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Monday, 20 October 2014

Newspeak: NY Times jargon what 'democracy' really means in US

Bolivia’s popular president, Evo Morales, overwhelmingly won a third term on Sunday.

One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of "democracy" in US discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 Editorial on the US-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country's democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was - a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president - the , in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

With yesterday's resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

Thankfully, said the , democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-US "business leader." The Champions of Democracy at the then demanded a ruler more to their liking: "Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy."

More amazingly still, the editors told their readers that Chávez's "removal was a purely Venezuelan affair," even though it was quickly and predictably revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a central role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez's death, the editors admitted that "the Bush administration badly damaged Washington's reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez" [the paper forgot to mention that it, too, blessed (and misled its readers about) that coup]. The editors then also acknowledged the rather significant facts that Chávez's "redistributionist policies brought better living conditions to millions of poor Venezuelans" and "there is no denying his popularity among Venezuela's impoverished majority."

If you think editorial page has learned any lessons from that debacle, you'd be mistaken. On Thursday they published an editorial expressing grave concern about the state of democracy in Latin America generally and Bolivia specifically. The proximate cause of this concern? The overwhelming election victory of Bolivian President Evo Morales, who, as put it, "is widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread Bolivia's natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses."

The editors nonetheless see Morales' election to a third term not as a vindication of democracy but as a threat to it, linking his election victory to the way in which "the strength of democratic values in the region has been undermined in past years by coups and electoral irregularities." Even as they admit that "it is easy to see why many Bolivians would want to see Mr. Morales, the country's first president with indigenous roots, remain at the helm" - because "during his tenure, the economy of the country, one of the least developed in the hemisphere, grew at a healthy rate, the level of inequality shrank and the number of people living in poverty dropped significantly" - they nonetheless chide Bolivia's neighbors for endorsing his ongoing rule: "it is troubling that the stronger democracies in Latin America seem happy to condone it."

The Editors depict their concern as grounded in the lengthy tenure of Morales as well as the democratically elected leaders of Ecuador and Venezuela: "perhaps the most disquieting trend is that protégés of Mr. Chávez seem inclined to emulate his reluctance to cede power." But the real reason the so vehemently dislikes these elected leaders and ironically views them as threats to "democracy" becomes crystal clear toward the end of the editorial (emphasis added):

This regional dynamic has been dismal for Washington's influence in the region. In Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the new generation of caudillos [sic] have staked out anti-American policies and limited the scope of engagement on development, military cooperation and drug enforcement efforts. This has damaged the prospects for trade and security cooperation.

You can't get much more blatant than that. The democratically elected leaders of these sovereign countries fail to submit to US dictates, impede American imperialism, and subvert US industry's neoliberal designs on the region's resources. Therefore, despite how popular they are with their own citizens and how much they've improved the lives of millions of their nations' long-oppressed and impoverished minorities, they are depicted as grave threats to "democracy."

It is, of course, true that democratically elected leaders are capable of authoritarian measures. It is, for instance, democratically elected US leaders who imprison people without charges for years, build secret domestic spying systems, and even assert the power to assassinate their own citizens without due process. Elections are no guarantee against tyranny. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of each of these leaders with regard to domestic measures and civic freedoms, as there is for virtually every government on the planet.

But the very idea that the US government and its media allies are motivated by those flaws is nothing short of laughable. Many of the US government's closest allies are the world's worst regimes, beginning with the uniquely oppressive Saudi kingdom (which on Wednesday sentenced a popular Shiite dissident to death) and the brutal military coup regime in Egypt, which, as my colleague Murtaza Hussain reports Thursday, gets more popular in Washington as it becomes even more oppressive. And, of course, the US supports Israel in every way imaginable even as its Secretary of State expressly recognizes the "apartheid" nature of its policy path.

Just as the did with the Venezuelan coup regime of 2002, the US government hails the Egyptian coup regime as saviors of democracy. That's because "democracy" in US discourse means: "serving US interests" and "obeying US dictates," regardless how the leaders gain and maintain power. Conversely, "tyranny" means "opposing the US agenda" and "refusing US commands," no matter how fair and free the elections are that empower the government. The most tyrannical regimes are celebrated as long as they remain subservient, while the most popular and democratic governments are condemned as despots to the extent that they exercise independence.

To see how true that is, just imagine the orgies of denunciation that would rain down if a US adversary (say, Iran, or Venezuela) rather than a key US ally like Saudi Arabia had just sentenced a popular dissident to death. Instead, the just weeks ago uncritically quotes an Emirates ambassador lauding Saudi Arabia as one of the region's "moderate" allies because of its service to the US bombing campaign in Syria. Meanwhile, the very popular, democratically elected leader of Bolivia is a grave menace to democratic values - because he's "dismal for Washington's influence in the region."

MK Zoabi: Israeli combat pilots are no better than Islamic State beheaders

Balad MK Haneen Zoabi

© Knesset Channel

Balad MK Haneen Zoabi in the Knesset.

'MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) equated fighters of Islamic State with Israeli soldiers on Sunday. "They [IS] kill one person at a time with a knife and the IDF at the press of a button [kills] dozens of Palestinians," Zoabi told Channel 2 Online in an interview. Zoabi added that an Israeli pilot "is no less a terrorist than a person who takes a knife and commits a beheading."

Zoabi said she believes that "both are armies of murderers, they have no boundaries and no red lines." Zoabi said the cases of Arab Israelis joining IS do not add up to a trend but rather represent a "very tiny number on the margins" - people who "apparently have no options in life." Zoabi said such people had lost meaning in their lives and adopted a closed, fundamentalist ideology.

"In Iraq and Syria they have their picture taken with a knife and here they have their picture taken with dead bodies and with their bombardments and they also laugh," she said. "The M-16 and the bombardments kill more than a knife."

Zoabi also expressed confidence about her petition to the High Court of Justice against the Knesset Ethics Committee's decision in July to bar her from the plenum and committees for six months, a move that followed statements she made about the three Jewish teens abducted and murdered.

Following Zoabi's likening of the Israel Defense Forces to Islamic State, MK Faina Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu) said, "Zoabi knows her days in the Knesset are numbered and soon the era of the immunity that the Knesset granted her will also end. I am sure that in the coming session the Knesset will pass a 'Zoabi law' by a large majority that will disqualify her from her position, as well as from an attempt to run for election in the future."

MK Miri Regev (Likud) called Zoabi "a dangerous enemy to the Israeli public" who should not be in the Knesset. "Zoabi crossed all possible red lines in comparing the IDF to the Islamic State. Her incitement is comparable in its seriousness to the acts of a terrorist who harms innocent people," Regev said. "I suggest that she board a plane straight to Qatar so she can finally be reunited with her close friend Azmi Bishara, or as I have said in the past, "Go to Gaza, you traitor," Regev added, rendering the last words in Arabic.

U.S. corporations are doing better than ever; taxes are not "crushing"

While middle-class and low-income Americansstruggle to get by, corporate profits are soaring. In 2013, corporate after-tax profits consumed a record-breaking 11.2 percent of total national income. Between 1946 and 2010, after-tax corporate profits always remained below 10 percent of national income, but 2013 was the fourth consecutive year in which corporate profits exceeded 10 percent of national income.

Meanwhile, corporate income taxes only constituted about 10 percent of total federal revenues collected in fiscal year 2013, which is right in line with their average contribution since FY 1980 but down sharply from earlier decades, when corporations contributed double or triple that percentage.

They that taxes are somehow "crushing" corporations gets it backward - corporations could not survive without taxes. To list just a few examples, federal taxes fund education and training for the American workforce, a national transportation network to deliver products to market, a navy to keep shipping lanes safe from piracy around the world, and a legal system to protect copyrights and patents.

While the federal tax code has many flaws, it does not prevent corporations from competing in the global economy. Indeed, American corporations are doing better than ever.

French oil CEO dies in plane crash at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport

© Aradianoilandgas.com

The CEO of France's oil and gas giant Total, Christophe de Margerie, was reportedly among five people killed in a business jet crash at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow after the aircraft hit a snowplow on take-off.

Total's chairman and CEO was the only passenger in the Falcon 50 business jet besides three crewmembers, LifeNews cited a source as saying. Another source confirmed to TASS that de Margerie was the only passenger who checked in for the private flight to Paris, adding that the 3 crewmembers were also French citizens.

Total has so far not confirmed the reports of its CEO's death. "To date, I have no information that I could tell you. When and if it appears, you can get it from the press secretary or read the communiqué," a representative of the company told RIA Novosti.

