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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Fibromyalgia as a mitochondrial disorder

The mitochondria just keep showing up in both ME/CFS and FM

We tend to think of fibromyalgia as a central nervous system disease but that focus has tended to obscure the growing evidence of problems in the body.

We don't tend to think of fibromyalgia as an inflammatory disorder. It's true that overt signs of inflammation are rarely found in people with FM but some studies suggest inflammatory factors may play a role.

Then there are the mitochondria. Mitochondrial dysfunction is thought of as a real possibility in chronic fatigue syndrome, but I've rarely associated it with fibromyalgia or pain. It turns out, however, that multiple studies - most of them small - suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction could indeed play a significant role in fibromyalgia. Could fibromyalgia, whatever else it is - also be a mitochondrial disorder?

A mitochondrial disorder?

Studies suggest the energy factories may be running a bit low in FM. Muscle biopsies have found patterns of mitochondrial dysfunction (abnormal mitochondria, mitochondrial defects and muscle fiber abnormalities) similar to those typically found in mitochondrial disorders. Some skin biopsies have shown patterns of neurogenic inflammation and oxidative stress - two factors that negatively impact the mitochondria. Peripheral blood cells have demonstrated CoQ10 deficiency, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and mitochondrial degradation.

In 2013 a Spanish group proposed that mitochondrial dysfunction in FM patient was driving an inflammatory process. Now, in 2015 they have returned with a study looking at mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and inflammation using skin biopsies from people with FM.

Oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and, inflammation common events in skin of patients with Fibromyalgia. Benito Sánchez-Domínguez a,1, Pedro Bullón a,1, Lourdes Román-Malo a, Fabiola Marín-Aguilar a, Elísabet Alcocer-Gómez b, Angel M. Carrión c, José Antonio Sánchez-Alcazar b,d, Mario D. Cordero a. Mitochondrion 21 (2015) 69 - 75

Given the allodynia present, and the increasing evidence of small fiber neuropathy in FM, the skin is becoming an ever more intriguing place to look in fibromyalgia. Something, after all, is "burning away" those small unmyelinated nerve fibers in their skin. Is it inflammation? Are the mitochondria going bananas? (Could it be both?). This study won't tell us what's causing the SFN or allodynia in FM - it's not going to assess either of them - but it may provide some suspects future studies can follow up on.

This small Spanish study looked at the levels of mitochondrial enzymes, mitochondrial proteins, ATP, CoQ 10 and TNF-a from a small patch of skin in the left shoulder region, as well as in the blood and saliva of 23 people with FM and 20 healthy controls.

A mitochondrial disorder

Every test, direct or indirect, of the mitochondria – was abnormal in the FM patients.

Significant reductions in mitochondrial enzyme activity (in complexes I, II, III and IV) were found in the FM patients but not the healthy controls. That in combination with reduced levels of mitochondrial proteins indicated that mitochondrial functioning was indeed significantly reduced. So were CoQ10 and ATP levels and mitochondrial DNA levels. In fact, every aspect of mitochondrial functioning tested was found to have taken a significant hit in the FM patients.

That suggested mitochondrial damage had occurred and that finding set the stage for the next test. Since damaged mitochondrial DNA are known to spark an inflammatory response the researchers asserted they should also be able to find evidence of inflammation in the skin - and they did. Double the levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-a were found in the skin of the FM patients.

Not only were the increased cytokine levels strongly associated with reduced mtDNA - suggesting that the mitochondrial problems had indeed sparked the inflammation - but they were highly correlated with the pain levels in FM (p<.001) as well. That suggested the mitochondrial problems could be causing or contributing to the pain the FM patients were experiencing.

A threefold increase in TNF-a levels in the saliva and the blood collected from the biopsy area relative to the healthy controls suggested that widespread or systemic inflammation and oxidative stress was present as well. The FM patients looked pretty much like a soup of mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and inflammation.

The pain, inflammation and....mitochondrial disorders?

They are not alone. A similar situation appears to apply in diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy and/or allodynia. Low levels mitochondria have also been associated with small fiber neuropathy - a condition that appears to occur in about 40% of people with fibromyalgia.

Cancer associated pain displays some similarities as well. The sensory and autonomic nerves appear to be primarily affected in both cancer pain and FM. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, oxidative stress, mitochondrial damage/dysfunction, dorsal root ganglia, central sensitization, immune activation, and possibly microglial activation have been implicated in both as well.

Some models of cancer pain mimic the pain model proposed in this paper - mitochondrial dysfunction sparking an innate immune response that ends up damaging the peripheral nerves. Cancer pain researchers are looking at novel treatments to undo this mitochondrial/inflammatory mess. They include ways to block peroxynitrite and heat shock proteins, using minocycline, an antibiotic, to attenuate activated microglia, and adenosine receptor agonists to protect the nerves. If mitochondrial dysfunction does induce pain in cancer any of the above could ultimately show up as a treatment option for FM patients.

Chicken or the egg?

Whether mitochondrial dysfunction is causing inflammation or inflammation is knocking out the mitochondria is unclear, however. The fact that anti-inflammatory drugs have not generally been found to be particularly effective in FM argues against an inflammatory origin. (The right types of anti-inflammatories, however, may not have been tested. )

Several studies, on the other hand, suggest that mitochondrial enhancers such as CoQ10 may be helpful in reducing the pain and headache symptoms in FM, and some practitioners have had good results with D-Ribose in ME/CFS and/or FM.

CoQ10 is a particularly intriguing nutrient given its ability to both boost ATP production and reduce levels of oxidative stress. C0Q10 levels are reportedly low in many neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson's disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia and cancer.

If the mitochondria are involved, CoQ10 – mitochondrial booster and free radical buster – is probably going to be involved.

A fibromyalgia study by this Spanish research group found a 50% reduction in COQ10 levels in FM. With dozens of mostly small studies examining mitochondrial dysfunction and CoQ10 levels/supplementation in FM and other disorders under it's belt, this Spanish research group has been leading the way in this area.

On the ME/CFS side Maes has been producing review papers and studies on oxidative stress, mitochondrial functioning and inflammation for years. Presentations on the exercise problems in ME/CFS at the IACFS/ME Conference also appeared to be pointing an arrow at the mitochondria.

Interest in the mitochondria appears to be, er, powering up. Dr. Klimas's Institute of Neuro Immune Medicine at Nova Southeastern University recently engaged a mitochondrial expert. The Chronic Fatigue Initiative's announcement that they're going to be digging into the mitochondria suggests we may get some much-needed high-powered studies into the field.

The results of one such study - the multi-center Synergy trial in chronic fatigue syndrome - that's been testing the effectiveness of a low-dose stimulant in combination with mitochondrial and immune enhancing supplements in ME/CFS - should be out around mid-year.

We'll be exploring the roles CoQ10 and the mitochondria may play in FM and chronic fatigue syndrome in a future blog and look for an exciting offer regarding a mitochondrial enhancer as well. Stay tuned.

Mall of America security catfished 'Black Lives Matter' activists, documents reveal

MofA screens

© blogs.mprnews.org

Social media monitoring room at Mall of America where the marketing department works with security.

Documents obtained by The Intercept indicate that security staff at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota used a fake Facebook account to monitor local Black Lives Matter organizers, befriend them, and obtain their personal information and photographs without their knowledge.

Evidence of the fake Facebook account was found in a cache of files provided by the Mall of America to Bloomington officials after a large Black Lives Matter event at the mall on December 20 protesting police brutality. The files included briefs on individual organizers, with screenshots that suggest that much of the information was captured using a Facebook account for a person named "Nikki Larson."

Metadata from some of the documents lists the software that created them as belonging to "Sam Root" at the "Mall of America." A Facebook account for a Sam Root lists his profession as "Intelligence Analyst at Mall of America."

The fake Larson account featured a profile photo that a Google reverse image search shows is identical to a photo associated with a woman who is Facebook friends with Root. The account, previously found at this url, was deleted soon after contacted the Mall of America for this story.

On December 11, as news of the planned Black Lives Matter protest began to spread, the "Nikki Larson" account was updated with a banner image of an (apocryphal) Martin Luther King Jr. quote: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." At some point, the Larson account "liked" the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis Facebook group.

