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Friday, 28 November 2014

Can he file an a-peel?: Colorado man arrested for 'menacing' deputies with a banana

man holding banana

© Shutterstock

Authorities in Fruitvale, Colorado arrested a 27-year-old man for allegedly putting them in fear for their lives by pointing a banana at them, KCNC-TV reported.

Nathan Channing faces two felony counts of menacing Mesa County sheriff's deputies after pointing the banana at Deputy Nathan Bunch as he drove by. Bunch then reportedly ducked in his car and called for backup.

After another deputy, Donald Love, arrived, he and Bunch approached Channing with their guns drawn before the suspect yelled, "It's a banana."

"Based on training and experience, I have seen handguns in many shapes and colors and perceived this to be a handgun," Bunch told the

Channing reportedly told the deputies he was practicing for a video he planned to post online to "lighten the holiday spirit."

Channing faces up to three years in jail and a $100,000 fine in connection with the charges.

"A lot of time it's how someone behaves and treats an object, depends on whether or not that object is actually dangerous or is a weapon," sheriff's department spokesperson Ben Carnes said. "In this case, it turned out to be a banana, but it could have been a disguised firearm."


Comment: He is lucky the police didn't just shoot first. The police are more, and more "fearing for their life" whether faced with elderly, children, dogs, toy guns. Now they fear bananas!?!

OPEC decision likely to crash U.S. fracking industry

opec oil

© Unknown

Despite a slump in worldwide oil prices due mainly to fracking in the U.S., oil-producing nations left their output targets unchanged.

At its meeting today in Vienna, Austria, the 12 member countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) voted to keep their output target unchanged despite a 30 percent slump in the oil price since June, due primarily to the explosive growth in fracking in the U.S. as well as decreasing global demand. While Venezuela made a case for an output reduction, Saudi Arabia, the world's leading oil producer and exporter, pressured to keep it the same.

The price immediately declined in response, dropping below $72 a barrel, a price last seen in August 2010.

"There's a price decline. That does not mean that we should really rush and do something," OPEC secretary general Abdallah Salem el-Badri told the BBC. "We don't want to panic. We want to see the market, how the market behaves, because the decline of the price does not reflect a fundamental change."

Russian oil baron Leonid Fedun of OAO Lukoil, the second largest oil producer in Russia, pointed out that the low price of oil will probably lead to a crash in the fracking sector by making drilling for new, constantly less accessible shale oil sources more unprofitable, as the most easily fracked shale formations get tapped out first. And as oil prices drop, fracked oil from shale becomes unprofitable to produce.

"In 2016, when OPEC completes this objective of cleaning up the American marginal market, the oil price will start growing again," Fedun told . "The shale boom is on a par with the dot-com boom. The strong players will remain, the weak ones will vanish."

The Russian oil sector is less vulnerable than the U.S. sector, due to lower costs and the slide in the ruble that lessens the impact of falling prices in local currency terms, Fedun said, even though output there is likely to fall next year as well.

"The major strike is against the American market," Fedun said.

Contraceptive pill associated with changes in brain structure

contraceptive pill

© Annabelle Shemer, via Flickr

Since its advent 50 years ago, the pill has helped revolutionize contraception and transform women's lives. The pill is so popular today that over 100 million women worldwide currently use this method of contraception, and the majority of users report high levels of satisfaction.

Many women, however, experience unpleasant side effects, ranging from mood changes to androgenic effects, such as acne and unwanted hair growth. The latter are caused by the fact that some progestins (the synthetic versions of the hormone progesterone used in oral contraceptives) interact with androgen receptors. The androgens, such as testosterone, are steroid hormones that are responsible for male characteristics. Some progestins have high androgenic activity and therefore increase the chances of androgen-related side effects, but many more modern pills actually exert anti-androgenic effects.

Over the years, many studies have scrutinized these side effects, but the focus of the majority of these studies has been on metabolic and emotional effects. A few studies also looked at effects on cognitive tasks, and some found that the pill is associated with memory changes, enhancing verbal and recognition memory. The possible effects on brain structure and function, however, have been largely ignored, despite the fact that the steroid from which many progestins were derived has been demonstrated to induce changes in the brain.

A few years back, a study aimed to address this gap in our knowledge and discovered that users of oral contraceptives had larger volumes of gray matter (brain tissue consisting of nerve cell bodies) in certain areas of the brain. However, they failed to take into account the androgenic activity (androgenicity) of the progestin or control for age differences.

Building on this work, scientists from the University of Salzberg enrolled 60 women into a new study. 20 of the participants were naturally cycling, i.e. not taking oral contraceptives (OCs), 18 were using OCs containing androgenic progestins, and 22 were taking OCs containing anti-androgenic progestins.

As described in Brain Research, after controlling for age, MRI scans revealed that women using anti-androgenic progestins had significantly larger gray matter volumes in several brain regions when compared with naturally cycling women. These brain areas include the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory, and the fusiform face area (FFA), which is thought to be specialized for facial recognition. Furthermore, they found that volume increased with duration of use, i.e. the longer women had been taking the pill, the greater the gray matter volume in these areas. Women taking androgenic progestins, however, had smaller gray matter volumes in certain brain regions when compared with naturally cycling women.

Next, they asked women to participate in a facial recognition test, which revealed that these observed changes were related to task performance. For the task, women were presented with 30 faces, 15 male and 15 female, for 3 seconds, and asked to memorize them. Next, they were shown 60 photos, which included the 30 previous photos and 30 previously unseen photos, and asked to indicate which ones they had seen before.

The researchers found that women taking anti-androgenic progestins performed significantly better than members of the other two groups, and that performance was related to the gray matter volume in the FFA.

Taken together, this study suggests that androgenic and anti-androgenic progestins may exert differential effects on brain structure. However, this study is limited by the fact that a small sample size was used, and the fact that it is not possible to discern which compound in the combined oral contraceptive could be inducing these effects.

A vaccine for cancer?

© flickr.com/ Joe Flintham

A series of papers published Wednesday in the journal show how the immune system can fight off cancer, and how that discovery could usher in new vaccines to stimulate that process to become more efficient. It's the latest advance in personalized medicine - tailoring a treatment to the unique genetic profile of the patient.

One of the jobs of the immune system is to patrol the body looking for foreign invaders that are then disposed of. When tumor cells arise, they are often "marked for death" because they have special molecules on the surface called antigens. The immune system recognizes these antigens and then destroys the tumor cell.

But cancer cells can be crafty. Some of them are able to hide from the immune system because they produce chemicals that can shut the immune response down. The chemicals disable a component of the immune system called T cells.

So scientists designed a vaccine to block the activity of those disabling chemicals. This allows the T cells to rev into gear and destroy the tumor cells. A vaccine has to be created for each individual because everyone's cancer cells are different.

The concept is that, if we engage the immune system to attack the cancer, the immune system has the ability to remember, it has memory Antoni Ribas, Professor of Medicine and director of the Tumor Immunology Program at the Johnson Cancer Center at UCLA, told Sputnik. Ribas was one of the doctors who carried out some of the cancer vaccine experiments. That would lead to a long-lasting response, which is the feature that's important

In one experiment, mice with an advanced form of muscle cancer were given a vaccine tailored to their specific tumor type. Astonishingly, the immune systems of the animals responded by obliterating the cancer in 90% of the mice that were treated.

"This is proof that personalized cancer vaccines can be very powerful and need to be applied to human cancers now", said Dr. Robert Schreiber of the Washington University School of Medicine, one of the lead authors of the study.

As knowledge of what makes the immune system tick continues to improve, the effectiveness of using the body's own defenses to fight cancer is likely to make treatment outcomes better.

Police unhinged: innocent pregnant woman loses eye from cops bean-bag shooting in Ferguson


A pregnant St. Louis woman is now blind in one eye after St. Louis County Police shot a bean-bag round at a vehicle she was riding in as the car drove away from a gas station near Ferguson, Missouri early Tuesday.

