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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Cruel and Inhuman: US slammed by UN as only nation that sentences children to die in prison

child in prison

© childrenofprison.eu

Some children go to jail. Some children never leave.

A United Nations human rights expert strongly condemned the U.S. on Tuesday for being the "only State in the world that still sentences children to life imprisonment without the opportunity for parole," thereby imposing cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.


© www.un.org

Standing up for children's rights, Special Rapporteur Juan Méndez

Juan Méndez, the Special Rapporteur on torture, made the comments in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva—building from his previous censure of cruel incarceration practices in a nation that locks up more people than any other country in the world.

Méndez noted that the U.S. practice of imposing life sentences on children in cases of homicide violates international law on numerous fronts, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. "Life sentences or sentences of an extreme length have a disproportionate impact on children and cause physical and psychological harm that amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment," he wrote.

Such prison sentences are widespread. Approximately 2,500 people in the U.S. are currently serving life sentences without parole for crimes allegedly committed as juveniles, the Sentencing Project finds (pdf).

These sentences reflect—and reinforce—racial disparities in U.S. society. "White juvenile offenders with African-American victims are only about half as likely (3.6%) to receive a [juvenile life without parole] sentence as their proportion of arrests for killing an African-American (6.4%)," the Sentencing Project notes.

However, the injustices do not stop there.

Méndez blasted another policy that is rampant in U.S. jails and prisons: holding people under the age of 18 in solitary confinement.

"In accordance with views of the Committee against Torture, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Committee on the Rights of the Child," wrote Méndez, "the Special Rapporteur is of the view that the imposition of solitary confinement, of any duration, on children constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or even torture."

Méndez's statements follow his previous call for a ban of all long-term solitary confinement—of any person, at any age—which he has described as torture. Méndez has repeatedly expressed concern about the rampant imposition of long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, particularly in California, which has seen repeated prisoner hunger strikes over this and other abusive practices.

Mohamed Shehk, communications director for Critical Resistance, told that the Special Rapporteur's latest report highlights "just one aspect of a system that continues to lock up people and destroy communities."

"Of course life without parole for children should be abolished," said Shehk. "Life without parole for anyone should be abolished. This is a system that throws people away in prisons and jails and completely ignores any kind of global call to end that practice, even though it completely contradicts international law—which the U.S. claims to hold so dearly."

Not in our yard: Maryland business owners call for moratorium on fracking

maryland fracking protest

Dozens of business owners and concerned residents of Western Maryland descended on the capital today to highlight strong and growing demand in their region for a statewide fracking moratorium. They presented a letter to legislative leaders signed by more than 100 Western Maryland business owners calling for the moratorium. The letter cites deep concern over the grave effects the highly industrial, polluting process of fracking could have on regional businesses, particularly those related to the booming tourism and leisure industries. Western Maryland residents also delivered to the legislature today some of the 20,000 petitions from state residents calling for the moratorium that were recently collected by advocacy groups.

Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo and Senator Karen Montgomery are the two lead sponsors on the Protect Our Health and Communities Act (HB 449/SB 409), introduced in February, to enact a long-term moratorium on fracking in the state.

"I believe the impacts from fracking will take our Golden Goose and send it flying. Having seen the equipment intensive widespread heavy industry that fracking is I cannot see how it is compatible with vacationing in Deep Creek Lake or Garrett County. Tourism pays a lot of bills in Garrett County," said Steven Green, co-owner of High Mountain Sports and former president of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce.

"We are excited for the chance to respectfully explain that our own elected representatives do not reflect the sentiments of what we believe are most business owners' viewpoints in Mountain Maryland. We say no to water contamination, no to urban-style air pollution in our valleys, no to the perpetual truck traffic that will spell the end of our tourism industry and yes — resoundingly yes — to fracking moratorium legislation," said Paul Roberts, co-proprietor of Deep Creek Cellars.

"My business has introduced the beauty of rural, western Maryland to many thousands of outdoor recreation tourists and cyclists each year, visitors who are typically affluent and have a high likelihood of returning often. Outdoor recreation tourism in general, and cycling in particular, is not compatible with destroyed roads, heavy truck traffic, polluted air, and the eyesore that is inherent with fracking. Western Maryland should be encouraging rather than discouraging the outdoor recreation industry," said Kyle Yost, owner of Garrett Events.

"According to a Washington Post poll, more than 50 percent of Marylanders oppose fracking. Because of all the research that is coming out on the potential health, environmental and safety risks of the fracking industry, we need to take a step back and let the science play out on these issues," said Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo.

The advocacy groups that collected more than 20,000 petitions in support of the fracking moratorium are: Chesapeake Climate Action Network; CREDO Action; Environmental Action; Food & Water Watch; Friends of the Earth; League of Conservation Voters; Sierra Club; and Waterkeepers Chesapeake.

Background: Fracking is a controversial natural gas drilling method that involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals underground at extreme pressure to break up rock and release the gas. Maryland's new governor, Larry Hogan, has said he wants to move forward with drilling — despite the growing evidence of its harm and the most recent polling, which shows a clear majority are concerned about those risks.

More than 425 peer-reviewed scientific studies on the effects of shale gas development now exist, and 75 percent of those have been published since January 2013. Of the 49 studies that investigated the health effects of fracking, 47 - over 96 percent - found risks or adverse health outcomes. Maryland's Institute for Applied Environmental Health (MIAEH) also concluded that the likelihood of negative public health impacts was "high" or "moderately high" in 7 of 8 areas studied. The latest poll in Maryland found 58 percent of Marylanders who know of fracking thought it would harm the state's environment. For more information visit www.DontFrackMD.org

The European Central Bank's noose around Greece

© Theglobalpanorama

Remember when the infamous Goldman Sachs delivered a thinly-veiled threat to the Greek Parliament in December, warning them to elect a pro-austerity prime minister or risk having central bank liquidity cut off to their banks? (See January 6th post here.) It seems the European Central Bank (headed by Mario Draghi, former managing director of Goldman Sachs International) has now made good on the threat.

The week after the leftwing Syriza candidate Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as prime minister, the ECB announced that it would no longer accept Greek government bonds and government-guaranteed debts as collateral for central bank loans to Greek banks. The banks were reduced to getting their central bank liquidity through "Emergency Liquidity Assistance" (ELA), which is at high interest rates and can also be terminated by the ECB at will.

In an interview reported in the German magazine on March 6th, Alexis Tsipras said that the ECB was "holding a noose around Greece's neck." If the ECB continued its hardball tactics, he warned, "it will be back to the thriller we saw before February" (referring to the market turmoil accompanying negotiations before a four-month bailout extension was finally agreed to).

The noose around Greece's neck is this: the ECB will not accept Greek bonds as collateral for the central bank liquidity all banks need, until the new Syriza government accepts the very stringent austerity program imposed by the troika (the EU Commission, ECB and IMF). That means selling off public assets (including ports, airports, electric and petroleum companies), slashing salaries and pensions, drastically increasing taxes and dismantling social services, while creating special funds to save the banking system.

These are the mafia-like extortion tactics by which entire economies are yoked into paying off debts to foreign banks - debts that must be paid with the labor, assets and patrimony of people who had nothing to do with incurring them.

Playing Chicken with the People's Money

Greece is not the first to feel the noose tightening on its neck. As The Economist notes, in 2013 the ECB announced that it would cut off Emergency Lending Assistance to Cypriot banks within days, unless the government agreed to its bailout terms. Similar threats were used to get agreement from the Irish government in 2010.

Likewise, says , the "Greek banks' growing dependence on ELA leaves the government at the ECB's mercy as it tries to renegotiate the bailout."

Mark Weisbrot commented in the Huffington Post:

We should be clear about what this means. The ECB's move was completely unnecessary . . . . It looks very much like a deliberate attempt to undermine the new government.

