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Yellowstone Has Bulged as Magma Pocket Swells

Some places saw the ground rise by ten inches, experts report..

Brian Handwerk

National Geographic

January 19, 2011

Steam rising from Castle Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

Steam rises from Castle Geyser in Yellowstone National Park (file photo).

Photograph by Mark Thiessen,

Yellowstone National Park's supervolcano just took a deep "breath," causing miles of ground to rise dramatically, scientists report.

The simmering volcano has produced major eruptions—each a thousand times more powerful than Mount St. Helens's 1980 eruption—three times in the past 2.1 million years. Yellowstone's caldera, which covers a 25- by 37-mile (40- by 60-kilometer) swath of Wyoming, is an ancient crater formed after the last big blast, some 640,000 years ago.

(See "When Yellowstone Explodes" in National Geographic magazine.)

Since then, about 30 smaller eruptions—including one as recent as 70,000 years ago—have filled the caldera with lava and ash, producing the relatively flat landscape we see today.

But beginning in 2004, scientists saw the ground above the caldera rise upward at rates as high as 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) a year. (Related: "Yellowstone Is Rising on Swollen 'Supervolcano.'")

The rate slowed between 2007 and 2010 to a centimeter a year or less. Still, since the start of the swelling, ground levels over the volcano have been raised by as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) in places.

"It's an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high," said the University of Utah's Bob Smith, a longtime expert in Yellowstone's volcanism.

Video: Yellowstone—World's First National Park.

Read full story here.

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China devalues US buying power by 30%, Protects US Treasury Holdings

Jack H. Barnes
businessinsider.com
Jan. 19, 2011

The trade imbalance between the US and China, a hot button between the nations for the last decade or so, is finally going to start to stabilize in the summer of 2011. However, it is doing so with a de facto devaluation of the US dollar and its buying power. The average American will see a spike in the price of everything from their favorite jeans and T-shirts, to the cost of some electronics.

The Chinese have decided to devalue the US dollar’s buying power, without devaluing the US Treasury holdings they hold. It is an elegant solution to their issues. It will be interesting to see if they can pull it off, while they try to prop up the European Sovereign debt markets at the same time.

The Chinese are attempting, successfully so far, to introduce the Yuan as a global currency in which to settle international trade. China is pumping into its own internal currency markets so much liquidity, they need an export market to develop for the Yuan or their own internal markets will overheat.

So China is going to start offering Yuan based savings accounts, to westerners as a vehicle in which to park capital. While this is a test case only, one might expect Yuan based accounts to be offered around the world sooner rather than later.

If western investors take to Yuan based cash accounts as a way to try and gain an increase in value, the transition will drive the western banks to be more proactive in adding convertibility into their systems. To start, they are offering these Yuan accounts at three US based branches.

Read more: here

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China and America: A tale of surge versus splurge


19 January, 2011
rt.com

Disciplined, innovative and super confident, China is making lightning strides across the board, while America seems content to borrow its way out of an economic quagmire of its own making.

The difference between “China then” and “China now” was crystal clear on Tuesday, as Washington shined up the champagne glasses for Chinese President Hu Jintao, who will meet with US President Barack Obama amid an atmosphere of pomp and pageantry.

Indeed, if haute cuisine is any indication of a visiting leader’s perceived importance, Hu ranks pretty high in US eyes.

Washington is indulging the Chinese leader with a lavish state banquet, a gastronomical honor that contrasts sharply with his last trip to the White House, in 2006, when he was served only lunch by former US President George W. Bush.

And the Chinese president got the red-carpet treatment upon landing on Tuesday afternoon at Andrews Air Force Base, where he was personally welcomed by Vice President Joe Biden, a military color guard, and a 21-gun salute.

Yes, times have changed, and most of all, it seems, for China. The quasi-communist economy is white hot, the Chinese middle class can’t spend its disposable income fast enough, while even the Chinese military managed to humble America’s defense chief on a recent visit.

On January 10, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in China, where he met with his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie, as well as Hu. The main purpose of the visit was regional security following North Korea’s bombardment of a South Korean island in November. China did not pass up the opportunity to demonstrate its military prowess.

Gates’ visit was overshadowed by an uncharacteristic display of muscle flexing on the part of the Chinese, who chose the moment to give the previously rumored J-20 stealth fighter jet its maiden flight.

The US Defense Secretary tried to play down the surprise performance of the radar-evading fighter, saying Hu assured him the test flight was not timed to coincide with his visit.

"I asked Hu about it directly, and he said that the test had absolutely nothing to do with my visit and had been a pre-planned test," Gates told reporters.

The explanation, however, must have done little to comfort Gates, especially considering that he told a group of reporters aboard the plane to China that, although Washington was aware of China’s stealth fighter program, it was still many years away from fruition.

According to Stars and Stripes, the US military magazine, some military analysts now fear that China may close the gap on stealth technology, thus threatening America’s air superiority.

“The [Chinese stealth] aircraft has rekindled debate about Gates’ controversial 2009 decision to end production of the most advanced US fighter ever built, the stealth F-22 Raptor, and slow purchases of the F-35,” the magazine commented. “Critics point to China’s long-known race for stealth aircraft as a threat to US air superiority.”

Now, in addition to the fledgling development of a stealth fighter, the Chinese military just added a newly refurbished Ukrainian aircraft carrier to its growing fleet.

According to Kanwa Asian Defense magazine, China bought the used carrier in 1998 and towed it to the northeastern port of Dalian for a complete overhaul. The refitting included new housing compartments, engines, navigational systems and power generating equipment.

Kanwa, as quoted by AP, said the restoration would make the ship fully operational and allow China to design and build its own aircraft carriers in the future. Perfecting such technical expertise will take many years, but as the surprise unveiling of the stealth fighter proved, China has the human resources for developing technologies very fast, and not just when it comes to exporting products for Western markets.

Much of China's renewed interest in military spending can be traced back to last year, when Washington announced it would supply Taiwan, which China regards as its sovereign territory, with $6.7 billion worth of advanced military hardware, including two Osprey mine-hunting ships, 60 Black Hawk helicopters and surface-to-air missiles.

The deal drew a harsh response from China, of course, which resulted in a severe deterioration in bilateral relations between Beijing and Washington.

Is it really any surprise that China is simply responding to what it views as excessive US meddling in its immediate neighborhood?

Economic front

Perhaps the greatest mystery about China’s mind-blowing economic progress is how a one-time isolated, communist regime has adapted to a global economy with such insightfulness.

Taking advantage of America’s massive expenditures on Chinese-made goods, China reinvested much of those dollars right back into the US economy. The strategy was more than just good business; it has proven to be savvy politics as well, since today the fate of the American and Chinese economies are now dependent upon each other to a high degree.

Should China decide to sell off its billions of dollars in US Treasury notes, for example, it would crash the US economy, thus killing China’s biggest market for manufactured Chinese products. Not good.

On the other hand, the US must be careful on lecturing China too harshly on various topics, like human rights, considering who is holding so much of its government debt. (Beijing's massive stockpile of foreign currency assets is estimated at about $2.5 trillion and mostly held in low-interest US government securities and other low-risk, dollar-denominated investments.)

In light of this tightly interwoven relationship, it was no surprise that Obama and Hu met Tuesday night in a private dinner behind closed doors at the White House. Now, Obama will be able to say that he challenged Hu on various sensitive subjects of importance to his liberal constituency, including human rights, freedom of the web, and loosening China’s control over its currency.

Obama plans to host a meeting on Wednesday afternoon for the Chinese president and US and Chinese business leaders in an effort to promote increased US exports to China, as well as increased Chinese investment in the United States.

