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“Unconstitutional” food bill driven by Big Food lobby dollars

By Rady Ananda | The People’s Voice | December 2, 2010

While over 200 organizations lobbied on S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, no one seemed to notice an unconstitutional section in the bill until after it passed on Tuesday. That day, Roll Call advised that the bill contained a provision, Sec. 107, allowing the Senate to raise revenues. This violates Article I, Section 7, of the U.S. Constitution, granting that power exclusively to the House. S.510 opponents now celebrate the House’s use of the “blue slip process” to return the bill to the Senate.

The Alliance for Natural Health figures that: “The only possible ‘quick fix’ would be a unanimous consent agreement in the Senate to strike that revenue-raising provision from the bill—but Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has already stated that he will oppose, so unanimity will be impossible.” ANH believes it is unlikely that the Senate will return to a debate on S.510, given its full agenda. Its only other option is to “allow the bill to die at the end of this Congress [which means] a new Food Safety Bill will be introduced next year.”

After S.510 passed, President Obama issued a statement: “I urge the House — which has previously passed legislation demonstrating its strong commitment to making our food supply safer — to act quickly on this critical bill, and I applaud the work that was done to ensure its broad bipartisan passage in the Senate.”

Apparently, the Senate moved too quickly. Their overreach only supports the natural foods movement assertion that the entire bill is over-reaching as the federal government seeks complete control over local foods.

The Money and the Vote

In an email, Canada Health whistleblower Shiv Chopra noted, “It is all about corporate control of food and public health.” He’s not alone in believing that a ‘hidden corporate agenda’ is driving the federal government to impose itself on local food production and distribution. This belief is bolstered by a detailed look at the financial contributors in support of food control legislation. Open Secrets.org reports that 208 groups lobbied on S.510. According to an analysis by Maplight.org, financial supporters of S.510 include:

* The US Chamber of Commerce (no friend to small business);

* Kraft Foods North America (the world’s second largest food and beverage company;

* General Mills (which earned $15 billion in revenue in 2009); and the

* American Farm Bureau Federation (a Big Ag and insurance industry lobbyist that supports the use of genetically modified foods).

According to data at Open Secrets.org, AFB spent $9.5 million since 2009 to lobby for S.510 and against the House version. Food & Water Watch noted that AFB president Bob Stallman “condemn[s] consumers and farmers who oppose the industrial model of agriculture, referring to them as ‘extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule.’” Clearly, the American Farm Bureau Federation does not favor small farms.

Breaking agribusiness lobby spending down by sector, Open Secrets reports that in 2009, the:

* Crop production and basic processing industry spent $20.3 million;
* Food processing and sales industry spent $30.2 million; and the
* Agriculture services and products industry spent $34.4 million.

In 2009 and 2010, Pepsi spent over $14 million and Coca-Cola spent $4.5 million on both S.510 and HR 2749 (the House version). Other groups supporting S.510 include the International Bottled Water Association, International Dairy Foods Association, International Foodservice Distributors Association, and the Snack Food Association. Hardly advocates of small producers or natural foods.

Under the guise of food ‘safety,’ food control legislation has been widely supported by major food industry lobbyists, who spent over $1 billion since 1998 to influence Congress. Do the American people even have a voice in food choice, when measured against the hundreds of millions of dollars multinational corporations foist on Congress to influence legislation?

Monsanto and the Tester Amendment

Two final comments are in order: one on the ineffectual Tester Amendment and the other on Monsanto’s influence over food safety.

First, the Tester Amendment “exemption” — defined as those generating less than $500,000 a year in revenue — is ludicrously low. Kraft Foods generates that every seven minutes: it earned $40 billion in revenue in 2009. There can be no single bill that adequately addresses food production when talking about producers as disparate as these. Small farms are in a different universe from multinational corporations.

A ten-million-dollar exemption is more reasonable. Farms earning less than $10 million a year are much more similar to Mom & Pop operations than they are to Kraft Foods or Monsanto. Farms earning between a half million and ten million annually are more likely than Mom & Pop to achieve product consistency and, because of a higher output, lower market price, thus appealing to locavores on three levels. That ludicrously low $500,000 figure only highlights the overreach of an obese federal government.