After the December 20 protest, the city charged 11 protesters with six different criminal misdemeanors. The city and mall are seeking over $65,000 in restitution for police and mall expenses.

"We don't like the idea of large corporations spying on people for their political activity," says Jordan Kushner, one of the attorneys for the activists being charged by the city. Kushner, who has represented many other protest groups in the Twin Cities region, observed that such surveillance tactics appear to be part of a "growing, disturbing trend."

The Mall of America declined to answer any questions about the Larson Facebook page. Reached for comment, Root said he ended his employment with Mall of America on January 27. Asked about the Nikki Larson page and the Black Lives Matter protest, Root said, "I can't answer anything about that because it's a case."

Information collected from Facebook was used by the Mall of America security team to build dossiers on each activist. A document on Nekima Levy-Pounds, one of the activists charged by the city, includes screen grabs of her Facebook account. Levy-Pounds, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas, told The Intercept that the Larson account befriended her in December.

Another dossier profiling activist Lena Gardner contains pictures, a timeline listing where to spot her in videos from the protest taken by protestors and by Mall of America security, as well as information scraped from her social media accounts. Similar documents were created for at least eight other activists.

The Larson account appears to have been created in 2009, and had 817 friends, many of whose pages showed they were involved in Minnesota political activism. The account also "liked" Facebook groups associated with Ferguson activists, the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center, Occupy Minneapolis, SumOfUs, the SEIU Minnesota State Council, and Communities United Against Police Brutality, among others.

Risdall Public Relations, a firm that works closely with Mall of America, has touted the efforts of mall security to carefully track political protesters. In a case study on the Risdall website titled "Fulminating Flash Mobs," the firm explains how it helped Mall of America deal with the "threat" of a flash mob dance by Idle No More, a Native American rights group. "Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus were being aggressively monitored using Topsy, Monitor, and Kurrently," the case study claims, noting that arrest kits were prepared in an area "hidden from public view to avoid antagonizing the crowd."

The case study lists Root as a contact for the mall on "security related management questions," and features a blurb from him: "If it's a political movement, it is very important to know all of the subgroups and players involved and take everything they say very seriously."

"I was not surprised to hear of their surveillance," says Gardner. "We are standing up for communities of color against unnecessary harassment, over-policing, and excessive force at the hands of law enforcement. This type of invasion of privacy based on presumed criminality of people of color is the very thing we are standing up against."

"They should be ashamed of themselves, along with the Bloomington City Attorney's office. They are being ruthless in their attempts to quell and stifle free speech and dissent," said Levy-Pounds.

According to a 2011 investigation by NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting, featuring reporting from The Intercept's Margot Williams, the Mall of America created its own private counterterrorism unit called Risk Assessment and Mitigation, or RAM. The report found that the unit had adopted aggressive procedures to pursue mall patrons, often for ordinary behavior. One Pakistani-American named Najam Qureshi was questioned by the FBI after his father had left a cellphone on a Mall of America food court table, prompting the counterterrorism unit to report the father to local authorities, who relayed the incident to the federal government, which then sent an investigator to Qureshi's home.

The Intercept filed a request for Bloomington interactions with the Mall of America, but many of the documents concerning the Mall of America surveillence effort were uncovered by Tony Webster, a software engineer and data researcher with an interest in public records surrounding law enforcement.

"'The place for fun in your life' is the Mall of America's slogan," says Webster, "which doesn't align with the Mall creating a fake Facebook account to stalk activists; it doesn't align with my memories of a fun place to go as a kid. I'm sympathetic to the Mall's everyday task of ensuring safety, but this violation of privacy went too far, as did Mall management's pushing for harsh criminal prosecution of peaceful demonstrators."

The writing is on the wall: Be prepared

Something to consider perhaps?

There are many television shows like "Doomsday Preppers" and "Doomsday Castle" that tend to display examples of people preparing for extreme scenarios. Scenarios that are often so extreme that even most preppers think they are extreme. The typical response to these scenarios by the average person is that preppers are crazy and that there is no practical application for preparedness. I can tell you this is not the case, but I guess the news would be boring if the stories of preparedness were logical and reinforced the need to be prepared. Regardless of how you feel, there are many signs that indicate the practicality of being prepared for a variety of scenarios from natural disaster to job loss to government collapse. Some of these signs we are seeing today. It is almost as if the writing on the wall is telling us that we are in store for some tough times.

Last year, there was great controversy around the shooting of a black teen by a white police officer that led to rioting and protests that lasted for weeks. Then, after a few months of hearing almost nothing, two police officers were shot amid a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, last week while another racially charged situation developed as the result of another police shooting in Wisconsin. Who knows if things will get better or worse, but I am almost willing to guarantee that there were many residents who wish they had been better prepared to deal with the dangers of such protests and the inherent risk of leaving home in the middle of this. I can't tell you if these events led anyone to stock up on food and water, but there was a great increase in the purchase of firearms.

There are other recent incidents that have happened and lend credibility to the practice of prepping in one form or another:

  • Reports out of Venezuela outline a plan by the Venezuelan government to install fingerprint scanners in grocery stores to prevent the stockpiling of food. This has become a concern because of the plummeting value of their currency and the low prices of oil.

  • The recent attempt by the federal government to ban the popular M855 ammunition for the AR-15 series of rifles, a move that was aimed at ensuring the safety of law enforcement officers. Ironically, M855 ammunition has never been used in the murder of a law enforcement officer.

  • Our power grid has been deemed susceptible enough to going down that Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) proposed legislation to provide better security for our fragile infrastructure. This threat is real enough that NASA is scheduled to launch a two-year study of the magnetosphere to assess the nature of its threat to the power grid.

  • Our European friends (whom we are following closely but are about 20 years behind) have expressed an interest in having a closed-circuit television camera in each and every home in the United Kingdom.

All of these events that are happening seem to justify the effort and expense of prepping and support the aforementioned writing on the wall. Looking at what is happening all around us, there is definitely greater risk associated with not being prepared for a disaster than there is being prepared for one. Some of the steps that you should seriously consider implementing at the soonest opportunity include establishing food and water stores, implementing a security plan, being prepared for a medical emergency, and having a plan to get out.

Establish food and water stores

The most basic action that can be taken by anyone wishing to be better prepared for a disaster, storing food and water is the most logical place to start prepping. Without food and water, a person will not survive anything for very long. It is no secret that wars have been fought over food and water. Having a stockpile of these goods will also help prevent any need to scan your fingerprint at the grocery store in Venezuela!

When establishing your food and water storage, there are a couple of key things to keep in mind:

  • Try to have at least seven days' worth of food and water stored and build it up from there. The more, the merrier.

  • A day's supply of food should be 2,000 calories for the average adult.

  • A day's supply of water should be at least one gallon of water for drinking and cooking. If water for hygiene is a concern, storing another gallon of water for each person will allow bare minimum hygiene practices to be followed.

  • Track appropriate expiration dates and have a plan to rotate and replace items as needed.

When getting started with storing food, focus on shelf-stable items that are canned and will not expire for at least a year. As your storage supply is expanded, look at diversifying your stores into dehydrated or freeze-dried foods.

Implement a security plan

Disasters often bring chaos and fear with them. Because these can be such scary times, they will often lead people to do things that they might not ordinarily consider doing. This makes security a vital function of preparedness. Security considerations should include:

  • What weapons do you have that can be used to ensure your security?

  • Are you trained to use these weapons proficiently?

  • Do you know how to clean and maintain these weapons?

  • Can you perform basic repairs on your weapons, and do you have the parts and tools needed to make these repairs?

  • How much ammunition do you have?

  • Are your weapons of a common caliber that make it easier to find more ammunition for them?

  • Be familiar with who your neighbors are and what skills they may have that could be useful in securing your neighborhood.

  • Knowing who and what are around you. Are there key targets around you that someone may wish to strike in a moment of vulnerability? Are these targets something that you may need to take advantage of to help ensure your own security or to prevent a greater risk to your security?

Regardless of the real or perceived risks to your security, it is imperative to have the weapons, training and planning in place to ensure that security is maintained and that your property and loved ones are protected.

