Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Speculators Blamed for Oil Price Spikes

In break with Bush, speculators blamed for oil price spikes

Kevin G. Hall

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The chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission signaled Tuesday that his agency is likely to limit financial speculators' ability to drive up prices for oil and other fuels.

Excessive speculation, suggested CFTC chief Gary Gensler, drove the price of oil to a record $147 a barrel a year ago, making it unnecessarily more expensive for Americans to heat their homes and fuel their cars.

"I believe we must seriously consider setting strict position limits in the energy markets," Gensler said at the start of a public hearing to consider limiting the number of contracts that an oil trader can hold.

Gensler's comments mark a stark shift from the Bush administration's view. When a Republican headed the CFTC last year, the agency concluded that market forces of supply and demand, not financial speculators, drove record increases in energy prices.

However, Gensler and at least one other commissioner, Bart Chilton, think that speculation, at a minimum, drove the price of oil higher than it would've gotten otherwise.

Investors, many of them big pension funds working with Wall Street investment banks, poured speculative money into futures, or contracts for future delivery. This inflow, as much as $300 billion, appears to have pushed prices to record levels, and helped them rebound again during the past six months from their winter lows.

Testifying Tuesday before the CFTC, representatives from utilities, the airline industry and petroleum marketers all called on the agency to restrict Wall Street speculators to prevent a return to last year's price volatility.

Allowing such a return would have "serious impact on the national air transportation system and the economy," including airline bankruptcies or mergers, warned Ben Hirst, general counsel for Delta Airlines, testifying on behalf of the Air Transport Association.

Gensler signaled that the question of limits on speculative investment isn't a matter of if but when.

"As we move forward in considering position limits, I believe that we should apply consistent, across-the-board regulations to all futures market participants," Gensler said, noting that the agency, and not individual exchanges, should set the new limits. "With competing exchanges, regulations must be applied equally to similar contracts in different markets. The CFTC is in the best position to apply limits across different exchanges, and we are most able to strike a balance between competing interests and the responsibility to protect the American public."

The CFTC is also weighing whether to take back exceptions granted over decades to big Wall Street powers such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley that allow their investments in energy contracts to be regulated as if they were airlines or refineries, free from limits on the number they can buy.

Commercial fuel users are exempt from position limits because they actually take delivery of the product. Wall Street firms, which don't take delivery, received the same exemptions, first from the CFTC and later from commodity exchanges, on the grounds that they needed to hedge against risks that they've taken through private bets on the price of oil.

These private bets are called swaps. The swaps market dwarfs the regulated futures markets. Lack of transparency in these markets, and uncertainty about who actually owes what to whom, has amplified the global financial crisis.

"It became more apparent to me today than it ever has before that the agency should be the one to grant hedge exemptions," Chilton said in an interview. He noted that exchanges have incentives to grant exemptions to big players who bring more trading volume, and thus profits, to the exchanges. "Our job is to protect consumers and ensure these markets are working effectively and efficiently."

Executives from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are slated to testify Wednesday before the CFTC. They've denied that the flood of investment they helped direct into commodities drove up oil prices, arguing that global concerns about inadequate oil supplies explain the run-up.

What Enron and WorldCom Can Teach Us About Goldman and AIG

More Pigs at the Trough: What Enron and WorldCom Can Teach Us About Goldman and AIG

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America, it seems, can't wait to get back to business -- risky business -- as usual. No matter how atrocious business has been.

Newsweek's latest cover story declares that The Great Recession is over. A Merrill Lynch report concurs, saying, "The recession is over...We are bullish on global equities." Goldman Sachs is placing riskier bets on the market than it did before the financial meltdown (and setting aside huge amounts of money to pay its executives).

The problem is, this victory dance is being done on top of the same shaky financial system that nearly toppled over, sending us all plummeting into the economic abyss. And while the market is over 9,100 (with another 10 percent gain predicted by the end of the year) and Goldman, Citi, and Bank of America are reporting multi-billion dollar profits, unemployment is heading to 10 percent, foreclosures continue at a rate of 10,000 a day, credit card defaults are hitting record highs, and states all across the country are cutting vital services to the bone.

We've seen this headlong rush to move on before. And it should be making us very afraid.

In 2003, I wrote a book called Pigs at the Trough detailing the corporate greed and malfeasance that brought us the financial scandals at Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Global Crossing, and many others. Rereading it in the midst of the current crisis, I was stunned to see the direct line connecting the outrages of 2003 to the predicament we are facing today, and how they set the stage -- and opened the door -- for the much larger, more sophisticated, and much more dangerous excesses that drove the housing and financial collapse of the past year.

So when I was asked by my publisher to release an updated and expanded version of Pigs, I was delighted to do so. It comes out today.

Of course, when I originally wrote Pigs, I didn't know that in just six years America would find itself in the midst of a slew of fresh corporate outrages that would lead to a worldwide economic meltdown. But I can't say that I was surprised. The reason is simple: the system that allowed the scandals at Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing, et al. was never really reformed.

Yes, there were window-dressing changes, and Band-Aid legislation. But the guiding philosophy -- that the free market would regulate itself, and that Wall Street always knew best -- remained in place. Indeed, it was given a much freer rein.

So it's been déjà vu all over again. With one big difference that makes this current crisis so painful: the scale of it all. In 2003, the corporate crooks were largely playing with shareholders' money. The new batch of Pigs is playing with taxpayer money -- trillions of it. And if we don't reform the system, given the exponential worsening of things between 2003 and now, the next financial collapse will surely be more than we can withstand.

What we are experiencing is not so much Back to the Future as it is Forward to the Past. Enron's Ken Lay, meet Merrill Lynch's John Thain. WorldCom's Bernie Ebbers, meet AIG's Joe Cassano.

And how's this for an ironic connection: Bernie Madoff will serve his sentence in the same North Carolina prison where John Rigas and his son Tim have been since 2007. As you may recall, John, the founder of Adelphia Communications, and Tim, the company's Chief Financial Officer, were two of the many villains of the previous financial debacle -- and among the Pigs I profiled in my book. Politics makes for strange bedfellows and crime can make for strangely appropriate ones.

It's as if nothing has been learned since the last go-round. It's just that the numbers have gotten much larger -- and the risks to our well-being much greater.

Two days before Enron went bust, the company gave senior employees $55 million in bonuses while simultaneously coming out against any financial assistance for the 4,500 workers who had just been fired. There was outrage and recrimination. But we quickly moved on. And a little over seven years later found ourselves once again outraged, this time by AIG's plan to pay $165 million in bonuses to the same people who had driven the company to brink of collapse and the need for a $180 billion government bailout.

Similarly, in 2002, on the same day WorldCom stunned the world with the magnitude of its accounting fraud, the company's inner circle began an extravagant, all-expenses-paid vacation in Maui. There was outrage and recrimination. But we quickly moved on. And six years later were outraged by the $443,000 luxury spa retreat executives of AIG took just days after the government unveiled the first $85 billion of the taxpayer-funded bailout package for the insurance giant.

And the media share a big part of the responsibility. Back in 2003, just as the likes of Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Bernie Ebbers, Dennis Kozlowski, and John Rigas were being called on the carpet, the financial press was anointing a new set of corporate kings. Among them, future SEC target Angelo Mozilo, the former chairman and CEO of subprime mortgage dealer Countrywide. That year, Fortune lauded Countrywide for having "the best stock market performance of any financial services company in the Fortune 500" in over two decades.

As Connie Bruck reports in the New Yorker, in 2005 Countrywide was named one of Fortune's "Most Admired Companies" and Barron's anointed Mozilo one of the best CEOs in the world. The next year, American Banker gave him its lifetime-achievement award. The year after that, the subprime mess began to hit the fan.

And instead of holding the Horsemen of the Financial Apocalypse who are still in charge accountable, those in the financial media are ready to move on, searching for the next superstar cover boys.

With so many both on Wall Street and in the media tripping over themselves to return to the pre-meltdown status quo, it's easy to get blinded by the premature exuberance and hop on the green shoots bandwagon. But we must resist and demand fundamental reform. We cannot allow Wall Street and its lobbyists -- as I warn in Pigs at the Trough -- "to embrace reform while working diligently behind the scenes to undermine it."

If we are going to truly rebuild our free market capitalist system, we have to break the cycle of shock, followed by outrage, followed by a few high-profile show trials, followed by the punishment of a few culprits, followed by some meaningless reforms... and then we all move on. Until it starts again.

The question is, does the political will to create and implement new rules for Wall Street exist, or will the result be a series of tough-sounding-but-ultimately-toothless reform measures that allow the cancer of greed and corruption that has infected our political and financial systems to spread and become even more destructive?

Does our body politic have the strength to save itself?

Judge: Swine flu good cause to suspend some constitutional rightsJudge: Swine flu good cause to suspend some constitutional rights

Judge: Swine flu is reason to suspend constitutional rights

Delays caused by lockdown are costing thousands of dollars, inconveniencing jurors.

A Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that there is legal justification to keep the Central Men’s Jail under medical quarantine – at least for a couple of days – to control a swine flu outbreak.

Judge Thomas Goethals said the “significant medical public health event” in the men’s jail is good cause to temporarily suspend constitutional guarantees to speedy trials, preliminary hearings and arraignments for some criminal case defendants.

He made his ruling over the objections of the county public defender’s office and the alternate defender’s office after a special 90-minute hearing on the status of the health scare in the main men’s jail, which usually houses 800 to 900 inmates.

But Goethals said the exception to speedy court appearances will only be in effect through Thursday, by which time the quarantine of the jail may be lifted. He said he will preside over another hearing Thursday if medical authorities continue the quarantine.

The judge issued his decision after Dr. Jack Palmer, assistant medical director of the Orange County Health Agency, testified that the swine flu outbreak in the jail began three to four weeks ago with a handful of cases, and that there are 25 inmates isolated because of the virus.

But Palmer also testified that the number of new cases appears to be tapering off and that he is hopeful that the lockdown can be lifted in time to renew transporting inmates to courthouse in Santa Ana, Fullerton, Westminster and Newport Beach by Thursday morning.

The disease is generally spread through nasal drippings, sneezes or coughs, Palmer said. The incubation period is 48 to 72 hours, the doctor added, making it difficult to determine precisely who and how many inmates are infected.

Palmer said he authorized the quarantine of the men’s jail Friday because of the increasing number of sick inmates and the desire to attempt to limit the spread of the disease to other jail facilities through inmate contact on transportation buses, holding cells or courtrooms.

Orange County sheriff’s officials confirmed there is already one case of swine flu in the Theo Lacy branch jail, but that inmate was already isolated in a single-man cell and therefore the quarantine has not been extended to that facility.

But county health officials also confirmed that one minor in the county's juvenile hall in Orange was infected with the swine-flu virus, said Tricia Landkuist, spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The minor has been placed in an isolated unit, along with two other minors who were displaying flu-like symptoms, she said. Those two minors have also been tested for the virus and their results are expected within the week, she said.

As a precautionary measure, two other minors who were being housed with the minor who has been infected have also been placed in a unit with limited contact, she said. The two minors have not displayed any flu symptoms but have also been tested as a precaution.

It costs thousands of dollars a day to run a courtroom, but on Tuesday several normally busy judges and staffs were waiting for cases to be assigned that did not involve inmates from the central men’s jail.