Will China lecture the US?

Although US corporations have recovered nicely from the “Great Recession” (The Dow Jones Industrial Average is on the verge of smashing through the 12,000 mark), US workers continue to struggle with unemployment rates still just below 10 percent of the population.

“The unemployment rate is higher in [America] than in Britain or Russia and much higher than in Germany or Japan,”according to a Gallup study of worldwide job markets. “The American jobless rate is also higher than China’s,” the study said, as quoted by The New York Times.

In the article [“In Wreckage of Lost Jobs, Lost Power,” January 19, 2010], David Leonhardt argues that the US worker is falling behind because American corporations “operate with few restraints.”

“Unions have withered, at least in the private sector, and courts have grown friendlier to business,” Leonhardt argues. “Many companies can now come much closer to setting the terms of their relationship with employers, letting them go when they become a drag on profits and relying on remaining workers or temporary ones when business picks up.”

Meanwhile, US workers receive the least amount of vacation time in the industrial world – even less than “authoritarian” China. And there is not even a rule in the books that corporations have to provide their workers with a vacation.

According to a report by the Center for American Progress, "the US is the only country…without a national paid parental-leave benefit. The average is over 12 weeks of paid leave… and over 20 weeks in Europe."

In light of these sobering statistics, Leonhardt’s conclusion are right on the mark: “For corporate America, the Great Recession is over. For the American work force, it’s not.”

Political analysts are anticipating what will be said by the two leaders during a scheduled news conference on Wednesday. Each leader will respond to four questions, two from American journalists and two from Chinese reporters.

One question that would be interesting to hear Obama respond to is why Chinese Wal-Mart workers are legally required to have unions represent them, but US Wal-Mart workers at home have no union representation whatsoever.

Indeed, Wal-Mart goes out of its way to shut down any efforts to unionize on behalf of its silenced workforce.

China may wish to suggest – since, after all, it has so much invested in the US economy – that US workers enjoy some sort of democratic procedure to guarantee their personal rights.

The debate on human rights, of course, cuts both ways.

Robert Bridge, RT

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Hu's dollar frustration

By Hossein Askari and Noureddine Krichene

Our international financial system, based on the US dollar as the dominant reserve currency, faces an unprecedented bout of flu. Following the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2007, the drawbacks of the dollar-based system have become ever more glaring, prompting a number of world leaders and central bankers to voice their concerns, with Chinese President Hu Jintao, at present on a state visit to the United States, and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France becoming its most vocal and influential critics.

The recent decision of the US Federal Reserve to inject US$600 billion into the economy, on top of the prevailing abundance of dollar liquidity, and to maintain near-zero interest rates, has created more tensions around the globe, inciting fears of a currency war.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Fed has been expanding liquidity at a merciless rate. This planned money creation by the Fed on top of what was done in the aftermath of the financial crisis would lead to a total increase exceeding $2.3 trillion; meanwhile, the US can be expected to lift its debt ceiling above the $15 trillion mark. There is no letting up of liquidity expansion.

As a result of record-low US interest rates and massive dollar injections, there are pressures for dollar outflows to attractive emerging markets in pursuit of higher interest rates. Central banks around the world that want to avoid the depreciation of the dollar (that is the same thing as an appreciation of their own currencies and thus the loss of international competitiveness for their exports) are forced to use their own currency to buy up dollars. This results in a forced expansion of their own money supply, which in turn exerts inflationary pressures in their own markets.

In this way, what started as a monetary expansion and low interest rates in the US is transmitted and exported abroad. Namely, US policies are forced down the throats of other countries. At the same time, commodity prices, including the price of basic foodstuffs, are rising as seldom before because these prices are denominated in dollars while the dollar is depreciating and inflationary pressures are fueled around the world.

It is worth repeating and expanding on an important point from the previous paragraph. Our current international payments system is an asymmetric system because the dollar, the currency of one country, has a special position that no other currency enjoys. Moreover, the US can do whatever it wants with impunity and little or no regard for the problem of other countries.

This was exactly the problem of the Bretton Woods system that prevailed from 1944 to 1971. Its demise can be attributed to two interrelated facts - European countries and Japan were forced into following the policy decisions of the US (or, alternatively stated, there was no policy independence for other countries to pursue their own domestic agenda (this is a direct result of fixed exchange rates); and while the US ran increasing current account deficits, they acquired dollars that could not be exchanged for gold, and the dollars were also loosing real purchasing power in terms of buying internationally traded commodities (as is the case today). Well, it became obvious that the fixed asymmetric Bretton Woods system of exchange rates had to go, as countries did not want to be tied to US policies through fixed exchange rates and accumulate dollars that they did not want.

The world opted for a system that allowed countries to adopt whatever type of exchange rate they wanted - fixed to another currency, such as the dollar, or floating. Well things have not turned out as promoted. Flexible rates did not afford the policy independence that was touted. This is because of the high mobility of capital that responded to even small interest rates differentials between countries. A policy divergence in one country (as a different interest rate) would lead to capital inflows or outflows, in turn nullifying the desired policy divergence. Some of us said that this would happen but it fell on deaf ears.

Today, we see the whole thing playing out again much the same as it did during the problematic period of 1969-1971. Just the names and the countries are different.

Because the dollar is the world’s reserve currency, the US is no Greece or Ireland; it faces no limit to fiscal and monetary expansion. For years, it has been running external (current account) deficits without tears, that is, without facing any balance of payments constraint. Such is not the case for Burundi, for example, which cannot expand deficits without running into foreign exchange constraints.

The dollar depreciation has hurt a number of economies as it essentially exports inflation to these economies; the rates of inflation have exceeded tolerable levels in China, India, and in a number of other countries. US policy makers have little concern for soaring gold, food and energy prices. They are narrowly pre-occupied with domestic political and economic agendas, including coping with a massive unemployment rate of about 9.4%.

The priority of domestic policies was emphasized by President Barack Obama at the Group of 20 summit in Seoul late last year when he flatly dismissed calls by a number of G-20 members to renounce the Fed's injection of an additional $600 billion of liquidity. Similar policies and practices in that earlier era were coined as the policy of "benign neglect". There is little difference today.

Since 2008, the G-20 summits have been calling for near-zero interest rates and enlarged fiscal deficits. But these policies have turned out to be at odds within the G-20 itself. While calling upon China to inflate at a rapid rate, the US and European countries have been critical about insufficient Chinese currency appreciation. In similar fashion, the European zone, while agreeing within the G-20 on the Fed’s expansionary policies and US deficit spending, has been severely critical of the dollar's sharp depreciation and has no choice but to inflate at the same rate to prevent a sharp appreciation of the euro.

Frustrated by the Fed’s deliberate depreciation policy, Sarkozy stated: "We cannot increase the competitiveness of our businesses in Europe and have the dollar lose 50% of its value against the euro. When we produce in the eurozone and sell in the dollar zone, are we supposed to just give up selling?"

Other G-20 countries, such as Brazil and India, have also become critical of the dollar depreciation that has hurt their exports. The Brazilian currency has recently appreciated by about 25% vis-a-vis the dollar, inflicting significant revenue losses for Brazilian exporters.

The Chinese president was critical of the Federal Reserve decision to stimulate growth through huge bond purchases to keep down long-term interest rates, a strategy that China has loudly complained about in the past as fueling inflation in emerging economies, including its own. He said that US monetary policy "has a major impact on global liquidity and capital flows and therefore, the liquidity of the US dollar should be kept at a reasonable and stable level." The wrangling and the blame game, as in the past, are alive and well.

