officials.

In a press statement, the nonprofit group noted that the inventory “comes at an auspicious moment for the issue of cancer and chemicals,” citing last week’s passage of a bill updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as well as President Barack Obama’s recent announcement establishing the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, a $1 billion program led by Vice President Joe Biden, “to eliminate cancer as we know it.”

But as EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, Scott Faber, said of the TSCA at the time:
The law that Congress now sends to President Barack Obama’s desk will give EPA the direction and resources to review and regulate, at most, a few hundred chemicals over the next decade — out of thousands used in the market. The new bill will do nothing to require the FDA to review and regulate the chemicals routinely used in food and cosmetics. While pesticide residues on produce have been reviewed, thousands of other pesticides have escaped meaningful government oversight. The net result is that consumers will continue to be exposed to a witches’ brew of unregulated chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer.
Furthermore, the group points out, “the only concrete agenda related to prevention in the Moonshot Initiative is for screening and vaccination. As demonstrated by the success of anti-smoking efforts, which have cut the rate of lung cancer by more than 25 percent in the last 25 years, to prevent and defeat cancer it is necessary to understand the environmental causes.”

EWG is calling for the Moonshot Initiative to include federal funding for investigation of the environmental causes of cancer and the development of prevention initiatives.

The US Congress Debates: The Funding of World War III

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Defense Secretary Ashton Carter just went before a Senate Armed Services Committee to wrestle still more billions from the American war chest in support of Middle East regime change. The Barack Obama appointed head of America’s military has presented a supposed comprehensive plan to defeat an enemy that Syria’s Assad and Russia’s air might have already crushed. The real purpose of Carter’s appearance before the Senate last week was to further fund anti-Assad forces, and to further invest in America’s military industrial businesses. United States policy in the Middle East is being unmasked, with inestimable sums of money fueling a perpetual war fire.

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The fictitious war on terror America’s leaders milk billions out of, is intended to go on in perpetuity. Worse still, the mission to draw Europe into the fray is intended to make our EU partners further dependent on US military prowess. Barack Obama intendeds to leave his predecessor with an unwinnable war, a war that will break the union of European states permanently. Here’s that story.

America’s Syria Bonfire 

The Syrian Civil War began in the spring of 2011 as a latter end-game component of the Arab Spring regime changes across the Middle East. Billed as another “freedom fight” to overthrow a tyrannical regime, the latter events of the conflict have proven the war to be yet another “applied democracy” insurgency, with the intent of reshaping the policies of the entire region. The facts of what happened in Syria are in plain sight, only obscured by controlled media in the west. The United States funded and fuelled an anti-Assad rebellion comprised of al-Qaeda, al-Nusra and other extremists, and more or less created ISIL. Then Washington funneled billions into a farcical effort to destroy terror under the guise ISIS (ISIL), while turning Syria into essentially another Libya. This is widely understood, even by the people of the United States of America. Still the neocons and Washington elite press on, intent on mission 1 still, ready to pour more billions into a bloodbath that is crippling Europe and the region. Carter is lying, and here is the truth.

Using territorial gains of ISIL as the excuse for military intervention in the region, the United States began air missions against the extremist organization in August 2014. Then in September, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held meetings with the ministers of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Denmark and Italy at the NATO Summit in Wales. After the meeting those allies agreed to support “anti-ISIL forces” in Iraq and Syria with supplies and air support. This coalition action was undertaken without the invitation of consent of the legitimate leader of a sovereign nation. This fact is undeniable, and the ensuing regional catastrophe is the result of an illegal act by these nations, even under the United Nations Charter. This too is incontrovertible. As we see today, this war has metastasized into a proxy war in between the United States and Russia. Congress is aware, Brussels is aware; the world knows what is at stake. Now we can move on to dogged pursuit of world conflict by America’s leadership. It is interesting, and a bit positive, that some American politicians seem to understand the disaster Carter’s boss has wrought. Speaking last week, Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump said:

“Our actions in Iraq, Libya and Syria have helped unleash ISIS. We’re in a war against radical Islam, but President Obama won’t even name the enemy, and unless you name the enemy, you will never ever solve the problem.”
Illegitimacy versus Legitimacy

11 October 2015, basically one year after the US led coalition achieved nothing against ISIL, Russian president Vladimir Putin made a statement on the mission of the Russia/Syria/Iran coalition arrayed against ISIL and insurgents. He told an audience “the military operation had been thoroughly prepared in advance”, and he further defined Russia's goal in Syria as, “stabilizing the legitimate power in Syria and creating the conditions for political compromise.” A year of coalition airstrikes, billions spent either aiding jihadists against Assad, or bombing “sand” in the deserts of Iraq and Syria, and the NATO coalition achieved nothing. Five months into the Russian air support mission, Putin pulled out his largest air forces contingent, and the Syrian Army takes back Palmyra. US PR strategies cannot mask the truth of Syria. The goal has been to undo Assad all along.

