The Russian Defense Ministry believes the military operation in the Baltic conducted by Sweden in search of possible “foreign underwater activity” can only lead to undermining stability and escalate tension in the region.
“Such unfounded actions of the Swedish Defense Department, fuelled by the Cold War-style rhetoric, are only leading today to escalation of tension in the region,” Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told journalists on Friday.
“It might result not in strengthening of a particular country’s security, but in undermining the principles of the naval economic activity in the Baltic Sea,” he added.
Konashenkov said Russian military officials were anticipating “the culmination of the exciting operation” accompanied by “never-ceasing speculations by the Swedish over detecting a ‘Russian submarine’ in the region of the Stockholm archipelago.”
Sweden started its largest since the Cold War military operation in the Baltic a week ago, explaining that the troops were engaged in search of a possible “foreign underwater activity.”
The Swedish media alleged the operation could be the hunt for a “damaged Russian submarine” in the area.
Moscow has long denied any of its vessels have been damaged. Konashenkov on Friday once again ruled out any possibility of the Swedish military ever finding a Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago.
The Swedish military announced on Friday it is curtailing the search operation.
“This means the bulk of ships and amphibious forces have returned to port,” the armed forces said in a statement, cited by Reuters. The military have however said the area would still be monitored by smaller forces.
That’s a U-turn from Thursday’s statement by Swedish Armed Forces spokesman Erik Lagersten, who said that the operation was not scaling down, but was entering a “new phase.”
“The intelligence-gathering operation is continuing just as before,” Lagersten said, according to the Local. “We still believe there is underwater activity.”
On Tuesday, Sweden announced it was ready to use force if it detects any foreign submarine in the waters of the Stockholm Archipelago.
Stockholm has chosen not to prolong the program for military exchange with Moscow, citing Russia’s alleged “challenging” activity in the Baltic Sea, according to Sweden’s draft budget, made public on Thursday.
“This means that Defense Forces’ cooperation with Russia is suspended until further notice,” the text of the budget says.
The draft budget says Sweden has to boost its security. According to the document, Stockholm plans to increase its military spending for 2015 by 680 million kronas (US$93.7 million).
The recent number of articles in the popular press concerning loss of intellect among children exposed to chlorpyrifos is important in the case of this pesticide. Although in-home use of chlorpyrifos was restricted in the U. S in 2000, it is widely used in agriculture, and is a serious risk to health and intellect for people working and living in proximity to fields. Detectable levels of chlorpyrifos detected in New York City children, raises the question of exposure via food.
Across the U. S. we learn that students are doing poorly in school, often blaming the teachers and their unions. Are teachers no longer competent to teach or have children been “dumbed-down” by exposure to this neurotoxin?
The State of California is considering restriction on use, but is prepared for strong opposition from the pesticide and big agricultural industries.
Back in the “Dark Ages” – a mere 50 years ago – when I was a medical student and intern at Wayne State University, I rotated through Children’s Hospital in Detroit. It was staffed by some of the most thoughtful and kind physician/professors I have ever met. I attended a clinic named “FLK” otherwise known as Funny Looking Kid clinic. There we saw children who had abnormal looking faces, abnormal body parts, and, often impaired intelligence. Many of the children required complicated medical care, but I don’t recall much discussion as to why they had these abnormalities that had dramatically cut short their futures and altered the lives of their families.
Realizing you have given birth to a child with birth defects is devastating – not only for the child, but for the family, and for society in general. If the child survives infancy, it means being “different” and having to cope with disability, and with having to learn alternative ways to function. For many families, it means 24/7 care of a child who can never live independently. For society the costs can be enormous – surgery (often multiple), medications, social services, special education, special equipment, then alternative living arrangements, if and when family cannot care for their child, now grown to a non-functional adult.
Although the neurotoxicity of pesticides has been known for decades, recently, several national magazines, have named the pesticide, chlorpyrifos (Dursban/ Lorsban), as an agent causing loss of intelligence, as well as birth defects and structural brain damage.
Dr. James Hamblin’s article in March 2014 issue of The Atlantic, titled “The Toxins that Threaten Our Brains.” listed 12 commonly used chemicals, including chlorpyrifos, which is marketed as Dursban and Lorsban. The exposures described in the Atlantic articles were urban, so we do not know exactly how widespread this epidemic is, especially if we do not include agricultural areas such as in California, Hawaii and the mid-West.
That same month, The Nation published articles by Susan Freinkel “Poisoned Politics” and Lee Fang “Warning Signs” who reported adverse effects from exposure to Dursban and Lorsban.
Dr. Hamblin’s article generously cites Drs. Philip Landrigan of Mt. Sinai in New York City and Philippe Grandjean of Harvard that a “’silent pandemic’ of toxins has been damaging the brains of unborn children.”
Dr. Landrigan chaired a 1998 meeting of the Collegium Ramazzini International Scientific Conference, held in Carpi, Italy. In attendance was Dr. Grandjean, whose research found “Methylmercury as a hazard to brain development.” Dr. Richard Jackson, from the U. S. CDC was also in attendance, as well as U.S. governmental and university members.
At that Collegium Ramazzini International Scientific Conference, on October 25, 1998, I presented definitive data in my paper: “Chlorpyrifos (Dursban) exposure and birth defects: report of 15 incidents, evaluation of 8 cases, theory of action, and medical and social aspects.” This presentation followed my earlier publications beginning in 1994 wherein I reported damage to the unborn from the same pesticide.
The Ramazzini organization sent my paper to the European Journal of Oncology for publication. Since my paper reported birth defects, not cancer, the paper has received little notice, but the attendees, including the EPA, have known of the findings for 16 years.