Be prepared for a medical emergency

When disaster strikes, medical emergencies are bound to happen. Injury can result from a deliberate attack, a stray bullet, being hit by a falling object or getting cut by broken glass; having a medical kit and training is a must.

Here are some basic considerations for being ready for a medical emergency:

  • Is your medical kit geared toward illness, injury or both? (Your medical kit will ideally be capable of treating both injuries and illnesses.)

  • How close is your nearest medical treatment facility?

  • If your closest medical treatment facility is not available, where will you go or what will you do?

  • Prescription medicines are relied on to sustain life more and more these days; do you have all of the medication that you need?

Each person's health will dictate some of the preparations that need to be made from a medical aspect, but even the healthiest person should be ready to treat the basics. You may not need medical treatment; but you may have a friend, neighbor or loved one who does.

Have a plan to get out

Sometimes, things get so bad that the best decision is the decision to leave and go somewhere away from the madness. There are even times when you may not have a choice in the matter. This dictates the need to have a plan to get out. Typical evacuation considerations include:

  • Determine primary, secondary and tertiary routes that can be taken. These should offer options that can be taken in three different directions as a way to circumnavigate threats.

  • Do you have a load plan for your vehicle?

  • What is included in your load plan?

  • If you can't make it home or load your gear, do you at least have a car kit that can sustain life for two or three days?

  • Do you have cash available to cover expenses along the way? This is especially important if the power is out and credit card machines are not working.

In most cases, the option of leaving the safety and security of home should be a last resort. Even if you do feel like you will stay no matter what, the need to leave may come. Look at historical experiences like Hurricane Katrina. Remember what happened to those who chose not to evacuate? It was a bad deal!

There is never a guarantee that things will go bad, but it does seem like it is more likely to happen in today's world than a sudden outbreak of world peace. Whether you consider these possibilities happening to you or not, you will likely not have the chance to put anything together once it is already too late. Take a look at the writing on the wall and take the steps necessary to ensure your future survival today while it is still both practical and easy to do.

Chris Hedges: Bill C-51 and Canada's Security State

Photo: ucobserver

© Unknown

This is the speech Chris Hedges would have delivered at the Toronto protest against Bill C-51 on Saturday, if he had made it to the city in time. Weather delayed his plane, but rabble.ca was able to obtain the text of his address and present it here.

Hedges has spent much of his career working as a foreign correspondent in war zones across the globe, and has written extensively on the surveillance state and world conflict. rabble.ca interviewed Hedges by phone that day. You can read that interview here.

Here is what Chris Hedges planned to tell the Toronto crowd protesting C-51:

There are no internal constraints left to halt totalitarian capitalism. Electoral politics is a sham. The media is subservient to corporate power. The working class is being disempowered and impoverished. The legal system is a subsidiary of the corporate state. Any form of dissent, no matter how tepid, will soon to be blocked by an internal security apparatus empowered by anti-terrorist laws that will outstrip anything dreamed of by the East German Stasi state. And no one in Ottawa or Washington intends to help us. Opposition parties, such as the Democratic Party, may cry foul when out of power, but once in power they bow to the demands of the omnipotent military and security organs that serve our corporate masters.

Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is not a free state. It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today. It will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control. The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote, is not, in the end, to discover crimes, "but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population." No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, as ours are, can be described as free. The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked, and those who watch and track them, is the relationship between masters and slaves.

There will, if this law is not blocked, be no checks left on state power. State Security will operate outside the law. Citizens will be convicted on secret evidence in secret courts. Citizens will be subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. Due process will be eradicated. Internal security organs will serve as judge, jury and executioner. The outward forms of democratic participation -- voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation -- will remain, but become meaningless forms of political theater.

Once the security services become omnipotent those who challenge the abuses of power, those who expose the crimes carried out by government are treated as criminals. Totalitarian states always invert the moral order. The evil rule. The righteous are condemned.

Societies that once had democratic traditions, or periods when openness was possible, are often seduced into totalitarian systems because their rulers continue to pay outward fealty to the ideals, practices and forms of the old systems. This was true when the Emperor Augustus dismantled the Roman Republic. It was true when Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized control of the autonomous soviets and ruthlessly centralized power. It was true following the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazi fascism. And it is true today in Canada and the United States. Thomas Paine described despotic government as a fungus growing out of a corrupt and decayed civil society.

Try to defend the treaty rights of First Nations people and you will go to prison. Try to halt the tar sands, fracking, or the bitumen-carrying pipelines and you will go to prison. Try to oppose Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and you will go to prison. And once you are seized by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service you can be subjected to sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, the disorienting poles of extreme light and darkness or extreme heat and extreme cold, along with stress-position torture, waterboarding, beatings and pressure-point torture. And it will all be legal.

Those singled out as internal enemies will include people of color, immigrants, gays, intellectuals, activists, feminists, Jews, Muslims, journalists, union leaders and those defined as "liberals." They will be condemned by reactionary forces, fed and sustained by corporate propaganda and money, and blamed for our decline. The looming economic and environmental collapse will be pinned by these demagogues and hate-mongers -- some of whom have found a perch within the CBC -- on vulnerable scapegoats. And the random acts of violence, such as the attack by a lone gunman on Parliament Hill, will be used to justify even harsher measures of internal control. Fear will be relentlessly orchestrated to manufacture paralysis and consent.

How do we resist? How, if this descent is inevitable, as I believe it is, do we fight back? Why should we resist at all? Why not give in to cynicism and despair? Why not carve out as comfortable a niche as possible within the embrace of the corporate state and spend our lives attempting to satiate our private needs? The power elite, including most of those who graduate from our top universities, academics, politicians, the press and our liberal and intellectual classes, have sold out for personal comfort. Why not us?

Albert Camus argued that we are separated from each other. Our lives are meaningless. We cannot influence fate. We will all die. Our individual beings will be obliterated. And yet Camus wrote "one of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt. It is a constant confrontation between human beings and their obscurity. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it."

"A living person can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object," Camus warned. "But if he or she dies in refusing to be enslaved, he or she reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object."

The rebel, for Camus, stands with the oppressed -- the unemployed and underemployed workers, the people of the First Nations whose land and lives are being exploited, Palestinians in Gaza, the civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the disappeared who are held in our global black sites, the poor in our inner cities and depressed rural communities, immigrants and those locked away in our prison system. And to stand with them means a refusal to collaborate with political systems that mouth the words of justice while carrying out acts of oppression. It means open and direct defiance.

The elites and their liberal apologists dismiss the rebel as impractical. They brand the rebel's outsider stance as counterproductive. They condemn the rebel for being inflexible, unwilling to compromise. These elites call for calm and patience. They use the hypocritical language of spirituality, compromise, tolerance, generosity and compassion to argue that the only alternative is to accept and work with systems of despotic power. The rebel, however, is beholden to a moral commitment that makes this impossible. The rebel refuses to be bought off with government and foundation grants, invitations to parliament, television appearances, book contracts, academic appointments or empty rhetoric. The rebel is not concerned with self-promotion or public opinion. The rebel knows that, as Augustine wrote, hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage -- anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. The rebel is aware that virtue is not rewarded. The act of rebellion defines is its own virtue.

"You do not become a 'dissident' just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career," Vaclav Havel said when he battled the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. "You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society. ... The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. The dissident is not seeking power. The dissident has no desire for office and does not gather votes. The dissident does not attempt to charm the public. The dissident offers nothing and promises nothing. The dissident can offer, if anything, only his or her own skin -- and the dissident offers it solely because the dissident has no other way of affirming the truth he or she stands for. The dissident's actions simply articulate his or her dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost."

We have the capacity to say no, to refuse to cooperate. Any boycott or demonstration, any occupation or sit-in, any strike, any act of obstruction or sabotage, any refusal to pay taxes, any fast, any popular movement and any act of civil disobedience ignites the soul of the rebel and exposes the dead hand of authority. It is only this refusal to cooperate that will save us.

