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Thursday, 30 October 2014

More GMO contamination: USDA skeptical over GMO wheat mishaps

© truthstreammedia.com

While GMO wheat is not currently on the U.S. market, that does not mean it isn't being grown here.

The discovery of another unapproved variety of genetically modified wheat in Montana has increased pressure to tighten the regulation of biotech crops, a change that could cause havoc for farmers in Iowa and across the U.S. eager to get their hands on the newest varieties.

The popular crops are staunchly defended by farmers who depend on genetically altered seeds to provide them with higher yields, better-quality products, and lower consumption of chemicals to rebuff attacks from weeds or insects. The result is a boon to their bottom line.

The United States is by far the world's largest grower of biotech crops, planting 173 million acres in 2013 - almost 4% of all biotech acreage globally. In Iowa, 95% of all corn planted this year came from genetically engineered seeds.

But food and environmental groups are skeptical about the safety of these crops in everyday foods and in the environment in which they grow. The discovery of unapproved wheat has renewed calls for regulators to adopt a slower, more stringent approval process.

I'd like to say it was surprising that these events happened, but it's not, really. It's become the norm, rather than the exception," said the Center for Food Safety's Bill Freese, a frequent critic of biotech crops.

"They're not able to prevent contamination from these experimental (genetically engineered) crops to commercial crops, and that's just caused headaches, huge headaches, very serious financial losses for American agriculture. What's it going to take to have proper oversight?"

In September, the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which oversees biotech crops, said it found the Monsanto wheat two months earlier on a research field at Montana State University, more than a decade after the crop was legally tested there between 2000 and 2003.

The finding came as the USDA concluded a nearly yearlong probe into a similar wheat discovery in Oregon in May 2013. In that case, the government was unable to determine how the modified seeds developed by Monsanto appeared eight years after testing ended for the biotech variety. Neither wheat strain has been approved for sale or consumption.

Each year, hundreds of tests are conducted around the United States, mostly on corn, soybeans and alfalfa by seed giants including Monsanto, Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer.

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service authorized the planting of more than 500 crops that could be tested on as many as 11,300 sites across the nation.

The inspection service said that of the 500 crops, 11 incidents of noncompliance with field test regulations were reported. Five were minor violations, largely tied to incorrectly filled-out paperwork. None was considered a major incident, such as unauthorized planting without a permit. APHIS declined to disclose the locations of the violations.

Genetically modified seeds were first introduced commercially in the U.S. in 1996 with the launch of Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans, a plant that tolerates the company's Roundup herbicide while nearby weeds are killed. Since then, biotech has blossomed into a major force in agriculture, including corn, papaya, sugar beets, cotton and squash.

The Center for Food Safety has called for a moratorium on all biotech trials "until the USDA can get its act together." Freese said it is not clear that contamination can be prevented.

He said the department should at least impose stricter regulation, such as larger buffer zones between the test crop and non-GMO varieties, more field trial inspections, and increased fines to penalize companies that violate a testing protocol or fail to do an adequate job cleaning up after a field trial.

"The contamination episodes show how weak and full of holes the regulatory system is, and, frankly, farmers deserve much better from USDA," he said.

Colin Johnson is a fourth-generation farmer who plants 700 acres of Monsanto corn and soybean seeds in Wapello County. He said that while agricultural producers are the beneficiaries of genetically modified seeds, they also have a responsibility to protect the technology by making sure it's not accidentally mixed with conventional crops while it's harvested, stored or transported.

We have to be very diligent and work together as an industry. This campaign to find holes or poke holes or to look for anything that would be a cause for anyone to go anti-GMO is always at the forefront of some folks' minds," Johnson said. "It has a lot of danger to defeat a lot of the good measures that genetically modified plants and organisms have to a safe food supply and efficient food production."

Michael Firko, deputy administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Biotechnology Regulatory Services, said the agency believes the current process used to regulate field trials "is more than sufficient," and improvements have made a moratorium unnecessary.

"We have in place science-based requirements for field trials that ensure there is not an introduction of these crops while they are being field-tested," Firko said.

© Jeff Horner, AP

A combine harvests wheat along the Oregon-Washington border, southwest of Walla Walla, Wash. The source of a patch of genetically modified wheat found Spring 2013 in Oregon remains a mystery.

When asked whether the recent wheat discoveries could slow the growth of genetically modified crops, Firko said the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will continue to regulate "and give rigorous review" to new biotech varieties that the agency is asked to review for approval.

Greg Jaffe, director of the Project on Biotechnology for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the USDA needs to be more transparent about how many inspections it conducts, how those inspections are targeted and what they find. He also said that while the department sets buffer zones between biotech field trials and traditional varieties, it fails to do enough testing to make sure the boundaries are large enough to be successful.

"I would hope that USDA would use this as an opportunity to do some research about the efficacy of their field trail conditions that they put in place," he said.

Still, Jaffe said because neither of the wheat findings had an impact on the environment or food safety, the government feels little impetus to move expeditiously to make changes to its oversight.

"Overall, there are hundreds and hundreds of field trials done every year, and we're talking about some fairly isolated incidences that luckily did not have any trade, food safety or environmental impacts," he said.

John Youngberg, executive vice president with the Montana Farm Bureau, said discoveries such as the recent wheat varieties can provide fodder for critics and make it more difficult for farmers and biotech crop supporters. "We're watching this sort of thing," said Youngberg. "It's easy to say it's bad for you. It always casts a cloud over the benefits of the technology.

Putin - a thorn in the side of US imperialism

us imperialism

Is Washington a revisionist power?

The idea that the United States must exercise "global leadership" is rationalized by our interventionists as a necessary prerequisite for maintaining some type of "world order." Who will guard the sea lanes? Who will deter "aggression"? Who will defend the "rules" against those "rogue states" just waiting for an opportunity to wreak havoc, if not the United States of America?

No "mainstream" politician dares challenge this mythology, and those academics and popular writers who do so risk being marginalized. Challenging the motives of our wise rulers isn't good for your career: that is, not if you want to have any influence in Washington. And while it's okay to question whether this episode of meddling or that murderous invasion is really in our interest, the benevolence and historical legitimacy of the American empire is not to be questioned. Because, after all, the theoreticians of imperialism say, without the stability enforced by America's military supremacy "liberalism" could not exist.

This is how the world is seen inside the Washington Beltway, where the monuments of Empire loom large and more than half the population owes its livelihood to the Imperium. Outside that bubble of hubris and skyrocketing real estate values, however, the world looks to be quite a different place - as does America's role in it.

To an Iraqi citizen, who has watched his nation be torn to pieces by the American eagle, stability is the last thing he associates with the Americans. To a Libyan who had hopes his country might evolve into something more than Gaddafi's playground, "order" fled the moment the Americans intervened. To a resident of eastern Ukraine who voted in an internationally-recognized election for Victor Yanukovych - and who awoke one morning to discover his government had been overthrown by force - America is anything but the champion of liberal democracy.

But of course none of these peoples - Iraqis, Libyans, Ukrainians - count for much in the Imperial City. Their wishes, hopes, dreams, and opinions are irrelevant to the making of American foreign policy: they are outside the pale, forever exiled to that netherworld separating the West from the rest. And there is no race or nation farther outside that pale than the Russians, who lost the cold war and therefore - in Washington's view - have ceded any power or influence they once had over the calculations of US policymakers.