The incident occurred amid high tension following a grand jury's decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal August 9 shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Dornella Conners told that she was riding in a car driven by her boyfriend, De'Angelas Lee. They had stopped at a gas station in the 10000 block of Halls Ferry Rd., just a couple of miles from Ferguson. She said they were driving away from the station when police arrived.

"They pulled up while we were coming towards the street, De'Anglas was trying to get away, they blocked us from the side, front and back," Conners said.

[embedded content]

Conners said Lee then tried to drive around police, yet the St. Louis County Police Department has claimed that Lee drove towards them.

An officer, according to the department, then shot a "non-lethal" bean-bag round at the car, shattering the passenger window, injuring Conners.

Conners said she then sought medical attention with another police officer.

© Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images/AFP

Police make an arrest as protests engulf Ferguson on November 26, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Police, according to , said Lee drove away. The officers were at the station to address alleged gunshots at the location. Sixteen people in the area were eventually arrested.

"I'm very upset, very disappointed with tactics that they used trying to get control of situation," said Donnell Conners, Dornella's father. "I understand tough job, I understand that it was chaos, there was no reason to fire upon innocent person sitting in a vehicle."

A warrant has been issued for Lee's arrest, according to police, with bond set at $50,000.

Meanwhile, as ongoing expressions of rage in Ferguson and nationwide continue over racial discrepancies within the American justice system and consistent police brutality, the United Nations Committee against Torture advocated Friday for the United States to investigate and prosecute police aggression and "frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals."

© Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images/AFP

Police order people to disperse as protests engulf Ferguson on November 26, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

The panel's request was part of a review of the US record on preventing torture, Reuters reported, the first such report since 2006. The review expressed concern over "numerous reports" of police brutality and use of excessive force against minorities, immigrants, and homosexuals, as well as racial profiling and police militarization.

The UN review condemned "excruciating pain and prolonged suffering" experienced by death row prisoners during "botched executions," as well as the prison-rape epidemic, the shackling of pregnant female prisoners in some instances, and overuse of solitary confinement.

The committee also excoriated the common use of Tasers against unarmed people allegedly resisting arrest, saying they should only be used in unique situations to prevent death or serious injury.

The panel also decried the lack of investigation into the post-9/11 torture apparatus wielded against so-called terrorism suspects, and the ongoing existence of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where "a draconian system of secrecy surrounding high-value detainees ... keeps their torture claims out of the public domain."

FBI report mistakenly reinforces that America is a police state


© unknown

A recently published FBI report accidentally proves that while the police claim cops face growing threats from rowdy populations - like in Ferguson - the opposite is true. The report presents law enforcement deaths in 2013.

The report found that across the entire country, only 76 LEOs were killed in "line-of-duty" incidents. 27 died as a result of "felonious" acts and 49 officers died in accidents - namely, automobile (ironically, of the 23 killed in car accidents, 14 were not wearing seat belts - a violation for which cops routinely ticket drivers). More officers die from accidents than actual murders on the job. The report also outright admits that intentional murders of cops were down from 2004 and 2009.

Further, 49,851 officers were assaulted - a statistic that seemingly proves police are at risk. 29.2%, or 14,556, were actually injured (an admittedly high number). Still, a suspect fact is that 79.8% of the time, "assailants used personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.)." This means that in a vast majority of cases, there was no physical evidence that assault occurred (outside of potential bruises and cuts,but this information is not public). Punches and kicks can be damaging, but nowhere near firearms and knives, which constituted a very small percentage of "assaults." The report also does not specify what constitutes an "injury," making designations of injury potentially arbitrary and subjective.

This means that the common police tactic of misrepresenting scuffles and charging people with assault could be at work (such as when a cop squeezed the breast of an Occupy protester so hard he left a bruise and in the chaos, she accidentally elbowed a cop. She went to jail for "assaulting" an officer). Of course, it's a possibility that all 49,851 officers were simply "doing their jobs," but at the very least it is important to be skeptical.

But besides direct contradictions to the logic behind institutional myths of heroic cops and dangerous bad guys, what are the implications of this FBI report?

First, that police are schizophrenic in their belief that they are in danger (this fear is proven in the recent Ferguson protests and presence of the National Guard). The overzealous militarization of local cops is enough to prove that they might as well be hiding under blankies from the American populace in spite of the fact that violent crime has been dropping for decades.

However, considering how well cops are armed and how efficiently the justice system protects them from prosecution for their crimes, they prove to be paranoid. 27 police officers in a country with over 300 million people died last year. Law enforcement deaths-by-murder are included in the 49,851 "assaults" against officers, which means that .05 (half a percent) died as a result of alleged attacks. Crime against cops has dropped to a 50 year low. It's more dangerous to drive a car than be a cop (this is bolstered by the fact that the number of cops who died in car accidents almost equals the total number of cops murdered - 23 to 27).

Second, militarization is working for the police. It is not working for the rest of us. Though there is little reliable, official data about the number of people police kill every year, tenuous reports claim it is around 400. This is already almost 15 times more than police who are intentionally killed. However, the 400 figure is a result of 17,000 local police agencies being allowed to self-report. The numbers could be far higher.

As said of a 2008 FBI report that found cops had killed 391 people in 2007:

"That count includes homicides that occurred during the commission of a felony. This total doesn't include justifiable homicides committed by police officers against people not committing felonies and also doesn't include homicides found to be not justifiable. But still, this severe undercount far outpaces the number of cops killed by civilians."

The number of "justifiable" homicides was on the rise in 2008 (to be fair, it was rising among private citizens as well) in spite of the inconvenient fact that overall crime has been declining.

Unfortunately, the most important implication of the FBI report is the simple fact that the report exists. When the FBI takes the time to construct a meticulous report (you can read more details here ) of all the ways that a tiny percentage of cops were killed - but cannot be bothered to officially count civilian deaths at the hands of cops, the reality is obvious:

The government places a higher priority on their own than on the lives of those they claim to "serve," "protect," and "work for." It cares more about exonerating the police of their crimes than providing justice to those they abuse. There is no justice when the criminal is the cop.

A Vaccine for Cancer?

© flickr.com/ Joe Flintham

A series of papers published Wednesday in the journal show how the immune system can fight off cancer, and how that discovery could usher in new vaccines to stimulate that process to become more efficient. It's the latest advance in personalized medicine - tailoring a treatment to the unique genetic profile of the patient.

One of the jobs of the immune system is to patrol the body looking for foreign invaders that are then disposed of. When tumor cells arise, they are often "marked for death" because they have special molecules on the surface called antigens. The immune system recognizes these antigens and then destroys the tumor cell.

But cancer cells can be crafty. Some of them are able to hide from the immune system because they produce chemicals that can shut the immune response down. The chemicals disable a component of the immune system called T cells.

So scientists designed a vaccine to block the activity of those disabling chemicals. This allows the T cells to rev into gear and destroy the tumor cells. A vaccine has to be created for each individual because everyone's cancer cells are different.

The concept is that, if we engage the immune system to attack the cancer, the immune system has the ability to remember, it has memory Antoni Ribas, Professor of Medicine and director of the Tumor Immunology Program at the Johnson Cancer Center at UCLA, told Sputnik. Ribas was one of the doctors who carried out some of the cancer vaccine experiments. That would lead to a long-lasting response, which is the feature that's important

In one experiment, mice with an advanced form of muscle cancer were given a vaccine tailored to their specific tumor type. Astonishingly, the immune systems of the animals responded by obliterating the cancer in 90% of the mice that were treated.

"This is proof that personalized cancer vaccines can be very powerful and need to be applied to human cancers now", said Dr. Robert Schreiber of the Washington University School of Medicine, one of the lead authors of the study.

As knowledge of what makes the immune system tick continues to improve, the effectiveness of using the body's own defenses to fight cancer is likely to make treatment outcomes better.