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop," Mario Savio said in 1964. "And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

Rebellion in the face of tyranny is its own justification. Rebellion allows us to be free and independent human beings. Rebellion chips away, however imperceptibly, at the edifice of the oppressor and sustains the flames of empathy, solidarity, hope and finally love. And in moments of profound human despair these flames, no matter how dim, are monumental. They keep alive the capacity to be human. We must become, as Camus said, so absolutely free that "existence is an act of rebellion." Once we attain that freedom we discover that rebellion is not defined by what it achieves, but by who we become.

Those who do not rebel in our age of totalitarian capitalism, those who convince themselves that there is no alternative to collaboration with corporate tyranny are complicit in their own enslavement. They commit spiritual and moral suicide. They extinguish hope. They become the living dead.

No one Ottawa or Washington will halt the rise of the most sophisticated security and surveillance state in human history. The corporate coup is over. And they have won. It is up to us. We are the people we have been waiting for.

I do not know if we can build a better society. I do not even know if we will survive as a species. But I know these corporate forces have us by the throat. And they have my children by the throat. I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists. And this is a fight that in the face of the overwhelming forces against us requires us to find in all acts of sustained rebellion the embers of life, an intrinsic meaning that lies outside of certain success. It requires us to at once grasp reality and then refuse to allow this reality to paralyze us. It is, and I say this to people of all creeds or no creeds, to make an absurd leap of faith, to believe, despite all empirical evidence around us, that good always draws to it the good, that the fight for life always goes somewhere. We do not know where. The Buddhists call it karma. And in these sustained acts of resistance we make it possible to reclaim a future for the generations that come after us, a future that the corporate state, if not overthrown, will obliterate.

The West's attempts to draw Russia into Ukraine are an utter failure

In an interview with the radio station Russia Today, Rostislav Ishchenko, President of the Center for Systematic Analysis and Forecasting, talks about who is trying to draw Russia into a military conflict, and why, Crimea's role in the situation, and the splitting of the Ukraine into separate territories.

In one of your articles, you wrote that the Ukraine was in all likelihood considering some sort of attack on Crimea. What exactly did you mean?

First, I don't think the Ukraine or even the powers that be in Kiev want to attack Crimea. I believe that even the orders to shoot that [Oleksander] Turchynov allegedly gave the military in February 2014 were a PR move. It's doubtful whether he gave such orders at that time. And, if he had given them, of the 20,000 soldiers who were in Crimea at that time, someone would have fulfilled them.

Second, as for an attack on Crimea by the Ukraine, I have already said and I'll repeat it: from my point of view, it's one of the last ways to start a war with Russia. It's perfectly clear that, from February to March of last year, they began trying to draw Russia into direct combat in the Ukraine. And it's clear that the idea came not from Kiev but from Washington.

After the failed attempts to get Russia to send troops to southeast Ukraine in March, April, May, and August, as well as in January of this year, the only more or less justified chance, from the point of view of international law, to instigate a Ukrainian-Russian war is to attempt to play the return-of-Crimea card. And it has been important from the very beginning to ensure that the Ukraine is not seen as the aggressor.

Is the goal of drawing Russia into military operations still on the agenda?

Yes. Now it's much more difficult to achieve because all the major forces of the Ukrainian army are tied up in the southeast, so Kiev can't mount an offensive on the isthmus [connecting Crimea to the mainland]. Last summer, they could have. I think the danger of that was quite high. But then another decision was made: the United States tried once again to draw Russia into war, and active military operations began in the southeast. Donetsk and Luhansk were practically under siege. At that point, the goal really was almost achieved, because in that situation Russia could not let the DPR and the LPR be crushed, and if it had not managed to reverse the course of events, troops would have gone to Crimea.

Who benefits from dragging Russia into the war? After all, it's dangerous for Europe to have fighting right on its doorstep.

The idea of ​​a coup d'état and the most negative unfolding of events, namely a military scenario, clearly does not come from the European politicians. They had no objection to gaining economic control over the Ukraine, which would allow them to pass freely through the Ukrainian market to the Russian and CIS markets. But they had no interest whatsoever in getting into a political and military confrontation with Russia.

On the other hand, the United States, which was clearly not thrilled with the developing economic cooperation between Russia and Europe - cooperation with such great potential that the United States would eventually be crowded out in Europe, first economically and then politically - had a vested interest in having Europe and Russia clash somewhere.

It could not have happened in Poland or Lithuania or even in Belarus - it was possible only in the Ukraine, thanks to the thoroughly inept policies of [Victor] Yanukovych and his government, which tried to continue [Leonid] Kuchma's outdated "multivector" policy of being friends with, and milking, everyone. This policy created conditions for the emergence of conflicting interests in the EU, Russia and the Ukraine, and they were above all economic.

In other words, European politicians also were not inactive?

European politicians have played a most active role in the situation in the Ukraine: they visited, supported, guaranteed, signed agreements, and organized negotiations. Merkel believed that [Wladimir] Klitschko was guaranteed to be the next president of the Ukraine. But on February 21 the Europeans were cut out. And the very next day the United States took control of the situation in the Ukraine. And all further actions took place on orders from Washington, because any government in Kiev, even the most incompetent, would have clearly understood that what was needed most of all was to stabilize the situation, even if concessions had to be made in Crimea and the southeast. It was the wrong time for the Ukraine to take aggressive action; it was not strong enough, and the government in Kiev was not consolidated, but the Ukraine was literally [sic] being pushed toward a confrontation with Russia.

They also tried to provoke Russia. I'll give you a simple example: at the beginning of March, when Crimea was not even legally part of Russia, Putin said that Russia would not tolerate terror against the population in the southeast. Immediately units of the Ukrainian army started moving toward the southeast. Two months into the process they still weren't fully assembled, but nevertheless Kiev said it was starting to conduct antiterrorist operations there. Then came the events in Odessa: brazenly, with television cameras rolling, they killed dozens of people. Then there was firing into Russian territory. Somehow, today we don't see any shells from Ukrainian territory coming into Russia, but in June and July they were arriving in droves. It's unlikely the Ukrainian gunners didn't learn how to shoot until August.

If the shells were reaching Russian territory, someone needed it to happen. If aircraft were violating the airspace of the Russian Federation, someone needed that too. They were making every effort to pull the Russian Federation into the war.

How will the U.S. benefit if Russia is drawn into a military conflict?

How quickly Russian troops might occupy Kiev or even Lvov was of no concern whatsoever to the United States. The main thing was to show that Russia had invaded a sovereign state. Europe would not have been able to remain silent, and in that case the rhetoric and sanctions would have been broader and deeper than now. This would have led to a direct confrontation, severing Europe from Russia for a long time. In addition, it would have caused concern among Russia's allies in the customs union and the recently created Eurasian Economic Union.

Quite naturally other capitals would start to worry: if you can go into the Ukraine, then why not go into Kazakhstan and Belarus too? Even now, when efforts to propel Europe into a direct confrontation with Russia have failed and are unlikely to succeed, the U.S. is interested in seeing Russian troops in the Ukraine, because they cannot hold onto the Ukraine, and it's clear that the Kiev government will fall. The longer the government lasts in Kiev, the more money and resources, including political, diplomatic, and economic resources, the U.S. will inevitably lose in propping it up. No one wants to waste resources on what is basically a lost cause. If Russia takes control of the Ukraine, then it will become Russia's responsibility, politically, economically and financially.

Until then it's the responsibility of the United States. And each successive move by the Kiev regime, each escalation of the terror is slowly but surely eroding the position of the United States, because sooner or later it will be necessary to admit that they have organized and supported a Nazi regime. And people are talking about this openly in Europe. I think that, by December, the United States realized there would be no direct invasion; anything is possible except a direct invasion.

What, in your opinion, awaits the Ukraine? What is the possible outcome of the situation?

Most likely, there will be another coup in Kiev. It boils down to one simple thing: it's necessary to remove the last, quasi-legitimate President, [Petro] Poroshenko, who is keeping the various groups from going at one another's throats. It's clear that Poroshenko will be overthrown by openly Nazi battalions, and the next government will be even more rigid, resulting in a regime of outright terror.

Then the powers that be won't be able to maintain complete control over their territory. They will begin to gradually splinter into "principalities," each with its own troops, and these principalities will engage in conflict with one another. This will destroy what remains of the industrial capacity and will increase the number of refugees flooding into the Russian Federation and the EU, as well as the loss of life, because of the density of the population and the time it will take to disarm these gangs. The question then arises: how do you ensure this "Somalia" doesn't spread over the borders? It will be primarily Russia's problem because Europe doesn't have the military resources.

