Thursday, June 11, 2009

US reinforcements in place in southern Afghanistan

US reinforcements in place in southern Afghanistan

By James Cogan

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The Obama administration’s “surge” in Afghanistan is taking shape, with 10,000 marines from the North Carolina-based 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) completing the commencement of their deployment to the volatile province of Helmand over the next several weeks.

An Army Aviation Brigade, with some 100 troop-lift helicopters and gunships, is already operating out of the neighbouring province of Kandahar. They will be joined in the next month by the 4,000-strong 5th Stryker Brigade, a mobile unit that is almost entirely mounted in eight-wheeled armoured Stryker vehicles.

These units make up the bulk of the 21,000 additional troops that Obama has ordered to Afghanistan to suppress the Taliban-led insurgency against the US-led occupation of the country. By the end of the year, the total US force will reach close to 70,000. NATO states and other US allies are supplying close to 60,000 troops, with Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia providing the units that are conducting combat operations in the majority ethnic Pashtun provinces of southern Afghanistan, where support for the Taliban is strongest.

Over the coming weeks and months, the 2nd MEB will be hurled into a bloody summer offensive in Helmand, along with the 5,700 British troops and US special forces already operating in the province. The British force in Afghanistan has now suffered 166 fatalities—more than the 165 British troops who lost their lives during the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The US Stryker Brigade deploying to Kandahar will be used alongside a Canadian task force that has been trying to stem insurgent activity in the province for the past four years, losing 119 dead and hundreds wounded in the process.

A key objective of the summer offensive is to impose a greater degree of authority over the southern provinces before the Afghan presidential election on August 20. Taliban leaders have called for a boycott of the ballot, declaring any vote under foreign occupation to be illegitimate.

After nearly eight years of war, the occupation forces and Afghan government army still control only the major cities and towns of southern Afghanistan. Taliban forces hold sway over the rural areas—where most of the population lives.

As well as seeking to hunt down Islamist militants, the US reinforcements will be tasked with confronting the militias that oversee large-scale opium production in southern Afghanistan on behalf of various Afghan warlords and drug syndicates. Some 8,200 tonnes of opium were produced in Afghanistan in 2007—more than half in Helmand alone. A British military raid this month on just one of the scores of drug factories in the province resulted in the seizure of 5.5 tonnes of opium paste and 100 kilograms of refined heroin.

After years of essentially ignoring the narcotics trade, the occupation forces are increasingly alarmed at the financial relationship between the insurgency and the drug syndicates. The Taliban is said to earn tens of millions of dollars in protection money and taxes. The syndicates are also suspected of having links into the highest echelons of the US-backed Afghan government and numerous paid operatives in the US/NATO-trained Afghan Army, police and border guards.

Marine spokesman Colonel George Amland told journalists this week: “I wish it were as simple as looking at alleged Taliban leaders. We are going to have to assess what is really Taliban influence and what is a spin-off of the narco-industry and how these forces interact.” Among the suspected drug barons in Kandahar is Ahmed Wali Karzai—the brother of the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

The proposed new US commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, told a Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month that “casualties will likely increase” as the US reinforcements are sent into combat operations against the Taliban and syndicates.

Even before Obama’s surge troops arrived, 2009 was set to have the highest number of occupation casualties for the entire Afghanistan conflict. So far, 131 soldiers have been killed—72 American and 59 NATO—compared with 123 in the full first six months of last year. In 2008, the summer months of June, July and August witnessed a sharp spike in fatalities and this year is likely to be worse.

The Taliban has learnt to avoid direct engagements with better armed and equipped American and NATO troops, whose main tactic is to go to ground and call in air strikes to devastate any insurgent attack. When the occupation forces do move into villages or towns that the Taliban controls, its fighters—like guerillas throughout history—either leave the area or blend in with the locals.

The insurgents appear to be focusing on attacking the not-so-well-equipped Afghan police and targeting the occupation forces with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The majority of US and NATO casualties are caused by IED attacks on vehicles. The number of such attacks has soared by 80 percent this year compared with 2008, when more than 3,200 explosions were tallied.

Foreshadowing an even greater use of IEDs, a local Helmand province Taliban spokesman told a Los Angeles Times correspondent this month: “They [the occupation forces] must use the roads, and on the roads we will kill them.”

Faced with trying to wrest control of a vast area from an enemy they rarely see and which has local sympathy and support, the US/NATO military commanders rely heavily on terror tactics against both alleged insurgents and the civilian population.

General McChrystal has been nominated as overall commander in Afghanistan in large part due to his experience in directing such operations, particularly in Iraq. He previously commanded the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which was described by journalist Seymour Hersh as “an executive assassination ring”. During the Iraq war, the special forces units led by McChrystal carried out large-scale, targeted killing of alleged Iraqi insurgents, or their capture. According to Human Rights Watch, JSOC tortured prisoners at a secret detention centre in Baghdad.

Alongside the increased use of special forces hit squads, McChrystal told the US Senate that there would be no let-up in the air strikes against alleged Taliban positions—despite the burgeoning anger in Afghanistan over the number of civilians indiscriminately killed by US bombing missions.

On May 4, up to 140 men, women and children were slaughtered when F-18 jets and a B1 bomber repeatedly bombed the village of Granai, in the western province of Farah. According to the New York Times, a US military inquiry has admitted that US aircraft “did not comply with the standing rules of engagement” that theoretically require pilots to confirm that civilians will not be endangered by an attack.

Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, such “mistakes” have taken place dozens of times, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths and injuries. As the fighting extends deeper in the Taliban heartland, the carnage will only escalate.

While workers’ wages fall Obama rejects limits on bankers’ pay

Obama administration rejects limits on bankers’ pay

By Patrick Martin

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The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it opposed any government-imposed limits on the salary and bonuses of the CEOs and other top officials of major banks that have received trillions of dollars in federal handouts and guarantees over the past eight months.

Coming only nine days after the White House forced bankruptcy on General Motors and major cuts in auto workers’ pay and benefits, the green light for CEOs to continue to award themselves eight-digit compensation packages is further evidence of the grotesque double standard of American capitalism. Workers, retirees, young people and small businessmen will all see their living standards and future prospects devastated, but nothing can be allowed to interfere with the pursuit of personal wealth by the financial aristocracy.

“We do not believe it’s appropriate for the government to set caps in compensation,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in announcing the administration’s policy for companies which have received federal bailouts through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). “We’re not going to prescribe detailed prescriptive rules for compensation,” he continued. “All those things would be ineffective, could be counterproductive in some ways.”

Neither Geithner nor any other Obama administration official has explained why it is wrong and “counterproductive” to limit the multi-million-dollar salary and bonus packages awarded to bank executives, but absolutely necessary to slash the wages, pensions and health benefits of workers at General Motors, Chrysler and their supplier plants.

Well aware of the popular resentment against stratospheric salaries and bonuses for the financiers whose speculative practices precipitated a worldwide economic crisis, the Obama administration has offered a fig leaf of restraint on compensation. Geithner said the administration would ask Congress to give shareholders a consultative voice on executive pay and authorize the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require corporate compensation committees to be more independent of company management. (Most CEOs have their pay and bonuses set by their cronies on the board of directors, often appointed by the CEOs themselves).

To call these measures toothless would be to exaggerate their significance. The shareholder votes would be non-binding. The compensation committees would still be selected by the corporate board and the CEO. There would be no outside regulatory supervision or control. And, of course, the workers would have no say whatsoever in the decision to award their bosses compensation packages hundreds if not thousands of times their own pay.

In his statement, Geithner made a pro forma acknowledgment that CEO pay played a role in the crisis. “This financial crisis had many significant causes,” he said, “but executive compensation practices were a contributing factor. Incentives for short-term gains overwhelmed the checks and balances meant to mitigate against the risk of excess leverage.”

Geithner declared that the first principle of his “reform” was that “compensation plans should properly measure and reward performance.” This is a sham. The CEOs of the major banks and investment houses do not create any real wealth. Their “labor” consists of the manipulation of financial assets. This activity is entirely parasitic, and in the recent period catastrophically destructive. To “properly measure and reward” the performance of these gentlemen would require criminal investigations and public trials, not multi-million-dollar payoffs.

There are some differences between the measures proposed by Geithner Wednesday and those originally proposed by the Obama administration on February 4, as part of its initial reformulation of the TARP program. Other limited restraints were introduced into the stimulus package enacted by Congress in February, in an amendment drafted by Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. But no version provides any serious obstacle to the bankers and CEOs resuming their mania for self-enrichment.

The only semblance of pay restraint will be applied to the seven companies that have borrowed more than once under the TARP program: Bank of America, Citibank, American International Group, General Motors, Chrysler, GMAC and Chrysler Financial. These seven companies must have the pay and bonuses of their top 25 executives approved by a “special master” appointed by Geithner, who named prominent Washington lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to the post. Feinberg will also review compensation practices at the other 80 firms that have drawn TARP money, but will not have any decision-making authority over them.

While Feinberg was immediately dubbed the “czar” of executive pay by the press, there is a revealing contrast between his background and record and that of the individual who functions as the Treasury’s automobile “czar,” hedge fund billionaire Steven Rattner.

Feinberg was most recently the head of the fund established to compensate the families of those killed and maimed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC. His task was to distribute several billion dollars to the families with a display of fairness and sensitivity. A critical purpose of these charitable payments was to forestall any lawsuits that could bring to light facts about the events leading up to September 11, 2001, above all the role of US intelligence agencies, which the government would prefer to keep hidden.

