Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shadow Elite: Think BP's The Bad Guy? Think Bigger, Way Bigger

Shadow Elite: Think BP's The Bad Guy? Think Bigger, Way Bigger

Coast Guard Captain leading hearings Wednesday: "It's my understanding that [a blowout preventer is] designed to industry standard ... manufactured by the industry, installed by the industry, with no government witnessing or oversight of the construction or installation. Is that correct?"

Regional supervisor, federal regulator MMS: "That is correct..."

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That staggering statement of regulatory impotence was characterized this way by Sen. Bill Nelson in the Wall Street Journal: "If MMS wasn't asleep at the wheel, it sure was letting Big Oil do most of the driving." It is tempting to hope that Big Oil's days in the driver's seat are over, now that the Obama administration has ordered that the Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, be split up, after critics said the agency was too close to the industry and had an inherent conflict of interest. Realists are highly skeptical. And in our view, it is shortsighted to focus public ire on one business and one massive, deadly disaster, even as HuffPost yesterday spoke to another whistle-blower alleging egregious practices.

This story lays bare the far-reaching (and largely unnoticed) emasculation of government regulatory power, as it has succumbed to corporate agendas over the past several decades. Janines examines this, and other disturbing trends, in her book Shadow Elite.

And it's imperative that we dissect the modus operandi of BP, its elite hired guns, assorted patrons, and compromised, enfeebled regulators, to better spot their tactics being used across government, corporate America, and Wall Street. This pernicious M.O. could be detected in both the recent Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, the bank industry collapse and the bailout that followed. So we should ask ourselves not just "how did these catastrophes happen?" but also, "how do we spot the next one waiting to happen?"

There was much finger-pointing during Congressional grillings this week: politicians pointing fingers at executives from the 3 companies involved in the disaster, and the executives pointing fingers at each other. But those politicians, and our entire leadership, should also point a finger at themselves, for allowing private industry to increasingly devour public power, and gut regulatory responsibility.

It traces back at least to the Reagan era, but soon politicians from both parties would seek to redesign governing, including adopting the push for "small government", and often deregulation. Ironically, this drive led them to create a bigger, far less transparent "shadow government" -- by steadily passing government work, cache -- and, crucially, power -- over to business interests. One result: the lines between business and government have blurred, making it hard to figure out who's in charge, or what an agency even is. Case in point: the MMS. Was MMS a government regulator or an arm of the industry? You be the judge of this description, from the Wall Street Journal.

It is supposed to be a watchdog that halts drilling when it spots unsafe behavior. But it is also supposed .... to generate government revenue from drilling on government lands.....Of MMS's fiscal 2010 budget of $342 million, nearly half comes from the oil industry....

It's this conflicted mandate the White House is trying to clear up, with the move this week to split those oversight and revenue functions.


Another result of shadow government's rise is the drain of the government's "brain". The expertise a civil servant should possess has been increasingly privatized, and regulatory power is decimated. More to the point, businesses aren't just sidestepping or fighting regulators. Their M.O. is to try to make themselves the de facto regulators of their own self- interested conduct, the result of which is made devastatingly clear in that exchange at the beginning of this post.

More from the Journal:

The agency...
--"doesn't write or implement most safety regulations, having gradually shifted such responsibilities to the oil industry itself for more than a decade."
--said offshore drilling is so complicated that only industry can really regulate itself.
--let the industry devise its own solutions to problems.
--let a trade group take over the role of "telling companies what training was necessary for workers involved in keeping wells from gushing out of control".

In its defense, the agency "pointed to a 1996 law that encouraged federal agencies to 'benefit from the expertise of the private sector' by adopting industry standards." This is a classic case of "reinventing government" gone awry.

With government power gutted, a new breed of power broker has stepped in to help companies like BP push their interests, and, at the same time, flex their own agendas. These are not mere "lobbyists". They have far more access than your garden variety K-Street operator -- and they can be found in both political parties. In Shadow Elite, Janine calls them "flexians", top players who move in and out of government, corporate, and think tank roles, gathering exclusive information at each stop, and using that privileged asset to benefit themselves and their allies.

BP boasts a high-wattage roster of flexians (or near-flexians) who've served on advisory boards and panels. Some were reportedly paid $120,000 a year to ... "advise"? The Washington Post lists former House majority leader Thomas Daschle (D); two former GOP senators, Warren Rudman and Alan Simpson; Bush EPA administrator Christie Whitman; Clinton deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick; Leon Panetta, [before becoming] -- President Obama's CIA director. Newsweek adds George Mitchell, now Obama's Middle East envoy.

These are perhaps the most relevant titles, but a complete accounting of all the roles that these players have held in government, businesses and think tanks would run a good three dozen long. So what does a company get when it hires someone at the level of say, Tom Daschle? The fact is that this kind of influence is incalculable and largely unaccountable.

And what's the effect of these boards,"independent" panels, and advisory councils anyway? They might give BP a way to have power brokers on board without the appearance of actual lobbying. And they also might help make BP look like the model corporate citizen, when the record suggests significant lapses. Newsweek reports that BP took some of their high-powered advisory board members on a helicopter ride out to the Gulf of Mexico to "demonstrate safeguards". Christie Whitman told the magazine: "we got a sense they were really committed to ensuring they got it right.." Having such a repertoire of appearances -- and the ambiguity surrounding these players' activities -- lends cover. This way of doing business is a hallmark of the shadow elite.

This playing with appearances augments an ongoing strategy by BP to rebrand itself as "Beyond Petroleum". For more than a decade, they have been promoting bold marketing campaigns, eco-friendly-seeming logos, and co-opting, critics say, environmental language. It worked -- Mother Jones cites a 2007 survey that found that people thought BP was "more green" than any other oil company. But even though they have indeed plowed money into solar energy, activists say they can't greenwash away their spotty safety record and aggressive exploration efforts.

A few government officials or investigators did try to demand truth -- and consequences from BP. One EPA official a few years back threatened to "debar" BP from government contracts if it didn't submit to tougher regulation. The problem: Newsweek says BP is a top Pentagon fuel supplier for Mideast military operations. This is yet another result of the gutting of government power: the increasing, and quite possibly dangerous reliance on multinational businesses for mission-critical government functions.

Various industries consolidated over the 80's and 90's, and that's left a handful of enormous companies contracting in countless corners of the government, crucial corners. As Newsweek puts it, BP was "the oil-company equivalent of "too big to fail".

And that official was well aware of BP's insider power. She said "'when a major economic and political giant tells you it has direct access to the White House, it's very intimidating.'" She felt powerless, because she assumed no matter what she did, BP would just get a national-security exception to keep selling the oil.

This civil servant and a handful of other standouts lost in their bid to clamp down on BP, hobbled by a system that is so clearly tilted in favor of business, and to unaccountable power brokers. In the era of the shadow elite, they learned an unfortunate truth: that some companies are not just "too big to fail", but also "too untouchable to punish".

