Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Second Wave Cometh

Global financial markets are “fragile” and indicators of systemic risk remain “elevated” almost a year into the credit crisis, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday.

The fund warned credit growth in the US could fall further as a result of ongoing financial system stress and warned that emerging markets would be tested as global financing conditions tighten and policymakers grapple with rising inflation.

The IMF also noted that house prices had softened in a number of European economies including the UK, raising the possibility of further problems in those markets.

The assessment came in the July update to the Global Financial Stability Report, led by former Bank of Spain governor Jaime Caruana.

The IMF said that while likely losses on US subprime mortgages have “largely been acknowledged” in the form of writedowns, financial institutions faced a second wave of losses on other loans.

Credit quality “across many loan classes has begun to deteriorate with declining house prices and slowing economic growth.”

The Fund said bank balance sheets were under “renewed stress” and that the decline in bank share prices had made it more difficult for them to raise new capital.

This “increased the likelihood of a negative interaction between banking system adjustment and the real economy.”

With mounting inflationary pressure, the Fund added: “Policy trade-offs between inflation, growth and financial stability are becoming increasingly important.”

The IMF reaffirmed its controversial earlier estimate that total losses in this cycle could total $945bn – a number that combines mark-to-market losses on subprime-related securities and estimates of likely losses on loans.

Relative to April, when the Fund published its last GFSR, it said “systemic strains in funding markets continue” and the “low level of risk appetite remains unchanged.”

Interbank lending rates “remain elevated” while “long term funding costs have risen” for financial institutions.

The IMF said financial institutions globally have written off about $400bn since the crisis began last August, and that while they had raised substantial amounts of capital, the losses “exceeded capital raised.”

Banks also faced problems maintaining their earnings, weakening stock prices, and making it more difficult to raise further capital.

The Fund said that policy interventions – mostly by the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve – had so far succeeded in containing systemic risk.

But it said the “nature of resolution strategies and the extent of support have come into sharper focus” in recent months – a polite way of saying that the authorities in the US in particular have had to intervene further to preserve financial stability.

It in effect endorsed the need for the US to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the short term – saying their failure would have systemic consequences – but said “the policy challenge now is to find a clear and permanent solution” for the troubled government-sponsored mortgage groups.

The US Treasury has tried to deal with the immediate threat to Fannie and Freddie, while postponing discussion of their long term futures to a later date.

Source - Financial Times

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Food Additives

People spend a significant percentage of their food budget on processed foods, which contain a staggering number of artificial food additives, preservatives, colors and flavor enhancers. It’s virtually impossible to identify them all and ascertain their true impact on your health.

However, some we know more about than others. For example, there’s a substantial body of evidence backing up the claim that refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and MSG have a radically negative impact on your body.

As you may know, I wrote an entire book just on artificial sweeteners, called Sweet Deception.

Another recent article addressed other hazardous food additives that should be avoided, such as:

* Sodium nitrate
* Sodium Benzoate
* BHA and BHT
* Propyl gallate
* Trans fats
* Acesulfame-K
* Food dyes
* Olestra
* Potassium Bromate

Food Dyes and Preservatives That Make You See Red

The issue of whether or not food additives such as artificial colors contribute to behavioral problems in children has been disputed for many years. However, the tide is finally turning.

A carefully designed, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal The Lancet last year concluded that a variety of common food dyes, and the preservative sodium benzoate – found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings – do cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible.

The study also found that the E-numbered food dyes do as much damage to children's brains as lead in gasoline, resulting in a significant reduction in IQ.

The results of this study have prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue an immediate advisory to parents, warning them to limit their children's intake of additives if they notice an effect on behavior. They’re also advising the food industry to voluntarily remove the six food dyes named in the study by the end of 2009, and replace them with natural alternatives if possible.

The U.S., however, has not followed suit in issuing any similar warnings to American parents.

Beware of Banned Food Additives in Children’s Medicines Too!

Another thing you need to be aware of, as a parent, is that when an ingredient is banned for use in food, it is not automatically banned for use in other areas such as medicine. According to an expose’ by the British Food Commission last year, food additives that have already been banned for use in food and beverages are still used in a majority of pediatric over-the-counter medicines.

