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Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US

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The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.

They also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and will continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas in the coming weeks and months, they told the news conference.

Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US citizenship, Means said.

The treaties signed with the United States are merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists say on their website.

The treaties have been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life," the reborn freedom movement says.

Withdrawing from the treaties was entirely legal, Means said.

"This is according to the laws of the United States, specifically article six of the constitution," which states that treaties are the supreme law of the land, he said.

"It is also within the laws on treaties passed at the Vienna Convention and put into effect by the US and the rest of the international community in 1980. We are legally within our rights to be free and independent," said Means.

The Lakota relaunched their journey to freedom in 1974, when they drafted a declaration of continuing independence -- an overt play on the title of the United States' Declaration of Independence from England.

Thirty-three years have elapsed since then because "it takes critical mass to combat colonialism and we wanted to make sure that all our ducks were in a row," Means said.

One duck moved into place in September, when the United Nations adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples -- despite opposition from the United States, which said it clashed with its own laws.

"We have 33 treaties with the United States that they have not lived by. They continue to take our land, our water, our children," Phyllis Young, who helped organize the first international conference on indigenous rights in Geneva in 1977, told the news conference.

The US "annexation" of native American land has resulted in once proud tribes such as the Lakota becoming mere "facsimiles of white people," said Means.

Oppression at the hands of the US government has taken its toll on the Lakota, whose men have one of the shortest life expectancies -- less than 44 years -- in the world.

Lakota teen suicides are 150 percent above the norm for the United States; infant mortality is five times higher than the US average; and unemployment is rife, according to the Lakota freedom movement's website.

"Our people want to live, not just survive or crawl and be mascots," said Young.

"We are not trying to embarrass the United States. We are here to continue the struggle for our children and grandchildren," she said, predicting that the battle would not be won in her lifetime.

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2008: The year a new superpower is born
By Cahal Milmo
Published: 01 January 2008

Here comes the world's newest superpower. The rest of the world is gloomily contemplating economic slowdown and even recession. Not in Beijing. China is set to make 2008 the year it asserts its status as a global colossus by flexing frightening economic muscle on international markets, enjoying unprecedented levels of domestic consumption and showcasing itself to a watching world with a glittering £20bn Olympic Games.

The world's most populous nation will mark the next 12 months with a coming-of-age party that will confirm its transformation in three decades from one of the poorest countries of the 20th century into the globe's third-largest economy, its hungriest (and most polluting) consumer and the engine room of economic growth.

Once regarded at best as a sporting also-ran, China is widely tipped to top the medals table in the Beijing Olympics in August, an event in which the country's leadership is investing huge importance and prestige.

It will be a celebration viewed with consternation by many, as China's authoritarian regime shows little sign of relaxing its grip on power and continues to expand its influence overseas from the oil fields and metal mines of Africa to the City of London. Appropriately, 2008 marks the Year of the Rat, an animal considered in Chinese folklore to be a harbinger and protector of material prosperity.

Britain will feel the full power of the new superpower's confidence. This month, for the first time, China's state-controlled banks will begin spending some of its $1.33trn (£670bn) in foreign currency reserves on London's financial markets. Beijing has ruled that Britain should become only the second destination after Hong Kong to be allowed to receive investors' money via so-called "sovereign funds" – the huge state-controlled surpluses built up by cash-rich economies from Qatar to South Korea. Throw in the biggest round of Chinese art exhibitions ever to tour these islands and the oriental bias to 2008 becomes even more pronounced.

The UK has made it clear that Beijing's investment, which could reach as much as £45bn, is welcome and it follows the recent acquisition by Chinese banks of stakes in such blue chip stocks as Barclays and the US private equity firm Blackstone, at a cost of $3bn. The talk in the finance houses is that the label "Made in China" will soon be replaced by one reading "Owned by China". Takeover speculation has provoked concern in some quarters at the wisdom of selling large assets to organs of a democratically unaccountable state where the financial sector remains underdeveloped.

China's trade surplus with the rest of the world will widen from £130bn in 2007 to £145bn this year as it tries to tame its burgeoning economy amid pressure from Washington and Brussels to narrow the trade gap and raise its currency's value.

Stephen Perry, chairman of the 48 Group Club, a Sino-British business network, said: "China has become an international player much more quickly than it would have wanted to do, in part to meet its need for natural resources. But I don't think China has any intention of taking on American power. The West is important to China in this stage of its development as it seeks inward investment. But that is beginning to be much less important and it is looking more to the development of a strong Asia, in which it is one of the strongest players because of its enormous consumer base."