CEO of France's Total dies in jet crash at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport - report http://t.co/AWNpuaAuCqhttp://ift.tt/ZDvU8V

- RT (@RT_com) October 20, 2014

During take-off at around 0:10am Moscow time on Tuesday, the light aircraft, according to preliminary data, hit a snow-clearing machine with its landing gear. Due to the damage, the pilot reportedly decided to turn back and land.

While still in the air, the plane was sending distress signals and reporting an engine fire and fuselage damage, LifeNews reports. Upon crashing on the runway, the aircraft was immediately engulfed in flames, killing everyone on board.

Debris from the aircraft was scattered up to 200 meters from the crash site, according to the rescue services. The engine was found some 50 meters from the crash site, while one of the landing gears was ripped off and discovered nearly 200 meters from the main mass of debris.

Vnukovo Airport temporarily suspended all flights following the incident, but by 2 am all operations were restored. While initials reports suggested four people died in the tragedy, officials report that five bodies were found at the crash site, one allegedly being the driver of the snow-cleaning vehicle.

"A criminal investigation has been opened into the violation of safety regulations after a light aircraft crash in the capital's Vnukovo airport," transport official Tatyana Morozova told RIA.

An investigative group is working at the crash site, Morozova added. In addition to people who were on board the plane, she said, the driver snowplow was killed.

DEVELOPING: Passenger of crashed plane was head of French oil company - reports http://t.co/AWNpuaAuCqhttp://ift.tt/10ftIG6

- RT (@RT_com) October 20, 2014

Earlier in the day, due to bad weather conditions at least 18 planes were diverted from Vnukovo to other Moscow airports, Itar-tass reported siting a source at Vnukovo. Flights landing at Moscow airhubs operate "on factual weather" conditions, meaning that a crew commander decide themselves about the possibility of landing at the destination or preceding to alternative landing routes at the capital

Some 12 planes have been received by Domodedovo airport while 6 landed at Sheremetyevo as dense fog and winter weather conditions make landing difficult. According to the source, 80 percent of the diverted races were private business jets.

De Margerie, 63, joined Total in 1974 after graduating from the École Supérieure de Commerce in Paris. He served in several positions in the Finance Department and Exploration & Production division. In 1995, he became President of Total Middle East before joining the Total's Executive Committee as the President of the Exploration & Production division in May 1999. In May 2006, he was appointed a member of the Board of Directors. He was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Total on May 21, 2010.

Despite Western-imposed sanctions on Russia that prohibit western financing and technology transfer to some Russian energy projects, Total is continuing to pursue a natural gas project in Yamal, a joint venture with Russia's Novatek and China's CNPC.

"Can we live without Russian gas in Europe? The answer is no. Are there any reasons to live without it? I think - and I'm not defending the interests of Total in Russia - it is a no," the Total boss told Reuters back in summer.

Meanwhile, another Total project, with Russia's sanctions-hit Lukoil, is "definitely stopped," de Margerie said in September, but since the project had not started it did not have "any impact" on Total, he told the Financial Times.

3-year old killed in crossfire of Facebook argument

© Handout photos

Amiracle Williams

Amiracle Williams was just 3 years old when she was shot and killed this week due to a Facebook argument. Some teenagers from the local high school were in a dispute that stemmed from Facebook and escalated in front of the Williams home.

A group of young women were locked in a physical fight with Amiracle's older sister, 17. Amiracle's father, 47, "felt his daughters may have been in some sort of danger and responded by shooting one person at the scene," Detroit Police Chief James Craig told the Huffington Post.

Another person involved in the fight responded by unleashing a hail storm of bullets into the Williams' home using a high-powered TEC-9 machine gun. Amiracle's mother, father and sister were also injured, but are expected to recover. It is suspected that Amiracle's father, who has yet to be identified, shot someone during the altercation.

The investigation is ongoing but as of last Friday, the Detroit Police Department had two suspects in custody, the 22-year-old suspected second shooter and his 23-year-old getaway car driver, who was shot in the gunfire exchange. According to police, the second shooter has an outstanding warrant on a felony charge in Virginia. At least one of the men is known to have ties to local gangs.

After being released from the hospital, Amiracle's mother attended a vigil for her slain daughter. "She was just a joy to me," she told WXYZ Detroit. "Just seems like I can't make it without her."

With "a heavy heart" Chief James Craig addressed new police academy graduates the day after the shooting. Chief Craig said "[The shooting was] a decision made by a coward, once again, another coward that goes out and engages in senseless violence."

The graduation ceremony, which was held at Greater Grace Temple, gave a moment of silence for Amiracle Williams. "When we think about the loss of our young angel, Amiracle Williams, the tragedy of someone so young... we fight for all, we fight for our young," he said.

Videos of UFO experiences past two months of 2014

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ATF scared off Annual Gathering of Juggalos by event organizers with cameras

© Copblock

Date of Incident: July 2014

Outfit: ATF

This year the 15th Annual Gathering Of The Juggalos took place from July 23rd-26th, 2014 at Legend Valley Campground in Ohio. Police were inside the grounds this year, which is a drastic change from the last several Gatherings where no police were allowed inside due to the grounds being private property. The police within the grounds made no attempt to stop any of the partying that was going on within the grounds and had been even quoted as saying "really, who cares if they have a little marijuana?" Those officers never left their golf carts during the entire event.

The ATF, however, tried to strong arm their way in. They called Robert Bruce (a.k.a. Jumpsteady), who was the organizer of the event, and told him that they were on the grounds and wanted to know where they could set up camp. He told then to wait a minute. Then, he quickly called the owner of the campground (Steve), the camera crew who were filming a documentary at The Gathering that year, and the Juggalo's own personal lawyer, Farris. They got together quickly and came to the conclusion that the ATF was not allowed to be on their property because Steve had not given them permission, yet they had already stormed onto the grounds demanding to be let in.

Bruce, Farris, the camera crew and several others then went out to meet the ATF where they were sitting. When they got there, they discovered a small crew of ATF officers standing there, as well as about eight more officers sitting on already running Razor 4-wheelers and four more officers who were clearly in charge sitting at a picnic table. When the officers saw a group of about 20 people coming towards them, waving cameras, boom sticks, and the like, their mouths dropped open in shock.

Bruce pointed over to the table to indicate who was in charge of the operation and Farris began to tell them they were already breaking the law by being inside the grounds. The minute they heard that, all four officers at the table jumped up and started running for their cars and the exits, leaving all of the other officers sitting there looking confused, while trying to avoid the cameras as much as possible.

Bruce, Farris and the camera crew then turned their attention to the rest of the officers who just sat there, dumbfounded, waiting for orders. As they got close to the officers on the Razors, the officers got their orders and peeled off as fast as they could. One of the officers even flipped the bird to Bruce and company and it was all captured on camera, and will be released when the documentary for The Gathering is completed.

I find it rather convenient that the only festival that the ATF tries to invade is The Gathering of The Juggalos. They don't do that at any other festivals. I wonder if this would've happened had the F.B.I. done what they're supposed to be doing instead wasting their time labeling people as gang members for the music they listen to.

© Jumpsteady


From Jumpsteady's Journal, dated October 11, 2014:

Another highlight for me was when I got a phone call from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms wanting to know where they could set up their command post at Legend Valley during the Gathering. I was stunned and told them to hold on a minute and I would be right there to talk to them. I then quickly got Steve (the owner of Legend Valley) on the phone and asked him if he knew why these fuckin' guys were trying to set up a command post! I then called Farris, our very own Juggalo Lawyer, and he told me he would be right there and then I got Brenna and Tom on the phone who were - and are - currently filming a documentary about ICP, the FBI lawsuits and our Juggalo family and they showed up with a camera crew of about 10 ninjas. We all gathered in the backstage area without the AFT's knowledge and discussed what we could do. We surmised that since they are a federal law enforcement organization that they were there simply to give Juggalos the bone and probably came out because of all the press the Gathering had been getting. Farris let us know that the ATF was not allowed on the property without Steve's permission and since they showed up in force and were already on the property were basically in the wrong. I guess they figured they would just flash some badges, punk some people out and basically strong arm their way onto the property.

When we came around the corner I was mad heated to see a small contingent of AFT officers, including around 8 ATF officers each sitting in a running Razor four-wheeler vehicle ready to swoop into the Gathering grounds to start handing out tickets for possible underage drinking, open containers at campsites or any other charges they could drum up. They all had on mirrored sunglasses and seemed to possess evil dispositions. They looked up in shock at us as we came marching around the corner with our own squad of about 20 deep with cameras rolling, boom sticks waving and spot lights being targeted on them. I quickly pointed to a group of older guys sitting at a picnic table looking up at us with dumbfounded expression who obviously were the head guys of the ATF.