With Turkey and Saudi Arabia implicated in assisting the Assad regime overthrow, and with a supposed ceasefire in effect, the United States leadership still presses to arm Assad’s enemies. But the real cataclysm has less to do with arming al-Qaeda, and more to do with cementing Europe’s allegiance to America. It was at about this time a report surfaced that cast a huge shadow over the CENTCOM and the US led policing of the world.

In September, the Defense Department Office of Inspector General announced opening an investigation into allegations intelligence information provided by CENTCOM’s Intelligence Directorate, “falsified, distorted, suppressed, or modified intelligence. In effect, CENTCOM’s effectiveness across the board was called to question, with regard to missions from Afghanistan to Syria and beyond. The US House of Representatives launched the investigation in December of 2015, and promised results early this year. One of the congressmen assigned to lead the inquiry is US Army reserve Lieutenant Colonel, Brad Wenstrup, who is and Ohio representative, who is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The ensuing report, which the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry characterized back then as crucial:

“Now there’s an inspector-general investigation — we don’t want to mess that up — but at the same time we’re not going to wait until they conclude. This is a very serious matter that we have an obligation to get into.” 

I have contacted each of the congressmen appointed to investigate CENTCOM impropriety, but as of this writing, none have responded. My assessment of congress’ role in all this is that these leaders simply play “good cop-bad cop” as always. The facts indicate these leaders’ only true ideological differences being which Congressional district back home gets the most federal kickback in the form of military spending. Leaving off here for the moment, let’s look at Secretary Carter’s misleading testimony before the people last week.

Binding Europe to Chaos

Looking at the transcript of Ashton Carter’s testimony, we find a Vietnam-like escalation of US military support in this fiasco. Commenting on a 10X amplification of Special Forces troops deployed to Syria, Carter told the Senate:

“[The US military forces] will also serve as a hub to incorporate partner special forces from both European and Gulf partners that will augment our coalition’s counter-ISIL efforts there.”
Supposedly these Special Forces elements are intended to call in the massive might of the US military on the heads of ISIL. But in fact the force additions represent an escalation in involvement, a ramping up toward a wider conflagration. Looking at congressional transcripts and the wording of the so-called Syria Train and Equip authorities given President Barack Obama, it is essential to note the rewording of the program’s objective. The initial documents stated that a purpose of these appropriations was for:

“…defending the Syrian people from attacks by the Syrian regime, facilitating the provision of essential services, and stabilizing territory controlled by the opposition…”
Later documentation, and especially after the so-called “McKeon amendment” (PDF), curtailed the Obama administration’s authority, at least with regard to the stated mission. An imbecilic “Equip and Train” mission still goes forward, only without actually stating that America is trying to overthrow Assad. “Defending against Assad” has become, “Defending the Syrian people from attacks by the Islamic State o of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Reading the transcripts of congressional discussion of this “Equip and Arm” disaster, it also becomes clear the majority of lawmakers in Washington knew of, and approved of, overthrowing the Assad regime. Ash Carter speaking to the Arms Services Committee now, it simply capitalizes the bigger lie to the American people by the majority of American leadership. Complicit are, the president, the US House of Representatives, and the US Senate. I use the world “complicit” for purpose, for the constituents of these leaders has literally no idea what regime change effort in Syria has meant, nor the ramifications of the ongoing proxy war. The American people are misdirected, lied to, and marginalized in any decision making process in Washington. The aforementioned CENTCOM intelligence tampering is as clear as day, ever since Putin’s air forces began televising the destruction of ISIL oil tankers headed to NATO ally Turkey. No US leader in Washington could win a court case stating otherwise. Returning to Carter’s part in this new kind of warfare, it becomes clear that fiction is acceptable in the halls of power in Washington.