Second, the Tester Amendment does not exempt small food producers as broadly as proponents claim. Eric Blair noted that “even a ‘very small business’ making less than $500K per year, doing business ‘within 275 miles’ and directly with ‘end-user customers’ is still required to adhere to all of the [other] regulations” in the massive food control bill.

In order to qualify for exemption, he points out that small producers must file three years of detailed financial records, detailed hazard analysis plans, and detailed proof of compliance with local, county and state laws. Then, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must approve each exemption.

How many “food producers” who donate food to the homeless, or who supply homemade products at bake sales, county fairs, church bazaars, and community picnics are going to bother with such hyper-regulation? Obama’s vision of food “safety” destroys the local economy, and it destroys community relations.

S.510 opponent Sen. Tom Coburn has repeatedly stressed that the bill will not make our food supply any safer and will “drive small producers out of business.” No wonder so many multi-billion dollar corporations support it.

Finally, let’s not forget that Obama has stacked his administration with former employees of Monsanto, making Michael Taylor his Food Czar. Anything this Administration supports in the way of food control will surely benefit Monsanto, while harming the natural foods industry and small producers. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration is already waging a bureaucratic war on private food contracts and natural food producers.

Meanwhile, the battle for food freedom rages on, with a temporary reprieve now that S.510 has been recalled to the Senate Chamber. Yes, we do have food freedom, even if it means defying unjust laws.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Corruption | Leave a comment

Top Ten Lies About Senate Bill 510

The Food Safety Modernization Act looks like it’s headed to become law. It’s being hailed as a “breakthrough” achievement in food safety, and it would hand vast new powers and funding to the FDA so that it can clean up the food supply and protect all Americans from food-borne pathogens.

There’s just one problem with all this: It’s all a big lie.

Here are the ten biggest lies that have been promoted about S.510 by the U.S. Congress, the food industry giants and the mainstream media:

Lie #1 – Most deaths from food poisoning are caused by fresh produce

Here’s a whopper the mainstream media won’t dare report: Out of the 1,809 people who die in America every year from food-borne pathogens (CDC estimate), only a fraction die from the manufacturer’s contamination of fresh produce. By far the majority of food poisoning is caused by the consumption of spoiled processed foods, dead foods and animal-human transmission of pathogens.

For example, one of the largest food-borne killers according to the CDC is Toxoplasma gondii, a disease that people acquire from cat feces coming into contact with their food, which can happen right in their own homes (http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/Vol5n…). Salmonella poisoning accounts for 553 deaths a year. As a reference for relative risk, over 42,000 people die each year from road accidents in the USA, meaning driving a car has a roughly 7600% higher chance of killing you than eating fresh produce. (http://www.driveandstayalive.com/in…)

In terms of food-borne illness, many of the deaths come from things like spoiled tomato sauce, spoiled canned foods and spoiled pasteurized milk. S 510, of course, does absolutely nothing to address these food contamination deaths, since those foods are considered “sterilized” at the time of sale.

Lie #2 – Under S.510, the FDA would only recall products it knows to be contaminated

Not true. S.510 merely requires the FDA to have “reason to believe” a food is contaminated. So right there, that means all raw milk will be targeted by the FDA because even without conducting any scientific tests at all, the FDA can say it has “reason to believe” the milk is contaminated merely because it is raw.

In other words, the FDA no longer needs science to outlaw a food product. It merely needs an opinion.

Is this “reason to believe” section really true? Yep, and here’s how it was amended:

SEC. 208. ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION OF FOOD.
23 (a) IN GENERAL. – Section 304(h)(1)(A) (21 U.S.C.24 334(h)(1)(A)) is amended by
(1) striking ”credible evidence or information indicating” and inserting ”reason to believe”;
(http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi…)

In other words, in negotiating this bill, the U.S. Senate removed the requirement that the FDA needed “credible evidence” in order to recall a product and, instead, replaced that with the FDA only needing “reason to believe.”

It is utterly amazing that the U.S. Congress would give the FDA to conduct large-scale product recalls and even imprison people based entirely on what the agency “has reason to believe.”

