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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Scientist who studied health effects of 9/11 dust dies at 68

Paul James Lioy, an environmental scientist known for his work on the health effects of dust produced by the World Trade Center disaster on September 11, 2001, died this week after collapsing at Newark Liberty International Airport. He was 68 years old.


Paul Lioy (Image from Rutgers)

Paul Lioy (Image from Rutgers)


Lioy was an internationally renowned authority on exposure science. He received two lifetime achievement awards for his work – the Wesolowski Award from the International Society of Exposure Analysis and the Frank Chambers Award from the Air and Waste Management Association. He also authored the book ‘Dust: The Inside Story of its Role in the September 11th Aftermath.’ He was also a professor of environmental and occupational health and vice chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine at the Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Jersey, according to the university’s website. 

In the field of exposure science, Lioy specialized in toxins and pollutants affecting both the environment and occupational health.

The cause of his death has not yet been determined, his wife Jean Lioy told the New York Times.

Having witnessed dust rising from the ruins of the World Trade Center from his home in Cranford, New Jersey, Lioy became one of the first scientists to gather and test samples from the site.

“It was unprecedented in terms of the complex characteristics of the materials released,” Lioy told USA Today in 2011.

The tests showed the presence of substances such as mercury, lead, jet fuel, plastic, glass, asbestos and concrete. The dust was also found to be linked to long-term health concerns, such as a persistent cough experienced by some police officers, residents and firefighters.

“In the first 48 hours, the government was concerned about asbestos being the primary threat,” Lioy said in an interview on the Rutgers website in 2011. “But it was not. Asbestos exposure is a long-term problem. Once the ‘World Trade Center cough’ started appearing, we realized it wasn’t caused by asbestos.”


“First, cement dust was very alkaline ‒ the pH was above 10,” he said. “That irritated the linings of the lungs. Second, glass fibers got stuck in people’s upper airways, like wooden logs in a narrow stream. That trapped the cement particles and enhanced the irritation. And there were very coarse particles that comprised the vast quantity of the dust mass. Previous exposure studies didn’t prepare us to recognize and work with such particles”

Lioy was born on May 27, 1947, in Passaic, New Jersey. He received a BA in physics and education from Montclair State College, an MS in physics and applied mathematics from Auburn University in Alabama, and a doctoral degree in environmental science from Rutgers University.

He is survived by his wife Jean, whom he married in 1971, and his son Jason, as well as two grandchildren. 

Smart trash cans in NY expanding Wi-Fi hotspots


Some of New York's public trash cans do more than just collect junk. A few hundred of them can detect when they're too stinky, when to compact the trash, and when it's time to empty them. And now they are also about to expand their Wi-Fi hotspot program.

Waste management company Bigbelly equipped two of its smart bins with wireless internet in downtown Manhattan last winter, providing 50 to 75 megabits per second. That's fast enough to download an HD movie in nine minutes, or upload 200 photos in about 27 seconds.

The company now wants to turn more of its several hundred garbage and recycling bins in New York City into Wi-Fi hotspots. Bigbelly is applying for a grant from the Mayor's Office to install the Wi-Fi garbage cans in underserved neighborhoods. The company also plans to conduct more pilot tests this year, and fully deploy units in the fall if they get Board approval.

The city is also replacing payphones with free charging stations and other smart perks.

IMF Declares War On Germany: In "Secret" Report Lagarde Says Greece Will Need Massive Debt Relief

Update: Europe now looks to be in damage control mode. Here's Reuters:


A divide between the IMF and Europe (read: Germany), regarding writedowns on Greece’s debt to the EU has been brewing for quite some time and recently returned to the international spotlight when, a few months back, the Fund indicated debt relief was a precondition for its participation in any further aid for Athens.

More recently, the IMF released a report on Greece’s debt sustainability just prior to the referendum. The timing appeared to be strategic and may have helped secure the "no" vote for Tsipras.

Unfortunately, the IMF didn’t appear to anticipate the PM’s complete capitulation and now, the subject of debt relief has again been put off, this time until Greece officially passes the new "deal" through parliament and legislates its terms.

Today, another "secret" IMF document on the sustainability of Greece’s debt burden has surfaced and not surprisingly, the Fund is once again pounding the table on a haircut. One is certainly left to wonder if the US (and its veto power) are pulling the strings behind the scenes and orchestrating "leaks" at opportune times. Here’s more from Reuters:

Greece will need debt relief far beyond what euro zone partners have been prepared to consider due to the devastation of its economy and banks in the last two weeks, a confidential study by the International Monetary Fund seen by Reuters shows.