Chase's Foreclosure Disgrace

Chase's Foreclosure Disgrace

[1] http://www.thenation.com/node/14428
[2] http://www.urbanjustice.org/
[3] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704866204575224450636641186.html?mod=WSJ_latestheadlines
[4] https://www.naca.com/index_main.jsp?language=null
[5] http://www.propublica.org/feature/disorganization-at-banks-causing-mistaken-foreclosures-050410
[6] http://www.consumerlaw.org/
[7] http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/FightingForeclosureBriefing
[8] http://www.thenation.com/node/21657
[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/05/durbin-considers-cramdown_n_564283.html
[10] http://www.thenation.com/node/14386
[11] http://grijalva.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=13&itemid=582
[12] http://www.cepr.net/index.php/issues/r2r/
[13] http://www.thenation.com/node/33163
[14] http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/07/01/philly-mediation-works/
[15] http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:s1731:
[16] http://www.oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4859&Itemid=2

NY Prosecutors Probe 8 Banks for Misleading Ratings Agencies

N.Y. probes 8 banks on mortgage security ratings

The state attorney general wants to know whether the banks misled ratings agencies to get better ratings on the risky securities.

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The New York attorney general has launched an investigation into eight banks to determine whether they misled ratings agencies about mortgage securities, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is trying to figure out if banks provided the agencies with false information in order to get better ratings on the risky securities, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation has not been made public.

Cuomo's office is investigating Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, UBS AG, Citigroup Inc., Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Credit Agricole and Merrill Lynch, which is now part of Bank of America Corp.

Representatives from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Credit Agricole declined to comment. Others were not immediately available comment.

During the housing boom, Wall Street banks often packaged pools of risky subprime mortgages together. The securities were then typically given top-notch ratings and investors purchased them, in part, because of their high ratings.

The ratings, given out by Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, are used as a guide for investors to judge how risky an investment might be.

As the housing market collapsed and more customers fell behind on repaying their mortgages, the securities began to fail.

The securities have been widely blamed for exacerbating the credit crisis and costing investors and the banks themselves billions of dollars in losses. The ratings agencies have come under fire for having given such high ratings to securities that soured.

The attorney general's probe comes as federal regulators are investigating whether some of the banks misled investors when marketing and selling the securities and other investments that were tied to mortgages.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goldman Sachs with fraud over its packaging of mortgage securities. Goldman is facing a separate criminal investigation into the same securities. Goldman has denied the charges and plans to defend itself.

Earlier this week it was reported that federal prosecutors are investigating whether Morgan Stanley misled investors about its role in a pair of $200 million derivatives whose performance was tied to mortgage-backed securities.

The increased scrutiny over how banks managed, packaged and portrayed mortgage securities and derivatives comes as Congress discusses a major overhaul of financial regulations. Politicians have said an overhaul would add more transparency to investments and trading.

Clearing the Air in the Senate

Clearing the Air in the Senate

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As corporate CEOs and environmentalists stood beside them, Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman unveiled their long-awaited climate-change bill at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Missing was Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who had worked with the two New Englanders on the bill until a few weeks ago. Graham opted to stay away because Democratic leaders have said they wanted to put a rush on immigration reform legislation. But his presence was felt in the content of the climate-change bill, which takes a sector-by-sector approach to cutting carbon emissions and provides rebates to consumers to soften the impact of higher energy prices.

Under the bill, carbon emissions would be cut by 17 percent in 2020 and by more than 80 percent in 2050.

The legislation also calls for investments in renewable energy, while providing incentives for nuclear power, clean-coal technologies, and even offshore drilling for oil. States would receive 37.5 percent of revenue from new offshore oil and gas leases in areas that previously were off limits.

New protections were added to the bill’s drilling section, however, following the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The legislation provides states with the right to ban drilling within 75 miles of their coastline. If Interior Department studies show nearby states could be affected by an oil spill, they could block new offshore oil wells as well.

The bill was a product of six months of consensus-building efforts, which Kerry said vastly improved the bill’s chances.

Companies that opposed every previous bill to cap carbon emissions support this legislation, he noted. Kerry said several Republicans have told him privately that they like the bill’s approach.

“The path to 60 votes in the Senate has been long, but despite Washington conventional wisdom, we are closer than ever to a breakthrough,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “We’re going to get it done this year.”

“We would not be here today if we did not feel that, with the help of the people here, we can and will adopt the America Power Act in this session of Congress,” said Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut.

Jim Rogers, chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, was one of the people standing with Kerry and Leiberman. The electric utility executive said the legislation “gives our industry the road map we need to go forward.” It will lead to a clean system of power generation “in a manner that protects family budgets and protects American factories that depend on affordable power,” he said.

The legislation sets a floor and a ceiling for the price of carbon and establishes a system for selling and trading carbon permits among electric utilities, large manufacturers, and other major emitters of greenhouse gases.

Reaction from Washington’s lobbyists for the business community was mixed. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been reviled by environmentalists for its opposition to previous cap-and-trade bills, said it appreciated the work of the three senators “to constructively engage the business community on these issues.”

But the bill is a “work in progress,” noted Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s top lobbyist. “It will be critical to determine how this bill will impact a broad range of industries as well as America’s energy security,” he said.

Associated General Contractors of America criticized the legislation because it would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to continue regulating greenhouse-gas emissions by industries not covered by the new cap-and-trade system.

“By allowing the EPA a virtually free hand to approve or deny construction projects, the bill creates regulatory obstacles that will raise construction costs, delay projects, and stifle demand,” said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the construction trade association.

The environmental community also was split over the legislation. Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp called the bill “the best opportunity we have ever had to achieve real, meaningful change,” but some environmentalists thought Kerry made too many concessions in his effort to get a bipartisan bill.

“It’s not accurate to call this a climate bill,” said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s energy program. “This is nuclear-energy-promoting, oil-drilling-championing, coal-mining-boosting legislation with a weak carbon-pricing mechanism thrown in.”

Hersh asserts US troops executing prisoners

US troops executing prisoners in Afghanistan, journalist says

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The journalist who helped break the story that detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were being tortured by their US jailers told an audience at a journalism conference last month that American soldiers are now executing prisoners in Afghanistan.

New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh also revealed that the Bush Administration had developed advanced plans for a military strike on Iran.

At the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva, Hersh criticized President Barack Obama, and alleged that US forces are engaged in "battlefield executions."

"I'll tell you right now, one of the great tragedies of my country is that Mr. Obama is looking the other way, because equally horrible things are happening to prisoners, to those we capture in Afghanistan," Hersh said. "They're being executed on the battlefield. It's unbelievable stuff going on there that doesn't necessarily get reported. Things don't change.:

"What they've done in the field now is, they tell the troops, you have to make a determination within a day or two or so whether or not the prisoners you have, the detainees, are Taliban," Hersh added. "You must extract whatever tactical intelligence you can get, as opposed to strategic, long-range intelligence, immediately. And if you cannot conclude they're Taliban, you must turn them free.

