Monday, May 18, 2009

FBI Infiltrated Iowa Anti-War Group Before GOP Convention

FBI infiltrated Iowa anti-war group before GOP convention


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An FBI informant and an undercover Minnesota sheriff's deputy spied on political activists in Iowa City last year before the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Confidential FBI documents obtained by The Des Moines Register show an FBI informant was planted among a group described as an "anarchist collective" that met regularly last year in Iowa City. One of the group's goals was to organize street blockades to disrupt the Republican convention, held Sept. 1-4, 2008, where U.S. Sen. John McCain was nominated for president.

The undercover Minnesota deputy who traveled to Iowa City was from the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, which infiltrated a group known as the "RNC Welcoming Committee" that was coordinating convention protest activities in St. Paul.

The undercover officer accompanied two activists from the Twin Cities who attended the University of Iowa in April 2008 for a Midwest campus anti-war conference.

The Iowa City Police Department was not aware that an FBI informant was monitoring local anti-war activists last year, Police Chief Samuel Hargadine said. But he confirmed to the Register that he was notified by Ramsey County authorities last year that they were sending an undercover officer to Iowa City.

Authorities said about 800 convention protesters were arrested last September in St. Paul, although most charges have since been dismissed.

About 3,700 police officers — many in riot gear and some on horses — used tear gas, pepper spray and other methods to control protesters and quell disturbances. Demonstrators shattered glass windows at retail stores, and some threw feces and urine at police, authorities said.

About 25 members of Iowa City activist groups participated in the St. Paul demonstrations, but Iowa organizers said they were aware of only one Iowa City demonstrator who was arrested. Those charges were subsequently dropped.

A key focus of the protests was anti-war sentiment, but the activists had other causes, such as environmental issues and helping poor people. Most of the Iowa City activists did not attend the Democratic National Convention held in Denver, Colo.

ACLU: Is spying's focus safety — or politics?

The use of undercover informants to spy on political dissidents is a contentious issue. Law enforcement officials contend it is sometimes necessary, but civil libertarians are wary of such tactics as potentially violating people's constitutional rights.

The FBI documents provide in-depth descriptions of more than a dozen Iowa political activists. This includes personal information such as names, height, weight, place of employment, cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The documents also include individuals' plans for the convention demonstrations.

Some of the surveillance occurred when the activists met last year at the Iowa City Public Library.

The FBI documents show the investigative reports were written in August 2008 by Special Agent Thomas Reinwart, who is assigned to Cedar Rapids, based on reports from a "confidential human source" in Iowa City.

FBI spokeswoman Sandy Breault in Omaha declined to talk about the documents or whether the agency used undercover informants to conduct surveillance on anti-war groups in Iowa City.

Randall Wilson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, obtained copies of FBI documents involving surveillance of the Iowa City activists independently of the Register.

Wilson said he believes the FBI was "ostensibly investigating the possibility that some of these people might cross the line and engage in civil disobedience."

But, he said, "My main concern is that they were really spying on people who were in the political opposition."

Protest participants denounce monitoring

Russell Porter, director of the Iowa Department of Public Safety's Intelligence Bureau, declined to comment specifically on whether law enforcement officers monitored Iowa political activists who planned protests at the Republican National Convention.

But, he added, "If people are planning criminal activity, we would be interested in having people report that information to us and share that with us."

Porter, who coordinates Iowa law enforcement intelligence efforts with local, state and federal agencies, said routine Iowa political activities are not the focus of undercover investigations.

"When this work is done well, it keeps the community safe. But central to it is ensuring that we adhere and follow a solemn obligation to protect those principles enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution," he said.

David Goodner, 28, a University of Iowa senior who participated in the demonstrations in St. Paul, condemned the undercover surveillance.

"There is no justification for spying on nonviolent pacifist groups," Goodner said. "Our road blockade at the RNC and our peaceful preparations beforehand are protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We have the right to speak out against the policies of our government. The criminalization of dissent and militarization of society are the actions of a police state, and they take valuable resources away from providing for unmet social needs. The FBI's motives and methods are extremely unethical and go against basic American values."

Robert "Ajax" Ehl, 39, of Iowa City, who also participated in the Republican convention protests in St. Paul, said he was surprised to learn afterward that the FBI had used an informant to monitor political activists in Iowa City.

"It's pretty ridiculous to be watching small peace groups in Iowa," Ehl said. "There are not a lot of bomb throwers in Iowa City."

FBI report describes appearances, interests

The FBI documents described the Iowa City political activists as aligning themselves with one of three "risk" zones in preparing for the Republican National Convention. Some members were interested in protest activities and involvement in "affinity groups," such as a legal collective, a medic group and a media group. Others were described as peaceful protesters. But a third unit of activists was willing to risk arrest and potential involvement in criminal activities, according to the documents.

Individual names of protesters were blacked out of the copy of the FBI documents obtained by the Register, but the dossiers included personal facts.

For example, one woman was described as white, 5 feet 10 inches, 140 pounds, with blond hair and glasses. The report said she lived in Cedar Rapids, and it provided her cell phone number. She was characterized as a member of a specific subgroup who had interests in medic training and as a legal observer.

"She drives a little, dark green four door hatchback," the report said.

A white man in his 20s who had recently moved to Iowa from Mississippi was also profiled by the FBI informant. "He is planning on attending the RNC and participating with the 'Queer Block' and 'Bash Back,' which are groups affiliated with the lesbian, bi-sexual, gay and transgender movement. Several hundred people associated with these two groups plan on doing their own thing and blocking an unknown (intersection)," the document said.

The report told of a protest strategy at the Republican National Convention known as "swarm, seize and stay," which would involve thousands of demonstrators.

This included a mass text-messaging program through cell phones of participants to coordinate the locations.

Activists say "Jason" likely was informant

In late August, before the Republican convention, authorities conducted a series of raids in Minneapolis and St. Paul as a pre-emptive strike against disruptive protests.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told reporters that the raids targeted the RNC Welcoming Committee, which he described as a "criminal enterprise" intent on blockading and disabling delegate buses, breaching venue security and injuring police officers. Authorities said they seized items that included buckets of urine, a gas mask, bolt cutters, axes, slingshots and spikes for puncturing bus tires.

Eight organizers of the RNC Welcoming Committee still face felony charges of conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property. None of the eight is from Iowa. Separately, two men from a Texas group that went to St. Paul to protest the convention have pleaded guilty to federal charges after being accused of making Molotov cocktails - gasoline-filled bottles with wicks. Prosecutors said the two men intended to used the incendiary devices to hurt police or destroy property.

Political activists Ehl and Goodner said they believe they know the identity of the FBI informant who spied on the Iowa City protesters.

They say it was a young man from Michigan named "Jason" who claimed he was a U.S. military conscientious objector. He told people he had been discharged from the Air Force after he objected to being deployed to Iraq.

The man hung out with Iowa City activists for months, sharing beers and meals with them while expressing solidarity with their political beliefs.

Goodner and Ehl said "Jason" later admitted that he provided information to the FBI in exchange for money.

"It is my understanding that he just took money because he was unemployed," Ehl said.

Looking back, the surveillance in Iowa City may have begun as early as the fall of 2007, Goodner said. He and three others from Iowa City traveled to St. Paul for a meeting with the RNC Welcoming Committee. A few weeks later, "Jason" started coming to their meetings in Iowa City.

"We didn't think anything of it," said Goodner, who was the Midwest regional coordinator for the Campus Antiwar Network and is a past member of the Register's Young Adult Board of Contributors.

Undercover officer came to Iowa City

Hargadine, the Iowa City police chief, said he was not told the gender or identity of the undercover officer from Ramsey County.

But political activists in Iowa City and Minnesota have said she was a middle-aged woman known by the pseudonym "Norma Jean Johnson."

She attended the Campus Antiwar Network Midwest Regional Conference, held April 18-20, 2008, at the University of Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City. About 150 people from Iowa and other states attended.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis has reported that "Norma Jean Johnson" was Ramsey County Deputy Sheriff Marilyn Hedstrom, who infiltrated the RNC Welcoming Committee. Ramsey County sheriff's spokeswoman Holli Drinkwine confirmed last week that Hedstrom worked as an undercover officer who investigated the RNC Welcoming Committee.

But Drinkwine said she did not know whether Hedstrom had worked undercover in Iowa City. Hedstrom recently received a 2009 Excellence in Performance Award from the Minnesota Association of Women Police.

