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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

3 Questions to Ask Before Putting Cameras on Cops

body cam_police

© Wochit

Two weeks ago, many of us were sure that if only Darren Wilson had had a body camera, justice would have been more easily served in Ferguson, Missouri - that a video record would have cleared the confusion over Officer Wilson's fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Then, a week ago - only two days after President Obama proposed putting 50,000 more police body cameras into service - things didn't look so clear. Video taken by a passerby of Eric Garner's fatal chokehold arrest did not stop a grand jury from declining to bring an indictment.

It's not the first time a promised technological solution has looked less shiny upon closer inspection, but the stakes for this technology are extraordinarily high.

Before we follow our habit of attaching a camera to anything that moves - if we can put them on our dashboards and on our drones, why not our cops? - we need to ask a few questions, and get some good answers.

"Any police department that wants to use body cameras, it's a good decision," said Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "But you can't just throw the cameras out there and let the details sort themselves out."

Here are the key questions the policed public needs answers to:

1. When are the cameras on?

A report last October by American Civil Liberties Union policy analyst Jay Stanley laid out the contradictions involved in police body cameras. On the one hand, maximum accountability would suggest that the camera stay on for the officer's entire shift; on the other, cops have privacy rights, too, as do the people the police interact with.

Stanley's paper came down to recommending that police body cameras record all citizen interactions - which is basically the rule Washington's Metropolitan Police Department adopted for its trial of body cameras.

That 18-page document details the occasions that require turning the camera on or off, as well as what officers must not do with cameras or their output.

For instance, officers may not "post recordings to any social media site." They also can't stop a recording when a citizen asks, unless there's an anonymous tip involved.

Delroy Burton, chairman of the D.C. police union, said those rules - written with the union's input - were working out so far, as were the cameras. "The report that I'm getting from my members on the street that are actually operating the cameras is they are not having a lot of problems with them."

They have had problems elsewhere. Albuquerque Officer Jeremy Dear did not have his camera on when he fatally shot Mary Hawkes in April; after a review, the department fired him for insubordination.

2. What are the recordings used for?

So you put these cameras into the field and now have all this video piling up. What will you do with it?

Jeramie Scott, national-security counsel with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, allowed for one use: "only for police accountability." In other words, only to confirm what the officer witnessed to make an arrest - - not for retroactive searching for offenses he or she missed at the time.

The temptation will be to find other uses for this data. Scott warned against combining facial-recognition technology with body-camera footage - something Chicago has been doing with footage from its surveillance cameras.

The EFF's Fakhoury had other questions to ask. Can you match the footage with other databases? Share it with other police departments? What about outside agencies?

The single stickiest aspect involves not other cops looking at body-cam video, but you or me. Public-records laws in states are not clear on this front, the ACLU's Stanley warned.

"In some states" - he cited Washington and Minnesota - "it seems pretty clear that it would cover all video."

And while police departments know how to redact private data from papers released under public-records laws, Burton said (correctly) that doing the same with video is not as quick or easy.

3. How long are they kept?

Privacy experts I consulted agreed that police departments should not act like the National Security Agency or, say, tech startups too young to hire chief privacy officers: They should throw away data at their earliest convenience.

The MPD's guidelines call for deleting body-cam videos after 90 days unless they've been flagged as relevant to an investigation, which roughly matches the ACLU's recommendations that retention periods "be measured in weeks, not years."

The budgets and technical capacities of many police departments would suggest a short shelf life for these recordings. But as a Washington Post story noted, the vendors of these systems also offer cloud services - for instance, Taser's Evidence.com - to automate the work of storing all this footage.

The sight of police departments being compelled to buy this hardware, and then signing up for long-term service contracts, evokes an unpleasant precedent. After the 2000 election, old-fashioned voting machines were deemed out of style, and municipalities rushed to deploy electronic voting machines.

Many of these came with dubious security systems and from companies that have since gone out of business - but, years later, we're stuck with them.

It's complicated

As the ACLU's Stanley said, "This is a genuinely complicated issue. It implicates conflicting values that we hold dearly."

It's sufficiently complicated that the EFF and EPIC have yet to post their own policy prescriptions. They're still figuring this out. So am I.

Maybe before we mandate the massive deployment of what amounts to a surveillance technology, we should at least know how many people die as a result of police action. Today, we don't .

Meanwhile, if you spot what looks like an abuse of police power, take out your phone and record it. It's your right as a citizen, and it just might be your obligation, too. As the law-enforcement community is fond of saying: If you see something, say something.

Bank related death? Slain MassMutual executive had access to sensitive data on Bank-Owned Life Insurance policies

Melissa Millan

According to the coroner's report, it was determined that Millan's death was attributable to a stab wound to the chest with an "edged weapon." Police ruled the death a homicide, a rarity for this town where residents feel safe enough to routinely jog by themselves on the same path used by Millan.

Information has now emerged that Millan had access to highly sensitive data on bank profits resulting from the collection of life insurance proceeds from her insurance company employer on the death of bank workers - data that a Federal regulator of banks has characterized as "trade secrets."

Millan was a Senior Vice President with Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts and a member of its 39-member Senior Management team according to the company's 2013 annual report. Millan had been with the company since 2001.

According to Millan's LinkedIn profile, her work involved the "General management of BOLI" and Executive Group Life, as well as disability insurance businesses and "expansion into worksite and voluntary benefits market."

BOLI is shorthand for Bank-Owned Life Insurance, a controversial practice where banks purchase bulk life insurance on the lives of their workers. The death benefit pays to the bank instead of to the family of the deceased. According to industry publications, MassMutual is considered one of the top ten sellers of BOLI in the United States. Its annual reports in recent years have indicated that growth in this area was a significant contributor to its revenue growth.

Banks as well as other types of corporations enjoy major tax benefits through the use of this type of insurance. The cash buildup in the policies contribute to annual earnings on a tax-free basis while the death benefit is received free of Federal income tax when the employee eventually dies. Even if the worker is no longer employed at the bank, it can still collect the death benefit. Banks owning BOLI routinely conduct "death sweeps" of public records using former employees' Social Security numbers to determine if a former employee has died. It then submits a claim request for payment of the death benefit to the insurance company.

Four of Wall Street's largest banks are the largest owners of BOLI according to December 31, 2013 data from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), holding a combined total of $68.1 billion. The four banks' individual BOLI assets are as follows as of the end of last year:

Bank of America $22.7 billion

Wells Fargo 18.7 billion

JPMorgan Chase 17.9 billion

Citigroup 8.8 billion

The BOLI , however, support a far greater amount of life insurance in force on the workers' lives - potentially as much as a ten to one ratio - meaning that just these four banks could be holding $681 billion on the lives of their current and past employees.

Read the rest of the article here...

The game is rigged: Why Americans keep losing to the police state

"The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens." - Leo Tolstoy

Rigged Game

© Pinterest

My 7-year-old granddaughter has suddenly developed a keen interest in card games: Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Blackjack, and War. We've fallen into a set pattern now: every time we play, she deals the cards, and I pretend not to see her stacking the deck in her favor. And of course, I always lose.

I don't mind losing to my granddaughter at Old Maid, knowing full well the game is rigged. For now, it's fun and games, and she's winning. Where the rub comes in is in knowing that someday she'll be old enough to realize that being a citizen in the American police state is much like playing against a stacked deck: you're always going to lose.

The game is rigged, and "we the people" keep getting dealt the same losing hand. Even so, we stay in the game, against all odds, trusting that our luck will change.

The problem, of course, is that luck will not save us. The people dealing the cards - the politicians, the corporations, the judges, the prosecutors, the police, the bureaucrats, the military, the media, etc. - have only one prevailing concern, and that is to maintain their power and control over the country and us.

