Monday, July 27, 2009

An American Hell

An American Hell

Don't Turn the Page on History

Facing the American World We Created
By Tom Engelhardt
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We've just passed through the CIA assassination flap, already fading from the news after less than two weeks of media attention. Broken in several major newspapers, here's how the story goes: the Agency, evidently under Vice President Dick Cheney's orders, didn't inform Congress that, to assassinate al-Qaeda leaders, it was trying to develop and deploy global death squads. (Of course, just about no one is going to call them that, but the description fits.) Congress is now in high dudgeon. The CIA didn't keep that body's "Gang of Eight" informed. A House investigation is now underway.

We're told that the CIA -- being the president's private army and part of the executive branch of our government -- has committed a heinous dereliction of duty. In fact, not keeping key congressional figures up to date on the developing program could even "be illegal," according to Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin. (Not that Congress, when informed of Bush administration extreme acts, ever did much of anything anyway.)

This story, however, has a largely unexplored strangeness to it that has only been discussed on the fringes of the mainstream media (or in the press of other countries). After all, during the eight years this CIA assassination program was supposedly in formation, U.S. military special ops death squads were, as far as we can tell, freely roaming the planet conducting (or botching) assassination missions, and the CIA's own robot assassins, airborne death squads, were also launching operations -- sometimes wiping out innocent civilians -- from Yemen and Somalia to Pakistan. They continue to run such operations in the skies over the Pakistani tribal borderlands near Afghanistan. So we still await an explanation of just why the CIA spent close to eight years, under Vice Presidential oversight, getting its death squads almost operational, but never -- we're told -- off the ground.

If there seems to be something odd about this latest flap, if there's much that we don't know yet, we do, at least, know one thing: This particular small splash from the previous administration's deep dive into crime and folly will have its brief time in the media sun and then be swallowed up by oblivion, just as each of the previous flaps has been.

After all, can you honestly tell me that you think often about the CIA torture flap, the CIA-destruction-of-interrogation-video-tapes flap, the what-did-Congress/Nancy Pelosi-really-know-about-torture-methods flap, the Bush-administration-officials-(like-Condi-Rice)-signed-off-on-torture-methods-in-2002-even-before-the-Justice-Department-justified-them flap, the National-Security-Agency-(it-was-far-more-widespread-than-anyone-imagined)-electronic-surveillance flap, the should-the-NSA's-telecom-spies-be-investigated-and-prosecuted-for-engaging-in-illegal-warrantless-wiretapping flap, the should-CIA-torturers-be-investigated-and-prosecuted-for-using-enhanced-interrogation-techniques flap, the Abu-Ghraib-photos-(round-two)-suppression flap, or various versions of the can-they-close-Guantanamo, will-they-keep-detainees-in-prison-forever flaps, among others that have already disappeared into my own personal oblivion file? Every flap its day, evidently. Each flap another problem (again we're told) for a president with an ambitious program who is eager to "look forward, not backward."

Of course, he's not alone. Given the last eight years of disaster piled on catastrophe, who in our American world would want to look backward? The urge to turn the page in this country is palpable, but -- just for a moment -- let's not.

Admittedly, we're a people who don't really believe in history -- so messy, so discomforting, so old. Even the recent past is regularly wiped away as the media plunge us repeatedly into various overblown crises of the moment, a 24/7 cornucopia of news, non-news, rumor, punditry, gossip, and plain old blabbing, of which each of these flaps has been but a tiny example. In turn, any sense of the larger picture surrounding each one of them is, soon enough, lessened by a media focus on a fairly limited set of questions: Was Congress adequately informed? Should the president have suppressed those photos?

The flaps, in other words, never add up to a single Imax Flap-o-rama of a spectacle. We seldom see the full scope of the legacy that we -- not just the Obama administration -- have inherited. Though we all know that terrible things happened in recent years, the fact is that, these days, they are seldom to be found in a single place, no less the same paragraph. Connecting the dots, or even simply putting everything in the same vicinity, just hasn't been part of the definitional role of the media in our era. So let me give it a little shot.

As a start, remind me: What didn't we do? Let's review for a moment.

In the name of everything reasonable, and in the face of acts of evil by terrible people, we tortured wantonly and profligately, and some of these torture techniques -- known to the previous administration and most of the media as "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- were actually demonstrated to an array of top officials, including the national security adviser, the attorney general, and the secretary of state, within the White House. We imprisoned secretly at "black sites" offshore and beyond the reach of the American legal system, holding prisoners without hope of trial or, often, release; we disappeared people; we murdered prisoners; we committed strange acts of extreme abuse and humiliation; we kidnapped terror suspects off the global streets and turned some of them over to some of the worst people who ran the worst dungeons and torture chambers on the planet. Unknown, but not insignificant numbers of those kidnapped, abused, tortured, imprisoned, and/or murdered were actually innocent of any crimes against us. We invaded without pretext, based on a series of lies and the manipulation of Congress and the public. We occupied two countries with no clear intent to depart and built major networks of military bases in both. Our soldiers gunned down unknown numbers of civilians at checkpoints and, in each country, arrested thousands of people, some again innocent of any acts against us, imprisoning them often without trial or sometimes hope of release. Our Air Force repeatedly wiped out wedding parties and funerals in its global war on terror. It killed civilians in significant numbers. In the process of prosecuting two major invasions, wars, and occupations, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have died. In Iraq, we touched off a sectarian struggle of epic proportions that involved the "cleansing" of whole communities and major parts of cities, while unleashing a humanitarian crisis of remarkable size, involving the uprooting of more than four million people who fled into exile or became internal refugees. In these same years, our Special Forces operatives and our drone aircraft carried out -- and still carry out -- assassinations globally, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, sometimes of innocent civilians. We spied on, and electronically eavesdropped on, our own citizenry and much of the rest of the world, on a massive scale whose dimensions we may not yet faintly know. We pretzled the English language, creating an Orwellian terminology that, among other things, essentially defined "torture" out of existence (or, at the very least, left its definitional status to the torturer).

And don't think that that's anything like a full list. Not by a long shot. It's only what comes to my mind on a first pass through the subject. In addition, even if I could remember everything done in these years, it would represent only what has been made public. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was regularly mocked for saying: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

Actually, he had a point seldom thought about these days. By definition, we know a good deal about the known knowns, and we have a sense of an even darker world of known unknowns. We have no idea, however, what's missing from a list like the one above, because so much may indeed remain in the unknown-unknowns category or, as with the latest CIA assassination story, a known curiosity whose full shape and depths remain to be grasped. If, however, you think that everything done by Washington or the U.S. military or the CIA in these last years has already been leaked, think again. It's a reasonable bet that the unknown unknowns the Obama administration inherited would curl your toes.

Nonetheless, what is already known, when thought about in one place, rather than divided up into separate flaps and argued about separately, is horrific enough. War may be hell, as people often say when trying to excuse what we did in these years, but it should be remembered that, in response to the attacks of 9/11, we, as a nation, were the ones who declared "war," made it a near eternal struggle (the Global War on Terror), and did so much to turn parts of the world into our own private hell. Geopolitics, energy politics, vanity, greed, fear, a misreading of the nature of power in the world, delusions of military and technological omnipotence and omniscience, and so much more drove us along the way.

Perhaps the greatest fantasy of the present moment is that there is a choice here. We can look forward or backward, turn the page on history or not. Don't believe it. History matters.

Whatever the Obama administration may want to do, or think should be done, if we don't face the record we created, if we only look forward, if we only round up the usual suspects, if we try to turn that page in history and put a paperweight atop it, we will be haunted by the Bush years until hell freezes over. This was, of course, the lesson -- the only one no one ever bothers to call a lesson -- of the Vietnam years. Because we were so unwilling to confront what we actually did in Vietnam -- and Laos and Cambodia -- because we turned the page on it so quickly and never dared take a real look back, we never, in the phrase of George H.W. Bush, "kicked the Vietnam syndrome." It still haunts us.