Their survey found that ALL BUT ONE medicine out of 41 contained an additive that had been banned.

The additives found in these drugs included:

* Synthetic azo dyes
* Maltitol and sorbitol
* Benzoate and sulphite preservatives
* Chloroform

This is just one more reason why it’s so important to question what your doctor or any other health professional may prescribe or recommend for your child, no matter what side of the counter it comes from, as many pediatric drugs can certainly be harmful, if not downright toxic to your child’s health.

The Bitter Impact of Added MSG

MSG is used in countless foods in your supermarket, local restaurants, school cafeterias, and more. Everything from soup to crackers to meats may contain it because MSG, as dangerous as it is, makes food taste good and it is dirt cheap, just like sugar.

There are a couple of main reasons why MSG is one of the worst food additives on the market. First, as Dr. Blaylock explains in his book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, MSG is an excitotoxin, which means that it acts as a poison that overexcites your cells to the point of serious damage. MSG is non-discriminatory in its destructive path and can cause serious side effects throughout your bodily systems, including:

* Cardiac
* Circulatory
* Gastrointestinal
* Muscular
* Neurological
* Visual
* Respiratory
* Urological/genital
* Skin

Other studies have confirmed that early exposure to MSG and other excitotoxins can destroy neurons in a crucial part of your brain, which can lead to gross obesity.

The second part of the equation is that MSG can be literally hidden in food labels, under names like broth, casein, hydrolyzed, autolyzed, natural flavors, and more, making it extremely difficult to identify. has done a good job trying to uncover the many hidden references that MSG can hide beneath.

Incredibly, even infant formulas and baby food contain this poison, even though babies and infants, who are four times more sensitive than adults to the toxic effects of this chemical, are the most at risk.

In the 1970’s, food processors "voluntarily" took processed free glutamic acid (MSG) out of baby food. But that didn’t mean it was entirely removed. It was merely hidden deeper.

According to Dr. Blaylock’s Wellness Report, a 1995 review of MSG toxicity by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) concluded that infant formula contained a dose of glutamate (the toxic ingredient in MSG) in the form of caseinate (cow’s milk protein) that can produce the very same brain injury seen in experimental animals.

MSG also finds its way into baby food in the form of fertilizers called "Omega Protein Refined/Hydrolyzed Fish Emulsion" or "Steam Hydrolyzed Feather Meal," both of which contain hydrolyzed proteins.

Battle Against MSG Goes Sour as Fresh Produce May be Tainted as Well

The use of MSG in food manufacturing and processing is so pervasive, they’ve even found a way to use it on fresh produce. A product called AuxiGro WP Plant Metabolic Primer (AuxiGro), produced by Emerald BioAgriculture (previously Auxein Corporation) contains both hydrolyzed protein(s) and about 29 percent monosodium glutamate.

AuxiGro is used as a desiccant, disinfectant, fertilizer, fungicide, and growth regulator to increase yield and prevent powdery mildew in various crops. It’s a “Metabolic Primer” that increases plant productivity by priming plant metabolic pathways associated with growth, plant disease resistance, flowering, and “quality characteristics” of the produce.

Despite a fervent online search, finding in-depth information on this product proved to be profoundly aggravating, as virtually all official links related to it were mysteriously broken… However, it wasn’t entirely fruitless. According to, AuxiGro has been sprayed on fruits, vegetables and nuts for at least a decade.

On September 12, 2000, the Auxein Corporation Web site gave the following information about its use:

Crops registered include: Celery; Fresh Market Cucumbers; Edible Navy and Pinto Beans; Grapes; Bulb Onions; Bell, Green and Jalapeno Peppers; Iceberg Head Lettuce; Romaine and Butter Leaf Lettuce; Peanuts; Potatoes; Snap Beans; Strawberries; Processing Tomatoes; Fresh Tomatoes; and Watermelons.

