The United States is reportedly trying to fend off an attempt out of Switzerland to change a multi-national nuclear safety agreement in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Reuters and Bloomberg News both reported this week that Swiss officials are seeking addendums to the 77-nation Convention on Nuclear Safety, or CNS, so that countries around the globe are compelled to upgrade energy facilities in hopes of preventing fallout like the one spawned by the Fukushima meltdown more than three years ago.
But while Reuters says the Swiss-led initiative is tentatively being backed by other European countries, the newswire alleges that energy officials in the US, Russia and Canada are all opposed to the measure, which would likely increase industry costs.
Although details of the proposed pact have not been made public, Bloomberg reported that it would involve rewriting “international standards to ensure nuclear operators not only prevent accidents but mitigate consequences if they occur, by installing costly new structures built to survive natural disasters.” In a report published on Thursday this week by Reuters, the newswire said that the proposed changes would not only apply up-to-date safety standards for new reactors, but also carry out back-fitting measures on sites that are already in operation.
According to this week’s reports, however, some of the world’s top energy powers are opposed because, as Reuters’ Fredrick Dahl wrote, any changes to the CNS could take years to be installed if, of course, they are ratified by the dozens of nations involved.
“You are trying to drop a Ferrari engine into a Volkswagen. If you want a new car, let’s go to the show room” and buy one, a senior but unnamed Department of State official said to Dahl.
But experts have previously said American facilities, in particular, are in need of upgrades, with a July 2014 report published by the National Academy of Science that said the US “should access their preparedness for severe nuclear accidents associated with offsite-scale disasters.” Additionally, the authors of that study wrote that America’s current approach to nuclear safety is “clearly inadequate for preventing core-melt accidents and mitigating their consequences,” yet newly-initiated upgrades in the US are being conducted on a scale hardly comparable to what’s occurring overseas: according to Bloomberg, Electricite de France SA is spending around $13 billion on implementing safety measures on its 59 reactors, whereas American utilities will spend only $3 billion on portable generators and cooling reserves for roughly 100 reactors.
Nevertheless, officials in Berne remain optimistic that the countries currently opposed to the proposed changes will come to an agreement that makes facilities around the world more secure.
“Switzerland, as the initiator of the proposal, will continue to collaborate with all delegations and do everything to find a solution that is acceptable to all of us,” Georg Schwarz, deputy director general of the Swiss nuclear-safety regulator, ENSI, wrote to Bloomberg Business Week.
Russian officials did not immediately respond to Bloomberg’s requests for comment, and neither BusinessWeek nor Reuters included remarks from Canada in their report.
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.
“No records are available to confirm that the biological agents were destroyed.”
Operating out of South Africa during the Apartheid era in the early 1980’s, Dr. Wouter Basson launched a secret bioweapons project called Project Coast. The goal of the project was to develop biological and chemical agents that would either kill or sterilize the black population and assassinate political enemies. Among the agents developed were Marburg and Ebola viruses.
Basson is surrounded by cloak and dagger intrigue, as he told Pretoria High court in South Africa that “The local CIA agent in Pretoria threatened me with death on the sidewalk of the American Embassy in Schoeman Street.” According to a 2001 article in The New Yorker magazine, the American Embassy in Pretoria was “terribly concerned” that Basson would reveal deep connections between Project Coast and the United States.
In 2013, Basson was found guilty of “unprofessional conduct” by the South African health council.
Bioweapons expert Jeanne Guillemin writes in her book Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism, “The project’s growth years were from 1982 to 1987, when it developed a range of biological agents (such as those for anthrax, cholera, and the Marburg and Ebola viruses and for botulinum toxin)…”
Basson’s bioweapons program officially ended in 1994, but there has been no independent verification that the pathogens created were ever destroyed. The order to destroy them went directly to Dr. Basson. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The integrity of the process rested solely on Dr. Basson’s honesty.”