Writing reasonably about vaccines?: How this journalist was censored

When the editor of the invited me to review a recent narrative book about vaccines, I said yes. It was a natural fit, since I've been researching vaccines for the past fifteen years, participating publicly in vaccine debates, and writing about the vexing issue of childhood vaccination for nearly as long.

But when an advanced reading copy came in the mail, I recognized the author's name as someone who had mentioned me in a January 2013 article in . I flipped through the book, and since her essay from 's was printed there nearly verbatim, my name was also in the book.

I called the editor to ask if that might create the perception of a conflict of interest.

"Do you think you can write a fair and balanced review," the editor asked me on the phone.

I do not know this writer personally. We've never spoken or met. We aren't connected on social media. We did have a very brief email exchange after her article came out - I wrote to thank her for mentioning me. I have never taken money from her, as many scientists who are asked to review industry products routinely do.

I told the editor that I needed to read the book in its entirety to be sure, but that I thought I would be able to write an honest review. I also told the editor that I didn't feel comfortable publishing anything about the book without disclosing that my name is mentioned in it. She took my concerns seriously and we decided together that the editor would include a note of disclosure at the end of the review.

I wrote the review, and they published it on October 20. It was among the top five most read reviews for October, a fact that the publicized in a second article.

On November 21st, I got an email from the editor that the review has been pulled from their site.

They've taken it off their website. Why? Because Eula Biss and her publisher contacted them to complain.

Their problem with the review? I have a conflict of interest since Eula Biss mentioned me in one sentence of her book. Here is the mention: Biss reports that in a 2009 magazine article, I "express outrage that newborn infants are routinely vaccinated for hep B" and that I wonder why I was encouraged to vaccinate my daughter "against a disease she had no chance of catching," which is a perfectly accurate and seemingly neutral report.

This "conflict of interest" would, of course, have been happily ignored if I had written a positive review.

And, of course, a conflict of interest was avoided by being properly disclosed at the bottom of the review.

Censoring this book review is part of a larger battle reasonable journalists face whenever they write issues related to vaccine safety and the very real and devastating problems in our current American vaccine system, which is sadly based more on maximizing profits and promoting special interests than it is about what is in the best interests of our children's health.

I realize a lot of people who read GreenMedInfo may disagree and I respect alternative points of view, but I am grateful to modern medicine for vaccines. I may be the most vaccinated person you've ever met, having lived and worked in West Africa twice. I've had the yellow fever vaccine and taken live oral polio before that vaccine was discontinued for safety issues. I have always supported a national vaccine program. My children, who have also been vaccinated, and I have not had any bad reactions to vaccines - that we are aware of. Nevertheless, I cannot ignore the problems with America's current childhood vaccine schedule.

A case in point: Scandinavian countries like Iceland and Norway, which enjoy much better infant health outcomes than the United States, do not vaccinate against hepatitis B in the absence of medical need. I also cannot ignore the very real financial conflicts of interest that motivate our current vaccine schedule. I encourage parents to research the issue for themselves and make their own informed decision, which should be respected by every physician and our fellow citizens.

But if Paul Offit, M.D. (whom I've interviewed and found to be smart, articulate, enthusiastic, and personable), one of the most well known proponents of America's current vaccine schedule, had his way, I would go to prison for writing about vaccines. In March 2014, Offit said that journalists who write about vaccine safety issues should go to journalism jail.

GreenMedInfo has generously agreed to reprint the censored review so readers can read it and decide for themselves where the real bias lies.

Review. On Immunity Review

On Immunity: An Inoculation

  • By Eula Biss Graywolf Press 216 pp.

  • Reviewed by Jennifer Margulis

  • October 20, 2014

This heartfelt ode to inoculations dismisses concerns about vaccines.

is an extended nonfiction essay - an impressionistic, metaphor-laden, first-person account of author Eula Biss' fears for her infant son's safety and the questions and concerns she has as she educates herself about vaccines. This slim book combines real-life vignettes with literary criticism, information about the history of vaccines in the United States, informal interviews with scientists, and chats Biss has had with friends and relatives.

Childhood vaccination, vaccine refusal, and vaccine exemption are evergreen topics that fascinate the American public, and this book could not be timelier.

Following on the heels of the recent disclosure by scientist William W. Thompson, Ph.D. - a strong advocate for vaccines - that the CDC, in a 2004 study of the possible relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism, "omit[ted] relevant findings ... for a particular sub-group ... for a particular vaccine," and the subsequent insistence by the CDC (and numerous television journalists) that vaccines do not cause autism, hundreds of parents who believe their children were injured by vaccines began sharing their stories online (under the hashtag #hearthiswell).

For her part, Biss is not interested in stories of vaccine injury, which she dismisses as exaggerated. Nor is she interested in the devastating fact that one in every 42 boys in America today has autism, or that we are seeing a rise in many other diseases among American children, including Type-1 diabetes and other autoimmune disorders.

Her book is ultimately such a staunch defense of the current vaccine system that she even criticizes the pro-vaccine pediatrician Robert Sears, author of the bestselling , for giving parents worried about side effects from vaccines alternate vaccination schedules. (Sears also makes recommendations about which inoculations can be skipped entirely if doing so encourages vaccine-averse parents to have their children at least partially immunized.)

"The extra time and trouble required to follow Dr. Bob's alternative schedule are hard to justify unless the dangers of contracting infectious diseases early in life are minimized and the dangers of vaccinating early in life are exaggerated," she writes.

Though Sears' book is meticulously researched, overtly pro-vaccine (he inoculates dozens of patients every day), and extremely balanced, Biss objects to it: "Much of is devoted to this minimization and exaggeration," she writes.

Yet, ironically, Biss' own son may have been vaccine injured. She explains that he suffers from debilitating allergies that sometimes leave him unable to breathe.

"My son has unusually severe allergies, which he developed at an unusually young age," Biss writes. "His pediatrician calls him her 'outlier' because he is a statistical anomaly. By the time he turned three, his allergies had led to swelling in his nasal cavity, and this swelling had led to painful sinus infections, which we had cured with antibiotics several times, but which inevitably returned."

She is told by one doctor that her son must never get another flu vaccine because he is allergic to eggs. Scientific studies, including this one, have shown a causal relationship between food allergies and food components in vaccines. Other research indicates that vaccines may play a role in causing or exacerbating allergies, including childhood asthma.

And a recent study published in the North American by physician and researcher Elizabeth Mumper suggests that children with a family history of allergies can benefit from a delayed vaccine schedule.

Despite this, Biss evokes Greek mythology, deconstructs Dracula (a metaphor for contagious disease and pestilence that must be hunted down and destroyed), and muses about Voltaire in order to reiterate what you will find in every other mainstream book: Her unnamed "friends" who are foregoing vaccines do so because they are privileged, educated, and selfish.

These moms care only about their own children to the detriment of society as a whole, minimizing the risks of contagious diseases (which are, to Biss, as terrifying as vampires), and overemphasizing the harms of vaccines.

As a thoughtful parent and journalist who is pro-vaccine and who has chosen to vaccinate her own children, but who champions parental choice and vaccine safety, I was disappointed by this book.

Biss' metaphorical musing on vaccinations and how to protect our children from harm ultimately reads like an extended attempt to justify her choice to fully vaccinate her son on the CDC's current vaccine schedule. (The only vaccine her son did not receive, because the doctor told her it was unnecessary, was the birth dose of hepatitis B.) Biss' father, an oncologist, dismisses parents who want their children to get chicken pox naturally as "idiots."

Because it so lyrically maintains the status quo, has predictably garnered accolades. But the book is more notable for what it leaves out - the voices of thoughtful parents who are foregoing some or all vaccines; the stories of vaccine-injured children; and the nearly infinitesimal risk of catching certain communicable diseases versus the much higher risk of having autoimmune dysfunction in childhood - than what it includes.