As of 2002, AuxiGro was registered for use in California on tomatoes, almonds, apricots, cherries, plums, nectarines, peaches, prunes, grapes (including grapes to be used in wine), and onions. And in 2004 they requested approval to add cole crops (including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collards, turnips, rutabaga, mustard, watercress, and kohlrabi) to the list of crops approved for AuxiGro use.

Today, there is no known commercial crop that has not been approved for treatment with MSG by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Emerald BioAgriculture have also requested approval to use AuxiGro on ORGANIC CROPS, in all states. It does not appear as though their request for use on organic crops has ever been approved, per se. However, MSG-containing ingredients are not specified on the National Organic Program’s list of prohibited substances either, so it’s difficult to discern whether or not it’s being used in some organic farming as well.

To be on the safe side, I recommend purchasing your produce locally from organic farmers, and simply ask them if they use AuxiGro on their crops.

Behavior Modification Through Diet

Just as Dr. Blaylock recommends, an anti-hypoglycemic diet is your best bet when dealing with behavioral problems in children, as well as for the prevention of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Here are my best recommendations:

* Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fresh, locally-grown organic vegetables and fruits
* Take a high quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil or fish oil
* Avoid refined sugar
* Avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
* Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners
* Limit MSG intake by avoiding most processed foods

Source - Mercola

Saturday, July 26, 2008


USA - Police State

The last several years have brought a parade of dark revelations about the George W. Bush administration, from the manipulation of intelligence to torture to extrajudicial spying inside the United States. But there are growing indications that these known abuses of power may only be the tip of the iceberg. Now, in the twilight of the Bush presidency, a movement is stirring in Washington for a sweeping new inquiry into White House malfeasance that would be modeled after the famous Church Committee congressional investigation of the 1970s.

While reporting on domestic surveillance under Bush, Salon obtained a detailed memo proposing such an inquiry, and spoke with several sources involved in recent discussions around it on Capitol Hill. The memo was written by a former senior member of the original Church Committee; the discussions have included aides to top House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, and until now have not been disclosed publicly.

Salon has also uncovered further indications of far-reaching and possibly illegal surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency inside the United States under President Bush. That includes the alleged use of a top-secret, sophisticated database system for monitoring people considered to be a threat to national security. It also includes signs of the NSA’s working closely with other U.S. government agencies to track financial transactions domestically as well as globally.

The proposal for a Church Committee-style investigation emerged from talks between civil liberties advocates and aides to Democratic leaders in Congress, according to sources involved. (Pelosi’s and Conyers’ offices both declined to comment.) Looking forward to 2009, when both Congress and the White House may well be controlled by Democrats, the idea is to have Congress appoint an investigative body to discover the full extent of what the Bush White House did in the war on terror to undermine the Constitution and U.S. and international laws. The goal would be to implement government reforms aimed at preventing future abuses — and perhaps to bring accountability for wrongdoing by Bush officials.

“If we know this much about torture, rendition, secret prisons and warrantless wiretapping despite the administration’s attempts to stonewall, then imagine what we don’t know,” says a senior Democratic congressional aide who is familiar with the proposal and has been involved in several high-profile congressional investigations.

“You have to go back to the McCarthy era to find this level of abuse,” says Barry Steinhardt, the director of the Program on Technology and Liberty for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Because the Bush administration has been so opaque, we don’t know [the extent of] what laws have been violated.”

The parameters for an investigation were outlined in a seven-page memo, written after the former member of the Church Committee met for discussions with the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Common Cause and other watchdog groups. Key issues to investigate, those involved say, would include the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance activities; the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of extraordinary rendition and torture against terrorist suspects; and the U.S. government’s extensive use of military assets — including satellites, Pentagon intelligence agencies and U2 surveillance planes — for a vast spying apparatus that could be used against the American people.

Specifically, the ACLU and other groups want to know how the NSA’s use of databases and data mining may have meshed with other domestic intelligence activities, such as the U.S. government’s extensive use of no-fly lists and the Treasury Department’s list of “specially designated global terrorists” to identify potential suspects. As of mid-July, says Steinhardt, the no-fly list includes more than 1 million records corresponding to more than 400,000 names. If those people really represent terrorist threats, he says, “our cities would be ablaze.” A deeper investigation into intelligence abuses should focus on how these lists feed on each other, Steinhardt says, as well as the government’s “inexorable trend towards treating everyone as a suspect.”