Is there a way out of this situation? How can order be restored and the cities made secure, if at all possible?

The war will end sooner or later - most likely sooner rather than later, simply because the Ukraine's economic capacity will not allow it to wage war for long, and its neighbors are not interested in having an endless "Somalia" going on in the Ukraine. Russia's actions over the past year show that it's not fighting for Crimea or the Donbass; it's fighting for all of the Ukraine. I very much doubt whether the Ukraine, even with substantial outside support, will last as an independent state for the next five or 10 years.

It will have to be rebuilt, starting from zero. It would be nonsensical for Russia to create a continually hostile state on its borders. The problem is not whether it is necessary to integrate the Ukraine into the territory of the Russian Federation, but how to do so from the standpoint of international law. It all comes back to the confrontation between the Russian Federation and the United States, because if Russia loses, it will be Russia that is divided. But since I'm sure that the U.S. will lose, or even that it has already lost, it's just a matter of time and formalities; the framework of international law will change. And within this new framework will be decided the matter of what should be done with the Ukrainian territories and what their legal status will be. The one that rebuilds them will decide their fate and questions of governance, and that will be Russia.

Source - Translated from the Russian by Robin

Dieudonné sentenced over Facebook post on Charlie Hebdo attack


Amid a crackdown on hate speech and "condoning terrorism" online, a French court has handed out a two-month suspended prison sentence to prominent comedian and political activist Dieudonne over a Facebook post in the wake of Charle Hebdo attack.

The 49-year-old Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, or simply Dieudonne has been convicted for being "an apologist for terrorism" over a Facebook post he made following attacks in France that killed 17 people.

he wrote in a coined phrase on Facebook on January 11, four days after the Charlie Hebdo attack, allegedly making a mockery of the slogan (I am Charlie) a global rallying cry against extremism. The second part of the phrase mimicked the name of Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed four people at a Paris kosher supermarket.

Prosecutor Annabelle Philippe argued that Dieudonne is guilty of presenting "in a favourable light the acts committed by Amedy Coulibaly."

"The feeling of hostility towards the Jewish community that Dieudonne kept up in front of a public attracted by his charisma increases his responsibility," the court argued. The prosecution was seeking a harsher sentence of up to 7 years in prison and a potential 100,000 euro ($106,000) fine.

Dieudonne, who was not present at court during the sentencing on Wednesday, was also fined €30,000 ($35,000), which, if not paid, will result in a prison term.

According to French daily, 20minutes, Dieudonne argued in court on January 28 and February 4 that he has condemned the Charlie Hebdo attacks "without restraint and without any ambiguity." Dieudonne also claimed at the hearing that he wished to participate in the march in Paris against the extremism, but the Interior Ministry had requested that he be "excluded" and treated as a "terrorist."

The comic's case was the most prominent case of several dozen investigated in France in connection to hate speech and allegations of "condoning terrorism."

The comedian is known for his extreme right views and has been credited with inventing a Nazi-like hand salute called the "quenelle." He had previously been found guilty seven times for slander or anti-Semitic statements. A Paris court has also recently banned the sale of a DVD featuring Dieudonne on the grounds that it is anti-Semitic, condones the Holocaust and "collaboration with the enemy".

Amid fierce debates in France over whether the authorities are guilty of double standards on freedom of speech, France blocked five websites suspected of condoning terrorism and spreading hate speech earlier in March. It marked the first usage of new anti-terrorism powers approved by parliament last year that allow such bans without court orders.

France is still on high alert under Operation Sentinel which mobilized over 10,000 troops on French soil to protect 682 sensitive sites across the country including religious sites, railway stations, airports, and tourist attractions in the wake of a rise in religious tensions following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.

Heartless! Church installed sprinklers in doorways to drench homeless who sleep there


A homeless man uses an umbrella to hold off the water

KCBS has learned that Saint Mary's Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral's doorways.

The cathedral, at Geary and Gough, is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.

"They actually have signs in there that say, 'No Trespassing,'" said a homeless man named Robert.

But there are no signs warning the homeless about what happens in these doorways, at various times, all through the night. Water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it.

The shower ran for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes while we were there, starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways. KCBS witnessed it soak homeless people, and their belongings.

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"We're going to be wet there all night, so hypothermia, cold, all that other stuff could set in. Keeping the church clean, but it could make people sick," Robert said.

The water doesn't really clean the area. There are syringes, cigarette butts, soggy clothing and cardboard. There is no drainage system. The water pools on the steps and sidewalks.

A neighbor who witnessed the drenching told KCBS, "I was just shocked, one because it's inhumane to treat people that way. The second thing is that we are in this terrible drought.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless said, "It's very shocking, and very inhumane. There's not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings."

A cathedral staff member confirmed to KCBS the system was installed, perhaps a year ago, to deter the homeless from sleeping there.

Chris Lyford, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, said cathedral staff tries hard to help these people.

"We refer them, mostly to Catholic Charities, for example for housing," Lyford said. "To Saint Anthony's soup kitchen for food, if they want food on that day. Saint Vincent de Paul if they need clothes."

But he says they keep coming back, and most seem to have serious substance abuse issues.

"We do the best we can, and supporting the dignity of each person. But there is only so much you can do."

Some of the homeless bring waterproof gear, even an umbrella, to try to stay dry. Frustrated cathedral employees tell us they don't have the staff to police the doorways, which are used by churchgoers during services.

Lyford, who says he didn't know about the water system until we showed it to him, admits it doesn't seem to be an effective deterrent.

Then, suggests this church neighbor, turn it off. "I would hope that they would stop doing this, both for environmental reasons and for common decency."

KCBS has also learned from a review of city permit records that the system was installed illegally, and may violate water use regulations.

The Archdiocese issued a new statement Wednesday morning about the story, saying the church will address the situation at the Cathedral immediately and will have further comment later in the day.

The statement goes on to say, "Catholic organizations in San Francisco serve thousands of homeless people every year, providing shelter, food, and critical services. That is the true picture of compassionate Catholic care."

Ex-Big Pharma sales rep speaks out about the deception in the pharmaceutical industry

© amazon.ca

"There is no such thing as a safe drug." This comes from ex-pharmaceutical sales rep and author of the book, , Gwen Olsen.

For 15 years, Gwen was living an unintentional lie, working as a pharmaceutical sales rep for some of today's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbott Laboratories. But through a gradual course of tragic events, Gwen's eyes were eventually opened to the unethical and tyrannical truth about pharmaceutical drugs.

"It was an awakening process, a spiritual and consciousness process where I started observing what was happening, what some of the drugs were doing, the misinformation, the disinformation. I was being encouraged to minimize side effects when I talked to doctors. I started to realize that these patients were literally being tortured by the drugs."

In her tell all book, Gwen writes about her years as a pharmaceutical sales rep, exposing the dirty secrets of the industry that often go untalked about.

As she explains, by the time a drug is approved and hits the general population, we don't know even 50% of side effects that are involved with that drug, "We were being trained to misinform people," she said.

But in 2004, a family tragedy that tied into the corruption of the pharma industry would change everything for Gwen.

"My niece was 20 years old, she was attending Indiana university and she was a pre-med student, an extremely intelligent, beautiful woman, and just a beautiful spirit inside and out. She was in a car accident, and was prescribed vicodin hydrocodone for the pain, and became addicted."

Gwen says that the drug's sedative properties were affecting her niece's concentration, so she ended up taking the stimulant drug, ephedrine, to help her with studying.

"She had a drug interaction and ended up in the hospital, and they tagged her with a bipolar disorder, not a drug toxicity or a reaction to the drugs she was on. They started giving her more antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, and that set her on the road to becoming a mental patient."

Sadly, Gwen's niece eventually dropped out of school, after which she tried to wean herself off of the medications she was taking. Inevitably, a severe depression followed.

"Her mom was on her way home to take her back to the psychiatrist and get her back on drugs. [That is when] my niece walked into her younger sister's room and took an angel lamp that was filled with oil, and poured it over herself and ignited it, burning herself alive."