Currently a new battle is occurring in Hawaii over the use of pesticides, especially by Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, BASF Plant Science, and Syngenta on the island of Kauai where giant seed companies develop Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and other specialized seeds. The pesticides used there include alachlor, atrazine, chlorpyrifos, methomyl, metalochlor, permethrin and paraquat. The author, Paul Koberstein from Cascadia Times estimates that annually, more than 2000 pounds of chlorpyrifos are used per acre per year on Kauai, compared to less than 0.025 averages for the U. S. Mainland.
In addition to Hawaii, areas in California include workers and families from the Imperial Valley and other intensive agricultural areas where pesticide use is extensive. Using the Koberstein data, annual use of chlorpyrifos in California is approximately 1500 pounds/ acre.
Neurological Damage: Before and After Birth
Birth defects arise as a result of two mechanisms – damage to a gene, prior to fertilization, or damage to the growing cells of the fetus after life in the womb has begun. Differing from genetic damage, such as occurs in Down syndrome or Trisomy-21, the latter damage results from exposure of the developing fetus to agents called teratogens. For many years Mongolism was the name applied to children with growth delays, similar facial and hand features and intellectual deficits.
Chlorpyrifos is a unique pesticide. It is a combination of an organophosphate and a trichlorinatedpyridinol (TCP.) TCP is not only the feedstock used in the manufacture of chlorpyrifos, but also a contaminant in the product, and a metabolic breakdown product that is known to cause central nervous system abnormalities (hydrocephaly and dilated brain ventricles), and other abnormalities (cleft palate, skull and vertebral abnormalities) in fetuses as reported by Dow Chemical Co.
In March 1995, I was asked to fly to Arkansas to see a child whose mother had been exposed to the pesticide Dursban (chlorpyrifos) early in the pregnancy of her daughter.
Mrs. S had been working in a bank when in mid-March, 1991, she noticed a man spraying the baseboards behind the station where she worked as a teller. She said she asked the man if was okay to be in the area since she was pregnant, and she said the man told her it was “perfectly safe. She said the spraying had occurred around 4 PM, and that she worked at the bank until 6:30 PM, and when she went home that evening she had nausea and a” bit of headache.” She said she retuned to work the next day, felt nausea, but worked most of the day. An electrical fire at the drive-in window followed the pesticide event, and a technician used of a fogger that sprayed a “citrus-like” chemical that was intended to deodorize the smoke odor. Mrs. S. said she worked at the bank until about April of that year, and then worked at a credit union until her daughter was born in September.
When Mrs. S. was about five months pregnant she had an ultrasound, which showed that her baby had enlarged ventricles in her brain. Further examination revealed absence of the septum pellucidum, a central portion of her brain. Mrs. S. had additional follow up at a university center as well as with her own physician that showed normal amniocentesis and normal chromosomes.
Both Mr. & Mrs. S. said that caring for the daughter A. has been a severe financial and emotional drain, sometimes requiring them to be up 72 hours to try to soothe A’s crying. A. had surgery to repair her cleft lip when she was six months old, and repair of her cleft palate and left eyelid when she was a year old.
Both cleft lip and palate can now be repaired (in areas with skilled surgeon, and insurance or other funds) but until they are, the child has difficulty feeding and risks poor nutrition, upper respiratory and lung problems as a result of aspiration of food.
Additional diagnostic procedures indicated that A has a cleft left eye (failure of her eye to fuse during development), and she cannot blink her eye or move the left side of her face.
A was unable to sit up on her own by the time she was a year old, had to have food pureed until she was two, then her parents realized that when A neared her 4th birthday, she could not hear, when they began a program of sign language with the aid of a speech therapist.
A’s brother B. was born two years later, and is well, sleeping thought the night when he was two weeks of age.
I was given a tour of the bank where Ms. S worked by its’ Senior Vice-President, and to minimize stress to A, I examined her in the office and presence of her pediatrician. I also accompanied her parents to their home where I could observe A. at her home.
A was a small-boned child who walked with a wide-based, unsteady gait and who made audible sounds, but no language content. Her head was enlarged with hydrocephaly and a small bruise due to a recent, commonly occurring fall.
Her abnormalities included the following, and were characteristic of findings in other children:
low-set, tapering ears, wide-spaced nipples, and frequent infections. This litany is not to horrify readers, but to bring to attention the burdens imposed upon this child, her parents, and society as a whole. I evaluated seven more children, two families each having two children with similar, but more severe medical conditions.
With the exception of child #1, the seven children were profoundly retarded, were diapered, could not speak, and required feeding.
I first met C & D in 1996, along with their parents and handsome, healthy older brother, at their attractive home on the West Coast. Both D (a girl) and C (a boy) were lying flat, diapered, mouths open, fists clenched, staring into space, and being fed by bottle. Even today, looking at the photographs reminds me what an enormous burden was dealt to that family.
Ultimately I evaluated eight children, and identified seven more, reported by Dow Chemical Co., the manufacturer, to EPA on November 2, 1994, with reporting delays of as long as seven years from when the corporation first learned of them. I obtained the reports via a Freedom of Information request (FOI) from EPA. The reports were labeled with the revealing name: “DERBI” – or – “Dow Elanco Research Business Index.”
When I saw seven more children, all of who looked like siblings, (much as Trisomy-21 or Down Syndrome children do) it became clear to me, that the cause was linked to Dursban, the pre-natal exposure common to each.
Among the Dursban-exposed children, all 8 had both brain and palate abnormalities, seven had widespread nipples and growth retardation, six had low vision or blindness and six had genital abnormalities, five had brain atrophy and external ear abnormalities, four children had absence of the corpus collosum that is the critical connection between the two hemispheres of the brain. Chromosomal studies were normal in all 8 families. All families reported stress and enormous financial burden to care for their children.
In addition to the children with birth defects, I also evaluated a number of families and a group of adults who had been exposed at their work site. Of the workers, all 12 complained of headache, and three of dizziness. Eight had findings of central nervous system damage, and six had peripheral nervous system damage. The patients reported upper respiratory and chest symptoms, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and four had incontinence. The families also reported abnormalities and deaths in their household pets.