Russia and the Russians are routinely demonized in Washington: they are the one people it is perfectly okay to hate - unless, that is, you are a member of "Pussy Riot," or a has-been chess champion who's taken up Russophobia as a second career. That is, unless you're a traitor to your own country and allow yourself to be used as an instrument in Washington's hands.

Naturally the number one hate object is Vladimir Putin, who is regularly characterized as either the reincarnation of Stalin, the second coming of Hitler, or, preferably, both. That's because he doesn't recognize the implications of Russia's defeat in the cold war and still seems to think his opinions amount to something in the brave new unipolar world Washington is building.

No wonder the response to his recent speech at the "Valdai International Discussion Club" - an annual event in Russia - has been nothing short of hysterical. Yet even then, I was amazed to get this tweet from Jackson Diehl, the editorial chieftain of the Washington Post, announcing their editorial:

"We pore over his performance in Valdai, a poisonous mix of lies, conspiracy theories and anti-US vitriol."

What does the editorial board of the Washington Post find so appalling? They are shocked - shocked! - that Mr. Putin wants Washington to "stay out of our affairs and to stop pretending they rule the world." How dare he! Who does he think he is, anyway - a world leader of consequence, whose country is armed with nuclear weapons?

It wasn't just the reliably neoconnish WaPo. As James Carden noted in The National Interest, "The New York Times alerted readers 'Putin Lashes Out at U.S. for Backing 'Neo-Fascists' and 'Islamic Radicals'; the Financial Times proclaimed "Putin Unleashes Fury at US 'follies'; and Fox News reported that 'Putin Blasts US in Speech, Blaming West for Conflict in Ukraine.'" The Washington Post only added a few more decibels to the cold war chorus, noting approvingly that, in a recent speech, President Obama likened the Russians to a bad case of Ebola.

The WaPo's sense of nostalgia is evoked when Putin mentions (twice) Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on a desk in the UN - it's the 1960s all over again! Except it isn't: and that, from Putin's point of view - and much of the world's - is precisely the problem.

Because back then the US had a real adversary in the Soviet Union, and Washington was properly constrained. No more: ever since the fall of the Soviet empire, the Americans have been on a rampage. Instead of ensuring stability - and defending national sovereignty against aggressors - they have become the worst aggressors on the planet, agents of instability who seek to overthrow the established order and, as George W. Bush proclaimed in his crazed second inaugural address, "light a fire in the mind" on a global scale.

In his Valdai speech, Putin points to the brokenness of the institutions and understandings that used to balance out the power relationships in the international arena, regulating them so that upheaval and conflict were minimized. Without this framework, says Putin, all that's left is "the rule of brute force." Western whiners will bristle at such hypocrisy: this is said by the invader of Crimea! Yet Crimea has been Russian since Catherine the Great: the Russians will respond to our arguments that this is "aggression" the moment we give back the American southwest to Mexico. And anyone capable of the least amount of objectivity will have to concede they have a point.

With the end of the cold war, Putin continues,

"What we needed to do was to carry out a rational reconstruction and adapt it to the new realities in the system of international relations.

"But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, saw no need for this. Instead of establishing a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability, they took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance."

NATO expansion to the very gates of Moscow, Clinton's Balkan wars, and a regime-change operation that overthrew the democratically elected government of Ukraine and replaced it with "pro-Western" elements with dubious democratic credentials. Even more shameless was the political and diplomatic support given by Washington to crazed Islamic radicals, such as the Chechen "freedom fighters," i.e. the ideological blood brothers of the Tsarnaev brothers.

"The Cold War ended," avers the Russian leader who picked up the pieces,

"But it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called 'victors' in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition.

"Pardon the analogy, but this is the way nouveaux riches behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune, in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely, for their own benefit too of course, I think they have committed many follies."

The editorialists and the neocon pundits are up in arms over the Valdai speech precisely because Putin is absolutely right about what he calls the "legal nihilism" of the US and its satellites. And of course they weren't exactly pleased to hear the Russian leader's denunciation of America's "total control of the global mass media" which "has made it possible when desired to portray white as black and black as white."

Our Western "democrats" are bound to choke at this point, yelping about the alleged near-total control of the Russian media by Putin & Co. Yet this only underscores Putin's point: the source of their anger is that anyone, anywhere on earth, deviates from the party line as dictated by Washington and its captive media, which speak with one voice when it comes to foreign affairs.

If we look at the international competition between nations in terms of ecology, it's clear what is the problem. Like a population of rats that has suddenly been allowed to reproduce beyond its natural boundaries due to a lack of predators - say, bears - to balance them out, the Americans have gone swarming across the globe , undermining the natural ecological balance and taking out everything and everyone in their path. This is where our "victory" in the cold war has led us - into a position very much like that of the old Soviet Union before Stalin reduced Soviet ideology to a strictly defensive posture of "socialism in one country." We have switched roles with the Russians, who are now the status quo power, in opposition to our own role as a revisionist revolutionary power seeking to destroy what little stability the world has left.

Ah, irony - thy name is history.

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Six haunting tales of ghost ships throughout history

El Caleuche

© taringa.net

Ghost ships have long sparked fascination and fear, from mariners and nonmariners alike. These spooky vessels run the gamut from phantom ships that appear as eerie apparitions to real-life abandoned wrecks to those craft that disappeared mysteriously with no survivors, such as the HMS Erebus that was lost in the Canadian Arctic in 1845. Here's a look at some of the most haunted ships throughout history.

El Caleuche

El Caleuche is a ghost ship said to sail the waters off the coast of Chile. "El Caleuche always sails at night and appears suddenly through the fog or mist, brightly lit," writes author Ann Bingham in her book "South and Meso-American Mythology A to Z" (Chelsea House, 2010). The ship "guards the waters and punishes those who bring hardship to the sea or the creatures that live in it."

The ship's crew is said to consist of dead, shipwrecked, sailors along with witches. The witches are said to leave the ship by riding a seahorse named Caballo Marino Bingham added. Apparently the witches and shipwrecked sailors are a happy crew. "On calm nights, it is said, music and laughter can often be heard coming from the ship," Bingham writes.

© Parks Canada

HMS Erebus and Terror

HMS Erebus and Terror

On May 19, 1845, two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, departed England and set sail for the Canadian Arctic. Their goal was to travel through the treacherous waters of the Northwest Passage that separated the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Led by Sir John Franklin, the ships were to collect samples and conduct scientific studies along the way. Out of the 134 officers and men on the expedition, not a single one ever returned.

Messages later discovered by a rescue mission indicate the ships became trapped in ice off of King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. Franklin died on June 11, 1847, and the ships were abandoned on April 22, 1848. The initial survivors attempted to cross the ice and reach safety on the Canadian mainland. [See Photos of the Lost Ship from the Franklin Expedition]

Recently, Parks Canada archaeologists found the wreck of the HMS Erebus during the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition.



© State Library of Queensland


On Dec. 14, 1928, the København, a Danish East Asiatic Company sailing ship left the Rio de la Plata (an area between Uruguay and Argentina) en route to Australia. It was notable for having five masts.

"She was a well-found vessel, fitted with wireless (radio) an auxiliary engine and ample lifeboats," writes Hamish Ross in Sea Breezes Magazine. "A training ship, she had a crew of 60 men, many of whom were cadets, some from very prominent Danish families."

The ship was in touch, through radio, with the Norwegian steamer William Blumer on Dec. 21, but after that it was never heard from again.