Last time I checked, the FDA held some pretty bizarre (if not downright moronic) beliefs, including this jaw-dropping whopper: The FDA literally believes that there is no food, no herb, no vitamin or supplement that has any ability to prevent disease of any kind. They don’t even believe limes can prevent scurvy, and you’d have to nutritionally illiterate to believe that.

The FDA believes foods are inert and that all the amazing phytonutrients in those foods (carotenoids, antioxidants, therapeutic fats like omega-3 and so on) are utterly useless for human biology.

This belief, held by the FDA that has now been put in charge of the food supply, is the belief system of an insane government agency that has completely lost touch with reality while abandoning nutritional science.

Lie #3 – They didn’t tell you that nearly 70% of grocery store chickens are contaminated with salmonella every day

Yep, it’s true: Amid all the fear-mongering over salmonella, everybody forgot to notice that the vast majority of fresh chickens sold at grocery stores every single day are widely contaminated with salmonella (http://www.naturalnews.com/028661_c…). Yet S 510 does absolutely nothing to address this. It’s not even mentioned in the bill.

In fact, it is these contaminated chickens that end up cross-contaminating the fresh produce in many kitchens across America. So the so-called “food poisoning” that’s often blamed on spinach or onions often originates with the contaminated chicken meat people bring home and slice on their kitchen cutting boards.

Lie #4 – S.510 will exclude and protect small farmers

The Tester Amendment, which was finally included in S.510, excludes farmers who sell less than $500,000 worth of food each year from the more onerous paperwork and compliance burdens described in the bill. But this dollar amount is not indexed to inflation, meaning that as the U.S. dollar continues to lose value due to the Federal Reserve counterfeiting machine running at full speed (more “quantitative easing,” anyone?), food prices will continue to skyrocket — and this will shift even small family farms into the $500,000 sales range within just a few years.

In fact, a single-family farm with just four people could easily sell $500,000 worth of fresh produce a year right now, even before inflation. Remember, $500,000 is not their profit, but rather the gross sales amount. The profits on that might be only $50,000 or even less.

Furthermore, this $500,000 threshold means that small, successful farms that are doing well and would like to expand will refuse to hire more people or expand their operations. To avoid the tyranny of S 510, small farms will try to stay small, and that means avoiding the kind of business expansion that would create new jobs.

Lie #5 – The FDA needs more power to enforce food safety

The FDA already has the power to effectively recall foods by publicly announcing a product has been found to be contaminated. The FDA already has the power to confiscate “misbranded” products, too, and it could easily use this power to halt the sale of contaminated food items.

But the FDA simply refuses to enforce the laws already on the books and, instead, has sought to expand its power by hyping up the e.coli food scares. The ploy apparently worked: Now in a reaction to the food scare-mongering, the FDA is being handed not just new powers, but more funding, too! And you can bet it will find creative new ways to put this power to work suppressing the health freedoms and food freedoms of the American people.

Lie #6 – Fresh produce is contaminated because of a lack of paperwork

There is no evidence that requiring farms to fill out more paperwork will make their food safer. The real cause of produce contamination is the existence of factory animal farms whose effluent output (huge rivers of cow feces, basically), end up in the water supply, soils and equipment that comes into contact with fresh produce.

The food contamination problem is an UPSTREAM problem where you’ve got to reform the factory animal operations that now dominate the American meat industry. S.510, however, does absolutely nothing to address this. Factory animal farms aren’t even addressed in the bill!

Lie #7 – The American people are dying in droves from unsafe fresh food

The truth is that Americans are dying from processed food laced with toxic chemical additives, not from fresh, raw produce. Partially-hydrogenated oils, white sugar, aspartame, MSG and artificial food colors almost certainly kill far more people than bacterial contaminations.

The American public is also dying from pharmaceuticals — anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 people a year are killed by FDA-approved drugs (http://www.naturalnews.com/001894.html), most of which have been approved under the guise of blatantly fraudulent science and drug company trickery. The FDA doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, it has been a willful co-conspirator in the scientific fraud carried out by Big Pharma in the name of “medicine.” (http://www.naturalnews.com/027851_h…)

To think that the FDA — the very same agency responsible for the Big Pharma death machine — is now going to “save us” by controlling food safety is highly irrational.

