Saturday, January 21, 2012

Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County, PA, E-Voting System "Remotely Accessed" on "Multiple Occasions" by Unknown Computer

A voter arrives at Samaritan Village to vote
with new electronic privacy voting machines,
in New York, in this September 14, 2010
file photo. (Photo: Uli Seit / The New York
by: Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog | News Analysis 
According to the Initial Report from a landmark independent forensic audit of the Venango County, PA, touch-screen voting system --- the same system used in dozens of counties across the state and country --- someone used a computer that was not a part of county's election network to remotely access the central election tabulator computer, illegally, "on multiple occasions." 

Despite the disturbing report, as obtained by The BRAD BLOG and posted in full below, we may never get to learn who did it or why, if Venango's County Commissioners, a local judge, and the nation's largest e-voting company have their way. And that's not all we won't get to find out about.

The battle for election integrity continues in Venango, with the County Commissioners teaming up with e-voting vendor Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) on one side, and the county's renegade interim Republican-majority Board of Elections on the other. 

The Commissioners and ES&S have been working to spike the independent scientific forensic audit of the county's failed electronic voting machines that was commissioned by the interim Board of Elections. Making matters worse, the Board has now been removed from power by a county judge, a decision they are attempting to appeal as the three-person board and their supporters continue to fight the entrenched establishment for transparency and accountability in the rural Western Pennsylvania county.

Lehman Brothers: Financially and Morally Bankrupt

Lehman Brothers headquarters,
New York City. (Photo: Helge V. Keitel)
by: Richard D. Wolff, The Guardian UK | News Analysis 
The lesson of Lehman Brothers' failures of fiduciary duty is that large-scale lending should not be entrusted to private banks.

Last week, federal court Judge James M Peck approved the final phase of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, which began with the investment bank's collapse on 15 September 2008. That bankruptcy, the largest in US history, precipitated the credit markets' disintegration that cascaded into the global economic meltdown that has deepened ever since. With roughly $450bn still owed by the bank, Judge Peck approved that Lehman Brothers has only $65bn left to settle creditors' claims. The latter must thus accept just over 14 cents for every dollar Lehman Brothers owed them. "Thieves," they are probably muttering.  READ MORE

Kids Eating Rat Poison Is an "Acceptable Risk" for ALEC

Bait Station (Robert McClure/InvestigateWest)

Under the new rules, rat poison will no longer be sold "loose," in pellet form, for use in one's home or apartment, but can be purchased in "bait stations" (like the one pictured) designed to keep out children and other animals. Additionally, certain products known as "second generation," or "super-toxic" rodenticides, will no longer be sold to residential consumers, as they pose a special risk to wildlife. These products are sold under brand names like Havoc, Talon, Ratimus and d-CON. Both the second generation chemicals and other rodenticides will still be sold "loose" to professional exterminators as well as employees of farms, warehouses, and other commercial installations. But the pellets may not be used in areas where children may find them.

Marianne Gingrich: Newt Told Me Callista Was Going to Help Him Become President

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 02:00 PM PST

By Heather 

What was touted as ABC's big blockbuster interview with Newt Gingrich's second wife, Marianne Gingrich, turned out to be more of a fizzle since the main headline to come out of it, that Gingrich had asked Marianne to have an open marriage while he was cheating on her with Callista, was already leaked well ahead of the interview airing.

I don't think Marianne Gingrich came off all that well during the interview since she basically just laughed off allegations that she might have participated in trying to solicit bribes from an arms dealer in the late nineties and strangely ABC did not push her in any way about whether there was any truth to them. I'm not quite sure why they bothered to bring up the scandal at all if they weren't going to probe into it a bit more deeply.

The one portion of the interview which I posted above that I found rather humorous was Marianne Gingrich's reaction to Newt telling her that his current wife, Callista, was going to help him become president.  READ MORE

The Daily Show: Newt Gingrich, Freaker of the Spouse

By Heather

After noting that within minutes of Rick Perry dropping out of the GOP primary race and endorsing Newt Gingrich, the announcement came that Gingrich's ex-wife, Marianne was, as he put it, “about to go Divorce Court on his ass”, Jon Stewart ripped on Gingrich for this not being the first, but the second wife that Gingrich divorced after finding out that they had a serious illness.

STEWART: Oh, it's the second of his three wives, Marianne. The Jan Brady, of Mrs. Gingrich's. The meat in his wife hoagie, The Empire Strikes back of his wives. The one that ends kind of sad, but in retrospect is really the best one. Well at least I can't imagine Marianne had as big a beef with the former Speaker than... as his first wife.


First wife cancer, second wife multiple sclerosis. Can Newt Gingrich be reclassified as a pollutant? A carcinogen? This guy's like the dioxin of husbands!