Political activist Goodner said he recalled seeing "Norma Jean Johnson" at the anti-war conference in Iowa City.

She accompanied two members of the RNC Welcoming Committee and she helped with a slide show, but she said little and left the speaking to others, he said. He said the woman stayed at a hotel rather than sleeping for free on somebody's couch in Iowa City, which should have been a tip-off she wasn't a typical political activist.

"Because she came down here with two people who we did know, we just trusted them," Goodner said.

Additional Facts Anti-war surveillance in U.S. and Iowa

The FBI has a history of conducting surveillance on political groups in the United States and in Iowa.

Between 1956 and 1971, the FBI operated a counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO, which was aimed at infiltrating and disrupting dissident political organizations. The targets included foes of the Vietnam War and civil rights groups.

Civil liberties groups have expressed worries that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, law enforcement agencies have used security concerns as reason to increase monitoring of law-abiding citizens and organizations.

In November 2003, the Polk County Sheriff's Department sent two undercover officers to monitor an anti-war conference at Drake University in Des Moines. Sheriff's officials said they had no plans to spy on the local peace movement. Instead, authorities wanted to learn about potential problems in a protest planned for the next day at Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston.

In February 2004, federal authorities launched an investigation into the November anti-war conference at Drake. They issued grand jury subpoenas to four peace activists and to the university, asking for records of a student law group that sponsored the event. Prosecutors also obtained a gag order on Drake employees.

Less than a week after the federal investigation became public, the U.S. attorney's office in Des Moines withdrew the gag order and the subpoenas without explanation.
In August 2004, a young female FBI undercover informant from Florida named "Anna" attended an anarchist conference in Des Moines, where she met a California activist named Eric T. McDavid, according to federal court documents. She had reportedly been traveling throughout the country attempting to infiltrate protest groups and targeting young males, in particular, who had anarchist beliefs.

"Anna" was subsequently a key witness in a highly publicized trial in Sacramento, Calif., that led to the September 2007 conviction of McDavid, now 31, for conspiring to blow up a Northern California dam, a genetics lab, cell phone towers and other targets. FBI agents described the case as an eco-terrorism plot on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front. McDavid is now serving nearly a 20-year federal prison term. His defense lawyer has argued his client was a victim of entrapment by the FBI informant.

Scathing Watchdog Report Blasts SEC Oversight

Scathing watchdog report blasts Securities and Exchange Commission oversight

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The Securities and Exchange Commission abandons investigations for lack of resources, allows corporate wrongdoers to skip fines and drops cases because of a bureaucratic culture of risk aversion, according to a recent federal report.

The list goes on: A lack of support staff is so severe it forces SEC attorneys to send confidential documents to nonsecure copy shops. One attorney spent a day putting together document boxes instead of pursuing cases, according to the scathing report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The report raises questions about how well the SEC can do its job protecting investors with such glaring deficiencies.

The number of SEC enforcement attorneys declined 11.5 percent from 2004 to 2008 while cases were closed prematurely or not investigated at all, the report says. Although a wide range of cases is pursued, "one attorney told us of closing several cases that were promising but which could not be pursued for lack of resources," according to the report.

Other times, lack of specialized experts, such as accountants and those knowledgeable about trading, weren’t available, causing delays. Over four years, penalties and disgorgements declined by 84 percent — to $256 million in fiscal 2008, compared with $1.59 billion in 2005.

The report also details problems with the commission’s lack of consensus in punishing corporate misconduct.

"Officials acknowledged that there could be flagrant misconduct, but no penalty, if corporate benefit [from the misconduct] cannot be identified through economic analysis," the report states.

According to many investigative attorneys, commission penalty policies have contributed to an adversarial relationship between the enforcement division and the commission. In one case, an enforcement attorney told the GAO that a company offered to pay $1 million to settle a case, but the attorney recommended no penalty because "they did not believe the commission would approve the company offer."

In response to the report, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro wrote that she agreed with the findings and recommendations and that she has asked the new director of the enforcement division to conduct a top-to-bottom review of processes and culture.

Schapiro hired a longtime federal prosecutor to head the division. He and Schapiro will work on management reforms, including harnessing technology, improving risk assessment, and improving training and supervision for law enforcement personnel "so that we can maximize our resources to combat fraud and wrongdoing in our markets."

Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago securities attorney, said the report reveals nothing new about the troubled agency.

"The SEC has been an impotent, toothless tiger pretty much since its creation in the 1930s," he said. "The SEC tends to be more concerned about banging the drum and getting publicity as opposed to stopping stock crooks like Bernie Madoff."

Supreme Court rejects torture suit against Mueller, Ashcroft

Supreme Court: Top US officials can’t be sued for post-9/11 abuse

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A lawsuit against two Bush officials, FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, filed by a former Sept. 11 detainee cannot go forward because top US officials can’t be blamed for abuse that occurred during his imprisonment, the Associated Press reports.

The court on Monday overturned a lower court decision that let Javaid Iqbal’s (Ick-ball) lawsuit against the high-ranking officials proceed.

Iqbal is a Pakistani Muslim who spent nearly six months in solitary confinement in New York in 2002. He had argued that while Ashcroft and Mueller did not single him out for mistreatment, they were responsible for a policy of confining detainees in highly restrictive conditions because of their religious beliefs or race.

But the government argued that there was nothing linking Mueller and Ashcroft to the abuses that happened to Iqbal.

Reuters reports, “Iqbal, a Muslim, said in the lawsuit that he had suffered verbal and physical abuse, including unnecessary strip searches and brutal beatings by guards. He said he had been singled out because of unlawful ethnic and religious discrimination.”

NBC News correspondent Pete Williams explained the significance of the case and the court’s decision.

“This is a case we’ve been watching carefully because if this Pakistani Muslim had succeeded with this lawsuit, there certainly would have been hundreds more,” Williams said. “He was one of those who was sort of rounded up in the weeks after 9/11 when the FBI and law enforcement were generally looking for people who might have conceivably had any terror connections, and as a result of that, a lot of Muslim men were put in holding cells in New York and the Justice Department has since said that many of them were mistreated.”

Williams continued, “What he said is that the Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft, or the FBI director should be responsible, and he sued them, but today the Supreme Court said when you file a lawsuit like that and you’re challenging the actions of top officials, you have to show some direct connection between what happened to you and the conduct that the officials took. And merely saying that they wanted to pick up terror detainees, the court said today, is not enough to show that there is, in other words, a firm chain that goes from the mistreatment by the people in the Metropolitan Correction Center in New York and the actions that Ashcroft and Mueller took.”

“So what Justice Anthony Kennedy said today in announcing this decision is that the lawsuit here comes up short,” Williams added. “So it’s a 5-4 decision along the usual breakdowns. As i say, i think if this had gone the other way, then we would have seen a lot more lawsuits.”

Twelve Bush lawyers face disbarment complaints

12 Bush lawyers face disbarment complaints

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A coalition of activist groups has filed disciplinary complaints in four states and the District of Columbia calling for the disbarment of twelve lawyers they say are associated with the Bush administration’s position on torture.

The complaints — running more than 500 pages — enumerate in excruciating detail the case against key Bush officials that participated in defending “torture techniques” employed by the administration against alleged al Qaeda suspects.

The complaints are posted online at

The complaints were filed against former White House Legal Counsel attorneys John Yoo, Jay Bybee (pictured above right) and Stephen Bradbury; former Attorney Generals Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft and Michael Mukasey; former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney David Addington, Alice Fisher, William Haynes II, Douglas Feith and Timothy Flanigan with the state bars in the District of Columbia, New York, California, Texas and Pennsylvania.

“The individually tailored complaints allege that the named attorneys violated the rules of professional responsibility by advocating torture, which is illegal under both United States and international law,” the activist group Velvet Revolution said in a release. “Specifically, the Geneva Convention, UN Convention Against Torture, the Eighth Amendment, the Army Field Manual and the United States Criminal Code against torture and war crimes all prohibit torture of detainees.

“The memos written and supported by these attorneys advocating torture have now been repudiated by the Department of Justice, the White House, the Department of Defense and other experts in the field,” they continued. “The recently released Senate and Red Cross reports on detainee treatment provide uncontroverted evidence that the torture techniques advocated by the attorneys were used on human beings over an extended period of time. ”

In addition, the group says that evidence surrounding the Bush administration’s legal wrangling shows the lawyers engaged in “moral turpitude.”