"Following the København's disappearance, many theories sprang up as to her loss, but the most likely seems to be that she struck an iceberg in darkness or fog," writes Ross. "There were also reports of sightings of a phantom five-masted vessel in 1930." In 2012, a wreck was found at the island of Tristan da Cunha that could potentially be the København.

HMS Eurydice

HMS Eurydice

In 1878, the HMS Eurydice, a Royal Navy training vessel, was lost while sailing near the Isle of Wight. A sudden snowstorm sunk the vessel, killing 364 crewmembers, on what had been a calm day. The storm occurred so suddenly, the ship's crew didn't have enough time to react, according to news reports.

The "Eurydice continued at full sail with her gun ports open before disappearing in the midst of the blizzard," writes Victoria Bartlett in an article on the BBC website. Ultimately, there were only two survivors, Bartlett notes. The ship was refloated but, being heavily damaged, was scrapped.

Since then, there have been stories of a ghostly HMS Eurydice haunting the area where the ship sank. "Sailors and visitors are also said to have witnessed sightings of a 'ghost ship' off the Isle of Wight," writes Bartlett. In the 1930s, a British submarine reported encountering the ghostly vessel. Additionally, "Prince Edward reportedly saw the ship while filming an ITV documentary in 1998," Bartlett writes.

Mary Celeste

Mary Celeste

On Dec. 4, 1872, a boarding party on the British brigantine ship named the Dei Gratia found a ship named the Mary Celeste adrift at sea in the Atlantic Ocean, not far from the Azores. The ship was completely deserted, the boarding party found.

Of the 10 people known to have sailed aboard the Mary Celeste, none were ever found. A lifeboat was missing, but the ship's log gave no indication as to why the Mary Celeste was abandoned. The boarding party found that there had been some flooding, with at least one pump out of order. The ship was carrying over 1,700 barrels of alcohol, a few of which had spilled open.

There was little damage, and the flooding posed little problem. A crew from Dei Gratia pumped out the water and sailed the Mary Celeste to Gibraltar where the British authorities began an investigation into what happened. They were unable to come up with a definitive answer, and the case of the Mary Celeste has remained unsolved ever since.

Different ideas have been put forward. A few barrels of alcohol had spilled open, which might have made the crew afraid that their hold was going to explode. This could have prompted their captain, Benjamin Briggs, to order them to abandon ship. It's also been proposed that Briggs thought the flooding was worse than it actually was. With at least one pump not working, he may have given the order to abandon ship. [In Images: Ancient Maps and Sea Monsters]

Other, more far-fetched ideas involve sea monsters, mutineers or pirates.

Flying Dutchman

© PLRANG | Shutterstock.com

The most famous ghost ship of all is the Flying Dutchman, said to haunt the waters near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

"The term 'Flying Dutchman' actually refers to the captain, not his ship," writes Angus Konstam in his book "Ghost Ships: Tales of Abandoned, Doomed and Haunted Vessels" (Lyons Press, 2005).

There are several variations of the story, but the most famous one is that the ship's pilot, Captain Hendrick Vanderdecken, who lived in the 17th century and served with the Dutch East India Company, encountered a storm off the Cape of Good Hope, Konstam notes. "He swore that he would spite God's wrath, and take his ship into Table Bay, despite anything that God and the elements could throw against him," Konstam writes. But the ship hit a rock and sank, taking the entire crew along with it.

As punishment, the captain and his ghostly crew are said to sail the waters for all eternity, hoping one day to be forgiven. "They were hence refused admittance into every port, and are ordained still to traverse the ocean on which they perished, till the period of their penance expires," reads a story, published in an 1803 book by John Leyden, describing how the crew's punishment worked.

Russia's pragmatic take on the post-Cold War global order

Putin valdai

© Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA Novosti

Vladimir Putin speaks to political experts at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, October 24.

This year's meeting of the Valdai Club brought together many of the world's top Russia experts to debate the changing needs of the global security system. Over a three-day period, participants discussed key issues related to Russia's future role in this global security architecture. The final day of the event was capped off by the appearance of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who reiterated many of the same concerns that he originally mentioned in his 2007 Munich speech.

Nicolai Petro

Nicolai Petro, a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island specializing in Russian affairs, just returned back from attending the Valdai event in Sochi.

In a Q&A for , he helps to break down the key issues and themes that emerged over the three-day period. In his extensive analysis of Putin's Valdai speech - a speech that many Western media outlets immediately criticized as "anti-American" - Nicolai Petro provides an insider's view of how the Russian foreign policy establishment views the world.

Russia Direct:

Nicolai Petro: Many participants felt that these two assumptions led only to rather extreme outcomes. While the loss of rules leads to the danger of global anarchy, new rules presuppose some sort of coercion, which returns us to the problems of hegemony that characterize the present.

We are in this situation precisely because the current rules satisfy an ever smaller number of states, yet there is no agreement among key international actors on new rules. This results in a transition fraught with perilous uncertainties.

It was suggested during the conference that one way to make this transition safer might be to strengthen regional associations of powers. Within the framework of the United Nations they would be tasked with maintaining order and peace according to rules established by their respective communities. Vladimir Putin picked up this theme in his speech at the end of the conference.


N.P: Meeting the president of Russia is always the highlight of these meetings and he has used the past two meetings to explain Russia's vision of world affairs. In 2013 he elaborated on how a more traditional Russia seeks to advance its values in the world.

In 2014 he elaborated on many of the themes raised in his speech to the Munich Security Conference in 2007. In fact, the headline of one of Russia's leading newspapers the next day read: "Putin transitions from 'Munich Speech' to 'Native Speech.'"

By calling Russia (along with Iran and China) a new "center of evil," Putin says that the West is gradually "sawing off the branch it sits on." The globalization of economics, security and politics will continue, and Russia will expand its contacts with other nations.

If some countries wish to cut themselves off from Russia, then it will be their loss. Russia will simply expand profitable relations with other countries.

Borrowing rhetoric familiar to Americans, he spoke of unipolarity as undermining the system of checks and balances that has existed since the end of the Second World War. The U.S. made a critical error, according to Putin, when it abandoned this system after the collapse of the USSR but did not have anything with which to replace it.

What arose to take its place was American hegemony increasingly suffused with a sense of America's "exceptional" and "indispensable" historical mission. In the absence of any countervailing balance, these ideological motifs in U.S. foreign policy, which have always been present, have become dominant.

The result is a newly aggressive foreign policy that, because it does not see any other nation's interests as constraints upon American action, now poses a direct threat to Russia's vital national interests. This, according to Putin, is what has exacerbated the current crisis in Ukraine.

Russia, according to Putin, would like all major actors agree to restore the principle of balance of power, and to respect each other's national interests. Only in this context can international law work and international cooperation, which Russia says it wants, be resumed.

After Putin's speech, former French Prime Minster Dominique de Villepin commented that no one wants Ukraine to become a "frozen crisis." Personally, I suspect that what political leaders want even less is for Ukraine to become a successful state, if that means that it is conceded to the "other side."

The problem in Russia's relations with the West is therefore not really one of "crisis management," but something much, much deeper. It is the very assumption that, within European civilization itself, opposed to "our side" is "another side" which is its moral antithesis.

It is this assumption that made the Cold War a Manichean struggle, and its persistence is indispensable for future conflict. At present, we are trapped into repeating the Cold War simply because there is no cultural context in Western society for cooperation with Russia - there is no common cultural framework that would allow the West to see Russian values as their own values.


N.P: Three issues reverberated throughout all the sessions: sanctions, Ukraine, and the post-Cold War global order. On sanctions, most participants felt they were not likely to change Russian policy. Thus, while some argued that they "sent a message," others questioned their purpose.