Gwen says that her niece's suicide was the spark for her passion to spread the truth about what is happening to so many others out there suffering from side effects associated with pharmaceutical drugs.

"It was a promise made to her that I would not let her memory be sullied, and tell people what had happened to her. She would not be remembered as a mentally or genetically defective person, I would not allow that to happen. And I realize that there are thousands and thousands of people out there that need a voice, and I'm serving as that voice."

Today, one of Gwen's biggest concerns is for the millions of children taking antipsychotics, which has grown exponentially in the past 10 years. These drugs are especially being given to kids in foster care, putting them in a virtual chemical straight jacket.

"A large number of psychiatrists are dishonest, because I see them giving people drugs that they know are brain damaging therapeutics, that they know do not have positive, long-term outcomes, that they know will not cure anything. They just take a list of symptoms and call it a mental illness or disorder."

The subjectivity of psychiatric diagnoses has created a lucrative alliance between psychiatrists, pharma reps and the pharma industry. There is no scientific data that is required to diagnose a mental illness. There are no blood tests, there are no urine tests, no PET scan, there is no medical evidence required, and so therefore, that broadens the potential patient population considerably.

"I was so disillusioned, as well as angry, when I found out how much deception, how much misinformation was taking place and how I'd been used in that game. I literally was the one on the frontlines, I was harming people unintentionally, but I was responsible. I carry a burden for that now."

Be sure to check out Gwen's book, Confessions of an RX Drug Pusher, for more of her story.

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Arabic Engraved Ring Found in Viking Grave


A ring found in a 9th century grave in Birka, Sweden (home to a Viking trading center) suggests that Vikings had contact with Islamic civilizations. The silver ring, found in a Viking woman’s grave, has a beautiful violet-colored glass gem engraved with “To Allah” or “For Allah” in Arabic. “Ancient texts mention contact between Scandinavians and members of Islamic civilization, but such archaeological evidence is rare.”

h/t Boing Boing.

The FDA deliberately keeps us in the dark about bad science

© RCarner/Thinkstock

Why would the FDA let claims that have been undermined by fraud appear on drug labels?

It's the same old story of prescription drugs and fraudulent studies, but the FDA doesn't seem to care.

A recent article in magazine shows how the FDA hides important safety information when it uncovers scientific misconduct in clinical trials of pharmaceutical drugs. The names of the drugs and the company responsible for the misconduct are concealed, journal citations are left uncorrected, and claims made on drugs' labels are left unchanged even after it's known that they were based on bad science.

According to the author,

"The FDA knows about dozens of scientific papers floating about whose data are questionable—and has said nothing, leaving physicians and medical researchers completely unaware."

The author notes that these aren't isolated incidents, but part of routine behavior by the FDA to shield Big Pharma from unwelcome scrutiny.

Here are some highlights from the article:

  • Out of seventy-eight publications that sprang from a tainted study, only three cases mentioned the problems FDA found in the study.

  • Given 600 clinical trials in which a researcher failed an FDA inspection, in only 100 cases could investigators determine which drug and which pharmaceutical company were involved.

  • One company, Cetero, was caught faking data from more than 1,400 drug trials that were used to prove the safety of about 100 drugs. Incredibly, after the FDA caught Cetero, the fraudulent data was still on the drug labels.

  • In the RECORD 4 drug trials that were used to establish the safety of the anti-blood-clotting drug rivaroxaban, FDA found rampant misconduct, including falsified data and fraud. "Yet," writes the author, "if you look in the medical journals, the results from RECORD 4 sit quietly in without any hint in the literature about falsification, misconduct, or chaos behind the scenes. This means that physicians around the world are basing life-and-death medical decisions on a study that the FDA knows is simply not credible."

Unfortunately, we've seen this kind of thing before. Clearly, there's a wide gap between what the FDA knows and what doctors and patients are allowed to know about the safety of prescription drugs. This is exaggerated further by publication bias—the tendency of positive results to be published over negative results—which can give doctors incomplete or misleading information about a drug's safety.

Why would the FDA, which is charged with protecting public health, knowingly conceal information about drug safety from the public and the medical community? The answer is simple. In the words of the author, "It's a sign that the FDA is deeply captured, drawn firmly into the orbit of the pharmaceutical industry that it's supposed to regulate."

To most of us, the crony-capitalist relationship between the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry comes as no surprise. This is just another example among many of the FDA using its role as a government watchdog to enhance the profits of Big Pharma rather than to safeguard public health.

Tell the FDA to require that all drug trials submitted to the FDA be publicly available—not only for new drugs, but for all drugs currently on the market. There is no reason a government agency should bury vital information that could affect the health of its citizens. Tell the FDA to be more transparent!

U.S. surveillance drone brought down by Syrian air defenses in Latakia province

© Reuters/Bob Brown

Syrian military have reportedly brought down a "hostile" US surveillance drone flying in Syrian airspace, apparently without Damascus's consent. A US official confirmed that the military "lost contact" with one of their UAVs over Latakia province.

"Syrian air defenses brought down a hostile US surveillance plane in northern Latakia," the Syrian state news agency SANA initially on Tuesday, providing no further details. Syrian authorities have meanwhile begun an investigation to find out who owns the reconnaissance plane, reported Kuwait's KUNA news agency.

State television also showed footage of what seemed to be the wreckage, including electronic parts of the suspected aircraft. The origin of the surveillance drone, originally pronounced to be American, came under doubt after a number of Arabic blogs showed pictures of the wreckage. In one of the takes, the pictures show what looks like a battery unit, with clearly visible sign, 'Made in EU'.

However, a US official confirmed to Reuters on condition of anonymity that the United States lost contact with an"unarmed drone aircraft" over Syria. Another source said the incident was being investigated.

"At this time, we have no information to corroborate press reports that the aircraft was shot down," the source said."We are looking into the incident and will provide more details when available."

Neither the US State Department nor CENTCOM have yet officially commented on the incident.

"US military forces continued to attack ISIL (Islamic State / ISIS) terrorists in Syria, using fighter, attack, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct seven airstrikes," CENTCOM said of its continued allied mission over Syria that began in September. The Central Command did not mention where drones were deployed to carry out strikes.

It remains puzzling how US aircraft ended up in the coastal province of Latakia. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Islamic State does not operate in the province. The province is home to the town of Qardaha, ancestral town of President Bashar Al-Assad and is considered a stronghold of the Alawite minority in Syria.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, parts of northeastern Syria have been captured by the Islamic State. The group was reinforced by dozens of opposition rebel factions, some of which had previously been supported by Western governments. Nevertheless, Washington continues arming and training what they call "moderate" Syrian militants who fight against Assad's government.

Last August, President Obama ordered "limited strikes" against ISIS in order to protect American personnel in Iraq. One month later, Obama announced he was broadening the military campaign to "destroy" the Islamic State and prevent its advance into neighboring territories, including Syria.

Since the start of the bombing campaign, US drones have undertaken both surveillance and strike missions in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation . If confirmed, the incident would become the first downing of a US aircraft since the beginning of the campaign.

Besides US deployment of drones to Syria, the UK in October admitted to using Reaper and Rivet Joint aircraft for surveillance missions over the country. Overall, the US-led alliance of nations which conducted airstrikes in the region also includes Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Syria did not formally consent to the strikes on its territory, claiming that operations without Damascus's coordination is a violation of sovereignty. However the US authorities, who have long been demanding Assad's unconditional resignation, insist that his power is illegitimate, thus claiming there was no need for military coordination with Damascus.

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BEST OF THE WEB: West to East: Global power balance shifting - the American empire is dying

west to east

A major recent event last week largely went unnoticed by both MSM and independent news sources alike. The British are apparently jumping ship away from the US dollar/petrodollar in an overt effort to align itself more closely with the BRICS alliance as it seeks a new standard international currency. For several years Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa (BRICS) have been preparing the world for its transition from USD standard international currency to its own alternative-in-the-making. America's so called mother country England has seen the writing on the wall and knows the global balance of power is rapidly tilting in favor of where the sun always rises in the emerging East.