Lie #8 – The FDA just wants to make food “safer”

Actually, the FDA wants to make the food more DEAD. Both the FDA and the USDA are vocal opponents of live food. They think that the only safe food is sterilized food, which is why they’ve supported the fumigation, pasteurization and irradiation efforts that have been pushed over the last few years.

California almond growers, for example, must now either chemically fumigate or pasteurize their almonds before selling them (http://www.naturalnews.com/021776.html). This has destroyed the incomes of U.S. almond farmers and forced U.S. food companies to buy raw almonds from Spain and other countries.

Lie #9 – Food smuggling is a huge problem in America

One of the main sections of S.510 addresses “food smuggling.” Yep — people smuggling food across the country. If you’ve never heard of this problem that’s because it’s not actually a problem.

Not yet anyway.

But there’s a reason why they put this into the bill: Because they’re probably planning on criminalizing fresh produce and then arresting people for transporting broccoli with the “intent to distribute.”

Yep, farmers bringing fresh produce to sell at the weekend farmer’s market could soon be arrested and imprisoned as if they were drug smugglers. Hence the need for the “food smuggling” provisions of S.510.

Soon, we will all have to meet in secret locations just to trade carrots for cash.

Lie #10 – S.510 will make America’s food supply the safest in the world

Actually, even with S.510 in place, America’s food supply is among the most chemically contaminated in the world, second only to China. You can find mercury in the seafood, BPA in the canned soup, yeast extract (MSG) in the “natural” potato chips, and artificial petrochemical coloring agents in children’s foods.

Eating the “Standard American Diet” is probably the single most harmful thing a person can do for their health. It’s the fastest way to get cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Every nation in the world that begins to consume the American diet starts to show record rates of degenerative disease within one generation. This is the “safe food” that the U.S. Senate is now pushing on everyone.

Remember, with S.510, SAFE = DEAD. And the FDA says it wants to keep everybody safe.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Economics | Leave a comment

Italy MPs demand Berlusconi resignation

Press TV – December 2, 2010

A group composed of some 100 center-right Italian lawmakers have called for the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, to resign.

Berlusconi is preparing for key confidence votes that are due to be held in the lower and upper houses of parliament this month.

“The deputies … agree on the need to ensure the country has a solid and stable government to face up to the grave social and economic crisis,” said a statement published after a meeting of five center-right parties.

The anti Berlusconi group is made up of allies of former Berlusconi loyalist-turned-bitter rival Gianfranco Fini, two rebel deputies from Berlusconi’s own People of Freedom party, as well as three smaller parties.

Emma Marcegaglia, the head of Italy’s employers’ federation, said the country was “in paralysis” because Berlusconi and his allies were spending too much time dealing with scandals and corruption allegations.

“A new wave of mud-slinging is eroding the credibility of public institutions and of the government,” said Marcegaglia. “There is a strong feeling of mistrust, a sense of confusion and dismay. We need to recover a sense of dignity.”

“Berlusconi must resign,” said Antonio Di Pietro, the leader of the Italy of Values Party and a former anti-corruption investigator. “If he does not want to do it for Italians, he should do it for himself.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | Corruption | Leave a comment

Greek students clash with police

Press TV – December 2, 2010

At least five people have been arrested in fresh clashes between student protesters and police outside of parliament in Athens over government austerity plans.

Security forces used tear gas to disperse a crowd of approximately 1,500 students attempting to march to the British Embassy in Athens.

The demonstrators showed unity with British students by holding banners which read, “Solidarity to the struggle of British students,” Reuters reported.

British university students are facing an almost tripling of their tuition fees by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

The ongoing demonstrations in Greece were sparked by public outrage against economic reforms, which include eliminating over-time pay and bonuses.

The government agreed to the measures in exchange for a EUR 110 billion rescue package from the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In return, the Socialist government has also slashed pensions and salaries, increased taxes and made it easier for the private sector to sack workers and cut wages.

Trade unions are strongly opposed to the measures and have been organizing demonstrations for months now.

They are calling for a nationwide general strike against the EU-IMF bailout on December 15 — the seventh this year.

Student groups are planning sit-ins on university campuses around the country.