As we started closing in on the main ATF officers, Farris started to talk to them when suddenly the realization of what was happening finally registered to their brains as their slack jawed expressions slowly transformed to those of fear, when suddenly ....they ran! I was shocked and so fuckin' amused to see these high ranking federal law enforcement agents running and ducking from the cameras as they scurried between parked cars like rats to avoid being filmed in an attempt to get away as quickly as they possibly could. All the while the camera crew was chasing after them. As this comical scene unfolded all the officers still sitting in there running Razor's didn't seem to know what to do so they just sat looking around in confusion. Just as we turned our attention toward them and was about to ask them questions they got the order over their radios from their out of breath superiors to "Pull Out"!

They then all started peeling out down the dirt road leading to the back entrance of Legend Valley as they made their escape, kicking up clouds of dust from there spinning wheels as they went. As if things couldn't get any better, the last officer to head out flipped us off as he went and we were able to capture the whole thing on film! The whole incident had me experience the extreme ranges of emotion in the matter of minutes. At first I was enraged that these guys were trying to bum rush the Gathering but with some quick thinking we were able to turn the tables on them into an unforgettable and hilarious outcome.

After all this, the main guy of the ATF had the nerve to call me again saying he wanted to talk to me alone. I was like helllllls no! I told him that if he comes back, that he will have to not only talk to me but also Farris, the camera crew with cameras rolling and our entire squad. Needless to say they never came back. It was an unsung victory that weekend and one of my best moments at the Gathering for sure. It simply amazes me how bastards will try to come out of the woodworks to try to oppress our family for no reason at all, but it has also occurred to me a long time ago, that if you remain unified with your homies, you can take a stand against anyone who would try to oppress you as we had done on that day. It was just another small battle we were able to win in our ongoing war against the FBI and federal agents everywhere.

Mad respect for Brenna, Tom, Farris, Steve and everyone else who took a stand on that day and Juggalos everywhere who continue to do their part to help our family in our fight by sharing their stories and not being afraid to raise their voices and be seen! We as a family will never bow down ... best believe that.

Facebook slams DEA for creating fake profile, violating its terms of use

© Unknown

DEA uses confiscated pictures on woman's cellphone to create fake facebook account for drug trafficking investigation

Facebook's chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, in a letter to the DEA and their Administrator, Michele Leonhart, has stated that the same rules apply to law enforcement agencies about being truthful and not lying about identity as civilians.

"Facebook has long made clear that law enforcement authorities are subject to these policies," Sullivan wrote. "We regard DEA's conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook's terms and policies."

Facebook has stated that it wants assurances that fake profiles will not be used in conducting investigations. The letter comes on the heels of a New York woman, Sondra Arquiett, suing in federal court over claims that a fake Facebook page was created using her name and pictures by a DEA agent, Timothy Sinnigen, in an effort to forward a drug investigation.

Initially the Department of Justice defended the tactic. They argued in an August court filing that although Arquiett didn't give direct authorization to Sinnigen to create the bogus account, she "implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in... ongoing criminal investigations."

The Department of Justice last week changed course and opened a review of the case after Arquiett sued the U.S. government, and Sinnigen in federal court.

Investigators had initially seized Arquiett's cell phone when she was arrested as part of a July 2010 drug investigation by a county drug task force, Homeland Security and the DEA, according to court documents.

The following month Sinnigen created a fake user profile of Arquiett without her knowledge or consent, according to court documents. The information on the confiscated cell phone was used to set up the account, including pictures of a scantily clad Arquiett. In addition to the "suggestive" and "revealing" photos, pictures of other minor relatives as well as her child were used.

Sinnigen then allegedly used the profile for three months, initiating contact with "dangerous individuals" and people Arquiett knew as part of his investigation into a drug trafficking ring. Arquiett claimed the page made her look like a snitch.

"She suffered fear and great emotional distress because, by posing as her on Facebook, Sinnigen had created the appearance that [Arquiett] was willfully cooperating in his investigation of the narcotics trafficking ring, thereby placing her in danger," the lawsuit contends.

When Arquiett discovered the profile she became seriously distressed and extremely concerned that she could be in danger because of it. The page has since been taken down by Facebook The DEA has insisted Arquiett lost all rights to her cellphone data when it was confiscated, while not disputing the facts contained in the lawsuit.Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Anita L. Allen, a professor at University of Pennsylvania Law School said she found the case disturbing stating,

"It reeks of misrepresentation, fraud, and invasion of privacy."

Court records show that the case is now in mediation, after initially being scheduled for trial this week. Arquiett is asking for punitive and compensatory damages totaling a half-million dollars.

@sirmetropolis and on Facebook at Sir Metropolis.

Huge blast rocks chemical plant in Donetsk, claims of tactical missile


© © Screenshot from youtube (L) and screenshot from Ruptly Video

A huge blast has rocked a chemical factory in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the city council says on its website. The blast wave reportedly shattered windows in houses in a radius of several kilometers.

The explosion reportedly took place at 12:10pm local time.

#UKRAINE: Blast rocks chemical plant in #Donetsk, militia claims Kiev fired tactical missile http://t.co/4OCCdwf4zb http://ift.tt/1x22wo7

- RT (@RT_com) October 20, 2014

Local militia has said that the plant was targeted by a tactical Tochka-U missile (SS-21 Scarab).RT's team in Donetsk is trying to verify this information.

RT correspondent Roman Kosarev posted on his Twitter account that the blast was heard across the city.

he tweeted.

Now investigating reports of ballistic missile ss-21 scarab hitting #Donetsk windows blown out across the city. http://ift.tt/1x22tIN

- Roman Kosarev (@Kosarev_RT) October 20, 2014

When RT's team arrived at the scene, they found a crater he said.

RT's reporter said.

No one has been killed or injured in the blast, local authorities said.


© Twitter / @Kosarev_RT

the regional administration said on its website.

[embedded content]

Windows were also shattered at Donbas Arena stadium in the city center, where some of the Euro 2012 football games were held.

© Twitter / @maxseddon

Lesia, local resident, told RT.

[embedded content]

another local resident, Irina, told RT. "Thing is that for the past two weeks there has been non-stop shelling day and night - we are used to that. But today there was that was such a strong blast that I have not heard before. I even sat down on the ground, probably, because of the blast power and from fright."

Blasts and artillery fire could be heard in Donetsk throughout the day, the city's council said. Two hours after the explosion at the plant, one of the neighborhoods was shelled and two apartment blocks damaged.

This recent explosion happened during a ceasefire negotiated between Kiev and southeastern Ukraine in Minsk last month. Last week Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a document on special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

How yoga heals the diseased heart

What if the simple act of doing yoga could heal your diseased heart?

A new study titled, "Effects of Yoga in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure: A Meta-Analysis," reveals that this ancient practice, ever-increasing in popularity in the West, has profound benefits to those who are suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Previous to this study, the idea that yoga could heal a diseased heart was considered strictly theoretical, which is what motivated a team of Portuguese researchers to put the concept to the test.

The team performed a meta-analysis of the published research on the topic of how yoga might improve exercise capacity and health-related quality of life in patients with chronic heart failure.

Their methodology was described as follows:

"We searched MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Excerpta Medica database, LILACS, Physiotherapy Evidence Database, The Scientific Electronic Library Online, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health (from the earliest date available to December 2013) for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining the effects of yoga versus exercise and/or of yoga versus control on exercise capacity (peakVO2) and quality-of-life (HRQOL) in Chronic Heart Failure."

The analysis found two studies that met the selection criteria, which included 30 yoga and 29 control patients.

Their results were reported as follows:

"The results suggested that yoga compared with control had a positive impact on peak VO2 and HRQOL. Peak VO2, WMD (3.87 95% CI: 1.95 to 5.80), and global HRQOL standardized mean differences (-12.46 95% CI: -22.49 to -2.43) improved in the yoga group compared to the control group."

Their conclusion indicated that Yoga does have significant benefits for cardiovascular patients:

"Yoga enhances peak VO2 and HRQOL in patients with CHF and could be considered for inclusion in cardiac rehabilitation programs."

They found an impressive 22.0% improvement in VO2 peformance and a 24.1% increase in quality of life.

They advised that based on these prelimary results, "Larger randomized controlled trials are required to further investigate the effects of yoga in patients with CHF."

Yoga Has Many Health Benefits That Science Now Confirms

In a previous article titled, "Modern Science Confirms Yoga's Many Health Benefits," we looked at the voluminous data that now exists demonstrating the wide range of health benefits yoga has been proven to produce. You can find the first-hand abstracts demonstrating this fact on our research page: Yoga Health Benefits, with over 70 indexed thus far!