“It’s not just the ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program,’” agrees Gregory T. Nojeim from the Center for Democracy and Technology, referring to the Bush administration’s misleading name for the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. “We need a broad investigation on the way all the moving parts fit together. It seems like we’re always looking at little chunks and missing the big picture.”

A prime area of inquiry for a sweeping new investigation would be the Bush administration’s alleged use of a top-secret database to guide its domestic surveillance. Dating back to the 1980s and known to government insiders as “Main Core,” the database reportedly collects and stores — without warrants or court orders — the names and detailed data of Americans considered to be threats to national security.

According to several former U.S. government officials with extensive knowledge of intelligence operations, Main Core in its current incarnation apparently contains a vast amount of personal data on Americans, including NSA intercepts of bank and credit card transactions and the results of surveillance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies. One former intelligence official described Main Core as “an emergency internal security database system” designed for use by the military in the event of a national catastrophe, a suspension of the Constitution or the imposition of martial law. Its name, he says, is derived from the fact that it contains “copies of the ‘main core’ or essence of each item of intelligence information on Americans produced by the FBI and the other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community.”

Some of the former U.S. officials interviewed, although they have no direct knowledge of the issue, said they believe that Main Core may have been used by the NSA to determine who to spy on in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Moreover, the NSA’s use of the database, they say, may have triggered the now-famous March 2004 confrontation between the White House and the Justice Department that nearly led Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI director William Mueller and other top Justice officials to resign en masse.

The Justice Department officials who objected to the legal basis for the surveillance program — former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey and Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel — testified before Congress last year about the 2004 showdown with the White House. Although they refused to discuss the highly classified details behind their concerns, the New York Times later reported that they were objecting to a program that “involved computer searches through massive electronic databases” containing “records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans.”

According to William Hamilton, a former NSA intelligence officer who left the agency in the 1970s, that description sounded a lot like Main Core, which he first heard about in detail in 1992. Hamilton, who is the president of Inslaw Inc., a computer services firm with many clients in government and the private sector, says there are strong indications that the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance operations use Main Core.

Hamilton’s company Inslaw is widely respected in the law enforcement community for creating a program called the Prosecutors’ Management Information System, or PROMIS. It keeps track of criminal investigations through a powerful search engine that can quickly access all stored data components of a case, from the name of the initial investigators to the telephone numbers of key suspects. PROMIS, also widely used in the insurance industry, can also sort through other databases fast, with results showing up almost instantly. “It operates just like Google,” Hamilton told me in an interview in his Washington office in May.

Since the late 1980s, Inslaw has been involved in a legal dispute over its claim that Justice Department officials in the Reagan administration appropriated the PROMIS software. Hamilton claims that Reagan officials gave PROMIS to the NSA and the CIA, which then adapted the software — and its outstanding ability to search other databases — to manage intelligence operations and track financial transactions. Over the years, Hamilton has employed prominent lawyers to pursue the case, including Elliot Richardson, the former attorney general and secretary of defense who died in 1999, and C. Boyden Gray, the former White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush. The dispute has never been settled. But based on the long-running case, Hamilton says he believes U.S. intelligence uses PROMIS as the primary software for searching the Main Core database.

Hamilton was first told about the connection between PROMIS and Main Core in the spring of 1992 by a U.S. intelligence official, and again in 1995 by a former NSA official. In July 2001, Hamilton says, he discussed his case with retired Adm. Dan Murphy, a former military advisor to Elliot Richardson who later served under President George H.W. Bush as deputy director of the CIA. Murphy, who died shortly after his meeting with Hamilton, did not specifically mention Main Core. But he informed Hamilton that the NSA’s use of PROMIS involved something “so seriously wrong that money alone cannot cure the problem,” Hamilton told me. He added, “I believe in retrospect that Murphy was alluding to Main Core.” Hamilton also provided copies of letters that Richardson and Gray sent to U.S. intelligence officials and the Justice Department on Inslaw’s behalf alleging that the NSA and the CIA had appropriated PROMIS for intelligence use.