. . . The ECB could . . . stabilize Greek bond yields at low levels, but instead it chose . . . to go to the opposite extreme — and I mean extreme — to promote a run on bank deposits, tank the Greek stock market, and drive up Greek borrowing costs.

Weisbrot observed that the troika had plunged the Eurozone into at least two additional years of unnecessary recession beginning in 2011, because "they were playing a similar game of chicken. . . . [T]he ECB deliberately allowed these market actors to create an existential crisis for the euro, in order to force concessions from the governments of Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland."

The Tourniquet of Central Bank Liquidity

Not just Greek banks but all banks are reliant on central bank liquidity, because they are all technically insolvent. They all lend money they don't have. They rely on being able to borrow from other banks, the money market, or the central bank as needed to balance their books. The central bank (which has the power to print money) is the ultimate backstop in this sleight of hand. If that source of liquidity dries up, the banks go down.

In the Eurozone, the national central banks of member countries have relinquished this critical credit power to the European Central Bank. And the ECB, like the US Federal Reserve, marches to the drums of large international banks rather than to the democratic will of the people.

Lest there be any doubt, let's review Goldman's December memo to the Greek Parliament, reprinted on Zerohedge. Titled "From GRecovery to GRelapse," it warned:

[H]erein lies the main risk for Greece. The economy needs the only lender of last resort to the banking system to maintain ample provision of liquidity. And this is not just because banks may require resources to help reduce future refinancing risks for the sovereign. But also because banks are already reliant on government issued or government guaranteed securities to maintain the current levels of liquidity constant.

In the event of a severe Greek government clash with international lenders, interruption of liquidity provision to Greek banks by the ECB could potentially even lead to a Cyprus-style prolonged "bank holiday". And market fears for potential Euro-exit risks could rise at that point. [Emphasis added.]

Why would the ECB have to "interrupt liquidity provision" just because of a "clash with international lenders"? As Mark Weisbrot observed, the move was completely unnecessary. The central bank can flick the credit switch on or off at its whim. Any country that resists going along with the troika's austerity program may find that its banks have been cut off from this critical liquidity, because the government and the banks are no longer considered "good credit risks." And that damning judgment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as is happening in Greece.

"The Icing on the Cake"

Adding insult to injury, the ballooning Greek debt was incurred to save the very international banks to which it is now largely owed. Worse, those banks bought the debt with cheap loans from the ECB! Pepe Escobar writes:

The troika sold Greece an economic racket . . . . Essentially, Greece's public debt went from private to public hands when the ECB and the IMF private (German, French, Spanish) banks. The debt, of course, ballooned. The troika intervened, not to save Greece, but to save private banking.

The ECB bought public debt from private banks for a fortune, because the ECB could not buy public debt directly from the Greek state. The icing on this layer cake is that private banks had found the cash to buy Greece's public debt exactly from...the ECB, profiting from ultra-friendly interest rates. This is outright theft. And it's the thieves that have been setting the rules of the game all along.

That brings us back to the role of Goldman Sachs (dubbed by Matt Taibbi the "Vampire Squid"), which "helped" Greece get into the Eurozone through a highly questionable derivative scheme involving a currency swap that used artificially high exchange rates to conceal Greek debt.

Goldman then turned around and hedged its bets by shorting Greek debt.

Predictably, these derivative bets went very wrong for the less sophisticated of the two players. A €2.8 billion loan to Greece in 2001 became a €5.1 billion debt by 2005.

Despite this debt burden, in 2006 Greece remained within the ECB's 3% budget deficit guidelines. It got into serious trouble only after the 2008 banking crisis. In late 2009, Goldman joined in bearish bets on Greek debt launched by heavyweight hedge funds to put selling pressure on the euro, forcing Greece into the bailout and austerity measures that have since destroyed its economy.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote in the UK on March 2nd:

Syriza has long argued that [its post-2009] debt is illegitimate, alleging that the ECB bought Greek bonds in 2010 in order to save the European banking system and prevent contagion at a time when the eurozone did not have a financial firewall, not to help Greece.

Mr. Varoufakis [the newly-appointed Greek finance minister] said the result was to head off a Greek default to private creditors that would have led to a large haircut for foreign banks if events had been allowed to run their normal course, reducing Greece's debt burden to manageable levels. Instead, the EU authorities took a series of steps to avert this cathartic moment, ultimately foisting €245bn of loan packages onto the Greek taxpayer and pushing public debt to 182pc of GDP.

The Toxic Central Banking System

Pepe Escobar concludes:

Beware of Masters of the Universe dispensing smiles. Draghi and the . . . ECB goons may dispense all the smiles in the world, but what they are graphically demonstrating once again is how toxic central banking is now enshrined as a mortal enemy of democracy.

National central banks are no longer tools of governments for the benefit of the people. Governments have become tools of a global central banking system serving the interests of giant international financial institutions. These "too big to fail" behemoths must be saved at the expense of local banks, their depositors, and local economies generally.

How to escape the tentacles of this toxic squid-like banking hierarchy?

For countries with a bit more room to maneuver than Greece has, one option is to withdraw public and private deposits and put them in publicly-owned banks. The megabanks are deemed too big to fail only because the people's money is tied up in them. They could be allowed to fail if public funds were not at risk.

The German SBFIC (Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation) has proposed a pilot project on the Sparkassen model for Greece. Other provocative options have also been proposed, to be the subject of another article.

FDA must be made accountable for scientific misbehavior

A most important FDA file somehow was emailed to me and, as a consumer health researcher, retired healthcare professional, consumer health author/journalist/blogger, and certified paralegal, after reading it, I feel it is my moral duty to share it with all citizens in the USA.

Someone [name redacted] at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/FDA [PDF] sent the then recently-inaugurated president, Barack Hussein Obama, a letter, which I will parse in part below. Also, a CERTIFIED document, including a notarized affidavit signed by Sarah Kotler, the Denials and Appeals Officer in the Division of Freedom of Information, Office of Public Information and Library Services, Office of Shared Services, Office of the Commissioner, United States Food and Drug Administration, was provided to an unidentified receiver, regarding serious ethical and fraud problems within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since I did not receive copies of what Kotler supplied in No. 4, I cannot speak to them. Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal published an article about some of FDA's problems in its Oct. 22, 2009 online issue.

However, in the letter to President Obama dated April 2, 2009, there is much to comment about:

"...the misdeeds of FDA officials. Recent press reports revealed extensive evidence of serious wrongdoing by Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, Dr. Frank M. Torti, top FDA attorneys, Center and Office Directors, and many others in prominent positions of authority at FDA. As a result, Dr. Frank M. Torti, Acting Commissioner and the FDA's first Chief Scientist, abruptly left the Agency.