Superior Court Judge John Conley was in the midst of selecting a jury in a child-molestion case when the quarantine went into effect on Monday. His potential jurors were sent home Monday, and were told Tuesday told to call the courtroom Wednesday to find out when their services will be needed.

Superior Court Judge Daniel Barrett McNerney was about to instruct a jury on the law after evidence was presented in a rape case when the trial was shut down Monday by the lockdown.

The defendant in that case reportedly has agreed to waive his personal presence for the instructions – if necessary – on Wednesday, creating the unusual specter of the defendant being linked to the courtroom from the jail by phone while the judge reads instructions to his jury.

According to the state’s Department of Public Health, 12 people have died in Orange County because of swine flu – the most of any county in California.


Third World Scene With an American Setting

Rural Medical Camp Tackles Health Care Gaps

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It was a Third World scene with an American setting. Hundreds of tired and desperate people crowded around an aid worker with a bullhorn, straining to hear the instructions and worried they might be left out.

Some had arrived at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Wise, Va., two days before. They slept in cars, tents and the beds of pickup trucks, hoping to be among the first in line when the gate opened Friday before dawn. They drove in from 16 states, anxious to relieve pain, diagnose aches and see and hear better.

"I came here because of health care — being able to get things that we can't afford to have ordinarily," explained 52-year-old Otis Reece of Gate City, Va., as he waited in a wheelchair beside his red F-150 pickup. "Being on a fixed income, this is a fantastic situation to have things done we ordinarily would put off."

For the past 10 years, during late weekends in July, the fairgrounds in Wise have been transformed into a mobile and makeshift field hospital providing free care for those in need. Sanitized horse stalls become draped examination rooms. A poultry barn is fixed with optometry equipment. And a vast, open-air pavilion is crammed with dozens of portable dental chairs and lamps.

A converted 18-wheeler with a mobile X-ray room makes chest X-rays possible. Technicians grind hundreds of lenses for new eyeglasses in two massive trailers. At a concession stand, dentures are molded and sculpted.

Desperate For Health Care

The 2009 Remote Area Medical (RAM) Expedition comes to the Virginia Appalachian mountains as Congress and President Obama wrestle with a health care overhaul. The event graphically illustrates gaps in the existing health care system.

"We're willing to sleep in pickup trucks or cars and deal with the elements to at least get some kind of health care," Reece adds. He earned a six-figure income working for an international industrial supply firm until an accident five years ago left him disabled. Joining him for dental, vision and medical checks are his wife, daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren.

"Tomorrow, I'm going to see the doctor to get my ear and my nose fixed!" grandson Jacob shouts excitedly. His nose appears battered and his ear has an oozing scab.

Before the gate opened, Loretta Miller, 41, of Honaker, Va., got four hours' sleep behind the wheel of her parked minivan. She was No. 39 in line for her eighth RAM expedition. Her visit last year saved her life.

"They done an ultrasound and told me that my gallbladder was enlarged and was ready to burst and it could kill me," Miller recalls. "They told me if I hadn't got help when I did, literally I could have died."

Medical, dental and vision help is often elusive for the 2,700 people seeking treatment during the three-day RAM event. Just over half of the people attending this year have no insurance at all, according to a survey of the patients conducted by RAM. Forty-seven percent could be considered underinsured, given unaffordable copays or gaps in coverage provided by Medicare, Medicaid and conventional insurance plans. Only 11 patients have dental insurance, and just seven have vision coverage.

By The Numbers

A survey of RAM attendees by the event's organizers provides some insight into who is left out of conventional medical, dental and vision care.

What: Health care providers saw 2,715 patients and performed 2,671 medical exams, 1,088 eye tests and 1,850 dental exams. They extracted 3,857 teeth and put in 1,628 fillings.

Who: Patients came from 16 different states; 30 percent were repeat patients.

Of the patients, 51 percent are uninsured, 40.3 percent are on Medicaid or Medicare, and just 7.3 percent have employer or private insurance. Fewer than 1 percent of patients have dental or vision insurance.

Twenty-six percent of the people are employed, 40.6 are unemployed, 4.7 percent are retired and 4.8 percent are children.

Cost: The organizers paid about $250,000 out of pocket to run the event, and they provided an estimated $1.5 million worth of care.

"There's no doubt about it. There is a Third World right here in the United States," concludes Stan Brock, RAM's founder. Brock has organized similar medical expeditions in Asia, Africa and South America. "Here in the world's richest country, you have this vast number of people, some say 47 million, 49 million, that don't have access to the system and that's why [this] is necessary."

About 1,800 volunteers provide the medical, dental and logistical help, including hundreds of doctors, dentists, nurses, assistants and technicians.

Almost 4,000 Teeth

Miller is ecstatic when her number is called. The divorced hairdresser and mother of two is uninsured and in pain. But she had taken the time, even with little sleep, to put on makeup, braid her blond hair and dress in a white lace tunic. She walked briskly through the gate for what would turn out to be five hours in dental chairs, given the extraction of an abscessed tooth, three fillings and a root canal.

More than half of those seeking help sign up for dental exams and procedures. They fill the more than 70 dental chairs while hundreds wait their turn under tents nearby. Hundreds more out in the grassy parking lot hope they'll get their teeth cleaned and fixed before the event ends.

Dental health greatly affects general health, says Dr. Terry Dickinson, who directs the Virginia Dental Association and the RAM dental effort at the Wise fairgrounds.

"The infection in the mouth certainly has been shown to have an effect on systemic diseases," Dickinson explains. "So it's really critical that these folks be able to get infected teeth out and infection treated in the mouth because it's going to help them with their overall health."

The extent of infections is staggering. Dickinson and his team pull 3,857 teeth in 30 hours of work spread over 2 1/2 days. Some patients lose all their teeth. A 4-year-old had cavities filled in every tooth.

Who Is Responsible For Health Care?

Terrible teeth, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes are common among the people seeking help here. That raises an important question. Are they at fault for their poor health?

"There's enough blame to go around for everybody. I think patients certainly have to have personal responsibility for what they're putting in their mouth, but we are also trying to create a better access care system. How are you going to get providers, whether it be dentists or physicians or anybody else, into these areas where economically these communities are struggling?" Dickinson asks.

That's a reference to the costs of medical and dental schools and the debts that graduates incur, which can be $100,000 and more. There's pressure to practice in more lucrative places beyond rural regions like Appalachia.

"There are areas of the country, and certainly Wise County is one of them, where there just aren't [enough] physicians," says Dr. Susan Kirk, an endocrinologist and diabetes specialist with the University of Virginia Health System, which provides specialists for the Wise RAM event. "We provide indigent care at the University of Virginia, but that's six hours away."

RAM founder Stan Brock is impatient with those who suggest the people seeking help in Wise are somehow at fault and unworthy of care given poor health habits.

"The rest of the population is not exactly in the best of shape themselves," Brock asserts. "They're eating well and, therefore, they're putting on weight and, therefore, they've got heart disease and the rate of diabetes in this country is going up. But, in the case of the well-to-do and the well-insured, they can afford to take care of it."

At the end of her long day with dentists, Loretta Miller was still numb with Novocain but grateful for the care she could not otherwise afford.

"It's well worth the drive and the wait," Miller said, close to 12 hours after her number was called. "You get tired and stuff. But you think about all the trips and the money it would have cost to have all this done. I couldn't have had it done."

She then laughs about standing in line again at 5 a.m. the next day so she can get eyeglasses to "see what they've done."

RAM organizers say they spent about $250,000 providing care worth about $1.5 million. In 10 years in southwest Virginia, they say, they've treated more than 25,000 people. They have eight more expeditions planned this year, from Virginia to California.

Why You Can't Trust Your Health Insurer

Why You Can't Trust Your Health Insurer

Private insurance companies dump very sick claimants based on stupid technicalities. That's reason enough to support health reform.

By Timothy Noah

Blue Dog Democrats are (for reasons Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post and Paul Krugman of the New York Times correctly label "muddled") obstructing House passage of health care reform. The Congressional Budget Office says the White House's "game-changing" proposal to create a Fed-like body to control Medicare costs will save only $2 billion over 10 years and may not save a dime. The Senate finance committee is still groping for a way to raise taxes to pay for a health reform bill it has yet to introduce. The Washington Post's editorial page is chiding the president for neglecting to tell the elderly and infirm that they have a duty to die, as Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm famously suggested back in 1984. (Lamm—naughty fellow!—turns 74 next week.) In the New York Times, David Leonhardt poses the health-reform question of the hour: What's in it for me?

A comprehensive answer may be found in this excellent New York Times editorial. I'll focus here more narrowly with a three-word answer: No more rescissions.

Rescission (also known as "post-claims underwriting") is the process whereby health insurers avoid paying out benefits to treat cancer and other serious illnesses by seeking and often finding chickenshit errors in the policyholder's paperwork that can justify canceling the policy. In one job evaluation, the health insurer WellPoint actually scored a director of group underwriting on a scale of 1 to 5 based on the dollar amount she had managed to deny through rescission. (The director had saved the company nearly $10 million, earning a score of 3. WellPoint's president, Brian A. Sassi, insists this is not routine company practice.) Rescission's victims tend typically to be less-educated people who are more likely to make an error in filling out their insurance forms and lack the means to challenge a rescission in court—a path in which success is, at any rate, not guaranteed, because under state law the practice is perfectly legal if done within the allowable time frame (typically up to two years after a policy is issued).

The health crisis doesn't get more gothic than this. Robin Beaton, a retired nurse in Texas, was rescinded last year by Blue Cross and Blue Shield after she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Blue Cross said this was because she had neglected to state on her forms that she had been treated previously … for acne. Beaton eventually persuaded her congressman, Rep. Joe Barton, to twist Blue Cross' arm, but the delay meant it was five months before she could receive her operation. Otto Raddatz, a restaurant owner in Illinois, was rescinded in 2004 by Fortis Insurance Co. after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Fortis said this was because Raddatz had failed to disclose that a CT scan four years earlier had revealed that he had an aneurism and gall stones. Raddatz replied—and his doctor confirmed—that he had never been told about these conditions (the doctor said they were "very minor" and didn't require treatment), but Fortis nonetheless refused a payout until the state attorney general intervened. The delay in treatment eliminated Raddatz's chances of recovery, and he died.

Beaton and Raddatz's sister Peggy told their stories at a June 16 hearing before a subcommittee of the very House committee in which health reform is currently stalled—Energy and Commerce. (To watch it, scroll to the bottom of this column. The subcommittee has posted a partial summary of its investigation, other documents from that hearing, and additional documents from a follow-up field hearing on July 27 in New Albany, Ind. The hearings received little press coverage outside the Los Angeles Times and Public Radio International's This American Life.) In one comic highlight, Don Hamm, the chief executive of Assurant Health, was unable to define lymphadenopathy and other terms that appeared on his company's own enrollment questionnaire. The committee found that during the previous five years, three health insurers—Assurant Health, WellPoint, and Golden Rule—had saved more than $300 million by rescinding nearly 20,000 policies based on omissions policyholders made in filling out enrollment forms. Asked (in this season of reform-minded industry concessions) whether they would pledge to stop rescissions except in cases of intentional fraud, the chief executives of all three companies said that they would not.