Yoga is, of course, more than a physical exercise, but a method to integrate mind, body and soul. Yoga means, of course, to "unite" or "yoke" the disparate elements of the human experience. When you are engaged fully in yoga, the focus is on being present to one's breath, which integrates mind and body naturally. Chronic heart failure patients can benefit from the way in which yoga enables the body to integrate into the mind in a way that requires the engagement of the physical and mental aspects of our incarnation, and results ultimately in the relaxation of both deeply.

BEST OF THE WEB: Shocking! Mainstream Media Publishes the Truth: Vote all you want. The secret government won't change

The people we elect aren't the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University's Michael Glennon

The voters who put Barack Obama in office expected some big changes. From the NSA's warrantless wiretapping to Guantanamo Bay to the Patriot Act, candidate Obama was a defender of civil liberties and privacy, promising a dramatically different approach from his predecessor.

But six years into his administration, the Obama version of national security looks almost indistinguishable from the one he inherited. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The NSA has, if anything, become more aggressive in monitoring Americans. Drone strikes have escalated. Most recently it was reported that the same president who won a Nobel Prize in part for promoting nuclear disarmament is spending up to $1 trillion modernizing and revitalizing America's nuclear weapons.

Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn't have changed policies much even if he tried.

Though it's a bedrock American principle that citizens can steer their own government by electing new officials, Glennon suggests that in practice, much of our government no longer works that way. In a new book, "," he catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term "double government": There's the one we elect, and then there's the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.

Glennon cites the example of Obama and his team being shocked and angry to discover upon taking office that the military gave them only two options for the war in Afghanistan: The United States could add more troops, or the United States could add a lot more troops. Hemmed in, Obama added 30,000 more troops.

Glennon's critique sounds like an outsider's take, even a radical one. In fact, he is the quintessential insider: He was legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a consultant to various congressional committees, as well as to the State Department. "National Security and Double Government" comes favorably blurbed by former members of the Defense Department, State Department, White House, and even the CIA. And he's not a conspiracy theorist: Rather, he sees the problem as one of "smart, hard-working, public-spirited people acting in good faith who are responding to systemic incentives" - without any meaningful oversight to rein them in.

How exactly has double government taken hold? And what can be done about it? Glennon spoke with Ideas from his office at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. This interview has been condensed and edited.

IDEAS: Where does the term "double government" come from?

GLENNON:It comes from Walter Bagehot's famous theory, unveiled in the 1860s. Bagehot was the scholar who presided over the birth of the Economist magazine - they still have a column named after him. Bagehot tried to explain in his book "The English Constitution" how the British government worked. He suggested that there are two sets of institutions. There are the "dignified institutions," the monarchy and the House of Lords, which people erroneously believed ran the government. But he suggested that there was in reality a second set of institutions, which he referred to as the "efficient institutions," that actually set governmental policy. And those were the House of Commons, the prime minister, and the British cabinet.

IDEAS: What evidence exists for saying America has a double government?

GLENNON:I was curious why a president such as Barack Obama would embrace the very same national security and counterterrorism policies that he campaigned eloquently against. Why would that president continue those same policies in case after case after case? I initially wrote it based on my own experience and personal knowledge and conversations with dozens of individuals in the military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies of our government, as well as, of course, officeholders on Capitol Hill and in the courts. And the documented evidence in the book is substantial - there are 800 footnotes in the book.

IDEAS: Why would policy makers hand over the national-security keys to unelected officials?

GLENNON: It hasn't been a conscious decision....Members of Congress are generalists and need to defer to experts within the national security realm, as elsewhere. They are particularly concerned about being caught out on a limb having made a wrong judgment about national security and tend, therefore, to defer to experts, who tend to exaggerate threats. The courts similarly tend to defer to the expertise of the network that defines national security policy.

The presidency itself is not a top-down institution, as many people in the public believe, headed by a president who gives orders and causes the bureaucracy to click its heels and salute. National security policy actually bubbles up from within the bureaucracy. Many of the more controversial policies, from the mining of Nicaragua's harbors to the NSA surveillance program, originated within the bureaucracy. John Kerry was not exaggerating when he said that some of those programs are "on autopilot."

IDEAS: Isn't this just another way of saying that big bureaucracies are difficult to change?

GLENNON: It's much more serious than that. These particular bureaucracies don't set truck widths or determine railroad freight rates. They make nerve-center security decisions that in a democracy can be irreversible, that can close down the marketplace of ideas, and can result in some very dire consequences.

IDEAS: Couldn't Obama's national-security decisions just result from the difference in vantage point between being a campaigner and being the commander-in-chief, responsible for 320 million lives?

GLENNON: There is an element of what you described. There is not only one explanation or one cause for the amazing continuity of American national security policy. But obviously there is something else going on when policy after policy after policy all continue virtually the same way that they were in the George W. Bush administration.

IDEAS: This isn't how we're taught to think of the American political system.

GLENNON: I think the American people are deluded, as Bagehot explained about the British population, that the institutions that provide the public face actually set American national security policy. They believe that when they vote for a president or member of Congress or succeed in bringing a case before the courts, that policy is going to change. Now, there are many counter-examples in which these branches do affect policy, as Bagehot predicted there would be. But the larger picture is still true - policy by and large in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions.

IDEAS: Do we have any hope of fixing the problem?

GLENNON: The ultimate problem is the pervasive political ignorance on the part of the American people. And indifference to the threat that is emerging from these concealed institutions. That is where the energy for reform has to come from: the American people. Not from government. Government is very much the problem here. The people have to take the bull by the horns. And that's a very difficult thing to do, because the ignorance is in many ways rational. There is very little profit to be had in learning about, and being active about, problems that you can't affect, policies that you can't change.

Dr. Huber's brave crusade against Biotech

Dr. Don Huber was hit by a car last night. He is a whistle blower in the food world and someone I have had the honor of knowing.

Dr. Huber is Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, a land grant institution, and has been studying plants for 55 years. He has received various awards for his scientific accomplishments and contributions to government.

He was Cereal Pathologist at the University of Idaho for 8 years before joining the Department of Botany & Plant Pathology at Purdue University in 1971.

His agricultural research the past 50 years has focused on the epidemiology and control of soil borne plant pathogens with emphasis on microbial ecology, cultural and biological controls, and physiology of host parasite relationships.

He's in his 80s, and he is also a father, a grandfather and has had a 41-year military career as a retired Colonel.

He is someone I have turned to in this work when I read,"Pesticides may be putting young children at risk of cancer." Other headlines have suggested that pesticides are linked to Parkinson's, autism and other conditions.

That can be tough to hear for anyone who has put regular, non-organic groceries into her shopping cart and on her dinner table. So when a headline hit last year that the EPA was seeking to increase the allowable levels of a controversial chemical used on our food crops, it was enough to make me wonder if anyone is watching out for the health of our children or if it is just about the financial health of corporations.

Now some in the industry will argue that we need these chemicals to feed the world. The USDA reports that we throw away 30% of the food that we produce, so this is a hard conversation to have as it is so loaded with emotion not to mention shareholder demands.

When I worked as a financial analyst, I dismissed any concern around environmental toxins as some sort of hobby for people that had the time to worry about it. I didn't want to hear that the foods I'd been feeding my family might cause harm. I wanted to believe that the studies that had been conducted on these products weren't influenced by industry. In other words, this was something that I didn't want to learn then, and something that is still hard to process now.

But as the headline hit about the EPA voting to allow increased levels of these chemicals onto our food crops, I thought back to May 2011, when I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Don Huber, a plant biologist who created a stir with a letter that he sent to Secretary Vilsack at the USDA urging a reconsideration of the safety status of a chemical widely used on our food crops. In that conversation, we had spoken about this ingredient called glyphosate and its use in a popular weedkiller that I had been told not to keep under my kitchen sink for fear of what it might do if it was ingested by children.

Dr. Huber is Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, a land grant institution, and has been studying plants for 55 years. He has received various awards for his scientific accomplishments and contributions to government.

He was Cereal Pathologist at the University of Idaho for 8 years before joining the Department of Botany & Plant Pathology at Purdue University in 1971.

His agricultural research the past 50 years has focused on the epidemiology and control of soilborne plant pathogens with emphasis on microbial ecology, cultural and biological controls, and physiology of hostparasite relationships.

He's in his 80s, and he is also a father, a grandfather and has had a 41-year military career as a retired Colonel, having evaluated natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks and worked on committees that are part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System under Homeland Security. Quite honestly, his bio reads like that of one of our country's greatest heroes. He's dedicated his life to putting food on the table for American families.

So when controversy flared up over the letter he wrote to the USDA, plenty of people chimed in. He was venomously attacked and lavishly praised. It was a firestorm.

And having worked as a financial analyst, I had learned years ago, back on the trading desk, not to rely solely on other people's reports, to do my own research. So I reached out to him.