When you feel the need to construct an enticing narrative to convince people that an orthodoxy you follow should be followed by everyone else, as well, the curtain you are weaving over it serves to draw just as much, if not more, attention to the legitimate questions that lie underneath.

[Editor's Note: We assigned this review to Jennifer Margulis because she has spent over 10 years researching and writing about childhood vaccination. Before accepting the assignment, Margulis informed us that, although she does not know Eula Biss personally, she and Biss have had cordial email correspondence, and that Biss mentions Margulis by name in both a magazine article and in On Immunity.]

BEST OF THE WEB: Psychos say: 'Submit, Amerika!' Michael Brown was killed because he didn't prostrate himself to police authority

Did you support Wilson? You're gonna love what's coming next

What's wrong with Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson's killing of the unarmed 18-year-old black teenager, Michael Brown, and with a Grand Jury decision not to indict him for that outrageous slaying, is what is wrong with American law enforcement and American "justice" in general.

Both actions were permeated not only with racism, which clearly played a huge rule in both the verdict rendered by a Grand Jury composed of nine whites and only three blacks, and in this tragic police killing by a white cop of a black child, but also by a mentality on the part of police - and apparently by at least a majority of the citizen jurors on a panel evaluating Wilson's actions - that cops are authorities who must be obeyed without question, on pain of death.

Let's recall the most crucial evidence in this killing: According to the it was two shots into the top of the head by Officer Wilson that killed Brown - shots that multiple witnesses confirm were fired after the unarmed Brown was on his knees, already seriously wounded by four other apparently non-lethal shots to arm, neck and upper right chest, with his hands raised and pleading "Don't shoot." The also reports that those shots, apparently fired when Brown's head was leaning forward, or from a position above him, appeared to have been fired "not from close range," a determination based upon an absence of gun powder residue around the area of the entry wounds.

It should not matter in the slightest whether or not Brown had first struck Officer Wilson inside his squad car during a scuffle, as claimed by the cop, or even that the officer, as he testified in an unusual appearance before jurors, "felt terrified" at that time. Nor does it matter, beyond being evidence of an inherent racism, that Wilson says he thought that Brown, approaching him at his car initially, "looked like a demon." If the non-lethal shots that first hit Brown in arm, neck and upper chest had been fired at that early point, perhaps Wilson would have been justified in firing them in self defense, but it's what happened after Brown tried to leave the scene that matter.

This is because Brown, multiple witnesses testified, was down on his knees posing no threat whatsoever to the armed officer when Wilson killed him with at least two shots to the head.

That was not a defensive action by Officer Wilson. It was an execution plain and simple - a punishment for Brown's having allegedly struck the officer earlier, for his attempt to leave the scene of conflict, and perhaps also for Brown's initial refusal to obey the officer's order to get out of the middle of the road, which was reportedly the original reason the officer initiated a confrontation with Brown.

That the jury exonerated Wilson speaks volumes about the sorry, racist state of American society and about the sorry state of the US justice system, where citizens charged with looking into whether a murder has been committed will give a pass to a cop who clearly crossed the line and behaved in a manner that, even in war-time, would be punishable as a war crime, which is what the Geneva Conventions term the slaying of a combatant whose hands are raised in the universally understood sign of surrender.

Sadly, the Geneva Conventions do not apply to domestic policing. I say sadly, because it is clear that in nearly all jurisdictions in the US, police today are for all intents and purposes a law unto themselves, without even a US Military Uniform Code of Conduct to govern their actions. Rare indeed is the police officer convicted of unlawfully killing a suspect or a person in custody, though such killings are soaring in number, even as the deaths of police officers on the job (excluding those who die in auto accidents involving usually pointless and sometimes illegal high-speed chases), have plummeted to levels not seen since the 19th Century.

I remember covering a coroner's inquest in Los Angeles back in 1978 involving the 1977 killing of a small, naked and unarmed man by a hulking LAPD sergeant. The victim, Ron Burkholder, a biochemist who had apparently accidentally burned himself badly one night while trying to make PCP in his basement for personal use. In pain, he had torn off his burning clothes and had then run out onto the street. His erratic behavior led Sgt. Kurt Barz, who was passing in a patrol car, to stop and investigate. Barz testified that he felt threatened when Burkholder (clearly seeking help) ran towards him, and he unloaded his pistol into the approaching "threat," killing Burkholder instantly with six shots.

The LAPD, in an internal affairs investigation, quickly found the killing "justifiable," and though the inquest later reached the conclusion of wrongful death, there was no prosecution of Barz, though clearly the scrawny Burkholder posed no conceivable threat to him, and being naked, clearly had no weapon.

So it goes.

The only change, in would seem, between 1977, when Officer Barz slaughtered the unarmed, injured and help-seeking Burkholder, and 2014, when Officer Wilson executed the wounded and surrendering Brown, is how much more commonly police murders of citizens occur these days. And yet the number of successful prosecutions of cops for such slayings still hovers disturbingly close to zero. Even in the rare instance where cops are indicted for killing someone, when the case goes to trial, the same pro-cop bias among prosecutors, judges and even jurors, tends to work against a conviction, which requires, of course, a unanimous decision to convict.

According to one survey, in the period between May 1, 2012 and August 24, 2013, police killed at least 1,450 people in the US. Since the FBI claims there were 400 "justified" police killings during 2012 (and we know how loosely the term "justified" is, given judgements like the Ferguson Grand Jury's!), we can assume that many or most of those 1,450 people killed were killed unjustifiably, i.e.: murdered by police. Many of the victims of police shootings are children or old people, like the elderly man in Georgia killed by cop last year during a traffic stop when he reached into the back of his pickup truck to retrieve his cane, or the two young boys killed recently for holding toy guns, one in Ohio and one in California. Incredibly, there is no official count of the number of Americans killed each year by police. As the reports, we know the accurately the number of people killed by sharks each year (53 in 2013), and even the number of hogs living on American farms (64 million in 2010), and we know the number of police killed in the line of duty (48 in 2012). But the FBI and Dept. of Justice, which require all kinds of statistics from police agencies, don't ask about police-involved-killings. The only possible reason for their not asking for that information is that police don't like to have their violent acts open to examination, so even asking would be a political third rail.

According to one report cited by the Cato Institute, US cops and other law-enforcement officers killed over 5,000 people between 9/11/2001 and November 6, 2013, making police a bigger threat to Americans than terrorists, including the ones accused of attacking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11.

The ubiquity of cell phone cameras and video cams, which are finally documenting police killings, and the growing importance of social media, which allow for the unfiltered reporting of killings like that of Michael Brown, without any pro-cop bias inserted by biased or gutless editors and publishers, is shining a badly needed spotlight on this growing horror, but it will take a lot more anger among the public if this slaughter is to be finally halted.

As libertarian Senator Rand Paul (R-TN), quoting a Heritage Foundation report, just wrote in a recent essay in magazine:

...The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment.

Federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery.

Today, (even Bossier) Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country - tanks included."

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury - national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture - we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.

Sen. Paul adds:

Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.

Sen. Paul is right in linking the killing of young Michael Brown to this militarization of policing in the US, and to the corrupted justice system, in which police, even those bald-facedly lying under oath, tend to get the benefit of the doubt from a citizenry deliberately terrorized daily by government officials who claim that terrorists are about to destroy us and who consequently are quick to call every cop, including killers, a "hero."

It speaks volumes that Officer Wilson can say he has a "clear conscience" about his slaying of a young man who was begging him not to shoot. Whether or not he really suffers no moral qualms or second thoughts alone at night about what he did, the fact that he feels he can say that in public means that he thinks he can get away with it and even win public support.

At this point, one wonders how long will it be before Judas Iscariot gets praised as a hero by Americans for turning his mentor Jesus over to the Roman cops seeking him on a warrant for sedition?

About the author

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to (AK Press).

United Nations calls for an end to industrialized farming, organic agriculture can feed the world

© Chiot's Run

Gardener holding handful of Parisienne Carrots, which are a variety of heirloom carrot.