“We have asked the respective state bars to revoke the licenses of the foregoing attorneys for moral turpitude,” they write. “They failed to show ‘respect for and obedience to the law, and respect for the rights of others,’ and intentionally or recklessly failed to act competently, all in violation of legal Rules of Professional Conduct.”

The complaints seek disciplinary action and disbarment — the prohibition of allowing any of the aforementioned officials from practicing law.

Jay Bybee, who authored an infamous memo that laid out the techniques the Bush administration sanctioned, is now a judge in the District of Columbia. The complaint regarding the former White House Office of Legal Counsel attorney argues that Bybee’s involvement amounts to a “travesty of justice.”

“The [Office of Legal Counsel] memoranda offered the patina of legal sanction to the use of techniques such as waterboarding, hypothermia, stress positions, extensive sleep deprivation and confinement with stinging insects to exploit prisoner phobias,” the activists write. “The memos, by carefully defining parameters, clearly demonstrate that the authors of the memos were deeply engaged in the application of torture techniques, not merely giving abstract legal counsel.”

“Therefore, Velvet Revolution calls upon the Board on Professional Responsibility, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, to act immediately to disbar Mr. Bybee for conduct that is a travesty of justice and an affront to the rule of law and the standards of professional legal and ethical conduct,” they write.

The Monsanto Connection

The Monsanto Connection

by Robert Singer

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I recently published an article “Grandmother Scores Huge Victory over Monsanto”.

The article was a magnet for controversy because I claimed the best way to fight Monsanto and HR 875 was by growing your own food and saving seeds.

Linn Cohen-Cole, the libertarian grandmother at the forefront of the anti-HR 875 campaign called me “dangerous” for fostering complacency by encouraging readers to grow their own food instead of send e-mails and faxes...that no one reads.

The Cornucopia Institute and the Organic Consumers Association has already assured organic advocates that HR 875, the Food Safety and Modernization Act, is only “trying to improve the safety of food products derived from large industrial processing facilities and does not intend to trample organic farmers, backyard gardeners or consumers of fresh local foods.”

Following the April 3 Cornucopia press release, “Family Farmers Fear Being Run over by Food Safety Juggernaut,” organic food activists received a mass e-mail exposing the role of Linn Cole in spreading disinformation about HR 875:

Subject: RETRACTION: URGENT! Monsanto Bill to Ban Organic Food:

“Monsanto, or one of their proxy groups, is actually feeding libertarian groups disinformation on this bill.
\The bill doesn't ban organic. When you make that misinformed, but well-intentioned call to your Congressman, you are doing exactly what Monsanto wants—coming across as an ill-informed and hysterical extremist. Monsanto is making a last-ditch effort in this PR war, but they have already really lost it.”

Monsanto lost it because 43 million Americans, including First Lady Michelle Obama, have risked going to jail for growing their own food!

This will help you understand what really happened:

1.Monsanto is one of the most powerful multi-national corporations in the world. The Global One-World Government New World Order conspiracy, of which Monsanto is a part, is aimed at controlling millions via the food they eat. "Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people," said Henry Kissinger in 1970.

2.Monsanto uses overt and covert strategies to accomplish their goals. Monsanto is behind both sides of the battle over HR 875. They don’t leave important matters like these to chance.

3.Monsanto’s tentacles reach into every aspect of our society: government, private industry, the military, law enforcement and, of course, agriculture. Large, small, organic and non-organic farmers—and don’t forget libertarian grass roots activists—are all influenced directly and indirectly by Monsanto. The company that rose to power in the 20th century as a leading chemical giant now focuses on agriculture. In Monsanto’s world, there is no room for the family farmer. The company’s well-known corporate bullying tactics have made this clear. Just ask Percy Schmeiser, the brave Canola farmer who dared to take on Monsanto.

4.HR 875’s vague wording was intentional.

5.Family Farmers (organic and non-organic) are under attack, but not by Congresswoman DeLauro, the author of HR 875 whose husband was a political consultant to Monsanto 10 years ago.

6.The timing of HR 875 coincides with the slow food, Locavore, and urban gardening movements in the United States and, for that matter, any slow food movement anywhere in the world.

7.The E-coli and salmonella outbreaks related to spinach, tomatoes and peanuts are the work of Monsanto’s agents: Things don’t happen; they’re made to happen.

8.Healthy Family Farm owner Sharon Palmer was arrested for selling raw goat milk, and the Ohio food co-op raided Gestapo-style was obviously instigated by Monsanto agents in a move designed to intimidate urban gardeners.

It doesn’t matter if libertarian grandmother Linn Cohen-Cole, or Paul, a farmer from Wisconsin, were accidental dupes or knowing agents of Monsanto’s disinformation campaign. It only matters that the disinformation campaign was discovered before it wounded the health freedom movement.

Spreading misinformation, misleading or outright false information is not the way to defeat “food safety” legislation, because when you make that misinformed but well-intentioned call to your Congressman, you are doing exactly what Monsanto wants—coming across as an ill-informed and hysterical extremist.

The very clear and present danger is that our “unelected representatives” will be forced to sit down and actually read HR 875. But when they do, they won’t find a ban on heirloom seeds, farmers markets or backyard gardening, because it isn’t there. Does anyone think Monsanto would actually put in writing that we are going to arrest Michelle Obama for planting a garden?

If they did, our representatives wouldn’t need a flood of frantic messages hollering that HR 875 is the bill that will “kill all farms and eat your babies." No, believe it or not, our representatives eat and go to farmers markets just like we do.

So who is behind this disinformation campaign?

The Natural Solutions Foundation (NSF) originated the Linn Cole articles.

The Organic Consumers Association and other legitimate heath advocates have been questioning the NSF for several years, and the criticism is universally the same: Why does the NSF keep turning out factually inaccurate, hysterically grim articles such as Linn Cole’s?

The answers start with the NSF founders, husband-wife team Albert Stubblebine and Rima Laibow. Now, when I accuse these people of being disinformation professionals, let me explain. I'm not saying they're doing sloppy research, and I'm not saying they're being overzealous. What I am saying is that they are working, for pay, to spread false information and to make their organization look like a legitimate activist group.

My conclusion is Stubblebine and Laibow are using the Natural Solutions Foundation—and Linn Cole—to undermine the health freedom community by spreading disinformation about HR 875.

Stubblebine is a retired U.S. Army major general who designed AEGIS, "a major Homeland Security private initiative." Given this background and his ties to the U.S. intelligence community, eyebrows were raised in the health freedom community in early 2005 when, along with Laibow, Stubblebine launched the NSF website and began to promote his wife as an expert on Codex Alimentarius, the commission working to adopt strict new guidelines for vitamin and mineral supplements.

Dr. Rath, founder of the 4.dr-rath-foundation, a legitimate health advocacy group, and the author of “A Modern Major General Exposed?” writes: “It quickly became apparent to experienced health freedom observers that Stubblebine either hadn't done his homework properly, or that he and Laibow were intentionally spreading inaccurate and misleading material about Codex and other related dietary supplement issues via their website and press releases.

Moreover, despite repeated concerns being expressed by more experienced health freedom observers, Stubblebine and Laibow continued to disseminate this material, and pointedly ignored requests to remove it from their website.”

In my “Scared to CodeX Death” article, I refer to Dr. Rima Laibow when I write: “And although the effects of Codex are devastating and will result in humans dying from starvation and preventable diseases from under-nutrition, any claims that WHO or FAO have released epidemiological projections are untrue.”

Dr. Rima Laibow, to the consternation of those fighting Codex, is the source of the untrue claims about the “epidemiological projections” in her YouTube video “Codex Alimentarious & Nutricide.”

The NSF pair want to discredit HR 875, because when the cleverly worded HR 875 finally goes to committee, Monsanto will unleash a massive PR campaign aimed at, guess who? Linn Cohen-Cole and the other lefties who, according to Monsanto, are spreading false and misleading information about an innocent food safety bill.

Later, the headlines such as “HR 875 doesn’t criminalize small agriculture” will warn the population about health freedom activists who, by spreading misinformation, are threatening our food safety and free speech. Then, HR 875 and the real threat, HR 859, are passed without fanfare.

End of story.