However busy we may be, whatever tasks await us here in this country -- and they remain monstrously large -- we do need to make an honest, clear-headed assessment of what we did (and, in some cases, continue to do), of the horrors we committed in the name of... well, of us and our "safety." We need to face who we've been and just how badly we've acted, if we care to become something better.

Now, read that list again, my list of just the known knowns, and ask yourself: Aren't we the people your mother warned you about?

NAFTA Highway Dealt Another Serious Blow

NAFTA Highway Dealt Another Serious Blow

By Mark Anderson

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TEXAS-BASED COMPREHENSIVE Development Agreements, or CDAs, that could have transformed a number of freeways into foreign controlled tollways—charging cash-strapped motorists up to 75 cents a mile—were dealt another serious blow July 2 as Gov. Rick Perry’s special legislative session that was called July 1 drew to a close.

Opponents to his tolling-the-freeways agenda ran up the victory flag once again. Thus, “any private investment in the road business dies as of Aug. 31,” was how Hank Gilbert of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, or TURF, assessed the situation.

Gilbert told AFP: “Perry is getting his head beaten in,” meaning that the special session that the Republican governor called not long after the regular legislative session adjourned on May 31, bore no fruit for Perry, who had hoped to get these CDA/public-private partnerships approved.

Because “the CDAs never made it to the House floor,” the state Senate did not even lift a finger, Gilbert told AFP around 3 p.m. local time on July 2.

Only CDAs that have already been approved can move forward. AMERICAN FREE PRESS will monitor how many of those exist and search for piecemeal infrastructure projects that could quietly move small segments of the Trans-Texas Corridor system forward. But the TTC portion of the NAFTA Superhighway has been dealt numerous delays and it seems doubtful that the large number of tough, active Texans involved in this fight will ever allow that free-trade super-corridor to straddle the huge Lone Star State as part of the North American Union plan. At some point TTC backers will have to give up. But other segments of the NAFTA highway system in other southern states and coming from Canada are still an issue.

Two other Texas bills that Trans-Texas Corridor foes disdained—HB1 and SB1—were amended in the special session so drastically that previous schemes to raid pension funds and other financial skullduggery to help CDAs and put a couple billion dollars outside of legislative oversight were rendered harmless. The state’s Transportation Commission, in league with TxDOT, would have been able to handle the funds independently. Improper TTC promotion and help for CDA’s may have resulted.

In fact, the $2 billion at stake now goes where it should go: half to the State Infrastructure Bank and half to the Texas Department of Transportation’s general fund, according to Gilbert. He was visiting state legislators as he talked with AFP for late developments.

“None of the money [the $2 billion] can be used for CDAs or toll roads,” Gilbert said. However, the “safety net” bill that was known as HR 1959 as the regular legislative session ended—but which died back then due to inaction and technically put TxDOT on the road to abolition—was expected to pass July 2. Otherwise, TxDOT would sunset in September. And the Texas Legislature does not meet again in regular session until 2011.

But TURF and the San Antonio Toll Party, the two main anti-TTC, anti-toll groups, want TxDOT to exist. They simply want the agency to honor its mandate to maintain and improve the busy Texas infrastructure system with gas taxes and no use of tax dollars to promote and lobby for the TTC international tollway or any related matters.

HB 300, a bill that would have advanced CDAs, among other things, also died from inaction in the late hours of May 31. The grassroots activism against these Texas schemes is among the most aggressive and successful seen. But you’d never know that judging from the establishment press. As holiday tea parties called for reforms in general, these Texans have been doing the actual work to advance freedom and independence by straining their budgets and contributing time away from their families for extended periods shadowing state legislators.

Top Fed Official: Audit Will Expose Fed


Top official at Fed says U.S. economy will crash if central bank audited

By Christopher J. Petherick

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During a hearing on Capitol Hill in early July, a top official at the Federal Reserve warned Congress to stay out of the bankers’ business and not force the privately owned and operated central bank to submit to a public audit.

On July 9 The Financial Times reported on Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul’s landmark “Audit the Fed” legislation (H.R. 1207), which would remove any remaining proscriptions on federal authorities investigating the Federal Reserve Bank, which serves not only as the U.S. central bank but is increasingly acting as the top banker to the world. So far Paul’s bill has picked up 261 co-sponsors, well over half the membership in the House.

Since the collapse of economies around the world in the summer of 2008—brought about by Wall Street greed—the Fed, through its various funding arms, has had the printing presses running day and night, churning out dollars. The Fed publicly claims that its balance sheet stands at just under $2 trillion, largely composed of loans to private banks, mortgage holdings and Treasury bills (U.S. taxpayer debt). But some honest economists believe the Fed is not telling the whole truth about its assets and liabilities, fudging the facts to keep U.S. taxpayers in the dark about the state of the central bank. But the truth is few know just how much money is even in circulation today.

For the past three years, the Fed has only been reporting two out of three monetary aggregates. The first is M1, the narrowest measure of money supply, which includes currency held by consumers and private corporations, money held in checking accounts and travelers checks.

The second is M2, the figure most commonly cited to describe the country’s money supply. This includes M1 plus any savings that are in relatively liquid holdings like money market mutual funds.

The third, which is no longer released to the public, is called M3. It is made up of M2 plus large liquid assets including some money market funds and certificates of deposit held by massive financial corporations and other large institutions.

In 2006, the Fed announced it would stop publishing statistics for M3, which is considered the broadest accounting of the country’s money supply. The Fed claimed M3 did not provide any additional information on
currency trends beyond what was contained in M2. But the reality is, M3 gives Americans the best sense of the dollar’s value by revealing how much money is out there.

In the past year, M1 has risen by an incredible 16.3 percent to $1.669 trillion. M2’s growth has been less dramatic at 8.7 percent, for a total of $8.369 trillion. But the growth of M3—which the Fed no longer discloses—over the past few years is especially troubling, according to figures compiled by economist John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics. Williams pieces together government reports to provide readers with what he contends is a more accurate accounting of key statistics for the country.

Williams reports that M3’s growth in 2009 was 18 percent. That means in the past decade M3 has more than doubled in from $5 trillion in 2000 to $14.5 trillion. The dramatic growth of currency in circulation in the past few years lends ammunition to those seeking a full and open accounting of the practices of the central bank. That could explain why the Fed has been going on the offensive, using fear-mongering to scare legislators into backpedaling on these landmark measures in the House and Senate that would open up the Fed to public scrutiny.

At the hearing on July 9 before the House Financial Services Subcommittee, Donald Kohn, the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, told Congress that any interference in the affairs of bankers would “negatively affect markets.”

Said Kuhn: “[E]rosion of the Federal Reserve’s monetary independence would lead to higher long-term interest rates as investors begin to fear future inflation.”

Translation: Our current system of debt would likely collapse should the world learn the truth about our money —and just how bad off the banking system really is. The next day, in an interview with Reuters, Rep. Paul said: “The dollar is worth four cents [compared to] what it was worth in 1913 when the Fed was established. . . . That tells you they’re not very good at protecting the value of our money. They’re the counterfeiters of the world, protected by this secrecy. That has to end.”

And, since AFP reported in the July 6 edition on the list of congressmen who have sponsored Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill (H.R. 1207), an additional 20 legislators have signed on to sponsor the landmark measure for a total of 261 cosponsors. The latest additions include Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), Rep. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), Rep. John Sullivan (D-Okla.), Rep. Joe Courtney (DConn.), Rep. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.), Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), Rep. Charlie Melancon (DLa.), Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), Rep. Timothy H. Bishop (D-N.Y.), Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Rep. DavidWu (D-Oreg.).