My point is not merely that it is necessary to pass health care reform to outlaw this horrifying bait and switch, which both the House and Senate health committee versions would do. It's that an industry willing to play three-card monte with very sick people can be counted on to dream up new and better card tricks. (In testimony last month before the Senate commerce committee, Wendell Potter, a whistle-blowing former executive at Cigna and other health insurance companies, gave a helpful summary of the industry's other ghastly practices.)

That's why I place only limited faith in health reform's (admittedly overdue) prohibitions on "adverse selection" methods such as excluding prospective policyholders based on pre-existing conditions. The true remedy lies in the bill's public option, which would create a government insurance program to compete with and (at least to some extent) displace private insurance. Disappointingly, both the House and Senate health bills restrict access to the public option to an absurd degree; a new Congressional Budget Office report estimates only about 2 million people would participate. That probably wouldn't do much to "keep private insurers honest," to use President Obama's words. And, anyway, private health insurers' rescission policies call into question Obama's assumption that they were ever honest to begin with.

Bill Kristol admits govt.-run health care can be better than private

Bill Kristol admits govt.-run health care can be better than private

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Weekly Standard editor and Fox News pundit Bill Kristol got booed heavily on The Daily Show Monday night when he said that ordinary Americans don’t “deserve” the same standard of health care that soldiers receive.

But the show’s truly revealing moment came when host Jon Stewart caught Kristol — long an opponent of public health care — admitting that government-run health care for soldiers is superior to private health plans.

On Monday night’s show, Kristol worked to explain why he didn’t support a public health option, arguing in essence that the existence of Medicare and Medicaid provided health coverage to those most in need.

“So no public option, even though that’s good enough for the military — not good enough for the people of America?” Stewart asked.

“They do not deserve the same quality of health care the soldiers fighting deserve, and they [the soldiers] need all kinds of things we don’t need,” Kristol said.

“Are you saying that the American public shouldn’t have access to the same quality of health care that we give to our better citizens?” Stewart asked.

“To our soldiers? Yes, absolutely,” Kristol responded, to a chorus of boos from the audience.

An incredulous Stewart asked: “Really?”

Moments later, Kristol added that “one of the ways we make it up” to soldiers that they receive relatively low pay is by “giving them first class health care. The rest of us can go out and buy insurance.”

That’s when Stewart struck.

“Bill Kristol just said … that the government can run a first-class health care system and a government-run health care system is better than the private health care system.”

“You trapped me somehow,” a visibly uncomfortable Kristol responded.

This video is from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, broadcast July 27, 2009.



Obama escalates assault on public education

Obama escalates assault on public education

By Tom Eley

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On Friday, President Barack Obama announced an assault on public education that would go beyond the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” program. He outlined an education “reform” that would link teacher pay to the test performance of students and force state governments to shift funding from established public schools to so-called charter schools.

Obama spoke on Friday at the Department of Education, unveiling a $4.3 billion “competition” among the states for federal grants, named “Race to the Top.” Money from the fund would be awarded to only a handful of states that best promote “innovation”— charter schools and merit-based pay among teachers. States that forbid these policies, such as California, New York, and Wisconsin—home of the nation’s highest-ranked education system—would be barred from consideration.

Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presented the $4.3 billion as if it were an extraordinary amount of money. But it is tens of billions less than has been doled out to individual banks, such as Goldman Sachs, in Obama’s bailout of the finance industry. It is also less than the personal fortunes of about 90 Americans, according to the Forbes 400 list of 2008. Nor does it meet the desperate needs of cash-starved public education; the Detroit public school system alone has a deficit of $400 million.

This relative pittance would do little even if it were distributed equitably. But that is not Obama’s intention, as he made clear. “Rather than divvying it up and handing it out, we are letting states and districts compete for it,” he said. “That’s how we can incentivize excellence and spur reform and launch a race for the top in America’s public schools.”

Like a master dropping a bone among his starving dogs, the Obama administration is openly provoking a bitter competition among states and school districts for paltry funding.

Obama outlined three “strategies” for so-called underperforming schools, all of them reactionary. “One strategy involves replacing the principal, replacing much of the staff, and giving the school a second chance,” he said. “Another strategy involves inviting a great nonprofit to help manage a troubled school. A third strategy involves converting a dropout factory into a successful charter school. These are public schools funded by parents, teachers, and civic or community organizations with broad leeway to innovate.” The second and third strategies—featuring “great nonprofit” groups and “community organizations”—indicate that Obama may see a role for religious groups in public education.

Duncan, speaking before Obama, said that Race to the Top would be used to encourage states and school districts to fire teachers. They “must be ready to institute far-reaching reforms, replace school staff, and change the school culture,” he said. “We cannot continue to tinker in terrible schools where students fall further and further behind, year after year.”

Duncan outlined three other funds, a collective $4.8 billion, that will also be awarded only to those states and school districts “willing to turn around their lowest-performing schools,” as Duncan put it.

Obama and Duncan implicitly laid the blame for the problems of public education at the feet of “bad” teachers.

While it is certainly the case that the US has among the worst public education systems in the industrialized nations—with high drop-out rates and poor accomplishment in key subject areas—this is not the fault of teachers. It is the outcome of decades in which public education has been starved of resources, while the wealth of the country has been channeled ever more openly into the coffers of the very rich.

Merit-based pay for teachers will only discourage educators from taking positions at disadvantaged schools and among students who need the most help. Its practical effect, like No Child Left Behind, will be to shift funding out of the schools that need it most. It is a giant step toward the privatization of public education in America and the formalization of a two-tier, class-based education system.

Already, the quality of eduction for American children depends largely on the affluence of the area in which any given school is located. Much of US school funding is based on property taxes and other forms of local revenue, and certain states make available far more money per student than others. In this set-up, the public schools in the wealthy neighborhoods and suburbs are vastly superior to those in the inner cities, small towns, reservations, and other financially starved areas. Rich and upper-middle class families may also bypass public education altogether by sending their children to expensive private or parochial schools. Obama’s policies will serve to deepen, and make official, these disparities.

In an interview in the Washington Post, Obama claimed that evaluation tests could be crafted in such a way as to avert this. Tests might be used to measure improvement, rather than comparing students in poor and rich schools, he said. Yet in a society in which social misery is mounting, where more and more children go to school homeless and hungry, a growing number of students will not show improvement on standardized tests—whose value, in any case, has been placed in doubt by countless pedagogues and teachers.

Make no mistake, Obama has proposed a class-based system of education. For the children of workers and the poor—who will not perform as well on standardized tests as the children of the rich—there will be financially starved schools and overworked and underpaid teachers. This will, of course, only worsen the education of the students, which will be reflected once again in worsening test scores. They and their teachers will pay the price through the reallocation of resources to the better-performing “charter” schools, which, like private schools, have no obligation to accept all students who might wish to enroll, and which routinely dispense with old union work rules and dismissal practices for teachers.

Obama has promoted time and again the example of the Chicago public schools, touting the record of Duncan, who was the system’s “chief executive officer” beginning in 2001. This should be taken as a threat. Duncan in fact decimated public education in Chicago, shuttering dozens of schools, carrying out massive layoffs among teachers and staff, and undermining tenure. The results? In 2008, only 55 percent of Chicago high school students managed to graduate. Another telling statistic is 26, the number of Chicago students murdered in 2008, mostly as a result of finding themselves in hostile gang territory great distances from the old schools Duncan had axed.

The assault on school teachers and public education is another front in the Obama administration’s ruthless class war on the living standards, social position and democratic rights of the working class that is already deeper and more sweeping than that of the Reagan administration and its successors. So far, Obama’s education proposals have received less media attention than his bailout of Wall Street, his forced bankruptcy of the auto industry, and his so-called health care “reform” which is in fact an effort to create an openly class-based health care system. But his proposals for education will prove just as costly to workers and their children.

He has encountered no resistance from the teachers unions, who have for years denounced incentive-based pay and charter school proposals from the Bush administration and Republican governors, and have handed over tens of millions to elect Democratic candidates, including Obama.

“This is poking teachers’ unions straight in the eye,” Mike Petrilli, of the education policy group the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, told the New York Times.

Not judging by the reaction of the unions. The two biggest teachers unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have mounted no resistance to Obama’s plans and quickly endorsed them after their formal announcement.

AFT President Randi Weingarten declared, “The era of teacher union-bashing was over today,” and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said that Obama and Duncan “want to work with us, and not do things to us.”

Their speedy capitulation to Obama demonstrates the essence of the union executives’ earlier “opposition” to Bush. They are contented by the fact they have “a seat at the table” in the dismantling of public education. This, they sense, can be converted into revenue streams, perks, and think-tank positions for them and their colleagues. They have no interest in defending the wages and security of the teachers they purport to represent, much less public education as a whole.

Obama’s education proposals demonstrate that social inequality in America is so advanced, and the power of the financial aristocracy so immense, that no public service or program, including education, that is not openly based on class privilege and status can long survive.

The ideal of an egalitarian public education system has historically been a central component of the democratic impulse in the US. From the early 19th century, the more farsighted of the US political and business elite recognized the value of a system of free public schools. The great advocate of this perspective was the Massachusetts educator Horace Mann (1796-1859), who called education “the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery” and “our political safety” without which “all is deluge.”

And every social movement for equality has inscribed on its banner the demand for equal education. Again and again, historians find that a central driving force behind the great labor struggles of the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century was workers’ desire that their children might aspire to a fuller and richer life through education; that their children would not be forced to work from a young age. Indeed, workers were prepared to abide by certain deprivations, so long as they felt their children might live better one day.

In the wake of the Civil War, contemporaries spoke of an unquenchable thirst among the freed slaves for education that had been denied them. It is little accident that the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s took aim first at the “separate but equal” doctrine of racial segregation in the Southern public school system that had condemned African Americans to inferior schools.

Now the Obama administration is promoting education “reform” that will deepen a new system of segregation in education—along class rather than racial lines.

Administration's Plan for Underage Detainee

Obama Administration Cooks Up New Legal Argument for Detaining Guantanamo Prisoner

Go To Original

Faced with impending defeat in a US District Court habeas corpus case, the Obama administration devised a new strategy for continuing the detention of Mohammed Jawad, an Afghani who may have been as young as 12 in 2002 when he allegedly wounded two US soldiers with a grenade.

Justice Department lawyers announced Friday that they would transform Jawad's indefinite detention as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo Bay into a criminal case, thus negating the habeas corpus hearing in Washington, DC, where Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle had accused the government of "dragging [the case] out for no good reason."

Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project and one of Jawad's lawyers, blasted the Obama administration for its "pathetic attempt to prolong an outrageous case and to manipulate the court system.

"The government's case failed in the Guantanamo military commission hearings and failed in the habeas corpus proceedings before a federal court, and now - knowing that its case would most likely be dismissed - the government is trying to take a third bite at a rotten apple," Hafetz said. "This travesty of justice has gone on long enough, and Jawad should be sent home."

Judge Huvelle appeared ready to do just that, indicating that she was prepared to order Jawad's return to Afghanistan, given the paucity of evidence against him, especially after the US government didn't contest that his confession had been coerced.