"What it means is, and I've been told this anecdotally by five or six different people, battlefield executions are taking place," he continued. "Well, if they can't prove they're Taliban, bam. If we don't do it ourselves, we turn them over to the nearby Afghan troops and by the time we walk three feet the bullets are flying. And that's going on now."

The video of Hersh was uploaded to Michael Moore's YouTube account Tuesday.

Hersh has a long history as an investigative journalist and worked for many years at The New York Times. In 1969, he broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

This video is from YouTube, broadcast May 11, 2010.


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Chemtrails: The Consequences of Toxic Metals and Chemical Aerosols on Human Health

Chemtrails: The Consequences of Toxic Metals and Chemical Aerosols on Human Health

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For decades, we have known that heavy metals and chemicals can cause grave physical harm. Going back to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” we have known and been amply warned of the serious consequences of using or being exposed to these poisons in our daily activities. Thousands of these are well-documented carcinogens.

Building on Carson’s ground-breaking research, we also know that certain kinds of chemicals can and do disrupt human [and other animals’] entire immune system. Going back 30 years, researchers were investigating what became known as endocrine [hormone] disrupting chemicals and how they were affecting frogs [who sometimes had five legs or hermaphroditic characteristics], other aquatic animals, and mammals. These animals were the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. In another pioneering book, “Our Stolen Future,” authors Dr. Theo Colburn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers clearly demonstrate that 1 + 1 hormone-disrupting chemicals did not equal 2. Rather, in a nightmare of mathematical proportions, these poisons acted synergistically; and 1+1 could equal up to 1,600 times the original dose. We are also exposed to more than 100,000 chemicals regularly. Most of them have never been tested for human safety. So, almost nothing has been done to reduce human exposure to a myriad of hazardous chemicals. In fact, over the past decade, the Bush administration dismantled many environmental laws in existence for 30 years, to let corporations off the proverbial hook. [Just look at what’s unfolding in the Gulf with the BP oil spill.]

Although this information, on the dangers of hormone disruption, is now more widely available on Internet sites, it still is not well known by the average person who gets news mostly from mainstream media.(1) Most of these highly toxic chemicals are invisible; and, therefore, are easily off our collective radar. With the high stress level created by the deliberately orchestrated financial crisis --where millions have lost their jobs and homes– a degraded/collapsing environment or serious health problems are not priorities –especially, if very little is reported in mainstream news. This disaster scenario is part of the larger picture of what Naomi Klein writes about in her book “The Shock Doctrine.” We have so many major crises, one after another, that it is hard just to keep up with one’s daily routine –let alone have time to read and consider the toxicological health ramifications of massive amounts of thousands of heavy metals and chemicals that have poisoned our entire food chain and, thus, our own supposed “health.” We are at the very top of this wrecked food chain.

Now, however, there is another far more insidious layer of toxicity that is not being addressed at all in any mainstream, corporate-controlled news, and it is affecting our very survival. It is, however, being addressed more and more by independent researchers who have supporting evidence to back up their Internet reports.

For more than a decade, first the United States and then Canada’s citizens have been subjected to a 24/7/365 day aerosol assault over our heads made of a toxic brew of poisonous heavy metals, chemicals, and other dangerous ingredients. None of this was reported by any mainstream media. The US Department of Defense [DOD] and military have been systematically blanketing all our skies with what are known as Chemtrails (also known as Stratospheric Aerosol Geoengineering).(2) These differ vastly from the usual plane contrails that evaporate rather quickly in the sky. Chemtrails do not dissipate. Rather, planes (fitted with special nozzles) release aerosols “lines” in the sky that do not evaporate. Multiple planes are deployed, flying parallel (or often “checkerboard” patterns) overhead; and soon the sky is blanketed with many grayish-white lines [miles and miles long, although this is changing]. At first, these lines are thin; but soon they expand and, in a short time, merge together. Our once-blue sky has vanished and has been replaced by a grayish-white toxic haze that blots out and greatly diminishes our usual sunshine.

Military and commercial planes are involved in more than 60 secret operations. Last year, when I flew across the country, I saw a United Airlines jet (flying below us at about 37,000 feet) spraying a black aerosol that went for miles and miles across the sky. This clandestine program now includes aerosol-spraying planes in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand [all NATO countries]. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people have called and written their public officials to get answers. Replies from US and Canadian officials are not forthcoming; or, if they do reply, queries are dismissed. This remains an ongoing, deliberate cover-up. No one is held accountable, while we continued to be poisoned daily. This is not the first time, however, that citizens are being used as experimental laboratory test subjects. The US government and its military have a very long and sordid history of using us, without informed consent, in this illegal manner. As Carole Pellatt notes:

The U.S. military has been spraying chemical and biological weapons in open air testing over civilian populations since the 1940’s. They are called “vulnerability tests”. This is not a controversial statement. The military has admitted to this practice on many occasions and there’s plenty of documentation from the government to corroborate it. There is also documentation of intentional, experimental releases of radiation on civilian populations. Unfortunately, this information tends to surface long after it could have saved lives, or eased the suffering of victims.(3)

Over the past decade, independent testing of Chemtrails around the country has shown a dangerous, extremely poisonous brew that includes: barium, nano aluminum-coated fiberglass [known as CHAFF], radioactive thorium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, desiccated blood, mold spores, yellow fungal mycotoxins, ethylene dibromide, and polymer fibers. Barium can be compared to the toxicity of arsenic.(4) Barium is known to adversely affect the heart. Aluminum has a history of damaging brain function. Independent researchers and labs continue to show off-the-scale levels of these poisons. A few “anonymous” officials have acknowledged this on-going aerosol spraying.(5)

Numerous tests have been done to verify that these poisons are off the scale in their toxicity. They are documented in our water, in our soil, and in our air. For more than 10 years, researcher Clifford Carnicom has been valiantly and systematically reporting on the various detrimental aspects of these aerosols –and what they are doing to our entire environment, as well as our blood.(6) Various “sky watch” groups also have been carefully documenting and diligently reporting about these daily assaults.(7)

With all these poisons surrounding our every breath, it is not surprising to see a dramatic increase in illnesses. There are numerous reports of the increase in cardiac deaths and upper respiratory illnesses (asthma, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, and often multiple chronic illnesses). Chemtrails toxicity has already dramatically affected our deteriorating “collective health.” The significant increase in heart disease and various upper respiratory illnesses has been linked to a vast increase in “particulate matter” in our air. This can be seen by some revealing statistics:

1. Coronary heart disease is now the leading cause of death in the US. According to the CDC, in 2006, 631,636 died of heart disease. This means 1 out of every 5 Americans are affected.(8)

In Canada, every seven minutes someone dies of heart disease.(9)

2. Asthma and upper respiratory illnesses. Between 100-150 million people suffer from asthma worldwide. In the US, 16.4 million adults have asthma and 7 million children have it. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema: 9.8 million Americans were diagnosed with chronic bronchitis this past year; for emphysema the figure is 3.8 million.(10) Total: 37 million Americans afflicted.

