Sunday, November 7, 2010

One Piece Of Moderately Good Economic News And 14 Pieces Of Bad Economic News That Are So Horrifying You Might Not Want To Read Them Standing Up

One Piece Of Moderately Good Economic News And 14 Pieces Of Bad Economic News That Are So Horrifying You Might Not Want To Read Them Standing Up

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Today the financial world was buzzing with excitement because there was one moderately good piece of news for the U.S. economy. U.S. employers added 151,000 jobs during the month of October and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6%. This is certainly welcome news, but these days it seems as though there are at least ten pieces of bad economic news for every hopeful economic signal. So don't get fooled when the U.S. economy takes one step forward, because it is about to take another dozen or so steps backwards. We are living in the middle of a nightmarish long-term economic decline that has been building for generations. The deindustrialization of the United States, the horrific trade deficit caused by globalization and the skyrocketing national debt are problems that have taken decades to develop. The Federal Reserve has been ripping the guts out of our financial system since 1913. These are not things that are going to be fixed overnight. In fact, there are some statistics that just keep getting worse and worse and worse as time goes by. We are heading straight for a devastating economic collapse and hopefully we can all warn as many people as possible while there is still time.

The more research that you do into our economic situation the more depressing it becomes. We are in big, big, big trouble. The following are 14 pieces of bad economic news that are so horrifying you might not want to read them standing up....

#1 More than 42 million Americans were on food stamps during the month of August. That is a new all-time record, and that number is 17 percent higher than it was one year earlier. In fact, the number of Americans on food stamps is up more than 58 percent since August 2007.

#2 The number of "persons not in the labor force" in the United States has set another new all-time record. The United States has not had such an extended bout of mass unemployment since the Great Depression. The "official" unemployment rate in the United States has been at nine and a half percent or above for 14 consecutive months.

#3 More than 1000 people now live in the 200 miles of flood tunnels that exist under the city of Las Vegas. Once one of the most prosperous cities in the United States, Las Vegas is now little more than a shiny, glittering corpse that it rapidly decaying.

#4 Poverty is absolutely exploding and it is hitting those who are the most vulnerable the hardest. According to one recent study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010.

#5 In the past 60 days alone, the price of cotton is up 54%, the price of corn is up 29%, the price of soybeans is up 22%, the price of orange juice is up 17%, and the price of sugar is up 51%.

#6 One out of every six Americans is now enrolled in at least one anti-poverty program run by the federal government.

#7 The American Bankruptcy Institute says that there will be about 1.6 million consumer bankruptcies in 2010. That would represent a huge increase over 2009.

#8 According to one recent survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.

#9 The individual U.S. states are mostly flat broke. For example, it is being reported that the 15 largest U.S. states spent on average over 220% of their tax receipts over the past decade. Clearly this is not even close to sustainable.

#10 The U.S. government is completely and totally broke. After analyzing Congressional Budget Office data, Boston University economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff concluded that the U.S. government is facing a "fiscal gap" of $202 trillion dollars.

#11 In an attempt to keep our financial system solvent, the U.S. Federal Reserve has announced plans to create $600 billion out of thin air and pump it into the U.S. economy. The Fed is calling this "quantitative easing", but what they should really be calling it is "cheating, debasing and inflating".

#12 Many of the major trading partners of the United States are expressing deep resentment regarding the new quantitative easing policy announced by the Fed. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recently described the growing animosity this way....

Li Deshui from Beijing's Economic Commission said a string of Asian states share China's "deep bitterness" over dollar debasement, and are examining ways of teaming up to insulate themselves from the tsunami of US liquidity.

#13 For many analysts, the economic collapse of the United States comes down to cold, hard math. For example, the former CEO of the tenth largest bank in the United States says that it is a "mathematical certainty" that the U.S. government will eventually go bankrupt.

#14 According to a recent article on CNBC, the financial world is already buzzing about QE3....

"They're already talking about QE3," said Dave Rovelli, managing director of US equity trading for Canaccord Adams. "Eventually we're going to be printing so much money the dollar is going to really go down and everybody's going to try to deflate their currency against us. I just don't know how this could end well."

So is that all the Federal Reserve has left?

Are they just going to keep pouring bags of money into the economy until things get back to "normal"?

Are we going to have "Quantitative Easing 3", "Quantitative Easing 4", and "Quantitative Easing 5"?

It has been a long-running joke, but perhaps by the end of this thing Ben Bernanke will literally go up in a helicopter and start shoveling out huge piles of cash over the countryside.

The era of great prosperity that we have all enjoyed for so long is coming to an end. It would be advisable to use the remaining period of economic stability that we still have to prepare for what is ahead.

These economic problems could have been fixed decades ago if people would have actually listened and would have followed sound economic principles on an individual and on a corporate level, but that did not happen.

Now we are up to our eyeballs in debt and the greatest economic machine in history is rotting all around us.

We are in deep, deep, deep trouble and denying it is not going to make it go away.

Statin drugs cause liver damage, kidney failure and cataracts, says BMJ

Statin drugs cause liver damage, kidney failure and cataracts, says BMJ

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(NaturalNews) Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs significantly increase a person's risk of cataracts, muscle weakness, liver dysfunction and kidney failure, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

The study also confirmed that the drugs lower the risk of heart disease and esophageal cancer, but claims of other health benefits were unsupported.

Researchers from Nottingham University in the United Kingdom examined data on more than 2 million patients between the ages of 30 and 84, seen at 38 different general practices, who had been prescribed the cholesterol-lowering drugs. More than 70 percent were taking simvastatin (Zocor), 22.3 percent were taking atorvastatin (Lipitor), 3.6 percent were taking pravastatin (Pravachol, Selektine), 1.9 percent were taking rosuvastatin (Crestor) and 1.4 percent were taking fluvastatin (Canef, Lescol, Lochol, Vastin).

The researchers confirmed prior data suggesting that statins increase patients' risk of cataracts, liver dysfunction, kidney failure and a form of muscle weakness known as myopathy. They found that for every 10,000 women treated with the drugs, 23 would develop acute kidney (renal) failure, 39 would develop myopathy, 74 would develop liver dysfunction and 309 would develop cataracts. Men suffered an even higher risk of myopathy, but their risks of the other three conditions were similar to those suffered by women.

Putting it in different terms, the researchers found that only 434 people would need to be treated with the drugs for five years for one case of acute renal failure to develop. It would take only 136 treated for each case of liver dysfunction and 33 for each case of cataracts. Among women, 259 would need to be treated for each case of myopathy; among men, the number was only 91.

The risk of developing all conditions was highest during the first year of treatment, but continued throughout the course of the study. Risk of liver and kidney problems increased proportionally with the dose of statins being taken.

All drugs appeared to pose a similar risk of all conditions, with the exception of fluvastatin, which increased the risk of liver dysfunction more than its competitors. Men taking fluvastatin were twice as likely to develop liver dysfunction as those not taking statins, while women's risk increased by 2.5 times.

The researchers did find, however, that the risk of cataracts returned to normal within one year of stopping statin treatment, while the risk of liver and kidney problems returned to normal within one to three years. Additionally, they found no connection between statin use and the risk of dementia, osteoporotic fracture, Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis or venous thromboembolism.

Examining the purported benefits of the drugs, researchers found that they did in fact lower the risk of heart disease, averting 271 cases for every 10,000 high-risk patients treated. Put another way, 33 high-risk men or 37 high-risk women would need to be treated with the drugs to avert one case of the disease.

Although advocates of the drugs have claimed that they may also reduce the risk cancer, the researchers found almost no data supporting these claims. The study "largely confirmed other studies that reported no clear association between statins and risk of cancers," the researchers wrote.