And while the controversial focus of Dr. Huber's letter to Secretary Vilsack was his concern over a new pathogen that appears to be impacting the reproductive health of cows, when I had the opportunity to speak with him, the focus of our conversation quickly turned to glyphosate, a synthetic chemical used in a universal weed killer that is applied to both commercial food crops as well as residential landscapes around the country.

And at the time, it was an ingredient increasingly coming under scrutiny, with everyone from the Presidents Cancer Panel to the American Academy of Pediatrics urging us to reduce our exposure to pesticides due to potential health risks.

But in all candor, as he got talking that morning, it wasn't something I wanted to talk about. It's controversial and heartachingly poignant in light of the growing number of children with autism, cancer and other conditions. And I hadn't paid any attention to it during my pregnancies, the toddler years of my children or any other time in my life. I'd been blissfully ignorant. At least that is what I thought.

But as he began to talk, I could not help but listen.

I had first learned about glyphosate when studying soy, one of the top eight allergens in our food supply.

In the mid 1990s, using a new technology, our soy was genetically engineered with new organisms to make it able to withstand increasing doses of weed killer, chemicals and glyphosate. When first learning about this soy and the ability to routinely douse it with these chemicals, to the former financial analyst in me, the business model made perfect sense. It enhances profitability of the chemical companies by enabling the increased sale of their chemical treatments and weed killers.

And as Dr. Huber spoke about glyphosate, which is the ingredient used in a weed killer known as RoundUp, a weed killer that I had applied countless times around our yard and one that is sprayed on our food crops like corn and soy, I listened, not really wanting to hear any of it, reflecting not only on what I had eaten during my pregnancies and fed our children, but also on the scope of the work of Professor Miguel A. Altieri of the University of California, Berkeley who had looked into unforeseen risks that might be associated with genetically engineered crops and these chemicals being sprayed on them:

"Glyphosate is a systemic herbicide (i.e. it is absorbed into and moves through the whole plant), and is carried into the harvested parts of plants. Exactly how much glyphosate is present in the seeds of corn or soybeans (genetically engineered to withstand this chemical) is not known, as grain products are not included in conventional market surveys for pesticide residues. The fact that this and other herbicides are known to accumulate in fruits...raises questions about food safety, especially now that more than 37 million pounds of this herbicide are used annually in the United States alone. Even in the absence of immediate (acute) effects, it might take 40 years for a potential carcinogen to act in enough people for it to be detected as a cause. Moreover, research has shown that glyphosate seems to act in a similar fashion to antibiotics by altering soil biology rendering bean plants more vulnerable to disease".

And I paused.

The dominance of this weed killer in the marketplace is remarkable. In a recent article about glyphosate, the global news organization, Reuters, highlighted that these chemicals are part of an enormous market, with world annual sales totaling $14 billion, with more than $5 billion of that spent in the US alone.

But that wasn't all that had been discussed. The Reuter's article was titled "Cancer Cause or Crop Aid?" and so it was that question that I wanted to discuss with Dr. Huber having learned that in 2007, more than 185,000,000 pounds of Roundup were applied to US crops - the same year that reporting requirements of application rates were halted. In other words, despite the fact that the American Cancer Society was reporting that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women are expected to get cancer in their lifetimes, we had stopped counting how much of this we were spraying on our food.

According to Dr. Huber, glyphosate kills weeds by turning off key enzymes that produce defense mechanisms for plants. It essentially targets and destroys their immune systems by chelating, stripping, micronutrients like magnesium, copper and zinc from the plant. As a result, there are fewer of these key micronutrients in the plants and in our food supply.

And as Dr. Huber shared, as glyphosate immobilizes critical enzymes responsible for life and resistance in plants, it turns off the natural suppressive mechanisms, leaving these plants more vulnerable to diseases (like Sudden Death Syndrome in soy and Goss' Wilt in corn), as well as increasing levels of toxins and mycotoxins as seen in the Root Rot and Head Scab being seen in our cereal crops. And all I could think about were the farmers in Kansas, Iowa, Colorado and Washington states that I'd met with over the last few years and our ongoing dialogues. I reflected on how this weed killer had been approved for use prior to the introduction of the genetically engineered organism and toxins into our crops, and I wondered about the synergistic toxicity of these chemicals, once again reflecting on the need for further testing.

And as Dr. Huber spoke about the increasing amounts of glyphosate being applied to our food crops, especially crops like corn and soy that have been genetically engineered to withstand increasing doses, he highlighted the unknown implications that this increasing exposure might be having on the health of animals and humans consuming these foods. He expressed concern over the approval of new genetically engineered crops designed to withstand increasing doses of glyphosate, saying that with the approval of every new RoundUp Ready crop, there is a 2-5 times increase in the amount of glyphosate that is applied.

With these increasing doses and applications, I asked him what the "acceptable levels of risk" were here in the US. Given that residual levels of glyphosate are found in human and animal feed, I asked if studies had been conducted to assess the long term impact of this increased exposure and application level and if any studies had been conducted to see what the increasing impact of these synthetic ingredients might be on the developing immune system of a child.

He went very quiet.

And he shared that the Canadian tolerable levels for glyphosate are 58 times lower that those in the US and that European tolerance levels are even lower as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable subsets of the population, like pregnant women and children. He then shared that the levels of glyphosate now found in the US food supply have been clinically shown to be toxic, citing its effects on human placental, kidney, liver and testicular cells.

And I paused, as a mother of four and as an American, as the weight of this information, Dr. Huber's insight and fifty-five years of knowledge, experience and wisdom sunk in.

And as I reflected, not wanting to know what he had just shared, I asked him to verify his statements, calling for independent, peer reviewed studies that supported this claim, recognizing that it is enormously controversial, challenging paradigms and belief systems, wanting to somehow be able to dismiss him.

Dr. Huber then spoke about work being done around the world by renowned researchers like Gallagher in New Zealand that addressed the fact that the levels at which we are being exposed to glyphosate are not safe for animal of human consumption. He also pointed out an informal study conducted in Iowa by Howard Vliegher that further highlighted what happened to animals who are fed the crops like genetically modified soy and corn which are bathed in glyphosate, giving details of the inflammation, ulcerations and allergic responses documented.

Then we both paused, reflecting on the potentially compound and synergistic toxicity of our food supply and the implications of this self-directed research. And in that moment, I thought of both the recent Canadian study that found that the metabolites of glyphosate and another pesticide related to genetically modified crops were found in the blood of pregnant women and fetuses in which the researchers concluded: "Given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed".

I then shared that the companies marketing and producing these synthetic chemicals and funding the safety studies of crops engineered to withstand increasing doses of glyphosate, had recently called upon the United States Department of Agriculture to conduct its own safety assessments, acknowledging that their own "research is directed toward their own sales and profits, and that federal research is needed to address long-term and overlooked needs."

We were silent.

I couldn't leave it at that. So I asked Dr. Huber what he would call for or suggest as "next steps", given his 55 years of experience and extensive research and the potential environmental and human health implications of our chemically intensive agricultural system, he said without hesitating, "The labeling of these genetically modified crops so that people can know what they are eating."

And he is not alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending a new policy, too, as seen on their website which states:

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that chemical management policy in the United States be revised to protect children and pregnant women and to better protect other populations."

The reasons for this concern are not unfounded. The American children have earned the title of "Generation Rx." The Centers for Disease Control now reports that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15. And oncologists and leading experts in the field of cancer are calling for new treatment models, worried that the increasing costs of cancer is going to put an unprecedented strain on our health care system.

At the same time, the President's Cancer Panel, a bipartisan group of experts and scientists, has urged all Americans to reduce their exposure to these synthetic ingredients and toxic chemicals in an effort to reduce the burden of disease and its weight on our economy, with another study coming out showing what pesticide exposure can to do to children and how "it may be putting young children at risk of cancer."

And in all honesty, I didn't want to know any of it. As we got off of the phone, I looked at the pages of notes I had taken, somehow wanting to unlearn absolutely all of it. But I couldn't. So when a farmer reached out, asking if I knew Don Huber, I hesitated, knowing I had not been brave enough to share his work. The farmer, who grows genetically engineered crops, crops routinely sprayed with chemicals and ingredients like glyphosate, had been profoundly touched by his work. And with a very quiet conviction, went on to say, "Anything that you can do to support his work is fine by me."

As the EPA looks to raise allowable levels of this controversial ingredient on our foods, sharing this message and the concern over this controversial ingredient with the EPA just might be one of the most important things that we can do.