Rattner is a capitalist speculator. He has a great deal of experience in dismembering troubled companies and disposing of their assets, extracting the maximum profit from a process that involves the destruction of jobs, pensions and working class communities, a task which he is undertaking with great zeal against the auto workers.

The class divisions in American society are thus demonstrated even in the contrasting personal styles of the two “czars.” The CEOs of giant companies are to be treated with tact and discretion. The auto workers, on the other hand, are getting the treatment dished out by a corporate raider.

The pretense of restraint on executive pay comes only a week after a report, by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, that more than half of American companies are cutting or freezing pay for their employees in response to the financial crisis. Some 52.4 percent of human resource executives surveyed in May said their companies had cut compensation, up from 27.2 percent in a similar survey in January.

The proportion of companies taking cost-cutting measures of all kinds declined slightly from January (92 percent) to May (86 percent), with most companies enacting a combination of job cuts, hiring freezes, furloughs, pay cuts and benefit cuts. It is undoubtedly the case that those CEOs who proceed most aggressively to cut workers’ pay, benefits and jobs will reap the reward personally, in the form of large bonuses. And according to Geithner and the Obama administration, they will have earned it by their superior “performance.”

The Obama administration is a right-wing capitalist government pursuing a deliberate and sweeping attack on the American working class. Its social program finds its clearest class expression in this dichotomy: foreswearing any limits on CEO and executive compensation, while demanding sacrifices by workers and an across-the-board cut in “consumption”—i.e., in the living standards of working people.

Tent City to organize for justice

Tent City to organize for justice

By Kris Hamel

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An interview with Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke aired June 7 on the CBS television program “60 Minutes.” The Fed head talked about the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the U.S. economy that has propped up financial institutions, banks, and corporations such as insurance giant AIG. Bernanke glibly stated he was prepared to double the amount if necessary in order to stave off a collapse of the system.

Any worker or poor person watching this interview probably could not help but wonder: How come the federal government, which so easily handed over trillions of dollars to banks and corporations, does practically nothing on behalf of working people? Where is the bailout for them?

Where is the massive jobs program the “economic stimulus plan” should have provided? Why are workers still losing their homes at record rates to foreclosures?

Why are workers still being laid off? Why was General Motors ordered by the federal government to close plants?

Organizers for the People’s Summit and Tent City, which convenes June 14-17 in downtown Detroit, say it is past due for the situation to be radically changed. “Bail out the people, not banks and corporations!” has become a rallying cry for the four-day protest based at Grand Circus Park.

The People’s Summit and Tent City were called in response to the announcement of a big-business national summit taking place in Detroit June 15-17. Originally slated for Ford Field, the capitalists’ gathering has been moved to the GM Renaissance Center, the world headquarters of General Motors.

GM recently announced the shuttering of 14 plants, including seven in Michigan, in order to comply with the terms of its government-ordered restructuring and bailout. Michigan already has the highest unemployment rate in the U.S. at 12.9 percent as of April. Figures for May haven’t yet been released.

Organizers of the People’s Summit say Detroit is a microcosm of the economic devastation facing poor and working people around the country. Big-business leaders will be meeting in a city wracked by mass layoffs and plant closings and an official unemployment rate of more than 22 percent. They will gather “to define America’s future” in a city with neighborhoods filled with thousands of foreclosed, abandoned and vandalized homes, where 40,000 households have no running water, thousands have had their heat and electricity cut off, and where poverty, hunger and homelessness are rampant.

Combining a program of demands & tactics

But these capitalists will not go unopposed. The People’s Summit and Tent City will bring together activists from around Michigan as well as Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Baltimore, Miami, Boston, North Carolina, New York and New Jersey.

They will define poor and working people’s own vision of their future, which includes income or union jobs at living wages for all, universal health care, quality education, the right to a home and utilities, and a life free from racism, sexism, and anti-gay/lesbian/bi/trans oppression.

The People’s Summit and Tent City is being organized by a diverse coalition of activists from many groups, including laid-off and retired members of the Auto Worker Caravan and other unionists, the National Lawyers Guild, Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions, the Martin Luther King Day Committee, Green Party, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, the disability-rights group Warriors On Wheels and the Detroit Action Network For Reproductive Rights.

Four days of rallies, marches and demonstrations are planned. Cultural programs and concerts along with special sessions on many struggles will take place, and an evening meal will be served everyday at the Tent City.

There will be a mass picket line and rally for jobs at the GM Renaissance Center on June 16 when former Michigan Gov. John Engler, now head of the National Manufacturers Association, and Richard Dauch, CEO of American Axle, speak to the big-business summit.

This will be the first demonstration in many years targeting General Motors in Detroit. Workers will protest the mass layoffs and plant closings and demand jobs and full employment. Union workers at American Axle, who lost a bitter months-long strike in 2008 and now face the closing of their plant, are organizing to attend the rally.

Dauch, who gave himself an $8.5 million bonus after the strike, had the audacity to tell the Detroit News on June 4 that “he was fed up with the absenteeism and entitlement-mindset of the Michigan worker.”

It is the workers who created the wealth of Dauch and all the capitalists to begin with. It was the blood, sweat and tears of their labor that created the surplus value that the capitalists have expropriated in the form of obscene profits. It is poor and working people who are fed up! It is the mindset of the People’s Summit and Tent City that this great wealth must be re-appropriated to provide jobs or income and a decent life for all.

Smile On The Face Of The Tiger

Smile On The Face Of The Tiger

At 7.30 in the morning on 3 June, a seven-month-old baby died in the intensive care unit of the European Gaza Hospital in the Gaza Strip. His name was Zein Ad-Din Mohammed Zu'rob, and he was suffering from a lung infection which was treatable.

Denied basic equipment, the doctors in Gaza could do nothing. For weeks, the child's parents had sought a permit from the Israelis to allow them to take him to a hospital in Jerusalem, where he would have been saved. Like many desperately sick people who apply for these permits, the parents were told they had never applied. Even if they had arrived at the Erez Crossing with an Israeli document in their hands, the odds are that they would have been turned back for refusing the demands of officials to spy or collaborate in some way. "Is it an irresponsible overstatement," asked Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and emeritus professor of international law at Princeton University, who is Jewish, "to associate the treatment of Palestinians with [the] criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not."

Falk was describing Israel's massacre in December and January of hundreds of helpless civilians in Gaza, many of them children. Reporters called this a "war". Since then, normality has returned to Gaza. Most children are malnourished and sick, and almost all exhibit the symptoms of psychiatric disturbance, such as horrific nightmares, depression and incontinence. There is a long list of items that Israel bans from Gaza. This includes equipment to clean up the toxic detritus of Israel's US munitions, which is the suspected cause of rising cancer rates. Toys and playground equipment, such as slides and swings, are also banned. I saw the ruins of a fun fair, riddled with bullet holes, which Israeli "settlers" had used as a sniping target.

The day after Baby Zu'rob died in Gaza, President Barack Obama made his "historic" speech in Cairo, "reaching out to the Muslim world", reported the BBC. "Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza," said Obama, "does not serve Israel's security." That was all. The killing of 1,300 people in what is now a concentration camp merited 17 words, cast as concern for the "security" of the killers. This was understandable. During the January massacre, Seymour Hersh reported that "the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of 'smart bombs' and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel" for use in Gaza.

Obama's one criticism of Israel was that "the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements . . . It is time for these settlements to stop." These fortresses on Palestinian land, manned by religious fanatics from America and elsewhere, have been outlawed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice. Pointedly, Obama made no mention of the settlements that already honeycomb the occupied territories and make an independent Palestinian state impossible, which is their purpose.

Obama demanded that the "cycle of suspicion and discord must end". Every year, for more than a generation, the UN has called on Israel to end its illegal and violent occupation of post-1967 Palestine and has voted for "the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination". Every year, those voting against these resolutions have been the governments of Israel and the United States and one or two of America's Pacific dependencies; last year Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe joined them.

Such is the true "cycle" in the Middle East, which is rarely reported as the relentless rejection of the rule of law by Israel and the United States: a law in whose name the wrath of Washington came down on Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait, a law which, if upheld and honoured, would bring peace and security to both Palestine and Israel.

Instead, Obama spoke in Cairo as if his and previous White House administrations were neutral, almost divine brokers of peace, instead of rapacious backers and suppliers of the invader (along with Britain). This Orwellian illogic remains the standard for what western journalists call the "Israel-Palestine conflict", which is almost never reported in terms of the law, of right and wrong, of justice and injustice - Darfur, yes, Zimbabwe, yes, but never Palestine. Orwell's ghost again stirred when Obama denounced "violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan [who are] determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can". America's invasion and slaughter in these countries went unmentioned. It, too, is divine.

Naturally, unlike George W Bush, Obama did not say that "you're either with us or against us". He smiled the smile and uttered "many eloquent mood-music paragraphs and a smattering of quotations from the Holy Quran", noted the American international lawyer John Whitbeck. Beyond this, Obama offered no change, no plan, only a "tired, morally bankrupt American mantra [which] essentially argues that only the rich, the strong, the oppressors and the enforcers of injustice (notably the Americans and Israelis) have the right to use violence, while the poor, the weak, the oppressed and the victims of oppression must . . . submit to their fate and accept whatever crumbs their betters may magnanimously deign suitable to let fall from their table". And he offered not the slightest recognition that the world's most numerous victims of terrorism are people of Muslim faith - a terrorism of western origin that dares not speak its name.