Lying Like a Clinton

Carter also deliberately misled Congress with regard to ISIL not making advances after May of 2015. This is illustrated by the fact Assad forces forced ISIL back during the battle of al-Hasakah in August, and with no help from an anemic coalition effort to stop ISIL oil revenues. The coalition was not flying air cover for Assad’s army, after all. Carter makes the Congressional committee believe coalition funding and military operations put a half to ISIL, when it was first the Syrian army, and later Russia’s air campaign which accomplished this. Furthermore, ISIL’s mission objectives are not totally geographical or territorial. Carter mentions nothing of this…. Carter knows this, but his report to Congress misdirects in suggesting ISIL advances were somehow halted by the coalition. The KobanĂȘ Massacre is a good example. In June 223–233 civilians and another 37 Kurdish militia were killed in ISIL suicide attacks. Carter wants Congress to think US billions to fund this internal war are effective at halting terror, when in reality the reverse is true. Trillions of dollars and millions of lives wasted, and Washington still cheers the victories of US policy. But the core of this malignancy is more transparent than most imagine.

This National Defense University Press report tells us all we need to know about Syria, Arab Spring, and the new Cold War on Russia. US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is the subject of a report entitled; “Back to Basics on Hybrid Warfare in Europe: A Lesson from the Balkans.” While you digest the concept of the “deconstruct” of Yugoslavia being seen as a “success” for these psychopaths, I’ll relate key elements of the report.

It will help you to know that there was a Bosnian operation exactly like the one Washington is funding in Syria now. The Bosnian Train and Equip Program is documented in a proud report entitled; “A Lesson in Interagency Integration of Hard and Soft Power, Strategic Perspectives 15 (NDU Press, March 2014).” Cutting through the dogma and philosophy for you here, this was simply a template for regime change enacted by then US President Bill Clinton. Under the auspices of a NATO protective umbrella over Europe, the strategy of “hybrid warfare” is condoned and promoted to “counter Russian aggression”. I do not want to drag the reader too deep into these Draconian strategies, so suffice it to say each successive US administration in the last 70 years has inched eastward toward Moscow. Yugoslavia went under the wheels of democratic progress, as have many of the former Soviet states. Once you read the report, you’ll be aghast at the US strategy being applied in nations around the world. Ash Carter’s, CENTCOM’s, the Executive Branch and Legislative Branch of US government’s makeup is not part of a “hybrid” World War essentially. Quoting from this new war manifesto:

“Hybrid warfare fundamentally involves an integrated mix of previously separate instruments of power, whether military, diplomatic, intelligence, covert, informational, or other capabilities.”
As applies to the Syria situation, we see this “integrated” approach to regime change playing out in each category, most notably the “informational” aspect. CENTCOM tells the world of America’s blasting ISIL to smithereens, when in effect US and coalition planes are protecting what is really going. What Washington wants most of all is Arab Spring to be completed, and to turn the Middle East into the Balkans. Under the thumbs, powerless to do more than complain to, the authority and might of NATO, the Middle East as essentially a surrogate to America. The report reveals more of this madness. The authors applaud “Train and Equip” Bosnia, and use it to show why the Syria version is failing. Dogged, determined, hard headed stupid that is what these “experts” are. Quoting again from think tank lunatics intent on defending Machiavellian polices:

The (Obama) administration assigned the complex Syria train and equip mission to lead agencies rather than configuring it from the beginning as an integrated interagency effort. It began as a CIA-run covert operation. Then the administration decided to increase the scale and profile of the effort and gave it to the Department of Defense (DOD).”
A Hybrid Total War

Breaking this all down for you, the Bush administration began the Assad overthrow operation back in 2006. Sanctions and other levers were applied, to put the regime under intense pressure. Covert CIA efforts to help anti-Assad elements then grew exponentially, as Iraq and Syrian militants were cooked into an extremist stew. Then Obama took office, and upped the ante using the CIA, the Saudis, Turkey, the Kurds, and with the behind the scenes support of Israel. The news “Weapons of Mass Destruction” lie was concocted, and only Putin and Russia stood in the way of some full scale invasion. Arming and Funding (Train and Equip) took on a massive, half a trillion dollar scale approved by ALL of America’s leadership. And now the same DOD is in charge. The plan has only changed to emulate the Bosnia plan, and the proxy war with Russia goes on full scale. America’s treasury is bankrupt, the American people are left out of the equation, and a new “hybrid” form of World War is underway. Now even European allies are literally being attacked by the United States, though this is less obvious visibly. If you read the documents, and examine the rhetoric, then you’ll see the intent is there. NATO and EU nations bogged down, and with casualties in Syria…. Where do you think this puts NATO and America? Think protection racket.

This morning BBC is reporting that Washington wants peace in Syria. This proves the collusion in between UK’s rulers and the Washington elites running this horror show.