The European central banking cabal from the City of London, a separate and private political and financial entity apart from the rest of both London and England, sent British royalty Prince William to China to quietly sign a deal to become a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This surprising new development is a clear indication that the royal Bank of England is placing its financial bet and future on China and the East as its rock solid anchor. Much of the world has been looking to move away from and abandon the longtime global financial stronghold of the US Federal Reserve, its World Bank and US dollar standard. A US official feebly chastised UK in the Financial Times:

We are wary about a trend toward constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power.

More consternation arose when Germany, France and Italy have additionally made overtures in the same direction. This worldwide trend spells utter defeat for Obama and his disastrous foreign policy. After Washington's been exerting strong-armed pressure on Australia as its key allied partner supporting its failing Asian pivot designed to check China's growing regional and global dominance in the Pacific Asian market, Australia is now also looking to follow suit accepting and embracing China's lead.

According to international investor and entrepreneur Simon Black, the US is experiencing major economic blowback after two plus decades of aggression as the only global superpower:

... After years of endless wars, spying, debt, money printing, bailouts, and insane regulations, the rest of the world has had enough. And they're looking for an alternative.

Enter the China led BRICS alliance and its New Development Bank and now China's other investment bank entry AIIB. Simon takes liberty in his interpretation of Britain and Europe's bold rebellion after decades relegated to being a mere puppet of the US Empire:

Look, you have $18.1 trillion in official debt, you have $42 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and you're kind of a dick. I'm dumping you.

Perhaps some Americans may feel a bit betrayed and unsettled by our longtime strongest global allies one by one seemingly abandoning the US dollar and American Empire in its reckoning time of need. If these geopolitical and economic trends are examined beyond their face value though, the changes occurring now may reflect much more significant, deeper changes than a mere alteration of standard international currency (as impactful as that will likely be for the US). These deep rooted fundamental changes have everything to do with the major global shift now taking place where the West's ruling power elite itself is losing to the emerging global power rising in the East .

The latest act of bold economic defiance breaking rank with US Empire interests mirrors last month's bucking trend that Europe exercised when putting the skids on the US campaign for sending heavy armaments to Ukraine and pushing for war against Russia. The fact is Europe and especially Germany depend on natural gas from Russia and the US imposed sanctions on Russia hurt Europe even more than Russia. That along with wanting to avoid war in their own backyard has nations like Germany and France softening their hardline, US pushed anti-Russian posturing.

Several weeks ago German and French leaders attended meetings in Minsk, Belarus to negotiate a peaceful way out of the escalating violence in Eastern Ukraine between the government forces in Kiev and the ethnic Russian separatists seeking autonomy in the Donetsk and Lugansk region. In the same way Netanyahu attempted to fan the war flames against Iran, the same day Germany and France were gathering in Minsk to meet with Putin and Ukraine leaders, Secretary of State Kerry showed up in Kiev mouthing the same worn out lie of "Russian aggression" in a transparent feeble attempt to sabotage the Minsk talks. Again, the tie-in is the Israeli-US crime cabal constantly at work every chance they get peddling and promoting more global violence, death and war.

For over a year now Washington's war drums have been beating louder for NATO to join forces with Ukraine, pressuring Europe to submit as it always has in going along with its permanent war agenda, all the while falsely demonizing Russia's President Putin with outrageous propaganda lies and nonstop false flags not unlike the WMD lies against Hussein in 2002-3 Iraq. But in a rare gesture of independence, unwilling to start a war so close to home against nuclear powered Russia that Europe relies heavily as a critical source for its natural gas consumption, the powers of Europe are seeking a non-violent resolution to its regional conflict that carries the devastating potential of triggering World War III.

Meanwhile, NATO Supreme Commander US Air Force General Philip Breedlove fashions himself to be a Dr. Strangelove incarnate, making repeated bogus claims and lies of Russian army presence inside Eastern Ukraine in a vain yet persistent attempt to foment war. Having such a deluded and deceitful warmonger in charge of the NATO nuclear arsenal poses a calamitous threat to the entire world. Yet his commander-in-chief Obama has chosen not to relieve him of command. Instead German leaders have openly criticized Breedlove and the European Union wants to replace NATO with its own continental army. This very public geopolitical conflict over such widely differing Western approaches toward Ukraine seriously undermines American Empire's global influence and power, again underscoring simultaneous developments around the world that indicate consistent across the boards US foreign policy failures and from the broader context, a rapid US decline as the sole global hegemonic superpower.

Putin advisor Sergei Glazyev nailed it when he said:

The war has been provoked to destroy the Russian World, to draw Europe into it, and to surround Russia with hostile countries. Unleashing this world war, America is trying to deal with its own internal problems.

Current economic turmoil reverberating in Japan is in large part due to the notorious corruption of the Abe government that may soon have additional problems to contend with once accusations over a fraudulent past elections get fully exposed. Abe has been a subservient tool used by the same international crime syndicate controlled by subversive Israeli-American forces. As such, Japan will also be moving away from the USD/West geopolitics and very likely pivoting toward China and a Pacific alliance that excludes the US Empire finding itself increasingly isolated on the outs.

Though incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu is the apparent winner in today's Israeli election, the despot had to claw and fight for his political life to survive another day. Recent revelations that he's been a Russian spy surfaced right after his disgraceful debacle in front of the Israeli captured US congressional audience on Capitol Hill two weeks ago and then came the despicable treasonous display of 47 Republican senators threatening letter to Iran. Bibi's days of hate, war and paranoia are numbered as the ugly truth about his evildoing will continue to unfold that will soon bring him down. Showing his true evil colors right to the end, the day before the election Netanyahu once again reminded the world that an autonomous Palestinian state will never come to pass while on his watch.

Within the last couple weeks other mysterious events suggesting some cataclysmic, behind-the-scenes development included the apparent disappearance of Vladimir Putin for 11 consecutive days, fueling speculation from an internal political coup to possible sickness and/or death to witnessing the birth of his child at the bedside of his girlfriend in Switzerland. Because so many monumental breaking stories and developments seem to abound every week, Putin's normally high profile lifestyle would naturally generate even higher profile speculation over his abrupt, extended disappearance. Of course it begs the question asking if it's merely coincidental with these other earth-shaking events or very much related.

For years the CIA and US Empire have been hard at work in nations from Eastern Europe through the Caucasus to Central Asia all the way to China courting the favor of corrupt dictators and supporting coups promoting anti-Russo-Sino US puppet governments along the entire corridor bordering Russia and China. Despite such Obama's plan after the 2008 Russian-Georgia conflict was to a reset relations with Russia. But with last year's US-induced Ukrainian coup and Russia's annexation by consensual vote of Crimea that "reset" plan went out the window. In 2011 Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed the economic alliance of the Eurasian Union. Meanwhile, recognizing the strategic importance of the land bridge between Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Putin has made inroads strengthening ties with the three South Caucasus nations. Putin enticed Armenia to also join the Eurasian Union and has mediated hostilities between Armenia and oil rich Azerbaijan while seeking to repair and realign with Georgia that previously leaned toward the West. US Empire has largely failed to gain a foothold in this part of the world.

Other key geopolitical developments that have been ongoing for some time center in such remote places as western China's mineral and oil-rich Xinjiang Province. With the powerful US Navy patrolling and to a great extent controlling Pacific waters in conjunction with Obama's flop of an Asian Pacific pivot, the geopolitics chessboard strategy to hem the two adversarial giants in with hostile neighbors has generally backfired. Furthermore, the US was not prepared for Russia and China to suddenly renew an ultra-close economic, political and military bond that would effectively counter US Empire's hegemonic aggression. They promptly signed a $400 billion oil-gas pipeline deal that will span a landlocked pathway, thereby foiling the US plan to seal off the China's energy access via the Pacific. Hence, Moslem populated Xinjiang Province that is the proposed pipeline passage route has become a highly contentious target where the West and CIA in particular have been funding and supporting a separatist movement and acts of terrorism as a disruptive interdiction tactic. Overall this covert strategy has failed.