The prevailing asymmetric dollar-based system is essentially unstable. It leads to a self-multiplying expansion of US external deficits because dollars acquired by the rest of the world are placed in US banks as reserve assets of foreign central banks. These deposits in turn serve as a basis for further money creation by US banks (as they lend it out), more demand and more external deficits.

Savings from foreign surplus countries enabled US domestic credit to expand at 12% in the years leading to the financial crisis of 2007 and contributed to almost runaway securitization of mortgages, housing boom, and further widening the US current account deficit.

Ironically, in our opinion, the dollar-based system has hurt the industrial structure of the US because the US feels less pressure to expand its exports to finance its imports, it can just print more dollars. Because the dollar is the world's pre-eminent reserve currency, US money expansion and near-zero interest rates have an immediate impact on commodity price inflation, most noticeably energy and food.

Fed expansionary policies also serve as a tax on the world economy in form of seignorage (as printing dollars costs little but foreigners have to give something of value as the accumulate our dollars) for using the dollar as a settlement and a reserve currency. The amount of resources drawn from other countries is approximated by the perennial and growing US external deficits.The money creation amounts to a redistribution of real wealth from poor consumers in Bangladesh and Mauritania to banks, hedge funds, and financial market speculators and traders in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and in other trading centers.

Continued here.

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Washington To Rearm Georgia For New Conflicts

Stop NATO
January 14, 2011

Rick Rozoff

Recent reports in the Russian news media have detailed plans by the U.S. to provide the Mikheil Saakashvili government in Georgia with tens of millions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.

The Russian government’s Itar-Tass news agency and Voice of Russia have confirmed the arms package with officials from the Russian special services and the Joint Staff of the armed forces.

An official from the second source responded to the proposed arms sale by stating: “We deeply regret that the reset of US-Russian relations declared by the administration of Barack Obama does not change anything in Washington’s military support for the Georgian leadership, which began the war in the Caucasus in August 2008 and which is continuing to mastermind aggressive plans against the independent states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” [1]

The Georgian-South Ossetian-Russian war of 2008 was preceded by Georgian artillery barrages against the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on August 1 which killed six people including a Russian peacekeeper stationed there.

That attack occurred within hours of 1,000 U.S. Marines, airborne forces and other troops completing the two-week Immediate Response 2008 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Partnership for Peace exercise in Georgia.

Six days afterward the Saakashvili regime launched an all-out assault against South Ossetia, timed to coincide with the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

American troops and military equipment remained in the war zone throughout the five days of fighting between Georgia and Russia which began after the latter nation reacted to the deaths of Russian peacekeepers and South Ossetian civilians (who overwhelmingly hold Russian passports) caused by the Georgian onslaught.

U.S. military transport aircraft ferried home 2,000 Georgian troops deployed to Iraq – the third largest national contingent after those of the U.S. and Britain at the time – as the fighting was still raging.

Five days after the war ended, Joseph Biden – then senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, now vice president – rushed to the Georgian capital to support Saakashvili and offer $1 billion in “emergency aid” to the U.S. client.

After returning stateside, Biden, never reticent in respect to high-blown rhetorical excesses, stated:

“I left the country convinced that Russia’s invasion of Georgia may be…one of the most significant event[s] to occur in Europe since the end of communism….[T]he continuing presence of Russian forces in the country has severe implications for the broader region….Russia’s actions in Georgia will have consequences.”

Later in the month the U.S. dispatched the USS McFaul guided missile destroyer (part of the Aegis combat system designed to fire interceptor missiles), USS Mount Whitney (the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet) and a Coast Guard cutter to the Georgian Black Sea coast, immediately south of Abkhazia and not much farther from the Russian shoreline. The heavily armed warships were, if one trusts Washington’s account of their mission, engaged in a humanitarian operation. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused the U.S. of bringing weapons into Georgia.

The American ships, joined by as many as fifteen other NATO vessels, and Russian opposite numbers deployed to the region were only some ninety miles apart.

Georgia’s head of state Mikheil Saakashvili, a graduate of Columbia Law School in New York City, was brought to power seven years ago on the back of an extra-constitutional putsch in 2003-2004 that he and his supporters and admirers in the West refer to as the Rose Revolution.

He remains the preeminent American political client in the world along with Kosovo’s prime minister and president presumptive Hashim Thaci, recently accused in a report to the Council of Europe of being the ringleader of a grisly crime syndicate that trafficked in narcotics, weapons and human organs extracted from at least 500 ethnic Serbian and other civilians murdered for that purpose. An empire can be judged by the satraps it arms and in other manners indulges.

After Saakashvili’s Pyrrhic attempt to eliminate the two barriers remaining to dragging his country into NATO – unresolved territorial disputes and the presence of foreign troops on its soil (at the time a small number of Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia) – with the invasion of South Ossetia and following that an offensive against Abkhazia, the U.S. and NATO hastened to shore up their outpost in the South Caucasus.

In mid-September NATO’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and its North Atlantic Council (the permanent representatives – ambassadors – of all its 26 member states at the time) visited Georgia and, guided by the host country’s defense minister, inspected air force and infantry bases.

During the trip, the U.S.-controlled military bloc signed a framework agreement on creating the NATO-Georgia Commission, out of which developed an Annual National Program to further Georgia’s integration into the Alliance, an exceptional measure to circumvent the standard stages through which a candidate nation passes to achieve full NATO accession.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by issuing a statement that said in part:

“Instead of drawing serious conclusions about the failed attempt by Saakashvili to forcefully resolve the many-year-old conflict [with South Ossetia], NATO has again demonstrated its support towards his [Saakashvili’s] campaign of disinformation, and has promised to rebuild the military infrastructure of this country.” [2]

Washington followed suit in December when then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza announced a framework agreement on a U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, which was formalized by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze in Washington on January 9, 2009.

In October of 2008 Washington deployed the destroyer USS Mason to Georgia for training exercises and in the same month the Georgian defense minister met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the sidelines of a NATO defense chiefs meeting in Hungary, after which it was announced that “U.S. military assistance will be aimed at strengthening Georgian air defenses.” [3]

At the same time the Pentagon sent “an assessment team to Georgia to determine what role the US should play in rebuilding that country’s military after its military conflict with Russia last August.

“After the assessment, Pentagon officials will review how the United States will be able to support the reconstruction of Georgia, including armed forces aid.” [4]

Toward the end of the month a delegation headed by Frank Boland, head of Force Planning for the NATO Defense Policy and Planning Directorate, visited Georgia to meet with the country’s top defense and military officials and prepare the nation for the next stage of NATO integration.

The month before, only weeks after the war had ended, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “Georgia, like any sovereign country, should have the ability to defend itself and deter renewed aggression, and there should be not be any question about whether Georgia is entitled to military assistance from the United States or, indeed, from NATO or any of the NATO allies.”

President George Bush supported Biden’s call for $1 billion worth of non-military aid to Georgia, which at the time was remarked would “dwarf the 63 million dollars that Washington provided to Georgia last year. Excluding Iraq, the infusion would make Georgia one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid after Israel and Egypt.” [5] Georgia has a population of 4.6 million, Egypt of 80 million.

Until now, however, the U.S. has been cautious about rebuilding and upgrading Georgia’s military arsenal or at least acknowledging that it is doing so. If recent reports prove true, Georgia is to receive a large quantity of high-tech weapons from the U.S., including surface-to-air missile complexes, Stinger and other portable surface-to-air missiles, Javelin third generation guided missiles and Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, the latter two designed for penetrating armor.

