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Thursday, 3 September 2015

Is the Stock Market Now “Too Big to Fail”?

Correspondent Bart D. recently speculated that the U.S. stock market was now “too big to fail,” that is, that it was too integral to the global financial system and economy to be allowed to fail, i.e. decline 40+% as in previous bubble bursts.

The U.S. stock market is integral to the global financial system in two ways.Now that investment banks, pension funds, insurers and multitudes of 401K retirement plans are dependent on current equity valuations, a crash would impair virtually the entire spectrum of finance from hedge funds to banks to insurers to pension plans.

A decimation of these sectors would impact the U.S. economy and thus the global economy very negatively.

By turning the health of the economy into a reflection of the stock market, the Status Quo has made the stock market into the one bellwether that matters. In effect, the stock market is now integral to the economy as a measure of sentiment and evidence that all is well with the economy as a whole.

The stock market is now the signal everyone follows: if stocks are rising, we’re told that means the economy is healthy. Conversely, if stocks decline sharply, the implication is the economy is weak.

In other words, it’s not just valuations that make stocks integral to the economy and Status Quo–the market’ssignaling is now the key to sentiment.In economist Michael Spence’s work, the information available to participants is asymmetric: roughly speaking, those on the “inside” have better information than those on the “outside.”

The stock market addresses this asymmetry by signaling what’s really going on via price: if the market sells off, that tells even those with little other information that all is not well in the economy.

A rising market sends the opposite signal: everything’s going well. If the participant isn’t experiencing good times himself, he will still defer to this signal, reckoning that his own financial stagnation is an anomaly rather than the norm.

This explains why a rising stock market is now essential to the Status Quo: if the market reverses, everyone who sees mostly stagnation in their corner of the economy will realize that is the norm, not a local aberration.

If the stock market is now too big to fail, the Federal Reserve will have to prop it up whatever the cost. Ultimately, this may require indirect purchases of stocks–an action that other central banks are already pursuing directly or indirectly via proxies.

This shouldn’t surprise us. After all, the Fed directly bought $1.5 trillion in mortgages (mortgage backed securities) to prop up the housing market, and a few trillion dollars in Treasury bonds to push interest rates down.

Just as a speculative guess, perhaps the line in the sand that will trigger Fed intervention is an extension of previous tops in the S&P 500: a line that is support that the Fed cannot let become resistance.

Just as a parlor game, let’s note that this line around 1,620 is about 100 points below the 200-week moving average at 1,711, which is about 200 points below the current level of 1,914.

Who knows what will trigger Fed intervention; that information is asymmetric, i.e. only known to Fed insiders. Perhaps a break below 1,711 will cause the Fed to ready its financial blitzkrieg.

A drop to 1,620 or so would represent a 23+% decline from all-time highs–a decent correction by historical standards, but one that–if reversed in short order–would not necessarily trigger a financial meltdown.

That cannot be said of a drop that erased 50+% of the SPX’s current value. If the market is indeed now too big to fail, the Fed will be forced to take unprecedented action if the decline hurtles past correction to carnage and full-blown meltdown. 

US/NATO Embrace Psy-ops and Info-War

The U.S. government and NATO have entered the Brave New World of “strategic communications,” merging psy-ops, propaganda and P.R. in order to manage the perceptions of Americans and the world’s public, reports veteran war correspondent Don North.

By Don North

As reflected in a recent NATO conference in Latvia and in the Pentagon’s new “Law of War” manual, the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a “soft power” weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase “strategic communications.”

This attitude has led to treating psy-ops – manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions – as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.

Dr. Stephen Badsey, Professor of Conflict studies, Wolverhampton University, U.K.

Dr. Stephen Badsey, Professor of Conflict studies, Wolverhampton University, U.K.

“The NATO case and argument is that NATO’s approach to psy-ops is to treat it as an essentially open, truthful and benign activity and that, plus the elimination of any meaningful distinctions between domestic and foreign media institutions and social media, means that psy-ops and public affairs have effectively fused,” said British military historian, Dr. Stephen Badsey, one of the world’s leading authorities on war and the media.

Badsey said NATO has largely abandoned the notion that there should be a clear distinction between psy-ops and public affairs, although NATO officially rules out the dissemination of “black propaganda,” knowingly false information designed to discredit an adversary.