Regarding witnesses against Jawad, Huvelle said last week "the Americans did not see anything and there may or may not be an Afghani who saw something. You can't prevail here without a witness who saw it. I mean, let's be frank. You can tell your superiors that. You can't. There is no evidence otherwise. .... Seven years and this case is riddled with holes."

During a military commission proceeding last year, it was revealed that Jawad confessed to throwing a grenade at an unmarked jeep, wounding the two US soldiers and an Afghani translator, but [the confession was made] only after Afghan authorities threatened to kill his family. The confession was written in Farsi, a language Jawad could not speak, read or write.

The lead prosecutor at Jawad's military commission hearing, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, resigned because he said the evidence against Jawad was obtained through torture and there were no eyewitnesses to support claims that Jawad threw the grenade.

Vandeveld recently signed a 15-page declaration calling for Jawad to be released from custody.

"It is my opinion, based on my extensive knowledge of the case, that there is no credible evidence or legal basis to justify Mr. Jawad's detention in US custody or his prosecution by military commission," Vandeveld wrote.

"There is, however, reliable evidence that he was badly treated by US Authorities both in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo, and he has suffered, and continues to suffer, great psychological harm. Holding Mr. Jawad's [sic] for over six years, with no resolution of his case and with no terminus in sight, is something beyond a travesty."

Court documents filed by the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this month state that Jawad was subjected to severe beatings before his interrogation sessions.

Building a Criminal Case

Justice Department attorneys said in a four-page motion Friday that at the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder, they will now try to build a criminal case against Jawad. Although the government won't detain Jawad as an enemy combatant any longer, it has other evidence to support his continued imprisonment in connection with a criminal case, the filing said.

"In light of the multiple eyewitness accounts that were not previously available for inclusion in the record - including videotaped interviews - as well as third-party statements previously set forth in the government's factual return, the Attorney General has directed that the criminal investigation of petitioner in connection with the allegation that petitioner threw a grenade at US military personnel continue, and that it do so on an expedited basis," the filing said.

The Obama administration was facing a Friday deadline on the habeas corpus case set by Judge Huvelle, who had rejected a government request for an extension until August 3.

"I'm not putting it off," Judge Huvelle said last week. "[Jawad] has been there seven years - seven years. He might have been taken there at the age of maybe 12, 13, 14, 15 years old. I don't know what he is doing there. Without his statements, I don't understand your case. I really don't....

"You'd better go consult real quick with the powers that be, because this is a case that's been screaming at everybody for years. This case is an outrage to me.... I'm not going to sit up here and wait for you to come up with new evidence at this late hour.... This case is in shambles."

In setting the July 24 deadline, the judge also warned the government against coming up with a maneuver to take the case away from her.

"I'm not going to have people running around trying to figure out a way to get this case out of the Court's jurisdiction for some other reason," Huvelle said.

However, in its Friday motion, the Justice Department appeared to do just that, announcing its plan to transfer the Jawad case to criminal jurisdiction. Jawad is being moved to another section of Guantanamo, the government said. He could become the second person sent to the United States from Guantanamo to face trial in federal court for terrorism-related activities.

Notorious Case

Given the uncertainty about Jawad's age at the time of his arrest and the ambiguity about his alleged actions, his indefinite detention as an enemy combatant has become a notorious example of the abuses associated with President George W. Bush's detention policies.

"US personnel at Bagram [Air base in Afghanistan, where Jawad was detained after his arrest] subjected Mr. Jawad to beatings, forced him into painful 'stress positions,' deprived him of sleep, forcibly hooded him, placed him in physical and linguistic isolation, pushed him down stairs, chained him to a wall for prolonged periods, and subjected him to threats, including threats to kill him, [his family], and other intimidation," the ACLU said in a July 1 legal brief.

"While in an isolation cell, Mr. Jawad remained hooded and restrained with handcuffs. Guards made him stand up and, if Mr. Jawad sat down, he was beaten. Guards also kicked Mr. Jawad and made him fall over, as he was wearing leg shackles and was unable to take large steps. Sometimes guards fastened Mr. Jawad's handcuffs to the door of his isolation cell so that he was unable to sit down."

US authorities later transported Jawad to Guantanamo, where he was subjected to the notorious "frequent flyer" sleep deprivation program and other harsh interrogation methods, his lawyers said. Eventually, Jawad tried to commit suicide in his cell by slamming his head repeatedly against the wall.

Recently, the Afghan government sent a letter to the US government demanding Jawad's return. But the Justice Department said in Friday's court document that President Barack Obama is the final authority on such matters and noted that Congress has demanded a 15-day notification before any Guantanamo detainee may be transferred or released.

US Air Force Major David Frakt, another attorney representing Jawad, said, "It is astonishing that even after conceding that the bulk of the evidence against Mr. Jawad was obtained through torture, the government is even considering proceeding with its bankrupt case. It is long past time to return Jawad home to his native Afghanistan in the face of the absence of any evidence against him."

A telephone conference involving the ACLU, Judge Huvelle and Justice Department attorneys is set for next Friday. A court hearing in the matter is scheduled for August 5.

Afghanistan: Training Ground for War on Russia

Afghanistan: Training Ground for War on Russia

NATO Trains Finland, Sweden For Conflict With Russia

A Swedish newspaper reported on July 24 that approximately 50 troops from the country serving under NATO in the so-called International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had engaged in a fierce firefight in Northern Afghanistan and had killed three and wounded two attackers.

The report detailed that the Swedish troops were traveling in armored vehicles and "later received reinforcements from several soldiers in a Combat Vehicle 90." [1]

The world has become so inured to war around the world and seemingly without end that Swedish soldiers engaging in deadly combat as part of a belligerent force for the first time since the early 1800s - and that in another continent thousands of kilometers from their homeland - has passed virtually without notice.

A Finnish news story of the preceding day, possibly about the same incident but not necessarily, reported that "A Finnish-Swedish patrol, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), came under fire in northern Afghanistan" on July 23rd. [2]

Three days before that a Swedish commander in the north of Afghanistan, where Finnish and Swedish troops are in charge of ISAF operations in four provinces, acknowledged that "During the last three months, six serious incidents have occurred in our area." [3]

The same source revealed that in the upcoming weeks Swedish troop numbers are to be increased from 390 to 500.

The Svenska Dagbladet reported that over a twelve week period attacks on Swedish-Finnish forces in the area have doubled and that seven attacks preceded the deadly firefight described earlier. "In April, a Norwegian officer was killed by a suicide bomber in a province under Swedish-Finnish control, and several vehicles have been attacked along Mazar-i-Sharif's main road since." [4]

Like Sweden, Finland has also increased troop deployments to Afghanistan lately, ostensibly to provide security for next month's elections but, given the escalation of fighting in the nation's north, certainly to remain there for the duration of NATO's South Asian deployment, one which a German official recently stated would last eighteen years from 2001 onward. In early July Finland dispatched 70 more troops to join the 100 already stationed in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province bordering Kunduz where German troops are waging an almost two week long military offensive.

Last month Finnish forces in the area were attacked twice and a rocket attack struck close to Finnish barracks in the capital of Kabul.

Troops from the other Scandinavian nations have fared even worse. Three Danish soldiers were killed in a bomb attack in Helmand on June 17, bringing the country's death toll to 26. Norway has lost four soldiers.

To illustrate the integration of Finland and Sweden military forces in Afghanistan and under NATO control in general, in late June it was announced that Sweden was purchasing 113 armored vehicles from Finland. Approximately 1,200 of the Finnish-made vehicles "have been ordered by other customers and [they are] currently used operationally in Finland, Poland, Slovenia and Croatia, for example in operations in Afghanistan." [5]

NATO Deployment In Afghanistan "Improves Readiness For Defense Of Finland"

Last month a major Finnish daily newspaper in a feature called "Afghanistan: Now it's Finland's war, too" contained this striking revelation:

"[F]rom the point of view of the Finnish Defence Forces, there is still another important reason for the Afghanistan operation: it improves readiness for the defence of Finland."

The Finnish source quoted the former commander of the nation's troops in Afghanistan, Ari Mattola, as saying, "This is a unique situation for us, in that we will get to train part of our wartime forces. That part will get to operate as close to wartime conditions as is possible." [6]

Comparable claims about the Afghan war being the training ground for military action on their borders - and that can only mean in relation to Russia - have been made by defense and military officials in the Baltic states, Poland and Georgia.

Early this month Finnish Defense Minister Jyri Hakamies divulged that he would further drag his nation into NATO's plans for a drive east aimed against Russia and is paraphrased as asserting that "NATO had approached Finland with an opportunity to take part in cyber warfare training and the country should accept NATO's offer." [7]

NATO's Article 5: Cyber Warfare And Nuclear Weapons

On June 15 US President Barack Obama and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves met at the White House with American National Security Adviser James Jones, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, and discussed cyber security - which is to say, as the Finnish Defense Minister more honestly called it, cyber warfare. The Estonian president, raised in the United States and a former Radio Free Europe employee, "thanked the United States for its assistance in establishing the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center in the Estonian capital of Tallinn...." [8]

The head of the U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. Kevin Chilton, indicated this May what US and NATO cyber warfare plans might include when he said that "the White House retains the option to respond with physical force - potentially even using nuclear weapons - if a foreign entity conducts a disabling cyber attack against U.S. computer networks...." [9]

The NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania authorized the establishment of the Alliance's cyber warfare center in Estonia in 2008 and last month the Pentagon complemented that initiative by approving a unified U.S. Cyber Command.

For two years American and NATO officials have spoken bluntly about invoking NATO's Article 5 war clause, used for the invasion of Afghanistan and the buildup to that of Iraq, in response to alleged Russian cyber attacks.

Encirclement Of Russia: Finland Offers NATO 237,000 Troops, 1,300 Kilometer Border

This January Finland released a Security and Defense Policy Report which stated that "Finland regards NATO as the most important military security cooperation organisation", and that "there will continue to be a strong case for considering Finland's membership of NATO in the future". [10]

Mandatory weapons interoperability is a key component of full NATO membership and in April the Finnish Defense Ministry announced "the team of Norwegian Kongsberg and US Raytheon has been selected to fulfill Finland's future Medium Range Air Defense Missile System (MRADMS) requirements....The new NATO-compliant anti-aircraft missile system will replace the Russian-made BUK systems purchased in 1996 that will be taken out of service. The key reason for giving up the Russian systems is their lack of compatibility and interoperability with NATO systems...." [11]

The Helsinki Times of July 23 quoted Finnish Russian experts Esa Seppanen and Ilmari Susiluoto on Russian responses to what is now an all but certain development: Finland's joining NATO and providing the Alliance a new 1,300-kilometer border with the nation that has always been NATO's main target.

The two scholars are quoted as saying that "Russia is concerned about Finland's NATO option. It will not remain passive if Finland becomes a member."

The article also says that "NATO is marketed in Finland as a global peacekeeper. However, the Russians see it as a territorial threat specifically aimed at them" and "Russia fears that NATO membership would bring NATO's military structures to Finnish soil.