In February 1996, my deposition in the first case was taken by three groups of attorneys representing the defendants, two principally defending Dow Elanco. I was questioned for three 8-hour days. Ultimately a list of 565 exhibits was accumulated that included over 10,000 pages of materials that I supplied and relied upon for my opinion. These materials included Dow documents and correspondence, EPA documents, legal depositions, basic embryology, biochemistry and toxicology of chlorpyrifos, medical records of other exposed children, patents, books, articles, etc, etc.
Chlorpyrifos was designed to be neurotoxic in action. It is an interesting pesticide, in that it has not only an organophosphate portion, but also it has three chlorine atoms attached to a pyridinol ring. This ring is trichloropyridinol (TCP), a significant hazard, because it is fat-soluble, and persistent, up to 18 years as claimed by Dow Chemical Co. TCP also forms the body of trichlophenoxyacetic acid, part of Agent Orange, also linked to birth defects and cancer. In a war that ended in 1975, Agent Orange continues as a risk to the Vietnamese, and to military troops that were stationed there.
According to multiple Dow documents, TCP is the feedstock for production of chlopryrifos, a contaminant in the product, and a metabolic breakdown product. TCP has been demonstrated to cause central nervous system anomalies (hydrocephaly and dilated brain ventricles) as well as cleft palate, skull and vertebral abnormalities in the fetus at doses nontoxic to the mother, similar to the defects seen in affected children.
That TCP caused birth defects was known by Dow in 1987, but not reported to EPA until five years later in 1992. TCP is used to manufacture chlorpyrifos, and as such, comes under regulation of Section 8(e) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), rather than the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Control Act (FIFRA.) Though there was regulatory difference, TSCA states very clearly “any person who manufactures, processes or distributed in commerce a chemical substance or mixture, or who obtains information which reasonably supports the conclusion that such substance or mixture presents a substantial risk of injure to heath or the environment, shall immediately inform the Administrator of such information. From 1976 to 1982, I was a member of a 16 person Advisory Committee to the EPA for TSCA, Chairman of the Risk-Benefit Assessment Group from 1977 to 1979, and a member of the Carcinogen Policy Sub-group from 1977 to 1981. It was clear that risks and benefits do no accrue to the same party. In the case of chlorpyrifos, the risks are to the unaware public, and the benefits to the corporation.
The Legal System is Not the Same as the Justice System
Bernard P. Whetstone was a well-established attorney who handled the initial birth defects case in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was aware of another case in that state. Mr. Whetstone was a “Southern Gentleman” with a soft drawl who had earned both a bachelor and doctorate of jurisprudence, and started practice in 1934. In 1995, he was worked with Davidson and Associates until he retired in 1999 at age 86. Mr. Whetstone died in 2001.
I was required to appear In Court in Little Rock, where Judge Eisley ruled that I was not qualified. Hard to believe that 10,000 pages of documents is not adequate, but that opinion was softened because he ruled that all the plaintiff’s experts were not qualified. Another physician/ toxicology expert and I evaluated additional patients (adults) who developed multiple adverse effects, including central nervous system damage, so Dow, employing the Eisley decision, argued successfully in other court jurisdictions that we were not qualified to give an opinion.
The main Dow law firm was Barnes and Thornburg from Indianapolis, where DowElanco, the co-manufacturer Eli Lilly is located. Eli Lilly is a manufacturer of both pharmaceuticals and pesticides. Barnes & Thornburg has over 500 attorneys in 12 cities and appeared to be very well staffed and funded.
A recent news release noted that William W. Wales, who spent more than 30 years in the legal department of The Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences LLC, had joined Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Indianapolis office as a partner in the firm’s litigation and corporate departments. “Bill’s depth and breadth of experience in a variety of matters will be a tremendous asset to many of our clients who are dealing with similar issues,” said Joseph G. Eaton, Vice Chair of the firm’s Litigation Department and Co-Chair of the Toxic Tort Practice Group. Joseph Eaton is one of the attorneys who took my extensive deposition. They were the most aggressive law firm I had ever encountered, and I have testified in more than 700 depositions and/or court appearances.
In defense of their product, the Dow attorneys argued that there were no reports of levels of pesticides used or existing levels – a questionable tactic, since the corporation has never suggested or requested that such records be obtained.
Although the EPA stopped home use of Dursban in 2000, Lorsban is widely used in agriculture, on ornamentals, and places where women, the unborn and children are exposed. For many, this exposure is without their knowledge or consent. How is this allowed to happen?
Is it successful advertising, recommendations from country and state agricultural agents, an inept or politically adept EPA such as when on September 11, 2001, the then administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and former governor of New Jersey Christie Whitman said on September 13, 2001, “EPA is greatly relieved to have learned that there appears to be no significant levels of asbestos dust in the air in New York City.” A week
Whitman said: “Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, DC that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink.”
In 2008, the U. S. EPA named Dow as an Energy Star Partner of the Year for excellence in energy management and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Dow’s fleet of skilled lawyers have managed to save Dow from liability, when they achieved a reversal of a $925 million judgment for the contamination of the area around Rocky Flats, the Colorado facility that produced plutonium triggers for hydrogen bombs. And, a lawsuit filed by Vietnamese, damaged by Agent Orange against Dow and Monsanto was dismissed.
Dow is a multinational corporation and the third largest chemical manufacturer in the world, with earnings more than $57 billion in 2013. In addition to the manufacture of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and genetically modified seeds, Dow also manufactures multiple plastics, polystyrene, polyurethane, synthetic rubber, biphenyl-A as well as many other chemicals.
What are the chances that the use of Lorsban will be curtailed in the agricultural areas of Hawaii, California and elsewhere? Given what we know of the financial strength of the Dow Corporation, the weakness of the EPA, and our paid-for Congress, it does not look promising.