In 2013, the United Nations announced that the world's agricultural needs be met with localized organic farms. That's right, we do not need giant monocultures that pour, spray and coat our produce with massive amounts of poisons, only to create mutant pests and weeds while decimating pollinators and harming human health. Don't believe the hype: We need genetically modified foods "to feed the world."

From my experience, many of these - how shall we say it - "worker bees" (i.e the GMO salesmen) who spread this propaganda, actually believe conventional tactics are necessary to ensure food security. They've drunk the Kool-Aid and cannot envision another possibility. The changes threaten their very existence.

Organic agriculture, which has gone from a fringe movement to a multibillion industry, organic ag produce high yields and withstand disaster and duress much better than chemical-reliant crops, according to reports coming out of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM), which held its 18th annual world congress in Istanbul this past October.

And a 30-year study from the Rodale Institute, showed that organic farm fields yielded 33 percent more in drought years compared with chemically managed ones.

In an article titled "Yes Organic Food Can Feed the world," Anna Lappe, author and educator, known for her work as an expert on food systems, writes that "organic agriculture is taking off around the world, especially where it's needed most."

She reports that 80 percent of all organic producers are based in developing countries, with India, Uganda, Mexico and Tanzania leading the charge. To date, 162 nations are now home to certified organic farms, and in 2012, the 37.5 million hectares of farmland produced a harvest worth $63.8 billion.

Paradigm Shift

Food security, poverty, gender inequality and climate change can all be addressed if we adopt a significant paradigm shift, according to the UN's Trade and Environment Review (TER), a 320-page report written by 63 authors from organizations around the world. They provide evidence with numerous coherent case studies and surveys.

The solution to all these interrelated problems is establishing a conglomerate of small, bio-diverse, ecological farms around the world and a localized food system that promotes consumption of local/regional produce.

"I try to raise awareness about the need to shift away from globalizing to localizing," Helena Norberg-Hodge recently told actor and activist Russell Brand on his internet show "The Trews" (truth+news= trews). Norberg-Hodge is an analyst on the impact of the global economy and on cultures in agriculture worldwide. "Localizing is a systemic alternative that has incredible power."

In fact, small farms are known to be two to 10 times as productive as large industrial farms and much more profitable, not just in the developing world, but also in the developed world, reports the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS).

"Smaller diversified farms employee more people and use less land and water and produce more foods," says Norberg-Hodge in her interview with Brand. She explains that localization also shortens the distance between consumers and producers, which helps the environment and also ensures that you do not eat produce that is pretty much dead traveling such insane distances.

"Industrial agriculture and our globalized food system is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, up to 50 percent if proper account is taken of emissions from land use change and deforestation, most of which are due to agriculture, and for food-related transport, processing, storage and consumption," writes ISIS.

Listen to the full episode "TTIP - How We're Lied To About Food: Russell Brand."

TTIP And A Conspiracy of Silence

Unfortunately, it is difficult to implement changes on a local or national level because there are global trade agreements that prevent us from doing so. These agreements serve giant corporations and corporate greed only.

Enter the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is a controversial series of trade negotiations currently being negotiated in secret between the European Commission and the US government in the name of so-called "free trade." TTIP, which Brand sarcastically refers to as the "best thing to happen to planet Earth since Jesus," has only corporations' best interests in mind. And if it passes, corporations will literally be able to sue governments if and when they attempt to protect their citizens or our environment.

Not only does TTIP threaten our food supply and environment, but public services, workers' rights, and online privacy as well. A story in outlines six reasons why TTIP should scare you. Or check out this TTIP infographic from Action for Solidarity Environment Equality and Diversity.

Unfortunately, we have no direct say on whether TTIP goes through or not. All we can do is get educated, tell as many people as possible and demand transparency.

Russia bans GMOs; why does the U.S. keep approving them?

no gmos

There have been marches, vocal demonstrations, petitions, and laws banning GMOs, but the US is still lagging in the 'democratic' freedoms it has promised its people. Russia, on the other hand, has completely banned GMOs, placing a moratorium on their imports for 10 years. The nation rejects GMOs due to numerous dangers, while the US continues to allow Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, and their bullying kind to contrive a cold war on the American people.

The VP of Russia's National Association for Genetic Safety, Irina Ermakova, has said:

"It is necessary to ban GMOs, to impose moratorium (on) it for 10 years. While GMOs will be prohibited, we can plan experiments, tests, or maybe even new methods of research could be developed. It has been proven that not only in Russia, but also in many other countries in the world, GMOs are dangerous. Methods of obtaining the GMOs are not perfect, therefore, at this stage, all GMOs are dangerous. Consumption and use of GMOs obtained in such way can lead to tumors, cancers and obesity among animals. Bio-technologies certainly should be developed, but GMOs should be stopped. We should stop it from spreading. "

Conversely, the 'amber waves of grain' are toxic. They are loaded with more GMO chemicals than ever before, and our government supports this act of tyranny.

The US State Department and executive branch have been acting as marketing agents for the companies who are patenting the most basic seeds necessary for human survival. Hilary Clinton has been caught doing a one-woman campaign to support GMOs like some sort of despotic middle-aged whirligig.

Our elected officials plan to implement DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, a bill introduced in Congress earlier this year, which if passed, will preempt state GMO labeling laws. What's more, president Obama signed the Monsanto Protection Act in 2013 after promising GMO labeling.

The seed industry has a global agenda, and it works its dark plan through the US.

Food and Water Watch recently found out just how deep and reaching the State Department's agenda to promote biotech goes.

Russian Television (RT) corroborates it:

"After US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed that the State Department was lobbying worldwide for Monsanto and other similar corporations, a new report based on the cables shows Washington's shilling for the biotech industry in distinct detail. The August 2011WikiLeaks revelations showed that American diplomats had requested funding to send lobbyists for the biotech industry to hold talks with politicians and agricultural officials in "target countries" in areas like Africa and Latin America, where genetically-modified crops were not yet a mainstay, as well as some European countries that have resisted the controversial agricultural practice."

Even our universities are in the back pocket of these biotech corporations.

"The annual $500 million budget of Stanford University's Department of Biological Engineering alone supports dozens of research projects for myriad commercial applications."

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin says, "Russia must protect its citizens from GMOs."

Fareed Zakaria once said that, "the Berlin Wall wasn't the only barrier to fall after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Traditional barriers to the flow of money, trade, people and ideas also fell."

It seems ironic that in the 'land of the free' we cannot democratically oust GMOs, and that our own leaders are now putting up their own walls that would deny us the right to know what is in our food.

Bloody hell! Even the U.K. is infected with Black Friday madness

Black Friday UK

Staff tried to keep order at an Asda superstore in Wembley, London as customers competed over items

Police have been called to supermarkets across the UK amid crowd surges as people hunt for "Black Friday" offers.

Greater Manchester Police appealed for calm after attending seven Tesco shops, at which three men were arrested and a woman was hit by a falling television.

The force said the issues were "totally predictable" and it was "disappointed" by shop security. Tesco said only a "small number" of stores were affected.

Police were called in places including Dundee, Glasgow, Cardiff and London.

Originating in the US, Black Friday is becoming a major UK shopping day.

Visa has predicted that UK shoppers will spend £518m online on cards on Friday - which would make it the country's biggest internet shopping day in history.

Police in Manchester tweeted: "At least two people arrested at #BlackFriday sales events already this morning. Keep calm people!"

The force said there had been "disturbances" at the seven Tesco stores.

black friday UK

Police were called to a Tesco store in Cardiff as crowds gathered for Black Friday deals.