It really doesn't matter what you call them - the 1%, the elite, the controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex - so long as you understand that while they are dealing the cards, the deck will always be stacked in their favor.

Incredibly, no matter how many times we see this played out, Americans continue to naively buy into the idea that it's our politics that divide us as a nation. As if there were really a difference between the Democrats and Republicans. As if the policies of George W. Bush were any different from those of Barack Obama. As if we weren't a nation of sheep being fattened for the kill by a ravenous government of wolves.

We're in trouble, folks, and changing the dealer won't save us: it's time to get out of the game

We have relinquished control of our government to overlords who care nothing for our rights, our dignity or our humanity, and now we're saddled with an authoritarian regime that is deaf to our cries, dumb to our troubles, blind to our needs, and accountable to no one.

Even revelations of wrongdoing amount to little in the way of changes for the better.

For instance, after six years of investigation, 6,000 written pages and $40 million to write a report that will not be released to the public in its entirety, the U.S. Senate has finally concluded that the CIA lied about its torture tactics, failed to acquire any life-saving intelligence, and was more brutal and extensive than previously admitted. This is no revelation. It's a costly sleight of hand intended to distract us from the fact that nothing has changed. We're still a military empire waging endless wars against shadowy enemies, all the while fattening the wallets of the defense contractors for whom war is money.

Same goes for the government's surveillance programs. More than a year after Edward Snowden's revelations dominated news headlines, the government's domestic surveillance programs are just as invasive as ever. In fact, while the nation was distracted by the hubbub over the long-awaited release of the Senate's CIA torture, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court quietly reauthorized the National Security Agency's surveillance of phone records. This was in response to the Obama administration's request to keep the program alive.

Police misconduct and brutality have been dominating the news headlines for months now, but don't expect any change for the better. In fact, with Obama's blessing, police departments continue to make themselves battle ready with weapons and gear created for the military. Police shootings of unarmed citizens continue with alarming regularity. And grand juries, little more than puppets controlled by state prosecutors, continue to legitimize the police state by absolving police of any wrongdoing.

These grand juries embody everything that's wrong with America today. In an age of secret meetings, secret surveillance, secret laws, secret tribunals and secret courts, the grand jury - which meets secretly, hears secret testimony, and is exposed to only what a prosecutor deems appropriate - has become yet another bureaucratic appendage to a government utterly lacking in transparency, accountability and adherence to the rule of law.

It's a sorry lesson in how a well-intentioned law or program can be perverted, corrupted and used to advance illegitimate purposes. The war on terror, the war on drugs, asset forfeiture schemes, road safety schemes, school zero tolerance policies, eminent domain, private prisons: all of these programs started out as legitimate responses to pressing concerns. However, once you add money and power into the mix, even the most benevolent plans can be put to malevolent purposes.

In this way, the war on terror has become a convenient ruse to justify surveillance of all Americans, to create a suspect society, to expand the military empire, and to allow the president to expand the powers of the Executive Branch to imperial heights.

Under cover of the war on drugs, the nation's police forces have been transformed into extensions of the military, with SWAT team raids carried out on unsuspecting homeowners for the slightest charge, and police officers given carte blanche authority to shoot first and ask questions later.

Asset forfeiture schemes, engineered as a way to strip organized crime syndicates of their ill-gotten wealth, have, in the hands of law enforcement agencies, become corrupt systems aimed at fleecing the citizenry while padding the pockets of the police.

Eminent domain, intended by the founders as a means to build roads and hospitals for the benefit of the general public, has become a handy loophole by which local governments can evict homeowners to make way for costly developments and shopping centers.

Private prisons, touted as an economically savvy solution to cash-strapped states with overcrowded prisons have turned into profit- and quota-driven detention centers that jail Americans guilty of little more than living off the grid, growing vegetable gardens in the front yards, or holding studies in their back yards.

Traffic safety schemes such as automated red light and speed cameras, ostensibly aimed at making the nation's roads safer, have been shown to be thinly disguised road taxes, levying hefty fines on drivers, most of whom would never have been pulled over, let alone ticketed, by an actual police officer.

School zero tolerance policies, a response to a handful of school shootings, have become exercises in folly, turning the schools into quasi-prisons, complete with armed police, metal detectors and lockdowns. The horror stories abound of 4- and 6-year-olds being handcuffed, shackled and dragged, kicking and screaming, to police headquarters for daring to act like children while at school.

As for grand juries, which were intended to serve as a check on the powers of the police and prosecutors, they have gone from being the citizen's shield against injustice to a weapon in the hands of government agents. A far cry from a people's court, today's grand jury system is so blatantly rigged in favor of the government as to be laughable. Unless, that is, you happen to be one of the growing numbers of Americans betrayed and/or victimized by their own government, in which case, you'll find nothing amusing about the way in which grand juries are used to terrorize the populace all the while covering up police misconduct.

Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book , we're long past the point of simple fixes. The system has grown too large, too corrupt, and too unaccountable. If there's to be any hope for tomorrow, it has to start at the local level, where Americans still have a chance to make their voices heard. Stop buying into the schemes of the elite, stop being distracted by their sleight-of-hands, stop being manipulated into believing that an election will change anything, and stop playing a rigged game where you'll always be the loser.

It's time to change the rules of the game. For that matter, it's time to change the game.

Pass the sick bag: Fox News analyst discussing torture report: 'The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome!'

Fox News host and authoritarian follower Andrea Tantaros

Fox News analysts, hosts and reporters on Tuesday wasted no time in blasting Democrats after Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released a report condemning the CIA's use of torture and other enhanced interrogation techniques.

Just moments after Feinstein announced on the floor of the Senate that the Intelligence Committee had made the long-delayed torture report public, Fox News National Security Analyst K.T. McFarland insisted that Democrats were going to "do harm" to the country by angering terrorists.

McFarland, who said that torture techniques were both legal and justified by the horrific terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, argued that Democrats were only releasing the report for political reasons.

"Why go after it now unless the motivation is completely political?" she remarked. "Congress is changing hands, the Senate is going from Democrat to Republican hands. And are the Democrats in the Senate just - they've been evicted from the house, are they just trashing the place before they leave?"

Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters told the hosts of Out Numbered that the American people did not need to know about torture at the CIA because "people do nasty things in the dark especially after a terrorist attack."

Watters suggested that Democrats had released the report to coincide with the testimony of economist Jonathan Gruber, who outrage conservatives when he said that health care reform was passed using the "stupidity" of the American people.

"They Senate Democrats, they're just trying to get one last shot in at Bush before they go into the minority!" the correspondent opined. "And they didn't even interview any of the CIA interrogators to do the report."

"It's kind of like how does their reporting, they only get one side," he added, referring to a controversial report about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. "You know, the Democrats didn't care about transparency when they were destroying hard drives at the IRS."

host Andrea Tantaros agreed that she didn't need transparency at the CIA either.

"The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome," she said. "But we've had this discussion. We've closed the book on it, and we've stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we're not awesome."

"They apologized for this country, they don't like this country, they want us to look bad. And all this does is have our enemies laughing at us, that we are having this debate again," Tantaros added. "Because they believe if we can just shame ourselves and convince the world how horrible we are, and put us on a moral equivalency with all these other countries then maybe they will stop beheading Americans and putting our heads on sticks. They're fools."

"Or it's what you said," co-host Harris Faulkner interrupted. "Jonathan Gruber is on the Hill today."

Watch the video below from Fox News, broadcast Dec. 9, 2014.

[embedded content]

SPLC writer slaughtered in racial hate crime murder

The SPLC and the “White Privilege” industry is totally silent about their murdered friend.

Recently we wrote about another white male slaughtered in a random racial hate crime by black males in Oakland. We reported that he was an author. What we didn’t know was that he was a militant left-winger who has written article about “white privilege” since 1997. He has even written articles for the notorious SPLC.