In Canada, 2.4 million have been diagnosed with asthma.

3. Particulate matter in air pollution. Particulate matter [PM] consists of tiny particles 10 microns or less. [1 micron is about 1/70 the thickness of a single human hair.] These particles can lodge in the deepest part of your lungs; and over a period of time, they can damage lung function. This kind of pollution, that we breathe daily, can and does cause various upper respiratory illnesses, coronary heart disease, and premature aging and death. Particulate matter can also exacerbate any existing illness.(11) Unanswered questions: Does hazardous particulate matter act in synergistic ways in human bodies (as do endocrine disrupting chemicals)? How does PM affect millions who already have multiple chronic illnesses?

Brain Injury


Even with the increases in preventable illnesses, the issue that has not been linked or addressed –with what Clifford Carnicom rightly calls “aerosol crimes”– is the deterioration of cognitive function. Our immune system is already under siege daily; and this has resulted in millions (possibly billions) of people with not just one illness, but often multiple ones. The skin, the largest organ in our body, is a permeable membrane. This means that invisible toxins in our air, including Chemtrails and other highly dangerous chemicals, go right into our skin. Poisoned rainwater (or snow touching our skin) does the same thing. When the air we breathe is filled with a dangerous assortment of toxins, with each breath we take, these poisons assault our entire immune system. These poisons also affect our brain and, thus, our cognitive function.

Aluminum is a major component in these aerosols. Although it is our planet’s most abundant metal, our body has no biological need for it. Pesticide Action Network North America [PANNA] lists it as “toxic to humans, including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and acute toxicity.”(12) Yet, aluminum is commonly used [this is a very short list] in vaccines, deodorants and anti-perspirants, over-the-counter medications, soft drink and beer cans [aluminum leeches from the cans], baking powder, cake mixes, processed cheeses, and other food products and additives. Over years, aluminum accumulates in the brain, tissues, and to a lesser amount the bones. It causes brain degeneration, dysfunction and damage –due to the blockage and reduced blood flow and oxygen of brain arteries. The brain shrinks, as brain cells die. This causes dementia. Symptoms include: emotional outbursts, paranoia, forgetfulness and memory loss, speech incoherence, irritability, diminished alertness, changes in personality, and poor/bad judgment. All these are on the rise, as more than 4-million Americans are afflicted. Brain deterioration and dementia take decades to cause serious and visible harm. Eventually, however, dementia is fatal. “Alzheimer’s” is now being used incorrectly as a catch-all term for all kinds of dementia. Just a few days ago, the front page of the New York Times had a headline: “More with Dementia Wander from Home.”(13) People afflicted with, what the Times terms “Alzheimer’s” were interviewed. One person mentioned he “has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.” This is patently wrong. Alzheimer’s dementia can only be accurately diagnosed after death when a post-mortem can be done. However, heavy metals poisoning can be diagnosed through lab testing; but this is rarely done for basic check-ups.

What is not addressed in this increase in dementia is the more than 10 years of breathing Chemtrails with nano aluminum-coated fiberglass. Billions of tons have been sprayed on us.

With all these sources of aluminum added to the air we breathe with each breath, the cumulative toxicity is very high. Even in daily events, it is obvious –to anyone who is paying attention– that many people are behaving oddly. While it may be considered “anecdotal” reporting, there are millions of people whose behavior is strange. There have been numerous times in just the past year when I have asked someone a question and received an answer that is totally unrelated. There have been more and more uncontrolled outbursts in public areas: someone “snaps” for no apparent reason. Violence levels are up. Look at all the shootings on school campuses. There are more unexplained auto accidents that never should have happened. In just one day a few weeks ago, I witnessed three traffic accidents that need not have happened. The news is full of these stories.

Add to this already highly toxic body burden is the US military’s use of aluminum in its aerosols. It is used because of its electrical conductivity, durability, and light weight. The US Air Force reported in 1997 that it released “2 million, 6-7 ounce bundles of CHAFF.” These are laid by military aircraft form 15-50 miles in length.(14) Another unanswered question: Why is the USAF not releasing up-to-date figures?

A 2002 report notes that: “over the last 25 years, the US Navy [has released from planes] several hundred thousand pounds of aluminized chaff during flight operations over a training area on the Chesapeake Bay.”(15) If the Navy used hundreds of thousands of pounds in just this small area of the US, what could be extrapolated for the release of possibly billions of tons of nano aluminum by all the military divisions throughout the US and Canada more recently than 2002? CHAFF is being stored that has lead in it. Has that been released, without our knowledge, and added to these aerosols? What enormous, yet invisible, harm has that created for all of us?

Dr. Hildegarde Staninger reported last year that “exposure to aerial emissions of nano composite materials resulted in cholinesterase inhibition.”(16) The human body has three kinds of cholinesterase: for the brain, for plasma (manufactured by the liver), and red blood cells. Some pesticides and nerve gases (such as VX, an organophosphate) inhibit cholinesterase. The chronic inhibition of this enzyme (that normally circulates in red blood cells), caused by the spraying of these Chemtrails aerosols [for weather modification, but also used for mosquito and other insect eradication], causes chronic poisoning. This exposure causes severe neurological disorders, including paralysis in humans.

In a ground-breaking 2003 online essay, Dr. Kaye Kilburn, asks: “Why is Chemical Brain Injury Ignored?”(17) His article lists 13 concealed factors that affect our willingness to believe that dangerous chemicals do affect the brain. They include: 1. “It’s all in your head” [meaning real symptoms are ignored by allopathic medicine].

2. Resistance to vulnerability [individuals, and society collectively, cannot believe the brain is at risk].

3. The acceptance of mind-altering prescription drugs [such as Paxil] that can and do affect the brain [millions are on anti-depressants –what long-term damage does that also do to cognitive thinking?].

4. Chemical brain injury is considered not to be “an imminent threat.”

5. Competition from other serious threats [causing indifference or denial];

6. Delay in acknowledging health risks.

7. Economic interests [delaying tactics by big corporations are well known –delay continues profits and ignores taking responsibility –We are all expendable for corporate profits].

8. The field of neurology has been slow to consider causes [how many independent researchers are left who do not have any ties to the pharmaceutical/chemical companies?].