But while some may question Beijing's political motives, there is no doubt that China has arrived as serious power-broker. Last year, it surpassed America as the greatest driver of global economic demand. It is also widely predicted to overtake Germany as the world's third largest economy this year.

While nearly all of its success since Premier Deng Xiaoping began China's economic transformation in 1978 has been driven by producing goods for the outside world, the country has a burgeoning urban middle-class whose insatiable appetite for consumer durables is hoped to put the economy on a more stable footing. One London-based luxury markets analyst said: "The Chinese are waking up to quality brands in a way that is quite exciting. There is a real sense that what the West once kept to itself is now available to them, or at least the urban few who can afford it."

The arrival of conspicuous consumption and entry of Shanghai's sovereign funds into foreign investment markets, with London soon expected to be followed by the US, is symptomatic of a China increasingly willing to assert itself as a political and cultural influence, according to experts.

From global warming to Darfur and North Korea, the views of Beijing and its willingness to act have become prerequisites to any solution to the world's most pressing problems.

The Chinese New Year on 7 February will herald the beginning of the largest-ever festival of China's culture in Britain with an accent on contemporary artists in fields from video art to neon signs. But others warn 2008 has as much potential to be a disaster as a triumph for Beijing's attempts to herald its own arrival on the world stage. The Chinese capital will host 31,000 journalists for the Olympics and any sign of protest or an attempt to quell dissent with violence would be catastrophic.

The drum beat of protectionism is already sounding in America and will only get louder in a presidential election year, putting pressure on both Republican and Democratic candidates to take a "strong" stance on China. In the meantime, Beijing will have to grapple with issues from rising inflation to Taiwan, which holds presidential elections in March, to its status as the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and likely role as the largest consumer of primary energy resources.

Dr Kerry Brown, associate fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, said: "There are good reasons to feel pretty uncomfortable about 2008 for China. The world will be rightly watching China in August for the Olympics. But it will only take one truncheon blow to turn it away from a story about sport to one about repression."

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The most controversial issue in American healthcare

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 9:00 PM (Eastern), 10:00 PM (Pacific), Public Broadcasting System will examine the most controversial issue in American healthcare: why are more than 6 million American children being forced to take powerful, toxic psychiatric drugs--some starting as young as two years old?

Is it good medicine? What's the evidence to support the practice?

The program promises to examine what many psychiatrists are beginning to acknowledge: American children are being subjected to an uncontrolled high risk experiment. Millions of American children are being prescribed the most toxic brain damaging drugs--with absolutely no scientific evidence of a therapeutic benefit to support the practice.

The increasing use of antipsychotic drugs for children is correlated with an inexplicable epidemic in American children being "diagnosed" as bipolar, an unprecedented diagnosis in children. Bipolar just happens to be an FDA approved use for antipsychotic drugs.

So, the marked increased rates of bipolar diagnoses in children over the last five to seven years appears to be a case of the drugs prompting the diagnosis. Indeed, as Dr. Steven Hyman, a neuroscientist and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, acknowledges, those diagnoses are unsupported by scientific evidence.

Psychiatry's sling-shot prescribing practices rely on an irresponsible dictum: shoot first, ask questions years after major harm has been done. Such a cowboy mentality has led to a market-driven chemical assault on our children.

Children's fears, cries, and anxieties, are being muffled with toxic drugs that undermine their mental and physical health. Psychiatrists who are financially invested in expanding the market are diverting parents' attention from the lack of science and the drugs' harmful effects.

Hopefully, viewers will wake up to the fact that America's children are the target of psychopharmacological abuse. There is no credible scientific evidence demonstrating a therapeutic benefit from antipsychotics. These drugs' most prominent effect is somnolence.

How many children--like four-year old Rebecca Riley-- will be sacrificed before this lethal paradigm of "treatment" in psychiatry is halted?

Is bad medicine any better just because it is promoted by influential Harvard University child psychiatrists ?

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
veracare@ahrp.org
212-595-8974
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/medicatedchild/

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Israel to brief George Bush on options for Iran strike. Bush: We would defend Israel against Iran.
By Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv
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January 6, 2007 - ISRAELI security officials are to brief President George W Bush on their latest intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programme - and how it could be destroyed - when he begins a tour of the Middle East in Jerusalem this week.

Ehud Barak, the defence minister, is said to want to convince him that an Israeli military strike against uranium enrichment facilities in Iran would be feasible if diplomatic efforts failed to halt nuclear operations. A range of military options has been prepared.

Last month it was revealed that the US National Intelligence Estimate report, drawing together information from 16 agencies, had concluded that Iran stopped a secret nuclear weapon programme in 2003.