Officials lambast NJ corruption after 44 arrested

Officials lambast NJ corruption after 44 arrested

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Officials are decrying political corruption in New Jersey after more than 40 people, among them rabbis and elected officeholders, were arrested in an investigation in which some were accused of laundering tens of millions of dollars and of black-market trafficking of kidneys and fake Gucci handbags.

The 44 arrests Thursday were a remarkable number even for New Jersey, where more than 130 public officials have pleaded guilty or have been convicted of corruption since 2001.

"New Jersey's corruption problem is one of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation," said Ed Kahrer, who heads the FBI's white-collar and public corruption division. "Corruption is a cancer that is destroying the core values of this state."

Gov. Jon Corzine said: "The scale of corruption we're seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated."

The arrests were headline news in Israel on Friday morning, with the front pages of all three of the country's mass-circulation dailies featuring pictures of bearded ultra-Orthodox Jews being led away by law enforcement officials.

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Israel's national police force, said Friday that Israeli police were not involved in the investigation. He would not comment further.

Federal prosecutors in the U.S. said the investigation focused on a money laundering network that operated between Brooklyn, N.Y.; Deal, N.J.; and Israel. The network is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through Jewish charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.

Prosecutors then used an informant in that investigation to help them go after corrupt politicians. The informant — a real estate developer charged with bank fraud three years ago — posed as a crooked businessman and paid a string of public officials tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to get approvals for buildings and other projects in New Jersey, authorities said.

Among the 44 people arrested were the mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, Jersey City's deputy mayor, and two state assemblymen. A member of the governor's cabinet resigned after agents searched his home, though he was not arrested. All but one of the officeholders are Democrats.

Also, five rabbis from New York and New Jersey — two of whom lead congregations in Deal — were accused of laundering millions of dollars, some of it from the sale of counterfeit goods and bankruptcy fraud, authorities said.

Others arrested included building and fire inspectors, city planning officials and utilities officials, all of them accused of using their positions to further the corruption.

The politicians arrested were not accused of any involvement in the money laundering or the trafficking in human organs and counterfeit handbags.

Hours after FBI agents seized documents from his home and office, New Jersey Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria resigned. Federal officials would not say whether he would be charged. Doria did not return calls for comment.

Authorities did not identify the informant, described in court papers as a person "charged in a federal criminal complaint with bank fraud in or about May 2006." But the date matches up with an investigation that led to charges against Solomon Dwek, the son of a Deal rabbi.

The younger Dwek was charged at the time in connection with a bounced $25 million check he deposited in a bank's drive-through window. He has denied the charges. Dwek's lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

Most of the defendants facing corruption charges were released on bail. The money laundering defendants faced bail between $300,000 and $3 million, and most were ordered to submit to electronic monitoring.

Among those ensnared by the informant was Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, prosecutors said. The 32-year-old Cammarano, who won a runoff election last month, was accused of accepting money from the developer at a Hoboken diner.

"There's the people who were with us, and that's you guys," the complaint quotes Cammarano saying. "There's the people who climbed on board in the runoff. They can get in line. ... And then there are the people who were against us the whole way. ... They get ground into powder."

Cammarano was accused of accepting $25,000 in cash bribes. His attorney Joseph Hayden said his client is "innocent of these charges. He intends to fight them with all his strength until he proves his innocence."

The Rampant Growth of Life Without Parole

The Rampant Growth of Life Without Parole

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A new study by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that advocates for criminal justice reform, notes that one out of every 11 prisoners in state and federal lockups is serving a life sentence, and of those, nearly one-third, more than 41,000 convicts, have been sentenced to life without parole. The report notes that life without parole judgments have tripled since 1992, and nearly two-thirds of prisoners serving these sentences are ethnic and racial minorities.

As noted in my recent piece — "Should Minors Ever Face Life Without Parole?" — the U.S. already has more than 1,700 juveniles serving life without parole. The U.S., according to The Sentencing Project report, "No Exit: The Expanding Use of Life Sentences In America," is the only country that hands out such judgments. The organization, as you might expect, opposes life without parole.

Major reasons for these harsh verdicts include "three strikes laws and other overly punitive sentences," says The Sentencing Project's Ashley Nellis. "California has 24 percent of all the nation's lifers, and they have this excessively punitive three strikes law in place. Also, the abandonment of parole has had a huge impact, as has the limiting of judicial discretion in sentencing and the expansion of prosecutorial discretion."

The excessive number of life sentences is a major contributing factor to prison overcrowding, and as prisoners age, they can become an expensive state burden. Geriatric cons, Nellis says, "are a more difficult population to manage; they have more health care requirements. As states deal with their budget crises, they need to look at these sentences and revisit whether these are really the biggest threats to public safety."

There may be some light on the horizon. The constitutionality of life without parole punishments for juveniles is being challenged in two cases — Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida — that will be heard by the Supreme Court during its fall term.

And the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences, which has led to longer jail terms, especially for minorities, is under review by the Obama administration and has even attracted the support of some conservative legislators — Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions' recent malapropism that he and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, were "going to do that crack cocaine thing," actually spoke to his desire to hold hearings on the crack-powder disparity.

Greedy Banks

Greedy Banks

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Pretending that nothing had happened.... As though the global crisis they provoked weren't daily dragging along with it its cort├Ęge of social dramas, human tragedies and economic routs, banks are reviving yesterday's practices. The practices of a pre-crisis world. In the United States, investment bank Goldman Sachs is shamelessly preparing to fund an envelope of some $20 billion to devote to coming bonuses, or the sum the G-8 allocates to combating hunger in the world!

As though in the good old days, when, with complete impunity, they cooked up their little deals sheltered from the real world, the banks are reviving their guaranteed bonuses, intended to compensate bankers for their significant risk-taking, even as their original profits transform themselves into colossal losses. While the crisis is going to deepen the gap between rich and poor even further, these bonuses for greed are profoundly shocking. "Excess and one-upmanship," is the formula Ariane Obolensky, director general for the French Banking Federation, used in the July 22 La Tribune, excess and one-upmanship proscribed in France, thanks to the code on variable compensation adopted in the beginning of the year, but which exist elsewhere in Europe.

Christine Lagarde did not mince her words in the Financial Times of July 22: "I think it is an absolute disgrace that guaranteed bonuses of several years could still be paid, or that some people are thinking of reinstating the old ways of compensating with insufficient relationship between compensation and lasting performance and risk management." The [French] minister of the economy is in step with Barack Obama, who, on July 20, pronounced his own stern judgment: "You don't get the sense," he said, "that folks on Wall Street feel any remorse for taking all these risks; you don't get a sense that there's been a change of culture and behavior as a consequence of what has happened."

Less than four months ago, during the G-20 in London at the beginning of April, all the planet's great and powerful pledged to never allow the financial sphere to get the upper hand over the state ever again. They promised and swore: the crisis would be redemptive. It would supply new tools to regulate a world that had become insane. The post-crisis world would be completely different from the pre-crisis world. "Alas," says Mrs. Lagarde, "the 'old ways' are returning. They increase inequalities; they are dangerous for the economy as a whole; they arouse incomprehension and anger. They must cease."

Bernanke signals more bank bailouts, calls for cuts in social programs

Fed Chairman Bernanke signals more bank bailouts, calls for cuts in social programs

By Barry Grey

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In two days of testimony before Congress, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the banks while seeking to allay fears on financial markets of a potential eruption of inflation.

Bernanke’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday and the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday underscored the commitment of both the central bank and the Obama administration to defending the profits and wealth of the financial elite. His reception by the Democratic-controlled committees made clear that, whatever minor criticisms Congress may offer, it shares this overriding goal.

Bernanke published a lengthy commentary in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, timed to coincide with his appearance before the House committee, arguing that the Fed had an “exit strategy” to unwind the massive injections of capital into the banking system and avoid an inflationary spiral once business activity begins to rebound from the deepest recession since the 1930s.