In all these valuable reasons for not addressing this human crisis, the one that Dr. Kilburn has not addressed directly is the chronic assault of breathing/absorbing these now billions of tons of hazardous aerosolized chemicals and heavy metals over more than a decade without our informed consent. When one does not look for or address primary causes, then other issues can be blamed. This, on top of a government’s silence or refusal to respond and the corporate media’s complicity, make for an extremely dangerous combination that puts us all at grave and daily risk. As brain function is diminished, and other things are blamed for it, any population is easier “to control.”

Dr. Kiburn’s research clearly shows that chemicals do affect and seriously harm the brain [and, thereby, cognitive function]. Chemicals –especially a daily onslaught of toxic chemicals over many years– can damage our ability to think clearly. Even if we find this hard to believe, the evidence is there. Dr. Kilburn has expanded this essay into the first book to research this: “Chemical Brain Injury” (published in 1998). Dr. Kilburn notes:

The brain’s preservation represents the only possibility of survival for mankind. To find in many parts of the country and in many individual patients that its function is eroded seriously by chemicals, chemicals that have been introduced into the environment basically in the last 50 years, is bad news indeed.(18)

It seems almost unbelievable that millions/billions of people could look up at the sky and not notice the dramatic changes that have occurred from what it was, for instance, in the mid-1990s. Then our sky was a gorgeous, deep blue. Clouds were a beautiful assortment of shapes. The sun was glorious. But people under 30, may not have a real sense of recollection about looking up every day and seeing this panoramic magnificence. Most of them are too busy texting or chatting on their cell phones. There are other issues to consider, as well: People are in their own comfort zones; and denial is a very powerful human emotion. In the hustle and bustle (now quite out of hand, for reflective time), how many people look up at the sky? It also takes huge courage, a very deep, internal willingness to examine politically motivated corporate controlled media spin, and search for the real answers. Humans like their regular routines. To re-examine what we think we know, based on new evidence, takes a willingness to think outside the proverbial box; to want to find out the truth –not the pervasive Orwellian doublespeak that pervades our society. If everything in our daily routine belies what is truly going on, it requires fortitude to explore the unknown –to question the litany.

Another courageous person is Dr. R. Michael Castle who continues to address the Chemtrails toxicity issue. He is a noted polymer chemist who has been interviewed frequently and has written articles about the extreme hazards of Chemtrails. Dr. Castle has also written a ground-breaking document, the Universal Atmospheric Preservation Act [UAPA]. This document has been in Congress since 2008; but is tied up in committee. The only way to have this vital piece of legislation passed is to have real congressional representatives actually representing us (instead of the corporate lobbyists). See:

http://anticcorruptionsociety.files.wordpress.com/22010/04/the-unified-atmospheric-preservation-act.pdf

Given these issues, since our collapsing society has so many different levels of deceit –the financial debacle, the lies and deceit of government and the Federal Reserve blaming people for the housing/mortgage nightmare, the emerging police state, the disasters that envelope our fragile environment– it becomes increasingly difficult just to maintain a daily routine and survive the economic depression and its daily fallout. Mainstream media does its supporting role and deceives us. Millions, like the proverbial lemmings, hasten to join the group demise. There are countless historical instances of this collective insanity. We Homo sapiens [sic, wise men?] have never learned the lessons of 5,000 years of history. This is because each new generation of corrupt political leaders (often tied historically to previous ones) never has the real interest of their constituents as a basic part of their political practice. Further, there is no Precautionary Principle in place.(19) It’s not the way the political game of deception works. Precaution is not part of an equation that is broken from the beginning. Humans are gullible and want to believe the Orwellian deceptions.

To add to this already heavy burden, to ask uninformed, although supposedly “well educated” [What does that actually mean, given that much of our higher education has omitted much of what Prof. Peter Dale Scott calls “deep political events” that never get into our history books?] people to reconsider what they think they know about what is really going on –this takes enormous internal strength. It requires profound courage. The basis of this “courage” actually means creating new synaptical pathways in the brain. Without them, we feel scared, nervous…because those new synapses have not yet been created. It takes repeated effort, and, thus, an emerging sense of ease, to create these new synapses.

If, however, millions of people are already on prescription pharmaceuticals to “calm them down” [long term, what is this doing to their ability to think clearly?] and, in addition, are breathing poisoned air rife with mind-distorting chemicals, then how clearly (if at all) is anyone able to think? How can anyone feel well and safe, if the very air we breathe is deliberately poisoned and is affecting our ability to think cogently? It is already evident that no one in any official capacity is willing to tell the truth. It is like Diogenes, the ancient Greek, searching for a truthful individual. No one seems to have the desire, or courage, or authority to stop this massive poisoning, because it is the secret plan of the elite insiders to deliberate destroy everything we once knew.

Our BASIC human rights, constitutional and international laws are mere paper. These rights and laws have all been torn asunder by those in charge. It has been done by stealth. We must organize peacefully. PEACEFULLY is the operative word. If these many-pronged aerosol attacks by military and commercial planes can spray these horrific toxins on us, year after year with impunity –against all laws– then it is absolutely imperative that we organize peacefully. As Peter Dale Scott notes in Jason Bermas’ new DVD “Invisible Empire”: we must use the Internet and our peaceful intellectual powers to come together and shut this nightmare down. It is possible to do this.


Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri is author of the highly acclaimed book, “The Uterine Crisis.”

Notes


1. See: www.ourstolenfuture.org

2. See Michael J. Murphy. “What in the World Are They Spraying?” March 3, 2010: www.countercurrents.org/murphy030310.htm ; and G. Edward Griffin. “Chemtrail vs. Contrail” April 14, 2010: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsWpSPBwA-w

3. Carole Pellatt. Connections. “What’s going on in the air? Yes, we are being sprayed.” Aug. 8m 2007:

http://homepage.mac.com/carolepellatt/yeswearebeingsprayed ; and

http://homepage.mac.com/carolepellatt/MATRIX/INDEXCHEMTRAILS.html

4. See Pesticide Action Network North America [PANNA]: http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC41174

5. March 12, 2010:

www.lightwatcher.com/chemtrails/text/faa_confirms_Chemtrails. An interesting conference at the University of California, San Diego [UCSD], “Atmospheric Aerosols: Health, Environment, and Climate Effects” addresses some of the cardio-vascular increases due to “atmospheric aerosols” but these academics never use the word Chemtrails. Yet, satellite photos they show clearly indicate the atmospheric impact of Chemtrails. See: Jan. 31, 2008: UCSD: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztHV5RF-xyw

6. For numerous detailed reports, see: www.carnicom.com; www.carnicominstitute.org; www.bariumblues.com; and Dr. Marijah McCain. “Chemtrails and Barium Toxicity.” April 6, 2002: www.rense.com/general21/tox.htm ; Material Safety Data Sheet, University of Utah: www.chemtrails911.com/docs/bariumhealth.htm. This last cited website is very outdated. It does not address the increased amounts of barium now found in our air. Additional info: “Local News Station Confirms Barium in Chemtrails.” Nov. 10, 2007: www.youtube.com/watch?v=okB-489l6MI