The Western cabal controlled crime syndicate led by the likes of kingpin Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu financed and supported by the likes of multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson and the Saudi royal family along with congressional henchman and ISIS friend Senator John McCain and the rest of his treasonous Republicans, the rogue US intelligence agency the CIA and NATO's General Breedlove are all bent on plunging the US Empire-NATO forces into World War III on multiple warfronts at every global hotspot - Ukraine, Syria, Iran, the Caucasus all the way eastward to China's Xinjiang Province and northward to the oil-rich Arctic against the forces of the two most powerful nations of the East - Russia and China. As a desperate last ditch attempt to retain its many centuries of Rothschild-Rockefeller power and dominance, these evil-minded, megalomaniacal psychopaths know that their hitherto unchallenged global control and strength that have bankrupted and nearly destroyed the planet is fast slipping away. So they seem all the more erratically resolute in seeking revenge by taking the entire earth down with them.

The truth about the horror and destruction these Western oligarchs have conspired and caused worldwide for centuries cannot even be fathomed. They have ensured a permanent state of war (in the US alone 93% of its 239 years ) right up to the present Bush crime family-neocon fabrication of the "war on terror," then under Obama this last year alone wrongly plunging America into another dangerous cold war with Putin's Russia, and dozens of tragic false flag events like 9/11 designed to demonize Moslems into becoming the instantaneous post-Communist designated enemy of the twenty-first century with the US-Saudi-Israeli creation of al Qaeda/ISIS . These dark malevolent forces of evil that have propagated so much misery and suffering on humanity for so long are finally at last being exposed like never before.

The Western oligarch agenda to inflict a globalized system of absolute totalitarian fascist police state NWO control on every nation and people on earth trapped in hopeless debtor bondage may just be running into a brick Eastern wall as clear losers in the ongoing economic/currency war. Despite the constant jabbing of Putin and his Russian bear in vain attempts to manipulate him to react with military force in eastern Ukraine and despite the failed overt assault in the form of US Empire's Asian pivot designed to close in and isolate China from the rest of Pacific Asia, ironically it's the United States that finds itself increasingly alone as the longtime global village bully that's finally met its match about to get its comeuppance. The smarter, economically stronger forces emerging from the East are winning the power war potentially without even firing a single shot against Western oppressors. Hopefully peace will prevail and the international crime syndicate that has long controlled the West will be deposed of as the murderous traitors to both peace and humankind.

As a necessary qualifier, actual real life tends toward shades of gray far more than black and white. Undoubtedly elements of corruption and evil lurk behind all the most powerful nations in both the West and the East. But the forces of China and Russia appear to be seeking a far more rational, humane and even peaceful resolution to the West-instigated West vs. East geopolitical military showdown sinisterly orchestrated by the international crime cabal's global agenda of polarization, militarization, privatization and unsustainable, insurmountable debt-driven feudalism based on pure theft, deception, exploitation, impoverishment and pervasive planetary destruction.

Seeking to avoid the inevitable bloodbath that would result from world war and possible nuclear annihilation of all life forms on earth, the East appears to be seeking to avert such global disaster by ensuring that this ongoing war is won by successfully transitioning to an international currency backed once again by the gold standard. The Western central banking cabal consisting of the Bank of England and other European central banks, America's Federal Reserve Board, its World Bank and International Monetary Fund along with the Israeli-US government crime cabal all stand to ultimately be stripped of their absolute power that have the entire world drowning in debt, crushing destabilization and impoverished despair. But now a light at the end of the tunnel at least is shining a little brighter.

Joachim Hagopian is a West Point graduate and former US Army officer. He has written a manuscript based on his unique military experience entitled "Don't Let The Bastards Getcha Down." It examines and focuses on US international relations, leadership and national security issues. After the military, Joachim earned a master's degree in Clinical Psychology and worked as a licensed therapist in the mental health field for more than a quarter century. He now concentrates on his writing and has a blog site at http://bit.ly/1xfZjXk.

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Solar-system-wide climate change: Astronomy in need of major re-write as 1,000 km high dust clouds and spectacular auroras discovered on Mars

© University of Colorado

The MAVEN spacecraft arrived at Mars in September 2014 to study the planet's atmosphere.

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft has discovered a dust cloud billowing above Mars, up to 1,000 kilometres above the planet's surface. The dust does not threaten spacecraft orbiting the red planet, but the unexpected finding poses big challenges to atmospheric researchers trying to explain where the cloud came from.

"," says Bruce Jakosky, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the mission's principal investigator. "."

Jakosky reported the finding on 18 March at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. But the dust cloud was not the only new finding from MAVEN, which has also discovered a diffuse, high-altitude aurora glowing above Mars's northern hemisphere.

The spacecraft arrived at Mars last September to fly through and study the planet's upper atmosphere. One of its instruments, a Langmuir probe, measures the densities and temperatures of electrons. It has picked up small whiffs of plasma that form when dust hits the spacecraft and vaporizes, Jakosky says. These kinds of tiny impacts have been measured before by other spacecraft, such as the Voyager and Cassini probes, but have never been measured at Mars.

The dust appears to be concentrated between about 150 and 500 kilometres above the Martian surface, and more on the day side, the hemisphere lit by the Sun, than the night side of Mars. The dust has been seen ever since the spacecraft arrived at Mars in September, so it is not related to Comet Siding Spring, which whizzed by Mars in October and dumped a load of fresh dust in the Martian atmosphere.

The dust may have come from earlier comet visits or some other sort of dust arriving from outside the Martian system. Another possibility is that it is being shed from Mars's moons, Phobos and Deimos. Or, the dust may have been lofted somehow from the surface.

Separately, MAVEN has also spotted a diffuse aurora unlike anything seen before at the planet. Mars does not have a planet-wide magnetic field as Earth does, and so it does not have the standard northern and southern lights as are seen above Earth's poles. The European Space Agency's Mars Express did find auroras glowing above patches of the Martian surface that have a magnetic field1.

For five days in December, MAVEN saw a dim aurora, which the team dubbed the "Christmas lights aurora." Rather than being focused above specific magnetic features, it was distributed across the entire northern hemisphere. It appeared at the same time that a storm of charged particles was blasting from the Sun and past Mars. The particles penetrated deep into Mars's atmosphere, down to altitudes where the aurora appeared, and so the solar storm may be causing the aurora.

Jasper Halekas, a space physicist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, says the MAVEN findings are already rewriting what scientists know about the magnetic realms around Mars. "," he says.

Nature - doi:10.1038/nature.2015.17152


Bertaux, J.-L. et al. 435, 790 - 794 (2005).

Politicians tell football star Ibrahimovic 'Leave, or shut up and play' after PSG captain describes France as 'sh*t'

International football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 'What is WRONG with France?'

National Front leader Marine Le Pen has called on Zlatan Ibrahimovic to leave France if he doesn't like it. The move follows the football star's angry remark about French match referees.

He was filmed making the comment on Sunday evening.

"In 15 years I've never seen a [good] referee in this shit country ... [they] don't even deserve PSG," Ibrahimovic said referring to French football team Paris Saint-Germain. "We're too good for all of you."

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The remark caused political and sporting outrage in the country. Numerous officials qualified the statement as unacceptable and demanded an apology. Sports Minister Patrick Kanner described it as "insulting."

"Let him play football and shut up, or at least be respectful of this country, the football supporters who were also insulted," Jérôme Guedj of the Socialist party said, the reported.

Marine Le Pen, franco-française

Ibrahimovic hurried to make an apology on social media.

"Regarding my comments after tonight's game; they were not against France or the French people," he wrote in his Instagram account. "I spoke about football. I lost the game, I accept that, but I can't accept when the referee doesn't follow the rules. It's not the first time and I'm sick of it. My sincere apologies if anyone was offended or took it the wrong way."

The France's football governing body LFP (Ligue de Football Professionnel) said in a statement on Monday disciplinary commission of the LFP would discuss Ibrahimovic's comments in its meeting on Thursday at the end of the game between Bordeaux and Paris St-Germain.

The National Front leader Marine Le Pen's reaction was even harsher, as she proposed that Ibrahimovic leave France if he wanted to make such remarks.

"Those who consider that France is a shit country can leave it," Le Pen said.

Ibrahimovic, who plays for Paris Saint-Germaine, is famous for his controversial comments. Last week he said Chelsea players acted like babies when he was shown a red card.