In his "reaching out" in Cairo, as in his "anti-nuclear" speech in Berlin, as in the "hope" he spun at his inauguration, this clever young politician is playing the part for which he was drafted and promoted. This is to present a benign, seductive, even celebrity face to American power, which can then proceed towards its strategic goal of dominance, regardless of the wishes of the rest of humanity and the rights and lives of our children.

19 U.S. airports to be quarantine sites in pandemic

MIA may be a quarantine site in pandemic

As the swine flu scare fades, Miami International Airport and 18 other major American airports have been lined up to handle a future pandemic that could require them to quarantine international flights.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set up stand-by quarantine/screening facilities at the 19 airports to which all flights from affected countries would be diverted.

While MIA is among them, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which handles about 3 million international passengers a year, is not.

That means that in the event of the highest-level alert, all flights to Fort Lauderdale from pandemic-affected countries could be rerouted to Miami, Atlanta, Houston or somewhere else.

Nationally, airline and airport lobbyists predict chaos, saying there is no way the air-traffic system can handle such extensive rerouting.

Now, new proposals are emerging in Washington, including one that would designate Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Orlando International and four other major airports as potential second-tier quarantine sites. Palm Beach International Airport is not among the six.


Funneling all of Fort Lauderdale's international flights to Miami would be a ''logistical nightmare,'' said Michael Nonnemacher, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood's director of operations.

''It would be huge impact to the carriers and a huge inconvenience to the passengers,'' Nonnemacher said.

Local officials say they understand the CDC will approve the new designations only if the airports pay for the quarantine facilities themselves.

The CDC would pay for the quarantine stations at the 19 primary airports.

The facilities are not cheap. A 2008 study by the Federal Aviation Administration concluded that setting aside space for health screenings and a quarantine of up to 200 people could cost $15,000 a month, with costs of an actual quarantine running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood officials began developing a plan to handle quarantined passengers and flights several years ago during the bird flu scare. It calls for erecting air-conditioned tents on the runway ramps to screen or quarantine passengers before they enter the terminal.

''It would slow things down, but we would still be able to operate as an international port,'' Nonnemacher said.


Some questions remained unanswered, such as how screening for a quarantine center would be staffed or where the money and public health resources would come from. Quarantined passengers might have to remain for days to show they are not infectious.

Airport spokesman Greg Meyer said any procedures put into place to screen passengers at Fort Lauderdale would be a collaboration between the airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the SARS pandemic threat of 2003, the Bush administration decided to update the nation's 1970s-era plans for screening and quarantining foreign visitors should a global health threat emerge.

The new federal strategy, which emerged in 2007, expanded the number of CDC-sponsored quarantine stations to 20, up from eight. Nineteen are at airports; one, in El Paso, Texas, is at a land-border center.

The plan called for all flights from countries identified by the World Health Organization as pandemic countries to be diverted to the 19 airports.

However, the Air Transit Association, the trade group for airlines, and the Airports Council International-North America, the major trade group for airports, jointly asked the Obama Administration in late March to reconsider the strategy.

In addition to screening potentially tens of thousands of passengers, the airports would then have to put cleared passengers onto flights to their intended destinations.


Flights would back up and delays would spread everywhere, predicted Katherine Andrus, assistant general counsel for the Air Transit Association.

''It would be like a very, very bad snowstorm hitting all airports with international arrivals at the same time,'' she said.

Kennedy Health Plan Includes Long-Term Care

Kennedy health plan includes long-term care


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Americans would be able to buy long-term care insurance from the government for $65 a month under a provision tucked into sweeping health care legislation that senators will begin considering next week.

The 651-page bill, released Tuesday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., would revamp the way health insurance works. Insurance companies would face a slew of new government rules, dealing with everything from guaranteed coverage for people with health problems to possible limitations on profits. Taxpayers, employers and individuals would share in the cost of expanding coverage to nearly 50 million uninsured Americans.

Release of the bill by Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Democrats came as lawmakers at both ends of the Capitol accelerated their drive to enact health care legislation. House Democratic leaders also outlined a proposal, but offered only limited details.

Both plans omitted specifics on how to cover the costs, which could exceed $1 trillion over 10 years. Given the uncertainty as well as the political sensitivity over raising taxes or cutting Medicare, Senate Republicans prodded Democrats to fill in the blanks before the scheduled beginning of committee work next week.

A first-ever tax on employer-provided health benefits figures prominently among financing options under consideration in Congress, but President Barack Obama campaigned against that last year and its inclusion would require him to reverse course. Obama has proposed $634 billion in tax increases and spending cuts as a down payment on the plan and is soon expected to outline an additional $300 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

Kennedy's long-term care plan is designed to help disabled people pay for support services that would allow them to remain in their own homes and avoid moving into nursing homes. People would enroll in the program during their working years and begin paying premiums. To collect benefits, a person would have had to pay premiums for at least five years.

The benefit would be modest — not less than $50 a day — but it could be used to cover a wide range of services.

Prospects for the long-term care provision are uncertain, but Kennedy's advocacy may sway other lawmakers. For Kennedy, who is being treated for brain cancer, health care legislation would be the crowning achievement of a long and productive career.

At their core, the partial draft bill released by Senate Democrats and an outline circulated by senior House Democrats were largely identical.

Individuals would be able to purchase insurance through a new federally regulated national exchange, and private companies would be barred from denying coverage or charging higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions. Those who are satisfied with their current coverage could keep it.

Both bills would require individuals to purchase insurance if they could afford it. Waivers would be available in hardship cases. The Senate measure provides for an unspecified penalty for anyone refusing to obey the so-called mandate, and House Democrats are considering a similar approach.

In both the House and Senate, Democrats want to provide subsidies to families with incomes well into the middle class. One option under the Senate plan would phase out subsidies at about $110,000 for a family of four.

House Democrats also are said to be considering a wide-ranging change for Medicaid that would provide a uniform benefit across all 50 states and increase payments to providers. Medicaid is a joint state-federal program of health coverage for the poor.

The Senate plan would allow children to stay on the parents' insurance until age 26.

On a particularly contentious point, the emerging House plan would give people the option of buying insurance provided by the federal government.

Democrats on the Senate committee embraced a similar provision last week but omitted it from Tuesday's draft in what Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said was a gesture to Republicans who oppose it.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the top Republican on the committee, responded derisively. He said Democrats did so "because they know we're not going to like what they've written and they don't want us to have any time to comment."

Senate Republicans on two committees most involved with health care urged Democrats not to move ahead without detailed cost information. "Paying for health reform in a responsible and sustainable way may be the most single difficult element of our efforts," they wrote.

But after months of preliminary effort, Democrats made clear they intend to move ahead on their own timetable, one that calls for passage of legislation in the House and Senate by early August. A final compromise would wait for September or later in the fall, according to a schedule the party's leadership established weeks ago.

"This is the year we have to do it," said Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Waxman was one of several senior Democrats who outlined proposed legislation to the party's rank and file during the day.

Numerous senior Democrats now aging and ailing have worked their entire careers on health care, but no one is more identified with the issue than Kennedy, first elected to the Senate in 1964. In a poignant announcement Tuesday, Dodd said Kennedy, diagnosed a year ago with a brain tumor, will be unable to attend the working sessions of the health committee he chairs beginning next week.

Film Aims to Expose Dangers in US Food Industry

Film aims to expose dangers in U.S. food industry

By Christine Kearney

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Bigger-breasted chickens fattened artificially. New strains of deadly E. coli bacteria. A food supply controlled by a handful of corporations.

The documentary "Food, Inc." opens in the United States on Friday and portrays these purported dangers and changes in the U.S. food industry, asserting harmful effects on public health, the environment, and worker and animal rights.

Big corporations such as biotech food producer Monsanto Co., U.S. meat companies Tyson Food Inc. and Smithfield Foods, and poultry producer Perdue Farms all declined to be interviewed for the film.

But the industry has not stood silent. Trade associations across the $142-billion-a-year U.S. meat industry have banded together to counter the claims. Led by the American Meat Institute, they have created a number of websites, including one called

"Each sector of the industry that's named is doing its part to counter a lot of the misinformation in the movie," said Lisa Katic, a dietitian and consultant with an unnamed coalition of trade associations representing the food industry.

Their campaign promotes the U.S. food supply as safe, abundant and affordable, whereas the film asserts that images of animals grazing on grassy farms emblazoned on U.S. food product labels are misleading.

"Food, Inc." explores the argument that food comes not from friendly farms but from industrial factories that put profit ahead of human health.

"The film pulls back the curtain on the way food is produced," said Michael Pollan, who appears in the film and is the best-selling author of several books including "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

"Products with farm labels attached -- this stuff comes from factories now," he said.

But an industry spokesman said 98 percent of U.S. farms were family owned and operated and they accounted for 82 percent of farm production.

Mace Thornton of the American Farm Bureau, the nation's largest farm group, said the industry was interested in the well-being of farm animals.

"If a farmer or rancher is not the kind of person to take care of their animals, they're not going to be in business long," he said.


The film shows footage inside cattle, pork and chicken production plants, some secretly recorded by immigrant workers under cramped conditions for both workers and the animals.

Maryland farmer Carole Morison let cameras in to show chickens collapsing and dying before they are put on the market because, she said, of fast weight gain caused in part by antibiotics in the feed. Morison said she lost her contract with Perdue.

The film says U.S. food corporations now widely use industrial techniques linked to growing problems like obesity, diabetes, salmonella, toxic strains of common E. coli bacteria and environmental pollution.

"Confined animal agriculture is so unsustainable in so many ways. It depends on using antibiotics in the feed that lead to antibiotic-resistant diseases. It produces more pollution than any other industry," Pollan said.