Three weeks ago South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity warned that “Georgia only pays lip service to peace, continues to rearm and refuses to sign non-aggression pacts that can avert another South Caucasus war.” [6]

According to Russian military expert Victor Baranets, “Georgia is buying anti-missile and anti-tank weapons because the 2008 war showed that these are weak points of the Georgian army.” [7]

In short, the U.S. will provide precisely the weapons Tbilisi needs for a new assault against South Ossetia and a new war with Russia.

Saakashvili is now in Washington, where “the purchase of weapons will be the main topic of his talks with American leaders.” His trip is centered on attending a memorial to the late White House Afghanistan-Pakistan special representative Richard Holbrooke in Washington, D.C. on December 14 at which President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will pay tribute to the deceased.

On January 12 Saakashvili became the first foreign leader to meet with the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner. The latter released a statement after the meeting which said:

“The American people will continue to stand with others struggling for democracy over the forces of despotism, dignity over degradation, and freedom over subjugation.” [8] His statement also expressed appreciation to Georgia for supplying the Pentagon with 2,000 troops for the war in Iraq and 1,000 so far for that in Afghanistan.

The Georgian leader met with other lawmakers, including Senator Joseph Lieberman, upon whom he bestowed the St. George’s Victory Order. Saakashvili announced last month that he – not the mayor of Tbilisi – would named a street in his nation’s capital after Holbrooke, a “trusted friend and confidant” who co-authored a piece in the Washington Post during the 2008 war denouncing what he termed the “full-scale Russian invasion of Georgia.”

While Washington’s favorite foreign head of state is being hailed and regaled with attention and praise in the capital, his foreign minister referred to a recent agreement between Abkhazia and Russia as “fascism.” [9]

The day before he arrived in the U.S., Saakashvili said in an interview to a Ukrainian television station:

“As for NATO, I am absolutely convinced that this is just a matter of time.”

“Nobody can ensure their security on their own, especially small countries, but I think this concerns Ukraine as well,” he added.

After seven years of mercurial, megalomaniacal, adventurist, dictatorial and murderous rule [10], Saakashvili remains the Washington political establishment’s pampered darling ne plus ultra.

At the NATO summit in November of last year, President Obama met privately with him the day before the NATO-Russia Council meeting with President Medvedev occurred.

Last July Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Georgia as Saakashvili’s guest and lambasted Russia for “occupying” Abkhazia and South Ossetia, described as Georgian territories although neither has ever been part of an independent Georgia. In her own words: “We, the United States, was appalled, and totally rejected the invasion and occupation of Georgian territory. I was in the Senate at the time, and, along with my colleagues and the prior Administration, made that view very clear. We continue to speak out, as I have on this trip, against the continuing occupation.” [11]

At a joint press conference with Georgian Prime Minister Nikoloz Gilauri ahead of the second omnibus meeting of the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership in October, she stated:

“The relationship between Georgia and the United States stands on a foundation of shared values and common interests….The United States will not waver in its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That support is a core principle of our Charter on Strategic Partnership, and it is fundamental to our bilateral relationship.”

“The United States remains committed to Georgia’s aspirations for membership in NATO, as reflected in the Alliance’s decisions in Bucharest and Strasbourg-Kehl. We strongly support Georgia’s efforts related to its Annual National Program, which promotes defense reform and guides cooperation with NATO. And we continue to support Georgia’s efforts on defense reform and improving defense capabilities, including NATO interoperability and Georgia’s contributions to ISAF operations in Afghanistan.”

“We continue to call on Russia to end its occupation of Georgian territory, withdraw its forces, and abide by its other commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreements.” [12]

Her comments led the government of Abkhazia to challenge her to acknowledge countries like Afghanistan and Iraq as American-occupied territories.

Later in the month a NATO delegation inspected the Krtsanisi National Training Center and its Simulation Training Center – built by the U.S. – in Georgia (where U.S. Marines have trained Georgian soldiers and where three Georgian soldiers were killed and thirteen wounded in an explosion this month) as part of NATO Days events in the nation.

Also in October, Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, visited the Krtsanisi National Training Center and the simulation facility to view training exercises of the Georgian battalion that would replace one serving under NATO command in Afghanistan. He also toured the newly established NATO Liaison Office in the Georgian capital.

In November Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Phillip Gordon told BBC: “We…recognize Georgia’s sovereignty and integrity. We are absolutely clear with Russia, we disagree on Georgia. [W]e want to see an end to Russian occupation and…we stand by Georgia`s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” [13]

At the same time Georgian Deputy Minister of Defense Nikoloz Vashakidze was sequestered with top U.S. officials in closed-door meetings at the Pentagon. The “negotiations were held within the framework agreement on cooperation in the defence sector between the US and Georgia.” [14]

As the Georgian deputy defense chief was in Washington, South Ossetian First Deputy Foreign Minister Alan Pliev warned:

“We are concerned about Georgia’s intention to increase its military capacities. Now Georgia is planning to buy a number of Merkava 4 Israeli tanks, which are clearly not meant for defensive action.

“The activation of the Georgian Defense Ministry, increased flights of Georgian drones near the borders of South Ossetia, as well as the maniacal opposition to signing a non-aggression agreement give rise to the reasonable assumption of a newly designed bloody venture by Georgian authorities.” [15]

The official also stated that due to assistance from the U.S. and other NATO states the military-technical capacity of the Georgian armed forces currently exceeds that at the start of the war in 2008.

On November 16 the NATO Parliamentary Assembly met in Poland and passed a resolution referring to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “occupied territories.”

The Abkhazian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response which included the following:

“The Abkhazian party considers this biased interpretation of the events yet another manifestation of NATO’s pro-Georgian position.

“NATO is an organization that has been contributing to the intensive militarization of Georgia for many years, stirring up the revanchist mindset of the Georgian leadership, which led to the August 2008 bloodshed in South Ossetia.” [16]

At their meeting during the Lisbon NATO summit, Obama “thanked his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili for his country’s participation in NATO-led international peace efforts in Afghanistan and reaffirmed the United States’ support of Georgia’s territorial integrity.” [17]

Saakashvili offered more troops for the war in Afghanistan, pledged that his nation’s contingent would remain there as long as NATO does, confirmed that Obama backed his country becoming a full NATO member (“President Obama has supported Georgia’s course that will lead it to joining NATO”) and said that the NATO summit declaration cleared the way for Georgia to join the military bloc without the customary Membership Action Plan requirement.

The Lisbon summit declaration affirms that NATO will “continue and develop the partnerships with Ukraine and Georgia within the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia Commissions, based on the NATO decision at the Bucharest summit 2008, and taking into account the Euro-Atlantic orientation or aspiration of each of the countries.”

On December 1, at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Kazakhstan, during which she met privately with Saakashvili, Hillary Clinton advocated “a meaningful OSCE presence in Georgia.” In 1998 and until NATO’s war against Yugoslavia commenced in March of the following year her husband’s administration employed the OSCE’s Kosovo Verification Mission, under the control of the notorious William Walker, to set the stage for the 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia and the wresting of Kosovo from Serbia. [18]

Also early last month, the NATO-Georgia Commission met in Brussels and Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister and Secretary of the National Security Council Giga Bokeria, representing his country at the meeting, stated:

“The resolution of the summit says that NATO continues to assist Georgia in carrying out reforms, recognizes its territorial integrity and sovereignty, and calls on Russia to abolish the decision in connection with recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”

Afterwards, “issues of cooperation between Georgia and NATO were discussed at the headquarters of the Alliance, at a meeting of the Georgian National Security Council’s Secretary Gigi Bokeria and the NATO Deputy Secretary General.