But, the many other FDA managers who have failed to protect the American public, who have violated laws, rules, and regulations, who have suppressed or altered scientific or technological findings and conclusions, who have abused their power and authority, and who have engaged in illegal retaliation against those who speak out, have not been held accountable and remain in place. [CJF emphasis added]

On Monday, March 30, 2009, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, newly appointed Principal Deputy Commissioner, assumed the position of Acting Commissioner until Dr. Margaret Hamburg is confirmed. Numerous FDA physicians and scientists are certain that Dr. Hamburg and Dr. Sharfstein will bring the necessary change to FDA to guarantee integrity, accountability, and transparency, to ensure that all future decisions are solely based on science and in accordance with the laws, rules, and regulations. However, sweeping measures are needed to end the systemic corruption and wrongdoing that permeates all levels of FDA and has plagued the Agency far too long. [CJF emphasis added]

The latest example of wrongdoing was reported on March 23, 2009 from a Federal District Court Judge who ruled that FDA's decision on the Plan B drug1 was "arbitrary and capricious because they were not the result of reasoned and good faith agency decision-making." FDA's top leaders at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) testified that they "didn't have a choice, and . . . [weren't] sure that [they] would be allowed to remain [in their positions if they] didn't agree" to ignore the science and the law. To the contrary, they should be removed from their positions of authority precisely because they didn't follow the science and the law. The judge further ruled that there was "unrebutted evidence that the FDA's [decision] stemmed from political pressure rather than permissible health and safety concerns." The "improper political influence" and the many "departures from its own policies" reveal that such FDA officials are incapable of ensuring integrity and science at FDA. [1, pg. 1] [CJF emphasis added]

On October 14, 2008, FDA physicians and scientists wrote to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee reporting that top FDA officials at the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) had distorted the scientific review of medical devices and then retaliated against those who brought this to light.2 Congressman John Dingell (then Chairman) and Congressman Bart Stupak (Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations) wrote to then FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach (since resigned), stating that there were "well- documented allegations that senior managers within CDRH" had "acted in violation of the law ... [and that] sweeping measures may be necessary to address the distortion of science alleged by so many CDRH scientists."3 [CJF emphasis added] [1, pg. 2]

On January 7, 2009, FDA physicians and scientists wrote to Mr. John Podesta4: "Through this letter and your action, we hope that future FDA employees will not experience the same frustration and anxiety that we have experienced for more than a year at the hands of FDA managers because we are committed to public integrity and were willing to speak out. Currently, there is an atmosphere at FDA in which the honest employee fears the dishonest employee, and not the other way around. Disturbingly, the atmosphere does not yet exist at FDA where honest employees committed to integrity and the FDA mission can act without fear of reprisal. ... America urgently needs change at FDA because FDA is fundamentally broken, failing to fulfill its mission, and because reestablishing a proper and effectively functioning FDA is vital to the physical and economic health of the nation."5 [CJF emphasis added] [1, pg. 2]

Every U.S. citizen needs to know about—and read—the above paragraph,
which is profoundly disturbing insofar as the redacted signer of the April 2, 2009 letter relays in no uncertain terms the corruption, dishonesty, and lack of integrity that is lorded over honest employees at the FDA. Obviously, the FDA was/and still-may-be a cesspool of scientific criminals of the first order. However, President Obama apparently still has done zilch, nada, nothing about investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators at the FDA, thereby guaranteeing legal prosecution for offenders, which was the apparent request of that letter writer.

So, what did the president do instead? He appointed Margaret Hamburg, MD, FDA Commissioner and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein as Principal Deputy Commissioner of the FDA. No prosecutions that I've heard of! Does anyone reading this article know of any? If so, please list them in the comment section, and thanks.

Neither has Congress, who has oversight over the FDA, done anything to investigate and prosecute the apparent putrid modus operandi that existed/exists at the U.S. FDA, as one can assume from what is said next in that six-page letter:

On January 13, 2009, the NY Times6 reported that FDA officials allowed "improper political influence"7 to guide official FDA actions. The Director of the Office of Device Evaluation, Dr. Donna-Bea Tillman, approved8 a medical device used for the detection of breast cancer despite the fact that all of the FDA experts involved recommended against approval of the device three times. Dr. Tillman's decision to overrule the FDA experts "followed a phone call from a Connecticut congressman [Christopher Shays]." [CJF emphasis added.]

[Question: Why would a Congressman, who should have known better, apparently put in a 'good word'?]

On January 26, 2009, FDA physicians and scientists wrote to you directly9 seeking your help and recommending that "you remove and hold accountable all managers who have ordered, participated in, fostered or tolerated the well-documented corruption, wrongdoing and retaliation at the Agency." That letter was prompted by concerns that FDA officials were planning to investigate physicians and scientists in retaliation for the January 13, 2009 story in the NY Times . These concerns were well-founded. [CJF emphasis added.] [1, pg. 2]

[Comment: Mr. Obama apparently still has not ordered an investigation and/or prosecution, which the letter writer requested! Why?]

Furthermore, the letter went on with:

On March 13, 2009, one week after another episode detailing wrongdoing and improper political influence involving top FDA officials was published in the Wall Street Journal,10 Acting Commissioner Dr. Frank M. Torti and FDA attorneys sprung into action. Their solution— send an FDA-wide email11 admonishing FDA employees that they "must comply with ... obligations to keep certain information ... confidential ... [including] e-mail to and from employees within FDA [that document the] deliberative process" and threatening that "violation ... can result in disciplinary sanctions and/or individual criminal liability." [CJF emphasis added.] [1, pg. 2]

Readers will note an emphatically threatening tone, "violation ... can result in disciplinary sanctions and/or individual criminal liability! Apparently, the real criminals were being safeguarded from would-be whistleblowers! And, honest FDA employees were being threatened big time, i.e., criminal liability!

Congress, where are you; why aren't you doing your job citizens are paying you to do; and please get out of Big Pharma's lucrative back pockets! According to the The Center for Public Integrity:

It's actually the pharmaceutical industry that spends the most each year to influence our lawmakers, forking over a total of $2.6 billion on lobbying activities from 1998 through 2012, according to OpenSecrets.org. (Source)

That should be illegal, and stopped immediately, as it seemingly amounts to nothing more than 'payola' or 'play and pay to go'! with and at the U.S. Congress.

Furthermore, why wasn't the Attorney General investigating apparent crimes within the FDA?

These threats did not escape the scrutiny of Senator Chuck Grassley,12 Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. [1, pg. 3]

However, Senator Grassley sent a letter to Dr. Torti on March 24, 2009 wherein part of what he said was:

"Whistleblowers are some of the most patriotic people I know—men and women who labor, often anonymously, to let Congress and the American people know when the Government isn't working so we can fix it." [1, pg. 3]


The Wall Street Journal13 and FDA documents14revealed efforts by top FDA officials (including Dr. von Eschenbach, Dr. Torti, Mr. William McConagha, and other FDA attorneys) to cover-up their attempts to improperly influence, obstruct, impede and distort the due and proper administration of the FDA scientific regulatory process involving a knee implant device. According to the Columbia University Journalism Review ,15 "the [Wall Street ] Journal describes a process in this case that's, well, corrupt. I don't know what else you'd call it. It even has a smoking gun."16 [CJF emphasis added] [1, pg. 3]

Along with this:

A letter17 from Senator Grassley to Dr. Torti dated March 6, 2009 indicated that Dr. Schultz and top FDA attorneys had concealed the fact that two of the authors of a major publication presented to the advisory committee in support of the knee implant device, had affiliations with the device manufacturer ("the first author of the article is [the manufacturer's] Vice President of Scientific Affairs," Senator Grassley noted). [CJF emphasis added] [1, pg. 3]

The above extrapolations are a 'smidgen' of what's in the six-page letter. Some other fraud-type gems are included, but this one is most explicit:

Dr. Schultz was accused of "stacking the committee to get the decision the company wanted," and of falsely stating in an official document that the conclusions reached by the advisory committee were "clear" and "unanimous"—to the contrary, they were not. [CJF emphasis added] [1, pg. 3]

[Question: Does that also go on in getting vaccines licensed?]