The Burden of Brain Damage
If the top corporate officials were required to care for one of these severely brain-damaged children for a week, would it change their minds about the ethics of manufacturing chlorpyrifos and corporate profits?
There is not a teacher who can teach brain-damaged children to read and do math, which raises the larger question being proposed: are children’s lack of learning due to poor teachers, or to subtle brain damage? If children are being damaged to various degrees, profoundly in the situation of the 15 children sited in my research, to “mild” learning and/or behavioral problems, ranging from decreased IQ, Asperbergers, hyperactivity, autism, etc., how much is attributable to exposure to pesticides such as Dursban/ Lorsban? If we blame poor teaching, and teachers’ unions, but don’t stop the use of brain-damaging pesticides, where does that leave our U.S. society as a source of creativity and intellect in this world?
Note: All of my chlorpyrifos/ Dursban documents have been accepted and will be archived at the National Library of Medicine, along with my other scientific, medical and legal research.
Janette D. Sherman, M. D. is the author of Life’s Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer and Chemical Exposure and Disease, and is a specialist in internal medicine and toxicology. She edited the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, written by A. V. Yablokov, V. B., Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. Her primary interest is the prevention of illness through public education. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org www.janettesherman.com
Three months after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was violently brought down from the skies over Ukraine, there are still no definitive answers to what caused the tragedy.
Civil conflict in the area prevented international experts from conducting a full and thorough investigation.
The wreckage should have been collected and scrupulously re-assembled to identify all the damage, but this standard investigative procedure was never carried out. Until that’s done, evidence can only be gleaned from pictures of the debris, the flight recorders or black boxes and eye-witnesses’ testimonies. This may be enough to help build a picture of what really happened to the aircraft, whether a rocket fired from the ground or gunfire from a military jet.
American aircraft-manufacturing giant Boeing has ended a 35-year break in business with Iran, supplying the country’s national flag carrier with a cargo of aircraft-related items.
But the sale did not include spare parts for Iranian aircraft as promised by Washington following last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.
“During the third quarter of 2014, we sold aircraft manuals, drawings, and navigation charts and data to Iran Air,” Boeing said in its quarterly report on Wednesday.
This is the first time that the American company has sold safety items to Iran Air since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The business deal brought Boeing USD 120,000 in revenue, the report added.
The sales came after the US Treasury Department issued a license in April that allowed Boeing to provide “spare parts that are for safety purposes” to Iran for a “limited period of time.”
Boeing said the plane parts were purchased “consistent with guidance from the US government in connection with ongoing negotiations.”
Boeing, which is still banned from selling new aircraft to the Islamic Republic, said that it could sell more plane parts to Iran Air in the future.
“We may engage in additional sales pursuant to this license,” it added.
In February, two major US aerospace manufacturers, Boeing and General Electric, applied for export licenses in order to sell airliner parts to Iran following an interim nuclear agreement between Tehran and the P5+1 group of world powers in November 2013.
Under the deal dubbed the Geneva Joint Plan of Action, the six countries – the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany – undertook to provide Iran with some sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran agreeing to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities.
In the past decade, Iran has witnessed several major air accidents blamed on its aging aircraft due to the US sanctions that prevent Iran from buying aircraft spare parts.
Opposition protesters took sticks and other objects to attack policemen (Photo: ANDES).
The Ecuadorian government hit back on Tuesday against a report claiming it repressed protestors during a recent demonstrations.
The Ecuadorian government is challenging a lawyer cited in the report to prove his allegations.
It was responding to accusations made by U.S. based organization Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Interior Minister Jose Serrano announced during a televised interview that the government will sue the lawyer who told HRW that students and protesters detained on September 17 and 18 were tortured by the police.
“This lawyer had the audacity and cynicism to say that the police had tortured them … this individual will have to prove what he said … is effectively true,” Serrano said.
The Interior Minister also clarified that those apprehended were caught on video attacking policemen. All of them confessed to the charges against them.
President Rafael Correa had warned ahead of the September 17 protest that the opposition would try to use similar tactics to those used by the Venezuelan opposition, seeking to generate violent incidents which would then generate controversy and international reactions.
On September 17, opposition activists and government sympathizers both organized mobilizations which were located very close to one another. To avoid a small violent group from reaching the government sympathizers, a group of policemen blocked streets which connected both sites.
Opposition activists attacked the police to try to break into the pro-government rally, with arrests following.
“We had announced ahead (of the protests) that there were groups amongst the protesters which would use vandalism and violent strategies,” Serrano reminded.
According to the official, the International Red Cross was called days before the protests to guarantee that, if any detention was made, the organisation was present in the detention center.
“Mr. Vivanco (Jose Miguel Vivanco, HRW chief for Latin America) will have to show the whole world who is financing him, where are they getting their resources from, and why does he have this particular aversion against Latin America’s progressive governments,” Serrano said.
HRW is increasingly being held account by intellectuals and experts in the United States and the world due to its close relationship with the U.S. State Department.
Journalist Keane Bhatt has previously documented several cases in which HRW members have become senior U.S. State Department officials, in what Bhatt calls a “revolving door policy”.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire together with former U.N. Assistant Secretary General Hans von Sponeck and over 100 scholars wrote a letter in May requesting Human Rights Watch to change its policy so as to avoid links with the U.S. State Department.
Prisoners serving time in the state of Pennsylvania can now be sued for speaking up from behind bars after Governor Tom Corbett signed into law this week the Revictimization Relief Act that legislatures rushed to approve only days earlier.
The bill, signed on Tuesday by Corbett, a Republican, allows victims of “a personal injury crime” to sue the perpetrator if that offender “perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim.”
State Rep. Mike Vereb, a Republican and a co-author of the act, announced earlier this month that he’d be rallying lawmakers to support the bill after former death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal was allowed to record a commencement speech that was played for graduates of Goddard College during an October 5 ceremony.