"It costs treasury, costs the public health system," he said. "The film vividly shows it costs the people who do the work and of course it is brutal to the animal."

Barbara Kowalcyk, whose 2-year-old son Kevin died from an infection of E. coli, appears in the film trying to persuade Congress to pass "Kevin's law," which would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture the power to shut down plants that produce contaminated meats. It has not passed.

Consumers can effect change, the film says, pointing to Stonyfield Farm's Gary Hirshberg, who now offers his line of organic products at giant chain Wal-Mart due to demand.

"You vote for what you eat by what you buy at the supermarket," Pollan said.

California fiscal crisis threatens millions with ruin

California fiscal crisis threatens millions with ruin

By Rafael Azul

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California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is giving the state until June 15 to balance its budget. The treasury of the “Golden State” is facing a massive and ongoing shortfall, and the government is responding to the crisis with a massive attack on education, health care, and whatever remains of the state’s social safety net.

Despite three years of intense budget cuts, the 2010 budget projection includes a deficit of $26.8 billion. This is up from a budget gap of $14.8 billion in 2009.

If California is unable to balance its budget before the middle of the month, Schwarzenegger warned that the state would be unable to secure the necessary short term bridge loans required to pay its bills.

The message from the banks and hedge funds is that there will be no loans until the Governor and the Democratic Party-controlled legislature, come up with an austerity budget, based on gutting state welfare programs, health insurance for the poor, programs for the elderly, disabled and mentally ill, parks and education.

Late last month, the Fitch bond rating agency lowered its outlook for California’s indebtedness from stable to negative. The rating is utilized by investors when deciding whether or not to make further loans to the state.

For all practical purposes, the state government is locked out of the credit market until it restructures its economy to meet Wall Street’s requirements.

The state’s fiscal meltdown is being used to fundamentally restructure class relations in the state, tearing up whatever remains of gains won by working people in an earlier era. The claim that there is no way out of the crisis—except by these means—is a lie, designed to protect the interests of the financial aristocracy, the wealthy and big business.

The Obama administration, which is handing over trillions of dollars to bailout the banks, has denied requests for direct financial aid to California. It has also denied requests to underwrite the state’s loans. In doing so, the president has made clear that he stands in alliance with the wealthy elite in imposing drastic cuts.

Obama is insisting that California resolve the “structural” problems with its budget—a model that he hopes will be implemented throughout the country. Many states face drastic budget deficits as well.

In alliance with the state legislature and the Democratic Party, Schwarzenegger is now proposing devastating cuts that would bridge the gap between revenues and expenditures. This year’s general fund budget would be lowered by some $8 billion, to $92.4 billion.

On May 26, the governor singled out more than 20 programs that would either be eliminated or greatly reduced as part of the new budget plan. On June 8, he announced an immediate halt to funding for most state contracts.

Among the social programs to be eliminated outright are the state’s welfare-to-work program, CalWorks and the health insurance program for children. The imposition of these changes will transform California into the only region among industrially advanced nations that no longer protects poverty-stricken, one-mother families and their children.

At a protest of disabled Californians before the legislature’s Budget Conference Committee, Will Lightbourne, Director of the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency said, “No civilized modern state has proposed this as a budget balancing ploy until now... When the safety net is eliminated in whole or part, all of the societal relationships are broken and what were communities become camps.”

Ending CalWorks would result in an end to vital support checks for some half million mothers and their one million children. The average check per family is the ridiculously small sum of $651 a month, a sum that in California is insufficient to pay rent for even a modestly-priced apartment, let alone food, clothing and other vital necessities. In Lightbourne’s words, eliminating these grants for these families will result in their “immediate descent into homelessness—not poverty, because they are already in poverty, but complete destitution.”

In addition to the proposal to eliminate CalWorks, the state government plans to close more than 200 state parks, eliminate funding for HIV/AIDs counseling, reduce state grants to low income elderly, blind and disabled to the federally mandated minimum and slash in-home care for the elderly and divert funds away from mental health programs.

Almost $6 billion will be wrenched from the public education system, including K-12 education, community colleges, and the state’s two university systems over the course of the current and subsequent budget years (See “Public education devastated by California budget cuts”).

The austerity measures being proposed, along with those already implemented, will produce a social catastrophe for the state—the effects of which have only just begun to be felt. Nearly 50,000 teachers will lose their jobs by next September, along with 5,000 state workers and tens of thousands in the private sector. Hundreds of workers in local governments will lose their jobs as well.

The Schwarzenegger administration has proposed seizing nearly $2 billion from local governments, most of which are already under enormous financial strain.

The city of Los Angeles has recently approved layoffs for 400 of its employees, along with a mandatory unpaid furlough day twice per month. And the city of Vallejo, which once served as the state’s capital, applied for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in May 2008, making it the largest California city to do so.

Schwarzenegger defends the cuts as necessary. “If we don’t make these choices, I think that we will face catastrophic consequences because the state will simply run out of money and get insolvent, which we can’t afford to do,” said the Governor.

In other words, in order to insure the interests of bondholders, the Schwarzenegger administration is engineering the bipartisan California version of the ‘General Motors scenario.’ In the same manner that the restructuring of GM was premised on sacrificing autoworkers’ jobs and living standards and bankrupting entire communities, the restructuring of California will require a wholesale attack on living standards for state employees and an end to social programs on which millions of Californians depend.

This was made clear by Schwarzenegger on Saturday June 6. In response to questions from the Sacramento Bee, Schwarzenegger denounced the “unbelievable benefits” paid to public employees.

The 2010 revenue projections, which include a year over year increase of $6 billion, hinge on a rapid economic recovery in the state. However, there is every reason to believe that the current crisis will continue, with tax receipts continuing to decline. California has the fourth largest unemployment rate at 10.2 percent, while also having the country’s largest number of unemployed workers in absolute terms. In the very likely event that the recovery does not happen this year, the budget cuts will be even more drastic.

Grandmother Tasered at Traffic Stop

Grandmother Tasered at
Traffic Stop

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A 72-year-old woman is pulled over for speeding, then tasered and sent to jail. Kathryn Winkfein says she drives to Austin about twice a month to do her shopping. But on a Monday afternoon, a Travis County Constable deputy pulled her over, on her way back to Granite Schoals.

"Due to being a construction zone, and workers being present," Pct. 3 Constable Richard McCain said, "it was 45, she was doing 60."

Winkfein admits she was speeding in the dangerous strip of Highway 71 and Bee Creek.

"He explained to her," Constable McCain said, "sign the ticket stub, it's not an admission of guilt. It's a promise to appear in court. She didn't want to. She said take me to jail."

That's when the officer says Winkfein exited her vehicle and didn't cooperate.

"She refused to get off the side of the road, he said to her, Ma'am, you're under arrest. She used profanity," the Constable said. He adds she got violent, and the officer used a taser on her.

Winkfein showed FOX 7 her taser scars.

"Here and here. Two places, side by side. It's unreal. It's like an electric shock," she said.

A shock Winkfein believes she didn't deserve.

"I wasn't argumentative, I was not combative. This is a lie. All of this is a lie, pulled away from him I did not," she said, reading the arrest affidavit.

The great-grandmother was taken to the Travis County Jail, where she was booked for resisting arrest and detention. She was released shortly after. Now, Winkfein has hired attorneys to protect her rights.

When asked if it was appropriate for the arresting officer to have used a taser, Constable McCain answered yes.

Federal Court Says States Can Regulate Guns

Federal Court Says States Can Regulate Guns

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A federal appeals court in Chicago ruled Tuesday that the Second Amendment doesn't bar state or local governments from regulating guns, adopting the same position that Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, did when faced with the same question earlier this year.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court cited the Second Amendment to strike down a handgun ban adopted in 1976 by the Washington, D.C., City Council. The court, by a 5-4 vote, found that the amendment protected from federal infringement an individual right to "keep and bear arms."

The decision applied only to the District of Columbia, a federal enclave that is not a state. It left open whether the amendment also limits the powers of state government.

A string of 19th century Supreme Court decisions limited application of the Bill of Rights to state governments. During the 20th century, the Supreme Court held that certain constitutional rights, but not the Second Amendment, could be enforced against the states.

Gun-rights groups challenged ordinances in Chicago and Oak Park, Ill., as unconstitutional in light of the Supreme Court's decision last year. A federal district judge rejected their arguments, a decision affirmed Tuesday by the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Writing for a three-judge panel, Judge Frank Easterbrook observed that an 1886 Supreme Court decision limited the Second Amendment to the federal government. While that decision might be a "fossil," the lower courts have no power to overrule a Supreme Court opinion even if they suspect the high court may be inclined to do so itself. It was "hard to predict" what the Supreme Court would do should it consider the question in future, Judge Easterbrook wrote.

Judge Easterbrook and the two other Seventh Circuit judges were all appointed by Republican presidents. Judge Easterbrook wrote that they agreed with an unsigned Second Circuit opinion that in January rejected a Second Amendment challenge to a New York state law barring possession of nunchuka sticks, a martial arts weapon. That panel, in New York, included Judge Sotomayor and two other judges appointed by President Bill Clinton.

In San Francisco, however, a Ninth Circuit panel earlier this year held that the Second Amendment applies to state governments, even as it upheld a local ordinance banning guns from county property. One judge was appointed by a Republican president, the other two by Democrats.

Were they to follow the Ninth Circuit's reasoning, Supreme Court "decisions could be circumvented with ease," Judge Easterbrook wrote. "They would bind only judges too dim-witted to come up with a novel argument."

The split among the circuits increases the likelihood that the Supreme Court will step in decide the Second Amendment's application to state weapons laws.