Chuck Todd Is Concerned Stephen Colbert's PAC 'Makes a Mockery of Our System'

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 05:00 PM PST
By Nicole Belle 

(h/t Scarce)
Concern troll, thy name is Chuck Todd:

NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd admires comedian Stephen Colbert's send-up of super-PACs. But he thinks Colbert, who has declared his candidacy for "President of the United States of South Carolina," is going too far in injecting real-life politics into his own version of reality TV. [..]
"Look, he's got a shtick," Todd told a Winthrop University audience today. "I admire how he's educated his audience on super-PACs. (But) I think he's making a mockery of the system. Is it fair to the process?"

Romney: We Need Someone 'Who's Lived in the Real Streets of America' as President

By Heather

I'm not sure which one of Mitt Romney's mansions he considers to be on the "real streets" of America, but here he was attempting to paint himself as some Washington outsider, everyday businessman during the CNN Republican primary debate.
Think Progress summed this up pretty nicely tonight:

Buffett Rule Rorschach: 7,000 Millionaires Paid No Income Taxes in 2011

Sep 21 2011, 2:49 PM ET

The White House's new campaign banner/economic principle is the so-called "Buffett Rule," which holds that no millionaire should pay a lower effective tax rate than a typical middle class family. Sound sensible, yes? Of course it does. The tax code is progressive and purposefully so. Marginal income tax rates increase with income. The more you make, the greater share of income you pay. Disagreeing with this general principle puts you to the right of a typical Republican. 

But the Buffett Rule wasn't meant to hold up to strict constructionism. "You cannot build a tax code on the principle that no millionaire, ever, should ever have an effective tax rate lower than their secretary," my Atlantic colleague Megan McArdle wrote this morning. Well, you could, she allows, but you'd have to give the IRS extralegal responsibilities to seize rich people's income beyond what they owe.

To understand why, consider the 76 million people who don't legally owe individual income taxes in 2011 (please, please note: does not include payroll, excise, state and local taxes). The vast majority of this group was poor. They didn't owe individual income taxes because they didn't owe a lot of money to start, and various exemptions, like the earned income tax credit, wiped out the rest.

But among families making more than $100,000, there were also half a million tax units -- enough to replace the population of Tucson, Arizona -- that also paid no income tax. Even more surprising, 7,000 millionaires also paid no individual income tax.


Google Search "Millionaires Pay No Taxes"

13 Things the Funeral Director Won’t Tell You

By Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest Magazine, June/July 2011

1. Go ahead and plan your funeral, but think twice before paying in advance. You risk losing everything if the funeral home goes out of business. Instead, keep your money in a pay-on-death account at your bank.
Plus: 13 Things Your Financial Adviser Won’t Tell You

2. If you or your spouse is an honorably discharged veteran, burial is free at a Veterans Affairs National Cemetery. This includes the grave, vault, opening and closing, marker, and setting fee. Many State Veterans Cemeteries offer free burial for veterans and, often, spouses (

3. You can buy caskets that are just as nice as the ones in my showroom for thousands of dollars less online from Walmart, Costco, or straight from a manufacturer.

4. On a budget or concerned about the environment? Consider a rental casket. The body stays inside the casket in a thick cardboard container, which is then removed for burial or cremation.

5. Running a funeral home without a refrigerated holding room is like running a restaurant without a walk-in cooler. But many funeral homes don’t offer one because they want you to pay for the more costly option: embalming. Most bodies can be presented very nicely without it if you have the viewing within a few days of death.

6. Some hard-sell phrases to be wary of: “Given your position in the community …,” “I’m sure you want what’s best for your mother,” and “Your mother had excellent taste. When she made arrangements for Aunt Nellie, this is what she chose.”
Plus: 13 Things Your Florist Won’t Tell You

7. “Protective” caskets with a rubber gasket? They don’t stop decomposition. In fact, the moisture and gases they trap inside have caused caskets to explode.

8. If there’s no low-cost casket in the display room, ask to see one anyway. Some funeral homes hide them in the basement or the boiler room.

9. Ask the crematory to return the ashes in a plain metal or plastic container — not one stamped temporary container. That’s just a sleazy tactic to get you to purchase a more expensive urn.

10. Shop around. Prices at funeral homes vary wildly, with direct cremation costing $500 at one funeral home and $3,000 down the street. (Federal law requires that prices be provided over the phone.)

11. We remove pacemakers because the batteries damage our crematories.

12. If I try to sell you a package that I say will save you money, ask for the individual price list anyway. Our packages often include services you don’t want or need.

13. Yes, technically I am an undertaker or a mortician. But doesn’t funeral director have a nicer ring to it?
See 9 more secrets from funeral directors.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Regime Change in Iran? The Real Motivations Behind Sanctions

Sanctions against Iran's central bank are meant to cripple the country's oil industry.
January 18, 2012

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Let's start with red lines. Here it is, Washington’s ultimate red line,straight from the lion’s mouth.  Only last week Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said of the Iranians, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us.”
How strange, the way those red lines continue to retreat.  Once upon a time, the red line for Washington was “enrichment” of uranium. Now, it’s evidently an actual nuclear weapon that can be brandished. Keep in mind that, since 2005, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has stressed that his country is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon. The most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran from the U.S. Intelligence Community has similarly stressed that Iran is not, in fact, developing a nuclear weapon (as opposed to the breakout capacity to build one someday).