Basson claims to have had contact with western agencies that provided “ideological assistance” to Project Coast. Basson stated in an interview shot for the documentary Anthrax War that he met several times with Dr. David Kelly, the infamous UN weapons inspector in Iraq. Kelly was a top bioweapons expert in the United Kingdom. He was found dead near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003. While the official story claims he committed suicide, medical experts highly doubt this story.
In a 2007 article from the Mail Online, it was reported that a week prior to his death, Dr. Kelly was to be interviewed by MI5 about his ties to Dr. Basson.
Dr. Timothy Stamps, Minister of Health of Zimbabwe, suspected that his country was under biological attack during the time that Basson was operating. Stamps told PBS Frontline in 1998 that “The evidence is very clear that these were not natural events. Whether they were caused by some direct or deliberate inoculation or not, is the question we have to answer.”
Stamps specifically named the Ebola and Marburg viruses as suspect. Stamps thinks that his country was being used as a testing ground for weaponized Ebola.
“I’m talking about anthrax and cholera in particular, but also a couple of viruses that are not endemic to Zimbabwe [such as] the Ebola type virus and, we think also, the Marburg virus. We wonder whether in fact these are not associated with biological warfare against this country during the hostilities… Ebola was along the line of the Zambezi [River], and I suspect that this may have been an experiment to see if a new virus could be used to directly infect people.”
The Ghanaian Times reported in early September on the recent Ebola outbreak, noting connections between Basson and bioweapons research. The article points out that, “… there are two types of scientists in the world: those who are so concerned about the pain and death caused to humans by illness that they will even sacrifice their own lives to try and cure deadly diseases, and those who will use their scientific skill to kill humans on the orders of… government…”
Indeed, these ideas are not new. Plato wrote over 2,000 years ago in his work The Republic that a ruling elite should guide society, “… whose aim will be to preserve the average of population.” He further stated, “There are many other things which they will have to consider, such as the effects of wars and diseases and any similar agencies, in order as far as this is possible to prevent the State from becoming either too large or too small.”
As revealed by The Age, Nobel prize winning Australian microbiologist Sir Macfarlane Burnet secretly urged the Australian government in 1947 to develop bio weapons for use against the “overpopulated countries of South-East Asia.” In a 1947 meeting with the New Weapons and Equipment Development Committee, the group recommended that “the possibilities of an attack on the food supplies of S-E Asia and Indonesia using B.W. agents should be considered by a small study group.”
This information gives us an interesting perspective on the recent unprecedented Ebola outbreak. Is it an organic natural phenomenon? Did this strain of Ebola accidentally escape from a bioweapons lab? Or, was it deliberately released?
Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.
Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished Royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.
Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”. In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.
Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.
Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric”, a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”
Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the US to spy on everyone. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” the prime minister warned the US ambassador, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.
Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House. … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”
Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were de-coded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally”. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.
Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had long-standing ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, ‘The Crimes of Patriots‘, as, “an elite, invitation-only group… exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige… Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.
When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”. Known as the “coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors – described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.
The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually de-coding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”
On 10 November, 1975, Whitlam was shown a top secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia Division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.
Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA where he was briefed on the “security crisis”.
On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.
In honor of Free Speech Week, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the obvious. Free speech is incredibly, almost unbelievably important, especially in a democracy.
It can also be unpleasant, uncomfortable and even downright offensive. Which can make defending it rather awkward at times.
Let’s take a trip back to Boston during this week in 1923:
Beantown’s Democratic machine boss and chief executive is the flamboyant Mayor James Michael Curley, a felon, rake, and hometown hero. As the Boston Globe put it, he “served four terms as mayor, four terms in Congress, one term as governor, and two terms in jail.”
Another popular political force in those days was the Ku Klux Klan. At its height in the 1920s, it effectively ran several states and would stage rallies seeking support in the rapidly urbanizing northern cities, including Boston, where racial and religious tensions were taut.