In his prepared statement, Bernanke cited the rally on Wall Street and the renewed profitability of major banks as signs that the financial crisis had abated. At the same time, he made clear that unemployment and home foreclosures would continue to rise and remain at near-record rates for at least the next two years, and warned that consumer spending would remain depressed.

The Fed chairman forecast a slight growth in the US economy by the end of 2009 and a gradual acceleration in 2010 and 2011. But he said the central bank, which cut its key interest rate to near zero last December, would continue to hold interest rates at record lows “for an extended period.”

Bernanke acknowledged that “financial conditions remain stressed, and many households and businesses are finding credit difficult to obtain.” In response to a question about the prospects for a jobs recovery, he said, “We have a very long haul here. Unemployment is going to stay high for quite a while, and so it’s not going to feel really like a strong economy.”

However, he called a second economic stimulus package “premature” and proposed no measures either to provide immediate relief for the millions hit by plant closures, layoffs, and the collapse of home values and savings, or to allocate government funds to create new jobs. Nor did he propose any measures to compel the banks, which have received more than $200 billion in taxpayer cash and trillions more in low-interest loans, subsidies and government backing for their debt, to increase their lending and make credit available to working families.

On the contrary, he reiterated earlier demands that Congress and the Obama administration agree on plans to slash the budget deficit by cutting basic social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. In his prepared statement, he said “...maintaining the confidence of the public and financial markets requires that policymakers begin planning now for the restoration of fiscal balance. Prompt attention to questions of fiscal sustainability is particularly critical because of the coming budgetary and economic challenges associated with the retirement of the baby-boom generation and continued increases in the costs of Medicare and Medicaid. Addressing the country’s fiscal problems will require difficult choices, but postponing those choices will only make them more difficult.”

In the course of his testimony, he endorsed the drive by the Obama administration, in the name of health care “reform,” to reduce the costs to business and the government of health insurance for workers. “I do believe,” he said, “for the broad economy’s health or fiscal health, we do need to address the problem of increasing cost. And so any program that is undertaken should look to how we’re going to get control of costs...”

An exchange on Wednesday with Jim Bunning, the right-wing Republican senator from Kentucky, highlighted the priorities of the Federal Reserve. Citing the role of former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who, under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, raised interest rates above 20 percent and precipitated a wave of plant closures and layoffs, Bunning asked, “But do you have the will as former Chairman Volcker did to tighten even if the economy is still weak?”

Bernanke replied, “We will absolutely do it, so long as we are not forced to do something different by Congress.”

At the same time, Bernanke made clear that the Fed would continue to allocate whatever funds were needed to prop up the banks. In response to the plea from Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, Democrat from Connecticut, Bernanke said he was prepared to extend one bailout program, the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), beyond its December 31 expiration date.

Much of the discussion at both hearings focused on fears of an impending avalanche of commercial real estate defaults. Trends Research Institute Director Gerald Celente, who forecast the subprime mortgage crisis, has predicted that defaults will turn into a commercial real estate collapse that will “dwarf the subprime problem.”

Moody’s Investor Services reported that the number of commercial properties in default, foreclosure or bankruptcy in June was more than twice the number six months earlier and almost twice the value.

Bernanke at one point acknowledged that “Many banks will be facing mountains of CRE (commercial real estate) challenges going forward.” He told the Senate Banking Committee that it “may be appropriate” for the government to guarantee commercial mortgages, an allocation of government funds that could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

In a further indication of the character of the “recovery” touted by Bernanke, the Fed chairman said, “The American consumer is not going to be the source of a global boom by any means. On that very topic, we are continuing to encourage our trading partners in Asia and elsewhere to understand—and I believe that they do—that they need to substitute their own domestic spending, their own domestic demand, for American consumers as the engine of growth in their economies.” He cited China’s stimulus program as a positive example.

Bernanke used the hearings to oppose an Obama administration proposal to establish, as part of a revised bank regulatory system, a largely token consumer protection agency, a measure that is fiercely opposed by Wall Street. He also denounced a pending bill in Congress that would expand the powers of the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, to audit the Federal Reserve.

The hearings, known as the semi-annual Monetary Policy Report to Congress, came in the wake of bumper profit reports by bailed out banks, most notably Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, and record set-asides by Wall Street firms for executive salaries and bonuses. Public anger is rising over the windfalls for bankers and big investors, some of it coming from predatory hikes in credit card rates and fees and huge penalties being charged for bank overdrafts.

This sentiment found no genuine reflection in the hearings. Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, devoted his opening remarks to absolving Bernanke of any wrongdoing in last year’s Bank of America takeover of Merrill Lynch.

A number of congressional hearings have been held into charges that Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pressured Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis to go through with the takeover even though it had become clear that Merrill’s debts and toxic assets were far higher than the failing bank had acknowledged. Shareholders have filed suits alleging that Lewis, under pressure from Bernanke and Paulson, concealed the real state of Merrill from shareholders and the public.

Within weeks of the January 2009 completion of the merger, the government awarded Bank of America $20 billion in bailout cash under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) over and above the $25 billion that had been given the bank in October of 2008. The government also agreed to guarantee over $300 billion on Bank of America assets.

Frank declared that he saw “no villains” in the takeover deal.

On the Senate side, Chairman Dodd used his opening statement to posture as an advocate for laid off workers and families facing foreclosure, praising the progress in stabilizing the banks but complaining that the recovery was one-sided. There should be more balance, he said, so that the “other half”—namely, the broad mass of the American people—also benefitted.

He took pains, however, to combine this criticism with a testimonial to Bernanke’s service to the country. “Mr. Chairman,” he said, “all of us understand the importance of the work you are doing—and that’s not just a platitude or a generous comment. And we all look forward to continuing to partner with you in this effort.”

No one at either hearing raised the charges leveled Monday by the special inspector general for TARP, Neil Barofsky, that TARP funds were being misused by the banks. Nor did any congressman or senator cite his denunciation of the Obama administration for refusing to compel the banks to reveal how the bailout funds are being used. In his report, Barofsky estimated the total in government funds allocated for the various bailout programs at $23.7 trillion.

Evasions and lies on plan to slash health care for workers

Obama press conference: Evasions and lies on plan to slash health care for workers

By Patrick Martin

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President Obama’s press conference Wednesday night was an hour-long effort to conceal from the American people the sweeping impact of the cuts in medical benefits that will be imposed in his administration’s planned restructuring of the US health care system.

With major health care bills proceeding through both the House and the Senate, and the White House engaged in detailed negotiations with congressional Democrats and Republicans, Obama focused his opening statement on the issue and nearly every question from the White House press corps followed suit.

The opening statement made only one mention of the 47 million people now without health insurance, and did not repeat Obama’s election campaign promises of universal coverage. Instead, he spoke almost exclusively about the need to slash spending on medical care, particularly on the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs which underwrite health care for the elderly, the disabled and the poor.

“The biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid,” he said. “So let me be clear: If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit.”

“I have also pledged that health insurance reform will not add to our deficit over the next decade, and I mean it,” he added, pointing to a plan to “create an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare on an annual basis.”

As always is the case in a US presidential press conference, Obama was addressing two basic audiences—the ruling elite and the general population. But rarely have the messages being delivered been so fundamentally at odds. Obama combined vague promises of improvements in health care for the American people with direct pledges to the financial aristocracy that his plan would cut health care spending.

Obama repeatedly stressed that his number one priority was to slash spending on medical care, both by corporate America and by the federal government. At one point he declared that unless costs are reduced, “Medicare and Medicaid will break the federal budget.” No such considerations have restrained his administration’s open-ended bailout of Wall Street—at a direct cost of $4.7 trillion, with another $19 trillion in guarantees—or the spending of trillions on continuing and escalating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To working people, Obama offered examples of the abuses inflicted by private insurance companies—cutting off benefits, arbitrary rate increases, refusal to pay for life-saving procedures—making a show of sympathy with the victims of medicine-for-profit, even as he pushes ahead with plans to make these conditions even worse.