The only cancer-fighting effect uncovered in the study was a slightly lower risk of esophageal cancer, with eight cases averted for every 10,000 high-risk women treated. In other words, 1,266 high-risk women or 1,082 high-risk men would need to be treated with the drugs to prevent one case of esophageal cancer.

Although sales of the blockbuster drugs are unlikely to be reduced as a result of the study, the researchers encouraged closer monitoring of patients for side effects and said their findings "would tend to support a policy of using lower doses of statins in people at high risk of the adverse event."

Sources for this story include:

A loaf of wheat bread may soon cost $23 due to skyrocketing food price inflation

A loaf of wheat bread may soon cost $23 due to skyrocketing food price inflation

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(NaturalNews) Within a decade, a loaf of wheat bread may cost $23 in a grocery store in the United States, and a 32-oz package of sugar might run $62. A 64-oz container of Minute Maid Orange Juice, meanwhile, could set you back $45.71. This is all according to a new report released Friday by the National Inflation Association which warns consumers about the coming wave of food price inflation that's about to strike the western world.

Authored by Gerard Adams (no relation to myself, Mike Adams), this report makes the connection between the Fed's runaway money creation policy ("quantitative easing") and food price inflation. (

"For every economic problem the U.S. government tries to solve, it always creates two or three much larger catastrophes in the process," said Adams. "Just like we predicted this past December, the U.S. dollar index bounced in early 2010 and has been in free-fall ever since. Bernanke's QE2 will likely accelerate this free-fall into a complete U.S. dollar rout."

The upshot of a falling dollar will mean rampant price inflation on the basic goods and services that Americans depend on to survive. Food in particular is likely to be hit hard by price inflation within the decade.

The National Inflation Association has released its food price projections in a free downloadable PDF file here:

It offers statements like this: "NIA is confident that the upcoming monetization of our debt will send nearly all agricultural commodities soaring to new all time inflation adjusted highs."

The Federal Reserve, of course, is currently engaged in the most massive money counterfeiting operation the world has ever witnessed. And it seems determined to keep printing money until all the dollars the rest of us hold are near-worthless.

Even the UN sees rising food prices

It's not just the NIA that sees a future with much higher food prices, by the way: Both the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development as well as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization also predict rising food prices (although not to the same prices as the NIA).

This is based on the trend of rising energy prices which directly translate into higher costs for farming, harvesting, transporting and processing foods. Catch the details on that story at

The UK Guardian newspaper is also reporting on "soaring food prices" due to fast-rising commodity costs:

I also predicted "food disruptions" in my list of predictions published earlier this year at

(Many of those predictions have already come true, by the way!)

Make no mistake: Food prices are on the rise. And with the Fed watering down the dollar thanks to its insane money counterfeiting policies, the U.S. is headed into a price inflation / dollar deflation scenario that mean you will have to spent a lot more dollars to buy the same food in 2015 as you did in 2010. (If the dollar even exists in 2015, that is...)

What does this all mean to you and me? As the spring comes back in a few months, it might be a good time to start thinking about growing a little garden for yourself. We'll be covering this story in much more detail in the spring, including details on where to get heirloom seeds, how to practice "preparedness" gardening (or "gardening when it counts") and other similar topics.

Taking America Back to the Gilded Age

Taking America Back to the Gilded Age

Editor’s Note: This week's Republican electoral victory was driven by the GOP's ability to sell many American voters on the idea that over-reaching government -- not under-regulated business -- was primarily at fault for the nation's economic pain.

So, the solution, according to the victorious Republicans, is to curtail the efforts of government to ameliorate the suffering of the working- and middle-classes while further deregulating corporations and sparing the rich from paying higher taxes, a Gilded Age solution that harkens back to a century ago, says William Loren Katz:

It is hardly surprising that the party best able to tap these funds scored major gains and that reformers, the likes of Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, were turned out of office.

While suspicious of a repentant witch like Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell and some other Tea Party zanies, the voters fell for pro-corporatist Republicans who spouted a heroic narrative of capitalist individualism and a nostalgic version of the supposedly vibrant early 20th Century.

Rand Paul, the clearest voice of the victorious Republican Party, championed the tried-and-true values of American individualism, extolling the unregulated freedoms and robust capitalism from this earlier time.

Politicians often evoke warm and fuzzy feelings for “the good old days,” but this nostalgia is usually for a past that never was. Some pols make up the history while others “misremember” it.

In 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan fondly recalled the 1920s and 1930s when “we did not have a racial problem.”

Others might think back more accurately on a South of lynching, legal discrimination and disenfranchisement for Blacks, and on a North of de facto discrimination, anti-Black race riots and all-white Major League baseball.

In praising the early 20th Century, Rand Paul was correct that it was a time of few government efforts to regulate business. But he also might have mentioned there were no pure-food-and-drug laws, no progressive income tax, no votes for women, and a U.S. Senate called “the Millionaires’ Club.”

He also did not discuss how “robber barons” amassed fortunes with scant regard to legalities, how government protection of “free enterprise” made corporations masters of the political and economic landscape, how working families lived in misery, and how middle-class aspirations rarely flowered.

In 2000, when George W. Bush came to power (by another five-to-four Supreme Court vote), he also gazed nostalgically at this earlier era when a politician’s wealthy patrons (what Bush might call his “base”) had no taxes to worry about and the protection for consumers amounted to the slogan, “let the buyer beware.”

When Bush advocated privatizing Social Security as a chief goal of his presidency, my wife, Professor Laurie Lehman, and I thought it was time to remind everyone what life was like for real people in the early 20th Century.

We put together a collection of 22 autobiographical writings by ordinary people of the day – a coal miner, sweatshop operator, union organizer, policeman, farming wife, shoe-shine boy, Irish, Jewish, Chinese, Japanese and Mexican immigrants, and Black sharecroppers.

Casting the book from their standpoint, we called it The Cruel Years: American Voices at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century. My Introduction filled in the background sounds and stress of an unlamented era for most.

“Hearing the words of these people is a requirement for a truly democratic society,” wrote Howard Zinn in his Preface.

At the outset of the Bush years, we wanted to warn Americans what it would mean to repeal the social safety net, to leave banks and corporations to self-regulate, and to let a wealthy elite run public policy.

We tried to explain the consequences for real people from the working- and middle-classes who would fall back into the financial abyss. If voters knew the truth, we thought, they would surely reject that option.

Still, in this election year, pro-corporate politicians felt free to offer their cuddly fictions of a time – a century ago – that, in reality, produced happiness for only a few. Still, many American voters seem to have been sold.

But when the rosy tales of a Rand Paul persuade voters that this was the best of times, we are in trouble.

People need to look back clearly at this past to understand where these politicians want to take the nation now. The free enterprise system that arrived at the dawn of the 20th Century brought with it a grim and gloomy inequality.

One per cent of the population owned as much as the other 99 percent. A small elite, sitting on the boards of dozens of companies, controlled 40 percent of U.S. industry and their monopolies and trusts dominated economic life.

The media surrendered early. In 1900, the New York Times proclaimed “Millionaires will be commonplace and the country will be better for them, better for their wealth, better for the good they will do in giving employment to labor in the industries which produce their fortunes.”

The wealthy justified their comfortable catbird seats.

“We accept and welcome great inequality of wealth and environment, the concentration of business, industrial and commercial in the hands of the few, as not only being beneficial, but essential for the human race,” Andrew Carnegie declared.

In Chicago, retail store magnate Marshall Field made $600 an hour and paid his clerks $3 to $5 a week, after they had put in three years of satisfactory service.

Chauncey Depew’s steel mill laborers worked from six in the morning to six in the evening, seven days a week, in 115-degree heat for $1.25 a day.

Legislators, presidents and judges bowed to the affluent.

