A non-profit news blog, focused on providing independent journalism.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Mysterious bangs heard in Auckland

© www.stuff.co.nz
What was the unexplained bang heard in Auckland on Saturday night?

A mysterious loud explosion has stumped residents of Auckland's central suburbs as to what it could be.

The banging was reportedly heard on Saturday around 11.30pm.

Police say they had no reports of anything that may have caused such an explosion, other than fireworks being let off.

The noise was heard in the Mt Albert, Mt Roskill and Three Kings area - as well as far away as Waterview to the west and Papakura to the south.

Resident Ash Ball said there was a massive explosion which woke up the neighbourhood. "It shook our house and woke us up with a hell of a fright."

But some residents are convinced something more untoward is going on.

One person tweeted that it sounded like a bomb exploding while another emailed to Stuff declaring it to have been a sonic boom.

In June last year, a series of mysterious "explosions" were reported across west and north Auckland leaving police mystified then as well.

Those explosions turned out to be Defence Force training exercises at the Kaipara Bomb Range.

American Express President Ed Gilligan dies after becoming ill on flight to New York

© @edgilligan/Twitter
Ed Gilligan, president of American Express, died Friday.

The president of American Express died on board a plane bound for New York City on Friday.

According to the company, Ed Gilligan became seriously ill on a flight home from Tokyo and passed away. No other details about the incident were immediately released.

The 55-year-old, life-long company employee was returning from a business trip on a corporate jet.

In a letter to employees Chief Executive Officer Ken Chenault stated: "This is deeply painful and frankly unimaginable for all of us who had the great fortune to work with Ed, and benefit from his insights, leadership and enthusiasm. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Lisa, and their four children - Katie, Meaghan, Kevin and Shane. He was a proud husband and father, and his love for his family was evident in all that he did."

Gilligan started as an intern at the company 35 years ago. He became Vice Chairman in 2007 and President in 2013.

The company plans a memorial service for employees to share their memories of Gilligan. Details were still being worked out.


Unnecessary death, brutality, unconscionable neglect and medical malpractice at New York's Rikers Island women's jail


© Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

After Judy Jean Caquias died in Rikers Island custody last year, her youngest sister received a box from her old apartment with all of her personal belongings. Her whole life distilled into a pile of odds and ends: pictures of family, old papers from school, an iron-on patch of a woman with a rainbow flag flying. Yankees memorabilia, an Obama sticker, a political flier: "Demand housing for the homeless." A program for a community play she'd been cast in, and on the cover, a picture of her as a sad clown holding an American flag. And photos of herself: a grainy selfie she took in her bedroom wearing a gray tank top and gold chain, with close cut gray hair and reading glasses. Another where she's a little thinner, in a white baseball cap and gray hoodie, eyebrows raised and mouth slightly open as if she's about to say something.

On May 6 of last year, Caquias — who everyone knew as Jackie — was incarcerated at Rikers on a years-old warrant for having missed drug court dates. She was a tough lady at 61, according to the defense lawyer in her criminal case. But she had a history of liver disease, including a bout of Hep C, and in her 20s and 30s she had been addicted to heroin, which can also cause liver damage. Jackie had done time before on drug-related charges — but that was long ago. "She was very frightened of spending time in jail after all that time out," her former lawyer Ilissa Brownstein says.

On Jackie's second day at the Rose M. Singer Center, the island's only women's facility, the medical clinic ran lab tests that showed Jackie's liver was severely stressed. Blood work two weeks later showed the same. Yet the doctors at Rikers didn't send Jackie to a gastroenterologist for a liver exam. Instead, they prescribed her Tylenol 3 and iron, both dangerous for people with liver problems. The Tylenol 3 was discontinued after a week, but even after medical staff ordered the iron be stopped, the pharmacy continued dispensing it. Less than a month after Jackie arrived at Rose M. Singer, her system began to fail. She grew disoriented and delusional, and began vomiting so severely that blood and bodily tissue came up — all signs of acute liver failure. On June 25, 2014, after spending weeks in Elmhurst Hospital comatose and hooked up to machines, Jackie died. This according to a proposed amended notice of claim for a lawsuit to be filed this summer by her sister Daria Widing, and an analysis of health records by the medical expert hired for the case. The lawsuit, which will seek $20 million in damages, will charge that negligence by the City of New York contributed to Jackie's death.

New York City's chief medical examiner listed Jackie's cause of death as "complications of upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage complicating hepatic cirrhosis due to Hepatitis C due to chronic substance abuse," according to the medical expert. The New York State Commission of Correction, which conducts inmate mortality reviews, determined that Jackie's cause of death was natural, and the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), in charge of overseeing Rikers medical care, reviewed Jackie's case and closed it shortly after her death.

Both DOHMH and Corizon, the private company that runs medical services at Rikers, say that privacy law prohibits them from commenting on the medical care of individuals. Corizon says it is "deeply saddened by any death."

I asked several former Rose M. Singer inmates if they had known Jackie. When I asked Namala Conteh, there was silence on the line. Then the memory filtered back: "Oh my god, the one that passed away? Oh my — you just reopened my wound again. The crazy thing is — I — I — mmmmmm, fuck. It's crazy. That — Oh my god."

Conteh was there at the clinic when Jackie was finally taken in. "They were so neglectful," she says of the staff. "They had that blood all over their hands."

Jackie's death appears to fit a pattern; a series of health care-related deaths alongside the never-ending reports of brutality in the Rikers men's jails have dominated headlines in recent months. Last year, the AP reported that poor medical care at Rikers had helped precipitate at least 15 inmate deaths over the past five years. After medical staff failed to treat a 59-year-old inmate for constipation, he died of complications from an infected bowel. Another man went into a diabetic coma and died within two days of being incarcerated. According to a complaint filed by his family, a 19-year-old boy who complained of chest pain for seven months was never given an X-ray and died in 2013 from a tear in his aorta. The New York Times recently detailed another death, that of Bradley Ballard, an inmate with schizophrenia and diabetes who died after being locked in his cell for six days without medication or running water.

But "women prisoners often get overlooked," says Amy Fettig, a senior counsel at the ACLU's National Prison Project. The island's women's jail, known as Rosie, is home to about 600 of the 11,000 inmates at Rikers. "In some facilities you might not see beat-ups, but you'll see the violence of not receiving appropriate health care," she says. Medical records, inmate complaint data, and interviews with current and former inmates bear this out.

Pharmaceutical errors like the ones that may have contributed to Jackie's death aren't uncommon at Rosie. Between July of last year and April 2015, the Legal Aid Society — the largest provider of legal services to the city's poor — received complaints from 17 Rosie inmates who said their prescriptions had gone unfilled or their meds were discontinued for no apparent reason. Two Rosie inmates The Intercept spoke with described recent instances in which they received the wrong medication or the wrong dosage.

Last September, Kim Midyett went down to the clinic because she was feeling sweaty and shaky. According to medical records, her blood sugar had plummeted. Midyett told a doctor that earlier that morning, a nurse had injected her with 12 units of insulin instead of the prescribed six. That's not a trivial error, says Dr. Josiah Rich, a prison health care expert at Brown University. "The wrong dose of insulin can kill you."