Protests will also be held on Monday, December 6, to mark second anniversary of the police shooting of a teenager, which led to nationwide riots.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | Leave a comment

Obama’s Kleptocracy Initiative

What About Wall Street?

By RUSSELL MOKHIBER | CounterPunch | December 2, 2010

Earlier this year, we heard that the Justice Department was about to launch a “kleptocracy initiative.”

Knowing President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder as we do, we suspected that this initiative had nothing to do with controlling corporate thieves in the United States.

Instead, we guessed, the initiative was targeted at foreign kleptocrats.

And lo and behold, we were right.

In July, Holder announced the Justice Department’s kleptocracy initiative at the African Union Summit in Kampala, Uganda.

Holder said that the initiative was aimed “at combating large-scale foreign official corruption and recovering public funds for their intended – and proper – use – for the people of our nations.”

“We’re assembling a team of prosecutors who will focus exclusively on this work and build upon efforts already underway to deter corruption, hold offenders accountable, and protect public resources,” Holder said.

The kleptocracy initiative fits well with Obama’s take on concentrated corporate power and corporate crime – stand up and fight it overseas, enable it at home.

Kleptocracy – from the Greek – is literally government by thieves.

Merriam Webster puts it this way – “government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed.”

Of course, this definition is a perfect fit for our military industrial complex.

For the Wall Street/Washington axis.

And most visibly, for our health insurance cabal – made up of the major private health insurance corporations – UnitedHealth, Aetna, CIGNA, Wellpoint – and their handlers in Washington – most recently and most prominently – President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Max Baucus, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

These are the officials who controlled government health insurance policy.

They had in their hands a policy that would strip the thieves – health insurance corporations – of their power over the governed – the rest of us.

Single payer national health insurance.

Obama knew how to fight back against the health insurance kleptocracy – and in fact in 2003 said he would in fact push for a single payer system – once the White House and Congress were in the hands of the Democrats.

But when Obama and the Democrats took power, they became part of the health insurance kleptocracy.

Under a single payer system, the private insurance corporations would be given the death sentence.

(Yes, we are for the corporate death penalty when it comes to private health insurance corporations.)

In their place, we’d create a public insurance pool – everybody in, nobody out.

This would save the governed about $400 billion a year, cover everyone, and save about 45,000 lives a year.

(Yes, 45,000 Americans die every year from lack of health insurance.)

So, we hereby propose a kleptocracy initiative for the United States.

End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Crack down on corporate crime.

Slash corporate welfare.

And pass single payer.

And when we finally get a President willing to fight kleptocracy at home as well as abroad – maybe he or she will launch the new initiative not in Uganda.

But right here in the USA.

Onward to single payer.

Russell Mokhiber edits Single Payer Action.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | "Hope and Change" | 1 Comment

If the US Wants Peace in North Korea, It Should Keep Its Word

In the Footsteps of the Bush Administration

By MIKE WHITNEY | CounterPunch | December 2, 2010

On January 29, 2002, former President George W. Bush designated North Korea as one of three nations in the “axis of evil”.  Bush made it clear that these countries were enemies of the United States and that they would be targets of future US aggression. Shortly after Bush’s State of the Union Address, the administration released its National Defense Strategy which claimed the right to preemptively attack countries it saw as threats to US hegemony. Naturally, North Korea took these developments seriously and prepared a strategy to defend itself against a US attack.

Less than a year after Bush’s speech, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). And, six years after that, on May 25, 2009, North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test in a remote north-eastern area of the country which triggered a 4.7 magnitude earthquake. Experts now believe that North Korea has a stockpile of between 6 to 9 nuclear weapons.

North Korean leaders were forced to develop a nuclear arsenal to defend themselves against US aggression. It was a reasonable response to Bush’s saber rattling.

On November 30, 2010, North Korea announced that it had opened its first uranium enrichment plant. According to the Christian Scientist Monitor:   “For the first time, North Korea made its uranium enrichment program a matter of written record Tuesday with the proud claim in the country’s leading newspaper of a modern facility that is already operational….”