If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Sotomayor would not be bound by prior high court decisions and could provide her own analysis of the Second Amendment's application.

Signs of a new financial storm for September

Signs of a new financial storm for September coming from Dubai and Saudi Arabia

by Maurizio d'Orlando
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Dubai calls on the Rothschild bank for help, perhaps out of desperation. In Saudi Arabia a Saad Group company defaults. US, European and Asian banks are struggling. The end of Ramadan in September might mark the start of an economic depression worse than that of the 1930s.

[i] According to AsiaNews’s own sources, the drop in real estate values could actually be higher, of the order of 60 to 70 per cent.Milan (AsiaNews) – Rothschild’s Dubai office has been retained by Dubai’s Department of Finance for advice on the US$ 10 billion financial support fund (FSF) the emirate raised on the bond markets.

Nakheel, the property development arm of Dubai World, was the first to benefit, but is likely to be the last of its kind because funds will be handed out on the basis of two criteria: urgency and strategic importance.

In fact government-related corporations deemed essential for the long-term development of Dubai’s economy will be eligible for FSFs. They include firms involved in infrastructure, transportation (ex. the Metro and Maktoum airport projects), aviation, ports, shipping and tourism. Banking might be included and the Rothschild guidelines might be flexible with regard to real estate.

This said Rothschild is not getting directly involved but will act through commercial banks in which it has equity or has connections with, like JP Morgan and other ones. Moreover, through the same commercial banks, Rothschild has a say, and a powerful one, over the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY).

By law the latter plays a key role in the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and thus has a crucial role in making key decisions about interest rates and the US money supply.

Through the FRBNY Rothschild is in a privileged position to influence US monetary policy and shaping US monetary supply, crucially important since the US dollar remains the main reserve currency in the world.

Dubai’s choice is also part of a ongoing dispute between the Saudis and the Emirates over the location of the single central bank of the Gulf States and what direction to give it.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), especially Abu Dhabi, has recently put the brakes on the whole thing, and in the short run no solution seems to be in sight.

The Saudis are considered too close to the United States and thus indirectly to Israel. Gulf States, especially the UAE, favour a Euro-Asian axis that runs from China to Russia that includes Germany, a relationship best illustrated by Opel’s sale to the Austro-Canadian Magna group, which stands in for the Russian state bank Sberbank.

The Rothschild family has have been closely associated with the Zionist Movement. The 1917 Balfour Declaration was in fact addressed to Lord Rothschild in which the British government committed itself to the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

By choosing this banking group, Dubai is distancing itself from the other emirates, perhaps out of desperation.

But the Saudis too are facing their own serious problems. The Saad Group, which is linked to The International Banking Corp (TIBC) and the Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Brothers Co, is in difficulty.

Saudi Arabia’s central bank has frozen all the accounts of Saad chairman, Saudi billionaire Maan al-Sanea, who owns 2.97 per cent of the HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank based in London.

Once known by its full name of Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corp., HSBC Holdings Plc is also one of Asia’s main banks.

The decision by Saudi Arabia’s central bank comes after an Algosaibi-owned company defaulted on a billion dollar debt.

Maan al-Sanea’s Saad Investment Co. had also received a US$ 2.82 billion loan from a group of 26 European, US, Asian and Arab banks in 2007.

Such troubles might be a sign of more bad things to come for the banks, especially those in Europe and to a lesser extent in Asia.

Conversely, although US banks were hit by the subprime credit crisis in real estate, they are not that involved in emerging markets and eastern Europe.

As in the spring of 2008 when the first signs of the coming September financial storm were visible, today’s signs, albeit not front page news, might herald another major storm this fall.

But this year’s crisis could be worse than last year’s because of the multiple points of origin. In addition to the weak situation of the US Federal Reserve, whose financial commitments in support of the US banking system are equal to the total US GDP, European banks could go in tilt because of their exposure to emerging markets whilst those of Asia (especially Japan’s and China’s) could suffer because of Asian economies’ heavy reliance on now declining exports.

As for Dubai real estate values in the city-emirate have dropped by 50 per cent since before the crisis[i]; insolvencies here and across the Gulf region are rising.

At the same time two contradictory trends appear to be coming together. On the one hand, we see that “creata ex nihilo”[ii] e-money might lead to hyper-inflation; on the other, collapsing prices in real goods could lead to deflation and an economic depression worse than that of the 1930s.

Indeed in Dubai many expect the next storm to hit at the end of Ramadan, 21 September.

[i] According to AsiaNews’s own sources, the drop in real estate values could actually be higher, of the order of 60 to 70 per cent.Milan (AsiaNews) – Rothschild’s Dubai office has been retained by Dubai’s Department of Finance for advice on the US$ 10 billion financial support fund (FSF) the emirate raised on the bond markets.

[ii] Such an almost blasphemous expression refers to money created by accounting decisions and practices made by existing computerised banking methods and which do not reflect actual available goods.

Bailout banks hoard oil, eyeing price hikes

Firms storing oil in anticipation of price increases

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The giant US bank JPMorgan Chase has reportedly hired a newly-built supertanker to store heating oil off the Mediterranean island of Malta. Other companies, including BP and a unit of Citigroup, have also hired ships to store either crude oil or oil products.

According to, “Traders were already using smaller tankers to store record volumes of jet fuel and heating oil in Europe as on-shore tanks filled up.”

This latest move comes amid suggestions that recent increases in oil prices may be the result of speculators looking for a new financial bubble, prompting fears that increases in energy costs could stall any hope of an economic recovery.

According to MSNBC, “Even though most analysts say crude is still overpriced, the market has created its own momentum with an enormous amount of money fleeing equity and currency markets. … With so much money flowing into the market, prices are likely to hold close to where they are, until market fundamentals can take hold.”

It has recently been suggested, however, that “prices will fall substantially” once speculators run out of storage.

The practice of storing oil on ships began last winter, when the price went as low as $32 a barrel. Bloomberg reported in January that the world’s biggest owner of supertankers, Frontline Ltd., had already hired out about 20 supertankers for oil storage and had requests for up to 10 more. “I’ve never before seen storage demand on this scale,” a shipbroker told Bloomberg.

By February, the Times of London was noting, “Shipping brokers in Tokyo say that Morgan Stanley has joined a growing international scramble to secure an oil supertanker and use it to store millions of barrels of crude in what commodity dealers believe may be the “trade of the year’.”

Oil prices are currently running between $65 and $70 a barrel, more than twice what they were four months ago. With ship rental costs being kept low by the slump in global trade, anyone who bought oil last winter could be looking at a substantial profit.

Administration Fights Disclosure on Two Fronts

Administration Fights Disclosure on Two Fronts

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Last month, the CIA told a federal court judge it could not abide by a court order and turn over detailed documents about the destruction of 92 interrogation videotapes because it would compromise the integrity of a special prosecutor's criminal investigation into the matter.

US District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein responded by demanding a sworn declaration from special counsel John Durham confirming that to be the case. In a subsequent court filing, Lev Dassin, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, backtracked and said the CIA would no longer rely on that argument.

Dassin added, however, that a "senior government official" would soon submit a declaration explaining why detailed documents related to the videotaped interrogations should not be turned over to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In previous court filings, the CIA disclosed that 12 of the 92 videotaped interrogations depict CIA interrogators subjecting Abu Zubaydah, the first "high-value" detainee, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, to brutal interrogation methods, including waterboarding.

The 80 other videotapes purportedly show Zubaydah and al-Nashiri in their prison cells. But it's unknown whether the interrogation tapes that predate the August 1, 2002 "torture" memo depict "enhanced interrogation" techniques not yet approved by the Justice Department.

Late Monday, the identity of the "senior government official" was revealed.

In a 24-page sworn declaration, CIA Director Leon Panetta said the documents sought by the ACLU in a long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit the civil liberties organization filed against the Bush administration must be withheld in the interest of national security.

The documents at issue, according to a description of the materials that accompanied Panetta's declaration, are a photograph of Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times during the month of August 2002 at a secret CIA "black site" prison; notes drafted after the videotaped interrogations were viewed; emails that raise questions about how the destruction of the tapes should be explained publicly; and other internal communications about the policies and legal guidance related to the videotaped interrogations and their destruction.

Panetta argued that the documents should not be disclosed because it contains top-secret information about the use of specific interrogation techniques, as opposed to abstract information about the legal justification to use those methods that were included in Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos released in April.

"The information in these documents would provide future terrorists with a guidebook on how to evade such questioning," Panetta's declaration said. "Additionally, disclosure of explicit details of specific interrogations where [enhanced interrogation techniques] were applied would provide al-Qa'ida with propaganda it could use to recruit and raise funds.

The ACLU was harshly critical of Panetta's argument.

"The CIA's withholding of documents because they might be used as propaganda would justify the greatest governmental suppression of the worst governmental misconduct. If we accept the CIA's rationale, the government could, for example, suppress any document discussing torture, Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay," said Alex Abdo, a fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. "Certain governmental information must of course remain classified for security reasons, but terrorists should not have a veto power over what the public is allowed to know about governmental misconduct."

In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU related to the CIA's interrogation of "war on terror" detainees.

Last month, the CIA turned over indexes to the ACLU that showed how CIA interrogators provided top agency officials in Langley with daily "torture" updates of Zubaydah during the month of August 2002. The extensive back and forth between CIA field operatives and agency officials in Langley likely included updates provided to senior Bush administration officials.

The CIA and the Justice Department declined to turn over a more detailed description of the cables its field agents sent back to headquarters, citing several exemptions under the FOIA, which Panetta further elaborated on in his declaration.