The culture of wrongdoing and cover-up is nothing new but is part of a longstanding pattern of behavior. For example, in July 2005,18 Dr. Daniel Schultz "approved a medical device against the unanimous opinion of his scientific staff,"19 overruling "more than twenty FDA scientists, medical officers and management staff." [CJF emphasis added] [1, pg. 3]

How about this:

Amazingly, just 3 weeks ago, on March 6, 2009, it was reported by the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen that Dr. Tillman "approved a [medical] device that has failed to demonstrate any clinical benefit" and that showed "trends toward higher risks of death."2 [CJF emphasis added] [1, pg. 4]

The letter further states:

Much work remains to be done at FDA and all pending matters need to be addressed. The wrongdoing revealed in the Wall Street Journal involves top FDA officials and requires immediate investigation. Astoundingly, since May 2008,29 Dr. von Eschenbach, Dr. Torti, Mr. McConagha, and numerous top FDA officials, have been well-aware of other serious wrongdoing, and failed to take any actions, while the physicians and scientists who spoke out and refused to comply have suffered retaliation. [CJF emphasis added] [1, pg. 4]

Needless to say, there still is much that needs to be investigated and purged from within FDA's 'fiefdom of pseudoscience', especially regarding vaccines, I allege. Two examples that need to be revisited, thoroughly dissected, and legally prosecuted are:

  1. the Simpsonwood meeting of June 2000 regarding Thimerosal/ethylmercury and the CDC's Dr. Verstraeten's initial findings, and his subsequent findings after the Simpsonwood meeting—reworked VSD data and release of the VSD data

  2. William Thompson, PhD, admitting to fudging reports regarding autism being associated with vaccines and mercury. Both the above were CDC events that impacted FDA's decisions about vaccines.

    The clearance/approval of medical devices that were not made in accordance with the laws, rules and regulations, need to be re-visited. [CJF emphasis added] [1, pg. 4]

[That's not the only issues that need re-visiting at FDA. Vaccine licensing studies and all data associated with every vaccine approval process must be re-visited.]

Dr. Paul G. King, PhD, who is an analytical chemist and mercury-in-vaccines researcher/investigator, wrote the Introduction for my book, Vaccination Voodoo What YOU Don't Know About Vaccines , stated very clearly and pointed out how the FDA does not abide by its own rules and regulations regarding safety of vaccines.

Regarding the Vaccine Safety Datalink Data that Dr. Verstraeten reworked to find there was no connection with Thimerosal and neurological damage, e.g., autism, in children, readers need to understand what really happened:

Under pressure from Congress and parents, the Institute of Medicine convened another panel to address continuing concerns about the Vaccine Safety Datalink Data Sharing program. In February, the new panel, composed of different scientists, criticized the way the VSD had been used in the Verstraeten study, and urged the CDC to make its vaccine database available to the public.

So far, though, only two scientists have managed to gain access. Dr. Mark Geier, president of the Genetics Center of America, and his son, David, spent a year battling to obtain the medical records from the CDC. Since August 2002, when members of Congress pressured the agency to turn over the data, the Geiers have completed six studies that demonstrate a powerful correlation between thimerosal and neurological damage in children. One study, which compares the cumulative dose of mercury received by children born between 1981 and 1985 with those born between 1990 and 1996, found a "very significant relationship" between autism and vaccines. Another study of educational performance found that kids who received higher doses of thimerosal in vaccines were nearly three times as likely to be diagnosed with autism and more than three times as likely to suffer from speech disorders and mental retardation. Another soon-to-be published study shows that autism rates are in decline following the recent elimination of thimerosal from most vaccines. (Source)

As an aside, and from what I know, Thimerosal still is in multidose vaccines/vials. However, I suggest reading the ingredients for each vaccine at this CDC website to find out which vaccines contain Thimerosal. You just may be surprised!

The April 2009 letter to President Obama ends with this:

All FDA employees who are committed to public integrity, who follow the laws, rules and regulations, who use science to promote public safety and health, and who have the courage and patriotism to speak out, must be protected and must have their professional lives restored. We ask that you accept nothing less. [1, pg. 5] [CJF emphasis added]

In all fairness, so too must MDs and healthcare professionals, who are vaccine safety advocates, working to get the FDA to re-visit and re-evaluate Big Pharma's 'science' that FDA apparently may have accepted against FDA employees' condemnation or neglected to investigate during the licensing process.

In view of what's admitted in the 2009 letter, it is only a logical conclusion that skullduggery probably went on with vaccine science and licensing. Just as the letter writer was concerned, so is this writer concerned about pseudoscience and secret meetings to redefine/redesign data and studies.

That 2009 letter was copied to 6 U.S. Senators and 8 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and to 2 individuals at FDA and 2 others at HHS. Plus, there were 29 footnotes. The letter writer was dead serious!

Also in the file I received was a copy of the letter to John D. Podesta, Presidential Transition Team, dated January 7, 2009—signer redacted, which in the second paragraph on the first page sets a disturbing tone:

The letter to Mr. Podesta ended with this paragraph:

Nothing is more emphatic about the culture of fraud and pseudoscience at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration than the information provided in the two letters sent to the newly elected president's transition team and then to Barack Obama, three months into his first term as president.

In light of all the scientific fraud and other ethical issues at the FDA, it is incumbent upon President Obama, the Congress, and the Attorney General of the USA—even now—to investigate thoroughly the various departments of the FDA, it's revolving door hiring policy with apparent vested interest corporations, e.g., Big Pharma and Monsanto, and place an embargo on all vaccines public service vaccine announcements and 'mandates', etc. until a thorough and independent review of all vaccine submissions, trials, records, and data for licensure can be reviewed by independent scientists, who have no affiliation or vested interest with vaccine manufacturers, since the FDA actually does no physical/scientific testing of vaccines or pharmaceuticals to prove what manufacturers say/provide actually is scientifically proven.

The president, Congress, HHS/CDC/FDA must do what the taxpayers of the USA pay them to do: Provide factual, ethical, and transparent medical science, not "consensus science."

The FDA needs an entire overhaul from the top down!


[1] Six-page HHS/FDA 4/2/09 Letter to Pres. Obama [PDF]


About the author

Catherine retired from researching and writing, but felt compelled to write this article.

Catherine J Frompovich (website) is a retired natural nutritionist who earned advanced degrees in Nutrition and Holistic Health Sciences, Certification in Orthomolecular Theory and Practice plus Paralegal Studies. Her work has been published in national and airline magazines since the early 1980s. Catherine authored numerous books on health issues along with co-authoring papers and monographs with physicians, nurses, and holistic healthcare professionals. She has been a consumer healthcare researcher 35 years and counting.

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Loneliness comparable to obesity as a threat to longevity and poses even greater risk for younger generations


© fotoforfun / Fotolia

Ask people what it takes to live a long life, and they'll say things like exercise, take Omega-3s, and see your doctor regularly.

Now research from Brigham Young University shows that loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity.

"The effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously," said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead study author. "We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously."

Loneliness and social isolation can look very different. For example, someone may be surrounded by many people but still feel alone. Other people may isolate themselves because they prefer to be alone. The effect on longevity, however, is much the same for those two scenarios.

The association between loneliness and risk for mortality among young populations is actually greater than among older populations. Although older people are more likely to be lonely and face a higher mortality risk, loneliness and social isolation better predict premature death among populations younger than 65 years.

"Not only are we at the highest recorded rate of living alone across the entire century, but we're at the highest recorded rates ever on the planet," said Tim Smith, co-author of the study. "With loneliness on the rise, we are predicting a possible loneliness epidemic in the future."

The study analyzed data from a variety of health studies. Altogether, the sample included more than 3 million participants from studies that included data for loneliness, social isolation, and living alone.

Controlling for variables such as socioeconomic status, age, gender, and pre-existing health conditions, they found that the effect goes both ways. The lack of social connections presents an added risk, and the existence of relationships provides a positive health effect. The new study appears in .

Previous research from Holt-Lunstad and Smith puts the heightened risk of mortality from loneliness in the same category as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being an alcoholic. This current study suggests that not only is the risk for mortality in the same category as these well-known risk factors, it also surpasses health risks associated with obesity.