The updated debt sustainability analysis was sent to euro zone governments late on Monday, hours after Athens and its 18 partners agreed in principle to open negotiations on a third bailout programme of up to 86 billion euros in return for tougher austerity measures and structural reforms.

"The dramatic deterioration in debt sustainability points to the need for debt relief on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date - and what has been proposed by the ESM," the IMF said, referring to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund.

European countries would have to give Greece a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a very dramatic maturity extension, or else make explicit annual fiscal transfers to the Greek budget or accept "deep upfront haircuts" on their loans to Athens, the report said.

The updated debt sustainability analysis (DSA) was sent to euro zone governments late on Monday, hours after Athens and its 18 partners agreed in principle to open negotiations on a third bailout program of up to 86 billion euros in return for tougher austerity measures and structural reforms.

"The dramatic deterioration in debt sustainability points to the need for debt relief on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date - and what has been proposed by the ESM," the IMF said, referring to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund.

European countries would have to give Greece a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a very dramatic maturity extension, or else make explicit annual fiscal transfers to the Greek budget or accept "deep upfront haircuts" on their loans to Athens, the report said.

It was leaked as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble disclosed that some members of the Berlin government thought Greece would have been better off taking "time-out" from the euro zone rather than receiving another giant bailout.

The IMF study said the closure of Greek banks and imposition of capital controls on June 29 was "extracting a heavy toll on the banking system and the economy, leading to a further significant deterioration in debt sustainability relative to what was projected in our recently published DSA".

The latest IMF study said Greek debt would now peak at close to 200 percent of economic output in the next two years, compared to a previously forecast high of 177 percent.

Even by 2022, the debt would stand at 170 percent of gross domestic product, compared to an estimate of 142 percent issued just two weeks ago. Gross financing needs would rise to above the 15 percent of GDP threshold deemed safe and continue rising in the long term, the updated IMF study said.

Moreover, the latest projections "remain subject to considerable downside risk", meaning that euro zone countries might have to provide even more exceptional financing.

The IMF study also appeared to challenge the assumption by some European officials that Greece will be able to meet some of its financing needs from the markets in 2018.

"Borrowing at anything but AAA rates in the near term will bring about an unsustainable debt dynamic for the next several decades," it said.

In other words, the IMF is now openly at war with Germany (and its sound money compatriots like Finland) over debt forgiveness, which futher underscores the split in Europe between the German bloc and the those who favored leniency for Greece, and, by extension, a relaxation of the doctrine of strict fiscal discipline that has dominated EU politics (in word if certainly not in deed in the periphery) since the onset of the European debt crisis.

Of course any debt haircut for Greece will only serve to embolden other periphery debtor states, especially those where Syriza sympathizers enjoy growing support ahead of elections. In short, if parties like Podemos in Spain perceive that Germany has blinked on debt relief they too will push for writedowns, something we outlined in detail after the last IMF "leak" in "Did IMF Just Open Pandora's Box." 

*  *  *

Summing up the US/IMF message to Germany:

Greeks Can’t Tap Cash, Gold, Silver In Bank Safety Deposit Boxes

Capital controls have been in place in Greece since the start of the month to protect the banks from mass withdrawals by nervous Greeks. They have rightly been concerned about their savings, the collapse of the banking system and the loss of their savings in deposit confiscations or bail-ins.

Pic 2 - SDB

Many Greeks were also withdrawing their cash because they fear the country might be forced back onto the drachma. However a little known fact is that, Greeks who had prepared for bank runs by withdrawing cash and buying gold and silver bullion and then lodging that bullion and indeed cash into safety deposit boxes have also been caught up in the draconian capital controls.

We have warned about this for many years and warned as recently as April this year that people should avoid using safety deposit boxes in banks.

“Greeks cannot withdraw cash left in safe deposit boxes at Greek banks as long as capital restrictions remain in place”, Nadia Valavani, a Deputy Finance Minister in Greece told local television station according to a Reuters report.

The report (Greeks cannot tap cash in safe deposit boxes under capital controls) was little noticed at it was published on the less trafficked ‘Bonds’ section of Reuters.com on Sunday July 5th at 1:58 pm EDT or 6:58 pm GMT. Sunday afternoon and evening is a time when traders, investors and even eagle eyed news junkies are likely to be taking a well earned break.