The agency had said it withheld a detailed description of the cables because it "contains information relating to intelligence sources and intelligence methods that is specifically exempted from disclosure" in accordance with the National Security Act. The documents also contain "information relating to the organization, functions, and names of person employed by the CIA that is specifically exempted from disclosure."

Some of those cables are included in the 580 documents Panetta asked Judge Hellerstein to authorize the agency to keep under wraps. The CIA has identified a sampling of 65 of those documents that it prepared for review and possible release that Panetta told Hellerstein must be withheld to protect national security.

"Al Qa'ida has a very effective propaganda operation. When the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison was disclosed, al-Qa'ida made very effective use of that information in extremist websites that recruit jihadists and solicit financial support. Information concerning the details of the [enhanced interrogation techniques] being applied would provide ready-made ammunition for al-Qa'ida propaganda.

"The resultant damage to national security would likely be exceptionally grave, and the withholding of this information is therefore proper under" certain FOIA exemptions.

The Obama administration is applying the same argument - a threat to national security - in explaining its reasons for not turning over to the ACLU 44 photographs that depict US soldiers abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that a detailed description of the photographs at issue have been publicly available for some time.

In that case, the Obama administration is now going above and beyond what the Bush administration had done in attempting to block the materials.

The administration is appealing the case to the Supreme Court and at the same time looking to Congress to pass legislation to block release of the photographs. Late Monday, Sens. Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham threatened to shut down Congress if legislation they sponsored blocking the release of all photographs showing US soldiers abusing prisoners is stripped from the Iraq/Afghanistan war supplemental funding bill.

Both cases mark an about-face on the open-government policies that President Obama proclaimed during his first days in office.

On January 21, he signed an executive order instructing all federal agencies and departments to "adopt a presumption in favor" of FOIA requests and promised to make the federal government more transparent.

"The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears," Obama's order said. "In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agenci?s should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public."

It's becoming increasingly clear that after the disclosure of the "torture memos" in April and the backlash that ensued, that Obama is aiming to avoid further criticism by continuing the Bush administration's era of secrecy.

The argument Panetta has laid out about the reasons the documents in the interrogation tapes case should continue to be guarded by secrecy does not appear to be credible.

According to veteran CIA analyst Melvin Goodman, Panetta has become entrenched in CIA bureaucracy.

"It is obvious Panetta wants to make no waves at the CIA," Goodman said.

"It is extremely difficult for any outsider to make his mark within a bureaucracy as parochial and insular as the one at CIA," said Goodman, who spent more than two decades at the agency. "Panetta, unfortunately, has tried to ingratiate himself with the negative elements. Panetta's first mistake was to keep in place all of the holdovers from the era of George Tenet and Porter Goss, who were responsible for the culture of cover-up created at the CIA.

"In keeping Steven Kappes as the deputy director, Panetta signaled that there would be no change at the Agency and no punishment for corruption," Goodman added. "Kappes, after all, was the ideological driver for those policies that Obama and Panetta criticized before Panetta's confirmation. Instead of reaching out to contrarians or dissidents from the intelligence community, Panetta has relied solely on the leadership he inherited, the very people who have a vested interest in making sure that nothing changes."

Panetta's about-face stands in stark contrast to statements he made in a series of op-eds in the Monterey County Herald and other publications last year. In a March 8, 2008, column titled "Americans Reject Fear Tactics," Panetta wrote that "all forms of torture have long been prohibited by American law and international treaties respected by Republican and Democratic presidents alike."

"Our forefathers prohibited 'cruel and unusual punishment' because that was how tyrants and despots ruled in the 1700's. They wanted an America that was better than that. Torture is illegal, immoral, dangerous and counterproductive. And yet, the president is using fear to trump the law."

While stopping short of demanding investigations and prosecutions, Panetta certainly made it clear that Bush was acting above the law.

In a column published in the Washington Monthly last summer titled "No Torture, No Exceptions," Panetta wrote, "there are certain lines Americans will not cross because we respect the dignity of every human being. That pledge was written into the oath of office given to every president, 'to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.' It's what is supposed to make our leaders different from every tyrant, dictator, or despot. We are sworn to govern by the rule of law, not by brute force."

Peru: "Police Are Throwing Bodies in the River"

PERU: ‘Police Are Throwing Bodies in the River,’ Say Native Protesters

Milagros Salazar

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There are conflicting reports on a violent incident in Peru’s Amazon jungle region in which both police officers and indigenous protesters were killed.The authorities, who describe last Friday’s incident as a "clash" between the police and protesters manning a roadblock, say 22 policemen and nine civilians were killed.

But leaders of the two-month roadblock say at least 40 indigenous people, including three children, were killed and that the authorities are covering up the massacre by throwing bodies in the river.

And foreign activists on the scene in the town of Bagua, in the northern province of Amazonas, report that the police opened fire early in the morning on the unarmed protesters, some of whom were still sleeping, and deliberately mowed them down as they held up their arms or attempted to flee.

In response, the activists quote eyewitnesses as saying, another group of indigenous people who were farther up the hill seized and killed a number of police officers, apparently in "self-defence."

National ombudswoman Beatriz Merino reported Sunday night that at least 24 police and 10 civilians had been killed, and that 89 indigenous people had been wounded and 79 arrested. But the figures continue to grow.

"We have killed each other, Peruvians against Peruvians," lamented indigenous leader Shapion Noningo, the new spokesman for the Peruvian Rainforest Inter-Ethnic Development Association (AIDESEP) - which groups 28 federations of indigenous peoples - said Sunday night.

AIDESEP has led the protests that began two months ago, which have included blockades of traffic along roads and rivers and occupations of oil industry installations in various provinces.

A few hours earlier, President Alán García had said there was "a conspiracy afoot to try to keep us from making use of our natural wealth." He was referring to the fierce opposition by the country’s native peoples to 10 decrees issued by his government that open up indigenous land to private investment by oil, mining and logging companies and to agribusiness, including biofuel plantations.

The decrees, which were passed by the government under special powers received from Congress to facilitate implementation of Peru’s free trade agreement with the United States, are considered unconstitutional by the indigenous protesters. A legislative committee also recommended last December that they be overturned.

On Thursday, Jun. 4, governing party lawmakers suspended a debate on one of the decrees, the "forestry and wildlife law", fuelling the demonstrators’ anger.

"In whose interest is it for Peru not to use its natural gas; in whose interest is it for Peru not to find more oil; in whose interest is it for Peru not to exploit its minerals more effectively and on a larger-scale? We know whose interests this serves," said García. "The important thing is to identify the ties between these international networks that are emerging to foment unrest."

The president blamed the conflict on "international competitors," but without naming names.

Two neighbouring countries that are major producers of natural gas and oil, Venezuela and Bolivia, are governed by left-wing administrations that have been vociferous critics of "neoliberal" free trade economic policies like those followed by the García administration.

"We will not give in to violence or blackmail," said the president, who maintained that Peru "is suffering from subversive aggression" fed by opponents who "have taken the side of extreme savagery."

A large number of the traffic blockades on roads and rivers are in the northern and northeastern provinces of Loreto, San Martín and Amazonas, which have large natural gas reserves.

According to the 1993 census, indigenous people made up one-third of the Peruvian population. But more recent estimates put the proportion at 45 percent, with most of the rest of the population of 28 million being of mixed-race heritage.

In Loreto, indigenous protesters reportedly attempted to occupy installations belonging to the Argentine oil company Pluspetrol. The company said it had closed down activity on its 1AB lot, to avoid violent clashes.

Business associations estimate the losses caused by the protests at more than 186 million dollars.

The government is broadcasting a television spot showing images of dead policemen, along with messages like: "This is how extremism is acting against Peru"; "extremists encouraged from abroad want to block progress in Peru"; and "we must unite against crime, to keep the fatherland from backsliding from the progress made."

Leaders of the indigenous protests say the government is manipulating information and blaming them for incidents that could have been avoided if Congress had repealed the decrees that sparked the first native "uprising" in August 2008, which flared up again in April this year.

"The government is underreporting the number of indigenous people killed and missing. It is insulting us and treating us like criminals, when all we are doing is defending ourselves and our territory, which is humanity’s heritage," Walter Kategari, a member of the AIDESEP board of directors, told IPS.

Kategari forms part of AIDESEP’s new leadership, which was formed when the group’s top leader, Alberto Pizango, went into hiding after a warrant for his arrest was put out on Saturday. Pizango said he fears for his life.

The leaders of the indigenous movement are demanding that the curfew prohibiting people from leaving their homes in Bagua between 3:00 PM and 6:00 AM be lifted. According to Kategari, the curfew is being used to conceal the bodies of the Indians who were killed.

"Our brothers and sisters in Bagua say the police have been collecting the bodies, putting them in black bags and throwing them in the river from a helicopter," Kategari told IPS. "The government cannot make our dead disappear."

There is great insecurity and fear in the jungle, he added. "People are calling us on the telephone, desperate." He said he is preparing a list of victims based on the names he has been given by people in Bagua, to counteract the official reports.

Gregor MacLennan, programme coordinator for the international organisation Amazon Watch, said "All eyewitness testimonies say that Special Forces opened fire on peaceful and unarmed demonstrators, including from helicopters, killing and wounding dozens in an orchestrated attempt to open the roads. "It seems that the police had come with orders to shoot. This was not a clash, but a coordinated police raid with police firing on protesters from both sides of their blockade," added the activist, speaking from the town of Bagua. "Today I spoke to many eyewitnesses in Bagua reporting that they saw police throw the bodies of the dead into the Marañon river from a helicopter in an apparent attempt by the government to underreport the number of indigenous people killed by police," said MacLennan, in an Amazon Watch statement.