Israeli intelligence is understood to agree that the project was halted around the time of America’s invasion of Iraq, but has “rock solid” information that it has since started up again.

While security officials are reluctant to reveal all their intelligence, fearing that leaks could jeopardise the element of surprise in any future attack, they are expected to present the president with fresh details of Iran’s enrichment of uranium - which could be used for civil or military purposes - and the development of missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot this weekend, Bush argued that in spite of the US intelligence assessment, Iran still posed a threat.

“I read the intelligence report carefully,” Bush said. “In essence, what the report said was that Iran had a secret plan to develop nuclear weapons.

“I’m saying that a state which adopted a nontransparent policy and had a secret plan for developing nuclear weapons could easily develop an alternative plan for the same purpose. So to conclude from the intelligence report that there is no Iranian plan to develop nuclear weapons will be only a partial truth.”

Israeli security officials believe the only way to prevent uranium enrichment to military grade is to destroy Iranian installations. Many Israelis are eager to know whether America would give their country the green light to attack, as it did last September when Israel struck a mysterious nuclear site in Syria.

Bush refused to be drawn when asked whether he would support an Israeli attack. “My message to all countries in the region is that we are able to solve the problem in a diplomatic way,” he said, “but all options are on the table.”

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Pakistanis See US as Greatest Threat
by Jim Lobe
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WASHINGTON - Amid reports that the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is considering aggressive covert actions against armed Islamist forces in western Pakistan, a new survey released here Monday suggested that such an effort would be opposed by an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis themselves.

The survey, which was funded by the quasi-governmental U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and designed by the University of Maryland’s Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), also found that a strong majority of Pakistanis consider the U.S. military presence in Asia and neighbouring Afghanistan a much more critical threat to their country than al Qaeda or Pakistan’s own Taliban movement in the tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan.

Only five percent of respondents said the Pakistani government should permit U.S. or other foreign troops to enter Pakistan to pursue or capture al Qaeda fighters, compared to a whopping 80 percent who said such actions should not be permitted, according to the poll, which was based on in-depth interviews of more than 900 Pakistanis in 19 cities in mid-September.

As a result, the survey did not take account of the tumultuous events that have taken place in Pakistan since then, including the six-week state of emergency declared by President Pervez Musharraf, the sacking of the Supreme Court, the return from exile of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, and Bhutto’s Dec. 27 assassination which has led to the delay of scheduled parliamentary elections from Jan. 8 until next month.

To what extent those events may have influenced public opinion in Pakistan on the range of issues covered by the survey — particularly toward the Pakistani Taliban, one of whose leaders, Baitullah Mehsud, has been accused by the government of carrying out Bhutto’s killing — cannot be known.

But the underlying attitudes revealed in the poll, especially toward the U.S., can offer little very little comfort to the administration, which has become increasingly alarmed about recent events in Pakistan, particularly Bhutto’s death, the Pakistani army’s reluctance to take on the Taliban, and intelligence reports that al Qaeda and its local allies, including the Taliban, have intensified their efforts to destabilise the government.

On Sunday, the New York Times ran a front-page article regarding a White House meeting Friday in which top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, reportedly debated pressing Musharraf and his new military leadership to permit the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) to carry out more aggressive covert operations against selected targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the quasi-autonomous tribal areas that have come become increasingly dominated by the Pakistani Taliban who have more recently extended their influence into the Northwest Frontier Province. The U.S. currently has about 50 soldiers in Pakistan acting primarily in an advisory and intelligence capacity.

While some administration officials reportedly believe that recent events have persuaded Musharraf and the army that they need such assistance to curb the growing Taliban-al Qaeda threat, regional specialists both in and outside the administration have argued that such an intervention risked further destabilising the country by triggering what the Times called “a tremendous backlash” against the U.S. and any government that was seen as its accomplice.

Despite the nearly four-month hiatus since the USIP-PIPA survey was conducted, its findings would certainly appear to support the latter prediction.

A whopping 84 percent said the U.S. military presence in the region was either a “critical” (72 percent) or an “important” (12 percent) threat to Pakistan’s “vital interests”.

By comparison, 53 percent of respondents said they believed tensions with India — with which Pakistan has fought several wars — constituted a “critical threat”; 41 percent named al Qaeda as a “critical threat”; 34 percent put “activities of Islamist militants and local Taliban” in the same category.