“The NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus James Appathurai attended the meeting in his new status.” [19]

As a footnote, “In 2003, after a visit to Serbia to study peaceful revolution techniques, Bokeria helped bring Serb activists from the youth movement Otpor to Georgia to train students in the same techniques. As a result, the youth movement ‘Kmara’ was established, which played a leading role in the November 2003 Rose Revolution.” [20]

On December 3 the U.S. ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, was quoted as affirming: “The United States remains firmly committed to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We enjoy a strong defense relationship, defense cooperation, and we’re currently working closely with the Ministry of Defense and other Ministries in Georgia to improve Georgia’s ability to defend itself.” [21]

Three days later Bass visited the Krtsanisi National Training Center and “also took a tour of the Simulation Center and attended model exercises on the ground.” [22]

The American envoy is routinely present at send-off and welcoming ceremonies for U.S. Marine Corps-trained Georgian troops deployed to Afghanistan.

In fact the Pentagon instituted the Georgia Train and Equip Program in 2002, first under Green Beret, then Marine, control in 2002 and later the Georgian Sustainment and Stability Operations Program three years later.

While still commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General James Conway visited Georgia in August of 2009 to inaugurate the latest Marine training of the host country’s armed forces. At the time Associated Press reported that when asked if the preparation could be applied “to the possibility of another war with Russia,” he answered, “In general, yes.”

Last September Saakashvili addressed cadets graduating from a new training center at the Kutaisi Military Base and stated:

“[S]omeone may say: ‘we have so many problems, our territories are occupied and there is no time now for going somewhere else to fight.’ But because of these very same problems that we have, we need huge combat experience…and that [Afghan mission] is a unique combat and war school.” [23]

On December 9 Associated Press, reporting on an interview with Georgian Vice Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze, stated he was “raising the issue [of a "road map" to full NATO membership] in Washington this week with the Obama administration.” He further “said Georgia already behaves as if it were a member of NATO.”

On the same day a bill crafted and introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Lindsey Graham, co-chairs of the Atlantic Council Task Force on Georgia, called “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate with respect to the territorial integrity of Georgia and the situation within Georgia’s internationally recognized borders,” was presented to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It refers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Georgian territories “occupied by the Russian Federation.”

The next day Shaheen’s and Graham’s colleague Senator John McCain spoke at a conference titled “Forging a Transatlantic Consensus on Russia” at the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at which he demanded the resumption and increase of arms sales to Georgia, stating:

“For two years, mostly out of deference to Russia, defensive arms sales have not been authorized for Georgia. This has to change. At a minimum we should provide Georgia with early warning radars and other basic capabilities to strengthen its defenses.

“Our allies in central and eastern Europe view Georgia as a test case of whether the United States will stand by them or not. Russia views Georgia as a test case, too – of how much it can get away with in Georgia, and if there then elsewhere. It is the policy of our government to support Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO.” [24]

Afterward, Robert Pszczel, the new director of the NATO Information Office in Moscow and formerly acting NATO Deputy Spokesman, confirmed that “NATO will continue its Eastward enlargement policy” and that “The NATO-Georgia Commission continues its work.” [25]

In mid-December U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Alexander Vershbow and Georgia’s Vice Prime Minister and State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze met in Washington to plan Georgia’s NATO accession. The Georgian official stated afterward that “Meeting with Vershbow is very important, as he is actively engaged in the issues of NATO enlargement, as well as personally ensuring Georgia’s accession into the alliance.” [26]

Baramidze, who studied at Georgetown University and was the country’s defense minister in 2004, also met with members of the U.S. Senate on the bill discussed above.
….
U.S. troops were in Georgia during the five-day war with Russia in 2008 and later in the same month American warships were docked in the country’s ports as ships from the Russian Black Sea Fleet were deployed within firing range.

Never before have military forces from the world’s two major nuclear powers been on opposing sides of a battle line during wartime.

By increasing the provision of sophisticated weaponry to Georgia, Washington is taunting Russia on its southern border and running the risk of a military conflict that may draw it into a direct confrontation with its main nuclear rival.

1) Voice of Russia, January 11, 2011
2) Civil Georgia, September 17, 2008
3) Civil Georgia, October 9, 2008
4) Voice of Russia, October 14, 2008
5) Ibid
6) Voice of Russia, December 22, 2010
7) Voice of Russia, January 12, 2011
8) Civil Georgia, January 13, 2011
9) Rustavi 2, January 13, 2011
10) Georgia: Simulating War Or Provoking It?
Stop NATO, March 16, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/georgia-simulating-war-or-provoking-it

11) U.S. Department of State, July 5, 2010
….
Clinton Renews U.S. Claims On Former Soviet Space
Stop NATO, July 7, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/clinton-renews-u-s-claims-on-former-soviet-space

12) Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton And Georgian Prime Minister
Nikoloz Gilauri At the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership
Omnibus Meeting
U.S. Department of State. October 6, 2011

http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2010/October/20101006155724su0.2815777.html#

13) Rustavi 2, November 11, 2010
14) Rustavi 2, November 11, 2010
15) RES Information Agency, November 13, 2010
16) Russian Information Agency Novosti, November 18, 2010
17) Russian Information Agency Novosti, November 20, 2010
18) Civil Georgia, December 1, 2010
19) Trend News Agency, December 2, 2010
20) Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giga_Bokeria

21) Civil Georgia, December 3, 2010
22) Ministry of Defence of Georgia, December 6, 2010
23) Civil Georgia, September 13, 2010
24) Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies,
December 10, 2010
www.sais-jhu.edu/news-and-events/pdf/johnmccain121010.pdf
25) Itar-Tass, December 13, 2010
26) Trend News Agency, December 14, 2010

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Bill Gates Pledges Allegiance to the Illuminati

Thursday, January 20

by Zen Gardner

'It's bad enough calling it the "decade of vaccines". The "Gates of Hell" Foundation is now announcing an Orwellian plan to electronically register every child to supposedly keep track of their vaccines.

"Vaccines will be the key. If you could register every birth on a cell phone -- get fingerprints, get a location -- then you could [set up] systems to make sure the immunizations happen."

Gates suggested using cell phones to record each birth and send the information, including biometric identifiers, to a central database. This database would then send reminders to parents' phones when it was time to come in for vaccines or other treatments. He said a prime location to implement such programs would be northern Nigeria or northern India, where vaccination rates are less than 50 percent.'

Read more: Bill Gates Pledges Allegiance to the Illuminati

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Bombshell: Government Admits Fluoride Hurting Children

Alex Jones & Aaron Dykes

Infowars.com
January 14, 2011

A significant milestone in the fight against fluoride emerged quietly and without major notice from the mainstream news last week. After decades of ignoring the research about the dangers and hailing water fluoridation as one of the 10 greatest health achievements of the 20th Century (CDC), the government is calling for a reduction in the amount of fluoride it adds to public water supplies, citing its negative effect on teeth (dental fluorosis). For the first time since 1962, the standard for fluoride will be lowered from 1.2 to 0.7 milligrams per liter.

Because fluoride from water builds up over time in the human body, this reduction will not eliminate the dangers of fluoride– which include risk of bone cancer, bone fractures, thyroid disorder, brain inflammation, lowered IQ and mental functions, sterility or reduced fertility and more. However, it is a good sign that the powers-that-be are losing ground on the fluoride debate. Further, the reduction of fluoridation is proof that the warnings from activists, critics and health professionals have been heard after all.