Mayor Curley—a hero among the city’s Irish-American working class—saw a campaign issue. On October 23, 1923, while calling himself a “stout stickler for freedom of meeting, speech and press,” he banned peaceful Klan meetings in Boston. In response to a letter from the local ACLU condemning the KKK but strongly defending the group’s right to speak and gather, Curley said, “The Klan cannot expect to shelter itself behind the rights it denies and the guaranties it repudiates.”
The argument has some appeal. Why should we tolerate intolerance, especially by a group as objectionable as the Klan? Consider, however, another move against unpopular speech by the good mayor. In 1925, Mayor Curley banned Margaret Sanger—the birth control activist and founder of Planned Parenthood—from speaking in Boston. In doing so, he lashed out against the ACLU and explicitly linked the Sanger ban to his moves against the KKK.
Having banned the Klan, silencing Sanger was just another step down that road. When you put some lawful speech outside the protection of the First Amendment because it is unpopular or even offensive, speech you like will invariably be lumped in as well. The KKK of the 1920s was a horrific thing. But Mayor Curley proved that progressive social reformers could be painted as equally horrific and their speech just as deserving of suppression.
Fortunately, despite the efforts of Curley and many like him, free speech protections grew muscle in the decades to follow. And support for contraception and similar social reforms started to win in the marketplace of ideas, while the Klan ate dust in the bin of history.
The ACLU continues to support free speech for all precisely because of these historical experiences. We understand that our position will allow some speech that is not just unpopular, but possibly deplorable. But our defense of speech regardless of speaker comes down to a simple truth: once you give the government the ability to silence unpopular speech, no one is safe. Once you start playing favorites with the protections of the First Amendment, you put yourself at the mercy of shifting political whims.
Free speech only for some translates directly into free speech for none.
Fourth part of a documentary produced by Béatrice Pignède, with footage shot by Jonathan Moadab, Sylvia Page, Jean-Sébastien Farez and Saber Farzard. Music by Gilad Atzmon.
Click below for other segments of the documentary:
The data mining company inBloom died, killed off by parent opposition, but the data mining industry is not dead. Far from it. It is growing and metastasizing as investors see new opportunities to profit from the data surreptitiously collected while children are using computers, taking tests online, chatting online, and practicing for state tests online.
According to this article in Model View Culture, investors have poured billions of dollars into new technologies to track students’ movements.
Designed for the “21st century” classroom, these tools promise to remedy the many, many societal ills facing public education with artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining, and other technological advancements.
They are also being used to track and record every move students make in the classroom, grooming students for a lifetime of surveillance and turning education into one of the most data-intensive industries on the face of the earth. The NSA has nothing on the monitoring tools that education technologists have developed in to “personalize” and “adapt” learning for students in public school districts across the United States.
The federal government and the law called FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, passed in 1974) were supposed to prevent invasions of privacy, but the U.S. Department of Education loosened the FERPA regulations in 2011 to make it easier for vendors to data mine. Make no mistake, this is big business. It will not easily be stopped.
“Adaptive”, “personalized” learning platforms are one of the most heavily-funded verticals in education technology. By breaking down learning into a series of tasks, and further distilling those tasks down to a series of clicks that can be measured and analyzed, companies like Knewton (which has raised $105 million in venture capital), or the recently shuttered inBloom (which raised over $100 million from the Gates Foundation) gather immense amounts of information about students into a lengthy profile containing personal information, socioeconomic status and other data that is mined for patterns and insights to improve performance. For students, these clickstreams and data trails begin when they are 5 years old, barely able to read much less type in usernames and passwords required to access their online learning portals.
These developments are alarming. Why should commercial vendors have the right to monitor our every move? Why should the government? This must be stopped, and the successful fight against inBloom proved that it can be stopped. Parents will have to inform themselves and protect their children by demanding legislation that puts an end to the surveillance of their children at school and at home, whenever they are online.
The United States has withheld assurances from Germany that the Ebola virus – among other related diseases – would not be weaponized in the event of Germany exporting it to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
German MFA Deputy Head of Division for Export Control Markus Klinger provided a paper to the US consulate’s Economics Office (Econoff), “seeking additional assurances related to a proposed export of extremely dangerous pathogens.”