The SPLC publishes two free magazines. One is called Teaching Tolerance and is sent to school teachers for free. It offers advice of how to teach cultural Marxist in public schools. David Ruenzel is listed on the SPLC as an writer for Teaching Tolerance magazine.

David Ruenzel was slaughtered nine days ago and the SPLC has yet to even mention his death. The SPLC claims it is dedicated to fighting racial hatred. One of their own was just murdered in a racial hate crime and they are silent. They just published more agitation pieces about Mike Brown and the “Transgender Day of Remembrance.” Nothing about their friend Ruenzel.

Since his death is counter to their political agenda, they don’t even want their supporters to know that he died.

From American Thinker (Colin Flaherty)…

David Ruenzel knew, better than most, about the white privilege that killed him.

As a writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of this favorite topics was rooting out racism. And how white racism is permanent. White racism is everywhere. And white racism explains everything.

This mantra of the Critical Race Theory and the Southern Poverty Law Center applied to all white people because, even if they were not personally cracking the whips, or breaking the skulls, white people benefitted from a racist system that did all that — and a lot more.

Ruenzel was writing about white privilege for the Southern Poverty Law Center as far back as 1997 — long before it became the rage at college campuses, newsrooms, churches, high schools and even grade schools.

By the time of his death, Ruenzel had accumulated many of the trappings of the white privilege he exposed: The job. The home. The intact family. And most importantly in his case, white privilege endowed Ruenzel with an expectation of safety in the Oakland neighborhood where last week two black people are suspected of killing him.

U.S. Congress's insane and untrue Russophobic rantings

An apt metaphor, the U.S. government is literally being swept up, and threatens to be drowned by, its own insanity.

December 09, 2014 "ICH" - Hopefully, Russians realize that our House of Representatives often passes thunderous resolutions to pander to special interests, which have no bearing on the thinking or actions of the U.S. government.

Last week, the House passed such a resolution 411-10.

As ex-Rep. Ron Paul writes, House Resolution 758 is so "full of war propaganda that it rivals the rhetoric from the chilliest era of the Cold War."

H. R. 758 is a Russophobic rant full of falsehoods and steeped in superpower hypocrisy.

Among the 43 particulars in the House indictment is this gem:

"The Russian Federation invaded the Republic of Georgia in August 2008."

Bullhockey. On Aug. 7-8, 2008, Georgia invaded South Ossetia, a tiny province that had won its independence in the 1990s. Georgian artillery killed Russian peacekeepers, and the Georgian army poured in.

Only then did the Russian army enter South Ossetia and chase the Georgians back into their own country.

The aggressor of the Russo-Georgia war was not Vladimir Putin but President Mikheil Saakashvili, brought to power in 2004 in one of those color-coded revolutions we engineered in the Bush II decade.

H.R. 758 condemns the presence of Russian troops in Abkhazia, which also broke from Georgia in the early 1990s, and in Transnistria, which broke from Moldova. But where is the evidence that the peoples of Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia want to return to Moldova or Georgia?

We seem to support every ethnic group that secedes from Russia, but no ethnic group that secedes from a successor state.

This is rank Russophobia masquerading as democratic principle.

What do the people of Crimea, Transnistria, Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Luhansk or Donetsk want? Do we really know? Do we care?

And what have the Russians done to support secessionist movements to compare with our 78-day bombing of Serbia to rip away her cradle province of Kosovo, which had been Serbian land before we were a nation?

H.R. 758 charges Russia with an "invasion" of Crimea.

But there was no air, land or sea invasion. The Russians were already there by treaty and the reannexation of Crimea, which had belonged to Russia since Catherine the Great, was effected with no loss of life.

Compare how Putin retrieved Crimea, with the way Lincoln retrieved the seceded states of the Confederacy - a four-year war in which 620,000 Americans perished.

Russia is charged with using "trade barriers to apply economic and political pressure" and interfering in Ukraine's "internal affairs."

This is almost comical.

The U.S. has imposed trade barriers and sanctions on Russia, Belarus, Iran, Cuba, Burma, Congo, Sudan, and a host of other nations.

Economic sanctions are the first recourse of the American Empire.

And agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy and its subsidiaries, our NGOs and Cold War radios, RFE and Radio Liberty, exist to interfere in the internal affairs of countries whose regimes we dislike, with the end goal of "regime change."

Was that not the State Department's Victoria Nuland, along with John McCain, prancing around Kiev, urging insurgents to overthrow the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych?

Was Nuland not caught boasting about how the U.S. had invested $5 billion in the political reorientation of Ukraine, and identifying whom we wanted as prime minister when Yanukovych was overthrown?

H.R. 578 charges Russia with backing Syria's Assad regime and providing it with weapons to use against "the Syrian people."

But Assad's principal enemies are the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate, and ISIS. They are not only his enemies, and Russia's enemies, but our enemies. And we ourselves have become de facto allies of Assad with our air strikes against ISIS in Syria.

And what is Russia doing for its ally in Damascus, by arming it to resist ISIS secessionists, that we are not doing for our ally in Baghdad, also under attack by the Islamic State?

Have we not supported Kurdistan in its drive for autonomy? Have U.S. leaders not talked of a Kurdistan independent of Iraq?

H.R. 758 calls the President of Russia an "authoritarian" ruler of a corrupt regime that came to power through election fraud and rules by way of repression.

Is this fair, just or wise? After all, Putin has twice the approval rating in Russia as President Obama does here, not to mention the approval rating our Congress.

Damning Russian "aggression," the House demands that Russia get out of Crimea, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria, calls on Obama to end all military cooperation with Russia, impose "visa bans, targeted asset freezes, sectoral sanctions," and send "lethal ... defense articles" to Ukraine.

This is the sort of ultimatum that led to Pearl Harbor.

Why would a moral nation arm Ukraine to fight a longer and larger war with Russia that Kiev could not win, but that could end up costing the lives of ten of thousands more Ukrainians?

Those who produced this provocative resolution do not belong in charge of U.S. foreign policy, nor of America's nuclear arsenal.

Ten frightening facts you should know about the American Police State


Here are ten frightening facts about the police state that you need to know about:

  1. More than 500 American citizens have died after being tased, a device considered "non-lethal."

  2. The yearly cost of the War on Drugs to the American taxpayer is about $40 billion. The estimated cost to end hunger worldwide is $30 billion yearly.

  3. There are more than 80,000 military raids conducted by police every year in the United States.

  4. There are roughly 2.3 million people locked up in the United States with another 5 million on probation or parole. The overwhelming majority are for non-violent crimes.

  5. UNICOR, an establishment inside the US Federal Prison System, uses its confined pool of labor to produce war goods for the US military.

  6. In 36% of US SWAT raids, no contraband of any kind is found after the officers risk everyone's life and engage in reckless actions that cost lives.

  7. An average London resident is recorded over 300 times a day by Big Brother's video surveillance apparatus.

  8. The only nation to maintain a higher incarceration rate than the United States is Germany... under the Nazis.

  9. 97% of reported police brutality victims are people of color.

  10. Every 98 minutes, a cop kills a family pet. There have been no recorded officer deaths from a dog in last decade.

Comment: This is just the tip of the iceberg. It seems like every day we read about another case where a civilian is killed by a cop. Those situations inevitably end up with the cop getting away with murdering someone. All it takes is walking down the road, and apparently police have the right to shoot you. Make no mistake about it, America has become a police state.