What if, however, there is no “red line,” but something completely different? Call it the petrodollar line.

Why We Must Close the Guantanamo Gulag

In addition to legal and political problems with Guantanamo, there are enormous human costs to consider.
January 16, 2012

Travelers to Cuba and music lovers are familiar with the song “Guantanamera”— literally, the girl from Guantánamo. With lyrics by José Martí, the father of Cuban independence, Guantanamera is probably the most widely known Cuban song.  But Guantánamo is even more famous now for its U.S. military prison.  Where “Guantanamera” is a powerful expression of the beauty of Cuba, “Gitmo” has become a powerful symbol of human rights violations—so much so that Amnesty International described it as "the gulag of our times."

That description can be traced to January 2002, when the base received its first 20 prisoners in shackles. General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned they were "very dangerous people who would gnaw hydraulic lines in the back of a C-17 to bring it down."  We now know that a large portion of the 750 plus men and boys held there posed no threat to the United States. In fact, only five percent were captured by the United States; most were picked up by the Northern Alliance, Pakistani intelligence officers, or tribal warlords, and many were sold for cash bounties.  READ MORE

Jerry Springer calls out Fox News’s perpetual Obama bashing

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Appearing on the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends on Wednesday, former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer, notorious for his low-brow talk show, criticized host Gretchen Carlson for pretending to be fair when it comes to matters of presidential politics.
Speaking about the recent Newsweek cover story by blogger Andrew Sullivan, Springer complemented the author and agreed with its overall message. “He’s saying that the critics are dumb — obviously that’s a headline to grab your attention — but it’s not really that the people are dumb, it’s that they’re missing a point of how he’s been successful in a very difficult time.”   READ MORE

Carter: Gingrich knows how to appeal to racists

Former President Jimmy Carter on Wednesday accused former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of trying to appeal to racists in South Carolina.

“I think he has that subtlety of racism that I know quite well, that Gingrich knows quite well, that appeals to some people in Georgia, particularly the right-wing,” he said.

Speaking to a crowd in New Hampshire in early January, Gingrich said African Americans should demand jobs instead of food stamps. At the recent Republican debate in South Carolina, he defended the remark and said it was not insulting to African Americans.
“When you emphasize, over and over, welfare, food stamps, and ‘why don’t the black people get jobs,’ and if I’m president, I’ll make sure they turn toward a work ethic, rather than an ethic of welfare and food stamps, that’s appealing to the wrong element in South Carolina.”
Watch video, courtesy of CNN, below:

Is Your Senator Representing Charles and David Koch?

Koch Brothers
Americans for Prosperity released its rankings this week of senators and congressman who toe the Koch line most, and it gave a total of 44 A+s for the 112th Congress.

January 15, 2012

Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch look like they're easy graders. Their Tea Party group released its rankings this week of senators and congressman who toe the Koch line most, and it gave a total of 44 A+s for the 112th Congress.

Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party group funded by the Kochs, based its grades on opposition to affordable health care, clean air, alternative energy and net neutrality. Scores were also boosted if the elected official signed the tea party group's anti-revenue pledge. 

In sum, the five senators who scored 100 percent on the Americans for Prosperity how-can-we-make-the-Kochs-richer test received $187,400 in campaign contributions from the Kochs and their allies. 
These senators are Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and potential Republican vice presidential nominee Marco Rubio, a freshman from Florida. Indeed, Rubio, Johnson and Coburn have a lifetime of A+ scores!  READ MORE

Watch the video:

How the Drug War Spread Across the Entire World

Colombia’s incredible turnaround strategy has become a rare success story in the drug war, as well as its most formidable brand and export. It is, however, problematic.
January 16, 2012

The sun was barely setting over a colonial villa in rural central Colombia as Álvaro Uribe Vélez, by any measure Colombia’s most transformative modern president, recited lines of poetry to a small crowd beside a courtyard fountain. The former head of state, who left office in August 2010, projects the air of a financier in his official portraits. But today he was dressed like a paisa—with a traditional sombrero, a white handmade cloth draped over his shoulder, and a walking stick given to him by citizens of a nearby town.
On that perfect summer evening in early July, Uribe liked one particular verse—about a beautiful woman with enchanting eyes—so much that he recited it over and over to the dozens of locals seated in a circle around him. Also in the audience was the Colombian celebrity Catalina Maya, an actress and model, who sat perched on an armchair, her body twisted over its back to regard Uribe. Women and girls were crammed onto the villa’s steps, and housemaids pretended to continue working as they peeked for glances at the expresident, who every so often locked eyes with a new member of the crowd.
Álvaro Uribe is a well-loved man. During the eight years in which he led Colombia, he won the hearts of millions of his countrymen, from those in small villages to the most elite urban circles. And the reason why these millions adore Uribe largely boils down to one word: security. Uribe still casts a powerful spell over his former constituents because he used his time in office to smash a four-decades-old guerrilla insurgency with an overwhelming show of force—and in so doing made countless Colombians’ lives immeasurably safer.  READ MORE