Abu-Jamal, 60, is currently serving a life sentence at a prison facility in Frackville, PA for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia cop, Officer Daniel Fulkner, but he has maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration, including three decades spent awaiting execution before prosecutors agreed in 2011 to drop the death penalty. Prior to the start of his prison sentence, Abu-Jamal was considered a renowned activist and journalist, and has since published several books and thousands of essays from behind bars.
“The nation is in deep trouble, largely because old thinking, both domestically and globally, has led us into the morass that the nation now faces, which may be encapsulated by references to place-names that ring in our minds: Gaza; Ferguson; and Iraq—again!” a group of 21 graduating students from Goddard, Abu-Jamal’s alma matter, were told in the tape-recorded commencement speech. “These are some of the challenges that abide in the world, which it will be your destiny to try and analyze and resolve. As students of Goddard, you know that those challenges are not easy, but they must be faced and addressed.”
Vereb sent a letter to his colleagues in the Pennsylvania House three days before that address was given, writing in it that he was “utterly outraged that such a reprehensible person would be able to revictimize Officer Daniel Faulkner’s family with this kind of self-promoting behavior.”
The Pennsylvania legislature unanimously approved Vereb’s bill days after the address was given, and Gov. Corbett signed the act on Tuesday, 11 days after the Goddard speech, from a makeshift stage erected in Philadelphia only a few feet from the location where Faulkner was gunned down during a traffic stop 33 years ago. Nevertheless, the Washington Post reported that Corbett said in a statement that the law “is not about any one single criminal,” but rather “was inspired by the excesses and pious hypocrisy of one particular killer.”
“Maureen Faulkner, Danny’s wife, has been taunted by the obscene celebrity that her husband’s killer has orchestrated from behind bars,” Corbett said at the signing, according to a CBS News affiliate.
“This unrepentant cop killer has tested the limits of decency,” the Washington Times quoted Corbett as saying as protesters jeered nearby. “Gullible activists and celebrities have continued to feed this killer’s ego.”
Free speech advocates see no issue with Abu-Jamal’s communique from confinement, though, and say that the law signed this week is a serious blow to First Amendment protections.
“This bill is written so broadly that it is unclear what is prohibited,” Reggie Shuford, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Pennsylvania office, said in a statement offered to Reuters. “That can’t pass constitutional muster under the First Amendment.”
Samantha Kolber, a spokesperson for Goddard, told the Patriot-News that the school was “surprised” by Corbett’s signing and said Vereb’s bill “is suggesting that people are not capable of making choices about what speech they will listen to and how they will react to that speech.”
Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, protester Johanna Fernandez said during Corbett’s public signing this week that the governor’s decision to speedily make Vereb’s bill a law was a “Hail Mary pass” from his administration only a month before Election Day since polls suggest that Corbett may lose the governor’s seat. “The establishment of Philadelphia is using Mumia’s case to silence all prisoners in the state,” Fernandez said. “What they’re doing is, they’re essentially inflecting collective punishment on all prisoners in order to silence Mumia.”
On Monday, Abu-Jamal himself weighed in on the debate and the politics surrounding Corbett’s decision to speedily sign the bill during an interview with Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio Project.
“This is a political stunt by a failing politician who is seeking support by using fear,” Abu-Jamal said this week. “Politicians do it all the time. But this is unconstitutional: Tom’s latest attempt to stroke and build up his political campaign, his failing political campaign.”
According to the activist-turned-inmate, he gave his address to Goddard after students there wrote and requested he speak. Marc Lamont Hill, a professor at Morehouse College, tweeted Wednesday that “Even if you don’t support Mumia, you should be outraged at this attack on First Amendment Rights.”
You have heard that Sweden is hunting a ”submarine” and that it is ”presumed to be Russian”. Here is an example, Financial Times of October 21 – which incidentally also announces that the Swedish Prime Minister vows to increase defence spending.
Not the slightest evidence
There are only three problems with this:
1) There is not the slightest evidence of there being anything military, neither that it is a submarine nor that, whatever the object might be, it is Russian.
2) Even with CNN, BBC and AlJazeera this is nothing but speculative low-grade yellow press journalism. This is possible in the field of defence, security and peace because much less is required of journalists when they write about these matters than when they write about, say, domestic politics, economics, sports, books or food and wine. In these fields you are expected to have some knowledge and media consumers are able to check.
3) It serves other purposes than bringing you information: either to increase further the negative image of Russia, push Sweden into full NATO membership – see the remarkable offer by NATOs former Allied Supreme Commander, Stavridis – for NATO to come and help Sweden – or to scare the Swedes into feeling that it is necessary to pay even more to the Swedish military (a mechanism also called fearology).
Virtually every aspect of the media hype is based on prejudices instead of interest-based analysis and on partial and paid expertise that follows the ‘party line’. Russia has ‘denied’ it is there; Holland has ‘dismissed’ that its submarine should be there.
With one or two exceptions, all Swedish and international media have avoided asking: Could it be something else but a sub and somebody else but the Russians – or nothing at all?
The alleged-ness of it all is good enough to pass for objective reporting in the – alleged – free media.
From Swedish defence force to farce
Worse, the Swedish military has already made a fool of itself – not to be expected given the fairly large resources it has at its disposal.
It has sold off helicopters it now dearly needs.
It’s been – at least officially – relying on tips from ordinary citizens and one wonders where the intelligence (in more than one sense of that word) is.
A suspicion that a (Russian) special forces man had gone on land turned out to be an Swedish pensioner out fishing.
It has published a blurred photo of a wave-covered ‘object’ to be seen far out through some trees and indicated wrongly where that photo was taken.
One indeed wonders whether this farcical performance is made to show that it is so helpless that it must have large resources.
The more relevant consideration would be: How on earth can such amateurism be so easily accepted by the government, media and the people – and even used as an argument for what the PM has just announced?
Or to put it crudely: What does the Swedes get for their tax money?