"NATO's expansion in the Nordic countries would finish off the military-political stability of the entire region. The Baltic Sea would become 'NATO's sea,' with the exception of Kaliningrad and the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland." [12]

In addition to securing NATO's encirclement of Russia from the Barents to the Baltic to the Blacks Seas, an article titled "Finland Rearms," in reference to the Finnish government recently agreeing to boost military spending to 2% of its budget - a standard NATO demand - says "By raising their spending, Finland pulls more of its weight in the alliance and thus is more likely to get a favorable response to any future requests for defense aid. Finland is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, and, with their new emphasis on added security, are likely to grow a closer relationship in the future.

With Finland in NATO the bloc would gain an additional "237,000 troops, beefed up with the latest infantry weapons and heavy armor...." [13]

Finland, Sweden Forced Into NATO And Overseas Wars Against Will Of The People

In a recent newspaper interview the Finnish Speaker of the Parliament Sauli Niinisto spoke of the surreptitious campaign underway - indeed almost completed - to pull his nation into an expanding worldwide military alliance despite its citizens not only being opposed to but not even aware of it.

He characterized the process in this manner: "The logic of silent agreements has been brought very far in thinking in which closer Finnish participation in NATO is seen to bring us security points from the United States and NATO." [14]

Niinisto listed several instances of how NATO is transitioning Finland into full membership without public debate or cognizance. Referring to the purchase of NATO interoperable fighter jets, he said that "It was a silent preliminary contract involving confidence that more supplies would come later."

He also cited Finland's participation in NATO's international Rapid Response Force as well as in the European Union's Nordic Battlegroups. More will be said later about the integration of the EU and NATO in global deployments and strike forces but this (not so) hypothetical observation by the Finnish Speaker offers an initial insight:

"All European defence activities are always under the NATO umbrella. What if the EU could be collectively a NATO member? What would Finland do then? Would Finland secede? The EU now seeks to act as a collective in all organisations. Why would security policy be a big exception?" [15]

An identical campaign, covert and concerted, in being conducted in Sweden, where as in Finland polls regularly register a majority of citizens opposed to NATO accession, and is being addressed and combated by the Sptoppa smyganslutningen till NATO/Stop surreptitious accession to NATO, whose web address is: http://www.stoppanato.se

European Union, NATO Symbiosis: Global Battlegroups And War In The Caucasus

Mention has already been made of the European Union Battlegroups and on July 21 Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt visited NATO Headquarters in Brussels - to "address the North Atlantic Council on the priorities of the Swedish EU Presidency" [16] - further endorsed the project and "expressed his support here [Brussels] for the EU's battlegroup concept, under which about 1,500 troops from three or more countries are on standby on a six-month rotation."

The article the preceding is taken from added "Bildt, whose country holds the six-month rotating EU presidency...said there was 'huge demand' for Europe in the world and that the best way for the EU to improve its crisis management capability, of which battlegroups are a part, is by implementing the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

"He said they must remain ready to be deployed within 10 days."

As to where such deployments may occur in the future, "Bildt also hopes to secure backing from fellow EU foreign ministers early next week for a one-year extension to the EU's peace monitoring mission in Georgia" and "says he will insist on the mission's right to monitor the situation in the two regions [Abkhazia and South Ossetia]...." [17]

He was referring to re-deploying European Union monitors - including troops - to the borders of Georgia with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where in the latter case a war erupted last August after a Georgian assault and a Russian response. Bildt and the EU in fact don't consider that there are national borders connecting the three states but that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are part of Georgia. Russia, which has recognized the independence of both, disagrees and as such opposes EU troops returning to the area, where Abkhazia has accused them of collaborating with the Georgian government of Mikhail Saakashvili in launching attacks on its territory.

What Bildt is actually advocating is something substantially more serious and fraught with the danger of a conflict far worse than the war of last August.

The Chairman of the Georgian Parliamentary Commission on Defense and Security, Givi Targamadze, said on July 21 "The deoccupation [regarding Russian troops] of this territory [Abkhazia and South Ossetia], but not the presence of the observation mission in an expanded format, is important for us. However, U.S troops' participation in the mission will be a step forward." [18]

That is, the EU will insinuate itself into South Caucasus conflict zones and US troops will be inside the Trojan Horse. If that scenario evolves, troops from the world's two major nuclear powers can face off against each other in the next war.

Three days after visiting NATO Headquarters Bildt was in Afghanistan, during the exact moment the battle described at the beginning of this article occurred, to meet with US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and to visit an ISAF European Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

Regarding the effective merger of EU and NATO international security and military missions and how the EU is being employed to hasten NATO's absorption of nations like Sweden and Finland, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who will turn his post over to former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen this week, in early July "expressed frustration...over the lack of progress in NATO's relationship with the European Union" and said:

"I will leave my office in three weeks' time frankly disappointed that a true strategic partnership that makes such eminent sense for both organisations (NATO and the EU) has still not come about.

"I am convinced that if ... North America and Europe are to defend their values and interests and solve [common] challenges, then we will need to do a much better job of combining the complementary assets of NATO and the EU. We should work together where necessary, not just where we can.

"Our missions, our geographical areas of interest, our capabilities...are increasingly overlapping, not to speak of our memberships. Our definition of the security challenges and the means to tackle them is also increasingly a shared one." [19]

Scheffer added "NATO-EU relations will be an important part of the
alliance's new Strategic Concept, which serves as guidelines for all actions," a subject doubtlessly addressed with Bildt, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, two weeks later. [20]

Applying NATO's War Clause Globally

At the same press conference the NATO chief said "I hope the new Strategic Concept will finally lay to rest the notion that there is any distinction between security at home and security abroad. Globalization has abolished the protection that borders or geographical isolation from crisis areas used to provide." [21]

Significantly, Scheffer affirmed that NATO's Article 5 mutual military assistance provision can "apply outside NATO territory as much as inside." [22]

To the South Caucasus, for example.

Four previous articles in this series have addressed NATO's plans to absorb Finland and Sweden as full members [23] and US and NATO plans to confront Russia in what the Alliance calls the High North, the Arctic Ocean and by extension the Baltic Sea. [24]

Scandinavian Nations Move Military Into Arctic Circle

Sweden's and Finland's Scandinavian neighbors Denmark and Norway, both NATO members, have recently joined the battle for the Arctic.

Last month Norway revealed that it was moving it Operational Command Headquarters from the south of the nation at Stavanger north to Reitan outside Bodo, "thus making Norway the first country to move its military command leadership to the Arctic." [25]

Last year "Norway's government decided to buy 48 Lockheed Martin F-35 jets at a cost of 18 billion crowns ($2.81 billion), rating them better than rival Swedish Saab's Gripen at tasks such as surveillance of the vast Arctic north." [26]

A few days after the Norway's announcement that it was shifting its military command headquarters to the Arctic the Danish government said that increasing competition for resources and more importantly military advantage in the Arctic "will change the region's geostrategic significance and thus entail more tasks for the Danish Armed Forces".

Because "The risk of confrontation in the Arctic seems to be growing," Denmark plans to "set up a joint-service Arctic Command and is considering expanding the military base at Thule in northern Greenland, which was a vital link in US defences during the Cold War" and "create an Arctic Response Force, using existing Danish military capabilities that are adapted for Arctic operations." [27]

Copenhagen itself has no direct claim to the Arctic but is using Greenland and the Faroe Islands, both effectively colonies, for a military buildup that can only be aimed against Russian claims in the region.

An article titled "Danish militarization of Arctic" adds these details:

"The higher focus on the Arctic is part of the Danish defence plan for the period 2010-2014 approved by Parliament, the Folketinget, on 24 June.

"Denmark [is also considering applying] fighter jets in monitoring operations and sovereignty protection at and around Greenland. The country might also consider to give the Thule Base a more central role in cooperation with partner countries." [28]

The partners in question are fellow NATO members and Arctic claimants the United States, Canada and Norway.

From August 6 to 28 Canada will conduct its major annual Arctic military exercise, Operation NANOOK, with "land, sea and air forces operating in the Baffin Island region." [29] This year Canadian special forces will join the war games. "Col. Michael Day, commanding officer of Canada's Special Operations Forces Command, said units such as the Special Operations Regiment and Joint Task Force 2 have rarely been involved in northern military exercises." [30]

Arctic: Russia's Last Stand Against Missile Shield First Strike Threat

Two previous articles [31] have examined the fact that the Arctic Circle is the only spot on the planet where Russian nuclear deterrent and retaliation capacities can be based in order to evade potential US and NATO missile shield-linked first strikes.

Earlier this month former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev appeared on Russian television and warned that "missile defense installations in Europe are a threat to Russia" and "are aimed at creating a situation that makes it possible for NATO to be first to launch a nuclear strike while staying under the shield." [32]

On June 30th the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen was in Poland where Washington intends to install interceptor missiles and "said he was hopeful Washington and Warsaw could wrap up talks on a deal tied to a anti-missile plan opposed by Russia....[33]

On July 13-14 Russia carried out test launches of two Sineva intercontinental ballistic missiles and "The United States was reportedly unable to detect the presence of Russian strategic submarines in the area before they launched the missiles."

As a government official said of the tests, "Russian submarines not only fired ballistic missiles while submerged, they also did it from under ice floe near the North Pole, which proves that the Russian Navy has retained the capability of moving under Arctic ice and striking targets while undetected." [34]

At the beginning of this month NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer officiated over a change of command for the Alliance's top military commander, swearing in Admiral James Stavridis. The latter's comments at the event included:

"With me are over seventy thousand shipmates - military and civilian - in three continents from the populated plains and coasts of Europe to the bright blue of the Mediterranean Sea; from the high mountain passes of Afghanistan to the distant Arctic Circle." [35]

The simultaneous and coordinated US and NATO military buildup in the Arctic Ocean, the Baltic Sea and the Barents Sea are moving the line of confrontation with Russia ever closer. With Finland's and Sweden's integration into NATO the armed forces of both nations will have something far more formidable and dangerous to contend with than firefights in Northern Afghanistan.

Notes

1) The Local, July 24, 2009
2) NewsRoom Finland, July 23, 2009
3) Stockholm News, July 20, 2009
4) Radio Sweden, July 20, 2008
5) Swedish Wire, June 26, 2009
6) Helsingin Sanomat, June 19, 2009
7) Xinhua News Agency, July 3, 2009
8) Government Security Information, June 17, 2009
9) Global Security, May 12, 2009
10) Defense Professionals, June 25, 2009
11) Ibid
12) Helsinki Times, July 23, 2009
13) Strategy Page, June 29, 2009
14) Helsingin Sanomat, June 16, 2009
15) Ibid
16) Trend News Agency, July 21, 2009
17) Defense News, July 22, 2009
18) Trend News Agency, July 22, 2009
19) Trend News Agency, July 7, 2009
20) Ibid
21) Xinhua News Agency, July 7, 2009
22) Ibid
23) End of Scandinavian Neutrality: NATO's Militarization Of Europe
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/message/38611
24) Scandinavia And The Baltic Sea: NATO's War Plans For The High North
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/message/40045

NATO's, Pentagon's New Strategic Battleground: The Arctic
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/message/37104

Canada: Battle Line In East-West Conflict Over The Arctic
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/message/39795

25) Barents Observer, June 2, 2009
26) Reuters, June 22, 2009
27) BBC News, July 16, 2009
28) Barents Observer, July 16, 2009
29) National Defence and the Canadian Forces, July 10, 2009
30) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, July 8, 2009
31) NATO's, Pentagon's New Strategic Battleground: The Arctic
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/message/37104

Canada: Battle Line In East-West Conflict Over The Arctic
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/message/39795
32) Russia Today, July 2, 2009
33) Agence France-Presse, June 30, 2009
34) Russian Information Agency Novosti, July 15, 2009
35) NATO International, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe,
July 2, 2009

Stop NATO
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato

Martial Law and the Militarization of Public Health

Martial Law and the Militarization of Public Health: The Worldwide H1N1 Flu Vaccination Program

"The flu season is upon us. Which type will we worry about this year, and what kind of shots will we be told to take? Remember the swine flu scare of 1976? That was the year the U.S. government told us all that swine flu could turn out to be a killer that could spread across the nation, and Washington decided that every man, woman and child in the nation should get a shot to prevent a nation-wide outbreak, a pandemic." (Mike Wallace, CBS, 60 Minutes, November 4, 1979)

"The federal officials and industry representatives had assembled to discuss a disturbing new study that raised alarming questions about the safety of a host of common childhood vaccines administered to infants and young children. According to a CDC epidemiologist named Tom Verstraeten, who had analyzed the agency's massive database containing the medical records of 100,000 children, a mercury-based preservative in the vaccines -- thimerosal -- appeared to be responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and a host of other neurological disorders among children....