Because as controversy grows over these genetically engineered crops and these chemicals being applied to them, other countries are opting out, creating a bit of a sales vacuum, forcing industry to find other lines of distribution in order to meet their revenue estimates. Loading it up on the plates of the American public, in light of the escalating rates of diseases we are seeing in our loved ones, shouldn't be the option.

Today, the morning after learning of Dr. Huber's accident, Monsanto reported earnings. The sale of their herbicide products were up 23.3%. They are a chemical company, and their genetically engineered products have been made to withstand increasing doses of their chemicals. And while Dr. Huber is no longer the only one calling this out, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we need all hands on deck.

Let the EPA know that you care and share this with your loved ones.

Learn how you can protect the health of your children and family from genetically engineered products and the chemicals upon which they are dependent to grow at www.justlabelit.org and at www.panna.org

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UK prison whistle blowers being threatened with dismissal

Kim Lennon

© Brighton Argus/Solent News

Kim Lennon. a prison officer at HMP Lewes, is fighting for her job after speaking to her local newspaper about her concerns over safety.

Whistleblowers in the Prison Service are being threatened with dismissal for raising serious concerns about their ability to keep inmates safe and their fears over soaring levels of violence.

The attempts to silence staff have been condemned by a Conservative member of parliament, who was approached in confidence by a number of officers working at a prison in his constituency during the summer with details of how staffing shortages were causing concerns over safety.

The MP, Gavin Williamson, said the "arrogant, high-handed" attitude to those raising legitimate concerns risked creating another scandal in the public sector on the scale of the Mid Staffordshire affair in the NHS. After the MP was approached an officer was singled out by the prison service and has been served a disciplinary notice which could end with his dismissal.

Williamson told the : "It's a totally disgraceful situation and goes against everything that we want to be seeing within the public sector, where whistleblowing needs to be encouraged when the concerns of those working within the system are not being addressed internally."

Officers are facing dismissal after raising concerns about the high levels of violence within prisons, their fears for their own safety and that of inmates, and predicting that short staffing will lead to more rioting.

In HMP Lewes Kim Lennon is fighting for her job after raising her worries about the safety of her and her colleagues in the local newspaper in August.

Allegations of a crackdown on whistleblowers follow an investigation by the which revealed that a distinct patterns of failings was contributing to more than six suicides of prisoners a month on average. Between January last year and 2 October this year, 134 inmates took their own lives - three on one day in September 2014.

The shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, has urged ministers to launch an urgent inquiry into the rising rate of suicides in prisons.

"Time and again the chief inspector has warned that staff shortages and overcrowding are the underlying causes of violence and deaths. Yet ministers have their fingers in their ears, and carry on denying there's a prisons crisis," he said.

The allegations come ahead of the chief inspector of prisons' annual report. The report, due out on Tuesday, will give a detailed examination of the state of prisons in England and Wales.

Williamson said he was approached by prison officers from HMP Featherstone in his constituency of South Staffordshire who brought their concerns about the rising levels of violence, their anger that inmates were not being brought to justice for attacks against staff and how short staffing was affecting safety.

He took these points to the prisons' minister and the Ministry of Justice.

But the Tory MP later discovered that an officer from the prison had been singled out and served with a disciplinary notice, saying he had brought the service into disrepute.

"They are taking an arrogant and high-handed attitude towards pursuing prison officers who have raised issues they are concerned about perfectly legitimately either through their MP or through other means," said Williamson.

"The right for people to whistleblow must always be there. We have seen what happened in Mid Staffs hospital and we don't want a repeat of that. I fear that that is the route the prison service seems to be going down. If people aren't able to speak up and say this is wrong, then the public services will be weaker for that."

Lennon, an officer from HMP Lewes, gave an interview to her local paper about the deteriorating safety within the prison after raising her concerns internally but being ignored - sources close to her case said. She warned that serving officers were concerned that staff shortages within the prison were sparking increased levels of violence, that she feared an attack on officers was imminent, that staff cuts were fuelling the increase in violence and there were not enough staff to look after prisoners properly.

Lennon told the : "We've not got enough staff to look after prisoners properly. They are becoming extremely frustrated and frontline officers are in danger. Staff are doing more jobs than ever before and there's fewer of us."

After Lennon spoke out a senior officer was attacked at Lewes by three prisoners and required hospital treatment.

But Lennon was later sent a letter by the then prison governor, Nigel Foote, informing her she was to be disciplined for "failing to meet the standards of behaviour expected of staff". She now faces dismissal.

A few days later Foote quit his post as governor of the prison with no explanation.

Paul Laxton, former deputy governor at Lewes, said there was a climate of fear within the prison system. "People are chained to their desks because of the workload and they don't want to put their heads over the parapet.

"They are trying to sack Kim, to make an example of her in order to show others that they have to keep their mouths shut. The senior civil servants will do what Chris Grayling wants, but there is also a culture at senior civil service level that people should be seen and not heard, you should sing the company song, constructive dissent is not wanted."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Any concerns raised by staff members are taken extremely seriously. The department has a policy which encourages staff to raise concerns to nominated officials or the confidential wrongdoing hotline."

Propaganda, Achtung! Germany's intel agency sez MH17 downed by Ukraine rebels (Putin)

© Reuters / Michaela Rehle

President of the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) Gerhard Schindler, whose "close colleague"' was arrested as a US spy in July this year.

Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency says a local militia shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine in July, reports. The BND is said to possess "ample evidence," though none of it has been made public.

The statement was made on October 8, when Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) president Gerhard Schindler was holding a secret meeting with members of the parliamentary control committee, the German daily reported on Sunday.

He claimed the militia fired a rocket from a BUK defense missile system which it had captured from a Ukrainian base. It then exploded next to the plane, according to the report.

"Schindler provided ample evidence to back up his case, including satellite images and diverse photo evidence," the report added.

However, no "evidence" has yet been made public, and the BND has not made any official statements on the matter.

First deputy prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic, Andrey Purgin, refuted claims made by the German intelligence agency. He told Interfax that Kiev forces could have downed the plane, mistaking it for a spy jet.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was downed over eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew. Nearly two-thirds of the passengers were from the Netherlands.

The ongoing international probe led by the Dutch has not yet established who the perpetrators were. A preliminary report issued in September said only that the plane crashed as a result of structural damage caused by a "large number of high-energy objects" that struck from outside.

Political analyst Aleksandar Pavic told RT that he believes Berlin is trying to influence the Dutch investigation - the results of which are to be released next year.

"Germany has now the obligation to show the evidence to the official investigation," he said. "This is like during trial: if you release bits and pieces of evidence before while the trial is still ongoing, you are trying to influence the outcome of the trial."

Russia has been repeatedly denied accusations, mostly from the US, which claim that Moscow was connected to the tragedy in some way or another. The Russian Foreign Ministry has called Washington's accusations "unsubstantiated innuendos."

The US State Department has accused Russia of firing artillery across the border into Ukrainian territory after the plane crash.

"We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters during a briefing in July. But she refused to provide any evidence when grilled by an Associated Press reporter.

Meanwhile, Moscow has posed a series of questions to the US that have been left unanswered. Russian military officials urged their US colleagues to release satellite images that prove their claims.

"If our US colleagues have imagery from this satellite, they should release it for the international community to examine it in detail. This may be a coincidence, but the US satellite flew over Ukraine at exactly the same time when the Malaysian airliner crashed," a ministry spokesman said in a July statement.

The US has accused local militia forces of shooting down the plane. However, it has provided little to no evidence in support of such claims.

Following the crash, Harf was asked at a press briefing if the US could back up its claims regarding the role of such militias in the tragedy. Harf responded that she "can't get into the sources and methods behind it" and "can't tell you what the information is based on."

In late July, the US State Department released satellite images via email, claiming the pictures acted as "evidence" that Russia was firing rockets at Ukrainian troops across the border. The images were posted on Twitter by the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. Russia's Defense Ministry said the authenticity of the images was impossible to prove.

Meanwhile, Russia has said that its military detected a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet gaining height towards the MH17 Boeing on the day of the catastrophe. No explanation was given by Kiev as to why the military plane was flying so close to a passenger aircraft.

British scientists warn only 100 harvests left in farm soil

Modern society's dependence on grains is destroying both the soil and human and animal health

Intense over-farming means there are only 100 harvests left in the soil of the UK's countryside, a study has found.

With a growing population and the declining standard of British farmland, scientists warned that we are on course for an "agricultural crisis" unless dramatic action is taken.

Despite the traditional perception that there is a green and pleasant land outside the grey, barren landscape of our cities, researchers from the University of Sheffield found that on average urban plots of soil were richer in nutrients than many farms.

Sampling local parks, allotments and gardens in urban areas, Dr Jill Edmondson showed that the ground was significantly healthier than that of arable fields. Allotment soil had 32% more organic carbon, 36% higher carbon to nitrogen ratios, 25% higher nitrogen and was significantly less compacted.