Virdie Emmanuel, who landed on Rikers in January 2014, has dark circles under her eyes, a sweet smile and a grand larceny conviction. Emmanuel's health problems began at age 10, when her appendix ruptured. By 20, she had Crohn's disease and says she "basically lived at Mount Sinai [Hospital] for weeks at a time." The diseases and disorders kept piling up. Now, on top of Crohn's, the 41-year-old has rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, fibromyalgia, morbid obesity, anemia, asthma, PTSD, anxiety and depression, according to medical records. By 2013, Emmanuel says she was buried in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical bills. She was arrested for — and pleaded guilty to — charging $1.3 million worth of personal expenses to her employer's account. Emmanuel says it was to pay off her medical debt.

Once in jail, her health began to deteriorate further. Emmanuel takes about a dozen pills a day to manage her conditions. Last winter, her prescription for Lyrica, a fibromyalgia drug, was allowed to lapse, causing her severe muscle pain and numbness. And she submitted complaints about receiving the wrong meds several times over the past year. In January, medical director Lisa Choleff admitted in a response to a complaint form Emmanuel had submitted that she had "received the wrong medication for several months, then when it was caught, medical did not prescribe it to her, yet pharmacy had been dispensing it to her."

After an inmate death in 2010, the New York State Commission of Correction ordered Corizon, which is the largest private correctional health care provider in the country, to evaluate why patients' medications were often discontinued after admission. And in 2011, after another death, the commission demanded the company fix problems with its dispensation of psychotropic meds and review its pharmacists' professional qualifications.

Corizon says its employees "work hard to provide our patients with appropriate care — including providing all treatment and medication that is clinically indicated." And yet the company — which services 345,000 inmates in 531 jails, prisons and detention facilities around the country — has built itself a reputation for cutting costs and putting patients' lives at risk. Corizon was reportedly sued 660 times for malpractice between 2008 and 2013, and has been implicated in class action lawsuits filed by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The company says its "patient population is highly litigious," and that the "existence of a suit is not necessarily indicative of quality of care or any wrongdoing."

New York City attempted to prevent the company from cutting corners when it hired Corizon's corporate predecessor, Prison Health Services, in 2000. The city's cost-plus contract with the company keeps Corizon from skimping on lab tests or specialty care or prescriptions in order to jack up profits. And DOHMH provides heavy oversight of health care on the island.

But inmate medical care involves treating high volumes of very sick people in a grim and often dangerous setting, and attracting good staff can be hard for any jail health care operation. Since last fall, two Corizon staffers at Rikers have been arrested for smuggling contraband into the jail. In July 2010, a Rikers doctor was arrested for sexually abusing a female inmate. That same month, another doctor resigned over questions about the validity of his certification to provide medical care to inmates. And in 2000, before Corizon hired her, medical director Lisa Choleff had her license restricted for several years on a rare disciplinary action over charges of "gross negligence, gross incompetence and negligence, and incompetence on more than one occasion." She notes in her public profile at the New York State Department of Health that the disciplinary action "has now been resolved." She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DOHMH notes that it conducts regular credentialing reviews of physicians and PAs. Corizon says its staff "have taken the same Hippocratic and nursing oaths ... as those in hospitals and medical facilities across the country."

The company emphasizes: "We consider it our mission to care for our patients as we would our own family." But at a recent city council hearing, Corizon's chief medical officer, Dr. Calvin Johnson, was at a loss when a council member asked what specific reforms the company had recommended to improve care at Rikers in the wake of the recent string of deaths. Despite rephrasing the question six times, the council member never got a direct answer.

To get to Rikers, you have to wind your way to the top of Queens and then cross a long low bridge over Flushing Bay, which circles the island to the south. As Jackie crossed the bridge, she probably saw planes lifting off from LaGuardia for another coast or country — rising over the wide bay, then over the mouth of the East River to the north of the island. She might have seen a diagonal of seagulls in the sky. She might have smelled the smell of the raw sewage overflow that empties into the bay after a rain before she headed toward the compound's concentric fences and swirls of razor wire.

Jackie was arrested in Harlem last year while talking on the phone with her sister Daria Widing, waiting for a downtown bus. After a 2009 arrest for selling heroin, a judge had ordered Jackie to go to drug court, which required her to be free from painkillers. She was facing intense pain from an injured knee and back, and according to her former defense attorney, eventually decided to go back on her pain meds. A few months in, she started missing court dates and a warrant was issued. In May 2014, the police picked her up and Jackie was sentenced to jail.

Eighty-four percent of women incarcerated nationwide are locked up for a nonviolent crimes. Most are poor. A disproportionate number are black or Hispanic.

Jackie grew up in the Washington Projects in Spanish Harlem in a big Catholic family. She was a teenager in the 1960s, a 20-something in the 1970s, and she was gay when being gay was fringe. So she fell in where she belonged. She was a hippie and did hippie things. She traveled the country. She used drugs. She did time here and there, usually on drug-related charges. "She visited a great many states through their penal systems," Widing laughs.

And she became an activist. Jackie joined the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican nationalist group that worked on police brutality, education, health care and tenants' rights. In the late '70s, she and some friends launched a crisis intervention service for teens called HOTLINE Cares.

She was a heroin addict for a long time, but she was a "functioning addict," Widing says. Jackie always managed to find odd jobs, working in social services, as a bike messenger, even as a production assistant. She did seasonal work on electoral campaigns for years. And she never let go of her causes. She fought for affordable housing, school study centers and drug rehab programs in her neighborhood. HOTLINE Cares ran for over 30 years and has been held up by the Justice Department as a model teen drug prevention program.

"I'm a stand-up bitch," she was known to say.

It was the same with her friends and family and lovers. When a girlfriend wanted a Bowflex, Jackie bought it for her. If a friend's baby needed a crib, Jackie would get it. She took on her older sister's car payment for years. "She had a studio, like, my closet might be bigger, but everybody was welcome," Widing says.

Jackie was only at Rosie for a few weeks, but she made tight friends fast. "I really had a issue with people's sexuality," Conteh says. "I was like, Jack, leave me alone. But then we kinda just became friends. That's why I was like ughhhh when I heard that she passed. It was, like, really bad."

Toward the end of May 2014, Conteh and several other inmates at Rosie noticed that Jackie had stopped eating and kept nodding off. As the days passed she became disoriented and then delusional, attempting to lie down in other inmates' beds and mistaking a pantry for the bathroom. "A couple of days she wasn't eating, and then she started throwing up," says Diana Mack, an inmate in Jackie's unit. "But she didn't have nothing in her stomach to throw up, so the bile came up, and then the blood came." By June 1, according to the notice of claim, Jackie was throwing up blood and bodily tissue.

A guard immediately alerted the clinic, and two medical personnel arrived with a stretcher. But when an incoherent Jackie wouldn't get on, the staffers left, according to the notice. They said she was refusing medical attention, despite her cellmates' insistence that she was no longer capable of making rational decisions. Eventually, Tiffany James, known as Buddha — who had bonded with Jackie over their shared birthday — dressed Jackie and carried her down to the clinic with another inmate. When they arrived, a doctor took a look at Jackie and said, "You call this a medical emergency?"

"That's people just not giving a shit," Widing says.