Ron Paul: Dept. of Transportation only needs ‘one guy and a computer’

By David Edwards
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul doesn’t want to abolish the Department of Transportation, but he said on Tuesday that the agency really only needed “one guy and a computer.”
During a town hall event in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the Texas congressman made the case for “user fees” for national parks and the federal highway system.
“Ideally, you can come up with all sorts of schemes about private highways and all, but that’s not going to happen,” Paul explained. “But we do have a user fee with our gasoline tax. Trouble is, they take that money then they spend it on something else.”  READ MORE

Communications Workers of America Join Battle Against 'Citizens United'

By Kenneth Quinnell

The Communications Workers of America have joined the fight against the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which allows unlimited corporate donations in electoral campaigns. CWA joins 60 other organizations in the battle to get corporate money out of U.S. elections. The groups, under the United For the People banner, are calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling.  READ MORE

Why Is an Atheist High School Student Getting Vicious Death Threats?

Her state representative has called the student "evil" and she has been threatened with violence, rape and death. What gives?
January 18, 2012

If you take away just two things from the story about atheist high school student Jessica Ahlquist, and the court case she won last week to have a prayer banner taken out of her public school, let it be these:
  1. The ruling in this case was entirely unsurprising. It is 100 percent in line with unambiguous legal precedent, established and re-established over many decades, exemplifying a basic principle of constitutional law. 
  2.  As a result of this lawsuit, Jessica Ahlquist is now being bullied, ostracized and threatened with violence in her community. She has been called "evil" in public by her state representative, and is being targeted with multiple threats of violence, rape and death.
Which leads one to wonder: What the hell is going on here?

Let's get #1 out of the way first. This court decision -- READ MORE

No, the majority does not always rule.

In a constitutional democracy, people with minority, dissenting, or unpopular
opinions and identities have some basic rights, which the majority cannot take

If the majority thought that everyone had to dye their hair brown, or that all
witches should be burned at the stake, the majority would not rule.

Redheads have the right not to dye their hair brown; witches have the right
not to be burned at the stake. No matter how much in the minority they are.

Mitt Romney Wouldn't Know a Free Market If It Bit Him on the Ass

Mr. MoneyBags
At Bain Capital, Romney used the tax code to redistribute wealth from taxpayers to his investors and partners. 
January 18, 2012

The lion's share of the wealth Mitt Romney accumulated during his years at Bain Capital was extracted not only by laying off workers and raiding their pensions, but by using what conservatives call “big government” to redistribute wealth from taxpayers to Bain's investors and partners.

Bain Capital was not in the business of creating jobs, or even saving companies over the long-term. Its model had a relatively low rate of success; a study by Deutche Bank found that 33 out of 68 major deals cut on Romney's watch lost money for the firm's investors. Its richest deals made up for the flops, however, and Bain's partners were guaranteed hefty fees regardless of how the businesses they “restructured” ultimately performed.

Romney and his partners then exploited a loophole in the tax code that allowed them to pay just 15 percent of their growing fortunes in taxes – a rate less than what many of their companies' employees forked over to Uncle Sam.   READ MORE

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Brief History of America's Dumb Policies Towards Iran

In more than 50 years, America’s leaders have never made a move in Iran (or near it) that didn’t lead to unexpected and unpleasant blowback.

January 17, 2012

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from here.

These days, with a crisis atmosphere growing in the Persian Gulf, a little history lesson about the U.S. and Iran might be just what the doctor ordered. Here, then, are a few high- (or low-) lights from their relationship over the last half-century-plus:

Summer 1953: The CIA and British intelligence hatch a plot for a coup that overthrows a democratically elected government in Iran intent on nationalizing that country’s oil industry. In its place, they put an autocrat, the young Shah of Iran, and his soon-to-be feared secret police. He runs the country as his repressive fiefdom for a quarter-century, becoming Washington’s “bulwark” in the Persian Gulf -- until overthrown in 1979 by a home-grown revolutionary movement, which ushers in the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini and the mullahs.