"In essence, the study is saying the more positive psychology we have in our world, the better we're able to function not just emotionally but physically," Smith said.

There are many things that help to subdue the effects of loneliness. With the evolution of the internet, people can keep in contact over distances that they couldn't before. However, the superficiality of some online experiences may miss emotional context and depth. Too much texting with each other can actually hurt a romantic relationship, for example. The authors of that texting study note, however, that saying something sweet or kind in a text is universally beneficial.

Cash for cops: How civil forfeiture laws are used to enrich police departments

cash for cops, civil forfeiture

Civil forfeiture is a major issue that's recently gotten into the news, notably due to Attorney General Eric Holder's change to the controversial police action of seizing people's property. Unfortunately, Holder's actions, while laudable, won't stop the massive damage that has already been done - and may very well continue the problem. Because although the media has finally begun to talk about the issue, we still haven't been presented with a full scope of civil forfeiture: what it is and what it means.

To understand forfeiture, one must go back to colonial America. The idea of civil forfeiture comes directly from the British; early forfeiture law "refers to the power of a court over an item of real or personal property." This could include land, in which the court would decide who owned a piece of land, or marriage, where the courts would have the authority to terminate a marriage.

Originally, in rem jurisdiction was "incorporated into American customs and admiralty laws governing the seizure of ships for crimes of piracy, treason and smuggling in the early days of the Republic, and during the American Civil War." It was later formalized in 1966 "in the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims which apply to our civil forfeiture cases." So the United States has always had some type of civil forfeiture law.

The situation changed, however, when President Nixon announced the War on Drugs and began to use civil forfeiture as an instrument of law enforcement. Author Montgomery Sibley notes that, as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, Congress strengthened civil forfeiture as a means of confiscating illegal substances and the means by which they are manufactured and distributed. In 1978, Congress amended the law to authorize the seizure and forfeiture of the proceeds of illegal drug transactions as well.

Under Nixon, the Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute was also enacted, targeting repeat offenders of lucrative drug trafficking. Meanwhile, an important side effect of the Control Act was that it not only allowed police to seize private property being used in a crime - it also made clear that the owner of said property had to prove the property in question was not being used as part of a crime.

In other words, when it comes to proving that someone's property isn't being used for criminal purposes, the burden of proof is on the owner, not the police. This creates a situation where the police can essentially confiscate someone's belongings, allege that the items are being used to further a crime, and the owner must somehow prove that the allegation is false - something that can be extremely difficult to do.

In 1984, under President Ronald Reagan, further changes were made under the Comprehensive Crime Control Act with regards to funds attained from civil forfeiture. Two new forfeiture funds were federally created, "one at the U.S. Department of Justice, which gets revenue from forfeitures done by agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and another now run by the U.S. Treasury, which gets revenue from agencies like Customs and the Coast Guard."

As PBS reported, "these funds could now be used for forfeiture-related expenses, payments to informants, prison building, equipment purchase, and other general law enforcement purposes."

However, there was a major change in that local law enforcement this time would also get to have their share of the pie. "Within the 1984 Act was a provision for so-called 'equitable sharing,' which allows local law enforcement agencies to receive a portion of the net proceeds of forfeitures they help make under federal law."

As soon as this occurred, America saw a massive increase in the amount of civil forfeitures carried out by federal agents between 1989 and 1999 , when the value of civil forfeiture recoveries nearly doubled from $285,000,039 to $535,767,852 - a 187% increase in only 10 years. And the numbers only grew as time went on.

In 2012, $4.6 billion was acquired via civil forfeiture, compared to a decade earlier, in 2002, when the amount seized was just $322,246,408. The increase of over 1,400% reveals a major cash cow for law enforcement.

There was an attempt to reform civil forfeiture through the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000. This included several changes most notably in regards to poor or impoverished defendants, where the new law ordered courts to issue the defendant a lawyer "when the property in question is a primary residence," as well as to pay the lawyer regardless of the outcome of the case, whereas before, defendants had to essentially defend themselves.

In addition, the issue of burden of proof changed as the government now had to "establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property [was] subject to forfeiture," where previously the government could seize property solely on probable cause. Put simply, in order to seize property, the government now had not just to present evidence, but to present evidence "based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence."

With that reform, it was no longer enough to say there was a possibility that the evidence could have been used in a crime. However, the law didn't deal with the problem that the burden of proof was on the property owner, nor did it deal with the conflict of interest in which the government could seize property and sell it - using the money to fund its own operations. Because the pressing question still remains: how exactly do police use the funds they've gained from civil forfeitures?

In 2013, Vice reported that a district attorney in Georgia used the funds to "to buy football tickets and home furnishings," whereas "officers in Bal Harbor, Florida, took trips to LA and Vegas and rented luxury cars, and other DAs and police chiefs have bought everything from tanning salons to booze for parties."

The Washington Post also reported that police are using the funds to militarize themselves, buying an array of items such as "Humvees, automatic weapons, gas grenades, night-vision scopes and sniper gear. Many departments acquired electronic surveillance equipment, including automated license-plate readers and systems that track cellphones." And this spending is on top of the military surplus gear police receive from the Pentagon.

While there is a federal force to ensure that funds are used appropriately, it's wildly understaffed; the Justice Department has about 15 employees assigned to oversee compliance, with some five employees responsible for reviewing thousands of annual reports. Essentially, then, police are free to spend the money they gain from civil forfeitures on anything they want, without fear of punishment.

Besides the previously noted conflict of interest and burden of proof issues, there are also other major problems with civil forfeiture - notably, the disproportionate racial impact and harm it causes to innocent people.

In 2012, Vanita Gupta, the ACLU deputy legal director, was involved in a settlement of several civil forfeiture cases in Texas in which mainly black and Latino drivers were pulled over, many times without justification, and had their assets seized by police. Gupta noted that civil forfeiture laws "invite racial profiling" and "incentivize police agencies to engage in unconstitutional behavior in order to fund themselves off the backs of low-income motorists, most of whom lack the means to fight back, without any hard evidence of criminal activity. It is no way to run our justice system."

Furthermore, in 2014, the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute reported reported that civil forfeiture laws "routinely amount to de facto racial discrimination, as law enforcement officials routinely target low-income people of color, seizing their assets." It quoted the ACLU as saying that "asset forfeiture practices often go hand-in-hand with racial profiling and disproportionally impact low-income African-American or Hispanic people who the police decide look suspicious and for whom the arcane process of trying to get one's property back is an expensive challenge." Thus, like many aspects of the criminal justice system, civil forfeiture disproportionately impacts minorities.

Great harm is also committed against innocent people who are not actually engaging in any crime. Gothamist reported that in March of 2012, the NYPD confiscated $4,800 belonging to Gerald Bryan, and took Bryan "into custody on suspected felony drug distribution, as the police continued their warrantless search." Bryan's case was later dropped, but when he went to reclaim his money "he was told it was too late: the money had been deposited into the NYPD's pension fund."

The NYPD's civil forfeiture was declared unconstitutional twice. However, the process still continues, reflecting a failure to protect the basic rights of citizens - and a breakdown in the rule of law. The very people who are supposed to enforce the law are the ones who profit from ignoring it - something that was proven in a recent study by the Institute for Justice, which found that "civil forfeiture encourages choices by law enforcement officers that leave the public worse off."

"Under civil forfeiture," said the report, "when participants could gain financially by taking property from others, that is overwhelmingly what they did."

While many might argue that the civil forfeiture game has changed due to recent actions taken by AG Holder, unfortunately very little actually has. As Vox reported in January: "Holder's order only curtails 'adoptions' that are requested through the federal program by a local or state police department working on its own. It still allows local and state police to seize and keep assets when working with federal authorities on an investigation, and when the property is linked to public safety concerns — such as illegal firearms, ammunition, and explosives."