Bankers Magazine in 1901 announced “the business of the country … is gradually subverting the power of the politician, and rendering him subservient to its purposes.”

Tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt boasted he could “buy up any politician” and claimed reformers “the most purchasable.”

“We hire the law by the year,” claimed a railroad magnate.

The 14th Amendment, designed to protect the citizenship rights of former slaves, was altered by the Supreme Court to mainly protect corporations as “persons.” This was just the high court’s first twist of the 14th Amendment to serve the powerful.

[In 2000, five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court cited the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to justify stopping the Florida vote count, discarding thousands of ballots disproportionately from poor and minority districts, and making George W. Bush president.]

Similarly, laws intended to limit the powers of business were turned to the advantage of the wealthy. The Sherman Act of 1890, passed to curb monopolies, instead was used to stop strikes and jail union leaders.

Government officials dutifully identified corporations with the public good. When choking industrial smog blanked Chicago, a leading politician said smoke was beneficial to children’s lungs.

Governments saw no need to protect workers from unsafe working conditions despite shocking numbers of deaths and injuries every year.

President Benjamin Harrison noted in 1892, “American workmen are subjected to peril of life and limb as great as a soldier in time of war.”

A Texas court ruled that “as long as men must earn a living for their families and themselves by labor, there must be … oppression of the working classes.”

President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill to hand seed grain to Texas farmers stricken by a drought, saying “it weakens the sturdiness of our national character.” Instead, he gave rich bondholders $45 million more than the value of their bonds.

Republican and Democratic presidents used the Army to crush nationwide strikes.

Government concern for the upper class and neglect for everyone else had these consequences: widespread poverty, child labor, and homeless families. Homeless children (100,000 in New York alone) scrounged for food, searched for shelter, and begged.

Employers at mills and mines preferred to hire children since at 50 cents a week, they were the cheapest. Ministers and other influential opinion leaders stepped forth to proclaim that work kept children out of trouble.

“The most beautiful sight that we see is the child at labor; as early as he may be at labor the more beautiful, and the most useful does his life get to be,” said Asa G. Candlers, founder of Coca Cola.

Working children suffered an accident rate in factories double the adult rate and saw their plight less favorably than did the silver-tongued apologists for industry.

At a Philadelphia textile plant boys and girls unfurled banners reading, “We Want to Go To School!” “More Schools, Less Hospitals!”

The painful truth is that the start of the 20th Century was not a golden age, except for those with the gold. It was a dark and desperate time for much of the American population.

Their century-old cries – from the poor, from mothers and children, and from a neglected middle class – must be remembered again.

The United States does not have to follow today’s disciples of Ayn Rand back to a century that produced enormous wealth for a few and misery for the many.

We owe those who did the hard work of building this country and creating a more equitable society an honest recounting of their pain, their sacrifice and their enduring contribution.

We must not forget the real lesson of that history: that a strong middle class – not a stark division between rich and poor – is the true engine of progress and prosperity.

We are the posterity of those hard-working people who gradually ended the vast disparities of the Gilded Age and made sure that the nation’s wealth was shared more justly.

However, we are now faced with a well-financed and well-organized movement that is determined to turn back the clock. There is much to do. And we should get cracking.

Labor activists condemn FBI raids

Labor activists condemn FBI raids

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression is convening a national meeting in New York City on Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. Everyone who is interested in building the movement against FBI raids and the grand jury attempt to criminalize anti-war and international solidarity activists is invited to attend. For information, see

The following letter has been written and posted at Initial signers included Richard Berg, past president, Teamsters Local 743; Phyllis Walker, president, AFSCME Local 3800; Cherrene Horazuk, chief steward, AFSCME Local 3800; Peter Rachleff, labor historian, Macalester College; Gladys McKenzie, field representative, AFSCME Council 5; Joe Burns, labor attorney/negotiator; and Dave Riehle, former Local chairman, United Transportation Union Local 650.

Sisters and Brothers:

On Sept. 24, the FBI carried out coordinated raids on the homes and offices of 14 anti-war activists in Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan. During the raids the FBI confiscated everything from computers and mailing lists to children’s drawings and photos of Martin Luther King.

Ten of the 14 victims of the raid are union members in good standing, among them three members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers Local 3800, University of Minnesota; one member of Teamsters Local 320 (U. of Minn.); a member of Education Minnesota; and the chief steward of Service Employees Union 73, University of Illinois-Chicago.

All are well-known and respected activists who, according to FBI spokespersons, were targeted because of their role in seeking justice for workers and other oppressed peoples throughout the world. In addition to having their homes invaded, they were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. They have not been arrested or charged with any crime.

By its nature, a grand jury is a dressed-up fishing expedition. Those called to testify are not allowed legal representation during their testimony. If they refuse to cooperate, they face imprisonment, jeopardizing their jobs, homes and families. If they agree to testify, they give credence to an illegitimate fishing expedition.

Every American has the constitutional right to advocate and organize for change in the foreign policy of the United States. These activists are entitled to a presumption of innocence under the U.S. Constitution. No acceptable justification or evidence has been presented for these raids and subpoenas, and there is no reason to believe any will be forthcoming.

Four days prior to the Sept. 24 raids, the Office of the Inspector General of the United States revealed that the FBI has systematically and illegally spied on political activists; that FBI Director Robert Mueller lied to Congress about details of the surveillance; and that agents frequently confuse civil disobedience with “domestic terrorism.”

From the Industrial Workers of the World’s (IWW) fight for free speech in the 1910s to the major labor-inspired civil liberties court decisions of the 1930s, the labor movement has often been in the forefront of defending the right to speak and protest. Trade unionists understood that without the ability to speak out, union efforts would be crushed.

Of necessity, the fight for civil liberties went hand in hand with the fight for workers’ rights. What we see in these raids and grand jury subpoenas is reminiscent of the Palmer Raids and J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO. The FBI and Department of Justice have long histories of exploiting public fears in order to disrupt trade union, civil rights and anti-war organizing.

Across the country organizations and individuals are standing together to protest the U.S. government’s attempt to silence and criminalize activism. Confronting power and privilege has never been popular in the United States. Anyone who has gone through a bitter strike knows all too well how the courts, the media and the government line up against striking workers. That’s why the trade union movement must be at the forefront of defending the right to dissent, as it historically has been.

We are writing to ask you to join us in taking a stand in support of our sisters and brothers who are facing this witch hunt. Unions across the country are passing resolutions denouncing the FBI raids and calling for an end to the grand jury investigation. A sample resolution is at, as well as a sign-on letter for individual union members. Please introduce the resolution at your upcoming meetings.

To sign on to the letter, send your name, title and whether it is for ID purposes only to If you would like somebody to speak about the raids at your meeting, contact Cherrene at 612-940-0660 or For more information, go to

We are also asking for donations to help with the costs of legal defense. Checks can be written to: Committee to Stop FBI Repression and mailed to P.O. Box 14183, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Bush admits sanctioning torture

Bush admits sanctioning torture

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Former US president George Bush has admitted that he personally approved a request by CIA agents to use waterboarding -- a form of torture that simulates drowning.

In his book "Decision Points," to hit the shelves on Tuesday, Bush makes it clear that he approved the use of waterbording in interrogation of so-called "terror suspects."

He recalls in the memoir that when the CIA asked him whether it could proceed with waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged plotter of the 9/11 attacks, he replied "Damn right," The Washington Post reported.

He seeks to justify his decision, claiming Muhammed was suspected of knowing about future terrorist plots against the US.

The 43rd president of the United States said he would make the same decision again if he believed it would save lives.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has also acknowledged supporting torture.

"I was a big supporter of waterboarding," he said in a television interview in February.