The notion that safe deposit boxes – facilities that are used by many precious metals investors and others seeking to safeguard their wealth and valuables – need to come under capital controls to protect against bank runs is a dubious one.

This cash is not in the banking system – its withdrawal would have no negative impact on the system. Its availability to its owner might bring cash into circulation which would benefit the wider community.

The only reason to put access to safe deposit boxes under capital controls – measures which were agreed between the government and the banks – is because the banks and governments wish to retain the option of confiscating the contents of those boxes should the crisis deepen.

The low level war on cash and gold looks set to intensify, and governments look likely to wish to prevent savers and investors taking their cash out of the bank and putting them in safe deposit boxes.
This draconian move may be part of an endeavour to do that.

Safety deposit boxes are a convenient facility to store a small quantity of precious metals. However – as the Greek situation demonstrates – the convenience of ease of access to a local safe deposit box can be offset by the fact that governments and banks can lay claim to their contents at the stroke of a pen.

It would be unwise to view Greece as an exceptional case.

Such complacency is not shared by respected economic historian Marc Faber who recently warned Bloomberg viewers that “Greece is coming to your neighbourhood very soon” because “the world is over-indebted”.

This view has been echoed by many well placed observers from HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Fidelity in recent months. Most recently Fidelity’s Ian Spreadbury made the highly unorthodox recommendation that savers should keep some precious metals and cash “under the mattress”.

What happens next in Greece will determine the fate of the deposit box holders and indeed all citizens in Greece and indeed the wider Eurozone.

The ECB, reneging on its duty of lender of last resort, has put Syriza in an untenable position. It should be remembered that Mario Draghi came to the ECB from Goldman Sachs despite the fact that Goldman were found to have aided the previous Greek government in order to cook the books in order to borrow €1 billion that it could not afford in 2008 and indeed to join the monetary union. Indeed it is alleged the Draghi himself helped cook the books but he denies this and says Goldman did this prior to his joining.

The Telegraph’s AEP writes, “The Greek banks are on the verge of collapse. There is not enough cash left to cover ATM withdrawals of €60 billion each day through this week, or to cover weekly payments of €120 to pensioners and the unemployed – that is the to say, the tiny fraction of the jobless who receive anything at all.”

In the run up to the referendum former Finance Minister Varoufakis had made assurances that the EU had no legal power to expel Greece from the euro – a statement which likely encouraged the electorate to vote “No”. True though this may be, the EU institutions have instead created the conditions whereby Greece either capitulates completely or is forced to leave the euro of its own accord.

The “deal” which Tsipras must now get through parliament in Athens may save the banking system for now – or not, depending on the reaction of the public to the deal – but at great cost to Greece.

Pensions will will be slashed, Value Added Tax (VAT) or sales tax will be imposed on goods and services.

Vital elements of Greece’s infrastructure will be sold off to businesses with close links to the financial institutions who played a key role in creating the crisis – and yet have only benefitted from the repercussions – following the typical IMF template for debt colonialism.

Whatever the outcome with regards to the contents of safe deposit boxes in Greece – while not forgetting that there are far more pressing issues at stake for the people of Greece and Greek society – there is a clear lesson from recent events.

As we consistently warn gold, silver and cash stored within the financial and banking system is in no way secure in the event of a crisis.


Santa Cruz County Decides To Do Away With Big Banks

The Board of Supervisors in Santa Cruz County, California, have taken a bold step.  The County has decided that they will not do business, including investment services or bond issuances, with five major banks that the Justice Department found to be associated with felonious acts in May of this year.

"The Global Financial Context James Dimon" by World Economic Forum - Flickr: The Global Financial Context: James Dimon. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://bit.ly/1K4lMvy

“I’m counting my money.” “The Global Financial Context James Dimon” by World Economic Forum – Flickr: The Global Financial Context: James Dimon. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Ryan Coonerty, Supervisor of the Third District of the County,proposed to Mary Jo Walker, (Auditor-Controller-Treasurer) and the rest of the Board of Supervisors that they immediately, and for the term of at least 5 years, cease relations in business with Citigroup, J.P. Morgan & Chase, Barclays, The Royal Bank of Scotland, and U.B.S.