“The long argument as to whether a firewall should be maintained between psy-ops and information activities and public affairs has now largely ended, and in my view the wrong side won,” Badsey added.

And, as part of this Brave New World of “strategic communications,” the U.S. military and NATO have now gone on the offensive against news organizations that present journalism which is deemed to undermine the perceptions that the U.S. government seeks to convey to the world.

That attitude led to the Pentagon’s new “Law of War” manual which suggests journalists in wartime may be considered “spies” or “unprivileged belligerents,” creating the possibility that reporters could be subject to indefinite incarceration, military tribunals and extrajudicial execution – the same treatment applied to Al Qaeda terrorists who are also called “unprivileged belligerents.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Pentagon Manual Calls Some Reporters Spies.”]

The revised “Law of War” manual has come under sharp criticism from representatives of both mainstream and independent media, including The New York Times’ editors and the Committee to Protect Journalists, as well as academics such as Dr. Badsey.

“The attitude toward the media expressed in the 2015 Pentagon manual is a violation of the international laws of war to which the USA is a signatory, going back to the 1907 Hague Convention, and including the Geneva Conventions,” said Badsey, a professor of conflict studies at Wolverhampton University in the United Kingdom and a long-time contact of mine who is often critical of U.S. military information tactics.

“But [the manual] is a reflection of the attitude fully displayed more than a decade ago in Iraq where the Pentagon decided that some media outlets, notably Al Jazeera, were enemies to be destroyed rather than legitimate news sources.”

The Vietnam Debate

The Pentagon’s hostility toward journalists whose reporting undermines U.S. government propaganda goes back even further, becoming a tendentious issue during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s when the war’s supporters accused American journalists of behaving treasonously by reporting critically about the U.S. military’s strategies and tactics, including exposure of atrocities such as the My Lai massacre.

In the 1980s, conservatives in the Reagan administration – embracing as an article of faith that “liberal” reporters contributed to the U.S. defeat in Vietnam – moved aggressively to discredit journalists who wrote about human rights violations by U.S.-backed forces in Central America. In line with those hostile attitudes, news coverage of President Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in 1983 was barred, and in 1990-91, President George H.W. Bush tightly controlled journalists trying to report on the Persian Gulf War. By keeping out – or keeping a close eye on – reporters, the U.S. military acted with fewer constraints and abuses went largely unreported.

This so-called “weaponizing of information” turned even more lethal during the presidency of Bill Clinton and the war over Kosovo when NATO identified Serb TV as an enemy “propaganda center” and dispatched warplanes to destroy its studios in Belgrade. In April 1999, acting under orders from U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, American bombers fired two cruise missiles that reduced Radio Televizija Srbija to a pile of rubble and killed 16 civilian Serb journalists working for the government station.

Despite this willful slaughter of unarmed journalists, the reaction from most U.S. news organizations was muted. However, an independent association of electronic media in Yugoslavia condemned the attack.

“History has shown that no form of repression, particularly the organized and premeditated murder of journalists, can prevent the flow of information, nor can it prevent the public from choosing its own sources of information,” the group said.

The (London) Independent’s Robert Fisk remarked at the time, “once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you change the rules of war.” Now, the Pentagon is doing exactly that, literally rewriting its “Law of War” manual to allow for the no-holds-barred treatment of “enemy” journalists as “unprivileged belligerents.”

Despite the 1999 targeting of a news outlet in order to silence its reporting, a case for war crimes was never pursued against the U.S. and NATO officials responsible, and retired General Clark is still a frequent guest on CNN and other American news programs.

Targeting Al Jazeera

During the presidency of George W. Bush, the Arab network Al Jazeera was depicted as “enemy media” deserving of destruction rather than being respected as a legitimate news organization – and the news network’s offices were struck by American bombs. On Nov. 13, 2001, during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, a U.S. missile hit Al Jazeera’s office in Kabul, destroying the building and damaging the homes of some employees.

On April 8, 2003, during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a U.S. missile hit an electricity generator at Al Jazeera’s Baghdad office, touching off a fire that killed reporter Tareq Ayyoub and wounding a colleague. The Bush administration insisted that the attacks on Al Jazeera offices were “accidents.”