“The United States says it is working on specific initiatives to de-escalate fighting in Syria and revive a nationwide cessation of hostilities.”
The White House and the US Congress are still intent on “Train and Equip”, when it is clear the war on ISIL could end tomorrow. If Barack Obama’s last executive order before leaving the White House in November were to throw al-Qaeda (our sworn enemy) and al-Nusra (more extremist jihadists) under the bus, then Syira, Russia and Iran would decimate ISIL within weeks. Furthermore, if the coalition led by the US had coordinated and assisted Russian air forces rather than trying to shoot them down (Turkey), ISIL would no longer have arms, money, or the moral to continue. Again, this is incontrovertible. This is the reality. This is the truth of Syria and the refugee catastrophe. Think about it.

Fallujah: A symbol of US war crimes

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No city in Iraq is more symbolic of the criminal consequences of the US invasion of Iraq than Fallujah. Prior to 2003, the 300,000-strong, prosperous, predominantly Sunni Muslim community on the Euphrates River, one of humanity’s oldest continuous urban settlements, was known as the “city of mosques.” After 13 years of destruction at the hands of the US military and its client state in Baghdad, it is today a labyrinth of ruins, a city of the dead.

Following weeks of air strikes by US, British and Australian bombers, a combination of Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias is reportedly on the verge of a final offensive to seize back Fallujah from some 500 fighters of the Sunni-extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which took control of the city in early 2014. Iraqi special forces units are accompanied by elite troops of the US, British and Australian militaries, who direct air strikes and ground artillery bombardments and provide tactical advice to Iraqi commanders.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein has issued urgent appeals concerning the fate of the estimated 50,000 civilians who are trapped in Fallujah, without food or water. Civilian deaths caused by the offensive have been justified in advance by the US-backed Iraqi government with allegations that the occupiers are using the population as “human shields.” ISIS is accused of murdering dozens of people who have attempted to flee.

Men and teenagers who do escape are being detained by Iraqi government and militia units. According to the UNHCR, they are being subjected to “physical violations and other forms of abuse, apparently in order to elicit forced confessions” of being ISIS members or supporters. The UNHCR has received unconfirmed accounts of at least 21 summary executions.

In the media coverage, the question as to how and why ISIS was able to gain control of the city two years ago is largely ignored. To the extent it is raised, the explanation given is Sunni resentment over the sectarian and discriminatory policies of the Shiite-dominated government—after the withdrawal of American troops in 2011. The Iraqi people as a whole are generally portrayed as incurably divided along Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish lines, incapable of living in harmony together and inherently attracted to extremist ethno-sectarian ideologies.

A review of the tortured history of Fallujah since 2003 makes clear that this narrative is a lie. The current situation in Iraq and neighbouring Syria is the outcome and continuation of the deliberate stoking of sectarian conflict by the American occupation for the purpose of dividing the Iraqi masses and cementing the US grip over the oil-rich Middle East.

After the illegal invasion of Iraq and overthrow of the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, Fallujah was the scene of one of the first widely reported crimes by American troops against Iraqi civilians. Two hundred youth demanding the reopening of their school were fired on by troops of the US 82nd Airborne Division. Seventeen were murdered and over 70 wounded.

Over the following months, Fallujah emerged as a centre of Iraqi resistance to the US occupation. By early 2004, the city was effectively controlled by armed groups overwhelmingly made up of former members of the Iraqi Army and local Sunni tribes. Religious-based extremists, such as the small grouping calling itself “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” had only a minor presence.

The killing of four Blackwater mercenaries in Fallujah in March 2004 triggered a massive American military response. Across Iraq, the defiance of the people of Fallujah became a clarion call for resistance. In the first week of April, the stand in the city against the occupation was joined by an uprising of tens of thousands of Shiite working class youth in Baghdad and cities across southern Iraq. The armed insurgency against the US forces spread to predominantly Sunni cities such as Ramadi, Tikrit and Mosul.

The dominant feature of the anti-occupation resistance in Iraq in 2004 was that it objectively unified Iraqis of all backgrounds who opposed the US occupation and its local collaborators. However, it lacked any coherent perspective or strategy. In city after city, Iraqi fighters were overwhelmed by the superior firepower of the US military, including in Fallujah in November 2004. After a months-long siege, the city was left depopulated and in rubble. Of its 200 mosques, 60 were destroyed or damaged, along with some 39,000 homes and other buildings.

The other central feature of the US occupation in 2004 was the deployment of US-trained Shiite death squads, such as the Wolf Brigade, against the Sunni population. Thousands of people were murdered. At the same time, Al Qaeda in Iraq escalated sinister bombings of Shiite civilians, which assisted the US occupation in driving a wedge between the two communities. By 2006, US policy had provoked a full-scale sectarian civil war that forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee for safety into areas controlled by the militias of their religious denomination.