And when the son of HR 875 is born, the one that really makes it illegal to grow your own food and have a garden, activists will gear up for another war, but it will be too late.

The battle cry from Monsanto will be heard loud and clear:

“Remember HR 875! Don’t listen to these reactionaries. They will do anything to cast Monsanto as the Agent Orange-eyed monster. Vote here.”

And the epitaph will be written: “The Grandmother Who Cried Wolf”

So if you want to fight Monsanto, take up your hoes and join the 43 million urban gardeners at

You see, what Monsanto is really afraid of is that we are starting to cooperate with each other and grow our own food. It’s called the Power of Community.

Right-wing rampage by Obama administration

Obama’s Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and Justice

by Prof James Petras

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“The Deltas are psychos…You have to be a certified psychopath to join the Delta Force…”, a US Army colonel from Fort Bragg once told me back in the 1980’s. Now President Obama has elevated the most notorious of the psychopaths, General Stanley McChrystal, to head the US and NATO military command in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s rise to leadership is marked by his central role in directing special operations teams engaged in extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions. He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building. Between September 2003 and August 2008, McChrystal directed the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations (JSO) Command which operates special teams in overseas assassinations.

The point of the ‘Special Operations’ teams (SOT) is that they do not distinguish between civilian and military oppositions, between activists and their sympathizers and the armed resistance. The SOT specialize in establishing death squads and recruiting and training paramilitary forces to terrorize communities, neighborhoods and social movements opposing US client regimes. The SOT’s ‘counter-terrorism’ is terrorism in reverse, focusing on socio-political groups between US proxies and the armed resistance. McChrystal’s SOT targeted local and national insurgent leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan through commando raids and air strikes. During the last 5 years of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld period the SOT were deeply implicated in the torture of political prisoners and suspects. McChrystal was a special favorite of Rumsfeld and Cheney because he was in charge of the ‘direct action’ forces of the ‘Special Missions Units. ‘Direct Action’ operative are the death-squads and torturers and their only engagement with the local population is to terrorize, and not to propagandize. They engage in ‘propaganda of the dead’, assassinating local leaders to ‘teach’ the locals to obey and submit to the occupation. Obama’s appointment of McChrystal as head reflects a grave new military escalation of his Afghanistan war in the face of the advance of the resistance throughout the country.

The deteriorating position of the US is manifest in the tightening circle around all the roads leading in and out of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul as well as the expansion of Taliban control and influence throughout the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Obama’s inability to recruit new NATO reinforcements means that the White House’s only chance to advance its military driven empire is to escalate the number of US troops and to increase the kill ratio among any and all suspected civilians in territories controlled by the Afghan armed resistance.

The White House and the Pentagon claim that the appointment of McChrystal was due to the ‘complexities’ of the situation on the ground and the need for a ‘change in strategy’. ‘Complexity’ is a euphemism for the increased mass opposition to the US, complicating traditional carpet ‘bombing and military sweep’ operations. The new strategy practiced by McChrystal involves large scale, long term ‘special operations’ to devastate and kill the local social networks and community leaders, which provide the support system for the armed resistance.

Obama’s decision to prevent the release of scores of photographs documenting the torture of prisoners by US troops and ‘interrogators’ (especially under command of the ‘Special Forces’), is directly related to his appointment of McChrystal whose ‘SOT’ forces were highly implicated in widespread torture in Iraq. Equally important, under McChrystal’s command the DELTA, SEAL and Special Operations Teams will have a bigger role in the new ‘counter-insurgency strategy’. Obama’s claim that the publication of these photographs will adversely affect the ‘troops’ has a particular meaning: The graphic exposure of McChrystal’s modus operendi for the past 5 years under President Bush will undermine his effectiveness in carrying out the same operations under Obama.

Obama’s decision to re-start the secret ‘military tribunals’ of foreign political prisoners, held at the Guantanamo prison camp, is not merely a replay of the Bush-Cheney policies, which Obama had condemned and vowed to eliminate during his presidential campaign, but part of his larger policy of militarization and coincides with his approval of the major secret police surveillance operations conducted against US citizens.

Putting McChrystal in charge of the expanded Afghanistan-Pakistan military operations means putting a notorious practitioner of military terrorism – the torture and assassination of opponents to US policy – at the center of US foreign policy. Obama’s quantitative and qualitative expansion of the US war in South Asia means massive numbers of refugees fleeing the destruction of their farms, homes and villages; tens of thousands of civilian deaths, and eradication of entire communities. All of this will be committed by the Obama Administraton in the quest to ‘empty the lake (displace entire populations) to catch the fish (armed insurgents and activists)’.\

Obama’s restoration of all of the most notorious Bush Era policies and the appointment of Bush’s most brutal commander is based on his total embrace of the ideology of military-driven empire building. Once one believes (as Obama does) that US power and expansion are based on military conquests and counter-insurgency, all other ideological, diplomatic, moral and economic considerations will be subordinated to militarism. By focusing all resources on successful military conquest, scant attention is paid to the costs borne by the people targeted for conquest or to the US treasury and domestic American economy. This has been clear from the start: In the midst of a major recession/depression with millions of Americans losing their employment and homes, President Obama increased the military budget by 4% - taking it beyond $800 billion dollars.

Obama’s embrace of militarism is obvious from his decision to expand the Afghan war despite NATO’s refusal to commit any more combat troops. It is obvious in his appointment of the most hard-line and notorious Special Forces General from the Bush-Cheney era to head the military command in subduing Afghanistan and the frontier areas of Pakistan.

It is just as George Orwell described in Animal Farm: The Democratic Pigs are now pursuing the same brutal, military policies of their predecessors, the Republican Porkers, only now it is in the name of the people and peace. Orwell might paraphrase the policy of President Barack Obama, as ‘Bigger and bloodier wars equal peace and justice’.

Food Companies Are Placing the Onus for Safety on Consumers

Food Companies Are Placing the Onus for Safety on Consumers

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The frozen pot pies that sickened an estimated 15,000 people with salmonella in 2007 left federal inspectors mystified. At first they suspected the turkey. Then they considered the peas, carrots and potatoes.

The pie maker, ConAgra Foods, began spot-checking the vegetables for pathogens, but could not find the culprit. It also tried cooking the vegetables at high temperatures, a strategy the industry calls a “kill step,” to wipe out any lingering microbes. But the vegetables turned to mush in the process.

So ConAgra — which sold more than 100 million pot pies last year under its popular Banquet label — decided to make the consumer responsible for the kill step. The “food safety” instructions and four-step diagram on the 69-cent pies offer this guidance: “Internal temperature needs to reach 165° F as measured by a food thermometer in several spots.”

Increasingly, the corporations that supply Americans with processed foods are unable to guarantee the safety of their ingredients. In this case, ConAgra could not pinpoint which of the more than 25 ingredients in its pies was carrying salmonella. Other companies do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes and other potential dangers, interviews and documents show.

Yet the supply chain for ingredients in processed foods — from flavorings to flour to fruits and vegetables — is becoming more complex and global as the drive to keep food costs down intensifies. As a result, almost every element, not just red meat and poultry, is now a potential carrier of pathogens, government and industry officials concede.

In addition to ConAgra, other food giants like Nestlé and the Blackstone Group, a New York firm that acquired the Swanson and Hungry-Man brands two years ago, concede that they cannot ensure the safety of items — from frozen vegetables to pizzas — and that they are shifting the burden to the consumer. General Mills, which recalled about five million frozen pizzas in 2007 after an E. coli outbreak, now advises consumers to avoid microwaves and cook only with conventional ovens. ConAgra has also added food safety instructions to its other frozen meals, including the Healthy Choice brand.

Peanuts were considered unlikely culprits for pathogens until earlier this year when a processing plant in Georgia was blamed for salmonella poisoning that is estimated to have killed nine people and sickened 27,000. Now, white pepper is being blamed for dozens of salmonella illnesses on the West Coast, where a widening recall includes other spices and six tons of frozen egg rolls.

The problem is particularly acute with frozen foods, in which unwitting consumers who buy these products for their convenience mistakenly think that their cooking is a matter of taste and not safety.

Federal regulators have pushed companies to beef up their cooking instructions with the detailed “food safety” guides. But the response has been varied, as a review of packaging showed. Some manufacturers fail to list explicit instructions; others include abbreviated guidelines on the side of their boxes in tiny print. A Hungry-Man pot pie asks consumers to ensure that the pie reaches a temperature that is 11 degrees short of the government-established threshold for killing pathogens. Questioned about the discrepancy, Blackstone acknowledged it was using an older industry standard that it would rectify when it printed new cartons.