However, in 2004, as the U.S. occupation of Iraq encountered increased resistance and U.S. forces mounted a major offensive in the city of Fallujah, Al Jazeera’s video of the assault graphically depicted the devastation – and on April 15, 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decried Al Jazeera’s coverage as “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.”

According to a British published report on the minutes of a meeting the next day between President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush suggested bombing Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar but was talked out of the idea by Blair who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.

During the Iraq War, Dr. Badsey wrote the following observation which I cited in my book on military/media relations, Inappropriate Conduct: “The claim that in 2004 at the first battle of Fallujah the U.S. Marine Corps ‘weren’t beaten by the terrorists and insurgents, they were beaten by Al Jazeera television’ rather than that they [U.S. forces] employed inappropriate tactics for the political environment of their mission, is recognizable as yet another variant on the long-discredited claim that the Vietnam War was lost on the television screens of America.”

Although the notion of Vietnam-era journalists for U.S. media acting as a fifth column rather than a Fourth Estate is widely accepted among conservatives, the reality was always much different, with most of the early Vietnam War coverage largely favorable, even flattering, before journalists became more skeptical as the war dragged on.

In a recent interview on NPR radio, Charles Adams, a senior editor of the new “Law of War” manual, was unable to cite examples of journalists jeopardizing operations in the last five wars – and that may be because there were so few examples of journalistic misconduct and the handful of cases involved either confusion about rules or resistance to news embargoes that were considered unreasonable.

Examining the history of reporters dis-accredited during the Vietnam War, William Hammond, author of a two-volume history of U.S. Army relations with the media in Vietnam, found only eight dis-accreditations, according to military files.

Arguably the most serious case involved the Baltimore Sun’s John Carroll, an Army veteran himself who believed strongly that it was important that the American people be as thoroughly informed about the controversial war as possible. He got in trouble for reporting that the U.S. Marines were about to abandon their base at Khe Sahn. He was accused of violating an embargo and was stripped of his credentials, though he argued that the North Vietnamese surrounding the base were well aware of the troop movement.

Toward the end of the war, some reporters also considered the South Vietnamese government so penetrated by the communists that there were no secrets anyway. Prime Minister Nguyen van Thieu’s principal aide was a spy and everyone knew it except the American people.

During his long career, which included the editorship of the Los Angeles Times, Carroll came to view journalists “almost as public servants and a free press as essential to a self-governing nation,” according to his obituary in The New York Times after his death on June 14, 2015.

Strategic Communication

During the Obama administration, the concept of “strategic communication” – managing the perceptions of the world’s public – has grown more and more expansive and the crackdown on the flow of information unprecedented. More than any of his predecessors, President Barack Obama has authorized harsh legal action against government “leakers” who have exposed inconvenient truths about U.S. foreign policy and intelligence practices.

And Obama’s State Department has mounted a fierce public campaign against the Russian network, RT, that is reminiscent of the Clinton administration’s hostility toward Serb TV and Bush-43’s anger toward Al Jazeera.

Since RT doesn’t use the State Department’s preferred language regarding the Ukraine crisis and doesn’t show the requisite respect for the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev, the network is denounced for its “propaganda,” but this finger-pointing is really just part of the playbook for “information warfare,” raising doubts about the information coming from your adversary while creating a more favorable environment for your own propaganda. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Who’s the Propagandist? US or RT?”]

This growing fascination with “strategic communication” has given rise to NATO’s new temple to information technology, called “The NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence” or STRATCOM, located in Latvia, a former Soviet republic that is now on the front lines of the tensions with Russia.

On Aug. 20, some of the most influential minds from the world of “strategic communications” gathered in Latvia’s capital of Riga for a two-day conference entitled “Perception Matters.” A quotation headlined in all its communications read: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed” – noble sentiments perhaps but not always reflected in the remarks by more than 200 defense and communications experts, many of whom viewed information not as some neutral factor necessary for enlightening the public and nourishing democracy, but as a “soft power” weapon to be wielded against an adversary.

Hawkish Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, led a delegation of U.S. senators and said STRATCOM was needed to combat Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. “This Center will help spread the truth,” said McCain – although “the truth” in the world of “strategic communications” can be a matter of perception.