While Khomeini & Co. were hardly Washington’s men, thanks to that 1953 coup they were, in a sense, its own political offspring. In other words, the fatal decision to overthrow a popular democratic government shaped the Iranian world Washington now loathes, and even then oil was at the bottom of things. 1967: Under the U.S. “Atoms for Peace” program, started in the 1950s by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Shah is allowed to buy a 5-megawatt, light-water type research reactor for Tehran (which -- call it irony -- is still playing a role in the dispute over the Iranian nuclear program). READ MORE

PA's Gov. Tom Corbett To Bar Food Stamp Recipients For Having Assets

By Susie Madrak Everything Gov. Tom Corbett does comes right out of the ALEC playbook. But because he rarely speaks to the press, preferring to fly under the radar, there are no outrageous sound bytes on the local news and public outrage is hard to generate. Maybe this latest decision will finally get Pennsylvanians to speak up. From the Philadelphia City Paper: READ MORE

Vampire Hedge Funds Are Sucking Greece Dry

If Goldman Sachs is a vampire squid, as Matt Taibbi so aptly named it, then hedge funds are like piranhas or sharks, eager to strip the financial carcass to the bone. January 17, 2012 Who are the real villains on Wall Street? When it comes to institutionalized greed and corruption, nothing tops the too-big-to-fail banks like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. But these financial giants form only one part of the financial oligarchy. Lurking in the shadows are aggressive hedge funds that are just as lethal to our economic well being. If Goldman Sachs is a vampire squid, as Matt Taibbi so aptly named it, then hedge funds are like schools of piranhas or sharks, eager to strip the financial carcass to the bone. The sharks at this very moment are circling Greece, waiting to devour that nation’s resources. To understand this attack we need to enter into the rotting innards of our financial system. But aren’t the Greeks lazy? READ MORE

Major Media Blackout to Protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

Here's what you need to know about two controversial internet anti-piracy bills moving through Congress and the massive backlash against them. January 17, 2012 Editor's Note: From 8am to 8pm today, AlterNet will be participating in the media blackout. Our front page visitors will be met not with our usual blend of content, but with links to information about SOPA and ways you can take action against it. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia and sixth most visited site in the world, will join websites like the content aggregator Reddit to "go dark" today in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its companion bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which are currently being debated in Congress. "What these bills propose are new powers for the government and also for private actors to create, effectively, blacklists of sites that allegedly are engaging in some form of online infringement and then force service providers to block access to those sites," says Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "What we would have is a situation where the government and private actors could censor the net." Chief technology officials in the Obama administration have expressed concern about any "legislation that...undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet." But the bills’ main backers—Hollywood movie studios and music publishers—want to stop the theft of their creative content, and the bills have widespread bipartisan support. A vote on SOPA is on hold in the House now, as the Senate is still scheduled vote on PIPA next Tuesday. READ MORE

Pat Robertson's remarks on divorce, Alzheimer's on '700 Club' spark outrage among Christian leaders

By Aliyah Shahid / DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER Friday, September 16 2011, 12:33 PM Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson was blasted by Christian leaders over his recent remarks about Alzheimer's and divorce Popular televangelist Pat Robertson has caused an unholy mess by justifying divorce if a spouse has Alzheimer's, labeling the disease "a kind of death." Robertson, 81, made the controversial remarks Tuesday during his "700 Club" show when a viewer asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife was diagnosed with the neurological disorder. "I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her," said the one-time Republican presidential candidate. He added he wouldn't "put a guilt trip" on anyone who divorces a spouse suffering from the illness. Robertson's preacher peers have been quick to condemn his statement, saying it doesn't gibe with the Bible. READ MORE

Homeland Security given green light to monitor journalists, guess who's on the list

Watch those manners, big brother is watching! Homeland Security Given Green Light to Monitor American Journalists, and US Government releases list of blogs being monitored.   Paz, Chivis

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security regularly monitors dozens of websites, including Facebook, Twitter, WikiLeaks, YouTube, and even the New York Times Lede Blog, Global Voices Online, and the Blog del Narco, in order to "collect information used in providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture," reported Reuters.
Why is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security monitoring American journalists in the USA?
In the USA freedom of speech has its appropriate and legal limits, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Be aware that the U.S. government is watching journalists to monitor what they write or say. See the site, Department of Homeland Security Preserving our FreedomsREAD MORE

The Trojan Horse of Genetically Modified Food

By Teresa Anderson

Why are US funded food aid agencies putting pressure on African governments to accept Genetically Modified food? Teresa Anderson investigates.

Up to 15 million people in six countries in Southern Africa are currently facing famine. Aid agencies desperately need assistance to source and deliver food. So why has the US donation of 500,000 tonnes of maize been rejected by Zambia, and only accepted with reluctance by the other nations?
The answer lies in the possible effects that the US Genetically Modified (GM) grain could unleash on African agriculture, economies and health. And the increasing suspicion that US food donations are being used as a tool to force GM on to the African market. African nations have so far refused commercialization of GM crops, but could be forced to accept the inevitable if local stocks become contaminated with modified genes.

When food shortages became imminent back in June, the World Food Programme (WFP) and US Agency for International Development (USAID) refused to respond to Southern African nations' requests for GM-free food aid.