As Alex Jones points out in the video, many of those health professionals who have been blowing the whistle on fluoridation for decades are employees or union contractors of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other governmental regulation agencies. Their objections, based on alarming scientific studies such as the one linking fluoridation with a seven-fold increase in bone cancer for boys, have heretofore been almost wholly ignored, until now. One reason for this government admission, by the way, likely has to do with limiting liability for those harmful effects, or even establishing immunity for districts who adhere to lowering the fluoride standard against future claims to harm.

    At the same time, hundreds of other chemicals including many toxic ingredients like lead, arsenic, radium and uranium are also found in public drinking water. Many of these dangerous toxins are put into the water as part of the fluoride-cocktail administered in the many municipalities across the United States and other Western countries, or are leached into the supply via the acidic levels of fluoride. The compound is often not simply sodium fluoride, but a mix of toxic waste byproduct [see chart for hydrofluosilicic acid] created in the process of scrubbing phosphate fertilizer plants and in other high industry applications, such as aluminum.

    Furthermore, while fluoride is scheduled for reduction in public water supplies, it is still very common and often dangerously concentrated in many food products at levels of many more parts per million than water and in pesticides used for food production, and in the soils where those pesticides are used.

    Though these other fluoride dangers are significant enough that we need to continue educating and informing our fellow friends, neighbors and families, those who have long spoken out about this issue can cherish one victory on the road to taking back our nation, our lives and our health. Now, with this important government admission, we must push for complete removal of added fluoride from public water in our areas.

    Further, as advisors to government bodies around the world attempt to argue for forced mass-medication by adding substances like lithium to public water, we must argue against ‘forced consent’ and demand one of our most integral human rights– that no government of man can make a law to force medicate us against our will. We have a human right to say no, especially when we know better.

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    Another Betrayal of Famed American Helen Thomas as Attackers Make 90 year Old a Cautionary Tale

    January 13, 2011 Veterans Today

    ADL Demands All Helen Thomas‘ Honors Recinded

    One of America’s National Treasures in Journalism is Under Attack Again

    This time, she’s under attack from the Society of Professional Journalists [SPJ] which is preparing to retire a lifetime achievement award. War-all-the-time attacks waged by militaristic Zionists continue as the consequence of speaking truth to a war culture becomes clear.

    The so-called “Society of Professional Journalists” is at it again, undermining the work of truly professional journalists. In the 1990s, SPJ joined in the pack attack against investigative reporter Gary Webb; now, the SPJ’s target is Helen Thomas.

    In 1996, working at the San Jose Mercury News, Webb courageously brought the Reagan administration’s Contra-cocaine scandal back to public attention, only to face relentless attacks from the major news outlets that had hid from the difficult story in the 1980s.

    Before those attacks grew too fierce, California’s SPJ chapter had given an award to Webb for his series. But after the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times piled on against Webb, his Mercury Newseditor Jerry Ceppos panicked and forced Webb to quit.

    The national SPJ wanted desperately to side with the big newspapers in taking down Webb, so it pressured its California chapter to withdraw Webb’s award, a step that the state chapter refused to take.

    So, to do its part in the humiliation of Gary Webb, the national SPJ bestowed a special “ethics in journalism” award on Ceppos for his role in destroying Webb’s career, an act that ultimately contributed to Webb’s suicide in 2004.

    SPJ’s action was professional journalism turned upside down, honoring a cowardly editor for selling out a courageous reporter.

    Apparently, SPJ never had any regrets over its role in helping to ruin Webb, not even after the CIA’s inspector general issued a report revealing that the Contra cocaine trafficking was actually worse than Webb had described.

    Now, SPJ is considering a similarly gutless betrayal of legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas as she faces relentless attacks from Washington’s powerful neocons who have long considered her a thorn in their side, as Danny Schechter describes in this guest essay:

    By Danny Schechter

    The Society of Professional Journalists [SPJ] is preparing to jump on the “kick Helen Thomas when she is down” campaign by retiring a lifetime achievement award that honors this great American journalist.

    She is being sanctioned for speaking out against Israel in a manner that offended some, despite her clarification.

    This new, knee-jerk, self-righteous “look how responsible we are” capitulation to outside pressure must be resisted.

    A fellow Detroiter, former editor and media executive, Lloyd H. Weston, is challenging his fellow SPJ members to support Helen and has backed her in a letter to Editor & Publisher magazine.

    He wrote the following to SPJ’s Executive Committee which has now postponed its decision for ten days by referring the decision to their whole board. He writes in part:

    “Distinguished Members of the Executive Committee:

    “Allow me to introduce myself in the context of this serious, important and, to me, disturbing issue that is on your agenda for the January 8, 2011 meeting of your committee.

    “My name is Lloyd H Weston and I am one of you. I have been a journalist and a newspaperman for at least 50 of my 68 years of life. In junior high school I learned to set type, manually, one letter at a time, and how to use a hand printing press.

    “Today, I am teaching myself the ‘magic’ of transposing newspapers and magazines onto iPads.

    “In between, I joined this beloved organization in the early 1960s, becoming president of the Wayne State University chapter of Sigma Delta Chi and graduating with a degree in journalism and an SDX key in 1964.

    “Until I moved to Chicago I was a member of the Detroit Professional Chapter, and am now a member and past-director of the Chicago Headline Club.

    “I have been a reporter, editor, publisher and newspaper owner, most recently (like so many of our colleagues these days) involuntarily retired from the Chicago Sun-Times News Group and Pioneer Press Newspapers.

    “I have been active in synagogues, B’nai B’rith and other Jewish organizations all my life, and I have been a reporter for both The Chicago Jewish News and The Forward newspaper.

    “Never once in my entire career – until about a month ago – have I felt any sense of conflict between Judaism and Journalism. I have since – in my own mind and through this and other letters I have written in the last few weeks – concluded – as I have really known all my life – that there is no conflict.

    “Ask me to show you two people in the entire world who cherish freedom more than life itself, and I will show you an American Jew and an American Journalist!

    “Giving a nod to full disclosure, let me say that I have been – and remain – a fan of Helen Thomas since I watched those 1960s JFK press conferences in college. But I did not actually meet Helen until I ran into her one day in the Press Compound at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.

    “I introduced myself as a fellow WSU alumnus. She hugged me and we chatted briefly. I could not have been more delighted than a teenage girl meeting her favorite rock star.

    “The next and last time I saw Helen was a few years later at a book signing in the Chicago area… a meeting which gravely saddened me at how old and feeble [she was very hard of hearing] she had become in such a short time.

    “Let me add that, a couple of weeks ago I did receive a complimentary e-mail from Helen’s nephew, whom I have never met. I have not, however, communicated with Helen in any way, or heard from her, since that book signing, nor do I expect to.

    “I no more believe that Helen Thomas is an anti-Semite than I believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But the issue before you this week has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

    “It is not about Israel or Zionism. It is not about the Jews, the Palestinians or the Arabs. It is not even about Helen Thomas.

    “The only issue on your table today is whether SPJ stands for the unabridged right of any journalist – any American – to speak his or her opinion, on any subject, without fear of punishment or retribution from any government, individual, private or professional organization.

    “To remove Helen Thomas’ name from the SPJ Lifetime Achievement Award, I believe, would constitute such dire abridgement, punishment and retribution.”

    I, for one, will return an award I received from the SPJ for investigative journalism if they go ahead with this disgraceful decision, and I will appeal to other colleagues who have been honored by the SPJ to do the same.