"Hospital workers in Bagua Chica and Bagua Grande corroborated that the police took bodies of the dead from their premises to an undisclosed location," he added.

According to MacLennan, shortly before the killings in Bagua, the police chief and mayors met with the indigenous leaders, and the police chief said he had orders to dismantle the roadblock.

Early Friday morning, the activist told Amy Goodman in an interview on the Democracy Now radio programme, an estimated 500 police bore down on the protesters at the roadblock, some of whom were still sleeping, and opened fire.

MacLennan said a local leader told him that demonstrators kneeling down with their hands up were directly shot by the police. After that, he said, the police continued firing as the demonstrators attempted to flee.

With respect to the deaths of the policemen, he said "All the indigenous people I’ve spoken to are very upset about that equally…they say…they’re all Peruvians, and they all have families. It appears that as the police were attacking this huge group of indigenous people…some people came down from the mountains, who were sleeping up there, and jumped on the police and killed some of the police in self-defence, an act that’s understandable, but, as the leaders I’ve spoken to say, not excusable."

He said the indigenous leaders want a "transparent" investigation and for all of those responsible for the killings to be brought to justice.

Unconstitutional government decrees

AIDESEP spokesman Noningo said "the political system has fomented this confrontation." He pointed out that a multi-party legislative commission recommended in December that the decrees be repealed.

The congressional constitution committee also said the "forestry and wildlife law", which according to critics endangers the rainforest that is home to the indigenous groups, is unconstitutional.

On Thursday Jun. 4, the ombudsperson’s office filed a lawsuit against the law, alleging that it is unconstitutional and that it undermines indigenous peoples’ rights to cultural identity, collective ownership of their land, and prior consultation.

Under the Peruvian constitution and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169, indigenous groups must be previously consulted with respect to any investment projects in their territory.

The "forestry and wildlife law", whose stated aim is to "create the necessary conditions for private sector investment in agriculture," violates the property rights of indigenous communities, according to the ombudsperson’s office.

But the president of Congress, Javier Velásquez Quesquén, said the legislators will not give in to "blackmail" by indigenous people.

Sociologist Nelson Manrique at the Pontificia Universidad Católica, a private university in Lima, said "the indigenous protesters are being accused of asking for too much because they are demanding compliance with the constitution, when it is the government that is breaking the law by refusing to revoke the decrees."

The analyst told IPS that the arguments set forth by the authorities are like those of the ruling elites, who "use two stereotypes in their depictions of indigenous people: the manipulated savage who cannot argue anything in legal terms because he is incapable of thinking, or the bloody, irrational savage who is a threat to the country.

"With this discourse, the government feeds into old racist prejudices that have deep roots in Peruvian society: that of the uncivilised, inferior native. And democracy is impossible with a view like this," said Manrique.

He said the controversial decrees form part of García’s free trade political agenda based on promoting foreign investment.

Manrique supports the indigenous groups’ demand for an independent commission to investigate what happened in Bagua, saying it was hard to believe that police armed with AKM assault rifles simply fell prey to indigenous people armed with bows and arrows and homemade weapons.

Wilfredo Ardito, lawyer for the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos human rights association, told IPS that international bodies should intervene, because "there is a climate of total distrust and fear that evidence of the massacre will be hidden."

Ardito said that since García took office in July 2006, there have been 84 reports of deaths of protesters or extrajudicial killings by the security forces. "This is a regime that undermines human rights and that is doing nothing to redress its errors," said the legal expert.

Readying Americans for Mandatory Vaccinations

Readying Americans for Dangerous, Mandatory Vaccinations

by Stephen Lendman

Go To Original

At least three US federal laws should concern all Americans and suggest what may be coming - mandatory vaccinations for hyped, non-existant threats, like H1N1 (Swine Flu). Vaccines and drugs like Tamiflu endanger human health but are hugely profitable to drug company manufacturers.

The Project BioShield Act of 2004 (S. 15) became law on July 21, 2004 "to provide protections and countermeasures against chemical, radiological, or nuclear agents that may be used in a terrorist attack against the United States by giving the National Institutes of Health contracting flexibility, infrastructure improvements, and expediting the scientific peer review process, and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration approval process of countermeasures."

In other words, the FDA may now recklessly approve inadequately tested, potentially dangerous vaccines and other drugs if ever the Secretaries of Health and Human Services (HHS) or Defense (DOD) declare a national emergency, whether or not one exists and regardless of whether treatments available are safe and effective. Around $6 billion or more will be spent to develop, produce, and stockpile vaccines and other drugs to counteract claimed bioterror agents.

The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act slipped under the radar when George Bush signed it into law as part of the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2863). It lets the HHS Secretary declare any disease an epidemic or national emergency requiring mandatory vaccinations. Nothing in the Act lists criteria that warrant a threat. Also potential penalties aren't specified for those who balk, but very likely they'd include quarantine and possible fines.

The HHS web site also says the Secretary may "issue a declaration....that provides immunity from tort liability (except for willful misconduct) for claims of loss caused, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from administration or use of (vaccine or other pharmaceutical) countermeasures to diseases, threats and conditions determined by the Secretary to constitute a present, or credible risk of a future public health emergency...."

The industry-run US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notoriously rushes inadequately tested drugs to market, putting their efficacy and safety into question, and turning those who use them into lab rats. It includes everyone if a mass vaccination is ordered on the mere claim of a public emergency - no proof required.

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (S. 3678) is the other worrisome law, effective December 19, 2006. It amended "the Public Health Service Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response, and for other purposes." Even its supporters worry about issues of privacy, liability, and putting profits over public health. Critics express greater concerns about dangerous remedies for exaggerated or non-existant threats as well as mass hysteria created for political purposes.

At least one other measure is also worrisome - The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MSEHPA). So far it's just a proposal by the Center for Law and the Public's Health - "A Collaborative at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities (as) a primary, international, national, state, and local resource on public health law (and) policy for public health practitioners, judges, academics, policymakers, and others."

MSEHPA is now "track(ing) legal responses to the emerging international response to the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak, including declarations of public health emergency at the international, national, state, and local levels...." even though forensic evidence can't confirm any H1N1 deaths. No emergency exists anywhere, and reporting one is all hype to sell dangerous drugs to unsuspecting people globally.

On its web site, the ACLU says this about MSEHPA:

It's "written in a way that doesn't adequately protect citizens against the misuse of the tremendous powers that it would grant in an emergency. (It's) replete with civil liberties problems. Its three top flaws are that:

(1) It fails to include basic checks and balances (by) grant(ing) extraordinary emergency powers (that) should never go unchecked. (It) could have serious consequences for individuals' freedom, privacy, and equality."

(2) "It goes well beyond bioterrorism (with) an overbroad definition of 'public health emergency" that may be anything a local or national authority declares for any reason with no conclusive evidence for proof.

(3) "It lacks privacy protections (and) undercut(s) existing protections for sensitive medical information."

MSEHPA worries other organizations besides the ACLU, both conservative and progressive - including the Free Congress Foundation, American Legislative Exchange Council, conservative association of state legislators, Human Rights Campaign, and Health Privacy Project.

The Real Threat of Dangerous, Mandatory Vaccinations

In the wake of the hyped Swine Flu scare, media reports suggest mass vaccinations are coming. The May 6 Kimberly Kindy - Ceci Connolly Washington Post one, for example, headlined "US May Add Shots for Swine Flu to Fall Regimen" without saying they'll be mandatory but reading between the lines suggests the possibility this year or later.

The writers report that "The Obama administration is considering an unprecedented fall vaccination campaign" to include regular and Swine Flu shots, the latter because it's "spreading across the globe."

HHS' Dr. Robin Robinson said "We are moving forward with making a vaccine," and if the government proceeds with a national program, enough supply will be produced to provide two doses for all Americans with spokespersons like National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, claiming adverse reactions aren't to be expected and adding another shot for Swine Flu "should not present a problem."

The New York Times also hypes the scare with reports of city schools closed after unconfirmed Swine Flu cases, a few adult deaths blamed on H1N1 bringing the claimed total in the city to seven, and the World Health Organization (WHO) saying on June 3 that it's moving closer to declaring a worldwide (Level 6) Swine Flu pandemic - even though none exists.

With all the hype, misinformation, and willful lies WHO's Dr. Keiji Fukuda, in charge of flu, said only 117 deaths globally have been "blamed" on Swine Flu and any warning may include the caveat that the virus isn't very lethal. A more accurate statement would explain that no forensic evidence links any deaths to H1N1, and influenza annually kills about 30,000 people in America alone - something the major media never report or that scattered accounts of any type flu deaths worldwide are no cause for alarm or reason for scary headlines.

It's also unconscionable for the WHO, US and other nations' officials to spread lies, deception, and hysteria so major pharmaceutical companies can foist dangerous vaccines and other drugs on unsuspecting people, harming their health and making them vulnerable to later diseases and possible early deaths.

Massachusetts May Be A Forerunner of What's to Come

On April 28, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a pandemic flu preparation bill that rises to the level of martial law. If approved by the House and signed into law, it will mandate among other measures:

-- "vaccination, treatment, examination, or testing of" all individuals involved in providing health care - as perhaps step one before ordering the same process for all state residents;

-- owners or occupiers of all premises "to permit entry into and investigation of the premises;"

-- closure, evacuation, and decontamination of all suspected facilities; and

-- restricting or prohibiting "assemblages of persons."