Forty-five minutes later, EMS finally picked Jackie up and transported her to the ER. The Rikers clinic had told 911 operators that Jackie needed to be picked up because she was "emotionally disturbed" — not because she was having a medical emergency, according to the medical expert hired for the case. When she arrived at Elmhurst, lab tests confirmed she was in acute liver failure.

Corizon says that "in the case of an emergency, we call 911 immediately."

New York City's Department of Corrections has recently come under intense scrutiny over correction officers' brutality toward inmates, but what the Justice Department has called a "deep-seated culture of violence" is also undercutting inmate health care. A March 2015 study by DOHMH officials found that medical staff throughout the New York City jail system often made decisions based on security priorities. Patients interviewed said they saw no separation between medical and correctional staff. "There is not DOC and medical," Conteh agrees. "It's medical-DOC."

Legal Aid — which does not investigate each grievance — has received numerous inmate complaints of medical staff at Rikers dismissing patient complaints as malingering. A male inmate told the organization in January that after he fell and injured himself, a Corizon doctor told him to "Get the fuck up," and "There's nothing the fuck wrong with you."

Legal Aid often receives complaints about Rikers correction officers blocking access to the clinic, and yet according to city council hearing testimony by Legal Aid's John Boston, Corizon management has not set up a system to protect prisoners' right to timely access to daily sick call.

Last summer, Alejandra Rodriguez, a former Rosie inmate with thick glasses and a faint lisp, says she slipped on a piece of soap in the shower and hit her head on the floor. Rodriguez, who went by Fat Baby, says she told the captain in her housing unit that she felt like she was going to throw up and needed medical attention. "The captain said that if I were in the street I would not ask to be going to a clinic, and she left," Rodriguez wrote to me last year. (DOC says that "every complaint of denial of access is investigated and remediated if necessary.")

The next day, guards permitted her to go to the clinic. But she wasn't diagnosed with a concussion for another six days, according to her medical records, at which point she was deemed "neurologically unstable."

On September 9, 1971, a thousand prisoners at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York rioted and seized control of the prison in what became the bloodiest prison uprising in U.S. history. The riot stemmed from prisoners' demands for decent living conditions, an end to brutality and better medical care. The Attica rebellion helped prompt a slew of prisoner lawsuits that culminated in a landmark 1976 United States Supreme Court ruling. Because inmates are not able to seek out medical care themselves, the court said, the failure to provide them with proper health care constitutes a violation of the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Most inmates at Rikers are awaiting trial. Many others are in on short stays for minor crimes. That someone jailed so briefly would suffer unconstitutional medical care is all the more jarring. Conteh, for example, was arrested in October 2013 for criminal possession of stolen property. The 32-year-old says it was because she was waiting in the car for her friends who were robbing a clothing shop. When she was released last June, she says she "literally crawled" out of Rosie and spent months bedridden, undergoing physical therapy because of complications from neglectful treatment of a broken ankle sustained after an assault by a correction officer.


© Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A view of the Rikers Island prison complex.

The incident took place in February 2014, when a fight broke out between an inmate and a guard just outside Conteh's cell. When Conteh tried to pull the inmate away from the officer, another guard threw Conteh to the floor, lifted her up and slammed her back down again, according to a lawsuit Conteh filed against the city. (The city has denied all of her claims.) The following day, an X-ray showed she'd fractured her left distal tibia and fibula, but she waited three weeks to get a plaster cast put on at Elmhurst, which is run by the city. (She missed one appointment, 10 days after the ankle fractures, because of a court date.) It took two tries for doctors to fit the cast properly, and the break healed poorly, leaving painful scar tissue in her ankle and requiring her to undergo surgery after her release.

This past January, Emmanuel also fractured her left foot, and never received a splint or a boot. Instead, she got a wheelchair that was too small for her body, according to a complaint submitted by Legal Aid. X-rays in February and April showed the fracture was not healing. (Corizon says "this patient was referred to the appropriate specialists in a timely manner and has received appropriate care.") Legal Aid has received at least three complaints from Rikers inmates in the past year along the lines of, "I think I have something broken but it's not casted," or, "I can't get a splint." A DOHMH spokesperson says that patients with urgent needs get immediate emergency care.

Legal Aid also gets frequent complaints from inmates about delays in getting specialty care at Elmhurst and Bellevue, the two hospitals that service Rikers. In July 2014, a Rosie inmate who asked to remain anonymous was arrested on charges of prostitution and failure to show up at court. At the time of her incarceration, the 32-year-old was pregnant and had a large and painful ovarian cyst pressing into the left side of her abdomen. She ended up waiting four months for an appointment at Elmhurst to have it removed. Meanwhile, she miscarried. "I woke up in my dorm in a pool of blood," she says. Though the cyst was benign, "it sounds like that was a significant delay," says Dr. Scott Allen, a prison health care expert at the University of California Riverside, who did not view medical records but was briefed on summaries of inmate cases.

In February 2014, shortly after her arrest on a drug possession charge, Diana Mack, 54, had a chest X-ray that revealed an unidentifiable mass in her right lung. Mack had to wait three months to get a CT scan at Elmhurst, and says she never received the results before she was released four months later in September. Mack only found out that the scan of her lung was inconclusive after The Intercept requested the results from Elmhurst. "Why they didn't see to it that I got that information?" she wondered.

One reason for the delays in getting care at Elmhurst, a city official says, is that the hospital has too little space and staff to meet Rosie's needs. And inmates often complain to Legal Aid that DOC, which is responsible for transporting inmates to their outside appointments, brings patients to their specialty clinic appointments too late, or not at all. Corizon says its "process is consistent with how you might schedule a specialty appointment in almost any health care setting."

Several doctors The Intercept asked to weigh in on summaries of inmate cases contend that patients at public hospitals across the country face the same issues of access and delays. But that may be a false equivalence, Allen says: "They don't have the liberty to seek alternative care themselves, do they?"

Changes could be coming soon to Rikers. In 2013, the city downgraded Corizon's performance rating from "good" to "fair." After the death of Bradley Ballard, a state review recommended against renewal of Corizon's contract, which expires at the end of the year. And city council members are pushing the mayor's office to turn inmate health care over to the city's public Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs hospitals like Elmhurst and Bellevue.

The reason New York City has kept Corizon around for so long despite the company's many failings is that no one else has wanted to take over the contract. When the city put out a proposal request in 2000, Corizon's corporate predecessor was the only entity with the proper capacity to bid. Since then, according to two former city officials familiar with the bidding process, no other provider with the infrastructure to handle such a huge system has expressed any interest in taking over care of inmates on Rikers Island.

Widing found out that Jackie had been taken to the ER when she happened to call Rikers to ask for the address to send her sister a letter. The operator told her Jackie had been taken to Elmhurst. When Widing called the hospital and asked to speak to her sister, the doctor told her that wouldn't be possible. "She's in a coma," she recalls him saying.

Widing wasn't there on Jackie's last day — she lives in Florida and was scheduled to visit her sister the following week. Another sister Anna had come by, and Jackie's niece, and her Aunt Judith, who arranged her bedding and recited a prayer and rubbed her feet.