Professor Nigel Dunnett, also of the University of Sheffield, said that in order to ensure we can produce food for future generations we must start to see towns and cities as the future of farming.

He has established a scheme in the centre of Sheffield to transform a piece of wasteland into an "eco-park", and is among five projects shortlisted to win a grant from the Big Lottery Fund through the Grow Wild initiative, led by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

"With a growing population to feed, and the nutrients in our soil in sharp decline, we may soon see an agricultural crisis," Professor Dunnett said.

"Meanwhile we are also seeing a sharp decrease in bio-diversity in the UK which has a disastrous knock-on effect on our wildlife Lack of pollinators means reduction in food.

"We need to dramatically rethink our approach to urban growing and use the little space we have as efficiently as possible. Cities must become places of food production."

Less freedom to protest in London's Parliament Square than in Hong Kong!!

Occupy Democracy rally

© Nina Tailor / @ninatailor2

The Occupy Democracy rally in London's Parliament Square.

Donnachadh McCarthy went to Parliament Square yesterday to address a peaceful rally about the failings of British democracy. The intimidatory, violent and inflammatory police reaction only confirmed everything he had to say - as did the dignified restraint of the Occupy Democracy protestors.

Yesterday I was invited to speak about 'The Prostitute State - How Britain's Democracy Has Been Bought' - at the Occupy Democracy Rally in Parliament Square.

The plan was to give the talk (which went well - despite being nervous) and meet up with a friend later for dinner.

Instead I ended up being threatened with arrest not once, not twice but six times and ended up sleeping rough in the open all night in Parliament Square with the amazing people seeking to establish the week-long democracy Occupy Democracy forum!

The first near arrest was for holding on to a placard stating that .

Three policemen nearly broke my fingers to take it off me, whilst refusing to tell me on what grounds a peaceful protester could not have such a placard.

The second near arrest was when about 60 of us were sitting around in a circle on the grass discussing democracy and occupy. About 40 riot police surrounded about 20 of us and kettled us in. They then threatened us with arrest for refusing as peaceful citizens to give our names.

The third near arrest happened when I helped rescue one of the peaceful democracy debaters from a snatch squad.

The fourth near arrest happened when I saw the private security guard boss who disgracefully now police Parliament Square (AOS) , indicate three peaceful democracy debaters whom he wanted arrested and helped grab them out of the way.

The fifth near arrest was when I argued that the police were guilty of unnecessary harassment and making a farce of the Metropolitan Police, in seeking to wake up one of the democracy debaters who was asleep, as they claimed the plastic bag he was using to keep himself dry was and that this was illegal in Parliament Square!

The sixth and final near-arrest was this morning when the police sergeant and four policemen dragged me away from Occupy Democracy for the heinous crime of holding a placard with their values:

"Peaceful non-violence

No discrimination of any sort

No drugs or alcohol on-site"

They eventually tore it off me, after I exercised peacecful direct action in seeking to hold on to it, whilst asking on what grounds it was illegal to have such a sign and the sergent tore it to shreds.

Hundreds of police - but whatever for?

There were literally hundreds and hundreds of police surrounding the democracy debate.

Then another police cordon around the squares footpaths - within which the press were banned.

Then the entire boundary of the square was surrounded by police vans.

A police helicopter hovered over-head. Hundreds more police were in vans spread all around the vicinity.

This massive over-policing and attempts to shut the democratic forum down was truly shocking and outrageous.

However, despite repeated provocation the democrats remained peaceful, and with huge help from the legal team, Occupy faced down all of the attacks and is now proceeding peacefully with talks and workshops all week, including today.

Please go and support these brave protesters today or during the week if you can.

I am now going to crash ... grateful for not being in jail and grateful for helping claim this space for open democratic debate for nine days, outside the Whore of Parliaments.

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Guess who will profit 7 billion dollars rebuilding Gaza?

gaza construction

Just when you think you've heard it all about Israel's murderous bombardment of Gaza, you discover there is much more to the tragedy. Yes, there was a massive loss of innocent life and the utter destruction of tens of thousands of homes, schools and public buildings, but it now transpires Israel will profit handsomely from the $7 billion or more it will take to rebuild Gaza over the next 20 years. The scandalous fact is Israel will continue to control the flow of all building materials into Gaza and will insist they must be bought from Israeli companies.

An unnamed European Union (EU) official quoted in news outlets said it was outrageous a country that had just demolished 25,000 homes was "demanding its construction industry rebuild them at the expense of the international community." That rebuilding project will have to include at least 5,000 homes not repaired from the previous Israeli bombardments and replacing Gaza's only power station, leveled by Israeli missiles.

Also to be considered is the damage to agriculture that has left a wasteland of what were once farms. The fishing industry was destroyed and needs to be rebuilt as well as thousands of public buildings and amenities.

Even before this latest Israeli aggression, half the population of Gaza was surviving on United Nations (UN) food rations and Israel had frozen all funds to the Hamas government.

Another scandal uncovered in documents leaked to the UK's Guardian newspaper shows the UN is preparing to cede authority to Israel for the rebuilding of Gaza, thereby reinforcing its right to control the transfer of all materials into Palestinian territory and the right to decide what is rebuilt and where.

"Critics argue that plans for monitoring the import, storage and sales of building materials - including installing video cameras, setting up a team of international inspectors and the creation of a database of suppliers and consumers - are more appropriate for a suspect nuclear program than a postwar reconstruction effort," reported . "The agreement would also cede to Israel the right to approve, and potentially veto, major rebuilding projects, including their location."

Unfortunately, the UN does not clearly speak with one voice on the issue, probably due to pressure from Washington to back what Israel wants. In contrast, the UN chief human rights figure in the region, Pierre Krähenbühl, warned Israel could no longer impose a "collective punishment" on Gaza with a blockade "illegal under international law."

The EU is the one body entirely familiar with how Israelis use the blockade to benefit enormously from aid going to Gaza. In past years, materials shipped from Europe were held up for months in Israeli ports and airports. It was Israel's way of making the point that if all construction materials were provided by Israeli companies they would get to Gaza on time. It had the effect of EU aid being spent with Israeli outlets. It was and remains a classic scam benefiting the Israeli economy. In this latest rebuilding effort, billions of dollars will flow through Israeli companies in what will be a long, drawn-out and very costly reconstruction process.

In the wake of the Gaza tragedy, a further embarrassment for Israel was the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand naming Israel as "one of the most racist societies in the Western world." Sand said he wanted to cease considering himself a Jew. Writing for , he blasted Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

"That oppressed population, which has lived under the occupation for close to 50 years, deprived of political and civil rights, on land that the 'state of the Jews' considers its own, remains abandoned and ignored by international politics," he wrote.

He compared Israel's 47-year occupation of Palestinian land to a mythological serpent that had "swallowed too big a victim but prefers to choke rather than abandon it."

Chris Hedges: 'The Imperative of Revolt'

© AP/Seth Wenig

Protesters chant as they are arrested at the intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street in New York on Sept. 22. The protesters, many of whom were affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, were pointing to the connection between capitalism and environmental destruction.

Toronto - I met with Sheldon S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question. If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d'état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls "inverted totalitarianism," if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Wolin, who wrote the books Politics and Vision and Democracy Incorporated, and Saul, who wrote Voltaire's Bastards and The Unconscious Civilization, see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers. Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.

"If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,"

Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. "At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.""The collapse started in 1973," Saul continued. "There were a series of sequential collapses afterwards. The fascinating thing is that between 1850 and 1970 we put in place all sorts of mechanisms to stop collapses which we can call liberalism, social democracy or Red Toryism. It was an understanding that we can't have boom-and-bust cycles. We can't have poverty-stricken people. We can't have starvation. The reason today's collapses are not leading to what happened in the 18th century and the 19th century is because all these safety nets, although under attack, are still in place. But each time we have a collapse we come out of it stripping more of the protection away. At a certain point we will find ourselves back in the pre-protection period. At that point we will get a collapse that will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea what it will look like. A revolution from the left? A revolution from the right? Is it violence followed by state violence? Is it the collapse of the last meaningful edges of democracy? Is it a sudden decision by a critical mass of people that they are not going to take it anymore?"

This devolution of the economic system has been accompanied by corporations' seizure of nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite, through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism, which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his book Democracy Incorporated.

Inverted totalitarianism does not replicate past totalitarian structures, such as fascism and communism. It is therefore harder to immediately identify and understand. There is no blustering demagogue. There is no triumphant revolutionary party. There are no ideologically drenched and emotional mass political rallies. The old symbols, the old iconography and the old language of democracy are held up as virtuous. The old systems of governance - electoral politics, an independent judiciary, a free press and the Constitution - appear to be venerated. But, similar to what happened during the late Roman Empire, all the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.