Oligarchic, corporate elites have created a society of captives

© AP/John Minchillo

Protesters conduct a “die-in” Dec. 6 at Grand Central Station in New York City as police watch. The demonstration opposed a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's plans to launch a pilot program in New York City to place body cameras on police officers and conduct training seminars to help them reduce their adrenaline rushes and abusive language, along with the establishment of a less stringent marijuana policy, are merely cosmetic reforms. The killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island was, after all, captured on video. These proposed reforms, like those out of Washington, D.C., fail to address the underlying cause of poverty, state-sponsored murder and the obscene explosion of mass incarceration - the rise of the corporate state and the death of our democracy. Mass acts of civil disobedience, now being carried out across the country, are the mechanism left that offers hope for systematic legal and judicial reform. We must defy the corporate state, not work with it.

The legal system no longer functions to protect ordinary Americans. It serves our oligarchic, corporate elites. These elites have committed $26 billion in financial fraud. They loot the U.S. Treasury, escape taxation, drive down wages, break unions, pillage pension funds, gut regulation and oversight, destroy public institutions including public schools and social assistance programs, wage endless and illegal wars to swell the profits of arms merchants, and - yes - authorize police to murder unarmed black men.

Police and national intelligence and security agencies, which carry out wholesale surveillance against the population and serve as the corporate elite's brutal enforcers, are omnipotent by intention. They are designed to impart fear, even terror, to keep the population under control. And until the courts and the legislative bodies give us back our rights - which they have no intention of doing - things will only get worse for the poor and the rest of us. We live in a post-constitutional era.

Corporations have captured every major institution, including the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government, and deformed them to exclusively serve the demands of the market. They have, in the process, demolished civil society. Karl Polanyi in "The Great Transformation" warned that without heavy government regulation and oversight, unfettered and unregulated capitalism degenerates into a Mafia capitalism and a Mafia political system. A self-regulating market, Polanyi writes, turns human beings and the natural environment into commodities. This ensures the destruction of both society and the natural environment. The ecosystem and human beings become objects whose worth is determined solely by the market. They are exploited until exhaustion or collapse occurs. A society that no longer recognizes that the natural world and life have a sacred dimension, an intrinsic value beyond monetary value, commits collective suicide. Such societies cannibalize themselves. This is what we are undergoing. Literally.

As in every totalitarian state, the first victims are the vulnerable, and in the United States this means poor people of color. In the name of the "war on drugs" or the necessity of enforcing immigration laws, those trapped in our urban internal colonies are effectively stripped of their rights. Police, who arrest some 13 million people a year - 1.6 million of them on drug charges and half of those on marijuana counts - were empowered by the "war on drugs" to carry out random searches and sweeps with no probable cause. They take DNA samples from many whom they arrest to build a nationwide database that includes both the guilty and the innocent. And they charge each of the sampled arrestees $50 for DNA processing. They confiscate cash, cars, homes and other possessions based on allegations of illegal drug activity and use the proceeds to swell police budgets. They impose fines in poor neighborhoods for absurd offenses - riding a bicycle on a sidewalk or not having an ID - to fleece the poor or, if they cannot pay, toss them into jail. And before deporting undocumented workers the state levels fines, often in the thousands of dollars, on those being held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in order to empty their pockets before they are shipped out. Prisoners locked in cages often spend decades attempting to pay off thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands, in court fines from the paltry $28 a month they earn in prison jobs; the government, to make sure it gets its money, automatically deducts a percentage each month from their prison paychecks. It is a vast extortion racket run against the poor by the corporate state, which also makes sure that the interest rates of mortgages, car loans, student loans and credit card loans are set at predatory levels.

Since 1980 the United States has constructed the world's largest prison system, populated with 2.3 million inmates, 25 percent of the world's prison population. Police, to keep the system filled with bodies, have had most legal constraints on their behavior removed. They serve as judge and jury on the streets of American cities. Such expansion of police powers is "a long step down the totalitarian path," U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas warned in 1968. The police, who are often little more than predatory, armed gangs in inner-city neighborhoods, arbitrarily decide who lives, who dies and who spends years in prison. They rarely fight crime or protect the citizen. They round up human beings like cattle to meet arrest quotas, the prerequisite for receiving federal cash in the "drug war." Because many crimes carry long mandatory sentences it is easy to intimidate defendants into "pleading out" on lesser offenses. The arrested are acutely aware they have no chance - 97 percent of all federal cases and 94 percent of all state cases are resolved by guilty pleas rather than trials. An editorial in The said that the pressure employed by state and federal prosecutors to make defendants accept guilty pleas - an action that often includes waiving the right to appeal to a higher court - is "closer to coercion" than to bargaining. There are always police informants who, to reduce their own sentences, will tell a court anything demanded of them by the police. And, as we saw after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and after the killing of Garner, the word of police officers and prosecutors, whose loyalty is to the police, is law.

A Department of Defense program known as 1033, which was begun in the 1990s and which the National Defense Authorization Act allowed along with federal homeland security grants to the states, has provided $4.3 billion in military equipment to local police forces, either free or on permanent loan, the website ProPublica reported. The militarization of the police, which includes outfitting departments with heavy machine guns, ammunition magazines, night vision equipment, aircraft and armored vehicles, has effectively turned urban police, and increasingly rural police as well, into quasi-military forces of occupation. "Police conduct up to 80,000 SWAT raids a year in the US, up from 3,000 a year in the early '80s," reporter Hanqing Chen wrote in ProPublica. The American Civil Liberties Union, in Chen's words, found that "almost 80 percent of SWAT team raids are linked to search warrants to investigate potential criminal suspects, not for high-stakes 'hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.' He went on to say, "The ACLU also noted that SWAT tactics are used disproportionately against people of color."

The bodies of the incarcerated poor fuel our system of neo-slavery. In prisons across the country, including the one in which I teach, private corporations profit from captive prison labor. The incarcerated work eight-hour days for as little as a dollar a day. Phone companies, food companies, private prisons and a host of other corporations feed like jackals off those we hold behind bars. And the lack of employment and the collapse of education and vocational training in communities across the United States are part of the design. This design - with its built-in allure from the illegal economy, the only way for many of the poor to make a living - ensures rates of recidivism of over 60 percent. There are millions of poor people for whom this country is little more than a vast penal colony.

Lawyer Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," identifies what she calls a criminal "caste system." This caste system controls the lives of not only the 2.3 million people who are incarcerated but also the 4.8 million people on probation or parole. Millions more people are forced into "permanent second-class citizenship" by their criminal records, which make employment, higher education and public assistance difficult or impossible, Alexander says.

Totalitarian systems accrue to themselves omnipotent power by first targeting and demonizing a defenseless minority. Poor African-Americans, like Muslims, have been stigmatized by elites and the mass media. The state, promising to combat the "lawlessness" of the demonized minority, demands that authorities be emancipated from the constraints of the law. Arguments like this one were used to justify the "war on drugs" and the "war on terror." But once any segment of the population is stripped of equality before the law, as poor people of color and Muslims have been, once police are permitted under the law to become omnipotent, brutal and systematically oppressive tactics are invariably employed against the wider society. The corporate state has no intention of carrying out legal reforms to curb the omnipotence of its organs of internal security. They were made omnipotent on purpose.

Matt Taibbi in his book, "The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap," brilliantly illustrates how poverty, in essence, has become a crime. He spent time in courts where wealthy people who had committed documented fraud amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars never had to stand trial and in city courts where the poor were called to answer for crimes that, until I read his book, I did not know existed. Standing in front of your home, he shows in one case, can be an arrestable offense.

"That's what nobody gets, that the two approaches to justice may individually make a kind of sense, but side by side they're a dystopia, where common city courts become factories for turning poor people into prisoners, while federal prosecutors on the white-collar beat turn into overpriced garbage men, who behind closed doors quietly dispose of the sins of the rich for a fee," Taibbi writes. "And it's evolved this way over time and for a thousand reasons, so that almost nobody is aware of the whole picture, the two worlds so separate that they're barely visible to each other. The usual political descriptors like 'unfairness' and 'injustice' don't really apply. It's more like a breakdown into madness."