On Ukraine, there was much discussion of what was actually happening there, and debate on how much external actors could influence events there. The session on Ukraine left me, and I suspect many others, deeply pessimistic.

ukraine crisis

© Associated Press

The Ukrainian crisis was one of the main issues discussed by Russian experts and decision-makers at Valdai.

Finally, on the post-Cold War order, there was a general sense of fragmentation of the old, and uncertainty about what was coming to replace it.

While some participants saw each of these as discrete events, others perceived them as related to one another, and forming a pattern. If that pattern is not recognized and disrupted, I believe that this list of conflicts will grow, culminating, perhaps, in a direct military confrontation between great powers.


N.P: My sense is that Russia will offer its help in resolving crises (as it did in Syria), but that where that assistance is not wanted, it will simply work around obstacles to protect its vital national interests.

For example, although Russia has contributed significantly to European economic growth over the past fifteen years, and benefited in turn from the growth in trade, if European countries now prefer sanctions, then Russia will pursue its economic growth with other countries.

It is understood that the transition to Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American markets will be costly, but Russian official say they have no other choice. Russia must at all costs continue to grow and modernize.

In the long run, Russian officials argued, the results will be comparable because the economic weight of the West within the global economy is shrinking. Russian officials see additional difficulties in the transfer of specific technologies, but again, they have every confidence that many Asian countries (not just China) will happily entertain technological cooperation with Russia, should Europe sanctions persist.

As a direct result of these punitive measures, Russia has already diversified its global portfolio in a number of new areas, including Egypt, India, Argentina, and South Africa. Such a diversification of global investments will, they feel, allow Russia to continue to pursue an independent foreign policy, and even benefit the Russian economy in the long run.


N.P: Several paradoxical ideas emerged during the course of this Valdai conference. Since I cannot mention them all, I will focus on just two - the "shrinking hegemon" and the unexpected benefits of sanctions.

While crises are usually resolved by appealing to existing rules, it is these rules that also allowed the crisis to erupt. While there is nothing particularly novel in this dialectic, it becomes more extreme during period of transition. In fact, that is how we know the world as we know it is fading into the past, because appealing to existing rules and structures is increasingly futile.

Another paradoxical piece of evidence in this regard is the hegemon's insistence that it is crucial to settling crises, even as the number of crises proliferate and spin out of control.

This is something Putin warned of in his 2007 Munich speech. It was widely criticized in the West because it linked the reaffirmation of international law as an impartial instrument of arbitration to the curtailment of U.S. unilateralism in international affairs. If international law is perceived as a tool to establish the dominance of any one group of nations, he warned, then it will begin to lose authority. This is exactly what happened.

Secondly, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov put forward the view that, if they last long enough, Western sanctions will be an impetus for modernization.

The very worst thing that the West could do now is to lift sanctions quickly. This would have the short-term effect of telling government officials and the heads of state enterprises that they need do nothing to change, when in fact the impact of sanctions will linger for quite some time.

Russia would be caught in a more stringent liquidity crunch, as it waited for the end of sanctions to take effect, but still could not obtain credit cheaply or quickly. Shuvalov therefore concluded that, "the sooner sanctions are lifted, the worse for Russian modernization."

He went on to list several reasons why conditions are now optimal for Russian modernization: Falling gas prices are forcing Russian producers to be more productive; sanctions are forcing Russian companies to search for new sources of international funding at a time when the emerging economies have more cash liquidity than their Western counterparts; low debt and high cash reserves means that Russian investment programs can continue without major borrowing - at most, he said, if further sanctions are imposed, Russia will delay full implementation of current programs for two years.

This year once again, he reminded us, the Russian government expects to have no budget deficit. Finally, Putin's astonishingly high popularity means that he has a window of opportunity to push through unpopular economic reforms.

Shuvalov concluded by telling us of a discussion that Putin allegedly had with U.S. vice president Joe Biden several years ago. Apparently, Biden had just told Putin that Russia was simply too weak to compete for global leadership.

Putin replied that, while Russia might not be strong enough to compete for global leadership, Biden might reflect on the fact that Russia will still be strong enough to determine who that leader will be.

The American Interest, The New York Times, The Nation, The National Interest, The Wilson Quarterly www.npetro.net.

Racist Halloween 'lynching decor' removed from Fort Campbell military base

© ClarksvilleNow

Disgusting display of idiocy

Military authorities removed a Halloween display that depicted a black family hanging in effigy from a tree at Fort Campbell.

A photograph of the display, which was set up at a residence on the base that straddles Kentucky and Tennessee, was sent to Army officials for investigation.

Authorities at the base said the occupant, who was not identified, told military officials the display was not intended to be offensive and agreed to take it down.

A photograph of the outdoor display published by ClarksvilleNow shows three figures, stuffed with leaves or other material, with black trash-bag faces hanging from a tree in the front yard of a home on the base.

Two of the figures appear to be adults, one of which has an illegible sign hanging around its neck, while the third appears to be a child.

A fourth child-sized, black-faced figure is standing beneath one of the adult figure, as if attempting to render aid.

Military officials said the display was removed because it could be interpreted to be offensive.

They said the occupant apologized for the display, and no disciplinary action was announced.

"Displays of an offensive nature are not reflective of Army values and the family-friendly environment provided for employees and residents of the Fort Campbell community," said Brendalyn Carpenter, a spokeswoman for the base.

The right-wing Modern American Revolution group denied the display was racially motivated, claiming in a Facebook post that the Public Affairs department confirmed it depicted a scene from the 2012 horror movie, "Sinister."

"In it, a WHITE family had been killed by their possessed child," the group posted. "So, anyone who tries to say this is racist is wrong. Since the gentleman is an active duty soldier living on a federal military installation, he has no 1st Amendment rights. Living on post is VERY different than living off post. ...End of story!"

Definitive proof that Nostradamus predicted Star Wars

Nostradamus Predictions

© Tara Jacoby/Getty

The prophecies of the French astrologer Nostradamus remain famous more than 400 years after his death. He has been credited with predicting events like the French Revolution and World War II. But, after careful scrutiny, we present evidence that his prophecies were, in fact, plot spoilers for the films.

Nostradamus' prophecies were written in such vague, metaphorical language, that, over the years, people have selectively quoted and interpreted them to prove that he could see centuries into the future.

But, did it ever occur to anyone that Nostradamus wasn't predicting events, but film plots? More specifically, that Nostradamus, through his visions, saw the entire saga before it was even made? We believe his writings were those of an enthusiastic fan and, as proof, we present his prophecies and - for the first time in history - interpret them for what they really are.

The Prophecy: "The wretched, unfortunate Republic will again be ruined by a new authority."

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: Undermined by corruption and bureaucracy, Finis Valorum, the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic, is removed from office through a vote of no confidence, and replaced by Senator Palpatine, who is secretly Darth Sidious.

The Prophecy: "The nautical Frog in its bosom be agreement."

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: Jar Jar Binks takes it upon himself to propose that the Senate grant immediate emergency powers to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, in response to the threat from the Confederacy of Independent Systems.

The Prophecy: "That which neither weapon nor flame could accomplish will be achieved by a sweet speaking tongue in council."

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: As part of his plan to infiltrate and bring down the Jedi Order, Palpatine persuades Anakin Skywalker to become his personal representative in the Jedi Council and serve as the "the eyes, ears, and voice of the Republic."