While President Barack Obama has agreed that waterboarding is an act of torture which is illegal according to the international law, and the Geneva Convention, he has stopped short of bringing former officials to justice for sanctioning it.

Some human rights experts say the admission could have legal consequences for Bush and expose him to prosecution.

Others, however, believe that the prosecution is unlikely.

"The fact that he did admit it suggests he believes he is politically immune from being held accountable. . . . But politics can change," says David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor.

Wall Street celebrates Fed credit boost, Obama deal on tax cuts

Wall Street celebrates Fed credit boost, Obama deal on tax cuts

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Buoyed by a huge infusion of cheap credit from the Federal Reserve and the guarantee of continued tax cuts for the wealthy after the Republican victory on Tuesday, the US stock market roared upward Thursday in a spectacle that was as obscene as it was predictable.

The financial aristocracy is celebrating the continued rise in its wealth, even as the working people, who comprise the vast majority of the population, enter the fourth winter of the longest slump since the Great Depression.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average leapt more than 219 points, closing at 11,434.84, the highest level since September 2008, when the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers triggered the financial crash.

The rally was touched off late Wednesday by the announcement by the Federal Reserve Board that it would pump another $600 billion into the financial markets over the next eight months through the purchase of Treasury bonds. It was further fueled by signals from the White House that the Obama administration is about to capitulate to Republican demands for an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.

A headline on CNNMoney’s web site summed up the Fed’s action as a “$600 billion gift” to Wall Street. The US central bank is ensuring that corporations and banks have easy access to low-cost funds, even while working people and small businesses find credit unaffordably expensive, if available at all.

The stock market rose despite a sharp increase in new claims for unemployment compensation, up 20,000 last week to 457,000. For many sections of the corporate establishment, currently enjoying near-record profits, the indication of continuing layoffs is good news because it suggests there will be no upward pressure on wage levels.

The new unemployment claims figure has averaged close to 450,000 a week this year, well above the figure of 400,000 claims that has been taken to indicate an expanding labor market.

Labor productivity also rose 1.9 percent, as corporations continued to cut jobs and load additional work onto those employees who remain. Cary Leahey of Decision Economics told Reuters news service: “The big picture is that firms are trying to squeeze every ounce out of the workers they have and this is one reason they feel no need to hire.”

Market strategist Stephen Wood of Russell Investments told CNN, “We’re seeing a tale of two economies. Corporate America continues to do well while housing and the labor market are still struggling.”

This stark class divide was expressed in the October retail sales figures, which were stagnant for most mass retailers, but were up sharply for two luxury department store chains: Saks Fifth Avenue, up 8.1 percent, and Nordstrom’s full-price stores, up 4.8 percent.

The first policy decision facing Washington in the wake of the elections is the November 30 expiration of extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. Some 800,000 unemployed workers are expected to lose benefits in the first four days of December.

Nearly 10 million workers have collected unemployment benefits at some point this year, and these benefits, averaging just under $300 a week, kept 3.3 million workers from falling below the official poverty line, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Senate Republicans blocked extension of unemployment benefits three times this year, each time using filibusters to extract policy concessions, including cuts in food stamps and other programs for the poor and unemployed. The House and Senate will return for a brief lame-duck session in November and another filibuster would likely push the issue into the next Congress, when Republicans opposed to extended benefits will have a majority in the House of Representatives.

President Obama announced Thursday that he was inviting top congressional Republicans and Democrats to meet with him at the White House on November 18, after he returns from his trip to Asia and the congressional lame-duck session convenes. Obama told reporters during an impromptu briefing that the session is “not just going to be a photo op,” but would include discussion of impending tax and budget policy decisions.

“We can’t afford two years of just squabbling,” Obama said, promising to “make a sincere and consistent effort to try to change how Washington operates.” He listed economic issues, including both the extension of the Bush tax cuts and extension of unemployment benefits, implicitly suggesting a trade-off that would provide hundreds of billions in additional handouts to the wealthy as the price of continuing the pittance to the unemployed.

As in his press conference the day before, Obama was at pains to reassure corporate America. The government had to provide “some certainty” for American businesses in relation to tax and investment policy, he said, so as to encourage companies to increase economic activity.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed that Obama would consider extending the tax cuts for the wealthy, as demanded by the Republicans. “Making those tax cuts for the upper end permanent is something that the president does not believe is a good idea,” Gibbs said, but, he added, the president was willing to discuss it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a conference call with reporters, urged congressional Republicans to take joint responsibility for government policy since they now control the lower house. “No is not the answer,” he said. “It has to be yes. Not our yes, but a combined yes, something we work out, a consensus yes. The time for politics is over.”

The New York Times reported Thursday, citing administration sources, that “the White House and many congressional Democrats privately anticipate a compromise that would extend the Bush rates for the middle class for at least five years, and the rates for higher-income individuals for a year or two—in a nod to Republicans’ contention that no one’s taxes should go up until the economy has fully recovered.”

Other sops to business include a tax credit for corporate research and development that expired at the end of 2009 and would cost $35 billion to revive.

US Federal Reserve stokes global currency war

US Federal Reserve stokes global currency war

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The Federal Reserve Board’s announcement Wednesday of a second round of “quantitative easing”—the printing of hundreds of billions of US dollars—is an aggressive and unilateralist move, widely—and legitimately—perceived by America’s economic rivals as a hostile act.

The US central bank is pursuing a deliberate policy of devaluing the dollar in order to cheapen the price of US exports and make foreign imports more expensive. Under conditions of stagnant markets and negligible economic growth in the US, Europe and Japan, such a policy inevitably fuels countermeasures by America’s competitors. They seek to defend their export industries by intervening to halt the rise in their exchange rates and contain waves of speculative investments pushing up their currencies and overheating their economies.

The fact that the Fed announced its plan to purchase nearly $1 trillion in US Treasury securities barely a week before the G20 summit of leading economies in Seoul, South Korea underscores the provocative character of the action.

Washington is seeking to establish a bloc of European and Asian countries at the summit behind its demand that China allow its currency to appreciate more rapidly. There is an element of blackmail in the Fed’s move—an implicit threat to Germany, Japan and other exporting nations of what they will face if they do not fall in behind the US anti-Chinese campaign.

The US cheap-dollar policy has already led to countermeasures. In September, Japan intervened into the currency markets for the first time in six years in a bid to halt the rise of the yen. This was followed by a lowering of its key interest rate and the announcement of its own program of quantitative easing.

Brazil, whose finance minister accused the US of sparking a global currency war, announced the doubling of a tax on foreign purchases of Brazilian bonds in order to contain the flood of speculative dollars driving its currency higher and creating the danger of asset bubbles and inflation.

Similarly, Thailand announced a 15 percent withholding tax on the interest payments and capital gains earned by foreign investors in Thai bonds. Other countries, from South Korea, to India, to Taiwan, have intervened in currency markets in an attempt to halt the rise in their exchange rates.

In essence, the United States, the world’s biggest debtor nation, is seeking to leverage its massive trade deficits and debt—expressions of the decline of American capitalism—using them as weapons against its economic rivals. It is exploiting the privileged position of the US dollar as the world’s primary trading and reserve currency to offload its crisis onto the rest of the world.

This is a reckless and incendiary policy with catastrophic implications. Economic nationalism breeds chauvinism, xenophobia and militarism.

All of this is leading to the type of currency and trade warfare that erupted after the Wall Street crash of 1929 and immensely deepened and lengthened the Great Depression. The world market was fractured into competing currency and trade blocs, and economic war inexorably gave rise to military conflict.

Similar tensions are emerging today. Chinese Central Bank adviser Xia Bin responded to the Fed announcement by accusing it of “uncontrolled” money-printing that could spark another global crisis. He suggested that China would counter Washington by forging regional currency alliances to speed up international use of the yuan.