Hamilton says James B. Comey’s congressional testimony in May 2007, in which he described a hospitalized John Ashcroft’s dramatic standoff with senior Bush officials Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, was another illuminating moment. “It was then that we [at Inslaw] started hearing again about the Main Core derivative of PROMIS for spying on Americans,” he told me.

Through a former senior Justice Department official with more than 25 years of government experience, Salon has learned of a high-level former national security official who reportedly has firsthand knowledge of the U.S. government’s use of Main Core. The official worked as a senior intelligence analyst for a large domestic law enforcement agency inside the Bush White House. He would not agree to an interview. But according to the former Justice Department official, the former intelligence analyst told her that while stationed at the White House after the 9/11 attacks, one day he accidentally walked into a restricted room and came across a computer system that was logged on to what he recognized to be the Main Core database. When she mentioned the specific name of the top-secret system during their conversation, she recalled, “he turned white as a sheet.”

An article in Radar magazine in May, citing three unnamed former government officials, reported that “8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect” and, in the event of a national emergency, “could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and even detention.”

The alleged use of Main Core by the Bush administration for surveillance, if confirmed to be true, would indicate a much deeper level of secretive government intrusion into Americans’ lives than has been previously known. With respect to civil liberties, says the ACLU’s Steinhardt, it would be “pretty frightening stuff.”

The Inslaw case also points to what may be an extensive role played by the NSA in financial spying inside the United States. According to reports over the years in the U.S. and foreign press, Inslaw’s PROMIS software was embedded surreptitiously in systems sold to foreign and global banks as a way to give the NSA secret “backdoor” access to the electronic flow of money around the world.

In May, I interviewed Norman Bailey, a private financial consultant with years of government intelligence experience dating from the George W. Bush administration back to the Reagan administration. According to Bailey — who from 2006 to 2007 headed a special unit within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on financial intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela — the NSA has been using its vast powers with signals intelligence to track financial transactions around the world since the early 1980s.

From 1982 to 1984, Bailey ran a top-secret program for President Reagan’s National Security Council, called “Follow the Money,” that used NSA signals intelligence to track loans from Western banks to the Soviet Union and its allies. PROMIS, he told me, was “the principal software element” used by the NSA and the Treasury Department then in their electronic surveillance programs tracking financial flows to the Soviet bloc, organized crime and terrorist groups. His admission is the first public acknowledgement by a former U.S. intelligence official that the NSA used the PROMIS software.

According to Bailey, the Reagan program marked a significant shift in resources from human spying to electronic surveillance, as a way to track money flows to suspected criminals and American enemies. “That was the beginning of the whole process,” he said.

After 9/11, this capability was instantly seen within the U.S. government as a critical tool in the war on terror — and apparently was deployed by the Bush administration inside the United States, in cases involving alleged terrorist supporters. One such case was that of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Oregon, which was accused of having terrorist ties after the NSA, at the request of the Treasury Department, eavesdropped on the phone calls of Al-Haramain officials and their American lawyers. The charges against Al-Haramain were based primarily on secret evidence that the Bush administration refused to disclose in legal proceedings; Al-Haramain’s lawyers argued in a lawsuit that was a violation of the defendants’ due process rights.

According to Bailey, the NSA also likely would have used its technological capabilities to track the charity’s financial activity. “The vast majority of financial movements of any significance take place electronically, so intercepts have become an extremely important element” in intelligence, he explained. “If the government suspects that a particular Muslim charitable organization is engaged in collecting funds to funnel to terrorists, the NSA would be asked to follow the money going into and out of the bank accounts of that charity.” (The now-defunct Al-Haramain Foundation, although affiliated with a Saudi Arabian-based global charity, was founded and based in Ashland, Ore.)