In response to reporters’ questions about the sacrifices he was prepared to ask of ordinary people, Obama was careful to disguise the real implications of the measures now being prepared. One reporter asked if he would support a list of cost-cutting measures—fewer tests, fewer choices, less end-of-life care. Obama evaded the issue with a glib phrase, saying he would ask people only to “give up paying for things that don’t make you healthier.”

Another reporter asked the US president to detail “specifically what kind of pain and sacrifice” he was prepared to demand of current or future Medicare beneficiaries. Here Obama simply lied, saying that he “won’t reduce Medicare benefits” but would “make delivery more efficient.”

The final questioner along these lines asked Obama to guarantee that under the public insurance option proposed as part of his plan the government would not reduce benefits or coverage for anyone. Obama first made a diversion, defending the public option against Republican criticism and citing record insurance company profits. Then he gave an evasive answer, saying he “can’t guarantee there will be no changes in the health care delivery system.”

Given the opportunity to promise there would be no reductions in benefits or coverage under his health care plan, Obama refused to do so—a much clearer indication of the real direction of government policy than all his pretended empathy for working class families facing the loss of jobs, health insurance and their homes.

At one point, asked about his bottom-line requirements for a health care bill, Obama said that he would not sign a bill that increased the federal deficit or failed to cut health care costs. He made no such pledge to reject a bill that failed to cover the uninsured or imposed cuts in the availability of medical procedures, tests or drugs.

Obama said that he did not want the additional tax revenues required under his plan to be “completely shouldered” by middle-class families, an indication that a substantial portion of the costs will be imposed on working families.

No reporter, in line with the general media coverage of the health care issue, raised the simple fact that it is impossible to combine expanded benefits and drastically reduced spending, or improve health care for masses of people on the basis of a plan supported by the giant pharmaceutical and insurance companies. In fact, Obama’s drive to restructure health care represents a frontal assault on the social conditions of the working class.

His talk about eliminating “inefficiencies” and cutting the “quantity but not the quality” of health care can only mean, within the framework of a for-profit health care system based on the capitalist market, an attack on both the quantity and quality of health care for broad masses of people.

The dimensions of the coming assault are suggested by two figures cited by Obama. He pointed to the projected $7.1 trillion in federal deficits over the next decade, declaring that his health care plan was an essential part of cutting that deficit. And he noted that the annual average cost of health care in the United States was $6,500 more per person than in other industrialized countries—a gap that puts American corporations at a disadvantage against their international rivals.

The class character of Obama health care plan is demonstrated by the process through which the plan has been put together.

The last few days have seen extensive press reporting on the millions in campaign contributions from the health profiteers to leading congressional Democrats like Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. At the same time, the Obama administration has refused to release the names of top health care company CEOs and lobbyists who have been visiting the White House to ensure the legislation is drafted to their satisfaction.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, health care companies gave a staggering $170 million to congressional candidates in 2007 and 2008 combined, 54 percent of that total to Democrats. This spending spree is accelerating. According to the Washington Post, “The industry already set records from January to March, when health care firms and their lobbyists spent money at the rate of $1.4 million a day.”

The horror stories about insurance company abuses cited by Obama in his press conference could be multiplied endlessly. It is no exaggeration to say that thousands die needless deaths every year and millions are condemned to suffering because the health care system is driven not by human needs, but by the profit interests of drug and medical equipment manufacturers, hospital chains and insurance companies.

It is precisely these corporate interests that are working in close collaboration with the White House and Congress to write the Obama health care plan, whose aim is precisely to deny tests, medicines, procedures and treatments to working class people and restructure the health care system more directly and openly along class lines. The outcome will be cut-rate, third-class care for the vast majority, while the affluent few will have access to the best care available.

Swine flu vaccine will need compensation rules: Expert

Swine flu vaccine will need compensation rules: Expert

No plans here to aid those injured from the immunization

By Sharon Kirkey

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A leading public health expert is calling on Canada to create a no-fault compensation program for people who may be harmed by a swine flu vaccine that millions of Canadians will be urged by the government to get this fall.

Kumanan Wilson, Canada research chair in public health at the University of Ottawa, said in an interview with Canwest News Service that children and adults could be exposed to an incompletely tested vaccine and that a compensation scheme is needed to encourage the public to buy into any mass immunization program.

When the World Health Organization last month proclaimed swine flu the first pandemic since 1968, Canada's chief public health officer, David Butler-Jones, said everyone should get the new flu shot when it becomes available.

"The more people that have immunity, the easier it is to stop," he said.

But Canwest News Service has learned that, unlike the United States, the Public Health Agency of Canada has no plans to compensate people who may be injured by an H1N1 vaccine.

A vaccine injury program would give people who suffer an adverse reaction faster access to compensation without having to go through the legal system. Quebec is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has a non-fault compensation program.

Public Health Agency of Canada officials acknowledged last week there won't be time for a swine flu vaccine to go through standard safety testing before immunizations begin in the fall. The first doses are expected to be available in three to four months. Officials said they are working with regulators on ways to reduce any time required for getting the vaccine out. Canada could invoke emergency provisions to get the vaccine out quicker, before all the data from human trials that test safety are complete.

That happened in 1976, when an outbreak of swine flu at the Fort Dix army base in New Jersey spawned a nationwide emergency vaccination program. Manufacturers wanted legal protection against vaccine-related injury claims, so Congress enacted legislation allowing people to sue the federal government. About 45 million Americans were vaccinated. Reports soon emerged of unusually high rates of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare, neurological disorder that can cause temporary paralysis. More than 5,000 people sued for vaccine-related injuries, resulting in payouts totalling $73 million. In the 1980s, the U.S. introduced no-fault compensation for all vaccines.

"I'm not saying we shouldn't roll out this vaccine (against H1N1 influenza)," said Wilson, an expert in pandemic planning.

"I don't know how confident we will be in its efficacy and safety at the outset, but I don't think we'll have any choice but to roll it out, because, at this point, the only way to control the spread is going to be a vaccine."

But "there are going to be concerns about people not wanting to take the vaccine, health-care workers in particular," he said.

"We have been arguing that it needs to be complemented with a no-fault compensation program, just like in 1976, and we need to develop systems to pick up these adverse events."

Meanwhile, some First Nations leaders argued Monday that aboriginal people should be a top priority for swine flu immunization when a vaccine is ready.

As the Assembly of First Nations meets in Calgary this week to elect a new national chief, the organization is also expected to turn its attention to H1N1 influenza and preparing for the fall flu season.

"There has to be some priority given to our First Nations people (for vaccination)," said Angus Toulouse, Ontario regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations.

"There's data one could use to say First Nations are more at risk."

Plan now: Report

Canadian companies and organizations are being urged in a new report to consider the swine flu pandemic as a "business continuity crisis" and to put response plans in place now, before the fall flu season arrives. The Conference Board of Canada report released Monday examines the actions some organizations have already taken and provides advice on what should be included in pandemic response plans.

Many businesses in Canada developed plans following the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002 and the avian flu. Those plans are now being tested and companies are determining how they can be applied to the swine flu pandemic.

Glaxo unmasked: drug firm to make £1bn from swine flu

Glaxo unmasked: drug firm to make £1bn from swine flu

By Alistair Dawber and Jeremy Laurance

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Britain's largest pharmaceuticals company could make up to £1bn from sales of its swine flu vaccine by the end of the year, industry analysts said yesterday as the first trials of the drug began in Australia.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is to sell the vaccine for up to £6 a dose in Western countries, and the first supplies are due to arrive in Britain in September.

Andrew Witty, GSK's chief executive, refused to apologise for the boost in earnings, pointing out that GSK had invested more than $2.5bn (£1.5bn) in its vaccine development programme over the past few years.