Jackie coded two or three times on the morning of June 25 — the digital line of her heartbeat falling flat on the monitor. She kept bleeding and bleeding and her organs began to fail. Widing asked the doctor what Jackie's life would be like if they kept her alive. He said she'd been without oxygen to her brain for too long and her body was shutting down. "At this point we're breathing for her," he said. So Jackie's family agreed to disconnect all the machines and let her go, Widing says. "That was around 9:40 that morning. By 2:45 she was gone."

This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, with support from the Puffin Foundation.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://ift.tt/jcXqJW.

Genocide: NATO deliberately destroyed Libya's water infrastructure

Deprived of piped water supply by NATO's bombing of critical infrastructure, a man in post-invasion Libya fills up a bottle of water from a muddy puddle. Photo: British Red Cross.


Numerous reports comment on the water crisis that is escalating across Libya as consumption outpaces production. Some have noted the environmental context in regional water scarcity due to climate change.

But what they ignore is the fact that the complex national irrigation system that had been carefully built and maintained over decades to overcome this problem was targeted and disrupted by NATO.

During the 2011 military invasion, press reports surfaced, mostly citing pro-rebel sources, claiming that pro-Gaddafi loyalists had shut down the water supply system as a mechanism to win the war and punish civilians.

This is a lie.

But truth, after all, is the first casualty of war - especially for mainstream media journos who can't be bothered to fact-check the claims of people they interview in war zones, while under pressure from editors to produce copy that doesn't rock too many boats.

Critical water installations bombed - then blamed on Gaddafi

It was in fact NATO which debilitated Libya's water supply by targeting critical state-owned water installations, including a water-pipe factory in Brega.

The factory, one of just two in the country (the other one being in Gaddafi's home-town of Sirte), manufactured pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes for the Great Manmade River (GMR) project, an ingenious irrigation system transporting water from aquifers beneath Libya's southern desert to about 70% of the population.

On 18th July, a rebel commander boasted that some of Gaddafi's troops had holed up in industrial facilities in Brega, but that rebels had blocked their access to water: "Their food and water supplies are cut and they now will not be able to sleep."

In other words, the rebels, not Gaddafi loyalists, had sabotaged the GMR water pipeline into Brega. On 22nd July, NATO followed up by bombing the Brega water-pipes factory on the pretext that it was a Gaddafi "military storage" facility concealing rocket launchers.

"Major parts of the plant have been damaged", said Abdel-Hakim el-Shwehdy, head of the company running the project. "There could be major setback for the future projects."

Legitimate military target left untouched in the attack

When asked to provide concrete evidence of Gaddafi loyalists firing from inside the water-pipe factory, NATO officials failed to answer. Instead, NATO satellite images shown to journalists confirm that a BM-21 rocket launcher identified near the facility days earlier, remained perfectly intact the day after the NATO attack.

Earlier, NATO forces had already bombed water facilities in Sirte, killing several "employees of the state water utility who were working during the attack."

By August, UNICEF reported that the conflict had "put the Great Manmade River Authority, the primary distributor of potable water in Libya, at risk of failing to meet the country's water needs."

The same month, Agence France Presse reported that the GMR "could be crippled by the lack of spare parts and chemicals" - reinforced by NATO's destruction of water installations critical to the GMR in Sirte and Brega.

The GMR is now "struggling to keep reservoirs at a level that can provide a sustainable supply", UN officials said. "If the project were to fail, agencies fear a massive humanitarian emergency."

Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF Libya's head of office, warned that the city faced "an absolute worst-case scenario" that "could turn into an unprecedented health epidemic" without resumption of water supplies.

Stratfor email: 'So much shit doesn't add up here'

While pro-rebel sources attempted to blame Gaddafi loyalists for the disruption of Libya's water supply, leaked emails from the US intelligence contractor Stratfor, which publicly endorsed these sources, show that the firm privately doubted its own claims.

"So much shit doesn't add up here", wrote Bayless Parsley, Stratfor's Middle East analyst, in an email to executives. "I am pretty much not confident in ANY of the sources ... If anything, just need to be very clear how contradictory all the information is on this project ... a lot of the conclusions drawn from it are not really air tight."

But the private US intelligence firm, which has played a key role in liaising with senior Pentagon officials in facilitating military intelligence operations, was keenly aware of what the shutdown of the GMR would mean for Libya's population:

"Since the first phase of the 'river's' construction in 1991, Libya's population has doubled. Remove that river and, well, there would likely be a very rapid natural correction back to normal carrying capacities."

"How often do Libyans bathe? You'd have drinking water for a month if you skipped a shower", joked Kevin Stech, a Stratfor research director. "Seriously. Cut the baths and the showers and your well water should suffice for drinking and less-than-optional hygiene."
The truth - government officials were trying to keep water flowing

Meanwhile, UNICEF confirmed that Libyan government officials were not sabotaging water facilities, but in fact working closely with a UN technical team to "facilitate an assessment of water wells, review urgent response options and identify alternatives for water sources."

Nevertheless, by September, UNICEF reported that the disruption to the GMR had left 4 million Libyans without potable water.

The GMR remains disrupted to this day, and Libya's national water crisis continues to escalate.

The deliberate destruction of a nation's water infrastructure, with the knowledge that doing so would result in massive deaths of the population as a direct consequence, is not simply a war crime, but potentially a genocidal strategy.

It raises serious questions about the conventional mythology of a clean, humanitarian war in Libya - questions that mainstream journalists appear to be uninterested in, or unable to ask.

Nafeez Ahmed PhD is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and bestselling author who tracks what he calls the 'crisis of civilization.' He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. As well as writing for The Ecologist, he has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner's Inquest.

See also Nafeez Ahmed's blog: nafeezahmed.com/

Texas farmers facing 'total loss for this year'

Texas' farmers were among the first to applaud the rain that abruptly halted a grueling multiyear drought that had tormented the region.

But what began as a blessing has turned quickly into a disaster, as corn and wheat crops rot in flooded fields.

"I think it is not all farmers, but some farmers are looking at a total loss for this year," said Mike Barnett, a spokesperson for the Texas Farm Bureau. "You have some situations where farmers had a bumper crop, and now they have next to nothing for the season."

The downpour has doused Texas with 35 trillion gallons-about the amount it would take to cover the entire state in eight inches of water, according to NBC News.

Fields are either flooded or too muddy to work in, so crops left unharvested are deteriorating, resulting in lower-quality product that will bring less at market.

The 1,700 acres of winter wheat Ben Wible has on his farm in Sherman should have been pulled already, but he has stayed away as the rain continues to soak his fields. Forecasters are predicting more rain and flooding this weekend, Wible told CNBC.

The wheat on Jay Davis' farm in North Central Texas has grown so tall it is beginning to fall over, and the grain is starting to sprout. Once wheat sprouts, it cannot be sold for human consumption, so Davis may have to sell what he can salvage as livestock feed. He won't get as good a price for it, and he will have to compete with other feed crops such as corn. Moreover, there isn't a lot of demand for livestock feed in his area, so he will have to weigh whether it's worth the cost of transporting the grain elsewhere.

"We don't know what the market for this crop is going to be, even if it is harvested," Davis said.

The delayed wheat harvest could lead to bottlenecks all through that crop's supply chain-the harvesting crews that go from farm to farm to help clear fields will have to rush, and there could be backups at local grain elevators and flour mills, Davis said. Those businesses aren't pulling in the revenue they would normally expect at this point of the year either, and may have to do with reduced supply from local farmers this year.