Don North is a veteran war correspondent who covered the Vietnam War and many other conflicts around the world. He is the author of a new book, Inappropriate Conduct,  the story of a World War II correspondent whose career was crushed by the intrigue he uncovered. 

Dangerous Redefinition of ‘Terrorism’

Exclusive: “Terrorism” is a word of condemnation, referring to the coldblooded killing of civilians to advance a political cause. But U.S. pundits and officials have blurred its meaning to cover attacks on American soldiers in foreign lands, a word game that can contribute to more wars, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The classic definition of terrorism is the intentional killing of civilians to make a political point, as in planting bombs near the finish line of a marathon or crashing commercial jetliners into buildings filled with office workers. Yet, the mainstream U.S. media has broadened the definition to include killing U.S. soldiers or allied troops even those operating in foreign lands.

For instance, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman on Wednesday cited as a supposed example of “Iran’s terrorism” the bombing of the Marine base in Beirut in 1983, “believed to be the handiwork of Iran’s cat’s paw, Hezbollah.” And Friedman is hardly alone in citing the Marine bombing in 1983 as “terrorism” along with Iran’s support for Shiite militias who fought the American occupying army in Iraq last decade.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman

The U.S. media routinely treats such cases as deserving of the unqualified condemnation that the word “terrorism” implies. Similarly, that attitude is extended to Hezbollah attacks on Israeli military forces even in the 1980s when Israel was occupying southern Lebanon.

But attacks aimed at military forces – not civilians – are not “terrorism” in the classic definition. And this is an important distinction because the word carries deservedly negative moral and legal implications that can put those nations accused of “terrorism” in the cross-hairs of economic sanctions and military attacks that can kill hundreds of thousands and even millions of civilians.

In other words, abuse of the word “terrorism” can have similar consequences as terrorism itself, the indiscriminate deaths of innocent people — men, women and children. Much of the case for sanctions and war against Iraq in the 1990s and 2000s was based on dubious and even false claims about Iraq’s alleged support for Al Qaeda and other terrorists.

And, the 1983 case is especially significant because it is a go-to emotional argument in accusing Iran of having “American blood on its hands” and thus unworthy of any normal diplomatic relations. However, when examining the real history behind the Marine barracks bombing, a much more complex and nuanced story unfolds with blame to be apportioned to all sides.

The immediate context for the tragedy was Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the multi-sided civil war raging among Lebanese factions. Israeli invaders reached the Lebanese capital of Beirut in a matter of days as part of a campaign to crush the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Then, after more fighting and protracted negotiations, Israel forced the P.L.O. to leave Lebanon, departing for Tunisia. But the P.L.O. left behind women and children in refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila, where Israeli officers allowed Israeli-supported Christian militia forces to massacre more than 700 and possibly thousands of Palestinian and Shiite civilians, one of the most shocking atrocities of the war.

Into this chaos, President Ronald Reagan dispatched a force of Marines as peacekeepers, but they gradually were pulled into the fighting on the side of Israel and its militia allies.

National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, who often represented Israel’s interests in the upper echelons of the Reagan administration, convinced the President to authorize the USS New Jersey to fire long-distance shells into Muslim villages, killing civilians and convincing Shiite militants that the United States had joined the conflict.

On Oct. 23, 1983, Shiite militants struck back, sending a suicide truck bomber through U.S. security positions, demolishing the high-rise Marine barracks in Beirut and killing 241 American servicemen. Reagan soon repositioned the surviving U.S. forces offshore.

Though the U.S. news media immediately labeled the Marine barracks bombing an act of “terrorism,” Reagan administration insiders knew better, recognizing that McFarlane’s “mission creep” had made the U.S. troops vulnerable to retaliation.

“When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides,” Gen. Colin Powell wrote in his memoir, My American Journey. In other words, Powell, who was then military adviser to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, recognized that the actions of the U.S. military had altered the status of the Marines in the eyes of the Shiites.

Reagan’s redeployment of the Marines offshore also didn’t end U.S. intervention in Lebanon. The tit-for-tat violence in Beirut continued. CIA Director William Casey ordered secret counterterrorism operations against Islamic radicals and dispatched veteran CIA officer William Buckley. But on March 14, 1984, Buckley was spirited off the streets of Beirut to face torture and death.