That revelation… marks another step toward North Korea’s emergence as a nuclear power. The North’s “modern uranium enrichment plan’” was still under construction but was already “equipped with several thousand centrifuges,” according to the newspaper. In recent years Pyongyang has already exploded two nuclear devices with plutonium at their core.” (“It’s official: North Korea says ‘modern’ nuclear plant is operating”, Christian Scientist Monitor)

So, the North has nukes and has thus spared itself a fate similar to Iraq’s. No doubt, leaders in Tehran are looking on with envy.

Virtually all of the western media have condemned North Korea’s recent shelling of Yeongpyeong which killed a number of innocent civilians. But the media leave out important details which help to explain why the North acted as it did. South Korea missionary, Gene Matthews breaks down the incident like this in The Progressive:

“North Korea has always felt threatened by joint military exercises of the U.S. and South Korea, and has always protested against them,” he says. “This time, North Korea stated that the exercises were taking place in North Korean territory and that if shots were fired during the exercise they would retaliate. Shots were fired (not at the North, it should be pointed out but out toward the ocean) and the North retaliated.” (“Keeping Perspective on North Korea”, The Progressive)

So we can see that, however foolish, this was not an act of aggression on the part of the North, but defense. The US/South Korea military exercises are intentionally provocative. The North merely did what it felt it had to do to send a message that it will defend its borders. US citizens would expect nothing less if Russia and China were carrying out military maneuvers on the Canadian border or off the coast of San Diego.

Barack Obama is following in the footsteps of the early Bush administration. Bush eventually learned that hostility does not work with North Korea, so he backed down.  After six years of belligerence, Bush caved in to nearly all of North Korea’s demands and got nothing in return. The UN’s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, did not gain access to Kim Jong-il’s nuclear stockpile or to its “Top-Secret” file on weapons programs. Nor were IAEA inspectors allowed to conduct surprise “go anywhere, see anything” inspections. None of Bush’s main objectives was achieved, in fact, the ex-president even had North Korea removed from the State Department’s list of “supporters of terrorism”. All the while, the North continued to develop its long-range ballistic-missile delivery system, the Taepodong 2, which will eventually be able to strike cities in the US.

The Bush policy turned out to be a disaster and was viciously criticized by former supporters on the right.  Here’s what Claudia Rosett, of “The Rosett Report” (a favorite at the Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute) said at the time:

“The lesson to date is that America, faced with nuclear blackmail, will bow down, dignify and fortify tyrants, fork over loot, and celebrate the process as a victory for diplomacy. Were North Korea to detonate a nuclear bomb over Los Angeles tomorrow, I start to wonder if Condi Rice and Chris Hill, would describe the cataclysm as “troubling” and then re-cast it as a candid and informative addendum to North Korea’s promised declaration of its nuclear program.”

And here’s a blurp from neocon John Bolton:

“The only good news is that there is little opportunity for the Bush administration to make any further concessions in its waning days in office. But for many erstwhile administration supporters, this is a moment of genuine political poignancy. Nothing can erase the ineffable sadness of an American presidency, like this one, in total intellectual collapse.”

Now Obama wants to resume hostilities with the North, while expecting a different outcome than Bush; tougher sanctions, more military exercises, more pressure from allies, and a stubborn refusal to conduct bilateral negotiations. It’s madness. There’s been no change in the approach at all. If anything, Obama has taken a harder line than Bush.

And what does the North want?

The North wants what it has always wanted. It wants the US to honor its obligations under the 1994 Agreed Framework. That’s it. All Obama needs to do to end the current standoff, is to keep his end of the bargain. Here’s how Jimmy Carter summed it up in a Washington Post op-ed (November 24, 2010):

“…in September 2005, an agreement … reaffirmed the basic premises of the 1994 accord. (The Agreed Framework) Its text included denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a pledge of non-aggression by the United States and steps to evolve a permanent peace agreement to replace the U.S.-North Korean-Chinese cease-fire that has been in effect since July 1953. Unfortunately, no substantive progress has been made since 2005…

“This past July I was invited to return to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American, Aijalon Gomes, with the proviso that my visit would last long enough for substantive talks with top North Korean officials. They spelled out in detail their desire to develop a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a permanent cease-fire, based on the 1994 agreements and the terms adopted by the six powers in September 2005….