"The key thing here is, even if this crop is harvested, we have disrupted the normal flow of harvest operations from south to north," he said. "We are crowding the ability of those crews and machinery to move, because we are going to have a large area stretching across Texas into Oklahoma and other states that is going to be harvesting all at the same time. That is going to stretch the ability of the harvest crews to cover that acreage."

Because the winter and early spring crops are still in the ground, farmers cannot plant their summer crops, so that season is delayed, as well. A lot of people could not plant their corn, Wible said.

Cotton farmers in Texas have planted just under a third of their intended crop for the year, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data cited by Reuters. That is far less than the 47 percent they had in the ground at this time last year, and even further below the five-year average of 50 percent, according to Reuters.

And the corn that some have managed to get into the ground is suffering under the water. Too much water can stunt the crop and cause it to turn yellow; both conditions either reduce or eliminate its value, depending on the severity.

A lot of farmers are saying they may have to collect on federal crop insurance, but the deadline to apply for corn insurance is May 31, and many farmers are not ready to pull the trigger, according to Reuters.

While crop insurance will give many farmers the chance to start over next year, it will not cover all of their losses from this season.

"I have heard people say, 'Well, at least you have crop insurance,' " Davis said. "Well, OK, but that's like saying it's OK to get into a car crash because you have auto insurance. All it does it mitigate losses. It is no way to profit or prosper."

In addition, Davis said the situation will likely saddle him with higher premiums next year.

Consumers will probably not feel much pain in their wallets from the losses in Texas-bad weather there will just create selling opportunities for growers elsewhere.

As for the Texans, many will salvage what they can and keep going.

"I have been farming almost my whole life, and it has been good to me," Wible said. "We got through the drought, and we will get through this."

VIDEO: The five stages of the awakening

E-mails sent to Sott.net become the property of Quantum Future Group, Inc and may be published without notice.

Do our bodies safely break down BPA? Fat chance, study suggests


© Tony Alter/flickr
Industry has long contended bisphenol-A breaks down harmlessly in our bodies. New research suggests that we transform it into a compound linked to obesity.

A new study suggests the long-held industry assumption that bisphenol-A breaks down safely in the human body is incorrect. Instead, researchers say, the body transforms the ubiquitous chemical additive into a compound that might spur obesity.

The study is the first to find that people's bodies metabolize bisphenol-A (BPA) — a chemical found in most people and used in polycarbonate plastic, food cans and paper receipts — into something that impacts our cells and may make us fat.

The research, from Health Canada, challenges an untested assumption that our liver metabolizes BPA into a form that doesn't impact our health.

"This shows we can't just say things like 'because it's a metabolite, it means it's not active'," said Laura Vandenberg, an assistant professor of environmental health at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who was not involved in the study. "You have to do a study."

People are exposed to BPA throughout the day, mostly through diet, as it can leach from canned goods and plastic storage containers into food, but also through dust and water.

Within about 6 hours of exposure, our liver metabolizes about half the concentration. Most of that — about 80 to 90 percent — is converted into a metabolite called BPA-Glucuronide, which is eventually excreted.

The Health Canada researchers treated both mouse and human cells with BPA-Glucuronide. The treated cells had a "significant increase in lipid accumulation," according to the study results. BPA-Glucuronide is "not an inactive metabolite as previously believed but is in fact biologically active," the Health Canada authors wrote in thestudy published this week in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Not all cells will accumulate lipids, said Thomas Zoeller, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor who was not involved in the study. Testing whether or not cells accumulate lipids is "a very simple way of demonstrating that cells are becoming fat cells," he said.

"Hopefully this [study] stops us from making assumptions about endocrine disrupting chemicals in general," he said.

The liver is our body's filter, but it doesn't always neutralize harmful compounds. "Metabolism's purpose isn't necessarily a cleaning process. The liver just takes nasty things and turns them into a form we can get out of our body," Vandenberg said.

BPA already has been linked to obesity in both human and animal studies. The associations are especially prevalent for children exposed while they're developing.


People are consistently exposed to BPA, mostly through diet, where the chemical leaches out of products such as canned goods.

Researchers believe BPA does so by mimicking estrogen hormones, but its metabolite doesn't appear to do so. In figuring out why metabolized BPA appears to spur fat cells, Zoeller said, it's possible that BPA-Glucuronide is "hitting certain receptors in cells".

Health Canada researchers were only looking at this one possible health outcome. "There could be other [health] impacts," Zoeller said.

In recent studies BPA-Glucuronide has been found in human blood and urine at higher concentration than just plain BPA.

Industry representatives, however, argue the doses used were much higher than what would be found in people.

Steve Hentges, a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, said the concentrations used in which the researchers saw increased fat cells were "thousands of times higher than the concentrations of BPA-Glucuronide that could be present in human blood from consumer exposure to BPA.

"There were no statistically significant observations at lower BPA-G concentrations, all of which are higher than human blood concentrations," he said in the emailed response.

Zoeller agreed the dose was high but said "the concentration is much less important than the fact that here is a group testing an assumption that's uniformly been made." Vandenberg said the range is not that far off from what has been found in some people's blood.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the Health Canada study but couldn't comment before Environmental Health News' deadline, said spokesperson Marianna Naum in an email.

The agency continues to study BPA and states on its website that federal research models "showed that BPA is rapidly metabolized and eliminated through feces and urine."

Health Canada, which was not able to provide interviews for this article, has maintained a similar stance to the U.S. FDA, stating on its website that it "has concluded that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and infants."

However, the fact that Health Canada even conducted such a study is a big deal, Vandenberg said.

"Health Canada is a regulatory body and this is pretty forward thinking science," she said. "Hopefully this is a bell that can ring for scientists working for other regulatory agencies."

China: Silk roads and open seas

© Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Beijing's disclosure earlier this week of its latest military white paper, outlining a new doctrine moving beyond offshore defense to "open seas" defense, predictably rattled every exceptionalist's skull and bone.

Almost simultaneously, in Guangzhou, the annual Stockholm China Forum, hosted by the German Marshall Fund and the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, was mired in deep thought examining the vast Eurasian integration project known in China as "One Road, One Belt".

What is also known as the New Silk Road project - displaying all the romantic connotations of a remix of a golden era - is not only about new roads, high-speed railways, pipelines and fiber optics, but also about a naval network from East Asia all the way to the Middle East and Europe.

So Chinese maritime expansion in the "open seas" - from the South China Sea to the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean - had to be intimately tied to protection of the Maritime Silk Road.

Got deal, will travel

As the maddeningly complex One Road, One Belt network takes form, not a week passes without China clinching pipeline/power station/fiber optic/ manufacturing plant deals to accelerate Eurasian integration - from Pakistan to the Central Asian "stans", and including everything from a road/railway linking Western China to the Arabian Sea to naval hubs on the way to the Horn of Africa.

The business logic behind this flurry of infrastructure deals is sound: to absorb China's enormous excess industrial capacity. This process is of course enmeshed with Beijing's complex energy strategy, whose main mantra is the famous "escape from Malacca"; to obtain a maximum of oil and gas bypassing waters patrolled by the US.