"It's hard to calculate the damage to our country -- and to the international efforts to eradicate epidemic diseases -- if Third World nations come to believe that America's most heralded foreign-aid initiative is poisoning their children. It's not difficult to predict how this scenario will be interpreted by America's enemies abroad." (Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Vaccinations: Deadly Immunity, June 2005)

"Vaccines are supposed to be making us healthier; however, in twenty-five years of nursing I have never seen so many damaged, sick kids. Something very, very wrong is happening to our children."( Patti White, School nurse, statement to the House Government Reform Committee, 1999, quoted in Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Vaccinations: Deadly Immunity, June 2005)

"On the basis of ... expert assessments of the evidence, the scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met. I have therefore decided to raise the level of influenza pandemic alert from Phase 5 to Phase 6. The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic. ... Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), Press Briefing 11 June 2009)

"As many as 2 billion people could become infected over the next two years — nearly one-third of the world population." (World Health Organization as reported by the Western media, July 2009)

"Swine flu could strike up to 40 percent of Americans over the next two years and as many as several hundred thousand could die if a vaccine campaign and other measures aren't successful." (Official Statement of the US Administration, Associated Press, 24 July 2009).

"The U.S. expects to have 160 million doses of swine flu vaccine available sometime in October", (Associated Press, 23 July 2009)

"Vaccine makers could produce 4.9 billion pandemic flu shots per year in the best-case scenario", Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), quoted by Reuters, 21 July 2009)

Wealthier countries such as the U.S. and Britain will pay just under $10 per dose [of the H1N1 flu vaccine]. ... Developing countries will pay a lower price." [circa $400 billion for Big Pharma] (Business Week, July 2009)

War without borders, a great depression, a military adventure in the Middle East, a massive concentration of wealth resulting from the restructuring of the global financial system.

The unfolding economic and social dislocations are far-reaching.

People's lives are destroyed.

The World is at the juncture of the most serious crisis in modern history.

Bankruptcies, mass unemployment, the collapse of social programs, are the untold consequences.

But public opinion must remain ignorant of the causes of the global crisis.

"The worst of the recession is behind us";

"There are growing signs of economic recovery",

"The Middle East War is a 'Just War'", a humanitarian endeavor,

Coalition forces are involved in "peace-keeping," we are "fighting terrorism with democracy"

"We must defend ourselves against terrorist attacks"

Figures on civilian deaths are manipulated. War crimes are concealed.

People are misled on the nature and history of the New World Order.

The real causes and consequences of this Worldwide economic and social collapse remain unheralded. Realities are turned up side down. The "real crisis" must be obfuscated through political lies and media disinformation.

It is in the interest of the political powerbrokers and the dominant financial actors to divert public attention from an understanding of the global crisis.

How best to achieve this goal?

By artificially creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation which serves to weaken and disarm organized dissent directed against the established economic and political order.

The objective is to undermine all forms of opposition and social resistance.

We are dealing with a diabolical project. The public must not only remain in the dark. As the crisis worsens, as people become impoverished, the real causes must be replaced by a set of fictitious relationships.

A crisis based on fake causes is heralded: "the global war on terrorism" is central to misleading the public's understanding of the Middle East War, which is a battle for the control over extensive reserves of oil and natural gas.

The antiwar movement is weakened. People are unable to think. They unequivocally endorse the "war on terrorism" consensus. They accept the political lies. In their inner consciousness, terrorists are threatening their livelihood.

In this framework, the occurrence of "natural disasters", "pandemics", "environmental catastrophes" also plays a useful political role. It distorts the real causes of the crisis. It justifies a global public health emergency on humanitarian grounds.

The Worldwide H1N1 swine flu pandemic: Towards a Global Public Health Emergency?

The Worldwide H1N1 swine flu pandemic serves to mislead public opinion.

The 2009 pandemic, which started in Mexico in April, is timely: it coincides with a deepening economic depression. It takes place at a time of military escalation.

The epidemiological data is fabricated, falsified and manipulated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an epidemic of worldwide proportions now looms and threatens the livelihood of millions of people.

A "Catastrophic Emergency" is in the making. The WHO and the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) are authoritative bodies. Why would they lie? The information released by these organizations, although subject to statistical errors, could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be falsified or manipulated.

People believe that the public health crisis at a global level is real and that government health officials are "working for the public good."

Press reports confirm the US government's intent to implement a mass H1N1 vaccination program in Fall-Winter of 2009. A major contract for 160 million doses has been established with Big Pharma, enough to inoculate more than half the US population. Similar plans are ongoing in other Western countries including France, Canada, the UK.

Volunteers are being recruited to test the swine flu vaccine during the month of August, with a view to implementing a nationwide vaccination program in the Fall.

Manipulating The Data

There is ample evidence, documented in numerous reports, that the WHO's level 6 pandemic alert is based on fabricated evidence and a manipulation of the figures on mortality and morbidity resulting from the N1H1 swine flu.

The data initially used to justify the WHO's Worldwide level 5 alert in April 2009 was extremely scanty. The WHO asserted without evidence that a "global outbreak of the disease is imminent". It distorted Mexico's mortality data pertaining to the swine flu pandemic. According to the WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan in her official April 29 statement: "So far, 176 people have been killed in Mexico". From what? Where does she get these numbers? 159 died from influenza out of which only seven deaths, corroborated by lab analysis, resulted from the H1N1 swine flu strain, according to the Mexican Ministry of Health.

Similarly in New York city in April, several hundred children were categorized as having the H1N1 influenza, yet in none of these cases, was the diagnosis corroborated on a laboratory test.

"Dr. Frieden said. Health officials reached their preliminary conclusion after conducting viral tests on nose or throat swabs from the eight students, which allowed them to eliminate other strains of flu."

Tests were conducted on school children in Queen's, but the tests were inconclusive: among theses "hundreds of school children", there were no reports of laboratory analysis leading to a positive identification of the influenza virus. In fact the reports are contradictory: according to the reports, the Atlanta based CDCP is the "only lab in the country that can positively confirm the new swine flu strain — which has been identified as H1N1." (Michel Chossudovsky, Political Lies and Media Disinformation regarding the Swine Flu Pandemic, Global Research, May 2009, last quotation is from the New York Times, April 25, 2009)

Influenza is a common disease. Unless there is a thorough lab examination, the identity if the virus cannot be established.

There are numerous cases of seasonal influenza across America, on an annual basis. "According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the flu kills up to 2,500 Canadians and about 36,000 Americans annually. Worldwide, the number of deaths attributed to the flu each year is between 250,000 and 500,000" (Thomas Walkom, The Toronto Star, May 1, 2009).

What the CDCP and the WHO are doing is routinely us re-categorizing a large number of cases of common influenza as H1N1 swine flu.

"The increasing number of cases in many countries with sustained community transmission is making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for countries to try and confirm them through laboratory testing. Moreover, the counting of individual cases is now no longer essential in such countries for monitoring either the level or nature of the risk posed by the pandemic virus or to guide implementation of the most appropriate response measures. (WHO, Briefing note, 2009)

The WHO admits that at a country level laboratory testing is often absent, while emphasising that lab confirmation it is not required for data collection, with a view to ascertaining the spread of the disease:

A strategy that concentrates on the detection, laboratory confirmation and investigation of all cases, including those with mild illness, is extremely resource-intensive. In some countries, this strategy is absorbing most national laboratory and response capacity, leaving little capacity for the monitoring and investigation of severe cases and other exceptional events. ... For all of these reasons, WHO will no longer issue the global tables showing the numbers of confirmed cases for all countries. However, as part of continued efforts to document the global spread of the H1N1 pandemic, regular updates will be provided describing the situation in the newly affected countries. WHO will continue to request that these countries report the first confirmed cases and, as far as feasible, provide weekly aggregated case numbers and descriptive epidemiology of the early cases. (Ibid)

At a June 2009 WHO press conference, the issue of lab testing was raised:

Marion Falco, CNN Atlanta: My question may be a little basic but if you are not, and so forgive me for that, if you are not requiring testing in the countries that already have well established numbers of cases, then how are you distinguishing between seasonal flu and this particular flu. I mean how are you going to separate the numbers?

Dr Fukuda, WHO, Geneva: It is not that we are recommending not doing any testing at all. In fact when the guidance comes out, what it will suggest is what countries are to do is tailor down their testing so that they are not trying to test everybody but certainly keeping up testing of some people for exactly the kinds of reasons that you bring up. When people get sick with an influenza-like illness it will be important for us to know whether is it caused by the pandemic virus or whether is caused by seasonal viruses. What we are indicating is that if you ratchet down the level of testing we will still be able to figure that out and so we do not need to test everybody for that, but we will continue to recommend some level of testing – at a lower level of people who continue to get sick. See Transcript of WHO Virtual Press Conference, Dr Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment, WHO, Geneva, July 2009, emphasis added).

"Figure that out"? What the foregoing statements by the WHO suggest is that:

1) the WHO is not collecting data on the spread of H1N1 based on systematic lab confirmation.

2) the WHO in fact discourages national health officials to conduct detection and laboratory confirmation, while also pressuring the countries' public health authorities to duly deliver to the WHO on a weekly basis the data on H1N1 cases.

3) The WHO in its reporting only refers to "confirmed cases" It does not distinguish between confirmed and non-confirmed case. It would appear that the "non-confirmed" cases are categorized as confirmed cases and the numbers are then used by the WHO to prove that the disease is spreading. (See WHO tables: http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_07_06/en/index.html)

The swine flu has the same symptoms as seasonal influenza: fever, cough and sore throat. What is happening is that the widespread incidence of the common flu is being used to generate the reports delivered to the WHO pertaining to the H1N1 swine flu. Nonetheless, in the tabulated release of country level data, the WHO uses the term: "number of laboratory-confirmed cases", while also admitting that the cases are, in many cases, not confirmed.