Incidents at those stores and other locations included:

  • About 200 shoppers refused to leave a store in Middleton "despite being told stock had all gone"

  • Fights broke out between shoppers in Stretford, and a woman suffered "minor injuries" after being hit by a falling television. The store was closed at 00:36 GMT

  • A man was arrested in Salford after he threatened to "smash a staff member's face in"

  • A woman broke her wrist in a crush, with Greater Manchester Police's deputy chief constable Ian Hopkins describing shoppers' behaviour as "appalling"

  • In Wigan, officers were called to reports of "several hundred people trying to enter the store". Police added: "Two men were ejected before control was regained"

  • There were reports of fighting in a store in Hattersley, where a man was arrested for a public order offence

  • A man was arrested for assault at a store in Green End

  • Bicester Village shopping outlet in Oxfordshire had to temporarily close after roads around it became gridlocked by Black Friday shoppers

In London, police were called by both Tesco staff and queuing shoppers as people gathered at the Glover Drive store in Edmonton.

Officers also attended Tesco stores in Willesden and Surrey Quays.

The Metropolitan Police said officers worked with staff to "ensure that sale-goers were able to enter and exit the stores safely", and said no-one had been injured "as a result of the overcrowding".

Sgt Paul Marshall, a Metropolitan Police officer, tweeted: "Even on #BlackFriday shoving people to the floor so you can get £20 off a Coffee Maker is still an assault."

In South Wales, police said they were called by concerned staff at a number of Tesco stores.

A spokesman said officers were twice called to Tesco in Excelsior Road, Cardiff, just after midnight, when concerns were raised about customer conduct inside the shop. No arrests were made.

Police were called to Tesco at Silverburn in the Pollok area of Glasgow about 11:45 GMT on Thursday after staff reported scuffles among several customers.

The store was closed for a period, and footage from the scene shows shoppers shoving each other as they attempt to grab items from trolleys.

Police were also called to the Tesco in Kingsway, Dundee, to help with crowd control.

Avon and Somerset Police said they were called after scuffles in the queue at Tesco in Brislington, Bristol, at about midnight.

The BBC's Zoe Conway tweeted a picture of a woman on her knees with the words: "Customers knocked to the ground in the rush at Asda Wembley #BlackFriday."

black friday UK

Jamie Hook was buying food at Tesco in Stretford on Thursday night when he said "the screaming started".

"I looked at the massive crowd to see people climbing over shelves and displays, staff running for cover, fights breaking out, stock flying through air, people breaking through carrying televisions - and this was before the sale had even started," he said.

"The lady on the till I was at was in tears, terrified of it all, but she was under orders to close her till to go and help crowd control."

Ross Lewis was at one of the stores participating in Black Friday in Cardiff. He said people fought to get hold of television sets.

"People were biting each other, pinching, punching, kicking - it was just absolutely horrendous, it was so, so bad."

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Read more here.

Barbaric slaughter or historic ritual? World's largest animal sacrifice begins - Warning: Contains graphic images

Hindu Festival_1

© Omar Havana /AFP/Getty Images

A festival believed to be the largest animal sacrifice ritual in the world began Friday in southern Nepal, where devotees believe the sacrifices bring good luck and a Hindu goddess will grant their wishes.

In the fields outside a temple before dawn, a priest dropped five drops of his own blood and sacrificed a rat, chicken, pigeon, goat, and pig to start the festival. More than 5,000 buffaloes were ritually killed during the day.

Many other animals will be killed during the two-day festival at Gadhimai temple in the jungles of Bara district about 160 kilometres south of Katmandu.

Organizers and the authorities defend the festival held every five years as a generations-old tradition, though animal rights activists says it is barbaric. During the 2009 festival, an estimated 200,000 animals and birds were sacrificed.

Animal activists have decried the event, which attracts thousands of devotees from Nepal as well as close-by regions of India. Gadhimai is the Hindu goddess of power, and it is believed sacrificing an animal in her honour will bring prosperity. Many of the animals - most of which are babies - are brought illegally over the border from India.

Last month, India's Supreme Court ordered the government to ensure that no live cattle or buffalo were exported out of India and into Nepal without licence, and its Ministry of Home Affairs directed its border patrol to ensure that "the movement of cattle for sacrifice during Gadhimai Mela [Fair] be stopped."

Hindu Festival_2

© Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

So far, activists said, more than 2,000 animals have been seized along the India and Nepal border, and 100 people arrested.

"It's madness, it's really madness," said N.G. Jayasimha, director of the Humane Society International of India, who is at the temple site this week.

"There are no roads, no infrastructure, not a single public bus, no sanitation and no drinking water. There are human feces everywhere. A number of people have come, and everybody is carrying an animal to be sacrificed."

Jayasimha said that activists think there has been a drop in attendance in the festival this year over five years ago, when an estimated 5 million people attended.

Jayasimha said he thought border control efforts and public awareness campaigns in Nepal and India may have been having some effect. Yet the festival remains a public health concern.

Hindu Festival_3

© National Post

A butcher walks with a bloodied blade as he looks for an animal to kill during a mass slaughter of buffaloes for the Gadhimai festival inside a walled enclosure in the village of Bariyapur on Friday.

Hindu Festival_4

© Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Hindu Festival_5

© Omar Havana/Getty Images

Hindu Festival_6

© AP Photo/Sunil Sharma

Hindu Festival_9

© Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Hindu Festival_8

© AP Photo/Sunil Sharma

Hindu Festival_7

© AP Photo/Sunil Sharma

SOTT EXCLUSIVE: Shock! US media outlet Washington Post questions U.S. intervention in Ukraine

washington post

On 25 November, the published an opinion piece by Katrina vanden Heuvel titled "Rethinking the cost of Western intervention in Ukraine." It's actually pretty good, which makes it all the more curious. After all, if you follow , you'd more expect to find headlines such as the following (all culled from the past 2 weeks or so): The is also one of the soap boxes for arch Russophobe and Putin-baser Masha Gessen. (Masha has a history of getting her facts wrong: she starts from the premise that Putin is evil, then interprets anything and everything as proof of that position.) So what exactly did Heuvel write, and what's really going on here?

Heuvel writes:

Comment: Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, recently cautioned Americans against intervention fatigue: "I think there is too much of 'Oh, look, this is what intervention has wrought' . . . one has to be careful about overdrawing lessons." Say what? Given the calamities wrought in Iraq, Libya and now Ukraine, one would think that a fundamental rethinking and learning of lessons is long overdue. The United States needs a sober look at the actual costs of supposed good intentions divorced from realism.

Power's comments come as Ukraine marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the Maidan Square demonstrations in Kiev, surely an occasion for rethinking and changing course. One year after the United States and Europe celebrated the February coup that ousted the corrupt but constitutionally elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, liberal and neoconservative interventionists have much to answer for. Crimea has been annexed by Russia. More than 4,000 people have lost their lives in the civil war in Ukraine, with more than 9,000 wounded and nearly a million displaced. This month, the Kiev government acknowledged the de facto partition of Ukraine by announcing it was ending all funding for government services and social benefits including pensions and freezing all bank accounts in the eastern districts that are in revolt. The Ukrainian economy is near collapse with nowhere near the billions needed to rebuild it at hand. How Kiev or the cut-off eastern regions will provide heating and electricity to their beleaguered people as winter approaches remains to be seen.

Note the language: "divorced from realism", "coup", "intervention", "civil war". When was the last time you heard a mainstream Western source rightly identify the 'change in government' in Ukraine a coup? Or call the civil war anything other than an "anti-terrorist operation"? And notice that she simply said Russia annexed Crimea, without adding any of the nonsense about it being done so under military coercion. (Thought she doesn't mention that it was perfectly legal and fully democratic, that around 95% of the population voted for it to be so.)

Heuvel goes on to describe the conflict between the West and Russia as "a new Cold War", citing NATO expansion and aggression, the negative effect of sanctions on European states, Putin's rising popularity, and the fact that "several countries worried about the effect of sanctions on their own economies," and officials questioning the sanctions' effectiveness. She continues:

The U.S. government and the mainstream media present this calamity as a morality tale. Ukrainians demonstrated against Yanukovych because they wanted to align with the West and democracy. Putin, as portrayed by Hillary Rodham Clinton among others, is an expansionist Hitler who has trampled international law and must be made to "pay a big price" for his aggression. Isolation and escalating economic sanctions have been imposed. Next, if Senate hawks such as John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have their way, Ukraine will be provided with arms to "deter" Putin's "aggression."