Government food safety officials also point to efforts by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a nonprofit group founded by the Clinton administration. But the partnership consists of a two-person staff and an annual budget of $300,000. Its director, Shelley Feist, said she has wanted to start a campaign to advise consumers about frozen foods, but lacks the money.

Estimating the risk to consumers is difficult. The industry says that it is acting with an abundance of caution, and that big outbreaks of food-borne illness are rare. At the same time, a vast majority of the estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illness every year go unreported or are not traced to the source.

Home Cooking

Some food safety experts say they do not think the solution should rest with the consumer. Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said companies like ConAgra were asking too much. “I do not believe that it is fair to put this responsibility on the back of the consumer, when there is substantial confusion about what it means to prepare that product,” Dr. Osterholm said.

And the ingredient chain for frozen and other processed foods is poised to get more convoluted, industry insiders say. While the global market for ingredients is projected to reach $34 billion next year, the pressure to keep food prices down in a recession is forcing food companies to look for ways to cut costs.

Ensuring the safety of ingredients has been further complicated as food companies subcontract processing work to save money: smaller companies prepare flavor mixes and dough that a big manufacturer then assembles. “There is talk of having passports for ingredients,” said Jamie Rice, the marketing director of RTS Resource, a research firm based in England. “At each stage they are signed off on for quality and safety. That would help companies, if there is a scare, in tracing back.”

But government efforts to impose tougher trace-back requirements for ingredients have met with resistance from food industry groups including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which complained to the Food and Drug Administration: “This information is not reasonably needed and it is often not practical or possible to provide it.”

Now, in the wake of polls that show food poisoning incidents are shaking shopper confidence, the group is re-evaluating its position. A new industry guide produced by the group urges companies to test for salmonella and cites recent outbreaks from cereal, children’s snacks and other dry foods that companies have mistakenly considered immune to pathogens.

Research on raw ingredients, the guide notes, has found salmonella in 0.14 percent to 1.3 percent of the wheat flour sampled, and up to 8 percent of the raw spices tested.

ConAgra’s pot pie outbreak began on Feb. 20, 2007, and by the time it trailed off nine months later 401 cases of salmonella infection had been identified in 41 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that for every reported case, an additional 38 are not detected or reported.

It took until June 2007 for health officials to discover the illnesses were connected, and in October they traced the salmonella to Banquet pot pies made at ConAgra’s plant in Marshall, Mo.

While investigators who went to the plant were never able to pinpoint the salmonella source, inspectors for the United States Department of Agriculture focused on the vegetables, a federal inspection document shows.

ConAgra had not been requiring its suppliers to test the vegetables for pathogens, even though some were being shipped from Latin America. Nor was ConAgra conducting its own pathogen tests.

The company says the outbreak and management changes prompted it to undertake a broad range of safety initiatives, including testing for microbes in all of the pie ingredients. ConAgra said it was also trying to apply the kill step to as many ingredients as possible, but had not yet found a way to accomplish it without making the pies “unpalatable.”

Its Banquet pies now have some of the most graphic food safety instructions, complete with a depiction of a thermometer piercing the crust.

Pressed to say whether the meals are safe to eat if consumers disregard the instructions or make an error, Stephanie Childs, a company spokeswoman, said, “Our goal is to provide the consumer with as safe a product as possible, and we are doing everything within our ability to provide a safe product to them.”

“We are always improving food safety,” Ms. Childs said. “This is a long ongoing process.”

The U.S.D.A. said it required companies to show that their cooking instructions, when properly followed, would kill any pathogens. ConAgra says it has done such testing to validate its instructions.

Getting to ‘Kill Step’

But attempts by The New York Times to follow the directions on several brands of frozen meals, including ConAgra’s Banquet pot pies, failed to achieve the required 165-degree temperature. Some spots in the pies heated to only 140 degrees even as parts of the crust were burnt.

A ConAgra consumer hotline operator said the claims by microwave-oven manufacturers about their wattage power could not be trusted, and that any pies not heated enough should not be eaten. “We definitely want it to reach that 165-degree temperature,” she said. “It’s a safety issue.”

In 2007, the U.S.D.A.’s inspection of the ConAgra plant in Missouri found records that showed some of ConAgra’s own testing of its directions failed to achieve “an adequate lethality” in several products, including its Chicken Fried Beef Steak dinner. Even 18 minutes in a large conventional oven brought the pudding in a Kid Cuisine Chicken Breast Nuggets meal to only 142 degrees, the federal agency found.

Besides improving its own cooking directions, ConAgra says it has alerted other frozen food manufacturers to the food safety issues.

But in the absence of meaningful federal rules, other frozen-dinner makers that face the same problem with ingredients are taking varied steps, some less rigorous. Jim Seiple, a food safety official with the Blackstone unit that makes Swanson and Hungry-Man pot pies, said the company tested for pathogens, but only after preliminary tests for bacteria that were considered indicators of pathogens — a method that ConAgra abandoned after its salmonella outbreak.

The pot pie instructions have built-in margins of error, Mr. Seiple said, and the risk to consumers depended on “how badly they followed our directions.”

Some frozen food companies are taking different approaches to pathogens. Amy’s Kitchen, a California company that specializes in natural frozen foods, says it precooks its ingredients to kill any potential pathogens before its pot pies and other products leave the factory.

Using a bacteriological testing laboratory, The Times checked several pot pies made by Amy’s and the three leading brands, and while none contained salmonella or E. coli, one pie each of two brands — Banquet, and the Stouffer’s brand made by Nestlé — had significant levels of T. coliform.

These bacteria are common in many foods and are not considered harmful. But their presence in these products include raw ingredients and leave open “a potential for contamination,” said Harvey Klein, the director of Garden State Laboratories in New Jersey.

A Nestlé spokeswoman said the company enhanced its food safety instructions in the wake of ConAgra’s salmonella outbreak.

Danger in the Fridge

ConAgra’s episode has raised its visibility among victims like Ryan Warren, a 25-year-old law school student in Washington. A Seattle lawyer, Bill Marler, brought suit against ConAgra on behalf of Mr. Warren’s daughter Zoë, who had just turned 1 year old when she was fed a pot pie that he says put her in the hospital for a terrifying weekend of high fever and racing pulse.

“You don’t assume these dangers to be right in your freezer,” said Mr. Warren, who settled with ConAgra. He does not own a food thermometer and was not certain his microwave oven met the minimum 1,100-wattage requirement in the new pot pie instructions. “I do think that consumers bear responsibility to reasonably look out for their well-being, but the entire reason for this product to exist is for its convenience.”

Public health officials who interviewed the Warrens and other victims of the pot-pie contamination found that fewer than one in three knew the wattage of their microwave ovens, according to the C.D.C. report on the outbreak. The report notes, however, that nearly one in four of the victims reported cooking their pies in conventional ovens.

For more than a decade, the U.S.D.A. has also sought to encourage consumers to use food thermometers. But the agency’s statistics on how many Americans do so are discouraging. According to its Web site, not quite half the population has one, and only 3 percent use it when cooking high-risk foods like hamburgers. No data was available on how many people use thermometers on pot pies.

Court Orders Parents to Poison Their 13-Year-Old Child with Chemotherapy

Court Orders Parents to Poison Their 13-Year-Old Child with Chemotherapy

by Mike Adams
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Against the wishes of both the parents and the 13-year-old patient in question, a Minnesota judge has ruled that Daniel Hauser must undergo conventional chemotherapy treatments, which are characterized by the mass-poisoning of the patient with toxic chemicals.

For opting to explore alternative and natural remedies rather than chemotherapy for their son, the parents were accused of medical neglect and now face having their son taken away from them by Child Protective Services (CPS). They may also face prison time if they refuse to follow the judge's orders.

Daniel was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a health condition that is widely known by alternative cancer practitioners to be reversible (curable), especially in younger patients. Conventional medical doctors have told the courts that unless Daniel is subjected to toxic chemotherapy treatments, he has a 95% chance of dying.

That statistics is an outright lie. It is one of the many deceptive statistics put forth by the cancer industry in order to scare patients into submitting to extremely toxic protocols that cause far more harm than good.