In 1985, Casey targeted Hezbollah leader Sheikh Fadlallah in an operation that included hiring operatives who detonated a car bomb outside the Beirut apartment building where Fadlallah lived.

As described by Bob Woodward in Veil, “the car exploded, killing 80 people and wounding 200, leaving devastation, fires and collapsed buildings. Anyone who had happened to be in the immediate neighborhood was killed, hurt or terrorized, but Fadlallah escaped without injury. His followers strung a huge ‘Made in the USA’ banner in front of a building that had been blown out.”

In other words, the U.S. government dove into the bloody swamp of terrorism even as it was condemning other parties of engaging in terrorism. But the moral morass that was Lebanon, circa 1982-85, is not what Friedman and other U.S. propagandists describe when they smear Iran as some particularly evil force. Nor does Friedman operate with an objective definition of terrorism.

As Colin Powell recognized, once the United States joined the Lebanese civil war as a belligerent, U.S. troops became legitimate targets for retaliation. As much as one may lament the deaths of 241 U.S. personnel (or any deaths for that matter), it was not an act of “terrorism.”

The Kentucky clerk who is denying same-sex couples marriage licenses has been divorced 4 times

Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who is denying same-sex couples marriage licenses in defiance of the US Supreme Court has been married and divorced times.

“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” she said, reports the New York Times. “I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s word.”

Davis doesn't have a problem ignoring God's word when it comes to her personal and professional life, though. Jake Flanagin of QZ cites a few Bible passages that Davis seems to think do not apply to her:

“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives.” – Corinthians 7:39

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” – Matthew 5:31-32

“You shall not commit adultery." – Exodus 20:14

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” – Romans 13 

Fracking Creates Massive Radiation Waste Problem

fracking radiation

The EPA openly acknowledges that fracking fluid contains “thousands of chemicals,” but nowhere is there mention of radioactivity in its risk assessments. Now, a new study reveals the “natural gas” industry may be hiding a secret as dark and deadly as the one the nuclear industry has been trying to conceal for decades.

With recent news that California’s fracking industry will be “repurposing” its toxic wastewater to meet the needs of an agricultural industry driven desperate by the drought, a timely new study published in Environmental Health Perspectivesreveals fracking wastewater is not just a source of dangerous petrochemicals but also a highly toxic form of radioactive waste.

Titled, “What’s NORMal for Fracking? Estimating Total Radioactivity of Produced Fluids,” the new study tested the hypothesis that fracking wastewater contains the same naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) found in the shale deposits that it is produced from as a drilling byproduct. The primary radionuclides of interest include 226radium, 210polonium, and 210lead, which are decay products of 238uranium and 228thorium, and which are normally safely locked away deep within millions of years old geological formations.

The study focused on the heavily drilled Marcellus Shale, a vast swath of marine sedimentary rock found in eastern North America, and which is known to have about 20 times higher levels of radioactivity from high uranium content compared to most other shales.1 In 2010, the uranium deposits within the Marcellus Shale were identified by University of Buffalo researchers as being susceptible to being solubilized and made mobile by fracking fluids. The researchers determined that when these fluids inevitably come back to the surface in the form of millions of gallons of wastewater they can pollute streams and the ecosystem with hazardous waste.

Fracking Releases Radioactivity Normally Locked Away Deep Within The Earth

The new study confirms the above mentioned concerns. Researchers at the University of Iowa obtained a 200-liter drum of fracking wastewater obtained from the Marcellus Shale region in 2012. The sample was measured for existing levels of radioisotopes, and then estimates were made for the total radioactivity that would be produced within the fluids in the future if left within a closed space. They confirmed the presence of radioactive radium, polonium, and lead. They also measured an increase in the decay products 210lead and 228thorium. Finally, they determined that the radioactivity would continue to increase for more than 100 years due to the formation of the decay products of 210lead and 210polonium.