Germany subsequently made two follow-up requests and clarifications to the Army, according to the unclassified Wikileaks cable.
“This matter concerns the complete genome of viruses such as the Zaire Ebola virus, the Lake Victoria Marburg virus, the Machupo virus and the Lassa virus, which are absolutely among the most dangerous pathogens in the world,” the request notes.
The Zaire Ebola virus was the same strain of Ebola virus which has been rampaging through West Africa in recent months.
“The delivery would place the recipient in the position of being able to create replicating recombinant infectious species of these viruses,” the cable notes.
However, it also points out that Germany has in place an “exceptionally restrictive policy,” adding that approval would not be granted to the export until US assurance was provided.
“A decision about the export has not yet been made. Given the foregoing, we would appreciate confirmation that the end use certificate really is from the Department of the Army and of the accuracy of the data contained therein,” the document stated.
There is no follow-up document available to confirm whether the US Army eventually provided Germany with the necessary guarantees.
Bioweapons were outlawed in the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and was signed and ratified by 179 signatories, including Germany, the US and Russia.
It dictates that signatories, “under all circumstances the use of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons is effectively prohibited by the Convention” and “the determination of States parties to condemn any use of biological agents or toxins other than for peaceful purposes, by anyone at any time.”
Around this time last year, parliamentary records show, the retired property developer and hugely generous Labour party donor, Sir David Garrard, had given a modest £60,000 towards the party’s election campaign for 2015. It came in addition to around half a million he had already given since 2003.
Fast forward to 16 June of this year, Garrard hosts a Labour Friends of Israel event, at which Labour leader Ed Miliband is the main speaker. The prime minister hopeful had, the year before, proclaimed that he was a Zionist. The lobbying group he addressed boasts dozens of Labour peers and MPs amongst its membership, including the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.
Despite the atrocities being committed as Miliband spoke – a few thousand miles away during “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza, he made not one mention of the Palestinian casualties in his speech, though he did take time to note Israel’s own losses. By that point, 172 Palestinian lives had been taken, and over 1,200 were wounded. The newspapers were in outcry, but from Miliband – performing before his party donors – silence.
That same day, the silence was rewarded. Garrard transferred a whopping £630,000 to the Labour party accounts, over ten times his donation from the previous year.
It was a near identical episode to David Cameron speaking in 2009, back when he too was hoping to take office as prime minister.
At a well-attended Conservative Friends of Israel annual fundraising lunch held in London, he again made no mention of the Palestinian lives that had been lost, this time as part of “Operation Cast Lead”. Not one mention. In that war, 1,370 Palestinians had died. At the time, a leading British journalist wrote: “I found it impossible to reconcile the remarks made by the young Conservative leader with the numerous reports of human rights abuses in Gaza. Afterwards I said as much to some Tory MPs. They looked at me as if I was distressingly naive, drawing my attention to the very large number of Tory donors in the audience.”
No other foreign nation is as well represented in the campaign finances of British elections as Israel. In fact, no other nation comes close – and money linked to pro-Israel donors is a single interest influence akin to that of the trade unions (the largest democratic organisations in the country) or indeed the megabucks flowing in from City financiers.
And with that money, war crimes are being glossed over, rules bent, and our hard-won democracy warped by foreign interests.
The money is already pouring in.
In April, the Conservative Branch for Brigg & Goole, the constituency of Andrew Percy MP, received £6,000 from a notable pro-Israel supporter, Lord Stanley Fink. During the recent conflict, Percy attended an Israeli military briefing about the Iron Dome missile defence system – later glibly observing that “Israel acts as we would” in response to the mass civilian casualties being inflicted by the IDF.
Percy is, like 80 per cent of his colleagues, a member of Conservative Friends of Israel.
On the same day, £3,000 dropped into the bank account of the Conservative party in Harrow East. Their MP, Bob Blackman, also visited Israel during “Operation Protective Edge”. The money also came from Lord Fink.