The United Nations' own figures show that there are hundreds of thousands of tonnes of GM-free sources of food available around the world. But the WFP and USAID spent those valuable months trying to force recipient nations to accept the GM grain donated by the US, instead of looking to source elsewhere. Only now, nearly half a year later, are they starting to respond to Zambia's needs, while publicly blaming the Zambian government and green groups for the hunger that Zambians now face. 

Critics of the USAID/ WFP position suspect that there may be another agenda behind the offer of food aid, and this is essentially threefold:  READ MORE

Your Drinking Water May be Lowering Your IQ and Giving You Cancer

Mike Barrett

December 24, 2010

A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, has linked fluoride consumption with a decreased IQ in children. While the media acts like this is one of a kind, this is not the first study to link fluoride to diminished IQ in children.

Over 24 other studies before this have unanimously concluded that fluoride negatively impacts cognitive function. In addition to these 24 studies focusing on cognition, over 100 animal studies have linked fluoride to an increase in male infertility, diabetes, and a whole host of other health problems. 

The difference between past studies and this new study is that key variables were able to be controlled. The results from this study showed that 28% of the children who lived in an area where fluoride levels were low achieved the highest test scores. This means that the children exposed to less fluoride scored normal or advanced, while only 8% of fluoridated children did the same. Even more disturbing, 15% of the fluoridated children scored low enough to indicate mental retardation. In contrast, only 6% had scores indicating mental retardation in the area with low levels of fluoridation.  READ MORE

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Honeybee problem nearing a ‘critical point’

Photo: Pesticide Action Network North America
13 Jan 2012 7:39 PM

Anyone who’s been stung by a bee knows they can inflict an outsized pain for such tiny insects. It makes a strange kind of sense, then, that their demise would create an outsized problem for the food system by placing the more than 70 crops they pollinate — from almonds to apples to blueberries — in peril.
Although news about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has died down, commercial beekeepers have seen average population losses of about 30 percent each year since 2006, said Paul Towers, of the Pesticide Action Network. Towers was one of the organizers of a conference that brought together beekeepers and environmental groups this week to tackle the challenges facing the beekeeping industry and the agricultural economy by proxy.

“We are inching our way toward a critical tipping point,” said Steve Ellis, secretary of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board (NHBAB) and a beekeeper for 35 years. Last year he had so many abnormal bee die-offs that he’ll qualify for disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Monsanto to Face Biopiracy Charges in India

By Sayer Ji, OpEdNews
17 January 12

In an unprecedented decision, India's National Biodiversity Authority(NBA), a government agency, declared legal action against Monsanto (and their collaborators) for accessing and using local eggplant varieties (known as brinjal) to develop their Bt genetically engineered version without prior approval of the competent authorities, which is considered an act of "biopiracy.

According to an article published this month in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Monsanto is facing biopiracy charges in India.   READ MORE 

On the Trail of Mortgage Fraud

By The New York Times | Editorial
17 January 12

Queens has been harder hit by foreclosures than any other New York borough, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation believes it has found a culprit. Last July, the F.B.I. accused Edul Ahmad, a local broker, of a $50 million mortgage fraud, saying he lured fellow immigrants into subprime mortgages, inflated the values of their properties and concealed his involvement in deals that were ruinous for scores, if not hundreds, of borrowers. Mr. Ahmad pleaded not guilty, and posted $2.5 million bail. Now, according to court papers, as reported in The Times, he is plea-bargaining with federal prosecutors.
Whatever Mr. Ahmad did or did not do, one thing is sure: he did not act alone. The attention Mr. Ahmad has drawn highlights the relative lack of scrutiny of the big banks and their senior executives. Big banks created demand and provided credit for dubious mortgage loans, which they bundled into securities and sold to investors. If not for reckless lending and heedless securitizing, there would have been no mortgage bubble and no mortgage bust - and, in all probability, no Edul Ahmad.   READ MORE

Sally Kohn's Debut As Fox News Contributor Illustrates Why Congress Can't Function

I have to admire Sally Kohn's fortitude in agreeing to be a Fox News contributor and also in sticking to her guns in her debut segment. By the end of it, I realized why this Congress will never get anything done and why Harry Reid's "ditch the tea party" remark on yesterday's Meet the Press has become so controversial in so many circles.