He was not alone. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan accused the US of pursuing a “weak-dollar policy.”

The logic of the increasingly embittered currency and trade conflicts was summed up bluntly on Wednesday by the president-elect of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, who told a press conference: “The last time there was a series of competitive devaluations… it ended in World War Two.”

Recent events have made clear that a new global conflagration is not some distant or improbable prospect. The United States has for two decades, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, pursued a policy of using its military supremacy to offset its economic decline. Behind its aggressive trade and currency posture is the omnipresent threat of military violence.

Of the many potential flashpoints of global war—the Balkans, Central and South Asia, the Middle East—East Asia is among the most explosive.

Hillary Clinton has devoted her current 13-nation Asian tour to asserting US dominance in Asia and seeking to consolidate a coalition of countries directed against China. Clinton has demonstratively inserted the US into long-standing disputes between China and other East Asian nations over islands in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, lining up behind Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia the Philippines and other countries against Beijing.

Over the same period, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited one of the Kuril islands that are claimed by both Russia and Japan—the first ever such visit by a Russian head of state.

As the Eurasia Review wrote on Thursday: “In a six-day span the US State Department has bluntly affirmed unequivocal backing for Japanese territorial claims against both Russia and China, even invoking a defense treaty provision that could lead to direct military intervention and war with the world’s most populous nation.”

The journal noted that at the beginning of her trip, Clinton declared US support for Japan’s claim to what it calls the Senkaku Islands, in opposition to China’s claim to what it calls the Diaoyu Islands. It was in the vicinity of these islands that a Chinese trawler collided with two Japanese coast guard ships in September, sparking a bitter diplomatic dispute between the two powers.

Clinton explicitly cited Article 5 of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, which declares that “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger."

She added that the position of the United States is that “the Senkakus fall within the scope of Article 5” of the treaty. “This is part,” she continued, “of the larger commitment that the United States has made to Japan’s security… we are committed to our obligations to protect the Japanese.”

This was an unvarnished threat of US military action against China.

As happened twice in the last century, the insoluble global contradictions of world capitalism—between social production and private ownership of the means of production, and between world economy and the nation-state system—are once again driving mankind toward the abyss of world war, this time with the prospect of nuclear annihilation.

No less today than when Leon Trotsky wrote in the 1930s, the alternatives facing humankind are socialism or barbarism.

Fake Anti-war Activism. The "Humanitarian Road" Towards an all out Nuclear War?

Fake Anti-war Activism. The "Humanitarian Road" Towards an all out Nuclear War?

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Some of America's wars are condemned outright, while others are heralded as "humanitarian interventions". A significant segment of the US antiwar movement condemns the war but endorses the campaign against international terrorism, which constitutes the backbone of US military doctrine.

The "Just War" theory has served to camouflage the nature of US foreign policy, while providing a human face to the invaders. In both its classical and contemporary versions, the Just War theory upholds war as a "humanitarian operation". It calls for military intervention on ethical and moral grounds against "insurgents", "terrorists", "failed" or "rogue states".

Taught in US military academies, a modern-day version of the "Just War" theory has been embodied into US military doctrine. The "war on terrorism" and the notion of "pre-emption" are predicated on the right to "self defense." They define "when it is permissible to wage war": jus ad bellum.

Jus ad bellum has served to build a consensus within the Armed Forces command structures. It has also served to convince the troops that they are fighting for a "just cause". More generally, the Just War theory in its modern day version is an integral part of war propaganda and media disinformation, applied to gain public support for a war agenda. Under Obama as Nobel Peace Laureate, the Just War becomes universally accepted, upheld by the so-called international community.

The ultimate objective is to subdue the citizens, totally depoliticize social life in America, prevent people from thinking and conceptualizing, from analyzing facts and challenging the legitimacy of the US NATO led war.

War becomes peace, a worthwhile "humanitarian undertaking", Peaceful dissent becomes heresy.

The outbreak of the war on Yugoslavia in March 1999 was in many regards a watershed, a breaking point in the development of the "Just War" fought on "humanitarian" grounds. Many sectors of the Left both in North America and Western Europe embraced the "Just War" concept. Many "progressive" organizations upheld what they perceived as "a humanitarian war" to protect the rights of Kosovar Albanians. The war was described as a civil war rather than a US-NATO led bombing and invasion.

At the height of the NATO bombings, several "progressive" writers described the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), as a bona fide nationalist liberation army, committed to supporting the civil rights of Kosovar Albanians. The KLA was a terrorist organization supported by the CIA with links to organized crime. Without evidence, the Yugoslav government was presented as being responsible for triggering a humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. In the words of Professor Richard Falk:

"The Kosovo War was a just war because it was undertaken to avoid a likely instance of "ethnic cleansing" undertaken by the Serb leadership of former Yugoslavia, and it succeeded in giving the people of Kosovo an opportunity for a peaceful and democratic future. It was a just war despite being illegally undertaken without authorization by the United Nations, and despite being waged in a manner that unduly caused Kosovar and Serbian civilian casualties, while minimizing the risk of death or injury on the NATO side."


How can a war be "just despite it being illegally undertaken", resulting in the deaths of men, women and children?

An illegal war, which constitutes a criminal act is upheld as a humanitarian endeavor.

Several progressive media joined the bandwagon, condemning the "Milosevic regime" without evidence, while at the same time condoning the NATO led war and expressing mitigated support for the KLA. In the words of Stephen Shalom, in a ZNet article:

“I am sympathetic to the argument that says that if people [the KLA] want to fight for their rights, if they are not asking others to do it for them, then they ought to be provided with the weapons to help them succeed. Such an argument seemed to me persuasive with respect to Bosnia.” (quoted in Michael Karadjis, Bosnia, Kosova & the West, Resistance Books, 2000, p. 170).

Human Rights Watch (HRW), which is known to support US foreign policy "urged regime-change for Yugoslavia, either through President Slobodan Milosevic's indictment or a U.S. war to affect the same outcome." (Edward S. Herman, David Peterson and George Szamuely, Yugoslavia: Human Rights Watch in Service to the War Party, Global Research, March 9, 2007). According to a HRW Fred Abrahams published in the New York Herald Tribune:

“[T]he international community's failure to punish Milosevic for crimes in Croatia and Bosnia sent the message that he would be allowed to get away with such crimes again. It is now obvious that the man who started these conflicts cannot be trusted to stop them.” (Fred Abrahams, "The West Winks at Serbian Atrocities in Kosovo," International Herald Tribune, August 5, 1998. quoted in Edward S. Herman et al, op cit)

Punishing a head of State by waging war on his country?

In 1999, Milosevic was portrayed by the "progressive" British Weekly The Observer, as the "Butcher of Belgrade". (See Peter Beaumont and Ed Vulliamy, Ten years on, the end of the line, The Observer, 24 June 2001)

The same reasoning was put forth in relation to Saddam Hussein, in the months leading up to the March 2003 bombing and invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was described by the same author of the London Observer as the "Butcher of Baghdad":

"Saddam's lonely childhood, bloody path to power and final, deadly miscalculation of his foreign enemies are charted by Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor" (See Peter Beaumont. The death of Saddam Hussein, The Observer, Sunday , December 31, 2006)

Meanwhile, the names of the "butchers of Washington, London and Brussels", who waged a "Just War" on the people of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq are rarely mentioned.

Fake Anti-war Activism: Heralding Iran as a Nuclear Threat

Many people in the antiwar movement, while condemning the US administration, also condemn the government of President Ahmadinejad for its bellicose stance with regard to Israel. The Jus ad Bellum reasoning used as a pretext to bomb Yugoslavia on humanitarian grounds is now being applied to Iran.