And the pro-Israel peer pulled off a democracy-warping hat-trick that day – £3,000 for the Conservatives in Brighton & Kemptown, home to Conservative Friends of Israel linked Simon Kirby MP.
Over and above his backing of individual MPs, Lord Fink has also contributed over £60,000 to the Conservative Central Party accounts since July last year, and his total donations to the Conservatives over the years are now nearing £3 million.
Lord Fink is a staunch supporter of Israel – telling the Jewish Chronicle in 2009 that he shared similar views to Lord Michael Levy, Tony Blair’s aide who had close ties with Israeli political leaders. Levy’s son, Daniel, served as an assistant to the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and to Knesset member Yossi Beilin.
Elsewhere, Lord Fink has been a “loyal donor” to Just Journalism, a now defunct group organised by the pro-Israeli Westminster think tank the Henry Jackson Society. Just Journalism claimed to be correcting “media bias” against Israel but instead acted as a pro-Israel “flak” group aggressively criticising any British publication who queried Israel’s human rights record, including the Guardian and the London Review of Books. The group folded in 2011.
Lord Fink is also a member of the Jewish Leadership Council (more on their influence later).
In March, the Conservative Branch in Poplar & Limehouse received £3,000 from another pro-Israel funder – Sir Michael Hintze. Hintze was ranked by Forbes in 2014 as the 1,016th richest person in the world, with a net worth of approximately $1.8 billion.
The constituency he has plugged money into is a swing seat; a six per cent change would depose incumbent Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick (a member of both Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Palestine).
The Conservatives have their own reasons for targeting the seat, using the youthful ex-banker and Tower Hamlets councillor Tim Archer. The Respect party are running George Galloway, and he could split the Labour vote, opening the way for a Conservative win. George Galloway also happens to be the most outspoken critic of Israel in British politics.
British-Australian Hintze is not a man the Conservatives would want to annoy. Since July of last year, he has donated just over £1.5 million to the party (the figure is doubled if you look back to 2002).
Current Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP received nearly £40,000 in 2008 and 2009 directly from Hintze. Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Theresa May MP, David Davis MP and David Willets MP have also been subject to his financial largesse.
But the first politician Hintze backed in the Conservatives was Dr Liam Fox MP, with a £10,000 gift back in January 2007.
Fox then rose to become Secretary of State for Defence, before being disgraced when it was revealed he had allowed his close friend Adam Werrity access to the Ministry of Defence and to travel on official visits (despite not being a government employee).
Hintze was implicated because he had allowed Fox a desk in his London office as part of a £29,000 donation to Fox’s controversial charity – Atlantic Bridge – another pro-Israel lobbying organisation. Hintze served on its Executive Council.
Adam Werrity, who had been best man at Fox’s wedding in 2005, was later appointed UK Executive Director of Atlantic Bridge and played a key role in its operations.
In late 2011, “multiple sources” told the Independent on Sunday that Werrity had used contacts developed through Atlantic Bridge to arrange visits to Iran, meeting with opposition groups in both Washington and London, and had even been debriefed by MI6 about his travels.
The newspaper described the activities as “a freelance foreign policy” with Werrity seemingly “acting as a rogue operator”.
It was also revealed that Werrity was capable of arranging meetings “at the highest levels of the Israeli government”, and that Mossad had, bizarrely, believed Werrity to be Fox’s chief of staff.
The Guardian also raised the possibility that Werrity and Fox could have been operating a “shadow foreign policy,” using Atlantic Bridge as a cover organisation. The charity was investigated by the Charities Commission in 2011 and shut down.
Another patron of Atlantic Bridge, alongside Hintze, was Michael Lewis, ex-chairman of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM).
That lobbying group describes itself as a “British organisation dedicated to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain”. It was reported that Michael Lewis had paid for some of Werrity’s trips to Israel, charges he later denied.
Fox’s resignation was forced over the scandal – although true to Westminster form – no scandal is too much, in fact, he is already back, having politely refused a role as foreign secretary in July but now planning a new career as a backbencher.