Hannah Arendt warned that once any segment of the population is denied rights, the rule of law is destroyed. When laws do not apply equally to all they are treated as "rights and privileges." When the state is faced with growing instability or unrest, these "privileges" are revoked. Elites who feel increasingly threatened by the wider population do not "resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them with an omnipotent police," Arendt writes.

This is what is taking place now. The corporate state and its organs of internal security are illegitimate. We are a society of captives.

Outbreak of whooping cough at Massachusetts high school affected only those who were vaccinated

Unvaccinated children are supposedly the cause, according to state health officials, of a recent whooping cough outbreak that occurred in the posh Cape Cod area of Massachusetts. But as reported by CBS Boston, all of the children affected by the outbreak were already vaccinated, proving once again that vaccines don't really work.

Some 15 children at Falmouth High School reportedly came down with the respiratory illness, which also goes by the name pertussis, sparking a wave of panic about a corresponding increase in vaccine exemptions. But as usual, nobody affected by the outbreak was unvaccinated, and no matter how hard the media tries to spin the issue, those who were vaccinated were not protected.

Mainstream media clouds issue of vaccinations and exemptions

Reporting for CBS Boston, I-Team correspondent Lauren Leamanczyk towed the pro-vaccine line with accusations that vaccine exemptions triggered the outbreak. Undisclosed data she apparently found reveals that vaccine exemptions have increased fourfold over the past 25 years, which public health officials say increases the risk of an outbreak.

This supposed correlation proves nothing, of course, as correlation does not imply causation. But when vaccines are involved, any deviation from the standard vaccine protocol, which is basically to take whatever the government says is good for you, becomes the automatic scapegoat when an outbreak occurs.

In her story, Leamanczyk quotes the words of Dr. Sharon Daly, Chief of Pediatrics at Cape Cod Hospital, who declares that outbreaks increase when vaccination rates decrease. The implication, naturally, is that the Falmouth outbreak was triggered by unvaccinated children.

But a few paragraphs later, Leamanczyk fesses up to the fact that all of the affected children who developed whooping cough had previously been vaccinated for it. Based on this fact alone, it is clear that whooping cough vaccines don't work, as every child who had been vaccinated should have been protected.

Even if some of the unvaccinated children at the school acted as "carriers" for the disease, a claim often made by pro-vaccine zealots, this only further reinforces that whooping cough vaccines are a failure. If unvaccinated children don't contract whooping cough while vaccinated children do, then there is no rational basis for continuing the vaccine program.

Massachusetts doesn't allow for philosophical exemptions, as claimed by Leamanczyk

Another failure in Leamanczyk's article involves the type of exemptions supposedly responsible for the outbreak. She suggests that the rise in philosophical exemptions is the culprit, but Massachusetts doesn't even allow for philosophical exemptions: only religious and medical exemptions are permitted in the Bay State!

This might seem like a minor discrepancy, but it is the basis of Leamanczyk and the health department's argument that exemptions are the cause of the outbreak. Perhaps she meant to say medical or religious exemptions, but this major factual error calls into question the entire premise of the article, which nonsensically blames unvaccinated children for spreading disease to vaccinated children.

Vaccines either work or they don't. Period. Blaming unvaccinated individuals for spreading disease to vaccinated individuals makes no sense, and only further exposes the vaccine agenda for what it is: a complete myth.

Whooping cough vaccines making disease more virulent

If anything, vaccinated individuals are actually the ones responsible for spreading disease. In the case of whooping cough, a study out of the Netherlands found that whooping cough has mutated genetically and become more virulent as a result of whooping cough vaccines, which would explain why outbreaks are escalating.

Another study published in the journal admits that the vaccine strategy "[has] not completely eradicated strains of the bacteria," but rather led to "an increase in diversity," meaning deadlier strains that are more virulent and perhaps more contagious.

Chaos erupts during Eric Garner demonstrations in Berkeley

berkeley police

© unknown

Berkeley police

The decision to leave the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown unpunished has students and locals outraged in Berkeley, as they came together yesterday evening to protest what they view as an unjust court system.

However, chaos erupted for the second night in a row, as demonstrators squared off against police and challenged looters that are taking advantage of the unrest. So far 5 police officers have suffered minor injuries, and at least a dozen protesters have been arrested since the unrest began on Saturday night.

While it appears that most of demonstrators have been peaceful, a small minority of agitators have been using the protest as cover for looting and mayhem.

Sunday's protest began peacefully on the University of California, Berkeley campus. But as protesters marched through downtown Berkeley toward the neighboring city of Oakland, the unrest resumed as someone smashed the window of a Radio Shack. When a protester tried to stop the growing vandalism, he was hit with a hammer, Officer Jennifer Coats said.

Some of the protesters made their way to a freeway in Oakland and blocked traffic. The California Highway Patrol said some tried to light a patrol vehicle on fire and threw rocks and bottles. Police also said explosives were thrown at officers, but there was no information immediately available on how potent they were. Highway patrol officers responded with tear gas...

...police said protesters returned to Berkeley streets, throwing trash cans, scattering garbage and sparking small blazes. Police said several businesses were damaged and looted, and they were checking reports of vandalism at City Hall.

After failing to secure the freeway, many of the protesters returned to Berkeley to continue their demonstration. Once again, they were followed by looters and vandals who continued to wreck storefronts up and down the downtown area. So far there hasn't been an official count of how many businesses were damaged, but after looking through the Daily Californian twitter feed it appears that the damage has been significant.

Several banks had their windows smashed and ATM's broken into as the looters moved on to vandalize the T-mobile and Sprint buildings.

Berkeley bank

© unknown

From there they traveled through Shattuck, Ashby, and Telegraph, shattering the windows of the Food Co Op, Civic Center, Walgreens, and Berkeley Bowl, among others. By the end of the night, they had overturned and burned trash cans all over the city as bonfires were lit in the middle of the street.

berkeley riot fires

© unknown

Several of the protesters did their best to stop the mayhem from escalating.

However the protests aren't over yet. According to the Facebook event, Berkeley March for Justice there is another protest scheduled for this evening, and so far 1,100 people have agreed to show up. I hope the protesters can finally have a peaceful gathering, but if the last two days are any indication, then this demonstration may end up being even more devastating than it was last night. We'll keep readers posted on any significant developments.

Highly toxic BPA linked to high blood pressure

Taking blood pressure


New research reported in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension, points to cans and bottles lined with Bisphenol A (BPA) as a precursor to raised blood pressure - but the problem goes beyond that.

When the chemical used as an epoxy lining for cans and plastics entered the market it was deemed safe. Although there were claims that small amounts ingested from food and beverages wouldn't be harmful - low levels are indeed harmful. In fact, research shows that BPA causes 100 times the amount of damage previously claimed.

So are you extra stressed? Fatigued? Under pressure and feeling dizzy? Is it a random blood pressure problem or is the BPA?

While BPA has been associated with blood pressure rate and heart rate changes before. Korean researchers decided to put mostly female subjects to the test...

Researchers conducted a randomized crossover trial recruiting 60 adults over the age of 60 from a Korean community center. Each trial member visited the study site three times and was randomly provided with soy milk in either glass bottles or cans. Soy milk was chosen because, according to them, there are no know components in it to raise blood pressure.

Later, urine was collected and tested for BPA concentration, blood pressure and heart rate variability two hours after consumption of each beverage. Urinary BPA concentration increased by up to 1,600 percent after consuming canned beverages compared to after consuming the glass-bottled beverages.

Study author Yun-Chul Hong, M.D., Ph.D said:

A 5 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure by drinking two canned beverages may cause clinically significant problems, particularly in patients with heart disease or hypertension. A 20 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Thanks to the crossover intervention trial design, we could control most of the potential confounders, such as population characteristics or past medical history. Time variables, such as daily temperatures, however, could still affect the results.