The origins of the present savage sectarianism in Iraq lie in the manner by which US imperialism “stabilised” Iraq under the control of its Shiite-dominated puppet state, using the criminal methods of divide-and-rule, mass killings and mass dislocation. In 2011, as it withdrew its forces from Iraq, Washington launched a regime-change war in Libya and began sponsoring a regime-change operation in Syria using the same methods that had triggered civil war in Iraq. In Syria, however, the CIA and US military worked through Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to arm Sunni-based groupings to overthrow the Russian- and Iranian-backed Shiite-dominated government of Bashar al-Assad.

One of the main groupings that benefited from the flow of arms was the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which sent fighters into Syria and soon emerged as a dominant force in the civil war. In April 2013, strengthened by a flood of foreign Islamist fighters who were permitted to enter Syria from Turkey, it renamed itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The ISIS fighters who entered Fallujah in late 2013 and claimed control over the city in January 2014 had been financed, equipped and armed as part of the US intrigues in Syria. ISIS seized other areas of Sunni-dominated western and northern Iraq, most dramatically the city of Mosul, in July 2014. To the extent the Islamist movement received support, it was because it pledged to defend the Sunni population from the consequences of the US invasion, including the depredations and abuses of the US-backed government in Baghdad. Both materially and ideologically, ISIS is the by-product of US policy.

The current onslaught on Fallujah is only the latest chapter in the catastrophe that US imperialism has inflicted on the peoples of Iraq and the Middle East as a whole. It can be ended only through the building of a mass international anti-war movement based on the working class.

At Least 33 US Cities May Be Hiding Lead in Drinking Water

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A troubling new investigation by the Guardian has found that at least 33 large cities in the United States may be improperly testing tap water in order to pass FDA regulations on allowable levels of lead. Reporters from the paper looked at 41 cities across 17 different states, and compared local officials' water testing methods to those suggested by the EPA.

Of the 41 cities studied, 33 were using testing methods that could potentially underestimate the amount of lead present in water, and 21 of those were using the same water testing methods employed by the officials who have now been formally charged in Flint. Due to the age of the infrastructure involved, the paper only looked at large cities east of the Mississippi River, so it's still completely unknown what standards are being used in the rest of the country.

For the past 25 years, the EPA has required local utilities to take a sampling of water from households throughout their cities at least once every three years. Usually city water departments will issue instructions to the homeowners themselves, and officials may even personally select which households are tested. (Testing is not required, however, in schools.)

This lack of professional standards in testing is a major problem, since officials can instruct residents to collect water using methods that are far less likely to give an accurate reading for lead contamination.

Cities may tell testers to "pre-flush" their pipes, so that the water doesn't accurately reflect the normal buildup of lead the household is exposed to. They may also be told to run water slowly, which causes less lead to be dislodged from the pipes than would occur under normal circumstances. Finally, a handful of cities went so far as to tell testers to remove aerators from their spouts, since the filters tend to accumulate lead. Worse still, in some cities, testers would be directed to take multiple samples, and those showing the highest concentration of lead would simply be thrown out. (You can see which cities use each of these testing practices in the report.)

While these measures may temporarily reduce the concentration of lead in the water, they don't reflect the conditions of everyday use. The EPA has warned utility companies since 2008 that these measures go against the intent of water testing regulations, but enforcement of the policy has been lax. Until the agency cracks down on local water utilities, residents of affected cities will have no way of knowing if their water is safe or not. The agency is aware of these widespread distortions and claims it will address them in 2017 when it releases new long-term revisions to its lead and copper rule, but no one yet knows exactly what that will entail.

There is, however, a glimmer of good news in the report. The Guardian found that several cities were correctly following the EPA's guidelines, including: Cincinnati, Ohio; Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; and Mobile, Ala. While Chicago has historically been guilty of aerator removal and pre-flushing prior to testing, both of these practices were phased out by 2012.

As a result of the investigation, several other utilities that were not currently in compliance with EPA guidelines have pledged to change protocols the next time they test, including Mount Pleasant, S.C.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Worcester and Boston, Mass.; Lewiston, Maine; and the state health departments for both Rhode Island and Maine.

The rest of the cities investigated claimed that the EPA had not issued clear guidance on testing in the past, or that the practices weren't illegal and they were doing nothing wrong. It's unclear whether these are face-saving lies or there's simply been confusion on the local level, but either way, the EPA needs to take a firm stand and make clear that these practices are not acceptable if anything is to change.