Cancer patients cured by chemotherapy? Zero

There is not a single cancer patient that has ever been cured by chemotherapy. Zero. They don't exist. Not a single documented case in the history of western medicine.

And why is that? Because conventional medicine operates from the false belief that there is no cure for cancer! Thus, anyone offering a cure (or assisting in the body's own natural reversal of the disease) is immediately dismissed as a quack. Meanwhile, the real quackery is found in the pushing of toxic chemotherapy chemicals that are injected into the bodies of patients and called "treatment" when they should really be called "torture." (Nancy Pelosi, by the way, was never briefed on the fact that chemotherapy is torture...)

What's most disturbing in all of this, of course, is that the state is now forcing parents to poison their own children, requiring they hand over money to Big Pharma and conventional cancer treatment centers. The concept of freedom of choice has been stolen away from parents. The idea of protecting your children from toxic chemicals has been not just nullified, but made illegal!

Furthermore, the whole universe of natural cancer cures that really work has been sidelined by this Minnesota judge who is, no doubt, completely ignorant on cancer and human physiology. All these were utterly ignored: Vitamin D (, selenium, oxygen therapy, medicinal mushrooms, microalgae, Amazon rainforest herbs, Chinese Medicine herbs, high-dose vitamin C, raw foods juicing, wild foods extracts, superfood powders, raw cacao, broccoli sprouts and a thousand other things that we know help the body reverse various cancers.

All these things were apparently thrown out of the courtroom and almost certainly disparaged by drug-pushing doctors who claim that only their own chemicals can treat this disease.

Can you imagine the arrogance of that position? Of all the hundreds of different systems of medicine in our world, with tens of thousands of identified medicinal plant species growing on our planet, with the knowledge and wisdom of over 5,000 years of natural medicine being used across nearly every continent, modern doctors insist there is but one approach to cancer that has any value whatsoever: Chemotherapy. And they believe it so strongly, that they will argue for the arrest and imprisonment of parents who disagree with them.

This is the point at which medicine crosses over the line of anything scientific and becomes a dangerous form of dogma known as "scientism."

Modern medicine is not a scientific debate, folks. It's a system of control. Doctors, judges and courtrooms are simply tools of oppression to manipulate, poison and exploit a diseased population, all while isolating them from the natural cures that really work.

And the people causing this to happen are, in every conceivable way, guilty of mass murder. To deny the population access to accurate information about natural cancer remedies that really work -- and to threaten to imprison those who attempt to protect their children from the harm caused by poisonous chemicals -- is essentially an act of murder. It's not quite the same as putting a gun to someone's head and pulling the trigger, but it's close: Dead is dead, whether they were killed by a bullet or an injection.

It is especially educational to realize that most oncologists refuse to submit to chemotherapy themselves. When cancer doctors get cancer, they avoid chemotherapy as any sensible person would. But they have no hesitation about injecting the poisons into the bodies of other people, including innocent 13-year-old boys who will almost certainly be harmed or even killed by the treatment.

Chemotherapy causes permanent brain damage. It's an undisputed scientific fact. It's called "chemo-brain." (

Chemotherapy also causes heart damage and kidney damage. If you want to kill someone, an easy way to accomplish that would be to inject them with chemotherapy chemicals. But if you want to protect someone from danger, it would be far smarter to avoid chemotherapy altogether, and seek natural remedies that really work.

What works? Lots of things. Medicinal mushrooms ( are extremely powerful anti-cancer medicines. So is spirulina ( and chlorella. Trace minerals are anti-cancer, as is aloe vera (

Cancer can also be beat with the help of superfoods (, berries (, cruciferous vegetables, sprouts ( and even resveratrol ( Eating spinach from your own garden is anti-cancer. The Amazon Herb Company sells numerous Amazon rainforest herbs that are naturally anti-cancer, and vitamin D all by itself can prevent nearly 4 out of 5 cancers (

There is no shortage of cancer cures in our world. There is only a shortage of intelligence among court judges, doctors and CPS personnel who have allowed themselves to remain dangerously ignorant of the cancer treatments offered by Mother Nature.

When will the world wake up and figure out the obvious here?

Cancer is not caused by a poison deficiency. And poisoning the body while calling it "treatment" is a prime example of extreme intellectual dishonesty on the part of oncologists and Big Pharma pill pushers who, at the very least, are responsible for the deaths of perhaps half a million people a year worldwide.

By any honest mathematical analysis, cancer doctors are orders of magnitude more dangerous to our world than all the terrorists, ocean pirates and serial killers combined. And now, with the help of ignorant court judges, they have outlawed NOT using their own brand of poison.

It's sick beyond imagination. It's a crime against humanity, and I can only pray that one day the people responsible for the deaths of all these children being poisoned by chemotherapy will face their own court trials for mass murder.

Flu Bug

Flu Bug

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If you sell crack, join a gang, or rob the mob you can expect to die a violent death, but if you listen to your mother, eat all the right foods, and study hard in college to become a microbiologist, you should expect to live to a ripe old age and die peacefully.

That being the case, a few eyebrows were raised when five microbiologists either disappeared or died mysteriously violent deaths in 2001. A short time later the number rose to 19, and then 29.

They were found stabbed to death in the trunks of cars, thrown off bridges, or they wrapped their cars around trees after their brake fluid disappeared. Once again, this is the stuff of Hollywood spy stories, and not the way you would expect a microbiologist to give up the ghost.

By 2005, we lost 40 micro-biologists in less than 4 years, all under suspicious circumstances, and during this time someone discovered that they were all working for the government, or government contractors, on projects related to bio-terrorism, flu pandemics, or anthrax. Obviously they weren’t trying to find a cure for anything, or there would be no need to silence them.

Then it was discovered that our government was involved in strange experiments that involve exhuming bodies of people that were killed by the 1918 Spanish flu, and genetically engineered flu viruses, all the while the media is preparing the public with stories of bird flu wiping out thousands of chickens (acid test?) and even a few people here and there.

People who are becoming accustomed to the practices and motives of our criminal government tried to warn you of an impending flu pandemic, but your TV training taught you to dismiss them all as "crazy conspiracy theorists," and you naturally associated all their warnings with stories of Bigfoot and UFO abductions, just as you were trained to do.

The good folks of FEMA predicted a need for a few million plastic coffins, which are now spread out across the country, but despite this revelation, most of America still thinks their biggest concern is a toss up between the Super Bowl and American Idol.

Well it seems as if the crazy conspiracy theorists were right again, because the world-wide flu pandemic they were warning you about has been unleashed, and it will dominate the headlines until millions, if not billions of people are dead. It won’t be stopped because no one with the means to stop it wants to stop it.

Wash your hands often, pull your kids out of school, avoid crowds, if not people altogether, avoid alcohol or drugs that will weaken your resistance, and stay well-nourished.

Two of the goals here are to cull the population, and to encourage general mayhem and misery that only a World Government can save you from. You’ll be so worn out and tired of death and depression that you’ll offer little resistance to the new order. The economic collapse and World War three are part of the same plan, and it’s all been tried before. It’s the same crew behind this latest attempt, and it’s not difficult to see who’s behind it all, once again.

This flu pandemic that will soon cause people to drop like flies is no mutated bird flu. It’s a genetically engineered virus designed to kill as many people as possible. And after people do start dropping like flies, political dissidents will be accused of being flu carriers and no one will object to them being hauled away. Good luck. -- Jolly Roger

Here’s an interesting link:
if you start at the bottom of the page and work your way up you’ll see a nice collection of news articles that document the entire process of creating and testing a flu bug that will wipe out millions of people.
(or at least that part of the process that's revealed to the public)

Obama Dares Judge to Order Release of NSA Spy Document

Obama Dares Judge to Order Release Of NSA Spy Document

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Setting the stage for a constitutional showdown, the Obama administration dared a federal judge here late Friday to do what no judge has yet done: disclose classified data the government has declared a national security state secret.

The administration urged (.pdf) U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to order such a disclosure in a 3-year-old lawsuit weighing whether a sitting U.S. president may bypass Congress and adopt a program of eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Such an order, the administration said, could halt three years of convoluted litigation and force the appellate courts to weigh in on the hotly contested issue.