Sweden is not a helpless pawn in the game
Sweden with a population of roughly 9 million is # 33 on the world list of military expenditures, spending US $ 6,2 billion per year. That is US $ 657 per capita, # 17 in the world.
Russia spends US$ 403 per capita and its overall military expenditures is 8% of NATO’s.
Sweden, thus, is not a helpless pawn in some game. If its military isn’t able to do better when it is really needed, someone should be made responsible.
Is it Russian?
If there is something out there, is it likely to be Russian? Not very likely.
Moscow knows very well that if a Russian submarine was found and brought up to the surface, it would mean a huge boost for those in Sweden and elsewhere who would like to see Sweden as a full NATO member. That is not in Russia’s interest.
But of course, the Russians could play a high-risk game in these waters with some NATO subs or be plain foolish. It can’t be excluded – but it isn’t very likely that the object is Russian.
If it Russian, Sweden itself may anyhow have an interest in not officially finding anything – to keep the Russians in the dark about how much it knows and whether or not there already is a NATO assistance in this case. In both cases we are likely to never be told what it was all about.
Could it be from NATO?
Could it be from a NATO country? If so, we’ll also never know that.
The Swedish Chief of Staff has said that if something is found it would be shot at to come up to the surface. But it’s unthinkable that Sweden, if it knew an object to be from a NATO country – would a) shoot at it and b) tell the world that it knew.
After all, most violations of the Swedish air space has been known since the 1980s to be done by NATO fighters but it’s basically only when Russian fighters come near or violate that the Swedish defence establishment leaks it or the media are interested in it.
Sweden isn’t a neutral country today, if it ever were.
Could NATO have an interest in these waters? In the wake of the Ukraine crisis we are back to a kind of Cold War situation and NATO has moved its military positions forward in various ways and held a steady focus on the Baltic States.
So, yes, NATO could be in Swedish waters with or without the knowledge or consent of the Swedes; it could be roaming around to check on the Russians simply because tension has built up.
It could be placing sonars or whatever devices for future emergencies – while not wanting Sweden to know that it considers Sweden so close to NATO that it can just as well be used.
And if so, Sweden would rather not be told. Clearly Sweden could not officially endorse a NATO submarine presence on its territory as part of Anti-Submarine Warfare or planning for future war with Russia. Both parties know that.
My concluding prediction is therefore rather simple: for the above reasons the Swedish military will soon call off the whole thing and the affair will have served its purpose – precisely by not stating what it was, who it was or why it was. Or if it was.
What the purpose of the event may be remains to be revealed at some point in the future. Or perhaps never if – the purpose was fearology for increased militarisation.
Somebody somewhere knows what’s going on. And they put citizens’ security at risk for purposes they would never tell you.
Radoslaw Sikorski — the speaker of the Polish Parliament and that nation’s former foreign minister — was forced to apologize after claiming that he overheard Vladimir Putin in 2008 suggest that Ukraine should be divided between Russia and Poland.
A bombshell report published by Politico Magazine over the weekend called “Putin’s Coup” alleged that Sikorski heard that the Russian president told Donald Tusk, then the Polish prime minister, that Poland should “become participants in the divide of Ukraine” during a Polish delegation’s 2008 visit to Moscow.
“He wanted us to become participants in this partition of Ukraine… This was one of the first things that Putin said to my prime minister, Donald Tusk, when he visited Moscow,” Politico’s Ben Judah quoted Sikorski as saying following an interview that formed the basis of the Sunday article.
“He (Putin) went on to say Ukraine is an artificial country and that Lwow is a Polish city and why don’t we just sort it out together.”
“We made it very, very clear to them – we wanted nothing to do with this,” Sikorski went on.
On Monday, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said that, if Putin did suggest as much, then that would be “scandalous.”
On Tuesday, however, Sikorski found himself in a scandalous situation himself and had to respond to multiple accusations that he made up the conversation between Putin and Tusk. The Russian president’s spokesman labeled the alleged remark as “utter nonsense,” and Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told Russia’s Gazeta.ru the report “looks like total tripe.”
Responding to a mounting backlash, Sikorski said over Twitter that the interview with Judah was “not authorized” and that “Some of the words have been over-interpreted.” However the Politico journalist was fast to remind Mr. Sikorski that in the US members of the press do not “authorize” interviews. Judah also said to the Polish broadcaster TVN24 that he was “not sure what Sikorski had in mind” when he said some of his comments had been “over-interpreted.”
On Tuesday, Sikorski was confronted at a press conference by Polish journalists, demanding clarifications regarding his remarks. However, the ex-foreign minister was vague about whether or not he made the remarks published by Politico. Before long Sikorski admitted that he never personally heard of Putin offering to divide Ukraine, then refused to go into more details or answer additional questions from the media.
This awkward press conference infuriated even Sikorski’s fellow party members, and Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz publicly lashed at him.
“I will not tolerate this kind of behavior. I will not tolerate this kind of standards that Speaker Sikorski tried to present at today’s (news) conference,” Kopacz said, according to the Associated Press.
After that, Sikorski called in a second press conference, where he changed his position once again. He said Tusk and Putin never met during a bilateral meeting in Moscow in 2008 as he originally had suggested and the scandalous remarks were made later that year at a NATO summit in Bucharest. Additionally Sikorski apologized for putting both the former and current Polish PM in an “awkward position.”
“I apologize for the awkwardness, which took place this morning,” Poland’s TVN 24 quoted Sikorski as saying. “Especially as a former journalist, I never avoided contact with the media.”
However, Sikorski might be forced to change his version of history once again. According to the official NATO schedule of Putin’s meetings from the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, the Russian leader and his Polish counterpart didn’t hold any bilateral meetings in Romania either.
More Police Departments than Previously Thought Use Portable Surveillance Systems to Spy on almost Everyone
More U.S. police departments are employing electronic surveillance technology that can collect information from cell phones and laptop computers belonging not just to criminal suspects but also law abiding citizens.