Thus, civil forfeitures continue unabated for the most part. This data analysis revealed that "only about a quarter—25.6 percent—of properties seized under equitable sharing were federal 'adoptions' of properties seized by state or local law enforcement, the kind of seizures the new policy targets" and that "of the nearly $6.8 billion in cash and property seized under equitable sharing from 2008 to 2013, adoptions accounted for just 8.7 percent." Put simply: local and state law enforcement can still engage in civil forfeiture and make large amounts of money off it.

To make things worse, incoming Attorney General Loretta Lynch appears undisturbed by the current state of civil forfeiture, since she "has used civil asset forfeiture in more than 120 cases, raking in some $113 million for federal and local coffers," and even calling it a "wonderful tool."

There have been attempts at reform. But both of them - the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2014, and the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, which "would protect the rights of citizens and restore the Fifth Amendment's role in seizing property without due process of law," died in Congress. In the meantime, it seems that cops and the government will continue to cash in on the property of U.S. citizens.

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The massive lie behind the U.S. unemployment numbers

© UCubed via Facebook

On Friday, we learned that the official "unemployment rate" has fallen to 5.5 percent. Since an unemployment rate of 5 percent is considered to be "full employment" by many economists, many in the mainstream media took this as a sign that the U.S. economy has almost fully "recovered" since the last recession. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, some Federal Reserve officials believe that "the U.S. economy is already at full employment". But how can this possibly be? It certainly does not square with reality. Personally, I know people that have been struggling with unemployment for years and that still cannot find a decent job. And I get emails from readers all the time that are heartbroken because they are suffering through extended periods of unemployment. So what in the world is going on? How can the government be telling us that we are nearly at "full employment" when so many people can't find work? Could it be possible that the government numbers are misleading?

It is my contention that the official "unemployment rate" has become so politicized and so manipulated that it is essentially meaningless at this point. The following are 10 reasons why...

#1 Since February 2008, the size of the U.S. population has grown by 16.8 million people, but the number of full-time jobs has actually decreased by 140,000 .

#2 The percentage of working age Americans that have a job right now is still about the same as it was during the depths of the last recession. Posted below is a chart that shows how the employment-population ratio has changed since the beginning of the decade. Does this look like a full-blown "employment recovery" to you?...

#3 The primary reason for the decline in the official "unemployment rate" is the fact that the government now considers millions upon millions of long-term unemployed workers to "no longer be in the labor force". Just check out the following numbers...

The number of Americans participating in the labor force has been on a decline for the past few years. Nearly 33 percent of the Americans above age 16 are not part of the workforce, the highest number since 1978. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report issued recently has found 92,898,000 Americans above age 16 not a part of the labor force of the country as on February 2015.

When President Obama took over the office in January 2009, nearly 80,529,000 Americans were not a part of the labor force. The number has increased by nearly 12 million over the last few years.

#4 Over the past couple of years, the labor force participation rate in this country has been hovering near mutli-decade lows...

The labor force participation rate hovered between 62.9 percent and 62.7 percent in the eleven months from April 2014 through February, and has been 62.9 percent or lower in 13 of the 17 months since October 2013.

Prior to that, the last time the rate was below 63 percent was 37 years ago, in March 1978 when it was 62.8 percent, the same rate it was in February.

#5 When you add the number of "officially unemployed" Americans (8.7 million) to the number of Americans "not in the labor force" (92.9 million), you get a grand total of 101.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now. Does that sound like "full employment" to you?

#6 The quality of our jobs continues to decline. Right now, only 44 percent of U.S. adults are employed for 30 or more hours each week.

#7 Millions upon millions of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs because that is all they can find, and wages for American workers are at depressingly low levels. The following numbers come directly from the Social Security Administration...

-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.

-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.

-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.

#8 The average duration of unemployment for an unemployed worker is still about as long as it was just prior to the last recession.

#9 Most Americans feel as though the Obama administration has done little to nothing to help the middle class. Just consider the following poll numbers...

According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, Americans see government policies under the Obama administration as having mostly benefited wealthy people, large corporations and financial institutions.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said government policies have done little or nothing to help the middle class, and 65 percent said they have done nothing to help the poor. Sixty-eight percent said the policies have done nothing to help small businesses.

Meanwhile, 45 percent said the policies have done a "great deal" to help large banks and financial institutions, 38 percent say they have helped large corporations, and 36 percent say they have helped the wealthy.

#10 If the unemployment rate was calculated honestly, we would all be talking about the horrific "unemployment crisis" that we were currently enduring. According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, the real unemployment rate in the United States right now is above 23 percent.

Our politicians and the mainstream media are attempting to convince us that everything is just fine.

But what they are telling us simply does not match the cold, hard reality on the streets.

And since the talking heads on television are proclaiming that we are nearly at "full employment", that just makes millions upon millions of Americans that can't seem to find work no matter how hard they try feel even worse than they already do.

If jobs are "easy to get", then those that are chronically unemployment must have "something wrong" with them. That is the message that we are being given. If the mainstream media says that unemployment has gone way down, then anyone that is still unemployed must be really "lazy", right?

When you are unemployed for an extended period of time, it can really suck the life right out of you. It can be really tempting to believe that you are viewed as a failure by your family and friends. And for the government to lie to us like this just makes things even harder.

If you are unemployed and can't find a job right now, I want you to understand that you are caught in the midst of a long-term downward economic spiral which is going to get a lot worse.

When the government tells you that we are in a "recovery", they are lying to you.

And when the government tells you that things are about to get a lot better, they are lying to you.

Everyone has times in their lives when they get knocked down.

The key is to always get back up and to never, ever stop fighting.

Yes, we are facing some really hard economic times. But that does not mean that your life is over. Never give up, and never give in to fear. Just do what you can with what you have today, and tomorrow get up and fight with everything that you have got.

The truth is that the best chapters of your life could be just around the corner.

Just don't sit back and wait for the government to save you. If you are waiting for the government to save you, then you are going to be deeply disappointed.

More big earthquakes coming to California, forecast says


A 3D view of the likelihood that a magnitude-6.7 earthquake will hit in the next 30 years. Larger image here.

A new view of California's earthquake risk slightly raises the likelihood of big earthquakes in the Golden State, but lowers the chance that people in some regions will feel shaking from smaller, magnitude-6.7 quakes.

The new report does not predict when or where earthquakes will strike, nor how big the next quake will be; instead, it provides a better sense of how often earthquakes will occur and how likely faults are to break in the next three decades. This information helps set earthquake insurance rates and building codes in California.

Under the new forecast, the likelihood of a magnitude-8 earthquake in the next 30 years has increased from about 4.7 percent to 7 percent. A magnitude-8 quake would be twice as strong as the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a magnitude 7.8.

Meanwhile, the analysis said that Californians should expect a magnitude-6.7 quake to occur every 6.3 years somewhere in the state, which is less than the estimate of every 4.8 years from the previous forecast, released in 2007.

According to the new model, magnitude-8 earthquakes are still exceedingly rare in California. An earthquake of that size would require an extraordinarily long break along the San Andreas Fault, something that may happen only every 500 years.

"The model is probably good news for a homeowner, because they are more threatened by a small, local earthquake than a big, rare, distant earthquake," said Ned Field, lead author of the report and a U.S. Geological Survey research scientist in Golden, Colorado.

But earthquake insurance rates and building codes may change to reflect the uptick in great earthquakes, Field said. A magnitude-8 earthquake triggers long and fast shaking that is highly damaging to buildings and structures such as bridges.