The researchers wish for decision-makers, doctors and the public to be aware of the heart risks associated with BPA exposure.

Hong adds:

I suggest consumers try to eat fresh foods or glass bottle-contained foods rather than canned foods and hopefully, manufacturers will develop and use healthy alternatives to BPA for the inner lining of can containers.

BPA is not considered an ingredient, even though it is certainly ingested because it's well established that it leaches into food and drink - especially through toxic food packaging. Other sources are ATM-like receipt paper and resins used in dental procedures.

It has been linked to obesity, infertility and reproductive disorders in both genders, breast cancer, behavioral problems, low sperm counts and more. Last year, its damaging effects on neuro-development were scrutinized and it was shown to cause brain impairment. Two years ago, a Harvard study found a whopping 1200% spike in BPA levels in the urine of people who had recently eaten canned soup.

So of course the EPA would drop the substance from their list of concerns on the heels of those findings...

Do you ever think industry researchers applaud things as safe - to get it approved - just so they have something to study for the next 30 years? Only to come back and say - "Oh, oops, turns out - it's not safe at all, but more research is needed..."

Here are 7 ways to drain substances like BPA out of the body.

Kentucky congressman exposes Obamacare architect as an economic eugenicist

Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky laid into Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber at today's OGR Hearing in Congress, exposing him fully as an economic eugenicist.

Massie referred to Gruber's economic paper on how giving free abortions to the poor would reduce the population burden for the better people, and how he endorses rationing end-of-life care for the poor for the same reason.

He even got Gruber to agree that he was "condescending" to the American people, that he lied to the public for their own good like they were children. Incredible exchange.

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2011 Film: One Family in Gaza

© Jen Marlowe

One Family in Gaza

Just months after the 2008/9 Israeli assault that killed 1,390 Palestinians, filmmaker Jen Marlowe visited Gaza. Among dozens of painful stories she heard, one family stood out. She spent several days with Kamal and Wafaa Awajah, playing with their children, sleeping in the tent they were living in, and filming their story.

Wafaa described the execution of their son, Ibrahim. As she spoke, her children played on the rubble of their destroyed home. Kamal talked about struggling to help his kids heal from trauma.

Palestinians in Gaza are depicted either as violent terrorists or as helpless victims. The Awajah family challenges both portrayals. Through one family's story, the larger tragedy of Gaza is exposed, and the courage and resilience of its people shines through.

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2014 Update: One Family in Gaza

In Jen Marlowe's 2011 film "One Family in Gaza," the Awajah family recounts the story of their home being destroyed and their nine-year old son killed. Since then, the family has lived through two more wars in Gaza. This video is a 5-minute update on the continued trauma endured by the Awajah family, like so many other families in Gaza.

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10 things you didn't know about spiders

© Wikimedia Commons

Just saying the word "spider" can elicit responses of fear or awe from people, but regardless of which side you fall on, there's a good chance that there is quite a bit you don't know about eight-legged arachnids. That's because, simply put, spiders are amazing creatures. There are 40,000 different species of spiders living on every continent except Antarctica, and nearly every one of those species is poisonous. Spiders can range in size from tiny to nearly the size of a small puppy. Here are some other amazing facts about these curious creatures.

Black Widow Spider

1. There are about 40,000 types of spiders in the world, but scientists estimate that just as many remain to be discovered.

2. 50% of women and 16% of men suffer from arachnophobia, an irrational fear of spiders.

3. Most spiders have 6-8 eyes.

4. Strongest known natural fiber. Spider silk is made of protein. Its tensile strength - the greatest stress a material will tolerate before breaking - is greater than bone and half the strength of steel.

5. The bites of the Brazilian Wandering spider can cause long and painful erections in human males, along with other symptoms.

© reddit

Giant Huntsman Spider

6. The Black Widow is the most venomous spider in North America.

7. Spider guts are too narrow to take solids, so they liquidize their food by flooding it with digestive enzymes and grinding it up with short appendages.

8. Fossilized spiders have been found in carboniferous rocks dating back 318 million years.

9. Longest spider: Giant Huntsman's leg span can measure up to 12 inches (30 cm).

© managementscience100

Goliath Birdeater Spider

10. Largest spider: Goliath Birdeater can weigh more than 6 oz. (170 grams) - about as much as a young puppy.

Biochemist captures images of liquid, crystallized DNA

liquid crystal DNA

© bibliotecapleyades

Liquid crystal DNA

These fascinating images, that on first inspection look like a Grateful Dead gatefold, are actually liquid DNA molecules crystallizing. They were captured by the artist and biochemist Linden Gledhill for a new project called MSSNG.

MSSNG is an ambitious program launched by the advocacy organization Autism Speaks. As scientists sequence the DNA of 10,000 families affected by autism, all the data collected will be made available as open source to other researchers around the world in an attempt to fill in the missing pieces surrounding the condition.

In his studio, Gledhill uses a research microscope that can magnify up to 1000 times. The beautiful colors are the result of using polarizing light which is then twisted by the DNA crystals, causing an interference in the light spectrums. The patterns you see are the visual result of that interference, captured by a camera set up on an extra port on the microscope.

As water evaporates from the edges of DNA samples placed between two glass slides, the structure gradually crystallizes. The dark areas are where there is liquid and no structure but as the molecules become better aligned we see these vivid colors. These timelapse films capture this stunning process.

The common visual understanding of DNA is the double helix. But that is actually an atomic model. If you had a microscope that could magnify 1000 times, you'd also know that what you are seeing is not the atomic level but the much larger molecular structure as it aligns.

"It's actually very cool because few people have really seen images like these before our research groups," explains Gledhill. "When people see them they ask me, 'What is that?' They have no idea and are quite surprised it's DNA."

The colors and patterns in these photos look like they must be computer generated, but the only photoshopping Gledhill has done for project has been stitching multiple images together to form big panoramas for individual posters. These posters will be sold to raise money for the MSSNG campaign.

Over the course of a month, Gledhill took over 15,000 images in whatever spare time he could find. He said that often this kind of hardcore science, something as technical as crystallizing DNA, gets buried in academia, never seeing the light of day. Creating these powerful images is his way of opening up this process, to get more people talking about autism and collaborating on finding the missing answers.

To see more of these striking images and donate visit mss.ng.

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Ukrainian SBU general: No Russian agents or officers detained in Ukraine

The only Russians capture by Kiev's SBU.

Lies always come out (but sometimes when no one is listening.)

I remember in the spring and summer the population of Ukraine was threatened with seemingly hundreds of FSB detainees. Dozens of officers of GRU. Turned out that the number of those and the others detained is ZERO (BIG ROUND ZERO):

Kiev, December 8 ( , Victoria Litovchenko):

The head of the main investigation department of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasily Vovk announced that there are no FSB generals or officers of the GRU detained by SBU. He said this during a broadcast of "Freedom of Speech". According to him, there are more than 200 people detained associated with Donetsk and Lugansk Republics. "There is no difference in relation to a particular person depending on his nationality," - he said, answering to a question whether there are representatives of other States, or only citizens of Ukraine.

Noodles are needed only during lunch. Now no one wants these noodles, and the Ukrainian people entirely missed the truth about the 'spies' (and I'm angry, I will remind Gebbels junta about their lies). And the truth is simple - THERE WERE NO RUSSIAN AGENTS AND OFFICERS. This is what was announced by the head of the main investigation department of the Security Service of Ukraine, Vasily Vovk.

P.S. Judging by the responses, there are no Russian citizens there either. But he was just too shy to say that (already it looks pretty bad. Let this one intrigue remain).

P.P.S. What will Maidanites come up with to cover the words of the SBU General? Agree that they lied?