This is not the first time that a radioactivity problem with fracking wastewater has been cited in the published literature. For instance, a report published in Environmental Science and Technology in 2013 found that fracking wastewater discharge by the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility in Pennsylvania lead to 226radium concentrations that were

approximately 200 times higher than normally expected in stream sediments near the facility.2

Fracking’s Radioactivity Could Be As Dangerous As Nuclear Power’s Releases

Clearly, the “natural gas” industry has a new PR nightmare on its hands. Already there is a growing public awareness that fracking is an extremely destructive and non-sustainable method to extract energy from the earth, uses and contaminates billions of gallons of water annually, and may even contribute to increase seismic events like earthquakes. But until now few if any realized that the fracking/natural gas and the nuclear industry share the same dark secret that they both routinely release significant quantities of radioactive waste into the environment whose toxicological implications last for centuries, if not for thousands of years (e.g., 222radium’s half-life is 1600 years). The releases are not just the byproduct of accidents. The nuclear power industry actually releases highly carcinogenic plumes of radioisotopes into the environment during the course of normal operations. For instance, they routinely schedule government approved releases of up to 500 times higher than normal levels when they refuel their reactors. Even the coal-powered power plants produce millions of tons of radioactive waste, which we recently touched upon in our exposé on the possible use of coal fly ash for covert geoengineering programs in the U.S. and abroad. In many ways, as evidenced by the Fukushima multi-core meltdown, the problem with radioactive waste contamination is so profound and widespread that for the most part the media won’t even touch the issue. To the contrary, nuclear power is often described in the mainstream media as a “cleaner” form of energy because it does not produce the same carbon emissions as fossil fuel-based forms. This suffices to distract from its true harms to human and environmental health.

Given the widespread problem of denial, it is not surprising that present day fracking regulations do not account for radioactivity at all. The EPA, in fact, focuses on drinking water and groundwater contamination by the admittedly “thousands of chemicals contained in fracking fluid” as the most salient issue, and determined in its 2015 fracking risk assessment that while it did find evidence that fracking has caused contamination and does pose a risk to drinking water resources, “the number of identified cases where drinking water resources were impacted are small relative to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.”3

The truth is that low-dose radioisotope exposure no matter what the specific source of contamination has been proven to be several orders of magnitude more dangerous to health than present day radiological risk assessment standards presently specify. This is because health risk evaluations are based on gamma-radiation associated effects, based mainly on outdated observations of atomic bomb blast survivors from WWII, long before DNA and low-dose radioisotope mediated DNA damage was even discovered. Uranium, however, being an alpha particle and not a gamma radiation emitter, can have up to 1 million fold increased toxicity to DNA than would be expected by its radiolytic decay alone. The implications of this are astounding, and speak to just how dangerous releases of radioisotopes are when looked at through the lens of a more nuanced, modernized, and evidence-based risk assessment lens.

The truth about low-dose radioisotope exposure’s true risks have been hidden for quite some time, including by the tobacco industry, who knew as far back as the 1950s that the contamination of tobacco with polonium was driving high lung cancer incidence in smokers but refused to admit it because addressing the problem by removing 210polonium would have reduced their product’s nicotine content, addictiveness, and therefore profitability.

This new study should help to bring to the awareness of the public that there is absolutely nothing natural about the “natural gas” industry, and that fracking may combine the worst outcomes of both the fossil fuel (petrochemical) and nuclear power industries, as far as the ultimate forms of damage wrought upon human and environmental health. Now that the wastewater from fracking is being used to grow food, it is all the more pressing that we become engaged and active on the issue — that is, unless we don’t mind being force fed fracking chemicals and radioactive material in our produce in the near future.* The time has come to take a stand and withdrawal all support from energy and agricultural production models that result in the atrocious toxic fallout of this kind.

To get more involved on the issue check out Americans Against Fracking.

*ironically, conventional produce may also be blasted with nuclear waste to “cold pasteurize it.”


2Warner NR, et al. Impacts of shale gas wastewater disposal on water quality in western Pennsylvania. Environ Sci Technol472011849–11857.11857; 10.1021/es402165b [PubMed]


Was the Turkish Government Caught Sending Weapons to ISIS in Syria?

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 3.50.26 PM

If you have any interest in geopolitics whatsoever, you need to be paying very close attention to the complete and total shit show that is Turkey.