"Swine flu is going to be positive for the performance [of the company], but only because we have put ourselves in a position to do it," he added. "And we have done that by taking very significant risks over a long time, diverting a huge amount of resources to it and doing the research that nobody else has done, so I'm not going to apologise for the fact that the company is going to make a return."

GSK is in talks with more than 50 governments and has already agreed to produce 195 million doses of A(H1N1) vaccine. Mr Witty said this was well below what it eventually expected to ship, given that countries were at different stages of preparedness.

However, GSK will earn further millions by selling its swine flu treatment Relenza – production of which is to be tripled to 190 million doses a year by the end of 2009. It has also received approval for a new disposable antiviral face mask which worked against all previous strains of bird and swine flu. The mask has yet to be tested against the current swine flu strain, although Mr Witty said he was confident it would be effective.

Simon Mather, an analyst at WestLB said GSK would generate sales of at least £500m by January but that could rise to £1bn as it already had 195 million vaccine doses under contract.

GSK will be charge Western governments €7 per dose and has agreed to negotiate lower amounts with the governments of developing nations. It has also agreed to give the World Health Organisation 50 million doses for free.

The British Government has ordered 132 million doses of vaccine from GSK and its rival Baxter but has not said how the order is split between the two companies.

The 31st British death from swine flu was confirmed in the West Midlands yesterday. The man's death, at Walsall Manor Hospital on Tuesday night, is being investigated by the NHS.

Figures due out today will show a continuing rise in the number of people with flu-like illness consulting their GPs over the past week. The data from the Royal College of GPs' surveillance centre in Birmingham will be released along with latest figures on hospitalisations and deaths. The virus is targeting children who have a higher rate of complications, raising concerns about the NHS's capacity to deal with them. The hospitalisation rate is four times higher among the under-fives than among adults.

Roddy O'Donnell, a consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said NHS trusts were racing to try to increase capacity at the country's 25 paediatric intensive care units but fewer than half had done so.

"Initially, it hadn't been anticipated how much this virus might affect children," he added. "There has been a scramble to boost provision round the country. There hasn't been as much time as one might wish."

The CIA, licensed to kill

The CIA, licensed to kill

The agency has been involved in planning assassinations since at least 1954.
By David Wise

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Back in 1960, the CIA hatched a plan to kill Patrice Lumumba by infecting his toothbrush with a deadly disease. The Congolese leader would brush his teeth and, presto, in a few days or weeks he would be gone.

Around the same time, the CIA's Health Alteration Committee -- who thought that name up? -- sent a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief to Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem, the leader of Iraq.

And the CIA's "executive action" unit plotted for years to murder Fidel Castro. It hired the Mafia to poison his food and tried to give him a diving suit contaminated with Madura foot, a rare tropical disease that starts in the foot and moves upward, slowly destroying the body. The CIA also considered offing the Cuban leader with an exploding cigar, a poison pen and a seashell that would blow up underwater when he touched it.

Not one of the plots was successful. Lumumba and Kassem were executed by their foes, and Castro is still alive. But the plots make clear that the CIA has been licensed to kill for decades.

Congress -- especially congressional Democrats -- was outraged earlier this month when it was disclosed that, apparently on orders from Vice President Dick Cheney, the CIA for eight years concealed from Congress a program to assassinate the leaders of Al Qaeda, starting with Osama bin Laden. But they shouldn't have been surprised that such a plan was being hatched.

The CIA's involvement in planning assassinations goes back at least to 1954, when it prepared a manual for killings as part of a U.S.-run coup against the leftist government of Guatemala. The 19-page manual, which was declassified in 1997, makes chilling reading. "The essential point of assassination is the death of the subject," it declares, noting that while it "is possible to kill a man with the bare hands ... the simplest local tools are often much the most efficient means of assassination. A hammer, ax, wrench, screwdriver, fire poker, kitchen knife, lamp stand or anything hard, heavy and handy will suffice."

The agency's manual recommends "the contrived accident" as the best way to dispose of someone. "The most efficient accident ... is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface. Elevator shafts, stairwells, unscreened windows and bridges will serve." The manual suggests grabbing the victim by the ankles and "tipping the subject over the edge. ... Falls before trains or subway cars are usually effective, but require exact timing."

The manual goes on to discuss "blunt weapons," noting that "a hammer can be picked up almost anywhere in the world" and that baseball bats are also excellent. The manual explains the best place in the body to stab people or how to bash their skulls in and the pros and cons of rifles, pistols, submachine guns and other weapons.

During the Cold War years, the CIA plotted against eight foreign leaders, five of whom died violently. The agency's role varied in each case.

After the plots were publicized by a Senate committee, President Ford issued an executive order in 1976 barring political assassination. President Reagan broadened the ban, dropping the word "political" and extending the prohibition to include contract killers as well as government employees.

Although the ban remains in effect, it has largely been ignored on the premise that it does not apply in a military setting. Consider the following:

In 1986, Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya in retaliation for a terrorist attack on a Berlin disco that killed three people, including two U.S. servicemen, and wounded more than 200 others. In the airstrike, Libya's leader, Moammar Kadafi, a target of the raid, escaped unharmed, but his 2-year-old adopted daughter was killed.

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when the first Bush administration bombed Baghdad, Robert M. Gates, the former CIA director and current Defense secretary, said White House officials hoped that "Saddam Hussein would be killed in a bunker." At an air base in Saudi Arabia that year, Cheney, then secretary of Defense, and Gen. Colin L. Powell signed a 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb destined for Iraq. "To Saddam with affection," Cheney wrote.

In 1998, President Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike on Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan after the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The White House was clearly disappointed when the strike failed to kill Bin Laden, who reportedly left one of the camps shortly before the attack.

A year later, again during the Clinton administration, NATO bombed Belgrade after Serbia forced ethnic Albanians to flee from Kosovo. A cruise missile was lobbed right into the bedroom of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader and Yugoslav president, but he was not sleeping there and escaped injury.

In Yemen in 2002, a CIA Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile that destroyed a car in which a top Al Qaeda leader, Qaed Sinan Harithi, was riding.

The problem with assassination, morality aside, is that the U.S. is not very good at it, as the CIA's farcical efforts to murder Castro demonstrate. It seems unlikely that the CIA will kill Bin Laden with a baseball bat. And there is the real possibility of retaliation for a state-sponsored assassination. President Kennedy was quoted as saying, "We can't get into that kind of thing or we would all be targets." Perhaps CIA Director Leon Panetta had that in mind when he canceled the assassination program.

Now Legal Immunity for Swine flu Vaccine Makers

Now Legal Immunity for Swine flu Vaccine Makers

by F. William Engdahl

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The US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, has just signed a decree granting vaccine makers total legal immunity from any lawsuits that result from any new “Swine Flu” vaccine. Moreover, the $7 billion US Government fast-track program to rush vaccines onto the market in time for the Autumn flu season is being done without even normal safety testing. Is there another agenda at work in the official WHO hysteria campaign to declare so-called H1N1 virus—which has yet to be rigorously scientifically isolated, characterized and photographed with an electron microscope—the scientifically accepted procedure—a global “pandemic” threat?

The current official panic campaign over alleged Swine Flu danger is rapidly taking on the dimensions of a George Orwell science fiction novel. The document signed by Sebelius grants immunity to those making a swine flu vaccine, under the provisions of a 2006 law for public health emergencies.

Not so sage SAGE

That is once the WHO in Geneva, on recommendation of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group on Immunizations, declared H1N1 to be Phase 6 or Pandemic, automatic emergency health response programs could be activated even in countries such as Germany where reported outbreaks of even “suspected” H1N1 can be counted to date on the fingers of slightly more than one hand.