The Prophecy: "Those most lettered in the celestial facts...punished by Edict, hunted, like criminals, and put to death wherever they will be found."

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: The Great Jedi Purge begins with Order 66, in which Palpatine tells the Clone commanders to execute the Jedi Knights.

The Prophecy: "A man will be charged with the destruction of temples and sects, altered by fantasy...ears filled with ornate speeches."

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: Anakin Skywalker, haunted by premonitions of Padme Amidala's death, is enticed to join the Dark Side of the Force, which Palpatine says will endow him with the power to save her life. Upon becoming Darth Vader, his first order from Palpatine is to kill everyone in the Jedi Temple.

The Prophecy: "Sham liberty will be proclaimed everywhere."

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: Speaking before the Galactic Senate, Palpatine declares:

"In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years. An empire that will continue to be ruled by this august body, and a sovereign ruler chosen for life . . . An Empire ruled by the majority . . . Ruled by a new constitution."

"So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause," says Padme Amidala.

The Prophecy: "The leader flees, hidden in the swampy marshes."


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: Defeated by Emperor Palpatine, Jedi Master Yoda flees to the swamp world of Dagobah.

The Prophecy: "The unhappy abandoned one will die of grief."

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: Padme Amidala, heart-broken by Anakin's betrayal, dies shortly after giving birth to Luke and Leia. "Medically, she is completely healthy," says the attending medical droid. "She has lost the will to live."

The Prophecy: "Sooner and later you will see great changes made, dreadful horrors and vengeances. For as the Moon is thus led by its angel the heavens draw near to the Balance."

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: The Empire's reign of terror escalates with the construction of the Death Star - which Nostradamus metaphorically describes as a "Moon." Likewise, an angel is often defined as an "emissary of the Lord." So, when Nostradamus writes that the "Moon is thus led by its angel," he is saying that the Death Star is under the command of Grand Moff Tarkin, the Imperial representative of the Lord of the Sith.

These incidents, which unfold in , mark the beginning of a sequence of events that - as Nostradamus predicts - will lead to the restoration of Balance within the Force.

The Prophecy: "Before the conflict the great wall will fall."

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: Imperial ground forces, commanded by General Veers, land outside the shield protecting the Rebel Base on Hoth, and march overland to destroy the power generator.

The Prophecy: "The chief adversary will obtain the victory: The rear guard will make a defense, the faltering ones dead in the white territory."

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: Having destroyed the shield generator, the Empire commences its all-out assault on the Rebel Base on Hoth, as the rebels attempt to buy time for their transports to escape. Rebel troops are struck down by the advancing Imperial forces, their bodies lying on the snowy surface of Hoth - which Nostradamus refers to as "the white territory."

The Prophecy: "Through great dangers the captive escaped. In a short time great his fortune changed. In the palace the people are trapped."

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: Princess Leia Organa, disguised as a bounty hunter, manages to free Han Solo from his carbonite coffin. However, before they can escape, they are captured by Jabba the Hutt and imprisoned in his palace.

The Prophecy: "The blond one will come to compromise the fork-nosed one through the duel."

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Luke Skywalker defeats his father, Darth Vader, in a light-saber duel aboard the second Death Star.

The Prophecy: "Before the Empire changes a very wonderful event will take place."

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Emperor Palpatine tortures and prepares to kill Luke Skywalker, who pleads for his father to help. Darth Vader chooses his son over his dark master - reversing his ill-fated decision years before - and kills Palpatine by throwing him down the Death Star's reactor shaft.

The Prophecy: "The prince who has little pity of mercy will come through death to change.....After his death one will see a great marvel."

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The "prince who has little pity of mercy" is Darth Vader, the acolyte of Darth Sidious. As he dies, he tells his son to leave him. Luke refuses, saying "I've got to save you." His father responds, "You already have."

Amid the celebration of the Empire's defeat, Luke Skywalker sees three shimmering, smiling figures at the edge of the shadows: Ben Kenobi, Yoda and his father, now restored to his true persona, Anakin Skywalker.

Growing boycott movement forces SodaStream to close illegal West Bank settlement factory

sodastream boycott

Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists today welcomed the news that SodaStream has announced it is to close its factory in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim following a high profile boycott campaign against the company.

sodastream factory location

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"SodaStream's announcement today shows that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is increasingly capable of holding corporate criminals to account for their participation in Israeli apartheid and colonialism," said Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement.

"BDS campaign pressure has forced retailers across Europe and North America to drop SodaStream, and the company's share price has tumbled in recent months as our movement has caused increasing reputational damage to the SodaStream brand," she added.

The news of this major success against a company famed for its role in illegal Israeli settlements broke amidst intensifying demonstrations against Israel's policies of colonisation in Jerusalem.

Grassroots boycott activism saw SodaStream dropped by major retailers across North America and Europe including Macy's in the US and John Lewis in the UK.

SodaStream was forced to close its flagship store in Brighton in the UK as a result of regular pickets of the store.

Soros Fund Management, the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, sold its stake in SodaStream following BDS pressure.

SodaStream's share price fell dramatically in recent months as sales dried up, particularly in North America.

After reaching a high of $64 per share in October 2013, the stock fell to around $20 per share this month. SodaStream has estimated its third quarter revenue will be $125 million, down almost 14 percent from the same period last year.

But Ziadah warned that SodaStream will still remain actively complicit in the displacement of Palestinians and will remain a focus of boycott campaigning.

"Even if this announced closure goes ahead, SodaStream will remain implicated in the displacement of Palestinians. Its new Lehavim factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Naqab (Negev) desert, where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred against their will. Sodastream, as a beneficiary of this plan, is complicit with this violation of human rights," she said.

SodaStream's participation in Israel's forced displacement of Palestinians gained international notoriety when A-list celebrity Scarlett Johansson signed up to be a brand ambassador for the company. Following an international campaign urging Oxfam end its relationship with Johansson for endorsing SodaStream, the actor decided to quit Oxfam.

SodaStream has also come under fire for its treatment of Palestinian workers in its West Bank factory, as Ziadah explains:

"Any suggestion that SodaStream is employing Palestinians in an illegal Israeli settlement on stolen Palestinian land out of the kindness of its heart is ludicrous."

"Palestinian workers are paid far less than their Israeli counterparts and SodaStream recently fired 60 Palestinians following a dispute over food for the breaking of the Ramadan fast. Workers have previously said they are treated 'like slaves'".

"Palestinians are forced to work inside settlements in sub-standard conditions because of Israel's deliberate destruction of the Palestinian economy. There's an urgent need for the creation of decent and dignified jobs within the Palestinian economy."

SodaStream have said all workers will be offered jobs at its new plant, although Israel's apartheid wall and severe restrictions on movement will make the commute to the new plant difficult for its Palestinian workers.

All of the main Palestinian trade unions have called for boycott and are members of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement and helped to initiate the campaign against SodaStream.

The BNC quotes included in this release can be found in the following coverage of this story:

New York Times


International Business Times

Thousands treated for animal bites in Cumbria as pets turn nasty, UK

Ouch: Terry Bowes from Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Centre with a tarantula. ‘Spiders and reptiles can never be fully domesticated’ he warns

The staggering statistic has been revealed by the NHS trust which runs the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and Whitehaven's West Cumberland Hospital.

While the benefits of pet ownership are well documented, the figures - released in response to a Freedom of Information request - show the potential dangers.

Since 2010, medics at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust treated 18,404 people who were bitten by either dogs or by more exotic and unusual pets.