Coonerty wrote:

“[These banks] have agreed to plead guilty to felony charges of conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the foreign currency exchange spot market… The behavior of these banks is offensive and signals a Wall Street culture in which several big banks broke the law even after years of strong criticism and increased regulation following the economic crisis.”

The probe of the five banks mentioned above also included Bank Of America. The banks agreed to pay a total amount of $5.8 Billion earlier this year in settlement of the LIBOR scandal.  Citigroup was fined the largest amount of $925 million by the DOJ, and $325 million by the Fed. JP Morgan & Chase was fined a total of $892 million.  The DOJ cites these banks for their employee’s having violated theSherman Antitrust Act, which expressly forbids coercive monopolizing any part of trade or commerce within several states or foreign nations.


Coonerty’s letter rounded off:

“There seems to be no limit to the greed in some our nation’s largest banks. I believe it is critical that the County only work with the most trustworthy institutions as we invest and protect the public’s tax dollars. Santa Cruz County should not be involved with those who rigged the world’s biggest financial markets.

It is important that we send a message that if you want to do business with the County, you need to play by the rules. Therefore I recommend that the Board direct that the County’s investment policy be modified to reflect that the County of Santa Cruz will not do new business with these felonious financial institutions for a period of five years and further that the County unwind existing relationships with these five banks to the greatest extent feasible.”


The words are sharp, and the idea behind it is razor edged. If every county in just CA followed suit with Coonerty’s idea, that could mean significant losses in revenue for these corporations. The $650 million municipal portfolio reported to be in these banks for Santa Cruz County is just chump change for banks like JP Morgan & Chase.

I for one will be contacting the Board and Treasurer in my own County to recommend that this action be taken local to me, and hope you will as well. 

BREAKING: Son of Boston Police Captain Arrested for Terrorism Ties to ISIS, Plotting to Bomb College


Boston, MA — Boston Police Captain, Robert Ciccolo, is a veteran commander stationed at Operations within the Boston Police Headquarters and one of the early responders to the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013.

Ironically, Ciccolo’s son, Alexander Ciccolo, 23, also known as Ali Al Amriki, was just arrested for plotting to use the same type of bomb used by the marathon bombers made out of a pressure cooker.

Monday, the FBI announced that on July 4, Ciccolo was brought into custody after they sold him two pistols and two rifles. After a search of his apartment, the FBI found a pressure cooker, a variety of chemicals, an alarm clock, along with “attack planning papers” and “jihad” paperwork.

“This is a very bad person arrested before he could do very bad things,” one senior federal official briefed on the arrest told ABC News.

According to ABC News,

An FBI affidavit said Ciccolo initially planned to travel to “another state” and use a pressure cooker bomb “to conduct terrorist attacks on civilians, members of the U.S. military and law enforcement personnel.” The FBI said the attack location was later changed to a town with a state university and would be concentrated on “college dorms and cafeteria, to include executions of students, which would be broadcast live via the internet.”

According to the FBI, this deranged lunatic told an informant that the Boston bombings “inspired” him. He allegedly told the FBI operative, “Allahu Akbar!!! I got the pressure cooker today.”


In 2012, Ciccolo was photographed taking a peaceful stance against nuclear energy. What happened between then and now to cause him to want to kill people?


Could it be that Ciccolo was one of the hundreds of useful idiots duped into one of the FBI’s terrorism setup plots? Last year a study revealed that nearly 95 percent of terrorist arrests have been the result of FBI foiling its own entrapment plots as a part of the so-called post-9/11 War on Terror.

Nearly 25 percent of cases (99 of 399) contained material support charges. Another almost 30 percent of cases consisted of conspiracy charges. More than 17 percent of the analyzed cases (71 of 399 cases) involved sting operations. Over 16 percent of cases (65 of 399 cases) included false statement or perjury charges, and around six percent of cases involved immigration-related charges.

According to the report, since 9/11 only 11 cases posed “potentially significant” threat to the United States.

Oddly enough, according to the report, two of the only three successful terrorist attacks happened to be the Boston bombers who were said to inspire Ciccolo. “Only three were successful (the [Tamerlan and Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev brothers and Major Nidal Hasan), accounting for 17 deaths and several hundred injuries,” the paper says. 

US Army May Use Hollow Points In New Pistols In Violation Of International Protocol

A few months back, when "boots on the ground" trial balloons were floating around Washington, one argument made for sending so-called "forward spotters" to Iraq and possibly to Syria was that US airstrikes against ISIS needed to be made more efficient and more precise in order to minimize collateral damage.