Worldwide Pandemic

The WHO establishes trends on the spread of the disease, essentially using unconfirmed data. Based on these extrapolations, the WHO is now claiming, in the absence of laboratory confirmation, that "as many as 2 billion people could become infected over the next two years — nearly one-third of the world population." In turn, in the US, the Atlanta based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that "swine flu could strike up to 40 percent of Americans over the next two years and as many as several hundred thousand could die if a vaccine campaign and other measures aren't successful." (AP, July 24, 2009).

How did they come up with these numbers?

The CDC estimate has nothing to do with an assessment of the spread of the H1N1 virus. It is based on a mechanical pro-rata extrapolation of trends underlying the 1957 pandemic, which resulted in 70,000 deaths in the US. The presumption here is that the H1N1 flu has the "same transmission path" as the 1957 epidemic.

Creating a Crisis where there is No Crisis

The underlying political intent is to use the WHO level six pandemic to divert public attention from an impending and far-reaching social crisis, which is largely the consequence of a deep-seated global economic depression.

On the basis of ... expert assessments of the evidence, the scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met. I have therefore decided to raise the level of influenza pandemic alert from Phase 5 to Phase 6. The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic. ... Calling a pandemic is also a signal to the international community. This is a time where the world's countries, rich or poor, big or small, must come together in the name of global solidarity to make sure that no countries because of poor resources, no countries' people should be left behind without help. ...The World Health Organization has been in contact with donor communities, development partners, resource poor countries, and also drug companies as well as vaccine companies. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), Press Briefing, 11 June 2009


WHO Director General Margaret Chan

How best to tame the Nation's citizens, to rein in people's resentment in the face of mounting unemployment?

Create a Worldwide pandemic, instil an atmosphere of anxiety and intimidation, which demobilizes meaningful and organized public action against the programmed enrichment of a social minority. The flu pandemic is used to foreclose organized resistance against the government's economic policies in support of the financial elites. It provides both a pretext and a justification to adopt emergency procedures. Under the existing legislation in the US, Martial Law, implying the suspension of constitutional government, could be invoked in the case of "A Catastrophic Emergency" including a the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

Martial Law

Legislation inherited from the Clinton administration, not to mention the post 9/11 Patriot Acts I and II, allow the military to intervene in judicial and civilian law enforcement activities. In 1996, legislation was passed which allowed the military to intervene in the case of a national emergency. In 1999, Clinton's Defense Authorization Act (DAA) extended those powers (under the 1996 legislation) by creating an "exception" to the Posse Comitatus Act, which permits the military to be involved in civilian affairs "regardless of whether there is an emergency". (See ACLU at http://www.aclu.org/NationalSecurity/NationalSecurity.cfm?ID=8683&c=24 )

The issue of a pandemic or public health emergency , however, was not explicitly outlined in the Clinton era legislation.

The Katrina disaster (2005) constitutes a dividing line, a watershed leading de facto to the militarization of emergency relief:

"The disaster that struck New Orleans and the southern Gulf Coast has given rise to the largest military mobilization in modern history on US soil. Nearly 65,000 US military personnel are now deployed in disaster area, transforming the devastated port city into a war zone," (Bill Van Auken, Wsws.org, September 2005).

Hurricanes Katrina (August 2005) and Rita (September 2005) contributed to justifying the role of the Military in natural disasters. They also contributed to shaping the formulation of presidential directives and subsequent legislation. President Bush called for the Military to become the "lead agency" in disaster relief:

".....The other question, of course, I asked, was, is there a circumstance in which the Department of Defense becomes the lead agency. Clearly, in the case of a terrorist attack, that would be the case, but is there a natural disaster which -- of a certain size that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort. That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about. (Press Conference, 25 Sept 2005 http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=BUS20050925&articleId=1004 )

Militarization of Public Health: The Avian Flu

The 2005 bird flu crisis followed barely a month after Hurricane Rita. It was presented to the US public as an issue of National Security. Following the 2005 outbreak of avian flu, president Bush confirmed that the military would be actively involved in the case of a pandemic, with the authority to detain large numbers of people:

"I am concerned about avian flu. I'm concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the United States and the world. ... I have thought through the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean....

The policy decisions for a president in dealing with an avian flu outbreak are difficult. ...

If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And how do you, then, enforce a quarantine?

... One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. So that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have.

... But Congress needs to take a look at circumstances that may need to vest the capacity of the president to move beyond that debate. And one such catastrophe or one such challenge could be an avian flu outbreak. (White House Press Conference, 4 October, 2005, emphasis added)

On the day following Bush`s October 4, 2005 Press Conference, a major piece of legislation was introduced in the US Senate. The Pandemic Preparedness and Response Act.

While the proposed legislation was never adopted, it nonetheless contributed to building a consensus among key members of the US Senate. The militarization of public health was subsequently embodied in the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007.

"Public Health Emergency" and Martial Law: The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007. H.R. 5122

New legislation is devised. The terms "epidemic", and "public health emergency" are explicitly included in a key piece of legislation, signed into law by President Bush in October 2006.

Lost in the midst of hundreds of pages, Public Law 109-364, better known as the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) includes a specific section on the role of the Military in national emergencies.

Section 1076 of this legislation entitled "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies" allows the President of the United States the deploy the armed forces and the National Guard across the US, to "restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States" in the case of "a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency":

SEC. 1076. USE OF THE ARMED FORCES IN MAJOR PUBLIC EMERGENCIES.

(a) Use of the Armed Forces Authorized-

(1) IN GENERAL- Section 333 of title 10, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

`Sec. 333. Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law

`(a) Use of Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies- (1) The President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to--

`(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that--

`(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and

`(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or

`(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).

`(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--

`(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

`(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

`(3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.

`(b) Notice to Congress- The President shall notify Congress of the determination to exercise the authority in subsection (a)(1)(A) as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of that authority.' (See ext of HR5122 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c109:6:./temp/~c109bW9vKy:e939907: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h109-5122&tab=summary

These far-reaching provisions allow the Armed Forces to override the authority of civilian federal, state and local governments involved in disaster relief and public health. It also grants the Military a mandate in civilian police functions. Namely the legislation implies the militarization of law enforcement in the case of a national emergency.

"Catastrophic Emergency" and "Continuity of Government,": The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/HSPD 20

Coinciding with the passage of the John Warner Defense Authorization Act, a National Security Presidential Directive was issued in May 2007, (National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/HSPD 20) .

NSPD 51 /HSPD 20 is a combined National Security Directive emanating from the White House and Homeland Security. While it is formulated in relation to the domestic "war on terrorism", it also includes provisions which allow for Martial Law in case of a natural disaster including a flu pandemic.

The thrust and emphasis of NSPD 51, however, is different from that of Section 1076 of HR 5122. It defines the functions of the Department of Homeland Security in the case of a national emergency and its relationship to the White House and the Military. It also provides the President with sweeping powers to declare a national emergency, without Congressional approval.

The directive establishes procedures for "Continuity of Government" (COG) in the case of a "Catastrophic Emergency". The latter is defined in NSPD 51/HSPD 20 (henceforth referred to as NSPD 51), as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions."

"Continuity of Government," or "COG," is defined in NSPD 51 as "a coordinated effort within the Federal Government's executive branch to ensure that National Essential Functions continue to be performed during a Catastrophic Emergency."

The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government. In order to advise and assist the President in that function, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter terrorism (APHS/CT) is hereby designated as the National Continuity Coordinator. The National Continuity Coordinator, in coordination with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), without exercising directive authority, shall coordinate the development and implementation of continuity policy for executive departments and agencies. The Continuity Policy Coordination Committee (CPCC), chaired by a Senior Director from the Homeland Security Council staff, designated by the National Continuity Coordinator, shall be the main day-to-day forum for such policy coordination. (National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/HSPD 20, emphasis added)

This Combined Directive NSPD /51 HSPD 20 grants unprecedented powers to the Presidency and the Department of Homeland Security, overriding the foundations of Constitutional government. NSPD 51 allows the sitting president to declare a �national emergency� without Congressional approval The adoption of NSPD 51 would lead to the de facto closing down of the Legislature and the militarization of justice and law enforcement.

NSPD 51 grants extraordinary Police State powers to the White House and Homeland Security (DHS), in the event of a "Catastrophic Emergency".

A flu pandemic or public health emergency is part of the terms of reference of NSPD 51. "Catastrophic Emergency" is broadly defined in NSPD 51 as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions"

"The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government. In order to advise and assist the President in that function, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter terrorism (APHS/CT) is hereby designated as the National Continuity Coordinator. The National Continuity Coordinator, in coordination with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), without exercising directive authority, shall coordinate the development and implementation of continuity policy for executive departments and agencies. The Continuity Policy Coordination Committee (CPCC), chaired by a Senior Director from the Homeland Security Council staff, designated by the National Continuity Coordinator, shall be the main day-to-day forum for such policy coordination. (National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/HSPD 20, emphasis added)

The directive acknowledges the overriding power of the military in the case of a national emergency: The presidential directive "Shall not be construed to impair or otherwise affect... the authority of the Secretary of Defense over the Department of Defense, including the chain of command for military forces from the President, to the Secretary of Defense, to the commander of military forces, or military command and control procedures".

Since their enactment two years ago, neither the John Warner Defense Authorization Act nor NSPD 51 have been the object of media debate or discussion.

NSPD 51 and/or the John Warner H.R.5122 could be invoked at short notice following the declaration of a national health emergency and a nationwide forced vaccination program. The hidden agenda consists in using the threat of a pandemic and/or the plight of a natural disaster as a pretext to establish military rule, under the facade of a "functioning democracy".

Vaccination: From H5N1 to H1N1

A nationwide flu vaccination program has been in the pipeline in the US since 2005.

According to the Wall Street Journal (Oct 1, 2005), the Bush administration had asked Congress for an estimated $6-10 billion "to stockpile vaccines and antiviral medications as part of its plans to prepare the U.S. for a possible flu pandemic." A large part of this budget, namely 3.1 billion was used under the Bush administration to stockpile the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu), of which the intellectual property rights belong to Gilead Science Inc, a company headed by Don Rumsfeld prior to becoming Secretary of Defense under the Bush administration.

Consistent with its role as "lead agency", more than half of the money earmarked by the Bush administration for the program was handed over to the Pentagon. In other words, what we are dealing with is a process of militarization of the civilian public health budget. . Part of the money for a public health is controlled by the Department of Defense, under the rules of DoD procurement.

"The US Senate voted [September 3, 2005] yesterday to provide $4 billion for antiviral drugs and other measures to prepare for a feared influenza pandemic, but whether the measure would clear Congress was uncertain.

The Senate attached the measure to a $440 billion defense-spending bill for 2006, according to the Associated Press (AP). But the House included no flu money in its version of the defense bill, and a key senator said he would try to keep the funds out of the House-Senate compromise version. The Senate is expected to vote on the overall bill next week.

Almost $3.1 billion of the money would be used to stockpile the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu), and the rest would go for global flu surveillance, development of vaccines, and state and local preparedness, according to a Reuters report. The government currently has enough oseltamivir to treat a few million people, with a goal of acquiring enough to treat 20 million"

(CIDRAP, http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/panflu/news/sep3005avian.html)

The threat of the H5N1 bird flu pandemic in 2005 resulted in multibillion dollar earnings for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. In this regard, a number of major pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, California based Chiron Corp, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc, Novavax and Wave Biotech, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding, had already positioned themselves.