As Beijing "goes West" - the natural consequence of an official policy launched in 1999, but at the time mostly concerning Xinjiang - it becomes increasingly more open to the world. Just check the array of East and West nations that joined the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

© Reuters/China Daily
Chinese missile destroyers.

Close cooperation between BRICS members China and India will be absolutely key for the success of Eurasia integration. It's already happening via the BRICS bank - the New Development Bank - that will be based in Shanghai and headed by an Indian banker. It's not by accident that India is also a founding member of the AIIB.

AIIB's first president will be Jin Liqun, a former deputy finance minister and former vice-president of the Japanese/American-led Asian Development Bank (ADB). Complaints by the usual suspects that AIIB will be a secret Chinese club are nonsense; the board making decisions includes several developed and developing world powers.

Across Eurasia, AIIB is bound to be the place to go. No wonder the Japanese, feeling excluded, were forced to raise the bar, announcing Tokyo is willing to commit a whopping $110 billion to finance infrastructure projects across Asia until 2020. The talk of the town - actually many mega-towns - across Asia is now all about the "infrastructure wars".

Dreaming of going West

It's fascinating to remember that what I called the story of China's expanding its trade/commercial clout actually started back in 1999. The first stage was a wave of factories moving from Guangdong province to the inward provinces. After a few years, in the Guangdong Triangle Area - which is now much wealthier than many an industrialized nation - product life-cycle timeline entrepreneurs embarked on frantic technology acceleration. Within the megalopolis of Shenzhen, the authorities actually push lower tech companies to move out of the downtown core area.

In terms of container ports, of the top 10 largest global ports no less than seven are based in China. That's a graphic indication of China's overwhelming predominance in maritime trade.

In terms of management, the 125 plan - that is, the 12th Chinese 5-year plan - expires in 2015. Few in the West know that most of the goals encompassing the seven technology areas China wanted to be leading have been achieved and in some cases even superseded. That technology leap explains why China can now build infrastructure networks that previously were considered almost impossible.

© Reuters
A CRH (China Railway High-speed) Harmony bullet inspection train.

The next five-year plan is bound to be even more ambitious. It will focus, among other items, on Beijing's drive to build a wave of huge new cities, a by-product of China's restructuring of its economic model.

, a new book by Professor General Liu Mingfu - a top military analyst - offers the Big Picture as China's infrastructure drive across Eurasia gathers pace. A clash with the US is all but inevitable.

The Pentagon's non-stop rumblings about the South China Sea are just the tip of the (lethal) iceberg; after all Washington considers it an American lake.

Li, as well as other leading Chinese analysts, would like to think Washington eventually finds a modus vivendi with the emerging superpower - as in relinquishing sovereignty, much as the British Empire did to the United States in the early 20th century.

That's not going to happen. For the foreseeable future, according to the Obama administration's own "pivoting to Asia", announced in 2011 at the Pentagon, it will be hardcore containment. That might work only if BRICS member India is totally on board. And that's quite unlikely.

In the meantime, Washington will continue to be submerged by this type of paranoid analytics, perpetrated by a former strategic adviser to the top US/NATO commander in Afghanistan.

© Reuters/Jason Lee
Buildings are pictured in Beijing's central business district.

Check that sphere

The crucial point, already absorbed by the overwhelming majority of the Global South, is that China's One Belt, One Road strategy is all about trade/commerce/"win-win" business; nothing remotely similar to the Empire of Bases, the never-ending "war on terra", "kill lists", and bombing recalcitrant nations (usually secular Arab republics) into "democracy."

The immensely ambitious One Belt, One Road project, coupled with the Chinese Navy protecting its national interests in the "open seas", fit into President Xi Jinping's Chinese Dream in terms of a business master plan. The best way to build a "moderately prosperous society" is by building modern infrastructure internally and by reaching out to the world externally.

Once again, China will be exporting its massive surplus industrial capacity, will keep diversifying its energy sources and will extend its commercial influence from Central Asia all the way to Europe via Iran, Turkey and Greece.

China has the funds to solve one of India's absolutely intractable problems - the rebuilding of its creaky infrastructure. The optimal scenario sees these two BRICS nations involved in deal after (infrastructure) deal, side by side with BRICS member Russia and "rehabilitated by the West" Iran. This means everything revolving around the New Silk Road(s) directly affecting no less than one-third of the world's population. Talk about a "sphere of influence."

There has been many a rumbling in Washington, ruling no one is entitled to a "sphere of influence" - except the US, of course. And yet Beijing's economic, financial, diplomatic and geopolitical drive to unite Eurasia is the ultimate bid for a global sphere of influence. Against it, the usual Western, Roman-based Divide et Impera tactic may finally not work.

Similac advance infant formula to be offered G.M.O.-free


© Abbott
Abbott said parents asked for baby formula that was free of genetically modified organisms.

The maker of Similac Advance, the top commercial baby formula brand in the United States, says it will begin selling the first mainstream baby formula made without genetically altered ingredients by the end of the month at Target.

Similac's maker, the global health care company Abbott, said it would first offer a "non-G.M.O." version of its best-selling Similac Advance, followed by a non-G.M.O. version of Similac Sensitive. Depending on sales, Abbott may offer other formulas free of such ingredients.

Abbott will join a growing number of companies offering popular products without genetically modified organisms. Consumer demand for such products has been growing, despite a concerted and expensive effort by trade groups representing major food manufacturers and the biotech industry to convince them that genetically altered ingredients are not harmful to human health.

"We listen to moms and dads, and they've told us they want a non-G.M.O. option," said Chris Calamari, general manager of Abbott's pediatric nutrition business. "We want to make sure we meet the desires of parents."

A new online study of 1,829 adults selected by Fluent, a consumer marketing and advertising firm, found that nearly one in five of them said they preferred non-G.M.O. products.

"The preference for non-G.M.O. products in particular is more pronounced amongst shoppers with higher household incomes and with shoppers based in the Northeast," said Matt Conlin of Fluent.

Most mainstream baby formula is made from various corn and soy derivatives, and more than 90 percent of those crops in America are grown from genetically altered seeds.

Over the last few years, consumers have petitioned Abbott and other big makers of infant formula to remove genetically altered ingredients.

That movement, Mr. Calamari said, had nothing to do with the introduction of non-G.M.O. versions of Similac, though. Rather, he said, the company's own research had prompted the decision. "Over one-third of consumers say it would have appeal to them and give them peace of mind," he said.

As consumer interest in improving health through nutrition has grown, Abbott has also begun moving to sell more of its products beyond niche audiences. For instance, the company recently began marketing Pedialyte, an oral electrolyte solution that has long been recommended for sick children by pediatricians, to adults.

"We've known that we always had an underground movement of adults who used it for various purposes," said Lindsy Delco, a spokeswoman for Abbott. "We recently started digging into that and found that since 2012, one-third of our sales" are for adult use.

Abbott already has a G.M.O.-free formula in Similac Organic. (By law, organic products cannot contain genetically altered ingredients.) But the company said its research showed that parents wanted a G.M.O.- free version of the original Similac Advance, which was formulated to be more similar to breast milk than Similac Organic.

In the 52 weeks that ended March 28, sales of all baby formulas totaled just over $4 billion in the United States, according to the market research company Nielsen.

Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic advocacy and research group, said he was pleased that a major baby formula company would offer a G.M.O. - free product.

"Since formula is really the only thing infants eat for some time," he said, parents are concerned about feeding them "products that are largely made from G.M.O. ingredients."

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.4 - Izu Islands, Japan region

E-mails sent to Sott.net become the property of Quantum Future Group, Inc and may be published without notice.

SOTT Exclusive: Dead or alive? NATO's Kosovar ISIS militant raised from the grave, assumes new role


Muhaxheri waves a sword, promises to conquer Rome and Spain

A notorious 24-year-old Kosovar ISIS militant beheading people under the name of Lavdrim Muhaxheri has been potentially resurrected from the dead following the release of a video footage where he is allegedly seen killing a Syrian man with a rocket-propelled grenade. It was reported previously that Lavdrim was killed in Syria last year, but it appears that he has now risen from the dead in order to again partake in the US/NATO hollywoodesque ISIS opera.

Before joining al-Baghdadi's crusade against the 'infidels' in the Middle East, Lavdrim was employed by none other than NATO, working at Camp Bondsteel, considered to be the largest American military base in the world outside of the US territory, placed in the US/NATO carved and occupied drug and organ trafficking state of Kosovo currently headed by criminals such as Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, a former KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) leader. KLA is, of course, another NATO armed and trained terrorist proxy force that was used to break apart Yugoslavia.

After Lavdrim's work at Bondsteel, he was schlepped to Afghanistan to partake in NATO operations there.

In 'Bondsteel', for a certain period he worked as a labor force, until the year 2010, and there he maintained good reports and recommendations from his employer, and through the private company, as many young Kosovars did, he traveled to work in Afghanistan, respectively in NATO's camps. There he worked for nearly two years, says his friends.

Following such a lucrative career working as a NATO puppet, NATO apparently decided Lavdrim should join their proxy force of ISIS/Jabhat al-Nusra/moderates/opposition in Syria attempting to topple the government.

Lavdim Muhaxheri joined the Siria war, as a mujahid, in 2012, and a year later he was returned. Until the half of the Ramadan festival, in 2013, he was in Kosovo, and then he re-joined the fighters in Syria, where he took the position of the leader. Later on he took the leading role in clarifying the internal clashes in the resistance camp against Bashar Al Assad, and he was the first Ablanian who confirmed that there were deep divisions among the revolutionaries.

According to reports, after "he was returned" to Kosovo, he was under the investigation of the Kosovo police, only to leave for Syria again and join ISIS despite the so-called investigation.

He attained his short-lived notoriety after posting a beheading photo on his Facebook page, like every aspiring jihadi does these days. Later it was reported that he was killed fighting the Kurdish defense forces, only to now be brought back to life and according to some, he even received a promotion and is now a 'strategist' for the so-called Islamic state.

Whether Lavdrim Muhaxheri is dead or alive is a moot point, since the "Kosovo police said they are working with international partners to verify the authenticity of the video and the time of its publication," it does appear though that the US/NATO-led scripted operation currently going under the banner of ISIS, always needs a character like Lavdrim or a similar front man to paint a 'human face' to their proxy army and give credence to the false narrative that ISIS isn't a puppet in the hands of certain intelligence agencies but a group run by fanatical cutthroats that somehow sprang from the desert by themselves fully armed, trained, driving Toyota pickups and even pickups of Texas plumbers.


Ante Sarlija (Profile)

Born and raised in Croatia, Ante joined the SOTT editorial team in 2014 and currently helps run the Croatian SOTT. He is also a part of the Croatian SOTT translation team.

Obama: 'Heaven forbid' a terrorist attack happens after Senate inaction on Patriot Act


© MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama (R) speaks following a meeting with US Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the Oval Office of the White House on May 29, 2015, in Washington, DC.

President Barack Obama sounded the alarm about what could happen if there is a delay in renewing the USA Patriot Act.

"I don't want us to be in a situation in which, for a certain period of time, those authorities go away and suddenly we are dark, and heaven forbid, we've got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity but we didn't do so simply because of inaction in the Senate," Obama told reporters Friday after meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the White House.

The USA Patriot Act, a post-9/11 law, is set to expire Sunday at midnight. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, tried to get the law renewed, as well as get passage of the USA Freedom Act, intended to address concerns about the National Security Agency bulk data gathering.

However, Paul, speaking for 10 hours on the Senate floor last Friday, blocked either bill from coming to a vote in the Senate.

"So I have indicated to Leader McConnell and other senators, I expect them to take action and take action swiftly," Obama continued. "That's what the American people deserve. This is not an issue in which we have to choose between security and civil liberties. This is an issue in which we in fact have struck the right balance."

Thousands of dead bunker fish found dead at Riverhead, New York


© Peter Blasl
Dead bunker washed ashore on Simmons Point early in the morning of May 29, about an hour after low tide.

Officials are scrambling to avoid a major fish kill in the Peconic Estuary due to exceptionally low oxygen levels in the water.

"We're asking for help from anyone with a haul siene net and permit to get the baitfish out of the water before there's a major fish kill like we had here several years ago," Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said this afternoon. "If you've got the net and the permit, please call Riverhead Police to let us know," he said. "Please call 631-727-4500 to let police know you can help."

The town will pay fishermen an as-yet undetermined amount per pound to make the effort economically viable, Walter said, because the market price for baitfish is very low.

"This is an emergency, because if we don't get the fish out of the water right away, while they're alive, we're going to have a major die-off," the supervisor said. "Disposing of massive quantities of dead fish is a huge problem, as town officials learned several years ago," he said. "We want to do whatever we can to avoid that problem again. We need to get them out of the water immediately — like yesterday."

People with nets but no current haul siene permits should call anyway if they can help, the supervisor said. "We will work with the DEC to get the permits."

Dead bunker have already begun washing ashore by the tens of thousands.

The dead bait fish began to appear on the shores of the river and bay shortly after the diamondback terrapin turtle die-off that's currently being investigated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Environmental regulators believe the turtle die-off, which began in late April, may have been caused by high levels of saxitoxin, a biotoxin related to the algal bloom caused by Alexandrium, also known as "red tide."

Dissolved oxygen is essential to marine life.

The supervisor said the state DEC has been out testing the waters of the bay, river and creeks.

"The top three feet of the water has oxygen levels that can barely sustain life," Walter said. "Below three feet, there's not enough oxygen for them to live. We need to get them out while they're still alive."

Taking numerous medications to control blood pressure just as dangerous as uncontrolled hypertension for stroke risk


Untreated high blood pressure, or hypertension, wreaks havoc on the body, leading to heart disease and stroke. New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham published in the journal Stroke shows that, although HBP medications are beneficial, it is as risky to wait for the condition to develop and then treat it to a controlled level.

A cohort of 26,785 black and white participants ages 45-plus from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study were followed for 6.3 years by a research team led by George Howard, Dr.P.H., a professor in the Department of Biostatistics in the UAB School of Public Health. At baseline, 12,327 participants were successfully treated hypertensives, meaning their HBP treatment had their systolic blood pressure < 140 mm HG, the goal level set by the American Heart Association, and 4,090 unsuccessfully treated hypertensives.