    Rather than have this Board – hardly representative of all journalists – pronounce on Helen Thomas’s integrity, I would suggest a referendum open to all journalists and slightly broader.

    Let’s ask America’s journalists if they sided with Helen Thomas when, practically alone, and when it mattered, she challenged the claims of the Bush White House on WMDs or now back Ari Fleisher, the then Press Secretary, who has called for these sanctions against the far more honest and gutsy Thomas?

    How many journalists are proud of way mainstream journalism became another kind of SPJ in that period – a SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JINGOISTS?

    In the event, you forgot how groveling and sycophantic so many media outlets were during the invasion of Iraq, consult the many books that have documented this outrage including my Embedded (Prometheus Books, 2003) and When News Lies: Media Complicity And The Iraq War. (Select Books, 2006).

    Or you might want to watch my film, “WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception,” that shows and documents a journalistic capitulation that would do Joe Stalin proud.

    How many journalists today believe that journalists are somehow forbidden from having opinions on the settlement practices in Israel that have been condemned for years by UN resolutions and editorials in newspapers throughout the world?

    Have we lost that “decent respect for the opinions of mankind” called for in our Declaration of Independence?

    Are we only allowed to believe and parrot the views of the Israeli government with its super thin majority, or the powerful Lobby it coordinates and helps fund?

    Why all the silence?

    Contrast our “journalism” on this subject with what appears in the media worldwide.

    Who will history honor, the likes of Judith Miller or Helen Thomas?

    William Shanley, who is making a film about Helen’s career, commented:

    “Pathetic. America has become a country in which a thief is on the cover of Time Magazine, the Golden Rule is under the boot of empire, and the truth about the illegal occupation of Palestine, the theft of land and the mass incarceration of its people, cannot pass lips.”

    The other point is that Helen is now a commentator and has been for ten years which frees her from “objectivity.”

    And where was the SPJ when CNN Walter Isaacson ordered newsrooms to not show the effects of U.S. bombing in Afghanistan? Did the SPJ speak out against this outrageous suspension of standard journalistic practice?”

    Let the SPJ know how you feel about this continuing persecution of Helen Thomas. Call Hagit Limor, SPJ President at 513-852-4012, or write hlimor@spj.org .

    Speak up now so that all the Helen Thomases of the world can speak up and speak out without fear and retribution.

    [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The US Media Hit on Helen Thomas.”]

    News Dissector Danny Schechter is editor of Mediachannel.org. Your comments are welcome to dissector@mediachannel.org

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    Illnesses linked to BP Oil Disaster: Widespread Sickness due to Toxic Chemicals

    by Dahr Jamail

    Global Research, January 5, 2011


    Independent scientists have confirmed that Gulf marine life is heavily contaminated by the dispersed oil and oil sheen in the water. [Photo: Erika Blumenfeld]

    Despite BP having capped its well in the Gulf of Mexico in July, the health-related after-effects of the disaster subsist.

    Gulf Coast residents and BP cleanup workers have linked the source of certain illnesses to chemicals present in BP's oil and the toxic dispersants used to sink it - illnesses that appear to be both spreading and worsening.

    Dr. Rodney Soto, a medical doctor in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, has been testing and treating patients with high levels of oil-related chemicals in their blood stream. These are commonly referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's). Anthropogenic VOC's from BP's oil disaster are toxic and have negative chronic health effects.

    Dr. Soto is finding disconcertingly consistent and high levels of toxic chemicals in every one of the patients he is testing.

    "I'm regularly finding between five and seven VOCs in my patients," Dr. Soto told Al Jazeera. "These patients include people not directly involved in the oil clean-up, as well as residents that do not live right on the coast. These are clearly related to the oil disaster."

    Chronic health effects

    Lloyd Pearcey, from Bonsecour, Alabama, worked on a BP clean-up team as a foreman for four months.

    During that time, he collected oil-soaked boom and drove a bulldozer "filled with the tar balls and tar mats we collected. Other times we stood in the water in Tyvek suits putting out shore boom with oil all over us. The fumes got to you."

    "I just got my results from the blood tests," Pearcey told Al Jazeera, "I have the chemicals of the oil and dispersants in my blood."

    Pearcey had experienced many of the now common symptoms of acute exposure to BP's chemicals.

    Dr. Soto is testing his patients, and said he has ample documentation attesting to the levels of toxins people are being exposed to.

    Dr. Soto classifies two types of symptom groups: acute exposure that includes skin and respiratory problems; and a second, larger group of people with no symptoms, but who still have toxicity. He believes the pathways of exposure occur through air, skin, and contaminated seafood.

    One of the more extreme cases he treated was a woman who developed acute respiratory problems after a visit to the beach.

    "This is a young woman in good health, with good nutritional intake, no health issues, hates to take any medication, and ate only organic foods," he explained, "But shortly after going to the beach, where she was likely exposed to toxins, she developed respiratory illness and developed cancer within weeks. I think this was due to direct exposure to chemicals in the dispersants and VOCs."

    According to the US Government, BP's oil disaster released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP has used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants, that are banned in at least 19 countries, to sink the oil.

    Many of the chemicals present in the oil and dispersants are known to cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, kidney damage, altered renal functions, irritation of the digestive tract, lung damage, burning pain in the nose and throat, coughing, pulmonary edema, cancer, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat, difficulty breathing, delayed reaction time, memory difficulties, stomach discomfort, liver and kidney damage, unconsciousness, tiredness/lethargy, irritation of the upper respiratory tract, and hematological disorders.

    While there are many examples of acute exposures like Pearcey and Dr. Soto's patient who developed cancer, his concern is that most residents who are being exposed will only show symptoms later.

    "This latter group develops symptoms over years," he told Al Jazeera. "I'm concerned with the illnesses like cancer and brain degeneration for the future. This is very important because a lot of the population down here may not have symptoms. But people are unaware they are ingesting chemicals that are certainly toxic to humans and have significant effect on the brain and hormonal systems."

    Dr. Soto is most concerned about the long-term effect of the toxins, because they have "tremendous implications in the human immune system, hormonal function, and brain function."

    The toxic compounds in the oil and dispersants are "liposoluble," meaning they have a "high affinity for fat," according to Dr. Soto.

    "The human brain is 70 percent fat," Dr. Soto added, "And these will similarly effect the immune cells, intestinal tract, breast, thyroid, prostate, glands, organs, and systems. This is also why this is so significant for children."

    His particular concern for children involves toxins which cause "development of the depressed immune system and a resurgence of cancer."

    Dr. Soto believes that for residents along the area of the Gulf Coast affected by BP's toxic chemicals, the solution is either to relocate or to engage in an intensive, long-term detoxification regime that includes intravenous detoxification programs.

    All clear?

    State health departments in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama had issued swimming advisories while BP's well continued to gush oil into the Gulf of Mexico last summer. Since then, however, all three states have declared their beaches, waters, and seafood safe from oil disaster related toxins.

    Florida never issued any advisories, despite many residents reporting illnesses they attribute to the oil disaster.

    US federal government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with President Barack Obama himself, have declared the Gulf of Mexico, its waters, beaches, and seafood, safe and open to the public.

    In addition, most doctors in the effected coastal areas are not treating people as though they are suffering acute exposure to toxic chemicals.

    While Al Jazeera has heard of incidences where doctors having received threats, and while many fear litigation for talking openly about patient illnesses being attributed to BP's oil disaster, most doctors are simply not trained to deal appropriately with acute chemical toxicity on a mass scale.