The WHO’s SAGE is also worth scrutiny. Its Chairman since 2005 has been the UK Director of Immunization at the British Department of Health, Dr David Salisbury. In the 1980’s Salisbury reportedly drew major fire for backing a massive vaccination of children with a multiple MMR vaccine manufactured by the predecessor company of GlaxoSmithKline. That vaccine was pulled off the market in Japan after significant numbers of children developed adverse reactions to the vaccine and the Japanese government was forced to pay significant compensation to the victims. In Sweden the MMR vaccine of GlaxoSmithKline was removed after scientists linked it to outbreaks of Crohn’s disease. Apparently that had little impact on WHO SAGE chairman Salisbury.

According to one independent UK investigator, Alan Golding, who obtained Freedom of Information documents on the case, in “1986 Trivirix, an MMR compound containing the Mumps Urabe strain AM-9, was introduced in Canada to replace MMR I. Concerns regarding the introduction of MMR in the UK are recorded in the minutes of the Joint Working Party of the British Paediatric Association and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) Liaison Group on June 26th of that year. Such concerns were soon to prove well grounded, as reports began to come in of an increased incidence of aseptic meningitis in vaccinated individuals. Ultimately, all MMR vaccines containing the Urabe strain of mumps were withdrawn in Canada in early 1988. This was before Urabe containing vaccines were licenced by the Department of Health for use in the UK…”

The report adds, “Smith-Kline—French, the pharmaceutical company who became Smith-Kline-Beecham and were involved in UK manufacture at that time, were concerned about these safety issues and were reluctant to obtain a UK license for their Urabe-containing vaccines. As a result of their ‘concern’ that children might be seriously damaged by one of their products, they requested that the UK government indemnify them against possible legal action that might be taken as a result of ‘losses’ associated with the vaccine, which by then was known to carry significant risk to health. The UK government, advised by Professor Salisbury and representatives from the Department of Health, in it’s enthusiasm to get a cheap MMR onto the market, agreed to this request.”

Today the same Dr Salisbury is advocating global proliferation of untested H1N1 vaccines, also manufactured by the same firm, now called GlaxoSmithKline.

The last phoney Swine Flu Disaster

The last time the US Government faced a new swine flu virus was in 1976. Thousands filed claims contending they suffered side effects from the shots. This time, the government has taken steps to prevent any possible legal remedy should thousands of US citizens suffer severe complications as a result of being given untested vaccines.

In 1976 President Gerald Ford, facing a difficult re-election campaign, was advised by the head of the CDC, David Sencer, to launch a mass national vaccination. As today with H1N1 Swine Flu, Sencer also used the scare of the alleged 1918 flu pandemic. Notably, some scientific researchers maintain that the deaths during the flu wave of 1918-1919, in the aftermath of the ghastly First World War, came not from any virus but from the governmental campaigns of mass vaccination against “Spanish Flu.” Interestingly, the Rockefeller University and Foundation was in the middle of that event as well.

Cases of what was then called swine flu were found in soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. in 1976, including one death. That death, whose true cause is in dispute as the soldier, sick with influenza was put on a forced march despite and fell dead, was used by Sencer to convince Ford to launch one of the most infamous public health fiascos in US history, forcing Sencer’s resignation as CDC head. Federal officials vaccinated 40 million Americans during a national campaign. A pandemic never materialized, but thousands who got the shots filed injury claims, as they contracted a paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome or other side effects. At least 25 people died after receiving the vaccine died and 500 developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, an inflammation of the nervous system which can cause paralysis and be fatal. The US Government was forced to pay damages after vaccination victims made it a national scandal. In the end the 1976 Swine Flu vaccine proved far worse than the disease.

Sencer was fired in 1977 for the fiasco but by then the damage had already been done.

No Safety Test? Don’t worry, be happy…

The story gets worse. Now that the Obama Administration has signed a document of immunity from legal prosecution, the FDA in the United States and UK health authorities have decided to let Big Pharma put vaccine products onto the market before any tests of the possible harmful side effects of the vaccines are even known.

The first doses of swine flu vaccine will be given to the public before full data on its safety and effectiveness become available. The untested “pandemic” vaccines will be spread over two doses in a higher quantity, and one brand reportedly will contain a chemical additive, an adjuvant, to make it “go further,” dramatically potentially increasing the risk of side-effects.

Children will be among those first in line for the shots and may get the vaccine more than a month before trial results are received.

In the UK the government’s National Health Service, NHS, has been ordered to plan for a worst-case scenario in which swine flu might cause 65,000 deaths over the coming winter, including several thousand deaths among children.

The British Government has placed advance orders for 132 million doses of vaccine with two manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline and Baxter, who have licensed “in advance” three "core" vaccines in preparation for a pandemic, conveniently enough even though we are told by WHO and epidemiologists that we cannot prepare in advance for what could be a more ominous mutation of the currently very mild H1N1 problem.

Curiously enough, a full year before any reported case of the current alleged H1N1, the major pharmaceutical company, Baxter, filed for a patent for H1N1 vaccine: Baxter Vaccine Patent Application US 2009/0060950 A1. Their application states, “the composition or vaccine comprises more than one antigen.....such as influenza A and influenza B in particular selected from of one or more of the human H1N1, H2N2, H3N2, H5N1, H7N7, H1N2, H9N2, H7N2, H7N3, H10N7 subtypes, of the pig flu H1N1, H1N2, H3N1 and H3N2 subtypes, of the dog or horse flu H7N7, H3N8 subtypes or of the avian H5N1, H7N2, H1N7, H7N3, H13N6, H5N9, H11N6, H3N8, H9N2, H5N2, H4N8, H10N7, H2N2, H8N4, H14N5, H6N5, H12N5 subtypes."

The application further states, “Suitable adjuvants can be selected from mineral gels, aluminium hydroxide, surface active substances, lysolecithin, pluronic polyols, polyanions or oil emulsions such as water in oil or oil in water, or a combination thereof. Of course the selection of the adjuvant depends on the intended use. E.g. toxicity may depend on the destined subject organism and can vary from no toxicity to high toxicity."

With no legal liability, could it be that Baxter is preparing to sell hundreds of millions of doses containing highly toxic aluminium hydroxide as adjuvant? Perhaps it is time to demand that all leading officials of WHO, SAGE and CDC, the US Obama Administration, Cabinet officials and members of Congress who voted the $7 billion H1N1 emergency funds and who have gone along with the declaration of pharmaceutical company immunity from subsequent prosecution for damage from their products. The same should apply as well for other national health bodies demanding its citizens take the H1N1 vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline or Baxter to see if it is really safe.

And WHO stopped even tracking H1N1

Another indication that the world is being taken for colossal suckers in the entire WHO Swine Flu scare scenario, the WHO itself, the world body entrusted to monitor outbreaks of so-called pandemics or even epidemics worldwide, has just decided to stop tracking Swine Flu or H1N1 Influenza A as they prefer to name it now, so as not to offend Smithfield Foods and other industrialized pig CAFO producers.

The World Health Organization in a “briefing note” posted on their Web site posted the baffling notice that they would no longer track outbreaks of H1N1. The last WHO update, issued July 6, showed 94,512 confirmed cases in 122 countries, with 429 deaths. The WHO apparently claims that the numbers of laboratory-confirmed cases were actually meaningless.

The briefing note said countries would still be asked to report their first few confirmed cases. It also said countries should watch for clusters of fatalities, which could indicate the virus had mutated to a more lethal form. Other “signals to be vigilant for,” it said, were spikes in school absenteeism and surges in hospital visits. The Atlanta CDC has also agreed to the WHO count drop. Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, admits that the existing tests to confirm H1N1 Influenza A are not even certain, but rather hit-or-miss. “Bad measures can be worse than no measures at all,” he stated. So the WHO has decided to drop tests that anyway did not give a scientific picture of who had H1N1 or not, and as well they have decided to drop counting any test results or cases of H1n1 around the world with the comment that “we can assume almost all cases are H1N1 Swine Flu. This is science on which basis we are told to vaccinate our young? Whoah there…Not with our children.