Turkey is a close U.S. ally that has been nevertheless caught supporting ISIS is various ways this year. Why would a close U.S. ally be supporting ISIS? Great question. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions, but before we go into today’s piece, let’s revisit a post from a couple of weeks ago: Turkey Bombs Kurds Fighting ISIS, Then Hires Same Lobbying Firm Supporting U.S. Presidential Candidates. Here’s some of what we learned:

On the same day that Turkey announced it would help fight the Islamic State, Turkish forces began an airstrike campaign against one of the very groups that has been crucial to stopping the advance of the Islamic State.

Since the July 24 announcement, Turkey has launched several waves of airstrikes against elements of a Kurdish separatist group known as the P.K.K., which is widely listed as a terrorist group. But that group and its allies in Syria, who have been closely working with American forces, are pushing Islamic State militants out of areas they once controlled.

Bizarre and concerning? Yes. As a result of that story, I began paying far closer attention to the goings on in Turkey. My attention was then piqued yesterday when I read that three Vice News staffers had been arrested for supposedly possessing encryption software used by ISIS. We learn from Al Jazeera:

Three staff members from Vice News were charged with “aiding an armed organisation” because one of the men was using an encryption system on his personal computer which is often used by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a senior press official in the Turkish government has told Al Jazeera.

Two UK journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, along with their Turkey-based Iraqi fixer and a driver, were arrested in front of their hotel in the province Diyarbakir on Thursday after filming clashes between security forces and youth members of the outlawed and armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

On Monday, the three men were charged by a Turkish judge in Diyarbakir with “deliberately aiding an armed organisation”, the driver was released without charge.

This is strange. Charged with aiding an armed organization merely because they posses the same encryption software? Moreover, it’s the same terror organization Turkey itself is aiding.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Tahir Elci, the head of the Diyarbakir lawyers association, said: “I find it ridiculous that they were taken into custody. I don’t believe there is any accuracy to what they are charged for. 

“To me, it seems like an attempt by the government to get international journalists away from the area of conflict.

Indeed, but why? There has to be more to this story, and it seems columnist Kadri Gursel may have figured out what. He wrote the following at Al-Monitor:

On Sept. 1, police raided numerous news outlets, including one that happened to publish on that same day a report documenting weapons being transported from Turkey to the Islamic State (IS) in Syria with the knowledge of the local customs director.

The police searched more than 20 media organizations and commercial companies of Koza Ipek Holding, accusing owner Akin Ipek of being a terrorist leader. Some of Akin Ipek’s media holdings are supportive of an ex-friend of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the Sept. 1 raids, authorities seized documents and computers of Koza Holding. Among locations raided were the Ankara offices of Kanal Turk TV and Bugun newspaper and, according to Koza Ipek officials, the residence of Akin Ipek. The Hurriyet Daily News, citing “prosecutor sources,” reported Akin Ipek left the country Aug. 30. An arrest warrant has been issued in his name, the report said.

The same day the raids were launched, the daily Bugun claimed to have documented weapons-related supplies being transferred from Turkey to IS in Syria. The grave banner headline read, “War supplies for [IS] at Akcakale,” and was followed by two full pages of “shocking” color photos.

Bugun’s revelation continued: “For two months, every single day two semitrailer loads of fertilizer used in production of explosives, one semi load of metal sheeting and one truckload of electronic supplies and cables were transferred to IS-controlled areas of Syria. Moreover, every other day, one truckload of barrels filled with explosives and crates of fuses were moved across.”

Bugun’s report said the shipments, made in front of the local customs director and his staff, also included metal piping often used in the production of mortar tubes. In the photographs, obviously taken from a building overlooking the crossing, one can see the barrels said to contain explosives, sacks of fertilizer to be used in explosive production, metal piping and sheets to use for weapons and armor manufacturing, and workers pushing the trailers loaded with them.

So it appears the targeting of Vice staffers was just a small part of a potentially much bigger story. Is it all connected? I don’t know, but I think is Turkey is on the edge of some real political fireworks one way or the other. I suggest paying very close attention.

Of course, this isn’t the first we’ve heard of this. Recall the following CNN story from June:

The Turkish president says a journalist will pay “a high price” for publishing leaked video footage that purports to show the country’s intelligence agency sending weapons to Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday called out the head of Cumhuriyet — a secularist pro-opposition newspaper — in a live broadcast for publishing the footage. 

“The person who published this story as an exclusive story will, I believe, pay a high price for this. I will not leave him be,” said Erdogan, speaking to state broadcaster TRT.