The use of a powerful database and extensive watch lists, Bailey said, would make the NSA’s job much easier. “The biggest problems with intercepts, quite frankly, is that the volumes of data, daily or even by the hour, are gigantic,” he said. “Unless you have a very precise idea of what it is you’re looking for, the NSA people or their counterparts [overseas] will just throw up their hands and say ‘forget it.’” Regarding domestic surveillance, Bailey said there’s a “whole gray area where the initiation of the transaction was in the United States and the final destination was outside, or vice versa. That’s something for the lawyers to figure out.”

Bailey’s information on the evolution of the Reagan intelligence program appears to corroborate and clarify an article published in March in the Wall Street Journal, which reported that the NSA was conducting domestic surveillance using “an ad-hoc collection of so-called ‘black programs’ whose existence is undisclosed.” Some of these programs began “years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach.” Among them, the article said, are a joint NSA-Treasury database on financial transactions that dates back “about 15 years” to 1993. That’s not quite right, Bailey clarified: “It started in the early ’80s, at least 10 years before.”

Main Core may be the contemporary incarnation of a government watch list system that was part of a highly classified “Continuity of Government” program created by the Reagan administration to keep the U.S. government functioning in the event of a nuclear attack. Under a 1982 presidential directive, the outbreak of war could trigger the proclamation of martial law nationwide, giving the military the authority to use its domestic database to round up citizens and residents considered to be threats to national security. The emergency measures for domestic security were to be carried out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army.

In the late 1980s, reports about a domestic database linked to FEMA and the Continuity of Government program began to appear in the press. For example, in 1986 the Austin American-Statesman uncovered evidence of a large database that authorities were proposing to use to intern Latino dissidents and refugees during a national emergency that might follow a potential U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. During the Iran-Contra congressional hearings in 1987, questions to Reagan aide Oliver North about the database were ruled out of order by the committee chairman, Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, because of the “highly sensitive and classified” nature of FEMA’s domestic security operations.

In September 2001, according to “The Rise of the Vulcans,” a 2004 book on Bush’s war cabinet by James Mann, a contemporary version of the Continuity of Government program was put into play in the hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Vice President Cheney and senior members of Congress were dispersed to “undisclosed locations” to maintain government functions. It was during this emergency period, Hamilton and other former government officials believe, that President Bush may have authorized the NSA to begin actively using the Main Core database for domestic surveillance. One indicator they cite is a statement by Bush in December 2005, after the New York Times had revealed the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping, in which he made a rare reference to the emergency program: The Justice Department’s legal reviews of the NSA activity, Bush said, were based on “fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government.”

It is noteworthy that two key players on Bush’s national security team, Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington, have been involved in the Continuity of Government program since its inception. Along with Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s first secretary of defense, both men took part in simulated drills for the program during the 1980s and early 1990s. Addington’s role was disclosed in “The Dark Side,” a book published this month about the Bush administration’s war on terror by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer. In the book, Mayer calls Addington “the father of the [NSA] eavesdropping program,” and reports that he was the key figure involved in the 2004 dispute between the White House and the Justice Department over the legality of the program. That would seem to make him a prime witness for a broader investigation.

Getting a full picture on Bush’s intelligence programs, however, will almost certainly require any sweeping new investigation to have a scope that would inoculate it against charges of partisanship. During one recent discussion on Capitol Hill, according to a participant, a senior aide to Speaker Pelosi was asked for Pelosi’s views on a proposal to expand the investigation to past administrations, including those of Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. “The question was, how far back in time would we have to go to make this credible?” the participant in the meeting recalled.

That question was answered in the seven-page memo. “The rise of the ’surveillance state’ driven by new technologies and the demands of counter-terrorism did not begin with this Administration,” the author wrote. Even though he acknowledged in interviews with Salon that the scope of abuse under George W. Bush would likely be an order of magnitude greater than under preceding presidents, he recommended in the memo that any new investigation follow the precedent of the Church Committee and investigate the origins of Bush’s programs, going as far back as the Reagan administration.

The proposal has emerged in a political climate reminiscent of the Watergate era. The Church Committee was formed in 1975 in the wake of media reports about illegal spying against American antiwar activists and civil rights leaders, CIA assassination squads, and other dubious activities under Nixon and his predecessors. Chaired by Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, the committee interviewed more than 800 officials and held 21 public hearings. As a result of its work, Congress in 1978 passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required warrants and court supervision for domestic wiretaps, and created intelligence oversight committees in the House and Senate.