One big, faulted family

The state's magnitude-6.7 earthquake cycle slowed because scientists now calculate earthquake risk in a way that reflects how earthquakes actually happen, the report authors said. The new method takes into account that earthquakes sometimes jump across fault lines, Field said. Three of California's recent big earthquakes crossed fault lines: the 1992 Landers quake, the 1999 Hector Mine quake and the 2010 El Mayor-Cucapah quake. The 2007 study had chopped faults into pieces that broke separately during earthquakes.

"We've come to realize that we're not dealing with separate, isolated faults. We're dealing with an interconnected fault system," Field told Live Science.

California straddles the boundary between two tectonic plates — the North America and Pacific plates — that have been sliding past one another for 30 million years. Over the millennia, Earth's crust has been sliced and diced into hundreds of faults, forming an interconnected system that resembles a huge, braided river. The updated model reflects this complexity, adding 150 more faults than were included in the 2007 version. Scientists knew the faults existed in 2007, but didn't have a good idea of their potential to cause damage. GPS monitoring helped reveal how strain builds up along these newly added faults, Field said.

The new earthquake forecast is the culmination of a $10 million, seven-year analysis of California's faults. It brings together everything from historical earthquake reports to precise GPS monitoring of faults into a statistical model called the "Third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast" or UCERF3. It was compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Southern California Earthquake Center and the state Geological Survey, with reviews by outside experts.

The report's 30-year period was chosen because it's the average length of a single-family mortgage. And a magnitude-6.7 earthquake was picked because it is the size of the 1994 Northridge quake, which wreaked havoc in Los Angeles.

The chance of another Northridge-size quake somewhere in California in the next 30 years is a near certainty, at above 99 percent, according to the report, which was released Tuesday (March 11).

San Andreas is ready to rumble

Looking at individual faults, the southern San Andreas Fault near Los Angeles poses the greatest risk over the next 30 years, the researchers said. This fault, the state's biggest, hasn't unleashed an earthquake in this region since 1857. There is a 19 percent chance that a magnitude-6.7 quake will occur on the southern San Andreas in the next 30 years, compared to 6.4 percent for the fault's northern stretch near San Francisco. Southern California's overall earthquake risk for this size temblor is 93 percent in the next three decades.

"The seismic hazards are higher in Southern California than in Northern California right now," said Tom Jordan, a report co-author and director of the Southern California Earthquake Center. "People in Southern California should realize that the next 50 years are likely to be much more seismically active. The last 50 years are not what we would consider to be normal."

In Northern California, the Bay Area's biggest earthquake risk comes from the Hayward Fault, with a 14.3 percent risk of a magnitude-6.7 quake over the next 30 years. (A short stretch of the Hayward Fault also has a higher, 22.3 percent risk over the next 30 years.)

The new forecast is a reminder that the state's nearly 40 million residents live in earthquake country, Field said. "People should live every day like it could be the day of the big one," he said.

Additional resources:

U.S. Geological Survey: A fact sheet on the new earthquake forecast.

Third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast: A Google Earth file with fault probabilities and reports describing how the model was developed.

Ferguson police chief resigns amid furor over DoJ report

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson at a news conference in August shortly after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Ferguson, Missouri, Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned Wednesday, the city announced. He is the latest in a string of city officials ousted in the wake of a Justice Department report that found a culture of racism in the police department and city offices.

Jackson's resignation — which the city said was a "mutual decision" — is effective March 19.

Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer resigned Monday and City Manager John Shaw resigned Tuesday after they were highlighted in the scathing report, which was commissioned after white police officer Darren Wilson, who has since resigned, shot and killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in August. Wilson wasn't charged in the shooting.

Two police officers were suspended and later resigned, and the city's top court clerk was fired.

Jackson came under sustained national criticism for his defense of his officers and his department's handling of protests after Brown's death. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon eventually stripped Ferguson police of oversight of security and put the State Patrol in charge.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger told KSDK that he has been meeting with Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III and that county police are ready to step in to assist.

Human Rights Watch FAIL: Uses Photo of American Bombing Destruction To Condemn Assad

Putting its hypocritical and biased nature on full display once again, the alleged human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, was recently caught in an attempt to fabricate “evidence” of Assad’s use of barrel bombs in civilian areas for the purposes of further demonizing the secular Syrian government.

On February 25, HRW posted a photo of a devastated civilian area in Syria with the tagline “Syria dropped barrel bombs despite ban.” The “ban” HRW is referring to is the ban on bombing civilian areas that applies to both sides in Aleppo after the United Nations

stepped in to save the Western-backed terrorists

from annihilation. Assad’s forces had surrounded the city and had cut off a major supply route for the death squads from Turkey thus making the ultimate elimination of the jihadist forces a virtual inevitability.

As Somini Sengupta wrote for the New York Times

on February 24,

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that the Syrian government had dropped so-called barrel bombs on hundreds of sites in rebel-held towns and cities in the past year, flouting a United Nations Security Council measure.

In a report released Tuesday, the group said it relied on satellite images, photos, videos and witness statements to conclude that the Syrian government had bombarded at least 450 sites in and around the southern town of Daraa and at least 1,000 sites in Aleppo in the north.

The report focused on the period since Feb. 22, 2014, when the Security Council specifically condemned the use of barrel bombs, which are large containers filled with explosives and projectiles that can indiscriminately hurt civilians and are prohibited under international law.

There was only one problem with HRW’s tweet – the photograph the organization provided was not Aleppo.

In fact, the damage that had been wrought upon the civilian area in the photograph was not committed by the Syrian military but by the United States.

The photo was actually a picture of Kobane (Ayn al-Arab), the city which has been the site of heavy US aerial bombardment over the last several months as the US engages in its program of death squad herding and geographical reformation of sovereign Syrian and Iraqi territory.

But, while HRW was content to use the destruction of the city as a reason to condemn the Assad government and continue to promote the cause for US military action in Syria, the “human rights organization” was apparently much less interested in the exact same destruction wrought by US forces.

In other words, if Assad’s forces bomb a civilian area into the stone age, it is an atrocity, a war crime, and justification for international military involvement. If the United States bombs a civilian area into the stone age, it’s no biggie.

Partially funded by George Soros

, Human Rights Watch

has repeatedly shilled for NATO

and America’s imperialist aims, particularly in Syria.

For instance, when Western media propaganda had reached a crescendo regarding the outright lie that

Assad had used chemical weapons

against his own people,

HRW stood right beside Barack Obama and John Kerry

in their effort to prove Assad’s guilt. HRW even went so far as to

repeat the lie

that the UN report suggested that Assad was the offending party, driving the final nail into the coffin of any credibility HRW may have had.

When a last-minute chemical weapons deal was secured by Russia in an effort to avoid yet another US/NATO invasion of Syria, HRW did not rejoice for the opportunity of peaceful destruction of chemical weapons and a chance to avoid war, it attacked the deal

by claiming

that it “failed to ensure justice.” Of course, the deal did fail to ensure justice. There were no provisions demanding punishment of the death squads who actually used the weapons or the US/NATO apparatus that initiated and controlled the jihadist invasion to begin with.

Regardless, when Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross released her report that refuted what the US/NATO was asserting in regards to chemical weapons in Syria, HRW embarked upon a

campaign of attack

against her and her work.

Even as far back as 2009

, however, HRW was showing its true colors when it apparently signed off on and supported renditions – the process of kidnapping individuals off the street without any due process and “rendering” them to jails and prisons in other countries where they are often tortured – in secret talks with the Obama administration.

If HRW ever had any credibility in terms of the question of actual human rights, then all of that credibility has assuredly been lost. HRW is nothing more than a pro-US, pro-NATO NGO that acts as a smokescreen for the continuation of the violation of human rights across the world – that is, unless those violations are committed by America’s enemies.