The number of dog bite patients was 9,898, but the next most dangerous pets were rats, with the two hospitals treating 8,326 bite injuries from the rodents in five years.

The last financial year saw the lowest number of rat bites - 999, compared with 1,911 the previous year.

Non-venomous insects - such as many breeds of spider - represented the next biggest pet injury category, with 51 bites treated. Over the same five years, medics treated seven bee or wasp sting injuries, and one venomous spider bite, as well as one "marine mammal."

The figures have caused surprise even among professionals who work with exotic animals in Cumbria.

Andy Gray, 50, who runs the Border Reptiles business in Wigton Road, Carlisle, said: "Reptiles are one of the safest animals to keep but spiders can be quite unpredictable.

"Spiders and reptiles can never be fully domesticated. If an animal doesn't want to be handled it may well bite you - which is, after all, a natural defence mechanism."

In his experience, said Mr Gray, most owners of exotic pets do their research and are fully aware of the risks.

Only once in his 30-year career has he had a painful bite - from a tarantula spider.

He said: "I suppose I was a bit too relaxed, and complacent. It was extremely painful - I had an allergic reaction."

Ricky Pieri, manager of Carlisle's Nu-Pets pet shop in Carlisle, said: "The pet you have to be cautious round is a ferret because their teeth are extremely sharp and lock on to things.

"There can be a problem if they smell food around your face or on your fingers. Hamsters are short-sighted and again, if they smell food they might try to take a bite."

Terry Bowes, who runs the Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Centre at Clifton Dykes near Penrith, said: "Animals can become aggressive if they're kept in the wrong environment. There are cases of people keeping racoons, and taking them out on a lead.

"Iguanas are another example of animals which are kept inappropriately as pets. They're bought as cuddly little lizards but the males can grow to 6ft long."

100 years of racist policies has turned Ferguson into a pocket of concentrated despair

Ferguson riots

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Demonstrator Keisha Gray cries while protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014.

Ferguson, Missouri, was a powder-keg waiting for a match long before August 9 and Michael Brown's fateful encounter with Police Officer Darren Wilson. It is one of many predominantly black communities across the United States plagued by highly concentrated poverty, and all of the social problems that accompany it.

White America has come up with a number of rationales for these enduring pockets of despair. An elaborate mythology has developed that blames it on a "culture of poverty" - holding the poor culpable for their poverty and letting our political and economic systems off the hook. A somewhat more enlightened view holds that whites simply fled areas like Ferguson - which had a population that was 99 percent white as recently as 1970 - because of personal racial animus, leaving them as hollowed-out, predominantly black "ghettos."

But a study by Richard Rothstein, a research fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, comes to a very different conclusion. In his report, "The Making of Ferguson," Rothstein details how throughout the last century a series of intentionally discriminatory policies at the local, state and federal levels created the ghettos we see today. BillMoyers.com spoke with Rothstein about the report. The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.

Joshua Holland:

Rothstein: The segregation that characterizes Ferguson, and that characterizes St. Louis, was the creation of purposeful public policy. We have a segregated nation by design.

The St. Louis metropolitan area was no different from most metropolitan areas of the country. The ghetto in the central city of St. Louis was redeveloped for universities, and for a number of other uses, and the African American population in the central city was shifted to inner ring suburbs like Ferguson.

It was done primarily with two policies: First, public housing was segregated, purposely, by the federal government, so that what were previously somewhat integrated neighborhoods in urban areas were separated into separate black and white public housing projects.

And then, in the 1950s, as suburbs came to be developed, the federal government subsidized white residents of St. Louis to move to the suburbs, but effectively prohibited black residents from doing so. The federal government subsidized the construction of many, many subdivisions by requiring that bank loans for the builders be made on the condition that no homes be sold to blacks.

Because black housing was so restrictive, there were so few places where African-Americans could live in St. Louis. So what was left of St. Louis' African-American community became overcrowded. City services were not readily available. The city was zoned so that the industrial or commercial areas were placed in black neighborhoods but not in white neighborhoods. So the industrial areas, where African-Americans lived, became slums.

And then white residents in places like Ferguson came to associate slum conditions with African-Americans, not realizing that this was not a characteristic of the people themselves, but rather it was a creation of public policy.

This is a somewhat oversimplified description of a complex array of policies. But every policy that I described in this report can be found in every other metropolitan area throughout the country. These policies applied in the New York City area, and they applied in the liberal San Francisco area. It's a story that characterizes the entire country, but you cannot understand what's going on with Ferguson today without knowing this history.


Rothstein: Adel Allen was an African American engineer for the McDonnell Douglas Corporation. He was recruited from Kansas to work in the St. Louis metro area. When he got there, he couldn't find housing anywhere in the suburban areas near the plant. He was about to move back to Kansas, because the only place he could find housing was in overcrowded conditions in the central St. Louis ghetto.

He finally got a white friend to buy a home for him in the town of Kirkwood. He moved into a block that was overwhelmingly white. There were 30 white families. Seven years later, there were 30 black families and two white families on that block. And this was largely because of practices in the real estate industry.

Realtors engaged in a practice which came to be known as "blockbusting." When a black family moved onto a block, like Adel Allen did in Kirkwood, the real estate agents would go door to door and try to panic their white neighbors into selling their homes at very reduced prices, with the idea that property values were going to be destroyed because African-Americans were moving into their neighborhood.

Those real estate agents then bought those properties at very low prices and resold them to African-Americans, who had to pay very high prices because they had no other housing options.

Now, this was something that was not considered unethical until the 1970s. In fact, licenses would be suspended by the state real estate commission if a real estate agent sold a home to a black family in a white neighborhood - until the first one sold, and then it was considered perfectly ethical for real estate agents to turn an entire block into an African-American block.

Once they moved into that block, all of a sudden, over the course of a few years, city services began to decline. Other parts of Kirkwood which were overwhelmingly white continued to get good services, but the African-American neighborhoods were denied. The rest of the city got sidewalks and curbs; the black blocks did not.


Rothstein: That's right. In St. Louis, African-Americans were excluded from good-paying jobs for most of the 20th century. They opened up only beginning in the 1970s. For example, construction jobs during the enormous housing boom that created the suburbs in the 1940s, '50s and '60s were completely closed to African-Americans because they could not be admitted to construction unions, and the federal government certified every one of those segregated unions as the exclusive agent for their trades in those construction sites. So it's not simply the result of private discrimination by the unions. This was something that was sanctioned by the federal government. It wasn't until the 1960s that the National Labor Relations Board first withdrew certification from a segregated union and the policy didn't become widespread for at least another 10 years or so.

There are many other examples I could give you. During the enormous employment boom during World War II, St. Louis was a big center of arms manufacturing. Lots of workers flooded to St. Louis from the Ozarks and other areas, black workers as well as white workers. But the largest ammunition producer would not hire African-Americans until the war was almost over.

So all of those lost opportunities for employment created a situation where African-American incomes were much, much lower than white incomes.


Rothstein: As we know from a lot of recent research, intergenerational income mobility in this country is quite low. If you're born into a low-income family, the chances are very, very great that you yourself will have a low income. We don't have nearly the kind of mobility that is mythical in this country.

So after a century of policies which denied African-Americans access to jobs that pay decent wages, the likelihood is that their children and their children's children will still be paying the price for those policies that held their parents and grandparents behind for so long.