So far, no lawmaker has openly endorsed a proposal for a new Church Committee-style investigation. A spokesman for Pelosi declined to say whether Pelosi herself would be in favor of a broader probe into U.S. intelligence. On the Senate side, the most logical supporters for a broader probe would be Democratic senators such as Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who led the failed fight against the recent Bush-backed changes to FISA. (Both Feingold and Leahy’s offices declined to comment on a broader intelligence inquiry.)

The Democrats’ reticence on such action ultimately may be rooted in congressional complicity with the Bush administration’s intelligence policies. Many of the war on terror programs, including the NSA’s warrantless surveillance and the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” were cleared with key congressional Democrats, including Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Rockefeller, and former House Intelligence chairwoman Jane Harman, among others.

The discussions about a broad investigation were jump-started among civil liberties advocates this spring, when it became clear that the Democrats didn’t have the votes to oppose the Bush-backed bill updating FISA. The new legislation could prevent the full story of the NSA surveillance programs from ever being uncovered; it included retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that may have violated FISA by collaborating with the NSA on warrantless wiretapping. Opponents of Bush’s policies were further angered when Democratic leaders stripped from their competing FISA bill a provision that would have established a national commission to investigate post-9/11 surveillance programs.

The next president obviously would play a key role in any decision to investigate intelligence abuses. Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate, is running as a champion of Bush’s national security policies and would be unlikely to embrace an investigation that would, foremost, embarrass his own party. (Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s spokesman on national security, declined to comment.)

Some see a brighter prospect in Barack Obama, should he be elected. The plus with Obama, says the former Church Committee staffer, is that as a proponent of open government, he could order the executive branch to be more cooperative with Congress, rolling back the obsessive secrecy and stonewalling of the Bush White House. That could open the door to greater congressional scrutiny and oversight of the intelligence community, since the legislative branch lacked any real teeth under Bush. (Obama’s spokesman on national security, Ben Rhodes, did not reply to telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment.)

But even that may be a lofty hope. “It may be the last thing a new president would want to do,” said a participant in the ongoing discussions. Unfortunately, he said, “some people see the Church Committee ideas as a substitute for prosecutions that should already have happened.”

Source - Salon

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Ban Chemotherapy

Former White House press secretary Tony Snow died in July 2008 at the age of 53, following a series of chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer. In 2005, Snow had his colon removed and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Two years later (2007), Snow underwent surgery to remove a growth in his abdominal area, near the site of the original cancer. "This is a very treatable condition," said Dr. Allyson Ocean, a gastrointestinal oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical College. "Many patients, because of the therapies we have, are able to work and live full lives with quality while they're being treated. Anyone who looks at this as a death sentence is wrong." But of course we now know, Dr. Ocean was dead wrong.

The media headlines proclaimed Snow died from colon cancer, although they knew he didn't have a colon anymore. Apparently, the malignant cancer had "returned" (from where?) and "spread" to the liver and elsewhere in his body. In actual fact, the colon surgery severely restricted his normal eliminative functions, thereby overburdening the liver and tissue fluids with toxic waste. The previous series of chemo-treatments inflamed and irreversibly damaged a large number of cells in his body, and also impaired his immune system -- a perfect recipe for growing new cancers. Now unable to heal the causes of the original cancer (in addition to the newly created ones), Snow's body developed new cancers in the liver and other parts of the body.

The mainstream media, of course, still insist Snow died from colon cancer, thus perpetuating the myth that it is only the cancer that kills people, not the treatment. Nobody seems to raise the important point that it is extremely difficult for a cancer patient to actually heal from this condition while being subjected to the systemic poisons of chemotherapy and deadly radiation. If you are bitten by a poisonous snake and don't get an antidote for it, isn't it likely that your body becomes overwhelmed by the poison and, therefore, cannot function anymore?