Russia's Kaspersky Lab uncovers more evidence linking NSA to shadowy group of hackers

© Dnaindia.com

Researchers from the Russia-based cybersecurity group Kaspersky Lab have uncovered more evidence tying the United States' National Security Agency to a shadowy group of hackers.

The hacking collective, dubbed "Equation Group," must have been sponsored by a nation-state with vast resources in order to operate, Kaspersky analysts assert.

The strongest evidence connecting the NSA to Equation Group is the string "BACKSNARF_AB25," which was embedded in a sample of the Equation Group cyberespionage platform known as "EquationDrug."

"BACKSNARF," according to page 19 of an undated NSA presentation that was obtained by Ars Technica, was the name of a project tied to the NSA's Tailored Access Operations.

"While the presence of the 'BACKSNARF' artifact isn't conclusive proof it was part of the NSA project by that name, the chances that there were two unrelated projects with nation-state funding seems infinitesimally small," Dan Gooding of Ars Technica points out.

A new report published Wednesday by Kaspersky notes that timestamps stored inside the Equation Group malware showed that hackers almost exclusively worked Monday through Friday. Assuming they worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., likely were working in the eastern part of the US.

It is unlikely the timestamps were intentionally manipulated, the report states, since the years listed in various executable files match the availability of computer platforms the files ran on.

Last month, Kaspersky revealed details about an Equation Group operation the led to some 500 infections in at least 30 countries, including Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Syria. The operation targeted banks, foreign governments, embassies, energy and infrastructure, media, telecommunications sectors and Islamist groups.

While those revelations triggered media reports about the US National Security Agency being behind the espionage, Kaspersky has stopped short of ever saying Equation Group was the handiwork of the NSA.

Another connection is the similarity between Equation Group's interdiction and that of the NSA, as evidenced in documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

According to Gooding, the Equation Group, regardless of what agency it is operating under, is "hands down the world's most hacking operation ever to come to light."

Netanyahu: 'Worldwide effort' against him in next week's election


© Flickr

"It is a very tight race. Nothing is guaranteed because there is a huge, worldwide effort to topple the Likud government," Netanyahu said in comments to party sympathizers on Monday that the Israeli Army Radio broadcast the following day.

Army Radio said Netanyahu's comments were referring to money from overseas donors to fund advocacy groups in Israel that support a change in government.

Israeli law prohibits political parties from accepting funding directly from overseas donors during an election campaign, but it is legal for advocacy groups and non-profit organizations to accept foreign monies. Additionally, political consultants from the United States have for years worked with Israeli candidates.

According to polls, Netanyahu's conservative Likud Party is in a dead heat with the center-left Zionist Union. Referring to Netanyahu's comments about the "worldwide" effort to defeat him, Zionist Union leader Issac Herzog told Israel Radio, "Netanyahu is feeling the pressure. He is shooting in all directions."

Netanyahu raised eyebrows with his recent trip to Washington, D.C., to speak before a joint session of Congress and against a proposed agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu was in the states at the invitation of House Republican leaders who didn't consult with the White House before extending the invitation, a move that highly irritated the Obama administration and is blamed for further straining relations between the two leaders. Netanyahu has never really enjoyed a warm relationship with President Obama, even openly supporting Republican opponent Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.

A majority of Israeli voters said they did not support Netanyahu traveling to the US to speak before Congress, and that may be a factor in the ultimate outcome of the Israeli elections March 17.

Comment: It's 'cause the world has had enough of you, Bibi! It's past time you just took your ball and went home, or better yet, past time that you were dragged before an international court, tried with war crimes, and locked away for the rest of your life.

But seriously, this 'opposition' to Netanyahu is a joke. Just like American politics, Israel is not in a condition in which electoral procedures will lead to any lasting or meaningful change in major policies. Whoever is (s)elected, the occupation will continue.

Turn your water into wine! Feds approve powdered alcohol

powdered alcohol

© techeblog

A controversial powdered alcohol product called Palcohol, intended to be mixed into drinks, has gained approval from a federal agency.

Palcohol first made news last spring when it briefly received the greenlight from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, before the bureau backtracked and said the label approvals had been given in error.

On Wednesday, bureau spokesman Tom Hogue told The Associated Press the issues were resolved and that four varieties of Palcohol were approved. But Hogue noted that states can also regulate alcohol sales in their borders.

The latest approval is a step forward for a small company whose product plans have already sparked controversy.

Several states have already moved to ban powdered alcohol, including lawmakers in Colorado who last month advanced legislation to temporarily halt its sale. Concerns have included abuse by minors and whether Palcohol's light weight would make it easy to sneak alcohol into public events.

Palcohol is simply freeze-dried alcohol packaged in a small, portable pouch. The powder comes in different flavors and can be mixed with water for the equivalent of an alcoholic drink.

Dr. Kennon Heard, an ER doctor and medical toxicologist at the University of Colorado, told CBS News last year that he had a number of concerns about the product. "Given the flavors it comes in, there's the potential for it to be very appealing to small children," he said.

He also pointed out that because Palcohol is an entirely new form of alcohol, there's a risk for inadvertent misuse by people unfamiliar with its potency.

"Nothing even close to this has been on the market in the recent past in the U.S., or ever," attorney Robert Lehrman told "CBS This Morning" when the product first won, then lost, its approval last year.

"Underage drinking is a big concern when it comes to powderized alcohol," said Lehrman. "I do think parents and teachers -- this probably will get their attention in a big way."

A statement on the Palcohol website says the company hopes to have the product for sale this summer. Palcohol founder Mark Phillips noted the approval of his product in an email early Wednesday morning, but wasn't immediately available for further comment.

Hogue said the bureau's evaluation is centered on whether labels accurately reflect what's in the product.

"Potential for abuse isn't grounds for us to deny a label," he said.

Previously, Phillips had said he came up with the idea for Palcohol because he wanted a way to enjoy alcoholic drinks after hiking or other activities without having to lug around heavy bottles.

Landslide destroys a major road in Montenegro

© Independent Balkan News Agency

Road destroyed by landslide

A landslide which has been happening for several days disrupted traffic on a section of the road Cetinje-Budva. This is one of the most frequent roads in Montenegro and the shortest route from the capital Podgorica to cities on the coast. The copious rains initiated the landslide and the road has already dropped more than five meters. Reconstruction is not possible to begin until the landslide completely stops. In the best of circumstances, remediation is expected by the beginning of the summer tourist season. In the meantime, it is possible to use alternative paths that are 50 kilometers longer than the damaged route.

Excessive rainfalls have initiated the landslide which destroyed the main road in the village Markovići. In the part of the road that the landslides occur, 100 meters of asphalt have been plunged and opened up cracks several meters deep. Every day the landslide is getting larger and larger, and this morning the old road section was moved several dozen meters from its original location.

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The landslide on the highway Cetinje-Budva has expanded by another ten meters, said Mayor of Budva emergency and rescue Zdravko Šljukić and warned that the ground is still active. The cracks on the road have become so deep that in some places they are three meters deep, adding that starting reconstruction works in the current circumstances is impossible.

President of the Municipality of Budva Lazar Radjenovic explained that the cracks in the asphalt had long been observed at the spot where the landslide is happening now, but the recent heavy rains led to the great damage to the roadway, adding that it will take "several months" to repair the damaged section of the road, but it must be completed by the beginning of the tourist season.

According to the head of the Directorate for Transport Savo Paraca, when it comes to remediation it will take months. "We can not do that so quickly. We must stop the entire hill skating. I do not know if we will get into the season, but we'll see. We will do everything in our power to have it ready by the beginning of the tourist season. Paraca explains that they have to work around the public procurement process, because in the case of tenders and other procedures, work would not begin even within the year.

© Independent Balkan News Agency

Podgorica, March 9, 2015