7. See: www.newyorkskywatch.com; www.californiaskywatch.com ; www.arizonaskywatch.com

8. Heart Disease Facts. CDC; www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

9. www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3483991/k.34A8/Statistics.htm#heartdisease

10. Asthma. CDC: www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/asthma.htm; and chronic bronchitis and emphysema: CDC: www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/copd.htm

11. Rosalind Peterson’s report: “The impacts of air pollution on health.” www.californiaskywatch.com/health_issues.htm

12. PANNA: www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC33881

13. May 4, 2010: www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/us/05search.html?hpw

14. [14. See: Rosalind Peterson. “Public and federal agencies concerned about the potentially harmful or undesirable effects of chaff on the environment.” www.californiaskywatch.com/documents/htmldocs/chaff_goa_dod.htm]

15. “Effects of Navy chaff release on aluminum levels in an area of the Chesapeake Bay.” PubMed. US National Library of Medicine. June 2002: www.ncbi.nl.nih.gov/pubmed/12061831

16. Sept. 7, 2009: www.hildegarde-staninger.com/exposure-to-aerial-emissions-html

17. Kaye H. Kilburn. “Why is Chemical Brain Injury Ignored. Pondering Causes and Risks.” Editorial. Archives of Environmental Health. March 1, 2003: www.mindfully.org/Health/2003/Chemical-Brain-Injury1mar03.htm

18. www.neuro-test.com/aboutKilburn/aboutKilburn.html

19. Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri. “Worldwide Environmental Crisis. Gone Missing: The Precautionary Principle.” Global Research. Feb. 11, 2009: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=12268

Obama: US military faces "hard fighting" in Afghanistan war

US military faces “hard fighting” in Afghanistan war

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Washington this week, culminating in a May 12 meeting and joint press appearance with Barack Obama at the White House, was an exercise in public relations and image building, which required denying or covering up the mounting tensions between Washington and its puppet in Kabul.

The basic premise of the visit—that Karzai represents a sovereign government and meets with Obama and other top US officials on the basis of equality—is a fraud. A former middle-ranking diplomat for the Taliban regime, Karzai was handpicked for the presidency by the Bush administration, and retained in office by the Obama administration for lack of any viable alternative. He is regarded with contempt and hostility by virtually all top US officials in Washington.

After Karzai aides engaged in blatant electoral fraud to gain his second term in office in last September’s presidential election, relations between Washington and Kabul seemed to hit bottom. But with Obama’s decision in December to mount a massive escalation of US troop strength in the course of this year, with an additional 30,000 combat forces, the US has been compelled to reinforce its commitment to propping up Karzai and his henchmen.

The major events of the Washington visit have been stage-managed to soothe tensions and reassure the Afghan president of US backing and esteem. These include a full day at the State Department with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an evening dinner at the home of Vice President Joseph Biden, Wednesday’s ceremonies at the White House, and a visit by Karzai to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he commiserated with a handful of American soldiers maimed in the course of the war.

No less than 20 cabinet ministers and senior aides accompanied Karzai on the trip, prompting one press commentator to observe that Karzai had brought every top official who wasn’t barred from entry into the United States as a suspected drug trafficker or war criminal.

Given the length of the visit, a full five days, there was doubtless time for some of these officials to make discreet cash deposits in their US bank accounts, or put down payments on choice real estate so they have somewhere to hide out if forced to flee their own country by the growing anti-American insurgency.

It was notable that at a joint press briefing with Karzai at the State Department, Secretary Clinton listed among his accomplishments the fact that Kabul now has its own American Chamber of Commerce, a declaration that underscored the semi-colonial character of the US-backed regime.

Clinton expressed regret that the press did not report such achievements, leading Karzai to respond, “Perhaps we should do a better job of talking to the media, or — if I may say — of managing the media.”

This seemed to be the watchword for President Obama as well, since his “joint press conference” with Karzai, described as a diplomatic honor awarded only the most important visitors, consisted of a grand total of four questions, two each by US and Afghan reporters. One of the “Afghan” questions for Karzai came from the Afghanistan correspondent of Voice of America—in effect, one employee of the US government questioning another, while their commander-in-chief looked on.

The substance of Obama-Karzai press briefing came in two comments. In his opening statement, President Obama declared that US troops would face “hard fighting over the next several months,” when thousands of Army soldiers and Marines are expected to launch a major offensive against Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city and the Taliban’s main urban stronghold.

Later, in response to a question by CNN reporter Suzanne Malveaux, Obama reiterated the long-term character of the US military role in Afghanistan. Malveaux asked him “how close we are to winning this war in Afghanistan, and whether or not you’ll be able to meet your goal of pulling out the majority of U.S. troops by July of 2011.”

Malveaux’s question misstated administration policy, according to which July 2011 is the deadline for pulling out at least a few US troops, not the majority, and Obama was quick to reiterate this fact.

He replied: “First of all, let’s be clear about what July 2011 represents. What I have said is that having put in more troops over the last several months in order to break the momentum of the Taliban, that beginning in 2011, July, we will start bringing those troops down and turning over more and more responsibility to Afghan security forces that we are building up.”

In other words, US troop strength in Afghanistan, now building towards a total of 100,000, could remain at or near that level more or less indefinitely, depending on the course of the war and the stability of the Karzai regime.

Obama and Karzai agreed on a calendar of actions for the next several months, beginning with the Kandahar offensive, expected to begin in a matter of weeks, then a “peace jirga” aimed at wooing low-ranking insurgents to reconcile with the government, followed by a July conference of major imperialist powers participating in the military and financial effort to prop up Kabul, and then parliamentary elections in September.

The elections in particular are fraught with danger, given Karzai’s record of blatant vote-rigging in last year’s presidential ballot. The majority of the current parliament is held by Karzai’s political opponents, including the former Northern Alliance, based in the Tajik minority, and other minority ethnic groups. Any effort by Karzai to rig the parliamentary elections to insure control by his own loyalists could produce a new outbreak of civil war in those provinces that have been comparatively untouched by the Taliban-led insurgency, which is based in the Pashtun-speaking region.

While Obama downplayed the friction between the Karzai government and his own, calling press reports “simply overstated,” there was further evidence of the ongoing tensions.

At the first press briefing held after Karzai’s arrival in Washington, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, retired general Karl Eikenberry, was asked about his previous criticism of the Afghan president, including a diplomatic cable last fall which blasted Karzai’s regime as corrupt and unreliable.

“President Karzai is the elected president of Afghanistan,” Eikenberry replied. “Afghanistan is a close friend and ally, and of course I highly respect President Karzai in that capacity.” At this point, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs jumped in to prevent any follow-up.