The Charlotte Observer found the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have for eight years used such equipment, which goes by many names: Stingray, Hailstorm, AmberJack and TriggerFish.
But the technology, which mimics cell towers, is also used by other law enforcement around the country. It’s just not clear which departments, the newspaper says, because the federal government has helped to shield police from disclosing their owning and operating the spy hardware. In fact, the Obama administration “has ordered cities not to disclose information about the equipment,” the Observer’s Fred Classen-Kelly reported.
However, members of the administration might also be among those spied upon. Through an open records request, VICE News has learned that Washington, D.C., is another city whose police department is using the technology. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) there purchased the Stingray system in 2003, purportedly to use for anti-terrorism efforts.
In 2008, however, the system was brought out of storage and is now used in regular criminal cases. But the system doesn’t discriminate between calls made by those suspected of wrongdoing and those of ordinary citizens, which means anyone’s whereabouts can be tracked.
Nathan Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, told VICE News “If the MPD is driving around D.C. with Stingray devices, it is likely capturing information about the locations and movements of members of Congress, cabinet members, federal law enforcement agents, and Homeland Security personnel, consular staff, and foreign dignitaries, and all of the other people who congregate in the District…. If cell phone calls of congressional staff, White House aides, or even members of Congress are being disconnected, dropped, or blocked by MPD Stingrays, that’s a particularly sensitive and troublesome problem.”
Some in Charlotte have those concerns as well. “The thought of police or another agency collecting data on communications devices is troubling,” Charlotte City Councilman John Autry told the Observer. “I understand the balance between security and privacy, but I think we should honor the privacy protection in the Constitution. … What happens to the data? Who sees it? Who has access to it?”
The ACLU estimates that at least 46 local law enforcement agencies nationwide have cell phone tracking systems.
To Learn More:
Charlotte Police Investigators Secretly Track Cellphones (by Fred Classen-Kelly, Charlotte Observer)
Police in Washington, D.C. Are Using the Secretive ‘Stingray’ Cell Phone Tracking Tool (by Jason Leopold, VICE News)
After Months of Denial, Sacramento Sheriff Admits Using Stingray Cellphone Surveillance (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)
Local Police Departments Use Non-Disclosure Agreements to Hide Cellphone Tracking (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
German BND’s “evidence” that E. Ukrainian rebels are behind the MH17 crash is an attempt to muddle the waters and to throw more propagandistic mud at Russia’s door rather than to find the truth, foreign affairs expert Srdja Trifkovic told RT.
Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND has blamed rebel forces in east Ukraine for the MH17 plane crash in July, Der Spiegel reported. According to the weekly magazine the BND has “ample evidence”, including satellite images that the militia forces in east Ukraine used the BUK missile system to bring down the Malaysian passenger plane. However, so far the intelligence agency has not made any of that “evidence” public.
RT: Well, if Germany has this evidence, why doesn’t it make it public?
Srdja Trifkovic: This is the obvious question. Actually, several questions come to mind. First of all, if Germany has satellite images that point in this direction, then Germany must have obtained those images from someone else, presumably the US. So why should the US use the German BND service [Federal Intelligence Service] as a conduit for presentation and presumably interpretation of the data which it, the US, had obtained in the first place. This seems to me like another disinformation operation because why should the BND be called upon to come to any conclusive evidence or indeed conclusions about the MH17 affair if the Dutch have two independent investigations going, and if most of the citizens and most of the countries affected were in fact the Netherlands, Malaysia and Australia.
RT: There’s an official international investigation underway. Why not share these findings with it?
ST: Because the obvious target in this case is yet again Russia and pro-Russians in the east of [Ukraine] and not the establishment of the truth. Because after all as we have seen with incomplete, inconclusive and ambiguous findings of the interim investigation six weeks ago, it was immediately misinterpreted as pointing into the direction of the pro-Russians or of the Russian-supplied weapon system. So I think we should really treat anything that comes from the Western intelligence agencies, the BND included, as not as an attempt to find the truth, but as an attempt to muddle the waters and to throw more propagandistic mud at the Russian door.
RT: So far, the investigators have only made very basic conclusions, as seen in the report they had released. How could Germany have already reached such a definite conclusion?
ST: Well, first of all, the question is whether Germany really did come with a fairly definite conclusion or whether this is an exercise in disinformation or propaganda. I think it is the latter because whatever the German intelligence, the Germans, might have had at their disposal to conclude that the rebels obtained the Buk system from the Ukrainian base, that there were no Ukrainian jet fighters in the vicinity of the aircraft and so on, could have come only from US satellite sources, not from Germany’s own which it doesn’t have. So the fact that it was made public, and the fact that the information was presented allegedly to the German parliamentary subcommittee and not to the official investigating body, to my mind, simply means that the MH17 issue is being kept on the backburner as a propagandistic tool of various Western powers to be deployed if and when needed and then to be put back on the backburner again. This is how it is being treated from the very beginning when unsubstantiated allegations started flying regardless of the fact that there was no real evidence. It was really interesting how some journalists misinterpreted the interim findings six weeks ago to support the thesis about a missile because even though it is stated high-[energy] objects which could have been consistent with machine-gun fire with small caliber, cannon-fire from an aircraft – it was still taken to mean… [it] was a missile. So I don’t think the BND story deserves a great deal of attention until and unless we see raw intelligence upon which it is based and until we see where that intelligence come from and with what purpose it was presented.
RT: Why hasn’t anyone else come up with their own conclusions like this?