“North Korean officials have given the same message to other recent American visitors and have permitted access by nuclear experts to an advanced facility for purifying uranium. The same officials had made it clear to me that this array of centrifuges would be ‘on the table’ for discussions with the United States, although uranium purification – a very slow process – was not covered in the 1994 agreements.

“Pyongyang has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the ‘temporary’ cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the United States, along with efforts to change the political regime.” (“North Korea’s consistent message to the U.S.”, President Jimmy Carter, Washington Post)

There it is in black and white. The US can end the conflict today by just keeping its word. Unfortunately, the United States never had any intention of meeting its obligations under the terms of the Agreed Framework or of resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula. From the very beginning, the US stalled on its promise to build 2 lightwater reactors to meet the North’s electrical needs. None of the essential components–turbines or generators–were ever delivered. A foundation was built for one of the reactors, but nothing more.

The US also agreed to organize an international consortium to guarantee funding for the reactors, but never followed through. The US never made any effort to keep its end of the bargain. So, (reluctantly) the North withdrew from the NPT and build 9 nuclear weapons. Of course, none of this appears in US media where it might interrupt the daily flow of anti-North Korea propaganda.

Bottom line: The reason there is no peace in Korea is because Washington doesn’t want peace. It’s that simple.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com

December 2, 2010 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism | Leave a comment

Sixteen Year-Old Palestinian Boy Reports Abuse During Interrogation in Military Jail

Chronicle of Fear

Popular Struggle Coordination Committee – December 1, 2010
Soldiers escorting the bound and blinfolded Mohammed into a military jeep on the day of his arrest. Photo credit: Hamde Abu Rahmah

Mohammed Abu Rahmah was arrested from his house during a military nighttime raid on his village of Bil’in on November 23rd. Abu Rahmah, the son of imprisoned Bil’in organizer, Adeeb Abu Rahmah, was released without charge on Monday, and reports being harassed and beaten during his questioning.

On November 23rd, 2010, Israeli forces entered the village of Bil’in and stormed the home of imprisoned Bil’in organizer, Adeeb Abu Rahmah. After conducting a short search of the premises, the soldiers arrested Adeeb’s only son, sixteen year old Mohammed, who was taken away bound and blindfolded.

Mohammed reports being taken to the Maccabim military base, where he arrived at about 3 AM. He was then, still handcuffed and blindfolded, transported to the Ofer Military Prison, where the authorities refused to process him. Mohammed was then taken back to the Maccabim military base, where he was held until 11 AM, still with cuffed and blindfolded, and without being allowed to go to toilet.

Finally arriving at Ofer Prison at around noon, where the shackles and blindfold were eventually removed, Mohammed was taken into interrogation without allowing him to catch some sleep. On entering the interrogation room, he was cuffed again in both hands and legs, and sited on a chair in front of a man who introduced himself as “Captain Fares”. The interrogator then told Mohammed that the case against him is rock solid and can lead to a sentence of up to a year in jail. “Captain Fares” then said that the only way for Mohammed to avoid imprisonment is to “cooperate” – by which he meant confessing to the unfounded suspicions against him, and incriminating others.

When Mohammed refused to confess or incriminate others who the interrogator mentioned by name, “Captain Fares” responded by shouting at him, cursing him, and a few times even assaulting him physically with slaps to the face. At some point, as Mohammed kept insisting on his right to remain silent, the cuffs around his wrists and ankles were tightened even more then they were before, and the interrogator grabbed his neck as if he was about to choke him. When Mohammed refused to identify his imprisoned father in a picture shown to him, he was punched in the chest.

After about two hours of violent questioning, Mohammed was asked to sign a paper with a transcript of his interrogation, which he refused to do, and was then physically forced to give his fingerprints.

It is common practice in Israeli interrogation rooms to try and extract confessions and incriminations from detained Palestinian minors using threats and abuse. Many cases and convictions at the military court, including that of Adeeb Abu Rahmah, Mohammed’s father, are based on such incriminations by detained youth.

Mohammed, who since his father’s arrest, 17 months ago, Mohammed serves as the family’s sole provider, was eventually released from custody Monday night (November 29th), on 8,000 NIS bail since the military prosecution could not present evidence justifying his remand.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | Leave a comment

   

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