And then there are the housing policies. Let me take the example of the suburb of Kirkwood. In the 1950s, when Kirkwood was being developed, those homes were selling for about $8,000 dollars each, which was about two times the national median income at that time. Working families could afford to buy a home for twice median income, but only whites were permitted to buy into Kirkwood. Any white working family could've afforded to buy those homes, and very often, they were further subsidized by the federal government - veterans could buy with no down payment, and obtain loans at very low interest rates.

Those families then benefited from a half-century of equity appreciation in their homes. If they moved, they profited on the sale. And they were able to transmit that equity to their children. Their children were secure. Their children were able to go to college.

Today, those same homes that sold for $8,000 in the 1950s sell for $400,000, which is about six or seven times national median income. So today, working families, whether white or black, can't afford to buy in Kirkwood. Fifty years ago, when whites similar to them in every other respect except their race were populating the suburbs, African-American families were not permitted to do so, so the legacy of that discrimination continues to this date. Poor African-Americans got crowded into ghettos - into all black, low-income neighborhoods like Ferguson.

And because the Federal Housing Administration refused to guarantee mortgages for African-Americans and would only guarantee mortgages for whites, black people who could afford to buy homes couldn't get mortgages for them. So speculators sold those homes to them on contract, like on an installment plan. And if they were ever late with a payment, their house would be immediately repossessed and resold again on contract to someone else. In order to be able to make these contract payments, which were very high because the demand for housing was so great relative to the supply available to African-Americans, families doubled up, they subdivided their homes, they rented out parts of their homes. That's a great example of how public policies led to the formation of slums.

This then became a multigenerational problem.

The American Prospect

Former Lockheed Martin senior scientist on deathbed says aliens are real

Aliens, some as old as 200 years, are real and have visited Earth, a former Lockheed Martin senior scientist has claimed. In his final moments, he provided "photo evidence" while sharing his personal experiences of UFOs and extraterrestrials.

The controversial 33-minute video was made shortly before Boyd Bushman died on August 7, 2014. However, the footage has only recently emerged and is starting to garner widespread attention.

"I do have a top secret clearance," he affirms at the beginning of the video. He goes on to state that incidents such as Roswell in 1947 - when a military Air Force surveillance balloon crashed - happened at the hands of aliens.

Bushman shared details about aliens, UFOs, and anti-gravity technology - which he says is being developed by US, Russian, and Chinese scientists at Area 51 (the US military facility).

In the video, Bushman is seen holding up second-hand "photo evidence" of aliens while describing them to viewers.

"They were approximately four and a half to five feet tall," the former top aerospace scientist said. "They have three back bones. They're actually cartilage," he added, stating that they had fewer ribs than human beings.

He went on to state that their eyes and noses are different from humans, and that they are telepathic mind readers.

"They're able to use their own voice by telepathy to talk to you," he said. "You walk in the room with one of them, and all of a sudden you find yourself giving the answer to your question in your own voice."

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According to Bushman, there are two different groups of aliens.

"It's like a cattle ranch," he stated, adding that some can be up to 230 years old. "One group is wranglers, and the others are rustlers - the stealers of cattle."

"Wranglers" are "much more friendly and have a better relationship with us."

Bushman seemed to have known the details of where and how those aliens live.

He claimed the creatures are inhabitants of a planet called Quintumnia. It is located 68 light-years away from Earth, yet it takes them only 45 minutes to travel to our planet. At home, they commute through telepathy, Bushman insisted.

The deceased scientist went on to say that he actually saw their homes because he gave the aliens a camera to take pictures with. It is, however, hard to say what those pictures contain because the images turned out blurry.

In another revelation, Bushman said there is a special flight path to Area 51 from space.

He added that there are Americans working on UFOs from outer space 24 hours a day, reported the Metro.

"With respect to the alien craft, we have American citizens who are working on UFOs 24 hours a day," he stated.

However, the alien seen in Bushman's photographs is actually available to buy at Walmart, according to an investigation by Quebec station TVQC.

Baby awaits surgery after rat attack in South Africa

© Wikipedia

A 3-month-old awaits surgery after being attacked by rats in her Alexandra home.

The rats attacked Erena Yekanyi at her home last Monday, reported on Wednesday.

"I was washing outside while Erena was sleeping inside the house. I heard her cry and when I ran into the house, I found her covered in blood," the baby's mother, Thandaza reportedly said.

The baby would continue to await reconstructive surgery at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital until her mother was able to raise funds for the procedure.

The attack was not the first in the township, according to the report.

Children and the elderly have reportedly been killed in their sleep by rodents that are said to be larger than normal rats.

City of Johannesburg spokesperson Nkosinathi Nkabinde told the newspaper that informal settlements were prone to rat infestation due to the improper handling of domestic waste.

He said that the city had implemented various strategies to eradicate the problem.

Poisonous tropical puffer fish found dead on Dutch island beach

The puffer found on Hors

A dead puffer fish has been found washed up on the beach of the Wadden Sea island of Texel.

The bizarre find was made by staff of the Ecomare marine centre during a walk. The fish, 51 centimetres long, has the latin name Lagocephalus lagocephalus and is only found in tropical and sub-tropical eastern Atlantic waters.

'It was a real tropical surprise,' Ecomare workers Pierre Bonnet and Arthur Oosterbaan said on the organisation's website.


The fish has now been frozen until the centre's experts decide what to do with it. It had been attacked by gulls and is not suitable for public display.

The fish, which could blow up like a balloon when alive, has prickles on its belly and four teeth in its hard beak as protection against predators.

Known as the oceanic puffer in English, the fish does not yet have a Dutch name.

Many Interacting Worlds theory: Scientists propose existence and interaction of parallel worlds

Howard Wiseman

© Griffith University

Professor Howard Wiseman, Director of Griffith University's Centre for Quantum Dynamics.

Griffith University academics are challenging the foundations of quantum science with a radical new theory based on the existence of, and interactions between, parallel universes.

In a paper published in the prestigious journal , Professor Howard Wiseman and Dr Michael Hall from Griffith's Centre for Quantum Dynamics, and Dr Dirk-Andre Deckert from the University of California, take interacting parallel worlds out of the realm of science fiction and into that of hard science.

The team proposes that parallel universes really exist, and that they interact. That is, rather than evolving independently, nearby worlds influence one another by a subtle force of repulsion. They show that such an interaction could explain everything that is bizarre about quantum mechanics

Quantum theory is needed to explain how the universe works at the microscopic scale, and is believed to apply to all matter. But it is notoriously difficult to fathom, exhibiting weird phenomena which seem to violate the laws of cause and effect.

As the eminent American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman once noted: "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics."

However, the "Many-Interacting Worlds" approach developed at Griffith University provides a new and daring perspective on this baffling field.

"The idea of parallel universes in quantum mechanics has been around since 1957," says Professor Wiseman.

"In the well-known "Many-Worlds Interpretation", each universe branches into a bunch of new universes every time a quantum measurement is made. All possibilities are therefore realised - in some universes the dinosaur-killing asteroid missed Earth. In others, Australia was colonised by the Portuguese.

"But critics question the reality of these other universes, since they do not influence our universe at all. On this score, our "Many Interacting Worlds" approach is completely different, as its name implies."

Professor Wiseman and his colleagues propose that:

  • The universe we experience is just one of a gigantic number of worlds. Some are almost identical to ours while most are very different;

  • All of these worlds are equally real, exist continuously through time, and possess precisely defined properties;

  • All quantum phenomena arise from a universal force of repulsion between 'nearby' (i.e. similar) worlds which tends to make them more dissimilar.