The corporate state, Wolin told me at his Oregon home, is "legitimated by elections it controls." It exploits laws that once protected democracy to extinguish democracy; one example is allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions in the name of our First Amendment right to free speech and our right to petition the government as citizens. "It perpetuates politics all the time," Wolin said, "but a politics that is not political." The endless election cycles, he said, are an example of politics without politics, driven not by substantive issues but manufactured political personalities and opinion polls. There is no national institution in the United States "that can be described as democratic," he said.

The mechanisms that once allowed the citizen to be a participant in power - from participating in elections to enjoying the rights of dissent and privacy - have been nullified. Money has replaced the vote, Wolin said, and corporations have garnered total power without using the cruder forms of traditional totalitarian control: concentration camps, enforced ideological conformity and the physical suppression of dissent. They will avoid such measures "as long as that dissent remains ineffectual," he said. "The government does not need to stamp out dissent. The uniformity of imposed public opinion through the corporate media does a very effective job."

The state has obliterated privacy through mass surveillance, a fundamental precondition for totalitarian rule, and in ways that are patently unconstitutional has stripped citizens of the rights to a living wage, benefits and job security. And it has destroyed institutions, such as labor unions, that once protected workers from corporate abuse.

Inverted totalitarianism, Wolin has written, is "only in part a state-centered phenomenon." It also represents "the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry."

Corporate power works in secret. It is unseen by the public and largely anonymous. Politicians and citizens alike often seem blissfully unaware of the consequences of inverted totalitarianism, Wolin said in the interview. And because it is a new form of totalitarianism we do not recognize the radical change that has gradually taken place. Our failure to grasp the new configuration of power has permitted the corporate state to rob us through judicial fiat, a process that culminates in a disempowered population and omnipotent corporate rulers. Inverted totalitarianism, Wolin said, "projects power upwards." It is "the antithesis of constitutional power."

"Democracy has been turned upside down," Wolin said. "It is supposed to be a government for the people, by the people. But it has become an organized form of government dominated by groups that are only vaguely, if at all, responsible or responsive to popular needs and popular demands. At the same time, it retains a patina of democracy. We still have elections. They are relatively free. We have a relatively free media. But what is missing is a crucial, continuous opposition that has a coherent position, that is not just saying no, no, no, that has an alternative and ongoing critique of what is wrong and what needs to be remedied."

Wolin and Saul, echoing Karl Marx, view unfettered and unregulated capitalism as a revolutionary force that has within it the seeds of its own self-annihilation. It is and always has been deeply antagonistic to participatory democracy, they said. Democratic states must heavily regulate and control capitalism, for once capitalism is freed from outside restraint it seeks to snuff out democratic institutions and abolish democratic rights that are seen - often correctly - as an impediment to maximizing profit. The more ruthless and pronounced global corporate capitalism becomes, the greater the loss of democratic space.

"Capitalism is destructive because it has to eliminate customs, mores, political values, even institutions that present any kind of credible threat to the autonomy of the economy," Wolin said. "That is where the battle lies. Capitalism wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political order subservient to the needs of the economy. The [capitalist's] notion of an economy, while broadly based in the sense of a relatively free entrance and property that is relatively widely dispersed, is as elitist as any aristocratic system."

Wolin and Saul said they expect the state, especially in an age of terminal economic decline, to employ more violent and draconian forms of control to keep restive populations in check. This coercion, they said, will fuel discontent and unrest, which will further increase state repression.

"People with power use the tools they have," Saul said. "As the West has gradually lost its economic tool it has turned to what remains, which are military tools and violence. The West still has the most weaponry. Even if they are doing very badly economically in a global sense, they can use the weaponry to replace the economics or replace competition."

"They decided that capitalism and the market was about the right to have the cheapest possible goods," Saul said. "That is what competition meant. This is a lie. No capitalist philosopher ever said that. As you bring the prices down below the capacity to produce them in a middle-class country you commit suicide. As you commit suicide you have to ask, 'How do we run this place?' And you have to run it using these other methods - bread and circuses, armies, police and prisons."

The liberal class - which has shriveled under the corporate onslaught and a Cold War ideology that held up national security as the highest good - once found a home in the Democratic Party, the press, labor unions and universities. It made reform possible. Now, because it is merely decorative, it compounds the political and economic crisis. There is no effective organized opposition to the rise of a neofeudalism dominated a tiny corporate oligarchy that exploits workers and the poor.

"The reform class, those who believe that reform is possible, those who believe in humanism, justice and inclusion, has become incredibly lazy over the last 30 or 40 years," Saul said. "The last hurrah was really in the 1970s. Since then they think that getting a tenured position at Harvard and waiting to get a job in Washington is actually an action, as opposed to passivity."

"One of the things we have seen over the last 30 or 40 years is a gradual silencing of people who are doctors or scientists," Saul said. "They are silenced by the managerial methodology of contracts. You sign an employment contract that says everything you know belongs to the people who hired you. You are not allowed to speak out. Take that [right] away and you have a gigantic educated group who has a great deal to say and do, but they are tied up. They don't know how to untie themselves. They come out with their Ph.D. They are deeply in debt. The only way they can get a job is to give up their intellectual freedom. They are prisoners."

Resistance, Wolin and Saul agreed, will begin locally, with communities organizing to form autonomous groups that practice direct democracy outside the formal power structures, including the two main political parties. These groups will have to address issues such as food security, education, local governance, economic cooperation and consumption. And they will have to sever themselves, as much as possible, from the corporate economy.

"Richard Rorty talked about how you take power," Saul said. "You go out and win the school board elections. You hold the school board. You reform the schools. Then you win the towns. And you stay there. And you hold it for 30 to 40 years. And gradually you bring in reforms that improve things. It isn't about three years in Washington on a contract. There has to be a critical mass of leaders willing to ruin their lives as part of a large group that figures out how to get power and hold power at all of these levels, gradually putting reforms in place."

I asked them if a professional revolutionary class, revolutionists dedicated solely to overthrowing the corporate state, was a prerequisite. Would we have to model any credible opposition after Vladimir Lenin's disciplined and rigidly controlled Bolsheviks or Machiavelli's republican conspirators? Wolin and Saul, while deeply critical of Lenin's ideology of state capitalism and state terror, agreed that creating a class devoted full time to radical change was essential to fomenting change. There must be people, they said, willing to dedicate their lives to confronting the corporate state outside traditional institutions and parties. Revolt, for a few, must become a vocation. The alliance between mass movements and a professional revolutionary class, they said, offers the best chance for an overthrow of corporate power.

"It is extremely important that people are willing to go into the streets," Saul said. "Democracy has always been about the willingness of people to go into the streets. When the Occupy movement started I was pessimistic. I felt it could only go a certain distance. But the fact that a critical mass of people was willing to go into the streets and stay there, without being organized by a political party or a union, was a real statement. If you look at that, at what is happening in Canada, at the movements in Europe, the hundreds of thousands of people in Spain in the streets, you are seeing for the first time since the 19th century or early 20th century people coming into the streets in large numbers without a real political structure. These movements aren't going to take power. But they are a sign that power and the respect for power is falling apart. What happens next? It could be dribbled away. But I think there is the possibility of a new generation coming in and saying we won't accept this. That is how you get change. A new generation comes along and says no, no, no. They build their lives on the basis of that no."

But none of these mass mobilizations, Saul and Wolin emphasized, will work unless there is a core of professional organizers.

"Anarchy is a beautiful idea, but someone has to run the stuff," Saul said. "It has to be run over a long period of time. Look at the rise and fall of the Chinese empires. For thousands of years it has been about the rise and fall of the water systems. Somebody has to run the water system. Somebody [in modern times] has to keep the electricity going. Somebody has to make the hospitals work."

"You need a professional or elite class devoted to profound change," Saul said. "If you want to get power you have to be able to hold it. And you have to be able to hold it long enough to change the direction. The neoconservatives understood this. They have always been Bolsheviks. They are the Bolsheviks of the right. Their methodology is the methodology of the Bolsheviks. They took over political parties by internal coups d'état. They worked out, scientifically, what things they needed to do and in what order to change the structures of power. They have done it stage by stage. And we are living the result of that. The liberals sat around writing incomprehensible laws and boring policy papers. They were unwilling to engage in the real fight that was won by a minute group of extremists."

"You have to understand power to reform things," Saul said. "If you don't understand power you get blown away by the guy who does. We are missing people who believe in justice and at the same time understand how tough power and politics are, how to make real choices. And these choices are often quite ugly."

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