At the conclusion of the follow-up period, more than 820 participants had experienced a stroke.

The harder hypertension is to control, the higher the risk for stroke, even if the treatment is successful. Howard says the risk of stroke went up 33 percent with each blood pressure medicine required to treat blood pressure to goal. Compared to people with systolic blood pressure below 120 mmHg without treatment, hypertensive individuals on three or more blood pressure medications had a stroke risk of 2.5 times higher.

"You're in as much trouble by the time you are on three medications that achieve excellent control as you are when you have hypertension and it is untreated, which is amazing," Howard said. "We want to raise the issue that, despite great advances in a pharmaceutical approach, relying solely on this approach is going to come at a dear price of people's lives."

The way to curb the problem, Howard says, is to prevent hypertension in the first place. There are a number of proven approaches to prevent or greatly delay the development of hypertension including: 1) taking part in moderate physical activity, 2) keeping weight in normal rages, 3) reducing salt intake, and 4) eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and reduced in saturated and total fat.

"It's everything we know we should be doing," Howard said. "And over the past 14 years, stroke deaths are down 42 percent, likely because of this general shift of everybody in the population working toward having lower blood pressures."

Howard suggests that some future efforts to prevent the development of hypertension will have to be made through policy changes, such as targeting reductions in sodium levels; however, he says other changes such as increasing activity and limiting body weight require individual commitment.

"We need to keep the pressure to keep good things happening from a policy standpoint," Howard said. "Also, as individuals, we need to take the right actions for our health. Individuals and society need to work together to keep people from becoming hypertensive."

Study co-authors include Virginia J. Howard, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Paul Muntner, Ph.D., professor and vice chair in the Department of Epidemiology, and Suzanne Oparil, M.D., professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Disease.

Former NYPD cop trashes 14-year-old boy shot by police in psychopathic Facebook exchange

Three former NYPD police officers discussed the murder of a 14-year-old gang member on Facebook and the exchange was awful as one could expect, according to an exclusive report by Mic News.

When 14-year-old Christopher Duran left his home in the Bronx for school last Friday morning, a red bandana-wearing gunman shot him to death. Former police officer and current CNN contributor Thomas Verni posted a story of Doran's murder on his Facebook page, where the three former cops basically blamed the young boy for his own death.

Here is exchange, per a screenshot captured by Mic News:

Yep, these men once wore the uniform and had the authority to arrest (and shoot) New Yorkers.

(Side note: this Facebook exchange should not surprise you. AlterNet's Max Blumenthal previously reported the racist exchanges between current and former cops)

An NYPD representative told Mic News that Joseph Gasparre and Andrew Blethen were the names of two of its ex-cops. Though the NYPD could not confirm if Brian Charles was a former member of its force, his Instagram account shows him wearing an NYPD uniform in 2006. The account owner has since removed that photo.

These men are no longer cops, so they can't be held accountable for their words, but it does inform the wider conversation over the mentality that many cops have towards minorities. The repeated use of the word "thug" during the exchange reminds us of NFL cornerback's Richard Sherman's statement that "thug" is the new n-word.

Given the "Stop and Frisk" was just recently ruled unconstitutional, it would be interesting to know if Gasparre, Charles and Blethen stopped black and Latino New Yorkers (or, in their language, "thugs") without legal grounds.

The death of a 14-year-old is a terrible tragedy, but when former cops speak of the boy as a "thug" and nothing more, it makes you wonder how many current cops feel the same.

Swordfish kills Hawaii fisherman trying to reel it in


© Kona patrol

A swordfish killed a Hawaii man on Friday during a fishing accident in Kailua-Kona.

At about 10:48 a.m., police received a call about a swordfish being spotted in Honokohau Harbor and a man jumping into the water with a spear gun. Randy Llanes, 47, was then seen being punctured in the chest by the sword fish, which measured about 3 feet long and weighed approximately 40 pounds.

The Hawaii County Fire Department responded and attempted CPR on Llanes before transporting him to Kona Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at around 11:30 a.m.

According to Acting Sgt. David Matsushima of the Kona patrol, "the fish got wrapped around a mooring anchor, came back and swam at him [Llanes]."

Llanes's friend Dale Leverone called him "just a great local boy. A good attitude, good person, a help-anybody kind of guy. He had a heck of a lot of friends. It's pretty sad, pretty tragic.

"Randy has been fishing all his life. He's a pretty accomplished fisherman. He actually caught a 500-pound marlin yesterday out of his skiff."

Leverone also said Llanes leaves behind a wife, whom he married a few years ago, and a son who is about 5-years-old.

It's rare for a swordfish to swim in shallow waters similar to those where Llanes was killed, but Dr. Andrew Rossiter, director of the Waikiki Aquarium, provides some explanations.

"There are two possible reasons," Rossiter said "One, maybe the fish was following a school of fish into the shallow water. The other reason is maybe the fish was injured in some way or somehow impaired."

These ‘Big 6′ Chemical Companies Now Make 50,000 Different Pesticides

In the UK, it has been estimated that enough pesticide is used to account for 420g for every woman, man, and child. In the US, the numbers are similar, if not even more extreme.

Globally, there are now more than 50,000 different pesticides being manufactured with over 600 ‘active’ ingredients – and yet we still have pests. How can this be?

The alarms have been sounding about the over-use of pesticides and herbicides for years now, and recently, the UK press has noted excessive pesticide levels in vegetables like carrots and lettuce, but they aren’t just in the obvious places. The Association of Preconceptual Care has discovered that pesticide dangers lurk in everything we put on our tables.

Almost everything we eat in the conventional diet is subject to manifold doses of the chemicals – pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and more. Some crops get the brunt of pesticide contamination with cereal crops such as wheat being baptized an estimated five to eight times during just one growing season, while other foods are subject to lower doses. (Check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2015 Dirty Dozen list to discover the 12 most pesticide-laden produce as well as the 15 cleanest produce.

Other vegetables and fruit crops will be treated with 10 to 15 sprays, and that’s considered the norm. Add to this ridiculous amount of toxins we’re exposed to, the pesticides used in raising livestock (even arsenic compounds), pesticides used at parks and even on protected forestland, and you have a recipe for environmental devastation and human health problems like we are seeing today.

Even modern building practices have incorporated pesticide use into their normal business. Lindane is used in wood preservation and an insecticide called aldrin is often applied to electrical cables.

It seems there is no end to what we will spray, and its gone way beyond any explainable practicality.

Nearly seven billion pounds of pesticides are used annually around the world for these various ‘treatments’ to rid our environment of pests. Twenty five million agricultural workers (minimally) experience pesticide poisoning every year, and the rest of us are likely affected adversely – even if negative health effects don’t show up until several years after exposure.

Big 6 Chemical Companies Producing 50,000 Pesticides

We are leaning toward having more pounds of pesticides in use than people on this planet. Who makes all these chemicals? The same “Big 6 Companies” that oppose food labeling. They are:

  • 1. Monsanto
  • 2. Bayer
  • 3. Syngenta
  • 4. Dow
  • 5. Dupont
  • 6. BASF


Though there are other companies poisoning the planet, these six companies alone account for much of the problem since GMO crops require more pesticide and herbicide use.

With 50,000 types of pesticides, who are the real vermin here.