Thanks to biotech-government ties: 81% of GMO crops approved without adequate safety studies

What's a recipe for environmental mayhem and the destruction of human health? The approval of genetically modified organisms by governments worldwide without any scientific safety studies. A new study published by the risk-assessment journal states that of the GM crops approved for planting and marketing globally, 81% were not studied for possible health and environmental safety risks.

Nevertheless, the biotech industry keeps touting GMO 'benefits' like a narcissistic madman on steroids. This chest beating continues - despite a complete lack of published, peer-reviewed research supporting the safety of genetically modified organisms.

The researchers of the risk-assessment study looked at GM crops engineered either for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) or engineered to produce pesticides in their tissues due to the expression of cry1Ab or cry3Bb1 genes. Of all the bioengineering tricks up Monsanto and Syngenta's sleeves, these are the most commonly used in commercial GM crops.

A whopping 47 GM crop varieties meet these conditions and have been given approval by agencies like the USDA, the FDA, and other regulatory bodies around the world.

When the researchers did a search for peer-reviewed studies on these crops prior to their approval so that they could tell if the agencies were relying on published vs. secret, industry-led studies, their findings were indeed telling.

The approval of these crops was based entirely on industry-biased data.

Only 18 peer-reviewed studies could be found which assessed the safety of any of the 47 GM crops that have been given a rubber stamp, and only 9 of the 47 crop varieties were studied. This means that the remaining 38 GMO varieties were approved with zero credible scientific evidence of their safety.

This is an incontrovertible piece of evidence that Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer, Cargill, the Grocery Manufacturer's Association, and others have completely swayed government opinion about GMO safety based on manufactured to appease 'experts.' Experts who are supposed to assess the possible toxicity of any food or beverage we consume. This means that GMOs got the green light without safety assessments by independent scientists. No government-appointed shills should be making decisions about our food supply with such little risk assessment conducted.

The new study does suffer from one major limitation, however, since it looked only for published studies involving feeding rats the GM crop in question and then monitoring them for health effects. There are obviously other ways to conduct safety tests, but these were not conducted either.

Furthermore, these companies did indeed test their own crops and hid the results from regulators, even when they knew their toxic GMO products could cause serious health risks. The biotech industry has called these tests a 'commercial secret' even when they knowingly promote GMOs while they causes harm.

The pesticides and herbicides marketed to go hand-in-hand with GM crop sales are subject to the same 'scrutiny' as GMO crops themselves. A 2014 study in the journal found that the pesticide-approval process has been very similar.

Risk assessment is compromised when relatively few studies are used to determine impacts, particularly if most of the data used in an assessment are produced by a pesticide's manufacturer, which constitutes a conflict of interest. Although manufacturers who directly profit from chemical sales should continue to bear the costs of testing, this can be accomplished without [conflicts of interest] by an independent party with no potential for financial gain from the outcome and with no direct ties to the manufacturer."

Syria hopelessly demands UN sanctions against Israel over 'heinous' Damascus airstrikes

© Reuters / Amir Cohen

Syrian officials demanded the UN impose sanctions on Israel after Tel Aviv conducted airstrikes near Damascus Airport. They say the attack was a heinous crime against their sovereignty by a country which doesn't hide its policy of supporting terrorism.

Tel Aviv committed a heinous crime against Syria's sovereignty, said Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry in two identical letters to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and to the Chair of the UN Security Council, SANA news agency reported.

The attack aimed to support armed terrorist groups in Syria, especially after Damascus made some progress in the cities of Deir Ezzor, Aleppo and Daraa, say Syrian officials.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry called for UN officials to impose sanctions on Israel, whose authorities "don't hide their policies in supporting terrorism." Damascus also urged UN to take all necessary procedures to prevent Israel from repeating such attacks in accord with UN Charter.

The letter asserts that Israel is trying to divert the world's attention from the collapse of its own coalition government, which continues "its occupation of the Arab territories and violates the international legitimacy."

Despite the Israeli attacks, Damascus will not stop its efforts to combat terrorism in all its forms, types and tools and on Syrian soil, added the letter.

© Wikipedia

Damascus International Airport

On Sunday, Syrian state TV reported that Israeli army hit targets near Damascus Airport and in the town of Dimas near the Lebanese border.

"The Israeli enemy committed aggression against Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, in all of Dimas and near the Damascus International Airport," the report said, adding that there were no casualties.

BREAKING: Syrian state TV: Israeli jets bomb near Damascus airport http://t.co/Ad3Ho5GOOU http://ift.tt/1qdv5jY

- Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) December 7, 2014

On Monday sources from Syrian opposition told Arab media that Israeli warplanes destroyed a storage facility with drones and anti-aircraft missiles belonging to Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon.

These weapons, considered to be "capable of tilting the strategic balance," especially threaten Israel's ability to act freely in airspace of Lebanon, says a report published in pro-Hezbollah newspaper.

"@yurybarmin: #Syria-n TV reports #Israel-i air strikes on 2 safe areas near the Damascus airport. No casualties http://ift.tt/1zhjvpJ"

- شهــــرزاد (@Shahr2ad) December 7, 2014

Israeli authorities have neither denied nor confirmed the attack.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz only told an Israel Radio interview Monday, that Tel Aviv had a "firm policy of preventing all possible transfers of sophisticated weapons to terrorist organizations,"apparently referring to Hezbollah.

Photos of #Israel-i jet strikes against Dimas close to Damascus airport today. #Syria via@ReportSevenhttp://ift.tt/1wi3NeY

- Elijah J. Magnier (@EjmAlrai) December 7, 2014

The UN hasn't yet commented on Israeli airstrikes in Syria either, saying there is no "first-hand"information.

"We don't have first-hand information to confirm. We will try to find more details, but now we have no comments," Deputy Spokesman for UN Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, told TASS.

Related articles:

SOTT EXCLUSIVE: Match made in Sheol: Israel working with terrorists in Syria (says UN), Mossad training ISIS (says Putin aide)

Israel bombs Syria's infrastructure again and further assists ISIS

U.S. stooge NATO leading fascist charge towards attack on Russia

Times of London

Online (where the critical, analytical, readers increasingly are), it received even less, because that newspaper isn't online, except for its subscribers - people who are willing to pay for such poor journalism as the i.e, pay to read corporations' PR presented in the form of 'news reports.'

The lengthiest excerpt from the article that's online is at NATO's own site, the PR delivered straight from the horses' mouth, which posting there is certainly validation that the article represents NATO's position accurately, even if it does so in 'appropriately' vague terms. (Of course, that's not "appropriate" for readers, but for NATO, which is the weapons-manufacturers' trade-organization, that's being served in this 'news' story.)

It reports that "a military base in eastern Europe" will be "placing supplies - weapons, ammunition and ration packs - at the headquarters" [what 'headquarters'? It's the first usage of this term there, and yet doesn't say] to enable a sudden influx of thousands of Nato troops to be ready for action in the event of a crisis." Furthermore, "the leading contender [for the 'headquarters,' though the vaguely written article doesn't explicitly say so] is Multinational Corps Northeast, in Szczecin, Poland. ... It would be a 24/7 fully functioning headquarters that forces [what 'forces,' whose 'forces'?] could quickly fall in on to respond rapidly when needed."

This is a vague way of saying that the prepositioned weapons there would be for "forces" who are rushing in to grab their weapons and invade Russia at a moment's notice. The vague assumption embodied here is that this would be a defensive invasion against an offensive Russia. The news-report is written for people who have that assumption about NATO's being 'defensive', and who do not worry that they might have been fooled into believing it, but the report builds upon that unquestioning assumption on the reader's part. By this implicit instead of explicit means, the article is saying that to call NATO a purely 'defensive' organization isn't a lie - which it actually is - but is instead a perfectly reasonable assumption for intelligent people to hold (despite all historical evidence to the contrary); and that, consequently the idea of NATO's increasingly surrounding Russia with its missiles is purely a 'defensive' measure, nothing for Russians to find terrifying.