But this perspective distorts reality. Although there is no question that Russia has contributed to the tensions in the region, what has unfolded was predictable and preventable. As experts such as Princeton University and New York University professor emeritus Stephen F. Cohen have argued, the West should have understood that an attempt to bring Ukraine into an exclusive arrangement with the E.U. would spark deep, historical divisions within the country and itself and provoke a Russian reaction. (Disclosure: Cohen and I are married.) In fact, as University of Chicago professor John J. Mearsheimer concludes in Foreign Affairs, "the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis." In the face of Russian warnings and despite agreements to the contrary, over the past two decades the United States has expanded NATO to Russia's border. The E.U. has similarly grown, seeking to incorporate Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics into its economic and political sphere. The Russians have warned repeatedly that they consider expansion of NATO a threat and have clearly drawn the line against trying to incorporate the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine.

, the correctly uses scare quotes! My inner "Grammar Putin" is pleased.

Note: RT regularly features articles by Cohen. See also:

Recently, 91-year-old former secretary of state Henry Kissinger has seconded this counterargument and perspective on the crisis. In an interview in leading German magazine , which inexplicably received little attention in the U.S. media, Kissinger argued forcefully that the annexation of Crimea "was not a move toward global conquest." He disputes Hillary Rodham Clinton's charge that Putin is like "Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia." Kissinger holds the West partially responsible for escalation and the deteriorating situation, suggesting that Europe and the United States underestimated the "special significance" of Ukraine for Russia. "It was a mistake not to realize that."

Kissinger notes that while the West need not and should not recognize the annexation of Crimea, "nobody in the West has offered a concrete program to restore Crimea. Nobody is willing to fight over eastern Ukraine. That's a fact of life." On the other hand, Kissinger points out that Russia is a vital U.S. partner in resolving crises from Iran and Syria to the dangers of nuclear arsenals. He suggests that the West might weigh those real security concerns before more posturing and escalation over Ukraine.

It is a measure of how extreme the prevailing political-media narrative on Ukraine is that Kissinger now sounds like a dissident. He is urging prudence as opposed to the liberal-neocon interventionists. ... But before Washington further escalates the crisis there and ramps up a new Cold War, it needs to understand both the limits of our power and the horrific humanitarian costs of ignoring those limits.

... Ukraine needs to find a way to live with Russia in peace. NATO should reassure the Russians and caution the Ukrainians by announcing it will not expand to Ukraine, or for that matter, to Georgia. The E.U. should engage Putin in how to settle the crisis, doubling down on the cease-fire the Russian leader helped broker, not escalating the conflict. The hawks should stand down. The human costs are already mounting. It is utterly irresponsible to destroy a country in the name of supporting it, as is happening in Ukraine. Samantha Power has it wrong: Americans aren't tired of humanitarian intervention; they are tired of its consequences. It is time for taking a sober look at the misconceptions that got us here.

So what's going on here? Are some in the Western elite starting to see that they're fighting an unwinnable fight against Putin? For a war criminal psychopath like Henry Kissinger to come out and say something that approaches being more than 50% truth, something's gotta be up. Or have Plans A (goad Russia into open military conflict) and B (bring Russia to its knees economically and try to brew up internal dissent among Russia's fifth column) failed, and the Western pathocrats are merely regrouping and coming up with Plan C?


Harrison Koehli (Profile)

Harrison Koehli hails from Edmonton, Alberta. A graduate of studies in music performance, Harrison is also an editor for Red Pill Press and has been interviewed on several North American radio shows in recognition of his contributions to advancing the study of ponerology. In addition to music and books, Harrison enjoys tobacco and bacon (often at the same time) and dislikes cell phones, vegetables, and fascists.

Save the Corporations...I mean Children


© AFP Photo/Stephen Lovekin

Former Minister of the United Kingdom and Global Legacy Award Honoree Tony Blair.

When Save the Children chose to bestow the Global Legacy Award on Tony Blair, the charity inadvertently revealed the dark underbelly of NGO activity.

When Tony Blair received the Global Legacy Award last week from Save the Children, an organization dedicated to it seemed like a bad joke to many people. This, after all, was a man who had been willing to use fabricated evidence to launch an illegal war against Iraq during his time as Britain's Prime Minister, a conflict that irrevocably "transformed" the lives of thousands of children by killing them.

These days Blair is advising the new military regime in Egypt and doing a sideline in Saudi oil kickbacks. We don't hear too much about children in either of those countries, but I'm willing to bet that living under military or aristocratic dictatorship isn't too good for the little mites, especially when, as is the case with Saudi Arabia, child marriage is nothing unusual.

Considering this track record, I would think that anyone who has simply refrained from hurting children would be more qualified to receive an award from a charity dedicated to their protection than Tony Blair.

So how did not only get away with murder, but actually get rewarded for it? Did the good folks at Save the Children simply suffer a regrettable overdose of saintliness, deciding to sweep Blair's past transgressions under the rug, and judge him not lest they themselves be judged? It sounds like the kind of misguided, goodness-orgy that an organization dedicated to helping children might be susceptible to. But if your idea of charity is still stuck in the age of rending thy cloak in half to clothe the naked, and dividing thy bread to feed the hungry, think again.

These days the needy is big business. Much has (rightly) been made of Save the Children's direct connections to Blair: UK Chief Executive Justin Forsyth worked for Tony Blair back when he was Prime Minister, as did Fergus Drake, the charity's UK Director of Programmes. But these two hardly make up the entire decision-making apparatus of the global behemoth that is Save the Children. How did such a disastrous decision slide through the ranks? A quick scan of the current and former occupations of Save the Children's trustees and top staff shows why the idea of rewarding the former PM slipped down their gullet so effortlessly: Barclays Bank, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Xerox, Yahoo, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, American Express, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, Coca-Cola, IKEA...the list goes on.

With a line up like this behind Save the Children, it's positively shocking that it took the organization so long to hand old Tony his lifetime achievement award. It would be hard to think of someone who has done more for the corporations that many of the trustees and management staff seem to have such a close relationship with. Not least of these favors would be letting them avoid paying millions in taxes by failing to close loopholes (e.g. Proctor & Gamble and IKEA and Barclays).

And, while Save the Children is in the news today, its establishment friendly structure is by no means unusual. Many large NGOs are little more than public sector mirrors of private sector interests, with a top staff that has every reason not to rock the status quo.

They still fulfill a useful purpose, just not the one projected to the public.

Governments like to by consulting with NGOs so that they can pretend to meet people halfway and "hear their concerns." Ensuring that no one in a position of power at those NGOs has any truly radical ideas is a good way to control this conversation while maintaining a paper-thin veneer of political inclusiveness. At the same time big corporations, who are allowed to avoid taxes can donate a small fraction of those funds to the right kind of NGO. By giving back to the communities they've sucked so much out of, as opposed to the way in which everyone else on their annual tax return, big corporations can adorn themselves with the laurels of their and Of course it is only natural for a company that gives such a large donation to be rewarded with a seat on the NGO's board. Just as it is only natural for governments to to the kind of NGO that has a silver-plated list of trustees and upper management that they already do business with rather than one run by the kind of rabble that make uncomfortable demands. It's a match made in paradise for everyone involved.

Save the Children's award to Tony Blair may have stepped over the line and provoked outrage, but this problem has been cruising quietly just under the surface for a long time, as big charities have moved so far into lockstep with government and corporate interests as to become virtually indistinguishable from them. You can't challenge the establishment when you are part of it.