Asked to choose from a list of alleged U.S. goals in the region, 78 percent cited Washington’s alleged desire “to maintain control over the oil resources of the Middle East” (59 percent said it was “definitely” a goal, 19 percent said “probably”); 75 percent (53 percent “definitely”) cited “to spread Christianity”; and 86 percent (70 percent “definitely”) said it was “to weaken and divide the Islamic world”. Only 63 percent (41 percent “definitely”) chose the option “to prevent more attacks such as those on the World Trade Centre in September 2001.”

Moreover, a majority of respondents said they believed that the U.S. controls either “most” (32 percent) or “nearly all” (24 percent) of the recent major events that have taken place in Pakistan, compared to 22 percent who attributed “some” control to the U.S. and four percent who said “very little”. Eighteen percent declined to respond.

As to Pakistan-U.S. security cooperation, less than one in five respondents said it had either benefited Pakistan primarily or both equally. Forty-four percent said it had mostly benefited the U.S.; and 11 percent said neither party had benefited.

Distrust of the U.S., however, did not translate into support for radical Islamists, the Taliban, or al Qaeda, according to the survey. While they were considered much less of a threat than the U.S., six out of 10 respondents said they considered the Taliban and al Qaeda either a “critical” or an “important” threat” to Pakistan.

And even as huge majorities opposed any U.S. or foreign military intervention against the two groups in Pakistan, pluralities approaching 50 percent said they would support the Pakistani army entering the FATA to capture al Qaeda fighters or Taliban insurgents who have crossed over from Afghanistan.

Comparable pluralities said they favoured phasing out FATA’s special legal status and integrating its areas into the country’s overall legal structure, but also prefer taking a gradualist approach that includes negotiating with the local Taliban over using military force to impose the central government’s control.

The survey also found overwhelming support for government based both on “Islamic principles” and on democratic ideals, including an independent judiciary and being governed by elected representatives. While six in 10 respondents said they supported a larger role for Islamic law, or Shari’a, in Pakistan’s legal system, only 15 percent said they wanted to see more “Talibanisation of daily life”, a common phrase used in Pakistani media to refer to extreme religious conservatism.

Indeed, more than eight in 10 said it was important for Pakistan to protect its religious minorities; more than three out of four said attacks on those minorities are “never justified”; and nearly two out of three said they support government plans to regulate religious schools, or madrassas, to require them to teach secular subjects, such as math and science. Only 17 percent said they oppose those reforms.

In general, those respondents who supported the expansion of Shari’a and government based on “Islamic principles” also tended to favour both democratic ideals and educational reforms at higher rates than others.

© 2007 Inter Press Service

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Veterans Need to Enroll in VA Healthcare Before January 17 from Jesus' General by lokywoky

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Under this provision, any veteran who is 0% service-connected (not disabled by being wounded or otherwise injured during their service) will be unable to enroll in VA Health Care after January 17, 2008. This ends a promise made to vets that has stood since WWII, that their health care needs would be taken care of in perpetuity.

ALL VETERANS: Take a copy of your DD214 and RUN do not walk to your nearest VA Clinic and enroll in VA Health Care - even if you don't need it right now! If you lose your civilian health insurance and need to fall back on VA Health Care - you will not be able to unless you enroll now.

IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WAR VETS: This applies to you as well - only the news is actually worse. In the last military appropriation bill, your "free" health care was extended from two years to five. Yes, you heard right - you are currently only entitled to two years of free health care - even if you have seen combat. After Bush vetoed the military spending bill, which contained another three years, you are back to TWO WHOLE YEARS!

EVERYONE: Write to your Congresscritters and protest this asinine policy. I am a veteran - who never saw combat during the Vietnam era. I am enrolled, and as such, am entitled to whatever healthcare I need for the rest of my life. I have no other health insurance (due to pre-existing conditions and past medical problems) so the VA system is my lifeline. But why in the world are the combat veterans of our latest idiotic wars being told they can only have TWO YEARS? Some ailments do not become apparent until much later. For instance - Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange develop diabetes at a rate that has resulted in an automatic assignment to a special group for care. However, this diabetes does not develop in some cases for 10-20 years later. Another example - Gulf War vets from the first time who suffer from Gulf War Syndrome develop strange cancers and other problems - but much later than two years after the fact - and many are still fighting to get their diagnoses confirmed.

This is totally nuts - and is yet another example of the Bush Administration's support of the valiant fighting men and women - NOT!

So...if you are a vet - or you know one - urge them all to go sign up. Even if they don't need it. Right now. Even if they have heard horror stories. Even if they never use it. Sign up anyway. We need to send a message that VA Health Care is a right for ALL VETERANS as compensation for their service. (The pay certainly isn't much!)

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