The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that Karzai was “pressing the Obama administration to designate Afghanistan as a significant US ally and to draft a new security agreement.” The official designation of Afghanistan as a “major non-NATO ally” would put the regime on the same footing as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Pakistan and Israel, and is considered highly unlikely for a government that cannot even pay its own troops.

The Times noted that Karzai and Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak were concerned that the government would be unable to sustain the cost of the Afghan army in the event of a US draw down of forces. In other words, they are concerned that the US financial spigot, from which all the top Afghan officials have drunk deeply, may ultimately be turned off.

Meanwhile a report by the International Crisis Group, reported by McClatchy News on Tuesday, found that the Afghan National Army was “riddled with corruption, ethnic friction and rivalries among its highest leaders.” The report warns that these problems “could risk the army’s disintegration after the withdrawal of international forces.”

Egypt gripped by social unrest

Egypt gripped by social unrest

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On May 11, the Egyptian parliament approved a presidential decree extending the state of emergency for a further two-year period.

It follows a rising tide of political protests, demonstrations and sit-ins outside parliament in recent days, with some protesters camping out on the pavement for weeks.

On May 3, 100 political activists and opposition members of parliament gathered in Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square to march to the People’s Assembly some 300 metres away to demand political reforms. They were calling for an end to the emergency laws that have been in place since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and which are up for renewal later this month. They were also demanding the release of prisoners of conscience, and constitutional reforms that would break President Hosni Mubarak’s monopoly on power.

The emergency laws outlaw demonstrations, allow the police to jail political activists, opponents and journalists, sanction long detentions without trial and searches without warrants. Recent restrictions on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have enabled the government to clamp down on trade unions and labour organisations.

The Minister of the Interior, Habib Al Adli, declared the march illegal as it did not have permission required under emergency law. Hundreds of police surrounded the demonstrators, penned them in the public garden and beat up protesters who tried to break through the security barrier.

Hassan Nashaat al-Qasas, a member of parliament and of the governing party, called on the interior minister to kill the protesters, saying, “Instead of using water hoses to disperse them, the police ought to shoot them; they deserve it.”

Al Qasas added, “In case a street demonstration which was licensed by the Interior Ministry becomes a big danger to security, police officers, instead of using water hoses to disperse it, should shoot directly ... execute ... execute because demonstrators in this case are outlaws.”

A large group of disabled people in wheelchairs have been camped out for nearly two months, demanding jobs, housing, special services, transport and health care.

On May 2, 1,000 political activists and workers demonstrated against Mubarak’s government, occupying Hussein Hegazi Street for three hours. They were demanding an increase in the national minimum wage to E£1,200 ($222).

Egypt’s minimum wage was set at E£35 ($6.50) a month in 1984 and has never been changed. When bonuses, incentives and annual increases are included, the minimum monthly salary of government employees and public sector workers is about E£289 ($53). Many private sector employees earn much less. Even when all incentives and bonuses are included, this is still too low to meet the most basic living expenses. As prices have risen and pay has remained unchanged, at least 44 percent of Egypt’s 82 million population now live below the poverty line of $2 per day.

A study published last June by the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies (ECES) concluded, “When minimum wage is related to per capita GNP (gross national product), it appears that this rate has decreased from nearly 60 percent in 1984 to 19.4 percent in 1991/92 and further to 13 percent in 2007.... When the ratio of minimum wage to per capita GNP is compared to other countries, it appears amongst the lowest.”

Egypt’s minimum wage is just 13 percent of per capita GNP, compared with 26 percent in Spain, 51 percent in France and 78 percent in Turkey. ECES called for the minimum wage to be set at 25 percent of per capita GNP.

While Egypt established the National Council for Wages (NCW) in 2003 to bring salaries in line with the cost of living, employers, including the government that employs 6.3 million, have lobbied hard to prevent any increase in the minimum monthly wage beyond E£400 ($74).

Last March ECES secured a court order, ordering the government to set a new minimum wage of about $222 a month for a family of five. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif has refused to even discuss a rise and protests have mounted.

Without price controls, even an E£733 minimum wage is insufficient as inflation has soared. Inflation reached 23 percent in July 2008 and remained high throughout 2009. Food prices have risen astronomically. Meat prices rose by 10 percent in the last month, leading to a one-day meat boycott by restaurants in protest. This was due in part to a rise in animal foodstuffs last year, which led Egyptian farmers to slaughter some of their livestock. After an initial glut, prices soared. The cost of imported meat has risen and meat traders have profiteered from the shortages. Earlier this year, a shortage of cooking oil in government shops led to a soaring black market.

Egyptians are forced to work multiple jobs because salaries are so low. Last year, a survey of 73 cities worldwide by UBS, the Swiss investment bank, showed that residents of Cairo worked the most hours—2,373 per year compared to an average of 1,902 in the other cities.

Two years ago there were riots when the price of bread rose by just a few cents. A dozen people were killed across Egypt in clashes with security forces.

It is low wages that account for just 36 percent of Egypt’s GNP that has led to the escalation of strikes and demonstrations.

While these protests are small, they reflect the social inequality that lies at the heart of Egypt’s worsening economic and political tensions. The government has embraced market reforms, Special Economic Zones and Qualifying Industrial Zones in a bid to become the “China of the Mediterranean”. Egypt’s low wages, anti-trade union legislation and systematic abuse of human rights have made it an attractive recipient of foreign direct investment in Africa, second only to South Africa. Foreign direct investment from China reached more than $500 million by 2009, while China is expected to become Egypt’s largest trading partner in 2010.

Egypt’s economy grew by 7 percent a year before the onset of the global financial meltdown in 2008—compared to a 3.9 percent rate in 2000-2001. This year, GDP is projected to grow by about 5.4 percent. But this has benefited only a thin stratum, the business and military elite that form the government’s social base.

The protests in central Cairo that are now an almost daily occurrence follow a rising tide of strikes for higher wages. According to a report by the Solidarity Centre, a trade union sponsored group in Washington, 1.7 million workers engaged in 1,900 “strikes and other forms of protest” from 2004 through 2008. Joel Benin, the author of the report and a professor of Middle East history at Stanford University, said, “The current wave of protests is erupting from the largest social movement Egypt has witnessed in more than half a century.”

Estimates for 2009 suggest that there were 1,000 strikes and other forms of industrial action.

Most of the strikes, sit-ins and protests are small and isolated. They are rarely supported by the official trade unions leadership, which acts as an arm of government, and not organised at either national or local level, being typically local initiatives. While most of the strikes are in the public sector, the number of private sector strikes, where there are few trade unions, has also risen. Recent strikes have included textile workers, traditionally the most militant section of workers in Egypt, municipal tax collectors, transport and communications, building materials, construction and food processing workers.

In a recent development, some strikers have travelled to Cairo to gain wider attention and demand that the government takes action to support their claims.