Many in Turkey view this as a thinly veiled threat against Can Dundar, the editor in chief of Cumhuriyet. The newspaper published video that purports to show ammunition being sent to anti-regime rebels in Syria. Dundar is facing an investigation under Turkey’s anti-terror law for “treason and revealing state secrets” in publishing the footage.

Dundar dismissed the allegation of treason against him, calling it “the defense reflex of the state in Turkey.” Dundar published the controversial footage deemed a state secret by the government just a week before parliamentary elections in Turkey, but he remains unapologetic about the timing. 

“The weapons were most likely headed to ISIS, infamous globally for its brutality,” he said.

The video posted on Cumhuriyet shows men in gendarmerie uniforms and civilian clothing unscrewing bolts to open the holding area of the trucks and unpacking boxes of what look like medicine. The images after that show trucks full of mortar rounds. Cumhuriyet claims those are weapons being delivered to Syria by the Turkish Intelligence Agency or MIT.

The public prosecutor’s office has asked that the video published by Cumhuriyet be removed from websites on the basis of national interest and national security, according to semi-official Anadolu News Agency. According to the court ruling, if websites do not remove the video, access to their sites could be blocked. The link for the story has since been deactivated. There is a reporting restriction by the state broadcasting regulatory agency about the investigation concerning the MIT trucks.

Yes indeed, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Cops Give Woman Back Her Stolen Car Filled With Guns And Drugs – Twice



Calgary, CA — Courtney Pickering recently had her car stolen, and luckily the police were actually able to recover it for her. However, the thieves left behind a few of their belongings, including guns and drugs. Pickering says that they must have done a terrible job searching the car because it was not difficult for her to find the items.

After the theft occurred, Pickering was called and told by police that she would be allowed to have her car back after the “forensics team” searched the vehicle. This team overlooked a bag of cocaine in the cup holder, a crack pipe on the rear seat, multiple pieces of identification reportedly belonging to the suspects, a knife in the front passenger door, a lead pipe and a gun under the seat.

Pickering was able to notice all this before pulling out of the impound lot, so it seems that a forensics team probably didn’t even open her car door.

Pickering was concerned that if she pulled out of the lot, she could be arrested for the things that were inside her car. To prevent this, she threw the bag of cocaine on the ground, as advised by the lot attendant, and called the police to retrieve the rest of the illegal material they neglected to take the first time around.

The police responded, grabbed the items and left. This is where the story should end, right? However, when Pickering’s car was towed to a repair shop, she searched it one last time to find the butt of a gun sticking out from under the seat.

“At this point, I can’t tell if it’s real or fake, but all I know is my hands have been on too many illegal things in the past 24 hours and I didn’t want any more,” Pickering said.

“I’m trying to make enough noise so that hopefully maybe it’ll affect that one officer or even anyone in their day-to-day operations. Think of the tax dollars that could’ve been saved if they had just given it 10 minutes more than they did,” she said.

If she was pulled over down the street, she would likely be facing multiple charges and it would probably be hard for her to fight the case. She has recently filed a complaint against the department and they are reportedly investigating the case. 

NATO: Never-ending Aggression Toward Others

Well, here’s definitive proof that a large organization can have a mind: NATO has clearly lost one.

NATO was supposed to “defend” Europe against the Soviet Union.  A whole lot of people believed that, at least until the Soviet Union ended.

Then NATO was supposed to “defend” Europe against Iran. I think about 8 people believed that, not counting U.S. senators. But then Iran made a deal for the toughest inspections of its non-existent nuclear weapons program in the history of the world.

And NATO rushed to expand before anyone had the logical next thought, namely, Now what do we supposedly need NATO for?

NATO is now going to open headquarters in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Estonia — all nations between Western Europe and Russia, all nations where the United States promised Russia NATO would never go, and all moves seen as threats by the Russian government. In fact, Russia is now putting (possibly nuclear) missiles into Kaliningrad and talking frequently about the growing likelihood of war with the United States.

The United States, for its part, is putting more nuclear weapons into Europe, arming its coup government in Ukraine, posturing over claims to the arctic (where it hopes to dig out more of the filthy fuels with which it has melted the arctic), and churning out anti-Russian propaganda by the boatload.