In 2005,.a Maryland-based biotechnology company MedImmune which produces "an inhaled flu vaccine" had positioned itself to develop a vaccine against the H5N1 avian flu. Although it had no expertise in the avian flu virus, one of the major actors in the vaccine business, on contract to the Pentagon, was Bioport, a company part owned by the Carlyle Group, closely linked to the Bush Cabinet with Bush Senior on its board of directors.

Vaccination under a Public Health Emergency. Multibillion Financial Bonanza for the BioTech Conglomerates

The 2005 bird flu hoax was in many regards a dress rehearsal. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic is a much larger multibillion dollar operation. A select number of biotech and pharmaceutical companies have been involved in negotiations behind closed doors with the WHO and the US Administration. Key agencies are the Atlanta based Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which have close ties to the pharmaceutical industry. The conflicts of interest of these agencies is brought to light in Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s detailed study entitled Vaccinations: Deadly Immunity, June 2005:

"The story of how government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks of thimerosal from the public is a chilling case study of institutional arrogance, power and greed. I was drawn into the controversy only reluctantly. As an attorney and environmentalist who has spent years working on issues of mercury toxicity, I frequently met mothers of autistic children who were absolutely convinced that their kids had been injured by vaccines. ... "The elementary grades are overwhelmed with children who have symptoms of neurological or immune-system damage," Patti White, a school nurse, told the House Government Reform Committee in 1999. "Vaccines are supposed to be making us healthier; however, in twenty-five years of nursing I have never seen so many damaged, sick kids. Something very, very wrong is happening to our children." Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Vaccinations: Deadly Immunity, June 2005.

The WHO is planning for the production of 4.9 billion dose, enough to inoculate a large share of the World's population. Big Pharma including Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis and AstraZeneca have signed procurement contracts with some 50 governments. (Reuters, July 16, 2009). For these companies, compulsory vaccination is a highly lucrative undertaking:

"The WHO has refused to release the Minutes of a key meeting of an advisory vaccine group "packed with executives from Baxter, Novartis and Sanofi" that recommended compulsory vaccinations in the USA, Europe and other countries against the artificial H1N1 "swine flu" virus this autumn.

In an email this morning, a WHO spokesperson claimed there are no Minutes of the meeting that took place on July 7th in which guidelines on the need for worldwide vaccinations that WH0 adopted this Monday were formulated and in which Baxter and other Pharma executives participated.

Under the International Health Regulations, WHO guidelines have a binding character on all of WHO's 194 signatory countries in the event of a pandemic emergency of the kind anticipated this autumn when the second more lethal wave of the H1N1 virus "which is bioengineered to resemble the Spanish flu virus" emerges.

In short: WHO has the authority to force everyone in those 194 countries to take a vaccine this fall at gunpoint, impose quarantines and restrict travel." (Jane Burgermeister, WHO moves forward in secrecy to accomplish forced vaccination and population agenda, Global Research, July 2009).

On May 19th, the WHO Director General and senior officials met behind closed doors with the representatives of some 30 pharmaceutical companies.

"In a perfect world the planet's leading pharmaceutical companies could produce 4.9 billion H1N1 swine flu vaccinations over the course of the next year. This is the World Health Organization's latest assessment. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan met with 30 pharmaceutical companies on Tuesday and briefed reporters on a WHO plan to secure vaccinations for poor countries who lack sufficient infrastructure to fight a possible pandemic. (Digital Journal, 19 May 2009)

According to recent report in Business Week, "Wealthier countries such as the U.S. and Britain will pay just under $10 per dose, the same price for the seasonal flu vaccine. Developing countries will pay a lower price, (Business Week, July 2009). The WHO suggests that the 4.9 billion doses will not suffice and that a second inoculation will be required.

4,9 billion doses at about ten dollars ($10.00) a shot and somewhat less in the developing countries, represents a windfall profit bonanza for Big Pharma of the order of 400 billion dollars in a single year. And the WHO claims that one dose per person may not suffice...

Dangerous Life Threatening Vaccine: Who owns the Patent?

While the production has been entrusted to a select number of companies, it would appear that the intellectual property rights belong to Illinois based pharmaceutical giant Baxter. Baxter is central in the negotiations between the US Administration and the World Health Organization (WHO). Moreover, "a full year before any reported case of the current alleged H1N1" Baxter had filed for a patent for the H1N1 vaccine:

Baxter Vaccine Patent Application US 2009/0060950 A1. (See William Engdahl, Now legal immunity for swine flu vaccine makers, Global Research, July 2009). 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? (Ibid)

The Los Angeles Times has reassured the US public with an article entitled: What are the odds that H1N1 will kill you? One might also ask, what are the odds that the H1N1 vaccine will kill you?

National Emergency Centers Establishment Act: H.R. 645

There are no indications that the Obama Adminstration is planning in the forseeable future a Public Health Emergency which would require the imposition of martial law. What we have emphasised in this article is the existence of various provisions (legislation and presidential directives) which would allow the President of the United States to instigate Martial Law in the case of a Public Health Emergency. If Martial Law were to be adopted in the context of a Public Health Emergency, what we would be dealing with is the "forced vaccination" of targeted population groups as well as the possible establishment of facilities for the internment of people who have been quarantined.

In this regard, it is worth noting that in January 2009, a piece of legislation entitled the National Emergency Centers Establishment Act (HR 645) was introduced in the US Congress.The bill calls for the establishment of six national emergency centers in major regions in the US to be located on existing military installations, which could be used to quarantine people in the case of a public health emergency or forced vaccination program.

The bill goes far beyond previous legislation (including H.R 5122). The stated purpose of the "national emergency centers" is to provide "temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster." In actuality, what we are dealing with are FEMA internment camps. HR 645 states that the camps can be used to "meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security." (Michel Chossudovsky, Preparing for Civil Unrest in America Legislation to Establish Internment Camps on US Military Bases, Global Research, March 2009)

There has been virtually no press coverage of HR 645, which is currently being discussed by several congressional committees. There are no indications that the bill is on its way to being adopted.

These "civilian facilities" on US military bases are to be established in cooperation with the US Military.

Once a person is arrested and interned in a FEMA camp located on a military base, that person would in all likelihood, under a public health emergency, fall under the de facto jurisdiction of the Military: civilian justice and law enforcement including habeas corpus would no longer apply.

HR 645 could be used, were it to be adopted, in the case of public health emergency. It obviously bears a direct relationship to the economic crisis and the likelihood of mass protests across America. It constitutes a further move to militarize civilian law enforcement, repealing the Posse Comitatus Act.

In the words of Rep. Ron Paul:

"...the fusion centers, militarized police, surveillance cameras and a domestic military command is not enough... Even though we know that detention facilities are already in place, they now want to legalize the construction of FEMA camps on military installations using the ever popular excuse that the facilities are for the purposes of a national emergency. With the phony debt-based economy getting worse and worse by the day, the possibility of civil unrest is becoming a greater threat to the establishment. One need only look at Iceland, Greece and other nations for what might happen in the United States next." (Daily Paul, September 2008, emphasis added)

The proposed internment camps should be seen in relation to the broader process of militarization of civilian institutions. The construction of internment camps predates the introduction of HR 645 (Establishment of Emergency Centers) in January 2009.

"Military Civil Support": The Role of US Northern Command in the Case of a Flu Pandemic

US Northern Command has a mandate to support and oversee civilian institutions in the case of a National Emergency.

"In addition to defending the nation, U.S. Northern Command provides defense support of civil authorities in accordance with U.S. laws and as directed by the President or Secretary of Defense. Military assistance is always in support of a lead federal agency, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Military civil support includes domestic disaster relief operations that occur during fires, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Support also includes counter-drug operations and consequence management assistance, such as would occur after a terrorist event employing a weapon of mass destruction.

Generally, an emergency must exceed the management capabilities of local, state and federal agencies before U.S. Northern Command becomes involved. In providing civil support, the command operates through subordinate Joint Task Forces.

(See US Northcom website at http://www.northcom.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=s.who_civil ).

The Katrina and Rita hurricane disasters played a key role in shaping the role of US Northern Command in "military civil support" activities. The emergency procedures were closely coordinated by US Northern Command out of the Peterson Air Force Base, together with Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA.

During Hurricane Rita (September 2005), US Northern Command Headquarters was directly in control of the movement of military personnel and hardware in the Gulf of Mexico, in some cases overriding, as in the case of Katrina, the actions of civilian bodies. The entire operation was under the jurisdiction of the military rather than FEMA. (Michel Chossudovsky, US Northern Command and Hurricane Rita, Global Research, September 24, 2005)

Northern Command would, as part of its mandate in the case of a national emergency, oversee a number of civilian functions. In the words of Preident Bush at the height of the Rita hurricane, "the Government and the US military needed broader authority to help handle major domestic crises such as hurricanes." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff subsequently classified Hurricane Rita as an "incident of national significance," which justified the activation of a so-called "National Response Plan"(NRP). (For further details, consult the complete document at http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/NRPbaseplan.pdf

Within the broader framework of "Disaster Relief", Northern Command has, in the course of the last two years, defined a mandate in the eventuality of a public health emergency or a flu pandemic. The emphasis is on the militarization of public health whereby NORTHCOM would oversee the activities of civilian institutions involved in health related services.

According Brig. Gen. Robert Felderman, deputy director of USNORTHCOM’s Plans, Policy and Strategy Directorate: “USNORTHCOM is the global synchronizer – the global coordinator – for pandemic influenza across the combatant commands”(emphasis added) (See Gail Braymen, USNORTHCOM contributes pandemic flu contingency planning expertise to trilateral workshop, USNORTHCOM, April 14, 2008, See also USNORTHCOM. Pandemic Influenza Chain Training (U) pdf)

“Also, the United States in 1918 had the Spanish influenza. We were the ones who had the largest response to [a pandemic] in more recent history. So I discussed what we did then, what we expect to have happen now and the numbers that we would expect in a pandemic influenza.”

The potential number of fatalities in the United States in a modern pandemic influenza could reach nearly two million, according to Felderman. Not only would the nation’s economy suffer, but the Department of Defense would still have to be ready and able to protect and defend the country and provide support of civil authorities in disaster situations. While virtually every aspect of society would be affected, “the implications for Northern Command will be very significant.”

“[A pandemic would have] a huge economic impact, in addition to the defense-of-our-nation impact,” Felderman said. The United States isn’t alone in preparing for such a potential catastrophe. (Gail Braymen, op cit)

Also of relevance, was the repatriation of combat units from the war theater to assist US Northern Command in the case of a national emergency including a flu pandemic. In the last months of the Bush administration, the Department of Defense ordered the recall of the 3rd Infantry's 1st Brigade Combat Team from Iraq.

The BCT combat unit was attached to US Army North, the Army's component of US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). The 1st BCT and other combat units would be called upon to perform specific military functions in the case of a national emergency or natural disaster including a public health emergency:

"The Army Times reports that the 3rd Infantry’s 1st Brigade Combat Team is returning from Iraq to defend the Homeland, as "an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks." The BCT unit has been attached to US Army North, the Army's component of US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). (See Gina Cavallaro, Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1, Army Times, September 8, 2008, emphasis added).