President Ahmadinejad allegedly wants Israel to be "wiped off the Map" as first reported by the New York Times in October 2005:

"Iran's conservative new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Wednesday that Israel must be "wiped off the map" and that attacks by Palestinians would destroy it, the ISNA press agency reported.

Ahmadinejad was speaking to an audience of about 4,000 students at a program called "The World Without Zionism," .... His tone was reminiscent of that of the early days of Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. Iran and Israel have been bitter enemies since then, and anti-Israel slogans have been common at rallies."(See Nazila Fathi, Wipe Israel 'off the map' Iranian says - The New York Times, 27 October 2005)

The alleged "Wiped Off the Map" statement by Iran's president was never made. The rumor was fabricated by the American media with a view to discrediting Iran's head of state and providing a justification for waging an all out war on Iran:

On October 25th, 2005 .... the newly elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a program, titled "The World Without Zionism"....

Before we get to the infamous remark, it's important to note that the "quote" in question was itself a quote— they are the words of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Revolution. Although he quoted Khomeini to affirm his own position on Zionism, the actual words belong to Khomeini and not Ahmadinejad. Thus, Ahmadinejad has essentially been credited (or blamed) for a quote that is not only unoriginal, but represents a viewpoint already in place well before he ever took office.


So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in farsi:

"Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad."

That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word "Regime", pronounced just like the English word with an extra "eh" sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase "rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods" (regime occupying Jerusalem).

So this raises the question.. what exactly did he want "wiped from the map"? The answer is: nothing. That's because the word "map" was never used. The Persian word for map, "nagsheh", is not contained anywhere in his original farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase "wipe out" ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran's President threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", despite never having uttered the words "map", "wipe out" or even "Israel".


The full quote translated directly to English:

"The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time".

Word by word translation:

Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem) bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from).

Here is the full transcript of the speech in farsi, archived on Ahmadinejad's web site:"

(See the detailed article by Arash Norouzi,
Israel: "Wiped off The Map". The Rumor of the Century, Fabricated by the US Media to Justify An All out War on Iran , Global Research February 20, 2007)

What President Ahmadinjad was essentially calling for in his statement was "regime change" in Tel Aviv. (Compare Ahmadinejad's bland statement on regime change in Israel with that of former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who called for "Ending states that sponsor terrorism”.

This alleged "Wiped off the Map" statement has served not only to justify a pre-emptive attack against Iran but also to subdue and tame the antiwar movement.

While the danger of an all out war on Iran is a matter of concern, it is by no means a priority for the US, Canadian and European antiwar movements. In the US, there are very few antiwar events focussing on US-Israeli threats directed against Iran (See Main US antiwar collective: United for Peace & Justice : Index, United for Peace & Justice : Events).

On the other hand, there is an ongoing campaign led by United Against Nuclear Iran" (UANI), calling on President Obama and the US Congress to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. (See UANI home page). The UANI collective, founded by Obama appointees Richard Holbrooke and Gary Samore, claims to be integrated by "human rights and humanitarian groups, the labor movement, political advocacy and grassroots organizations" (Coalition | UANI)

Notwithstanding Arash Norouzi's disproval, many in the antiwar movement, while condemning the US, continue to believe that Iran constitutes a threat and that the solution is "regime change". The funding of NGOs (which are constituent members of major antiwar collectives) by tax exempt charities and corporate foundations, has also contributed to weakening antiwar activism in relation to Iran. Iran is viewed by many within the antiwar movement as a potential aggressor. Its non-existent nuclear weapons are considered, a threat to global security.

A pre-emptive war using US made tactical nuclear weapons against Iran has been on the Pentagon's drawing board since mid 2003. Both president Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have stated that "all options are on the table" including the use of nuclear weapons against Iran, without realizing that the use of nuclear weapons could lead humanity into a global nuclear war as outlined by Fidel Castro in a recent speech:

"Today there is an imminent risk of war with the use of that kind of weapon and I don’t harbour the least doubt that an attack by the United States and Israel against the Islamic Republic of Iran would inevitably evolve towards a global nuclear conflict. (Fidel Castro Ruz, VIDEO: Fidel’s Message against Nuclear War: "In a Nuclear War the 'Collateral Damage' would be the Life of All Humanity.", Global Research, October 21, 2010)

War and the Economy

The war economy is presented as a means to generating employment. At the height of an economic crisis, trade unions are called upon not only pay lip service to job creation in the defence industry but also to soften their antiwar stance. In a twisted irony, according to the Washington Post, a war on Iran would have the added advantage of resolving the economic crisis and triggering a "war recovery":

"What else might affect the economy? The answer is obvious, but its implications are frightening. War and peace influence the economy.

Look back at FDR and the Great Depression. What finally resolved that economic crisis? World War II.

Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.

I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get re-elected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history." (David Broder, The War Recovery, Washington Post, October 31, 2010)

Is the Gulf of Mexico safe?

Is the Gulf of Mexico safe?

Gulf shrimp being offloaded at Dean Blanchard Seafood Distributors, Grand Isle, Louisiana [Erika Blumenfeld]

Go To Original

Gulf Coast residents, fishermen, seafood distributors, and scientists believe that living on the coast and eating seafood from the Gulf has become hazardous to their health.

In response to their oil disaster last summer that released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of widely banned toxic Corexit dispersants (which have been banned in 19 countries) to sink the oil. The dispersants contain chemicals that many scientists and toxicologists have warned are dangerous to humans, marine life, and wildlife.

Earlier this year on May 20, the EPA told BP it had 24 hours to find a less toxic alternative, but the EPA's request was ignored. Then on May 25, BP was given a directive by the EPA to scale back their spraying of the Gulf of Mexico with dispersants. The Coast Guard overlooked the EPA's directive and provided BP with 74 exemptions in 48 days to use the dispersants.

A March 1987 report titled Organic Solvent Neurotoxicity, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), states: "The acute neurotoxic effects of organic solvent exposure in workers and laboratory animals are narcosisanaesthesiaia, central nervous system (CNS) depression, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, and death."

Several chemicals and chemical compounds listed in the NIOSH report, such as styrene, toluene, and xylene, are now present in the Gulf of Mexico as the result of BP’s dispersants mixing with BP's crude oil.

Government testing repudiated

On October 29 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in a press release, new chemical testing for BP's dispersants.

Prior to the federal government's announcement, a "rigorous sensory analysis" (a sniff test), was the only measure in place to test seafood samples for dispersant contamination. According to the press release, the new testing measure checks for the level of dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (known as DOSS), a major component of the dispersants.

Surprisingly, the press release admits to dispersant chemicals being present in some of their seafood samples: "Using this new, second test, in the Gulf scientists have tested 1,735 tissue samples ... Only a few showed trace amounts of dispersants residue (13 of the 1,735) and they were well below the safety threshold of 100 parts per million [ppm] for finfish and 500 parts per million for shrimp, crabs and oysters."

"This test adds another layer of information, reinforcing our findings to date that seafood from the Gulf remains safe," Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary for commerce and NOAA administrator, said of the test.

However the press release does not specify which type of analytical testing was carried out on what types of seafood, nor what the "trace amounts of dispersants" were. Al Jazeera's requests last week for this information from both NOAA and the FDA have not been answered.

Hugh Kaufman is a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) office of solid waste and emergency response. Kaufman, a leading critic of the US government's decision to use Corexit, told Al Jazeera this about the press release: "They say it perfectly clear: the purpose of the test they developed is to make the public confident, not whether the seafood was safe or not.

"They selected the one compound that doesn’t bio-accumulate, as opposed to testing for the toxic ingredients that have a low safety threshold and do build up in tissue. They are not looking for those."