Reviewing the Electoral Commission records for 2014, the pro-Israel donor Michael Lewis has popped up again. In March, he wrote another cheque for £10,000, to none other than Liam Fox.
In the past, Lewis has also backed William Hague – to the tune of £5,000. Hague later became foreign secretary.
According to Peter Oborne, now chief political commentator for the Telegraph, Michael Lewis’s baby BICOM is “Britain’s major pro-Israel lobby”.
In a searing expose for Channel 4 in 2009 and later a pamphlet calling for transparency from the Israel lobby, Oborne showed how BICOM was funded by a Finnish billionaire whose father made a fortune selling Israeli arms.
Chaim “Poju” Zabludowicz, who the Sunday Times ranked as the 57th richest individual in Britain with a net worth of over £1.5 billion, founded BICOM in 2001 and is its chairman.
Zabludowicz is also a member of the United Jewish Israel Appeal, a charity whose website claims it has three strands of work – “Supporting Israel”, “Connecting with Israel” and “Engaging with Israel”.
Since 2009, Zabludowicz has given approximately £125,000 to the Conservative party, either directly to party central, or to the party operating in Finchley and Golders Green, Harlow, Watford or Burton.
Zabludowicz is also a member of the Jewish Leadership Council – primarily concerned with philanthropic and educational matters within the British Jewish community, but who in June 2011 also met with the government to discuss the Middle East (BICOM attended the meeting too), and again in January 2012.
The Jewish Leadership Council, whose members also include pro-Israel Tory funders such as Lord Stanley Fink, and Tony Blair’s controversial man in Israel Lord Michael Levy, have taken it upon themselves to vigorously defend Israeli leaders from the principles of universal jurisdiction – which proves a great example of how influential the lobby is ,how intent the lobby is on insulating Israel from legal redress, and exactly why British voters should be wary of how much money the lobby is pumping into our elections.
In a celebratory post in 2011, on their own website, the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) explained that two years ago, they had “commissioned a legal opinion from Lord Pannick QC which recommended a change in the law. We wanted to protect universal jurisdiction itself, a vital innovation that grew out of the Holocaust, while preventing it from being abused.” (“Preventing it from being abused” roughly translates to “being applied to Israel”).
Following an arrest warrant being issued for Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, the group said: “We immediately sent our legal opinion to the government and opposition and worked with Conservative Friends of Israel, Labour Friends of Israel and Liberal Democratic Friends of Israel to begin generating support for this law change.”
“Within a few days, Gordon Brown had publicly promised to change the law as soon as possible,” the JLC bragged.
The Conservative party had already placed an advert in the Jewish Chronicle promising to change the law if they were elected. In 2011, the universal jurisdiction laws of the United Kingdom were changed, with arrest warrants now requiring the assent of the Attorney-General before they could be issued for alleged war criminals.
This was just as the pro-Israel lobby wanted. Rather than facing arrest when visiting the UK, Israeli politicians, generals and other war criminals can now feel assured that warrants would first have to pass through the Attorney-General, who is none other than Jeremy Wright MP, who is of course, another member of Conservative Friends of Israel.
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin — Bonnie Block, Jim Murphy, Lars and Patty Prip, Mary Beth Schlagheck, and I were at Rest Area 10 along I- 90/94, about 5 miles south of Mauston, from 10:00 am – noon on Thursday October 9, 2014. We had a model drone and a stack of flyers “6 Things You Should Know About Drones” to help us in reaching the public and so they can learn more about what is going on just up the road at Volk Field Air National Guard Base. We were there in solidarity with others around the country as part of “Keep Space for Peace Week” and global days of actions against drones sponsored by Code Pink, Know Drones, and other groups.
We chose to leaflet at this particular rest area because it is the closest one to Volk Field Air National Guard Base, about 20 miles south of the base. We, as Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, have been vigiling outside the gates of Volk Field for almost three years, protesting the training there of pilots who operate the Shadow Drones. We are at the base with our signs every 4th Tuesday of the month from 3:30-4:30. At 4:00 pm around 100 cars leave the base and drive right past us and so we have a lot of exposure.