"The shift in posture is being proposed by General Philip Breedlove, Nato's top commander in Europe."

In other words, to decode this corporate PR yet further, the American General, Breedlove, who is the organization's top commander regarding a war against Russia, has proposed this forward quick-strike (or, as Hitler called it "blitzkrieg") base, and all of the weapons-manufacturing and sales that would be servicing the base, which the article says would be for "pre-positioned supplies, pre-positioned capabilities and a basing area ready to rapidly accept follow-on forces," to invade Russia (since, after all, that would require the biggest-possible military sales, which is what NATO is for).

In order to provide the article's readers with 'authoritative' support for its unmentioned and unquestioned assumption that NATO isn't aggressive, the article quotes an unnamed "Nato official" as asserting: "The Russians have decided that they are willing to use force to achieve their aims . . . and that breaks with 25 years of building a security structure in Europe built around certain fundamentals." That unquestioned assertion is, in turn, based upon a gross falsification of the history of what has happened in Ukraine this year, including of the populist-backed return of Crimea to Russia, because Russia had donated Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 and the residents there had not been consulted about the matter and still consider themselves to be Russians, and now are officially Russians, which they overwhelmingly want to be .

So, NATO is surrounding Russia with hostile forces (largely on the basis of lies about 'Russia's aggression against Crimea'), which are dedicated to hostility toward Russia, and yet it's presumed (certainly by the gullible readership of the and of Rupert Murdoch's other rags) to be defensive, not offensive in nature, against Russia.

When Russia's predecessor, the Soviet Union, similarly prepared to position nuclear missiles near America, in Cuba, in 1962, U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was willing to lead America to nuclear war against the Soviet Union if they went ahead with their plan. So, why is Russia's leader Vladimir Putin waiting this long to do the same, even after his nation is already surrounded with NATO's hostile weapons (like the U.S. never was by the Soviet Unions weapons), even decades after the Soviet Union and its communist ideology have ended and there is no longer any justification for NATO's existence other than as Western arms-makers' marketing organization?

Isn't it time, then, for Russia's President Putin to demand 'the West' (actually NATO, the trade-organization of U.S. and European military suppliers) to stop doing this horrendous thing, and NATO itself either to disband or to admit Russia into its membership so that the new NATO won't threaten WW III - nuclear war?

How long will Putin wait, because NATO is already now a hot threat against not only Russia but the entire world; there will be only losers in a nuclear war; and those losers will be not only all humans, but all animals of all sorts, and all of posterity, all in order to sell these tons of weapons today.

Terminating NATO, or else admitting Russia into it, is essential for the future of the world, and so Putin should demand it now, just as JFK demanded an end to missiles-in-Cuba in 1962.

The future of the world should not be subordinated to the wills of the chief stockholders in companies such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

That news-report in the was published on July 24th, and yet only on December 5th was its meaning introduced online (which is where the critical audience increasingly is). Professor Michel Chossudovsky headlined "America is on a 'Hot War Footing': House Legislation Paves the Way for War with Russia?" and he placed the article into its broader context to show that, yes, indeed, NATO is gearing up for an invasion of Russia. The marketing plan is a great success.

Why, then, was that article so obtusely written and so boringly headlined? Once the new forward-strike headquarters is up and running just a stone's throw away from Russia, there is bound to be public discussion of what's happening and why. But, by then it will already be too late. More than four months have already passed and the world still hasn't noticed what's happening; so, NATO can say, "But, we announced it on July 24th." No, they didn't. The news was buried, just like NATO wants to bury Russia.

Anyone who does not think that the U.S. is leading the global fascist charge now, just as Germany was doing in the 1940s, doesn't understand what is happening, nor why.

It's happening.

'A universe beneath our feet': Life in Beijing's underground

© Sim Chi Yin/VII

Twenty-one-year-old Liu Jing sits in her apartment two stories underground in Beijing, China. Her laundry hangs above her head because there's nowhere else to put her clothes.

In Beijing, even the tiniest apartment can cost a fortune - after all, with more than 21 million residents, space is limited and demand is high.

But it is possible to find more affordable housing. You'll just have to join an estimated 1 million of the city's residents and look underground.

Below the city's bustling streets, bomb shelters and storage basements are turned into illegal - but affordable - apartments.

Claustrophobic Living Quarters

Annette Kim, a professor at the University of Southern California who researches urbanization, spent last year in China's capital city studying the underground housing market.

"Part of why there's so much underground space is because it's the official building code to continue to build bomb shelters and basements," Kim says. "That's a lot of new, underground space that's increasing in supply all the time. They're everywhere."

She says apartments go one to three stories below ground. Residents have communal bathrooms and shared kitchens. The tiny, windowless rooms have just enough space to fit a bed.

"It's tight," Kim says. "But I also lived in Beijing for a year, and the city, in general, is tight."

With an average rent of $70 per month, she says, this is an affordable option for city-dwellers.

But living underground is illegal, Kim says, since housing laws changed in 2010.

And, in addition, there's a stigma to living in basements and bomb shelters, as Kim found when she interviewed residents above ground about their neighbors directly below.

"They weren't sure who was down there," Kim says. "There is actually very little contact between above ground and below ground, and so there's this fear of security."

In reality, she says, the underground residents are mostly young migrants who moved from the countryside looking for work in Beijing.

"They're all the service people in the city," she says. "They're your waitresses, store clerks, interior designers, tech workers, who just can't afford a place in the city."

Kim says there's a range of units, from the dark and dingy to the neatly decorated.

But it's rare to get a glimpse below. Property owners can be strict about whom they let in.

© Sim Chi Yin/VII

Zhuang Qiuli and her boyfriend Feng Tao sit on the bed in their basement apartment two floors below a posh condominium. Since this photo was taken, the couple has moved above ground.

The 'Rat Tribe'

Beijing-based photographer Chi Yin Sim found a way. She has documented life under the city in a collection called China's "Rat Tribe."

"I started to try and find ways to get down there because I was fascinated by the fact that there was a universe beneath our feet," Sim says.

The first basement-dweller she met was a young woman, a pedicurist at a salon, who lived with her boyfriend.

"I was just like, 'Can I come and visit?' And she was like, 'Sure, come and visit us,' " Sim says.

The couple lived two floors below a posh Beijing apartment complex.

Sim's photos show just how tiny these units really are. The couple sits on their bed, surrounded by clothes, boxes and a giant teddy bear. There's hardly any room to move around.

"The air is not so good, ventilation is not so good," Sim says. "And the main complaint that people have is not that they can't see the sun: It's that it's very humid in the summer. So everything that they put out in their rooms gets a bit moldy, because it's just very damp and dank underground."

Sim says residents adapt to the close quarters.

"At dinnertime you can hear people cooking, you can hear people chit-chatting in the next room, you can hear people watching television," she says. "It's really not so bad. I mean, you're spending almost all your day at work anyway. And you're coming back, and all you need is a clean and safe place to sleep in."

© Sim Chi Yin/VII

Xie Jinghui sometimes does some weightlifting in his basement room. Photographer Sim Chi Yin says people adapt to these close quarters.

Of course, it's not ideal. Sim met a number of people who were too embarrassed to have their photo taken.

Annette Kim from USC says it's especially hard for the older residents, some of whom have been down there for years.

"They're hoping that their next generation, their children, will be able to live above ground," Kim says. "It's this sense of longing and deferring a dream. And so it makes me wonder how long this dream can be deferred."

But despite the laws against living underground, and the discomfort and shame associated with it, Kim says it's still a very active market. For hundreds of thousands of people, it's the only viable option for living in, or under, Beijing.