Kaufman, who has been the EPA's chief investigator on several contamination cases, including Love Canal and Times Beach, said: "They want to be able to tell the public the seafood is safe. But if you are going to test seafood to see if it’s safe or not, you want to test for the ingredients of Corexit that have a low safety threshold and do bio-accumulate in tissue."

"However, if you want the public to think everything is fine, then you do what they said in their press release they are doing, which is to look for an ingredient with a high safety threshold that doesn’t build up in tissue."

"They told you they are doing a cover up, how they are doing the cover up, and notwithstanding that, they still have some positive results for chemicals."

Inaccurate safety levels

Chemist Bob Naman with the Analytical Chemical Testing Lab in Mobile, Alabama, has been testing samples from across the Gulf for oil and dispersant also takes issue with these recent government statements.

"500 ppm is an incredible amount," Naman explained to Al Jazeera, "I don't know what moron set that level, but 500 ppm is an extreme amount. It is probably 100 times too high. A reasonably insignificant number would be five parts per billion [ppb], not something being tracked in ppm."

Naman gave an example of a government standard that seemingly undermines information in the recent press release.

"The amount of chemicals the EPA allows in storm water draining from a site containing salvaged cars into a body of water is 15 ppm," he said.

"If the EPA won’t allow more than 15 ppm of that, why in the hell would they consider a number that is 33 times higher than that as acceptable for something you are going to put in your body? Their people that are setting that kind of number apparently don't have a clue what that number even means. The threshold limits they are setting are extremely absurd to a chemist like me. I'm appalled they would use such high numbers for their thresholds."

Naman also expressed concern over the fact that from his understanding neither the FDA nor NOAA are testing for propylene glycol and 2-butoxyethanol, the two marker chemicals for BP’s dispersants.

"Since they are testing in ppm, these two marker compounds are not being picked up," Naman said.

"They are not using low enough detection limits. They need to be looking for parts per billion, not parts per million. It's a world of difference."

The EPA's website states that, "EPA believes dispersants should only be used sparingly and when absolutely necessary," yet conversely stated that while BP’s well was gushing oil, "[dispersants] appeared to be having a positive effect on the oil at the source of the leak and thus far has had no significant ecological impact".

Al Jazeera requested information from the EPA's Region 6 Public Information Centre about their ongoing testing of the water and air for chemicals associated with the oil disaster, also asking for information the EPA has that is related to illnesses caused by the oil disaster.

Last week we were told by Joe Hubbard in EPA's office of external affairs that this information would be provided, but Al Jazeera has yet to receive this information.

Kaufman believes one of the main problems with federal response to the oil disaster is that, "BP called most of the shots, and that was the problem, and clearly from this press release, looks like they still are. The more the public thinks everything is back to normal, the less people who were harmed by the mess will be reimbursed. Follow the money".

Karen Hopkins at Dean Blanchard Seafood Distributors, Grand Isle, Louisiana [Erika Blumenfeld]

Seafood concerns

Fisherman from Louisiana and Florida have voiced their concerns to Al Jazeera about the safety of seafood they are catching.

Karen Hopkins, who works for the seafood distributor Dean Blanchard Seafood, in Grand Isle, Louisiana, told Al Jazeera: "I will never again eat any seafood that comes from the Gulf of Mexico."

Clifford Troxler, also from Louisiana, worked in the seafood distribution business for 25 years, and told Al Jazeera: "You couldn’t force feed me a shrimp from the Gulf."

Hopkins is also concerned about what she sees as an attempt by the federal government to shift responsibility of seafood safety "away from BP and the feds and placing it square on the shoulders of fishermen and distributors".

Hopkins provided Al Jazeera with a letter from Best Sea-Pak, a seafood distributor Dean Blanchard Seafood works with, that says: "Due to the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and customers concerns of oil tainted seafood, we must implement measures to prevent oil tainted seafood from entering the food supply.

"A new mandatory requirement by the United States Food and Drug Administration is to ensure no fish (seafood) may be harvested from an area that is covered by a Local, State, or Federal closure or for which there is additional information that indicates potential hazards related to an oil spill."

"Our lawyers looked this over and told us it is basically an attempt to make us and the fishermen take full responsibility for the seafood, even though it has been BP and the feds that have pushed to open up all the previously closed waters for fishing," Hopkins said.

"That means that we’ll be the ones who get sued if somebody gets sick from contaminated seafood, instead of BP or the feds, who are the ultimately the responsible parties for all of this in the first place."

Ongoing sickness

Al Jazeera is finding a growing number of people along the Gulf Coast who are exhibiting symptoms they attribute to chemical poisoning and exposure to BP's oil and dispersants.

Susan Price is a small business owner who lives in Chauvin, Louisiana. While volunteering for a community outreach program in Grand Isle, Louisiana in late August, Price became ill.

"When I drove over the bridge to Grand Isle, I felt heavy exposure to chemicals," Price told Al Jazeera. "My nose instantly clogged, I began to cough, my throat hurt, my voice became instantly hoarse, and my tongue felt and tasted like I'd licked a battery."

A return trip to the island a short while later brought her symptoms back, so Price saw a doctor.

"I was diagnosed with pneuminitis, which is an inflammation of the lungs that the doctor told me is caused by inhalation of chemicals," Price said. "He gave me an inhaler and pumped me up with antibiotics, but I’m still sick."

Furthermore, Price said that while she was engaged in her community outreach work on Grand Isle, "every person I was dealing with was sick and had the same symptoms I did. Those people that are living there, heaven help them".

Donny Matsler, a commercial fisherman from Dauphin Island, Alabama, has been suffering acute symptoms for months that have led him to several emergency room visits, time in intensive care, and finally to detoxification treatment with Dr William Rea in Dallas, Texas, at the Environmental Health Center.

The centre tests and treats human health problems related to chemical exposure, among other environment related ailments.

"Dr Rea told me I am Corexit-drunk," Matsler told Al Jazeera, "My wife is the same, and everybody in Dauphin Island is sick from this stuff."

From Uprising to Hostile Takeover ... and Back Again

From Uprising to Hostile Takeover ... and Back Again

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Death Panels. Witchcraft. Birthers. Islamophobes. Tea partiers. Obama text messages. Palin robo-calls. TV commercial after TV commercial after TV commercial. And now, at the end of this $4 billion We-Didn’t-Start-the-Fire-worthy vaudeville known as the 2010 election, what do we have to show for it? That’s right, a new House speaker with the politics of Newt Gingrich and the skin complexion of a Syracuse mascot.

If after this soul-crushing extravaganza you find yourself shell-shocked, that’s understandable. If you are confused, that’s understandable, too, considering the contradictions.

A president who helped corporate interests gut the very proposals he was elected on—health care reform, Wall Street regulation and economic stimulus—was suddenly berated for being anti-business and for overreaching. An anti-Establishment/anti-corporate/anti-NAFTA/anti-government tea party ended up electing to the Senate a congressman’s son (Rand Paul), a pharmaceutical lobbyist (Dan Coats), a Bush trade representative (Rob Portman) and a corporate chieftain whose business was propped up by government grants (Ron Johnson). Meanwhile, a country that twice rejected Bush Republicans in favor of Democrats suddenly returned those same Republicans to power.

Yet, as perplexing, demoralizing and insane as all this seems, a clear pattern does exist in the madness.

As I documented in my 2006 book, “Hostile Takeover,” our political system has been swallowed whole by moneyed interests—and whichever party is in power inevitably legislates that reality. Americans have come to fully understand this situation—and despise it. Thus, as I showed in my 2008 follow-up book, “The Uprising,” we are now reflexively drawn to whichever minority party candidates promise the swiftest backlash. Whether the challengers happen to be anti-Bush Democrats or anti-Obama Republicans, America is drawn to these faux rebels even though we implicitly know they will almost certainly become part of the problem once elected.