    Dr. Mary Jo Ghory a general and pediatric surgeon, and a member of the American College of Surgeons, told Al Jazeera she believes most doctors along the Gulf Coast are unlikely to connect the illnesses they treat to BP?s chemicals, because of a lack of adequate training.

    "Toxicology is not usually a course, and there is not much discussion of the toxic effects of chemical exposure," Dr. Ghory said. "When confronted with an array of confusing and widely varying symptoms related to chemical exposure, it is difficult for each individual physician to sort things out, especially without a definite profile of what to expect."

    Dr. Soto says he is in a very unique - but isolated - position, as he is one of the only medical doctors he knows in the region who is treating people accordingly.

    Like Dr. Ghory, Dr. Soto believes this is largely due to lack of training.
     
    The Exxon Valdez legacy

    Merle Savage was a cleanup worker for the Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska in 1989, and she is still suffering health effects from chemicals in the oil and dispersants.

    "The first few weeks I was on the beach spraying hot water onto the oil covered rocks," Savage explained to Al Jazeera. She was soon promoted to a foreman working on the support barges where workers returned each evening.

    "So when they started spraying the dispersant, the crews that came back in from spraying it returned with it all over their suits and boats. They were sprayed off with water, and the steam that came off them was dispersant chemicals and we all breathed this in."

    "The symptoms mimicked the flu, and everyone was coughing," Savage added, "Then it came on and stayed. I went to the doctor during some time off the cleanup, and at that time I was congested with bronchial problems. Then it became a stomach disorder. My whole system since then has been jeopardized."

    After finishing her work on the oil disaster clean up, she returned to her home in Anchorage, where her problems worsened.

    Savage moved out of Alaska, thinking that would improve her health. Yet after moving, a liver biopsy showed cirrhosis of the liver.

    "I have always been physically active and very healthy," she explained, "I don't drink or smoke, and I eat health food."

    Savage, now 72-years-old, completed a chemical detoxification program three years ago, and is now feeling better.

    "There was 21 years of watching my body break down like that, and nothing I could do helped, until I learned I was chemically toxified, and could treat that appropriately," she said.

    Reacting accordingly

    Independent scientists and activist groups have been carrying out their own blood testing of Gulf Coast residents.

    Recent results released in a report involve a 46-year-old male who lives 100 miles from the coast. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, was not a BP cleanup worker, yet tested as having higher levels of chemicals from BP's oil in his blood than the actual cleanup workers.

    Dr. Wilma Subra, a chemist and Mcarthur Fellow, analysed his blood and found the highest levels of ethylbenzene than anyone tested to date. Ethylbenzene is a form of benzene present in the body when it begins to break down; it is also present in BP's crude oil.

    Styrene, a chemical produced in industrial quantities from ethylbenzene was also found, along with Hexane. M,p-Xylene, a clear, colorless, flammable liquid that is refined from crude oil and is used as a solvent, was also present in the man's blood.

    "I've never even seen a tar ball," the man, from Louisiana, told Al Jazeera, "I tried to stay away from all of it. So for me to have the high levels I have, tells me that everyone must have it."

    Gregg Hall lived in Pensacola, Florida, and also had his blood tested by Dr. Subra.

    "I have a cough that won't go away, my feet have been numb for months, I have headaches and nausea all the time," Hall said.

    Hall recently moved to Idaho, and is among a growing number of Gulf Coast residents who feel that they are victims of an environmental catastrophe that has received inadequate response from the federal government.

    Dr. Soto, whose list of patients related to the BP oil disaster continues to grow, feels similarly.

    "It's criminal for the government to tell people to eat the contaminated seafood, and that it's alright for people go to our toxic beaches and swim in the contaminated water," Dr. Soto concluded, "This crisis has to be taken seriously by the government and health care community."

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    America Has Gone Away

    By Paul Craig Roberts 

    Anyone who doesn’t believe that the US is an incipient fascist state needs only to consult the latest assault on civil liberty by Fox News (sic). Instead of informing citizens, Fox News (sic) informs on citizens. Jason Ditz reports (antiwar.com Dec. 28) that Fox News (sic) "no longer content to simply shill for a growing police state," turned in a grandmother to the Department of Homeland Security for making "anti-American comments."

    The media have segued into the police attitude, which regards insistence on civil liberties and references to the Constitution as signs of extremism, especially when the Constitution is invoked in defense of dissent or privacy or placarded on a bumper sticker. President George W. Bush set the scene when he declared: "you are with us or against us."

    Bush’s words demonstrate a frightening decline in our government’s respect for dissent since the presidency of John F. Kennedy. In a speech to the Newspaper Publishers Association in 1961, President Kennedy said:

    "No president should fear public scrutiny of his program, for from that scrutiny comes understanding, and from that understanding comes support or opposition; and both are necessary. . . . Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed, and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law makers once decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment."

    The press is not protected, Kennedy told the newspaper publishers, in order that it can amuse and entertain, emphasize the trivial, or simply tell the public what it wants to hear. The press is protected so that it can find and report facts and, thus, inform, arouse "and sometimes even anger public opinion."

    In a statement unlikely to be repeated by an American president, Kennedy told the newspaper publishers:

    "I’m not asking your newspapers to support an administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people, for I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed."

    The America of Kennedy’s day and the America of today are two different worlds. In America today the media are expected to lie for the government in order to prevent the people from finding out what the government is up to. If polls can be believed, Americans brainwashed and programmed by O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh want Bradley Manning and Julian Assange torn limb from limb for informing Americans of the criminal acts of their government. Politicians and journalists are screeching for their execution.

    President Kennedy told the Newspaper Publishers Association that "it is to the printing press, the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: Free and Independent." Who can imagine a Bill Clinton, a George W. Bush, or a Barack Obama saying such a thing today?

    Today the press is a propaganda ministry for the government. Any member who departs from his duty to lie and spin the news is expelled from the fraternity. A public increasingly unemployed, broke and homeless is told that they have vast enemies plotting to destroy them in the absence of annual trillion dollar expenditures for the military/security complex, wars lasting decades, no-fly lists, unlimited spying and collecting of dossiers on citizens supplemented by neighbors reporting on neighbors, full body scanners at airports, shopping centers, metro and train stations, traffic checks, and the equivalence of treason with the uttering of a truth.

    Two years ago when he came into office President Obama admitted that no one knew what the military mission was in Afghanistan, including the president himself, but that he would find a mission and define it. On his recent trip to Afghanistan, Obama came up with the mission: to make the families of the troops safe in America, his version of Bush’s "we have to kill them over there before they kill us over here."

    No one snorted with derision or even mildly giggled. Neither the New York Times nor Fox News (sic) dared to wonder if perhaps, maybe, murdering and displacing large numbers of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen and US support for Israel’s similar treatment of Lebanese and Palestinians might be creating a hostile environment that could breed terrorists. If there still is such a thing as the Newspaper Publishers Association, its members are incapable of such an unpatriotic thought.

    Today no one believes that our country’s success depends on an informed public and a free press. America’s success depends on its financial and military hegemony over the world. Any information inconsistent with the indispensable people’s god-given right to dominate the world must be suppressed and the messenger discredited and destroyed.

    Now that the press has voluntarily shed its First Amendment rights, the government is

    working to redefine free speech as a privilege limited to the media, not a right of citizens. Thus, the insistence that WikiLeaks is not a media organization and Fox News (sic) turning in a citizen for exercising free speech. Washington’s assault on Assange and WikiLeaks is an assault on what remains of the US Constitution. When we cheer for WikiLeaks’ demise, we are cheering for our own.

    Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term.  He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal.  He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington;  Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

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