ST: I’m afraid that at the end of the day for the propagandistic purposes it will come to the same thing – “maybe Russia was not directly involved but by virtue of supporting the rebels in this Russia bears the ultimate responsibility” or something along those lines. Obviously the propaganda of the first couple of days after the incident… could not be taken seriously. I simply think that this is a little bit more sophisticated in a way: ultimately still a pointing finger is at Russia and at the self-defense forces in the east, even though formal and direct Russian involvement is no longer acknowledged… Nevertheless, if it is the rebels and since Russia allegedly is supporting them, then Russia will bear the ultimate responsibility. What is interesting is that the Germans are so categorical about the absence of the Sukhoi in the vicinity of the Malaysian airliner even through there is ample evidence that indeed there was one at least from the Russian sources. Since the Germans simply do not have the satellite imagery and the electronic resources comparable to those of the US, for the BND to come up with such a compulsive story means either that they are making it out as a plot, or else that they have been presented raw intelligence by the US and they are coming to their own conclusions because the Americans themselves prefer not to be the ones to do so. Either way it doesn’t look like something aimed at establishing the truth and the full facts of the case of MH17.
SHOW NOTES AND MP3: http://www.corbettreport.com/?p=11947
When Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down on July 17, 2014, we were immediately inundated with base propaganda trying to convince us that the shootdown could be traced back to the Kremlin. But what was this rush to judgement based on? What have we learned about the crash since then? Why has MH17 completely disappeared from the news cycle? And who really stood to benefit from the disaster?
I doubt very many people have ever heard or seen a “tank mix.” Simply put, it is a mix of several crop chemicals used together to control a variety of weeds. I have not looked into a swirling mix of chemicals in a crop spray rig for probably 20 years–that’s about how long it has been since we have used any herbicides on our farm.
It may look different now, new chemicals, perhaps new colors and new toxic smells. I remember it as a sulfurous yellow mix of rising spreading plumes of chemicals, circulating and mixing together in the tank. The smell was literally breathtaking and the toxicity likewise. (That’s why it’s recommended that the applicator wear breathing protection and a Hazmat suit.)
When people ask me why we switched to organic farming, that swirling yellow tank mix always reappears in my mind. How did I ever rationalize putting that stuff on my fields?
When genetically modified (GM) crops were introduced commercially in 1996, farmers were told that Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready”(RR) technology would make crop production easier, safer, and “one spray was all they’d ever need.”
Roundup would be a safer, more effective replacement for all those chemicals farmers were currently using their tank mixes, they told us. With Roundup as the cornerstone of GM crop technology, the promise was safety. We’d have no more worries about weeds, and it would be eternally effective, so there would be no more need for tank mixes.
While I really don’t consider any pesticide safe (after all–they are poisons), Roundup was probably less toxic, perhaps less carcinogenic, and perhaps less of an endocrine disruptor than some of the chemicals it replaced. Perhaps.
I specifically remember 2,4-D (one of the components of the Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange) being singled out as a “more dangerous” herbicide that would no longer be needed. Who wouldn’t like that–a dangerous herbicide replaced by an easier to use, safer, permanently more effective one? There was sliced bread and then there was RR.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. In 1996, Monsanto was fined by the State of New York for false advertising in its promotion of Roundup as “safe.” According to a 2013 Associated Press article, Monsanto acknowledged that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval “is not an assurance or finding of safety” because U.S. regulations are based on a cost-benefit analysis, which balances the potential of “any unreasonable risk to man or the environment” against the “the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.”
Isn’t that something? EPA approval is not an assurance of safety.
Consider the fact that EPA-approval was based on specific recommended quantities, and then, as these products became less effective, the tendency would be to “add a just little more.” But, even with “just a little more,” nature found a way to survive, and weeds developed resistance to Roundup to the point that even a thorough sousing would no longer kill them. Once again the tank mix became the only hope in killing these new, pesticide-resistant “superweeds.”
To help fight resistant weeds, farmers have also been encouraged to develop integrated weed management strategies. Mark Jeschke, Agronomy Research Manager at DuPont Pioneer, notes that “mechanical weed control and crop rotation are examples of two such tactics available to growers.” (These are tactics organic farmers have always used). But for heaven’s sake, the industry says, don’t stop spraying.
The “new generation” of GM crops are on the way and the first out of the pipeline are corn and soybeans that Dow AgroSciences developed to be used in conjunction with 2,4-D. In September, The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the new seeds, as part of a branded “Enlist Weed Control System” that could be going into the ground as early as spring 2015.
Now remember that in 1996 Roundup was touted as the safe alternative to 2,4-D, a dangerous pesticide. Has 2,4-D become safer than it used to be? No.
My guess is that Dow decided it would be cheaper and easier to engineer seeds to resist the old herbicides rather than develop new herbicides that might be less toxic. And, as Tom Philpott at Mother Jones notes, Dow and Monsanto know that planting seeds that withstand both 2,4-D and Roundup would lead to an increase in herbicide use.
In fact, Dow and Monsanto stand to cash in on 2,4-D and Roundup cross-licensing. We are talking big profit potential. Never mind the fact that an Ohio study pointed out that 2,4-D is potentially potent enough to cause a “17 to 77 percent reduction of the marketable fruit and vegetables” on farms close to those where it is sprayed.
The University of Maryland recommends leaving a 350-foot buffer zone (PDF) between fields sprayed with 2,4-D and grapevines, which–along with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, melons, sweet potatoes, beans, and other vegetables–are highly susceptible to 2,4-D drift.
It would be one thing if the farmer doing the spraying was responsible for leaving a buffer strip between their crops and the neighbors’ vegetables. But the guy with the chemicals can spray right up to the property line. Over the last 20 years I have had to leave many acres of my land in buffer strips. Most farmers try to be good neighbors, but they can’t control the wind.
Weeds resistant to 2,4-D were documented as early as 1957, and still, farmers are hoping that 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans, especially a 2,4-D/Roundup resistant combination, will be “the one” solution to their problems. And if weed resistance shows up they can “just add a little more”–at least until this system fails and the next GM crop is introduced.
Civil Eats editor’s note: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today approved Dow Chemical’s Enlist Duo herbicide, a new blend of 2,4-D and Roundup (glyphosate) developed for use on new varieties of genetically engineered (GE) corn, soybeans, and cotton.