Jim has been urging us to try leafleting at the rest area for a couple of years and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for public education. We were able to connect with a real cross-section of middle America and we had a chance to hand out our leaflets and talk to people about what is going on at Volk Field, as well as in the drone wars overseas. A fair number of people were very supportive and engaged with us. Quite a few seemed like they did not have a lot of feelings about drone warfare one way or the other. There were a small number of people who were very unhappy to see us there and let loose with some pretty unfriendly language.
Shortly after we arrived at the rest area and began setting up the drone, the manager of the rest area came out and told us we would have to pack up and leave. We said we were on public property and that we planned to stay there until noon. We also told her that we would not block anyone or act threatening, and we gave her a flyer. She became upset and angry when we told her this and she said that if we didn’t leave she would have to call the State Patrol and she didn’t think that we would want it to go that far. We responded that we would like her to call the State Patrol because we knew we had the right to be there. She left in a huff.
It was 15 minutes or so before a plain clothes officer dressed in a suit with a neat crew cut and a badge around his neck approached us. He said that he had been told there was a disturbance, and he asked us if there was a disturbance. Jim responded by asking if it looked like there was a disturbance. The officer angrily replied that he would be asking the questions and we would answer.
We explained to him what we were doing, that we were on public property and it was our constitutional right to be there. We told him we were not blocking anyone and if they didn’t want a flyer we didn’t push it.
At that point a uniformed State Patrol officer arrived at the scene. The officer we were talking to said that the uniformed officer would be taking over. After the two of them talked for several minutes, the uniformed officer came over and we told him what we were doing. He told us that some people might not appreciate our position, and he said that if they started saying things we didn’t like we should turn the other cheek. We told him we practice nonviolence and are good at de-escalating those kinds of situations. He told us to have a good day and walked away. It felt like this was a small win for us. It is not often that the police are called and they end up telling us to go ahead and keep doing what we are doing.
Several minutes later a Juneau County Sheriff car pulled into the rest area and parked. He didn’t talk to us, but spent several minutes talking to someone in an unmarked police car before they both drove away. Citizen activism seemed to have won out for the day.
I want to relate a story about one man I talked to. As I handed him a leaflet, he said he was supportive of what we are doing. But, he said, his grandson was in the military and operated a camera for the drones and he didn’t kill children. (One of our signs said “Drones Kill Children”.) I replied that there are many innocent people, including many children, who are being killed by drone attacks in countries overseas. He said again that his grandson didn’t kill children. I told him that we had a list of names of many of the children who have been killed. He said again that his grandson was a family man with four children and he wouldn’t kill children. He added that he had been a nurse assisting in surgery with children for many years and he knew what it was like for traumatized children and his grandson would not kill children.
This story really illustrates the disconnect and denial going on in our society, about how much we want to believe that we are the good guys, that we wouldn’t hurt others. Yet, people are dying all around the world as a result of our government’s policies. It seems like there are not enough people speaking out against what is going on because so many people refuse to really look at the death and destruction our military is leaving all around the globe. It is so much easier to close our eyes. I think this was a genuinely good man that I talked to, and there are so many good people like him. How do we get these good people to wake up and join the fight, to be able to admit to and take responsibility for the horrors that our government, and we, are perpetrating around the world?
All six of us who were there felt like it was a successful venture and we all agreed that we need to go back to the rest area where we can reach people who would otherwise not be reached. It is impossible to know what kind of impact we may have had, but we are hopeful that we touched a few people.
Please consider rest areas near you as a possible place for demonstrations. We no longer have town squares. It is illegal, at least in Wisconsin, to protest at shopping malls because they are privately owned. It is not always easy to find a public space where there are a lot people, but this was a good test today and we discovered that the police will not try to prevent us from demonstrating at a rest area in Wisconsin. But then again, who knows what may happen the next time. All I know for sure is that we will be back.