The classified data in question shows that telephone calls by two American lawyers for a now-defunct Saudi charity were intercepted by the government without warrants in 2004. Without the classified documents admitted as evidence in the case, the aggrieved lawyers for the al-Haramain charity, which the Bush administration designated as a terror group, cannot establish a legal basis to earn them a day in court.

The eavesdropping evidence in the Islamic charity’s case came to light after the Treasury Department accidentally disclosed a classified document to the plaintiffs five years ago.

The evidence, which the Bush and Obama administrations have declared a state secret, has never been made public. Counsel for the charity lawyers returned the document to the government, but have continued fighting to use the document to challenge Bush’s spy program, which was adopted in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks. Bush acknowledged the program in 2005, and Congress legalized it in July.

Judge Walker has ordered the government twice to work with the plaintiff’s lawyers to craft a so-called “protective order” by which only the plaintiffs lawyers would have access to the document to enable the case to be litigated. There would be no public disclosure of the evidence.

Walker, in January and again in April, demanded the Justice Department, in conjunction with plaintiff’s lawyers, to craft the protective order like those used to prosecute Guantanamo Bay detainees.

But Walker has never pulled the trigger and actually ordered the disclosure of the documents to the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case.

So in a court filing late Friday, the Obama administration again refused to cooperate in creating a protective order. Instead, the administration challenged Walker to go beyond a protective order and actually demand disclosure of the records.

That would commence the first constitutional showdown surrounding the disclosure of state secrets in a bid to get the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review Walker’s decision.

Walker’s earlier orders in the case have not been ripe enough for the San Francisco appellate court to review.

“Accordingly, the government respectfully requests that, before the court grants plaintiffs’ counsel access to state secrets, the court enter an order directing disclosure or otherwise provide adequate notice of any disclosure to enable the government to seek a stay and take an appeal,” Anthony Coppolino, the Justice Department’s special litigation counsel, wrote Judge Walker.

The state secrets defense was first recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in a McCarthy-era lawsuit in 1953, and has been increasingly and successfully invoked by federal lawyers seeking to shield the government from court scrutiny. Lawsuits in which national-security information may be divulged are always tossed by judges at the request of the government –- often by judges who never reviewed any classified data.

In this case, Walker reviewed the classified material and said the evidence pointed toward illegal spying.

A George H. W. Bush appointee, Walker has defied the government on state secrets before, but has never ordered the disclosure of evidence the government has declared classified.

He rejected the Bush administration’s state secrets claim in lawsuits challenging the nation’s telecommunication companies’ complicity with Bush’s once-secret electronic eavesdropping program. But Congress stepped in and immunized the telcos from the lawsuits.

With then-Sen. Barack Obama’s vote in July, Congress also sanctioned Bush’s spy program that authorized warrantless wiretapping on Americans if they are communicating overseas with suspected terrorists.

Walker is also weighing a challenge to that immunity legislation.

Jon Eisenberg, an attorney for the al-Haramain lawyers – Wendell Belew and Asim Gafoor — is urging Walker to disclose the information without the government’s consent.

“For this case to resume forward progress, the court can simply adopt a protective order under which the court will afford plaintiffs access to the classified filings,” Eisenberg wrote Walker late Friday.

But if Walker obliges Eisenberg, another constitutional crisis may surface. The Justice Department, in an earlier filing, suggested it may “withdraw” the documents at issue regardless of Walker’s orders.

That’s because the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation material likely remains locked under the control of the Obama administration’s Litigation Security Section of the Justice Department, according to the record in the case.

Last month, the government acknowledged that, in 2005, it purposely destroyed 92 videotapes to cover up evidence of mistreatment of U.S. terror suspects — evidence the American Civil Liberties Union was trying to bring to light in a New York federal court lawsuit against the Defense Department.

Xe Mercenaries Fired at Kabul Car

U.S. Contractors Fired at Kabul Car

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Four U.S. contractors affiliated with the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide fired on an approaching civilian vehicle in Kabul this month, wounding at least two Afghan civilians, according to the company and the U.S. military.

The off-duty contractors were involved in a car accident around 9 p.m. on May 5 and then fired on the approaching vehicle, which they believed to be a threat, according to the U.S. military. At least some of the men, who were former military personnel, had been allegedly drinking alcohol that evening, according to a person familiar with the incident. Off-duty contractors aren't supposed to carry weapons or drink alcohol.

The incident occurred at a delicate time for the U.S., which faces rising outrage from Afghan leaders over civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes. For Xe, which is the name Blackwater chose this year to distance itself from its controversial security work in Iraq, the shooting comes as the Obama administration and Defense Secretary Robert Gates reconsider the role of military contractors, a practice that boomed during the Bush years.

The contractors were trainers hired by Paravant LLC, a subsidiary of Xe. Paravant has terminated contracts with the four men "for failure to comply with the terms of their contract," according to Xe spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell. "Contractual and or legal violations will not be tolerated," she said.

The contractors were ordered not to leave Afghanistan without permission of the Defense Department, she said, and the company said it is cooperating with authorities.

The U.S. military is investigating the incident, according to a May 7 news release that didn't name the company involved. The statement also said two Afghans received hospital treatment for their wounds.

Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S., Said Jawad, said he is still waiting to learn the details from his Interior Ministry. "Blackwater has reached out to us and offered compensation to the families of the victims," he said. "The embassy has put them in touch with our Ministry of Interior."

Paravant was set up to subcontract to Raytheon Co. on a large U.S. Army training contract, according to a person familiar with the situation. Raytheon referred questions to U.S. Central Command, which runs the military effort in Afghanistan.

Large defense contractors typically rely heavily on specialized subcontractors when operating in hot spots such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Raytheon's use of Paravant is for a program called Warfighter Focus, a sweeping U.S. Army training effort valued at more than $11 billion over a 10-year period.

The incident comes at a transition point after Blackwater changed its name in February and Blackwater founder Erik Prince announced in March he was stepping back from day-to-day operations after bringing in new senior executives. The company, which has had problems with weapons-export paperwork and other back-office issues, also moved to shore up its operations after a meteoric expansion from a small training outfit founded in 1997 to the biggest U.S. private security company.

"While this kind of change does not happen overnight, we are confident that we have the right team in place to provide the best possible services to our customers," said Ms. Tyrrell.

Xe is now winding down its guard work in Iraq as the government there is effectively forcing them out after a 2007 shooting incident involving one of its State Department security teams left 17 Iraqis dead. The company is counting on offsetting that loss of business, for hundreds of millions of dollars a year, with contracts in Afghanistan doing everything from training to flying cargo for the U.S. military.

The May 5 shooting in Kabul is likely to further embolden critics of not only the company's tactics but also management of its contractors. A 2006 incident in Iraq also involved a Blackwater security contractor who shot and killed a bodyguard for Iraq's vice president on Christmas Eve.

Health Care Lobby Won Billions in Stimulus

The Machinery Behind Health-Care Reform
How an Industry Lobby Scored a Swift, Unexpected Victory by Channeling Billions to Electronic Records

By Robert O'Harrow Jr.

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When President Obama won approval for his $787 billion stimulus package in February, large sections of the 407-page bill focused on a push for new technology that would not stimulate the economy for years.

The inclusion of as much as $36.5 billion in spending to create a nationwide network of electronic health records fulfilled one of Obama's key campaign promises -- to launch the reform of America's costly health-care system.

But it was more than a political victory for the new administration. It also represented a triumph for an influential trade group whose members now stand to gain billions in taxpayer dollars.

A Washington Post review found that the trade group, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, had worked closely with technology vendors, researchers and other allies in a sophisticated, decade-long campaign to shape public opinion and win over Washington's political machinery.

With financial backing from the industry, they started advocacy groups, generated research to show the potential for massive savings and met routinely with lawmakers and other government officials. Their proposals made little headway in Congress, in part because of the complexity of the issues and questions about whether the technology and federal subsidies would work as billed.

As the downturn worsened last year, advocates helped persuade Obama's advisers to dust off electronic records legislation that had stalled in Congress -- legislation that the advocates had a hand in writing, the Post review found.

Their sudden success shows how the economic crisis created a remarkable opening for a political and financial windfall: the enactment of a sweeping new policy with no bureaucratic delays and virtually no public debate about an initiative aimed at transforming a sector that accounts for more than a sixth of the American economy.

"It was perhaps a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make something happen," said H. Stephen Lieber, the trade group's president. Obama "identified the vehicle that he could use to move his policy agenda forward without the crippling policy debate."