US Continues to Train Honduran Soldiers at School of Americas

Despite Pledge to Cut Military Ties to Coup Regime, US Continues to Train Honduran Soldiers at School of Americas

New York, New Jersey Immigration Raids Violated Rights

Report: NY, NJ immigration raids violated rights

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Immigration agents raiding homes for suspected illegal immigrants violated the U.S. Constitution by entering without proper consent and may have used racial profiling, a report analyzing arrest records found.

Latinos made up a disproportionate number of the people arrested who were not the stated targets of the raids, and many of their arrest reports gave no basis for why they were initially seized, said the report, which was based on data from raids in New York and New Jersey.

The Immigration Justice Clinic at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law analyzed home raid arrest records from Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Long Island and throughout New Jersey. The clinic, founded last year, represents indigent immigrants facing deportation.

Its report, released Wednesday, said that since ICE agents use administrative warrants — instead of judicial warrants, which give law enforcement unfettered access — they must have a resident's consent to enter a home or else violate the constitutional right to protection against unreasonable searches.

On Long Island, 86 percent of arrest records from 100 raids between January 2006 and April 2008 showed no record of consent being given, the report found. In northern and central New Jersey, no record of consent being given was found for 24 percent of about 600 arrests in 2006 and 2007, it found.

Peter Markowitz, director of the clinic and one of the authors of the report, said raids often are carried out with great force, with immigration officials pushing their way into homes in pre-dawn or late-night hours.

The raids are ostensibly aimed at targeted individuals who present threats either to national security or community safety, but arrests of illegal immigrants nearby, known as collateral arrests, are also made.

While the report only analyzed data from two states, it said the pattern suggested the problem was nationwide. It listed examples from California, Texas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Georgia and other places.

A federal judge in Connecticut last month ruled that federal agents violated the constitutional rights of four illegal immigrants in a 2007 raid under similar issues. The judge ruled the immigration agents went into the immigrants' homes without warrants, probable cause or their consent, and he put a stop to deportation proceedings against the four defendants.

"The widespread illegality by a law enforcement agency should be kind of shocking to anybody," Markowitz said.

In a statement, ICE said its agents uphold the country's laws.

"We do so professionally, humanely and with an acute awareness regarding the impact enforcement has on the individuals we encounter," it said.

The agency said it also had a mandate to pursue all illegal immigrants, whether targeted or not. A spokesman for the agency declined to comment further.

The agency has about 100 Fugitive Operations Teams around the country; in fiscal year 2008, the teams made more than 34,000 arrests.

The report also found that Latinos were a disproportionate number of collateral arrests. In both New Jersey and on Long Island, two-thirds of the targeted detainees were Latino. But 87 percent of collateral arrests in New Jersey were Latino, as were 94 percent of the collateral arrests in Long Island.

Collateral arrest records can indicate why the person was seized and questioned. But the report found that almost all of the records that didn't contain that information were for Latinos taken into custody. The report said that supported community complaints that Latinos were targeted for arrest simply because of how they looked or how well they spoke English.

The report makes several recommendations, including limiting the use of home raids to a last resort for targets who pose a serious risk to national security or have violent criminal records; the use of judicial rather than administrative warrants, and the videotaping of all home raids.

It also calls for the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General to conduct an investigation.

"These are violations that go to the very heart of the Constitutional expectation of privacy in this country," Markowitz said.

Wall Street profits soar

Wall Street profits soar

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Goldman Sachs reported quarterly earnings of $3.4 billion on July 14. JP Morgan Chase reported $2.7 billion in profits on July 16. The next day Bank of America reported a quarterly profit of $3.2 billion and Citigroup $4.3 billion.

Goldman Sachs told the New York Times July 15 that “it had earmarked $11.4 billion so far this year to compensate its workers,” which average $770,000 per worker. Lloyd C. Blankfein, its chief executive, is quoted saying, “We pay for performance.”

While Goldman Sachs received Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout money, which it has repaid, it and other banks have substantially benefited by being able to issue debt cheaply because the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation backs it.

Goldman Sachs has also gotten tens of billions of dollars from AIG (the American International Group) when it was paid 100 cents on the dollar for its bets on securities that turned sour. Estimates of the total payout Goldman got from AIG range from $13 billion to $40 billion.

AIG is now essentially controlled by the U.S. government. While Blankfein didn’t admit it, this government backing is certainly a performance-enhancer.

While JP Morgan Chase has repaid its TARP funds, Bank of America and Citigroup have not, and their financial position is a lot shakier. They are more susceptible to credit card and home-equity defaults.

Workers are still losing their jobs, even with the “stimulus” package, which indicates the production of goods and services is declining, a sign of a deepening recession. It also means that workers can’t pay their bills or their mortgages.

According to a report released July 16 from the Government Accountability Office, which is part of Congress, the government has spent $339 billion on TARP, out of the $700 billion allocated, and has promised $102 billion more. That leaves $259 billion in the fund, plus $70 billion that the banks have repaid.

Bailout vs. ‘chaos in the streets’

An interchange between former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and the House committee investigating the formation of the TARP explains why the Bush administration so quickly devoted over $700 billion to the TARP bailout.

Paulson said: “If you have a situation where a banking system is frozen and money can’t move between financial institutions, what ultimately happens is that every business, even businesses that seem to be solvent and small businesses across America, will not be able to fund their inventory. They won’t be able to meet their payroll.

“You will have a—when a financial system breaks down, the kinds of numbers that we were looking at in terms of unemployment was much greater than the numbers we’re looking at now. People in the streets ... but if we had a meltdown of the system, this could even lead to chaos or people even questioning the basic system.” (Wall Street Journal, July 16)

Paulson knows in his bones that the health of banks, which concentrate and disburse money—the lifeblood of the capitalist process—is key to the health of capitalism. What is surprising is that he feared a rapid rise in joblessness in the midst of a financial crisis would lead to people in the streets taking and demanding actions that would challenge the current capitalist system.

The current banking system is still fragile, and could collapse under the weight of the recession, but parts of it are doing well. Foreclosures and defaulted real estate loans are still a big problem, both for the capitalists who see their system crumbling and workers who lose their jobs, then their homes, and see themselves and their loved ones suffering.

It’s not surprising that the Obama administration came up with a $75 billion program to reduce foreclosures and released details on it in early March. However, this program has created only 190,000 mortgage modifications with lower monthly payments, according to the Treasury Department. Many homeowners complain about unreturned phone calls and inaccurate information from lenders. (USA Today, June 18)

During the time Pres. Barack Obama’s plan has been in effect, lenders either have started or advanced foreclosures against more than 1 million homes, according to RealtyTrac. About 20 percent of these actions were completed, resulting in homes repossessed by the banks. The Center for Responsible Lending says 2.4 million U.S. residents are at risk of foreclosure in 2009, and 8.1 million could face foreclosure over the next four years.

Figures on the effect that foreclosures have on renters in properties seized by the banks are hard to come by, but tens of millions of people are at risk.

In New York City, where 1 million apartments have government-regulated, lower-than-market rents, many hedge and equity funds have been speculating by spending hundreds of billions of dollars on rental apartments in the hope of being able to drive out regulated tenants by means fair or foul. (New York Times, July 15)

While bankers have poured vast sums of money on fancy schemes to dice, slice, automate and disguise their transactions, creating derivatives over derivatives in deliberate mishmashes of such complexity that it is hard to tell who owns what, workers living in their mortgaged homes know they have to pay every month.

But one thing is very clear. Without workers creating surplus value for the capitalists to expropriate, bankers would be out of a job. And when they are, when the whole intricate system they are so integral in maintaining and directing is replaced, then the allocation of resources will be far simpler and far fairer for working people.