But NGOs are good for so much more than just siphoning off domestic disgruntlement into the Kafkaesque world of

NGO just means i.e. all you really need to be is an organization that is not officially part of the government. And you can slice that pretty fine.

Consider the Club of Madrid, composed of nearly 100 former Presidents and Prime Ministers (e.g. Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter) and funded by (among others) the cities of Rotterdam and Madrid, the World Bank, the IMF, the Governments of Belgium and Mexico and the International Development Agencies of Australia and Sweden. The also receives sponsorship from Wal-Mart, Microsoft and NATO. Or perhaps I can interest you in Kenya's Institute of Economic Affairs brought to you by the Canadian and Swedish International Development Agencies, as well as the European Union and the Center for Private Enterprise. Past donors have included the World Bank, as well as the Dutch and Danish Embassies and the British Council.

Club of Madrid

© Flickr.com/Club de Madrid

Club of Madrid.

Some NGO's receive more than 90 percent of their budget from a single government source, sometimes a foreign government. This is particularly prevalent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

In Kyrgyzstan between 70-100 percent of the budget of a typical NGO is provided by foreign donors and of NGO officials recognized operating there A study conducted in Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine revealed that only one-fifth of NGOs agreed that their strength came from their membership base. The researchers concluded that could be attributed to the fact that they received most of their funding from foreign sources, citing frequent NGO meetings with foreign embassies. These kinds of NGOs are sometimes called , because they don't have any real support - they're merely a front organizations meant to pursue the agenda of whoever holds the checkbook, often without the full knowledge of those actually doing the work on the ground. These aren't charities but weapons in the endless battle that is global politics, quite literally a fifth column operating behind enemy lines. According to American politician Ron Paul, the US funneled $5 billion through NGOs active in Ukraine in the service of overthrowing Victor Yanukovich's government. It is pause for thought, especially when one notes the ferocity with which donor nations resist the slightest regulation of NGO activity in foreign nations.

When Russia passed a law in 2012 requiring that NGOs register as foreign agents if they received foreign funding it was touted around the world as proof of Vladimir Putin's insanity. How dare he try to get foreign NGOs to do something as demeaning as register, an action all foreign people already have to undertake when they set up in most European countries, including Russia? My guess would be that one dares these things when foreign-funded NGOs start meeting with embassies from donor nations. That's the kind of activity that rings alarm bells.

There are, of course, real grassroots NGOs out there, somewhere beyond the circle of limelight that encloses the gala dinners and fancy trophies. There are people who do good work, providing relief or a hand up for those most in need, but Blair's Global Legacy Award shows just how much all of their efforts have been hijacked by the fraud that global has become, an empty shell all too happy to glad-hand those at the top while kicking those at the bottom.


Some of the statistics in this article taken from: Anara Musabaeva , International NGO Training and Research Centre, January 2013

Orysia Lutsevych Chatham House.

Royal Society report highlights 'significant and increasing' risks from extreme weather

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'Extreme weather' is becoming more 'normal'. NY State Thruway in Buffalo. The town recently had more snow in a single day than some cities have in a whole year!

University of Exeter researchers have played a crucial role in creating a comprehensive new report indicating that the global risk from extreme weather is set to intensify.

The critical report, published by the Royal Society, indicates that exposure of human populations to extreme weather is set to increase as global climate and population size, location and age continue to change.

A Working Group consisting of 15 world-leading academics, including Exeter professors Peter Cox and Katrina Brown, were brought together to produce the influential report, published on Thursday, November 27.

It presents new maps showing the combined impact of climate and demographic changes across the world on the exposure of people to extreme weather. The maps highlight those areas where there is the greatest increased risk of populations being vulnerable towards to end of the century.

The report focuses on the risks to people from floods, droughts and heatwaves. These are some of the most frequent and damaging extreme events that currently occur and their impacts will change with the changing climate. It shows:

  • Increasing numbers of people will live in areas that are exposed to extreme weather events exacerbate the risks from floods and droughts in many regions, but especially East, West and Central Africa, India and South-East Asia.

  • The number of over-65 year olds is increasing; This is one of the groups most vulnerable to heatwaves. With current numbers, the number of heatwave exposure events this group experiences each year could increase from 0.1 billion today to almost 1 billion in 2100. If we do nothing to mitigate climate change, and population growth and distribution proceeds as expected, this number could rise to 4 billion.

  • Changes in temperature and humidity could result in significant reductions in ability to work outdoors across much of Africa, Asia, and parts of North, South and Central America. This could impact on rural communities and food production.

The report calls for action at all levels of government - international, national and local - to make society more resilient to extreme weather events. In 2015 important international agreements will be reached on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change. These agreements will be much more effective in addressing extreme weather and its impacts if they are linked with, and reinforce, each other.

Professor Peter Cox, from Exeter's Mathematics department said: "We are much more vulnerable to climate change than is normally assumed. For example, it is normal to think about global warming in terms of the global mean temperature increase, which is dominated by the large ocean area that warms much more slowly than the land. Unfortunately people live on the land, so they experience much more than the global average warming.

"This report has highlighted the need to make people and infrastructure much more resilient to climate change. The recommendations include more consideration of ecosystem-based approaches to protection, such as maintaining coastal wetlands or forests, and more explicit consideration of climate risks in company finances."

Professor Katrina Brown from the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall added: "Building resilience to climate change and extreme weather must start now. We need to anticipate and plan for events, rather than wait until after them. Our analysis shows that a combination of conventional engineering and ecosystem-based approaches, which harness and enhance the buffering capacity of natural landscapes, are likely to be most effective. Governments should work alongside communities and other groups to find the best ways to keep people safe now and in the future."

Between 1980 and 2004 the total cost of extreme-weather related events came to US$1.4 trillion. Populations in countries with a low Human Development Index make up only 11% of those exposed to hazards but account for 53% of disaster mortality.

The report compares various practical options for the most effective and affordable defence against the impacts of flooding, drought and heatwaves.

The report concludes that engineered options, such as dams, sea walls and wells are often the most effective at reducing the impact of a particular hazard, but that they are also expensive, and if they fail they fail cataclysmically. If used in combination with ecosystem-based approaches such as floodplain or mangrove re-establishment and planting vegetation they can be more effective and affordable as well as delivering wider benefts on an on-going basis - not just when the hazard strikes. These ecosystem or 'natural' approaches are often more affordable and can have multiple additional benefits to society.

The working group therefore recommends that ecosystem-based approaches are increasingly used in combination with more traditional approaches, although more effort is needed to ensure they are systematically monitored and evaluated. The report uses the 'Slowing the Flow' initiative in Pickering, UK as an example of where this is being done.

Professor Georgina Mace, Chair of the working group for the report said: "We are not resilient to the extremes of weather that we experience now and many people are already extremely vulnerable. If we continue on our current trajectory the problem is likely to get much worse as our climate and population change. By acting now, we can reduce the serious risks to our children and grandchildren.

"National governments have a responsibility to do everything in their ability to protect their people from the devastation caused by extreme weather events."

The report also calls for changes to global financial accounting and regulation to ensure that extreme weather risk is made explicit. At present, these risks are not systematically factored into investors' valuations or assessed by creditors.

Business surveys, economic forecasts and country briefings that guide investment decisions and credit ratings are typically based on the availability of skilled labour, access to export markets, political and economic stability, and financial incentives - but there is little or no consideration of actual or potential exposure to disaster risks.

Specifically, the Society suggests that companies report the following:

  • 1 in 100 (1%) risk per year - a stress test for a company's solvency that evaluates the maximum probable losses expected for events that occur, on average, once in a hundred years or have a 10% chance of occurring every decade

  • 1 in 20 (5%) risk per year - a stress test for a company's annual earnings

  • Annual Average Loss - a standardised metric for a company's exposure to extreme events

The full report and interactive versions of global maps showing the change in exposure to floods, droughts and heatwaves between 2010 and 2090 will be available on the website.

Provided by University of Exeter