In February, workers from the recently privatised Tanta Flax and Oils Company staged a strike near the cabinet building in downtown Cairo for 15 days. This was followed by a series of strikes near the People’s Assembly by public sector workers. While some of these strikes were called off, many are still continuing in front of the parliament and have become a near permanent fixture, with sidewalks strewn with strikers’ blankets, plastic bags, clothes and other items.

The government has made small concessions to some of the strikers’ demands in a bid to head off wider social unrest, raising civil service salaries by 10 percent, but not the bonuses and incentive pay that can turn an E£300 ($55) per month wage into E£1,000 pounds ($180).

The government is determined to prevent these economic protests turning political and the leaders of the industrial action from joining forces with those demanding political change. Mubarak made a remarkable admission and acknowledged in a speech last Saturday, a public holiday, that there was significant poverty and social problems. But he made it absolutely clear that he would brook no opposition to his government.

“I sincerely welcome the interplay in the society as long as it abides by laws and the Constitution, and is intended to realize the interest of Egypt”, he said. “This interaction should not turn into a conflict or a confrontation and we have to be aware of such a turn.”

“In this delicate period there can be no room for those who confuse change with chaos”, he threatened.

The protests come at a crucial point for Egypt. There are elections for the Upper House later this month, the Lower House in November and presidential elections in September next year. While the 82-year-old Mubarak, who is not in good health, has not indicated whether he will stand in the elections, it is widely assumed that he is grooming his son, Gamal Mubarak, for the presidency, a move that is deeply unpopular. Recent constitutional amendments make it impossible for anyone not from Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party to run for the presidency.

Thai government's deal with protesters breaks down

Thai government’s deal with protesters breaks down

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An agreement reached last week between the Thai government and the opposition United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) appears to have collapsed after opposition protesters made new demands and refused to disperse. Thousands of UDD demonstrators remain encamped at a fortified protest site in the Ratchaprasong commercial district of Bangkok, surrounded by troops and police.

UDD leaders last week agreed to a proposal by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and hold elections on November 14. The plan included a five-point reconciliation package: respect for the monarchy, social reforms, an independent media body and unspecified constitutional amendments. The UDD leadership, however, clearly had difficulty convincing thousands of demonstrators, mainly from the rural north and northeast, to end their two-month protest.

Last Sunday, UDD leaders demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban present himself to police to face criminal charges for his part in the failed attempt by security forces on April 10 to break up a protest site at Phan Fah bridge. Ensuing street battles left 25 dead and more than 850 injured. Suthep did report on Tuesday to the Department of Special Investigation, which is handling an inquiry into the April 10 violence, but protesters dismissed the gesture as a trick.

Yesterday the government cancelled plans to hold elections on November 14 after issuing an ultimatum the previous day for the protesters to disperse. The prime minister’s secretary, Korbsak Sabhavasu, told the Thai Public Broadcasting Service that the government would continue to carry out its duties until the end of its term next year, but would go ahead with the five-point reconciliation plan.

The government’s Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) announced that water, power and mobile phone services would be cut off to the Ratchaprasong protest site from midnight last night and warned residents to leave the area. CRES spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said: “This is the beginning of measures to fully enforce the law.”

The threat was met by defiance. UDD organiser Aree Krainara told the press that the protest site had its own generators and water supply. UDD leader Chatuporn Prompan was quoted by the BBC as saying: “If you want to crackdown you’re welcome any time. We will fight to the death.”

The cutoffs have not been enforced so far, although security forces have tightened their control over transport in the protest area. Colonel Sansern told the media that the military would “not use force at this stage,” leaving open the option of a future crackdown.

The apparent collapse of last week’s deal only heightens the country’s protracted political crisis. Bitter factional infighting within the Thai ruling elites over the past four years has drawn in layers of the urban and rural poor, who have begun to voice their own demands.

The UDD is aligned with former prime minister and telecom billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in September 2006 and is currently in exile. When the army relinquished control and held national elections in late 2007, the pro-Thaksin People Power Party (PPP) emerged as the largest party and formed the government. Anti-Thaksin protests erupted in 2008 and culminated in the occupation of Bangkok’s airports. Abhisit and his Democrat Party were installed in December 2008, with the backing of the military, after a court ruling banned the PPP on the grounds of election malpractice,

The country’s traditional ruling elites—the monarchy, the army and the state bureaucracy—had backed Thaksin’s election in 2001, but turned on him after he failed to fulfill promises to protect Thai businesses and continued to open up the economy to foreign investment. Thaksin’s methods of rule also cut across long-standing networks of patronage, on which top army officers and state bureaucrats had come to rely. He gained a following among the rural poor through a series of limited handouts as part of his stimulus measures to revive the economy.

The current UDD protests began in March after a court in February stripped Thaksin of $US1.4 billion of his $2.3 billion in personal assets over corrupt practices while in office. The UDD called for an immediate dissolution of parliament and an early election, which it calculated that Puea Thai, the latest incarnation of the pro-Thaksin party, would win.

The protests, however, have involved tens of thousands of the urban and rural poor, who have displayed considerable determination and fought street battles with troops on April 10, compelling them to retreat. In the northeast, pro-UDD supporters have blockaded rail lines and roads to prevent troops and police being shifted to Bangkok. Last weekend, thousands more “red shirted” protesters poured into the Ratchaprasong protest site in Bangkok.

The government and the military are clearly concerned that the violent suppression of the Bangkok protest would trigger broader social unrest in the north and northeast of the country. While lacking a coherent political program, various protesters have over the past two months voiced concerns about social inequality and their impoverished conditions that go well beyond the demand for an early election. Concerned that the protest was getting out of their control, the UDD leaders agreed to the compromise deal with Abhisit but appear unable to convince their supporters to end the protest.

The continuing political standoff is provoking anxieties internationally that the unrest could spread to other countries in South East Asia. The US has held a number of meetings with key leaders, including from the pro-Thaksin faction. US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell met with two of Thaksin’s former top ministers—Jaturon Chaisaeng and Noppadon Pattama—over breakfast on Sunday. The government had been invited but pulled out of the discussion at the last minute.

Campbell publicly backed the government-UDD deal, saying: “We strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s roadmap for national reconciliation and commitment for new elections. We are also encouraged by the UDD’s positive response to the roadmap. Restraint and foresight are critical for both sides at this time.” While the US has denied partisanship, articles in the Bangkok Post and Asia Times website have pointed out that Washington has been feeding intelligence on the UDD protests to Thai security forces.

The inability of the government and UDD leadership, supported by the US and other major powers, to push through their agreement and end the protests is a measure of the country’s extreme social tensions, which find no resolution within the existing political framework. While efforts will no doubt be made behind the scenes to revive the deal, the crisis is set to intensify in the days ahead.