Dr Hall says the "Many-Interacting Worlds" theory may even create the extraordinary possibility of testing for the existence of other worlds.

"The beauty of our approach is that if there is just one world our theory reduces to Newtonian mechanics, while if there is a gigantic number of worlds it reproduces quantum mechanics," he says.

"In between it predicts something new that is neither Newton's theory nor quantum theory.

"We also believe that, in providing a new mental picture of quantum effects, it will be useful in planning experiments to test and exploit quantum phenomena."

The ability to approximate quantum evolution using a finite number of worlds could have significant ramifications in molecular dynamics, which is important for understanding chemical reactions and the action of drugs.

Professor Bill Poirier, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Texas Tech University, has observed: "These are great ideas, not only conceptually, but also with regard to the new numerical breakthroughs they are almost certain to engender."

Journal reference: Physical Review X

Sweden becomes first European state to recognize Palestine

© Dreamstime

The Swedish Parliament building in Stockholm

The Swedish government officially recognized Palestine as a state Thursday morning, during its morning session. In doing so, it became the first European state to recognize a Palestinian state.

"Today the government takes the decision to recognize the state of Palestine," Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement published in the Dagens Nyheter daily, AFP reported.

"It is an important step that confirms the Palestinians' right to self-determination," she added.

"Through our recognition we want, first of all, to give our support to moderate forces among the Palestinians," Wallstrom wrote, according to DPA.

Sweden considered that criteria in international law for recognizing a Palestinian state "are met," she said. Although the borders are not defined, there is a government that can "show inner and outer control."

Wallstrom wrote that "Sweden has earlier recognized states - Croatia in 1992 and Kosovo in 2008 - although they actually lacked control over parts of their territory. Like them, Palestine is a special case."

"There are those who will claim that today's decision comes too soon. I fear it is rather too late, " Wallstrom said

The new Swedish government's plans to formally acknowledge Palestinian statehood were announced on October 3 during the new government's swearing-in ceremony. The announcement drew sharp criticism from Israel. who summoned the Swedish ambassador to a meeting at which Israeli officials sharply protested the move. The United States called it a "premature" move. On Wednesday, Sweden informed Israel that the government would officially recognize Palestinian today.

After the announcement Thursday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called Sweden's move a "very unfortunate decision" that only strengthens "radical and intransigent" Palestinian elements.

"The only chance to reach an accord is through honest negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and steps like this only bolster the Palestinians' unrealistic demands and push an accord farther away," Lieberman said.

The Foreign Minister said he was sorry to see the Swedish government make such a declaration that does so much damage and serves no useful purpose. "The Swedish government needs to understand that relations in the Middle East are more complicated than a piece of furniture from IKEA that you assemble at home, and should act with responsibility and sensitivity," he added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the Swedish decision a "historic step" that constitutes a reaction to Israel's "conduct and the continued occupation."

"I call upon the nations of the world to take similar steps to increase the chance of achieving peace and establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital," he said.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said, "This is an important and welcome move that will be followed by further moves by other European countries to recognize the state of Palestine."

Hamas, for its part, said Sweden's decision to recognize a Palestinian state is a step in the right direction toward obtaining justice for the Palestinian people.

The world must judge America's human rights abuses

"If Eric Holder doesn't prosecute Michael Brown's killer any resulting violence ought to be called the Barack Obama Riots."

Police Brutality

© Global Research

Black people in this country are brutalized by police on a daily basis. That has always been true but thanks to modern technology there is a steady stream of proof caught on video. Accessing the internet means inevitably being confronted with awful imagery such as Marlene Pinnock being beaten by a highway patrolman in California. We see Eric Garner murdered by the NYPD, pleading that he couldn't breathe.

These videos may or may not assist with prosecutions. Footage showed the late Rodney King being beaten by California police in 1991. The officers were indicted, a rarity, but a jury acquitted them anyway, making a mockery of the old saying "seeing is believing." Common sense wisdom doesn't count for much if it threatens to upend white supremacy. No matter how seemingly iron clad the case, police rarely face criminal charges.

Such was the case of Milton Hall, a mentally ill black man shot to death by Saginaw, Michigan, police on July 1, 2012. A camera inside one of the patrol cars shows Hall, surrounded by police, armed only with a small pen knife. He is unable to harm anyone, given that he was surrounded by seven cops and a police dog, yet they fired forty-six shots with fourteen of them striking and killing Hall.

Local prosecutors did not charge the officers and the Obama/Holder Department of Justice did not see fit to do anything either. After investigating they concluded that prosecution was not warranted.

"Even if the officers were mistaken in their assessment of the threat posed by Hall, this would not establish that the officers acted willfully, or with an unlawful intent, when using deadly force against Hall. Accordingly, this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to give rise to a federal criminal prosecution of the police officers involved."

"No matter how seemingly iron clad the case, police rarely face criminal charges."

The ACLU of Michigan not only pushed for local and federal action, but has taken its protest to a new and very important level. On October 27, 2014, Mark Fancher, Racial Justice Project Attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, testified before an international body regarding the federal government's refusal to prosecute Hall's "death by firing squad." The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is an arm of the Organization of American States. It is mandated to "promote the observance and protection of human rights in the hemisphere."

The IAHCR does not have the power to punish any individual or government for Hall's killing, but the hearing had a very important purpose. ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg put it simply. He called the testimony "a wake-up call for the desperate need to address police misconduct against the black citizens of this country." He added, "The power behind these international tribunals is to draw attention to the problem and to put pressure on the United States to abide by human rights principles."

The United States must be condemned before the nations of the world. Americans should not be allowed to behave as if human rights abuses only occur in far away nations while police in this country commit murder in broad daylight without fear of punishment.

The refusal of the federal government to charge Milton Hall's killers is a bad omen for anyone wanting to see justice done for Michael Brown. Black Agenda Report has already revealed how the Justice Department uses media leaks to claim that the "bar is too high" to prosecute the officer who shot and killed the fleeing teenager.

Obama and attorney general Eric Holder have no intention of prosecuting police murder, no matter what videos or other evidence show. Barack Obama is just not that into black people. Instead he sends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to pacify an angry public and fool them into thinking that black people will have reasons to hope. Sharpton and Jackson made appearances in Saginaw as they did in Ferguson, Missouri, but the presence of the two "leaders" accomplished nothing, as the Obama administration intended all along.

"Police in this country commit murder in broad daylight without fear of punishment."

Rodney King finally had another day in court after the acquittal sparked an uprising in Los Angeles. Fifty three people died, millions of dollars in property was damaged and the political system was frightened. Federal prosecutors in the Bush administration charged the officers with civil rights violations. They won convictions against two of them and they later served time in prison.

Riots should not be a means of guaranteeing justice but the deck is stacked against black people who are victimized by police. If Eric Holder doesn't prosecute Michael Brown's killer any resulting violence ought to be called the Barack Obama Riots. President Kill List is able to make the case for punishment when it suits him. The man who claims the right to designate and kill terrorists shouldn't be allowed to claim that there isn't enough evidence to prosecute real criminals at home.

The ACLU of Michigan is to be commended for taking this action of exposing American injustice to the world. Just as the United States government calls for sanctions and boycotts of countries it doesn't like, the rest of the world ought to penalize this country for the continuation of unpunished violence directed at black people. Legal cases must be made against the United States at the IAHCR and with any other entity which can bring our plight to the world. Expecting Obama and Holder to act on our behalf is just a foolish dream.