It’s kabuki theater ad absurdum—and it explains a lot.

For instance, with Democrats embodying the Hostile Takeover right now, the binary dynamic accounts for the recent resurrection of the old conservative populism first pioneered during the 1980s (this, by the way, is the subject of my spring 2011 book, “Back to Our Future”).

The Uprising-versus-Hostile-Takeover cycle also explains not the end of any particular era—but the end of political eras as a whole. Whereas clear differences between the parties once created epochal congressional majorities and intractably red and blue states, we now rapidly vacillate between two similarly money-dominated parties in a spastic search for an insurrection that will bring something different.

That, of course, gives us a unified theory of the last three elections. In an America straitjacketed by a two-party system, these contests have been all about voters trying to support any available uprising, irrespective of party labels or even ideology.

Ending this tail-chasing exercise and constructing a truly transformational and results-oriented politics is essential—but won’t be easy because powerful forces are invested in the charade.

Partisan media outlets generate ratings by pretending their respective party’s uprising won’t be tomorrow’s hostile takeover. The political consulting class makes big money commercials that do the same thing. And a hyper-partisan population divorced from genuine social movements is addicted to believing that if only we wait for the next election, one of the parties—however corrupt or compromised—will supposedly bring about “real change.”

In that sense, biennial election hype is the opiate of the masses—an opiate made particularly potent because it preys on the psychology of hope. We desperately want to believe that we can mount a successful uprising. And it’s true, we can. But not until we realize that both parties are now part of the hostile takeover we seek to confront.

Rich Media, Poor Democracy

Rich Media, Poor Democracy

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As the 2010 elections come to a close, the biggest winner of all remains undeclared: the broadcasters. The biggest loser: democracy. These were the most expensive midterm elections in U.S. history, costing close to $4 billion, $3 billion of which went to advertising. What if ad time were free? We hear no debate about this, because the media corporations are making such a killing by selling campaign ads. Yet the broadcasters are using public airwaves.

I am reminded of the 1999 book by media scholar Robert McChesney, “Rich Media, Poor Democracy.” In it, he writes, “Broadcasters have little incentive to cover candidates, because it is in their interest to force them to publicize their campaigns.”

The Wesleyan Media Project, at Wesleyan University, tracks political advertising. Following the recent Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United v. FEC, the project notes, “The airwaves are being saturated with more House and Senate advertising, up 20 percent and 79 percent respectively in total airings.” Evan Tracey, the founder and president of Campaign Media Analysis Group, predicted in USA Today in July, “There is going to be more money than there is airtime to buy.” John Nichols of The Nation commented that in the genteel, earlier days of television political advertising, the broadcasters would never juxtapose an ad for a candidate with an ad opposed to that candidate. But they are running out of broadcast real estate. Welcome to the brave, new world of the multibillion dollar campaigns.

There have been efforts in the past to regulate the airwaves to better serve the public during elections. The most ambitious in recent years was what became known as McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. During the debate on that landmark legislation, the problem of exorbitant television advertising rates was brought up, by Democrats and Republicans alike. Nevada Sen. John Ensign, a Republican, lamented: “The broadcasters used to dread campaigns because that was the time of year they made the least amount of money because of this lowest unit rate. Now it is one of their favorite times of the year because it is actually one of their highest profit-margin times of the year.” Ultimately, to get the bill passed, the public airtime provisions were dropped.

The Citizens United ruling effectively neutralizes McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. One can only imagine what the cost of the 2012 presidential election will be. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., lost his re-election bid to the largely self-financed multimillionaire Ron Johnson. The Wall Street Journal editorial page celebrated Feingold’s expected loss. The Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which also owns the Fox television network and which gave close to $2 million to Republican campaign efforts.

“The elections have become a commodity, a profit center for these radio and TV stations,” Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, told me on Election Day. He went on: “The public airwaves, as we know, belong to the people, and they’re the landlords, and the radio and TV stations are the licensees. They’re the tenants, so to speak. They pay no money to the FCC for their annual license. And therefore, it’s really quite persuasive, were we to have a public policy to condition modestly the license to this enormously lucrative control of the public airwaves 24 hours a day by these TV and radio stations and say, as part of the reciprocity for controlling this commons, so to speak, you have to allow a certain amount of time, free time, on radio and TV for ballot-qualified candidates.”

The place where we should debate this is in the major media, where most Americans get their news. But the television and radio broadcasters have a profound conflict of interest. Their profits take precedence over our democratic process. You very likely won’t hear this discussed on the Sunday-morning talk shows.

Jobless claims surge to 457,000

Jobless claims surge to 457,000

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More than 450,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment insurance last week, a discouraging sign ahead of the government's highly anticipated monthly jobs report due Friday.

The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits surged to 457,000 in the week ended Oct. 30, up 20,000 from the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The number was higher than economists' forecasts of 445,000, according to consensus estimates by, and it fell in a range that analysts say points to continued weakness in the job market.

"Everyone would like to see the labor market improve faster, but with the overall economy growing slowly, recent claim statistics suggest there has been little improvement in the labor market," said Zach Pandl, economist with Nomura Securities.

Economists say they're looking for initial claims to fall to 400,000 or lower before they can say a jobs recovery has made noteworthy progress.

Overall, the weekly number has been stuck in a tight range since last November, hovering in the mid to upper 400,000s and even ticking slightly above 500,000 in mid-August.

The four-week moving average, calculated to smooth out volatility, totaled 456,000, up 2,000 from the previous week's revised average of 458,750.

The number of people continuing to file unemployment claims for a second week or more fell to 4,340,000 during the week ended Oct. 23, the most recent data available. That's down 42,000 from a revised 4,382,000 the week before.

Meanwhile, Congress is gearing up for a battle on extending federal unemployment benefits. About two million people are at risk of running out of the federal safety net next month, if Congress doesn't vote to extend the application deadline beyond Nov. 30.

Federal jobless payments, which last up to 73 weeks, kick in after the state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. These federal benefits are divided into tiers, and the jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.

Jobless claims in eight states rose by more than 1,000 in the week ended Oct. 23. Claims in California rose the most -- by 3,755 -- which the state attributed to layoffs in forestry, fishing and agriculture.

On Friday, Wall Street will turn its attention to the government's closely-watched monthly labor report.

Economists polled by forecast the report to show the economy added 60,000 jobs in October, an improvement over the 95,000 jobs lost the month before. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 9.6%.

Employers Can Now Spy on You on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Other Sites

Employers Can Now Spy on You on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Other Sites

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Cisco Systems has released new software that makes it easier for businesses, including employers, to keep track of user info on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

For the low, low price of $2,500+:

The new SocialMiner software tracks the status updates, forum posts, and blog posts of customers and potential customers in real-time, giving businesses immediate information about consumers' opinions and preferences....Being able to monitor this vast ocean of information and respond to customers' concerns has the potential to greatly increase a brand's reputation, Cisco officials said.

As Raw Story notes, efforts to track social networking use are nothing new. In fact, the U.S. government has reportedly monitored the Twitter feeds of anti-war and anti-G20 activists and was said to have conducted a major social networking sweep during the Obama inauguration.

But the more "Big Brother" companies get with our digital lives, the more privacy concerns bubble to the surface:

The European Union is reportedly planning to crack down on Facebook and Google, who both collect private data about users in order to sell targeted advertising. The new guidelines will prohibit the downloading and storing of users personal data without their consent.

"The protection of personal data is a fundamental right," Viviane Reding, the European Union's justice commissioner, said in a statement.

"To guarantee this right, we need clear and consistent data protection rules. We also need to bring our laws up to date with the challenges raised by new technologies and globalization."