Before I launch into the segment itself, I want to note that I found it interesting that Fox News has brought on someone who isn't a liberal in name only as a contributor. Kohn's background is not the usual Fox News centrist Conservadem fare: she's got ties to the OWS movement, she has strong organizing credentials, and she's decidedly liberal. Does this mean Fox News is responding to their tanking ratings, or trying to bring someone on they think the conservatives can score points on? If the latter, they may be surprised. Kohn definitely held her own in the segment and gently, but firmly, made her points.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Students take a break between class at
Locke High School, in Los Angeles,
May 14, 2010.
(Photo: Michal Czerwonka / The New York Times)

by: Staff, Rethinking Schools | News Analysis 
“Every man in my family has been locked up. Most days I feel like it doesn’t matter what I do, how hard I try - that’s my fate, too.”
  -11th-grade African American student, Berkeley, California
This young man isn’t being cynical or melodramatic; he’s articulating a terrifying reality for many of the children and youth sitting in our classrooms—a reality that is often invisible or misunderstood. Some have seen the growing numbers of security guards and police in our schools as unfortunate but necessary responses to the behavior of children from poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods. But what if something more ominous is happening? What if many of our students—particularly our African American, Latina/o, Native American, and Southeast Asian children—are being channeled toward prison and a lifetime of second-class status?   READ MORE

The US Is No Longer the Land of the Free

An American flag behind barbed wire, and all that implies,
06/15/09. (photo: Public Domain)
By Jonathan Turley, Jonathan Turley's Blog

15 January 12

Below is today's column in the Sunday Washington Post. The column addresses how the continued rollbacks on civil liberties in the United States conflicts with the view of the country as the land of the free. If we are going to adopt Chinese legal principles, we should at least have the integrity to adopt one Chinese proverb: "The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names." We seem as a country to be in denial as to the implications of these laws and policies. Whether we are viewed as a free country with authoritarian inclinations or an authoritarian nation with free aspirations (or some other hybrid definition), we are clearly not what we once were.

Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.

Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own - the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?  READ MORE

AP source: House Republicans got discounted loans

Elton Gallegly

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two veteran House Republicans received discounted mortgage loans from the now-defunct Countrywide Financial Corp. under a VIP program, a congressional official said Friday.

The discounts went to Reps. Howard McKeon and Elton Gallegly of California, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the loans and requested anonymity. Their identities were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been investigating whether members of Congress received VIP discounts. The Associated Press reported previously that four House members had received the discounts. One of the four remains unidentified publicly.  READ MORE

Howard McKeon

Scientists: UN Soldiers Brought Deadly Superbug to Americas

--Haiti had never seen a case of cholera until the arrival of UN peacekeepers. 

 12 Jan 2012 Compelling new scientific evidence suggests United Nations 'peacekeepers' have carried a virulent strain of cholera -- a super bug -- into the Western Hemisphere for the first time. The vicious form of cholera has already killed 7,000 people in Haiti, where it surfaced in a remote village in October 2010. Leading researchers from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere told ABC News that, despite UN denials, there is now a mountain of evidence suggesting the strain originated in Nepal, and was carried to Haiti by Nepalese soldiers who came to Haiti to serve as UN peacekeepers after the earthquake that ravaged the country on Jan. 12, 2010 -- two years ago today.  READ MORE

  video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

TVShack student Richard O'Dwyer to face US trial

TVShack creator Richard O'Dwyer could
now face trial in the US (Picture: PA)
--A student who created the TVShack website that streamed free films and TV shows online can be extradited to the US for trial, a court ruled today. 13 Jan 2012 Richard O'Dwyer, 23, allegedly earned thousands of pounds through advertising revenue on the site before it was detected and shut down by US authorities. The Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate could be the first British citizen to be extradited for this type of offence, meaning he would effectively be a 'guinea pig' for US copyright law. Mr O'Dwyer's lawyer, Ben Cooper, has argued that the site itself did not store copyrighted material, but instead pointed users in the direction of other sites.  READ MORE

Israeli intelligence agents 'posed as CIA to recruit operatives against Iran's nuclear program'

False flag: Israel's intelligence elite Mossad
reportedly placed agents within the CIA to recruit
members of a militant group to fight Iran's
nuclear program
--The operation - often called a 'false flag' operation - occurred during the presidency [sic] of George W. Bush

14 Jan 2012 

One of the main entities in the Israeli Intelligence Community has been placing its agents within the CIA to recruit operatives against Iran's nuclear program, according to a new report. Mossad officers posed as American CIA agents were recruiting for the Pakistani militant group Jundallah, the report says. The Foreign Policy report details how Mossad officers were equipped with U.S. passports and money, recruiting extremists 'under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers.' 

Rhetoric aside, since when do businesses care about job creation?

Romney in September, in a speech
detailing a 59-point job creation proposal.
(AP photo)
COMMENTARY | January 11, 2012

 Henry Banta points out that corporate leaders’ goal is to make a profit, and that ‘any sane businessman wants to employ as few people as he can.’ If jobs get in the way of profits, the jobs go – as Mitt Romney well knows.

By Henry Banta

We’ve been hearing a lot from Governor Romney about how his experience as a businessman makes him an expert on job creation. While there has been some challenge to his claim of actually having created jobs, the basic notion that business experience gives a special insight into the creation of jobs deserves a lot more attention from the press than it has gotten. In particular, how do the policies promoted by the business community actually relate to the creation of jobs?