Obama and some of his advisers had been thinking about health-care reform for years before they made it a top campaign issue. Some advocates have talked about improving use of health information technology for decades.

Government and private studies have found that much of the $2.5 trillion spent on health care each year is wasted on the duplication of tests and unneeded procedures.

Many technology advocates, including health policy specialists, say that networked electronic patient records that can be transmitted instantly would make health care more efficient and provide valuable insights about costs and care. Only a small minority of doctors use such technology to track the care they give people. Some health policy analysts have recommended the use of government subsidies and incentives to spur the adoption -- as the stimulus spending is intended to do.

Some advocates also say the savings could amount to tens of billions of dollars each year from reduced paperwork, faster communication and the prevention of harmful drug interactions. An equally important benefit, they say, could be to enable researchers to determine the most effective procedures for an ailment.

Such an approach would rely on unprecedented data-mining into medical records and the practices of doctors, a kind of surveillance that also would enable insurers to cut costs by controlling more precisely the care that patients receive.

"Finally, we're going to have access to millions and millions of patient records online," said Blackford Middleton, a physician, Harvard professor and chairman of the Center for Information Technology Leadership, whose studies have concluded the health-care system could save $77.8 billion each year through the universal use of information technology networks. "This is the biggest step for health-care information technology in this country's history."

But others said the case was far from being so clear. Some observers said the projected savings are overly optimistic and that launching such vast computer networks under tight deadlines is risky, a lesson learned by the Bush administration when it botched a variety of homeland security systems rushed into place after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Some proponents said they worry that an over-reliance on technology as a solution could distract the health-care system from difficult questions about quality of care. They said efforts to find a quick technological fix will likely run up against complex cultural challenges.

"I would like to believe that the effective use of technology to augment health care will lead to substantial savings and improvements in the quality of care," said Mark Frisse, a physician and professor of biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University, who leads an electronic health record program in Nashville. "But the evidence does not consistently bear this out."

Many groups have been involved in the push for health information technology, including physician groups. At the center of those efforts is the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Started a half-century ago, it represents 350 companies and about 20,000 members. Corporate members include government contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, health-care technology giants such as McKesson, Ingenix and GE Healthcare, and drug industry leaders, including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

The group, known as HIMSS, runs a trade show for technology vendors, publishes a health technology newspaper and operates a research unit to help members find new markets. The group also maintains a government affairs office in Washington and chapters in state capitals across the country. "HIMSS has a very effective grass roots advocacy program that reaches all levels of government," Dave Roberts, a senior executive, said in the group's literature.

For a decade, the group has pressed Congress and other government officials to mandate and subsidize the adoption of health records technology. Over the years, those meetings have included Obama and the man now leading the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag.

In 2004, the group persuaded White House speechwriters to include a favorable line in President Bush's State of the Union address. "By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs and improve care," Bush said.

That was the group's single greatest success until the stimulus passed, Lieber, its president, said. "We worked very hard to get that one line in there," he said.

'The Nature of My Dream'

In their quest to generate a favorable policy buzz, advocates created and funded nonprofit organizations to press for electronic health records.

HIMSS has a "strategic alliance" with the Center for Information Technology Leadership, a nonprofit that produces research reports -- which HIMSS prints and distributes to Congress and elsewhere.

The center was chartered in 2002 by Partners HealthCare System, the largest health-care provider in Massachusetts. Among those sponsoring the center or its reports are Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Google, Siemens Medical Solutions Health Services and other technology companies.

The role of the center's chairman, Blackford Middleton, shows the web of connections behind the drive for electronic health records.

Middleton is a physician at Partners HealthCare and during the dot-com boom in the 1990s was a senior executive at a start-up that raised hundreds of millions of dollars to develop electronic health records technology. Middleton left the company in 2001, joined Partners and became an assistant professor of medicine and health policy at Harvard.

The next year, he became a fellow at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Middleton eventually came to lead the boards of directors for both that group and the Center for Information Technology Leadership, meaning he was immersed in advocacy of the issue as well as the research to persuade the public of its merit. He was also involved with other nonprofits started in part to promote the use of technology.

One of the center's most important reports was issued with HIMSS one month after Bush's 2004 State of the Union address. It concluded that a complete embrace of health information technology could save $77.8 billion annually.

In an interview, Middleton said support from the group and from technology companies came with no strings attached. "HIMSS and our corporate sponsors had no influence over the content or the conduct of the research," he said.

Middleton said research showed that the projected savings could be achieved only if the government stepped in with incentive payments for doctors, who have resisted investing in the computers because there was no evidence they could profit from them.

Middleton said he is motivated by a desire to improve the health-care system, not by financial rewards. "This is the nature of my dream," Middleton said.

'Everything We Know'

After volunteering on John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004, Middleton said he was recruited as an Obama volunteer last year and provided information about electronic records to the candidate's health-care policy group. Middleton said he worked with several campaign officials, including David Blumenthal, a colleague at Partners HealthCare and a Harvard professor, who was Obama's health-care adviser and is now the administration's national coordinator for health technology.

"We didn't have to go very far to get our information," said one senior Obama adviser, who was not authorized to speak publicly and discussed the campaign on the condition of anonymity. Blumenthal "taught all the rest of us everything we know."

Middleton said he provided many of those details.

"I sent them a LOT of stuff, many papers and most of the reports. I probably spoke or communicated with David Blumenthal, David Cutler (the health economist on the team), or Dora Hughes about every other week during the heat of the campaign," Middleton said in an e-mail.

In an e-mail, Blumenthal wrote:

"It would be flatout wrong to say Blackford Middleton was a key campaign adviser or had an official role on the campaign. He was one of many people the campaign reached out to, and I personally had minimal contact with him."

The Obama campaign used the center's $77.8 billion cost-savings figure.

After the election, as the economy threatened to collapse, Obama pitched emergency spending on health-care technology as one of many solutions to include in a stimulus package.

In a Dec. 6 radio address, the president-elect said that "We will make sure that every doctor's office and hospital in this country is using cutting-edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes and help save billions of dollars each year."

Five days later, Obama and his top advisers listened as Thomas A. Daschle, then the nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, made a PowerPoint presentation in a Chicago conference room spelling out the virtues of using the stimulus package for electronic health records. Daschle, a proponent of health information technology, had cited the center's cost-saving estimate in a 2008 book promoting health-care reform.

Orszag, the OMB director, was among those at the meeting. While the spending on health records will not stimulate the economy immediately, he said, Obama views it as a long-term "investment" against one of the most persistent drags on the U.S. economy.

"It is a key first step toward a high-performing health-care system," Orszag said in an interview.

On Dec. 17, Lieber, the Healthcare Information group's leader, said in a letter to the president-elect that a "minimum of $25 billion" in subsidies was needed to spur doctors to buy the technology.

In an interview, Lieber said his group was interested not in profit for its members but in improving the health-care system. "It's 'What will this do for health care,' not 'What will this do for GE or Siemens or Phillips.' "

'Overly Optimistic'

The stimulus bill suggests that the government will recoup about a third of the spending allocated for electronic health records over the next decade, an assumption that some health-care observers question, in part because of a critical analysis by the Congressional Budget Office last year.

The CBO, then led by Orszag, examined the industry-funded study behind the $77.8 billion assertion, among other things, and concluded that it relied on "overly optimistic" assumptions and said much is unknown about the potential impact of health information technology.

A CBO analysis of the stimulus bill this year projected that spending on electronic health records could yield perhaps $17 billion in savings over a decade.

Under the stimulus package, Medicaid and Medicare providers will receive incentive payments to offset the cost of electronic health record systems they buy. No one knows for sure how widely the technology will be adopted, and no one knows for sure whether those systems will yield the expected savings, specialists said.

Another open question relates to the development of technical standards that define what equipment qualifies for stimulus payments. Some critics contend those standards could choke off innovation and funnel profit to certain vendors, without necessarily improving care.

To qualify for federal funding, the technology must enable "meaningful use" by doctors and others, according to the legislation -- a standard that policymakers, researchers, vendors and others are struggling to define now.

Joseph Antos, a health-care policy specialist who has examined the legislation, said the risks of the technology plan are high because of the haste with which it is being implemented and the special interests seeking to profit from it.

"This is the real way things get done," said Antos, of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "The stimulus bill looked like a bonanza to an awful lot of people."