Other states may be planning similar measures as precursors to mandatory nationwide vaccinations and overall suspension of civil liberty protections.

Adverse Vaccination Effects on Gulf War Troops

Before deploying to the Persian Gulf in 1990 - 91 (and thereafter to the present), all US troops got a standard series of inoculations against infectious diseases - the same ones given to all US citizens traveling to the region. After arriving, 150,000 also got anthrax vaccinations and 8000 botulinum toxoid ones even though concerns were raised about adverse long-term health consequences.

A National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) study was conducted to assess them with results released in September 2000. In December 1997, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that all US military forces would receive anthrax vaccinations. The Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program (AVIP) began in March 1998 even though IOM found little published peer-reviewed scientific information on its safety.

In its study, IOM reported evidence of an association between vaccinations studied and transient acute common health effects, including redness, swelling, and fever commonly associated with other vaccinations. However, conclusive proof of long-term problems wasn't determined - likely because study findings were skewed not to find them. More on that below.

IOM also studied botulinum toxoid vaccines and found evidence of an association between the vaccine and transient acute local and systemic effects similar to anthrax vaccinations. Again, conclusive proof of long-term adverse health effects wasn't found - another very dubious conclusion as evidence below explains.

Military personnel usually get multiple vaccinations. IOM studied their effects but didn't prove or disprove any long-term adverse effects. However several independent studies of British Gulf War veterans found some link between multiple vaccinations and later health problems.

Gary Matsumoto is a New York-based award-winning investigative journalist. His 2004 book, "Vaccine A: The Covert Government Experiment That's Killing Our Soldiers and Why GIs are Only the First Victims" took sharp issue with IOM results and the Pentagon's denial of Gulf War syndrome.

Investigating the shadowy vaccination development world, he discovered US military-employed doctors and scientists conducted secret medical experiments on US citizens in violation of the Nuremberg Code and fundamental medical ethics.

For its part, Nuremberg established legal medical experimental standards now incorporated into ethical medical codes, including:

-- requiring voluntary consent of human subjects without coercion, fraud, deceit, and with full disclosure of known risks;

-- experiments should avoid "all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury;"

-- experiments should never be conducted if there's "an a priori reason to believe death or disabling injury will occur;"

-- risk "should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved..;" and

-- experiments should be terminated if there's reason to believe they'll cause "injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject."

According to Matsumoto, the Pentagon violated these and other standards, betrayed the troops, and the fundamental duty of military and civilian leaders to protect them. Since at least 1987, biowarfare development trumped the welfare of tens of thousands of GIs used as human guinea pigs for inoculation with experimental unlicensed anthrax vaccines containing squalene - an oil-based adjuvant (to enhance immunity) known for decades to cause severe autoimmune diseases in lab animals, yet administered involuntarily without disclosure of its harmful effects to human health. Matsumoto wrote:

"The unethical experiments detailed in this book are ongoing, with little prospect of being self-limiting because they have been shielded from scrutiny and public accountability by national security concerns." He suggested the "writing (was) on the wall" of what's to come with prospects now it may be soon.

"When UCLA Medical School's Michael Whitehouse and Frances Beck injected squalene combined with other materials into rats and guinea pigs back in the 1970s, few oils were more effective at causing the animal versions of arthritis and multiple sclerosis." In 1999, immunologist Dr. Johnny Lorentzen at Sweden's Karolinska Institute found that on injection, an "otherwise benign molecule like squalene can stimulate a self-destructive immune response," even though it occurs naturally in the body.

Other research shows that squalene is the experimental anthrax vaccine ingredient that caused devastating autoimmune diseases and deaths for many Gulf War veterans from the US, UK, and Australia, yet it continues in use today and for new vaccines development in labs. There's a "close match between the squalene-induced diseases in animals and those observed in humans injected with this oil: rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus."

Other autoimmune diseases are also linked to humans injected with squalene. "There are now data in more than two dozen peer-reviewed scientific papers, from ten different laboratories in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia, documenting that squalene-based adjuvants can induce autoimmune diseases in animals...observed in mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits. Sweden's Karolinska Institute has demonstrated that squalene alone can induce the animal version of rheumatoid arthritis. The Polish Academy of Sciences has shown that in animals, squalene alone can produce catastrophic injury to the nervous system and the brain. The University of Florida Medical School has shown that in animals, squalene alone can induce production of antibodies specifically associated with systemic lupus erythematosus."

Micropaleontologist Dr. Viera Scheibner conducted research into the adverse effects of adjuvants in vaccines and wrote:

Squalene "contributed to the cascade of reactions called "Gulf War syndrome. (GIs developed) arthritis, fibromyalgia, lymphadenopathy, rashes, photosensitive rashes, malar rashes, chronic fatigue, chronic headaches, abnormal body hair loss, non-healing skin lesions, aphthous ulcers, dizziness, weakness, memory loss, seizures, mood changes, neuropsychiatric problems, anti-thyroid effects, anaemia, elevated ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate), systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Raynaud's phenomenon, Sjorgren's syndrome, chronic diarrhea, night sweats and low-grade fever."

Matsumoto's book includes numerous case studies of GIs afflicted with one or more of the above syndromes, their devastating effects, and the outlandish US government reaction - failing to acknowledge their existence or a connection between them and administered vaccines. Also denying the effects of other toxic Gulf theater exposures (like depleted uranium) as well as withholding meaningful treatments or protocols.

US Army Captain George L. Skypeck spoke eloquently for many when he said:

"Was the character of my valor less intense than those at Lexington? Was the pain of my wounds any less severe than those at Normandy? And was my loneliness any less sorrowful than those at Inchon? Then why am I forgotten amonst those remembered as 'heros?' "

If mass vaccinations are ordered, millions of Americans may ask: Why do you keep using unsafe vaccines and other drugs when clear evidence shows their dangers? Why do you jeopardize all Americans by unleashing a future plague of serious illnesses, diseases, and disabilities? Why have you willfully and maliciously ruined my health?

Immunologist Dr. Pamela Asa first recognized autoimmune diseases showing up in GIs that mirrored those in lab animals injected with oil formulated squalene adjuvants. By 1997, hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent testing vaccines containing them, in animal studies since 1988 and human clinical trials since 1991 - by leading research institutes like NIH, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

According to Matsumoto, today, "Squalene adjuvants are a key ingredient in a whole new generation of vaccines intended for mass immunization around the globe" even though researchers at Tulane Medical School and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research proved "that the immune system responds specifically to the squalene molecule."

The immune system "see(s) and recognizes it as an oil molecule native to the body. Squalene is not just a molecule found in a knee or elbow - it is found throughout the nervous system and the brain." When injected in the body, the immune system attacks it as an enemy to be eliminated. Eating and digesting squalene isn't a problem. But injecting it "galvanize(s) the immune system into attacking it, which can produce self-destructive cross reactions against the same molecule in the places where it occurs naturally in the body - and where it is critical to the health of the nervous system."

Once self-destruction begins, it doesn't stop as the body keeps making the molecule that the immune system is trained to attack and destroy.

Immunologist Dr. Bonnie Dunbar also did extensive research on hepatitis B-inflicted illnesses and found similar autoimmune processes involved in molecular mimicry in people with devastating neuroimmune syndromes after getting vaccine injections.

Matsumoto says "Squalene is a kind of trigger for (a) real biological weapon," what Soviet researchers called "a biological time bomb!!" and Matsumoto says is "the immune system." When its "full repertoire of cells and antibodies (attack) tissues they are supposed to protect, the results can be catastrophic." He and Dr. Pam Asa conclude that "Oil adjuvants are the most insidious chemical weapon ever devised," including ones with squalene - something the Soviets knew could be used as a weapon in the 1980s.

Matsumoto says that "the real problem with using squalene (isn't) that it mimics a molecule found in the body; it is the same molecule. So what American scientists conceived as a vaccine booster (or what's now being developed in labs) was another 'nano-bomb,' instigating chronic, unpredictable and debilitating disease. When the NIH....argued that squalene would be safe because it is native to the body, just the opposite was true," and, of course, still is. "Squalene's natural presence in the body made it one of the most dangerous molecules ever injected into man" and using it in vaccines is outlandish and criminal.

So why does Washington sanction its use? According to Matsumoto: "scientists in the United States are now literally invested in squalene. Army scientists who developed the second generation anthrax vaccine have reputations to protect and licensing fees to reap (as well as) worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the new recombinant vaccine for anthrax" and ones for other health threats.

Disturbingly, "Many of the cutting-edge vaccines currently in development by the NIH and its corporate partners contain squalene in one formulation or another. There is squalene in the prototype recombinant vaccines for HIV, malaria, herpes, influenza (including the swine strain), cytomegalovirus and human papillomavirus." Some of these "are intended for mass immunization(s) around the globe" and that possibility should terrify everyone enough to refuse any mandate or doctor's prescription to take them.

Another problem is that "Autoimmunity (takes) years to diagnose" because early symptoms (headaches, joint pain, etc.) are so vague they can easily be from other causes.

From inception, vaccines have always been dangerous enough for some experts to call them biological weapons undermining health, manipulating and crippling the immune system, and creating the possibility of future debilitating diseases. So Big Pharma's solution is new, more potent genetically engineered vaccines and drugs that may end up harming or killing many who take them, especially people with weakened immune systems.

Matsumoto and others sounded the alarm to alert everyone to avoid these poisons masquerading as protective drugs. In fact, they benefit only the bottom lines of companies that manufacture them and scientists reaping generous royalties.