Start with a simple fact: The role of businessmen in our economy is not job creation. Businesses and their leaders are not rewarded for the number of people they employ. They are in business to make a profit. They have no incentive to create jobs per se. Capitalist markets reward profit, not employment. Indeed any sane businessman wants to employ as few people as he can. If jobs get in the way of profits, jobs go. (This is one aspect of the matter that Romney should remember well.)  READ MORE


On MLK Day: How a Racist Criminal Justice System Rolled Back the Gains of the Civil Rights Era

For Martin Luther King, Jr. day, Democracy Now! hosts a discussion of mass incarceration among African-Americans and how it has created a new Jim Crow era.

January 15, 2012

On this eve of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, we host a wide-ranging discussion with TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson and author Michelle Alexander about the mass incarceration of African Americans that has rolled back many achievements of the civil rights movement. Today there are more African Americans under correctional control, whether in prison or jail, on probation or on parole, than there were enslaved in 1850. And more African-American men are disenfranchised now because of felon disenfranchisement laws than in 1870. 

Alexander, whose book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" is newly released in paperback, argues that "[n]othing less than a major social movement has any hope of ending mass incarceration in America or inspiring a recommitment to [Martin Luther] King's dream... My view is that this has got to be a human rights movement. It’s got to be a movement for education, not incarceration; for jobs, not jails; a movement that acknowledges the basic humanity and dignity of all people, no matter who you are or what you have done."  READ MORE

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Vatican Official Condemns GMOs as 'New Form of Slavery'

Ghanian-born Cardinal and top Vatican official
Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, 11/12/11.
{photo: LaStampa)
Anthony Gucciardi, Natural Society
Gucciardi writes: "In an interview with the magazine L'Osservatore Romano on January 5, a prominent member of the Vatican spoke out against genetically modified crops. Cardinal Peter Turkson said that genetically modified crops are a 'new form of slavery,' and went on to discuss the impact that they have on both the environment and the economy."

America's Teachers See Growing Poverty Up Close

Diego Johnson, 11, searches for the correct answer
to a question during a reading lesson with fifth-grade
teacher Barbara Moore at Barr Elementary School in
Jackson, Mississippi, 01/08/12. (photo: Barbara
Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger)

Mark Naison, LA Progressive
Naison writes: "We have a President who holds an 'education summit' that includes the nation's top business leaders and foundation heads, but no teachers; we have billionaires lobbying to privatize education and break teachers unions; we have an organization that purports to work for educational equity that encourages its recruits to leave teaching after two years because they can influence policy more by moving into other, more prestigious careers, rather than spending a lifetime as a 'mere teacher.'"

FDA Panel Judging Birth Control Risk Had Ties to Bayer

A Bayer-Schering employee examines YAZ
birth control pills in the company's factory
in Berlin, 10/27/11.
(photo: Bayer HealthCare AG)
Jeanne Lenzer and Keith Epstein, Washington Monthly
Excerpt: "The FDA's decision not to reveal its advisors' relationships with the drugs' manufacturers and Bayer raises serious questions about the agency's treatment of potential conflicts of interest, a historically problematic area for the department."

The Foreclosure-to-Rental Screwjob

Mike Whitney, CounterPunch
Whitney writes: "The housing depression continues into its 5th year with no end in sight, mainly because the people who created the crisis are still in positions of power. And, they're still offering the same remedies, too, like handing the banks another blank check to save them from losses on their bad bets. 

That's what this new 'housing stabilization' boondoggle is really all about, bailing out the bankers."

US Warns Israel on Strike

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes and Jay Solomon, The Wall Street Journal
Intro: "US defense leaders are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran, over US objections, and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard US facilities in the region in case of a conflict."

Mexican Maize Pollution by GMOs

Farmers raising GM corn safe for you to eat.

Three Articles from NGIN 14mar02

  • Crossing Continents Mexico

    BBC Radio Four Reporter: Nick Caistor 14mar02

    Southern Mexico is the cradle of maize, and a hot spot of bio-diversity. But is that heritage now being threatened by inadvertent planting of genetically modified maize? Nick Caistor reports on the fall-out of the surprise discovery of GM maize 60 miles from the nearest GM plantation.

    Amado Ramirez has had a great business idea. He lives in Oaxaca, where Mexicans have grown maize for thousands of years.
    The potential of maize
    People here in Oaxaca, in the rest of Mexico, and increasingly in the southern USA, eat tortillas, round maize pancakes, with every meal.
    Maize is more than a food in Mexico - it is a way of life

    Amado Ramirez:
    "Maize is more than a food in Mexico, it's a way of life," Amado says in his spruce new tortilla shop Itanoni in Oaxaca city. "So I thought, why not make it a gourmet product, putting as much care and attention into making tortillas as chefs do into other delicacies."

    To make his tortillas as authentic as possible, Amado has his own suppliers of maize grown on the mountainous slopes that surround the city. Then he grinds it and bakes it under strict supervision in his shop.

    But now his business is facing disaster.

    Discovering the GM link   READ MORE