As a reminder here’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg piece published on May 22: 

Conducting precision airstrikes that avoid civilian casualties is more difficult without spotters using laser designators and other tools to guide them, particularly in and around cities, said a State Department official who spoke under ground rules requiring anonymity.

A U.S. airstrike in November against a different extremist group in Syria killed two children and wounded two adults, the Defense Department reported Thursday.

On Capitol Hill Thursday, retired General Jack Keane, a former vice chief of staff of the Army, said deploying JTACs, also called forward air controllers, could quickly shift the balance against Islamic State by making its fighters more vulnerable to U.S. and coalition air attacks.

"Seventy-five percent of the sorties we are currently running with our attack aircraft come back without dropping bombs, mostly because they cannot acquire the target or cannot properly identify the target," he said. "Forward air controllers fix that problem."

As we noted at the time, carefully worded trial balloons don’t get much better than that. You see, the problem is that we are accidentally killing innocent children on our bombing runs and that’s if we’re lucky enough to be able to drop any bombs at all which apparently we only do a quarter of the time, and the whole "problem" could be "fixed" by deploying a couple of "spotters" with laser pointers. 

Interestingly, officials seem to pay quite a bit more attention to collateral damage when citing civilian casualties can serve as a means to an end - an end like invading Syria, a state which is ripe for 'regime change.'

Conversely, when a drone strike vaporizes a 'high value' target from the stratosphere and a few innocents turn up in the smoldering wreckage, well, that’s just the cost of doing business if you’re the CIA. 

In that context, we thought it was interesting that the US Army is considering using hollow point ammunition in their new standard issue handguns on the premise that doing so will reduce civilian casualties. Fragmenting ammunition does a lot more damage and thus has more "stopping power" than full metal jacket ammo, so one might reasonably suspect that the Army’s goal in giving every soldier a magazine full of hollow points is simply to increase the kill rate. Not so, says the Army - it’s all about preventing collateral damage.Here’s Army Times with more:

The Army is considering the use of expanding and fragmenting ammunition, such as hollow point bullets, to increase its next-generation handgun's ability to stop an enemy.

After a recent legal review within the Pentagon, the Army can consider adopting "special purpose ammunition," said Richard Jackson, special assistant to the Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War, according to an Army news release. This marks a departure from battlefield practices over a century old.

Jackson told Army Times that while this isn't the first approved use of such bullets in the military, the stance represented "a significant re-interpretation of the legal standard" for ammunition. He also said a lot has changed since the initial movements against the round, especially with the increased prevalence of asymmetric warfare.

Most of the Army uses full metal jacket, or ball ammunition, in both handguns and rifles. These rounds are designed to hold together, increasing penetration and narrowing the tunnel of damaged tissue.

Expanding and fragmenting bullets can flatten or break apart, and are more likely to remain in the body of a target and transfer all of their energy to it. A wider swath of tissue is typically destroyed.

On the battlefield, the U.S. has generally observed the 1899 Hague Convention rule barring expanding and fragmenting rounds, despite the fact that it never has been signatory to that particular agreement, Russell said.

The U.S. reserved the right to use different ammunition where it saw a need. For example, Criminal Investigations Command and military police use hollow points — as do law enforcement agencies around the country — in part to minimize collateral damage of bullets passing through the target. Special Forces also uses expanding/fragmenting rounds in counter-terrorism missions.

"The use of this ammunition supports the international law principles of preventing excessive collateral effects and safeguarding civilian lives," an Army statement said.

So the US never signed up for this ban on special purpose ammo and always reserved the right to use it "where it saw the need", which apparently is now everywhere.

Note that the Hague Convention rule wasn't something that was adopted for no reason. The ban on non standard rounds was put in place because, again quoting the Army Times, "the bullets caused unnecessary and therefore inhumane injury unrelated to stopping a combatant from continuing to fight."

After reading the above, you might be tempted to think that this is yet another example of the US simply ignoring international protocol - and you'd be right. But don't worry (and here's the punchline), the Pentagon thought about it and as it turns out, the fragmenting ammunition rule doesn't "make much sense", so much like territorial sovereignty in the Middle East, the US Army is free to ignore it: 

"There's a myth that [expanding/fragmenting bullets] are prohibited in international armed conflict, but that doesn't make any sense now" - Richard Jackson, special assistant to the Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War