Before Tony Snow began his chemo-treatments for his second colon cancer, he still looked healthy and strong. But after a few weeks into his treatment, he started to develop a coarse voice, looked frail, turned gray and lost his hair. Did the cancer do all this to him? Certainly not. Cancer doesn't do such a thing, but chemical poisoning does. He actually looked more ill than someone who has been bitten by a poisonous snake.

Does the mainstream media ever report about the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows chemotherapy has zero benefits in the five-year survival rate of colon cancer patients? Or how many oncologists stand up for their cancer patients and protect them against chemotherapy treatment which they very well know can cause them to die far more quickly than if they received no treatment at all? Can you trustingly place your life into their hands when you know that most of them would not even consider chemotherapy for themselves if they were diagnosed with cancer? What do they know that you don't? The news is spreading fast that in the United States physician-caused fatalities now exceed 750,000 each year. Perhaps, many doctors no longer trust in what they practice, for good reasons.

"Most cancer patients in this country die of chemotherapy... Chemotherapy does not eliminate breast, colon or lung cancers. This fact has been documented for over a decade. Yet doctors still use chemotherapy for these tumors... Women with breast cancer are likely to die faster with chemo than without it." - Alan Levin, M.D.

An investigation by the Department of Radiation Oncology, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Australia, into the contribution of chemotherapy to 5-year survival in 22 major adult malignancies, showed startling results: The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA." [Royal North Shore Hospital Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 2005 Jun;17(4):294.]

The research covered data from the Cancer Registry in Australia and the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results in the USA for the year 1998. The current 5-year relative adult survival rate for cancer in Australia is over 60%, and no less than that in the USA. By comparison, a mere 2.3% contribution of chemotherapy to cancer survival does not justify the massive expense involved and the tremendous suffering patients experience because of severe, toxic side effects resulting from this treatment. With a meager success rate of 2.3%, selling chemotherapy as a medical treatment (instead of a scam), is one of the greatest fraudulent acts ever committed. The average chemotherapy earns the medical establishment a whopping $300,000 to $1,000,000 each year, and has so far earned those who promote this pseudo-medication (poison) over 1 trillion dollars. It's no surprise that the medical establishment tries to keep this scam alive for as long as possible.

In 1990, the highly respected German epidemiologist, Dr. Ulrich Abel from the Tumor Clinic of the University of Heidelberg, conducted the most comprehensive investigation of every major clinical study on chemotherapy drugs ever done. Abel contacted 350 medical centers and asked them to send him anything they had ever published on chemotherapy. He also reviewed and analyzed thousands of scientific articles published in the most prestigious medical journals. It took Abel several years to collect and evaluate the data. Abel's epidemiological study, which was published on August 10, 1991 in The Lancet, should have alerted every doctor and cancer patient about the risks of one of the most common treatments used for cancer and other diseases. In his paper, Abel came to the conclusion that the overall success rate of chemotherapy was "appalling." According to this report, there was no scientific evidence available in any existing study to show that chemotherapy can "extend in any appreciable way the lives of patients suffering from the most common organic cancers."

Abel points out that chemotherapy rarely improves the quality of life. He describes chemotherapy as "a scientific wasteland" and states that even though there is no scientific evidence that chemotherapy works, neither doctor nor patient is willing to give up on it. The mainstream media has never reported on this hugely important study, which is hardly surprising, given the enormous vested interests of the groups that sponsor the media, that is, the pharmaceutical companies. A recent search turned up exactly zero reviews of Abel's work in American journals, even though it was published in 1990. I believe this is not because his work was unimportant -- but because it is irrefutable.

The truth of the matter would be far too costly for the pharmaceutical industry to bear, thus making it unacceptable. If the mass media reported the truth that medical drugs, including chemotherapy drugs, are used to practically commit genocide in the U.S. and the world, their best sponsors (the pharmaceutical companies) would have to withdraw their misleading advertisements from the television media, radio stations, magazines, and newspapers. But neither group wants to go bankrupt.

Many doctors go as far as prescribing chemotherapy drugs to patients for malignancies that are far too advanced for surgery, with the full knowledge that there are no benefits at all. Yet they claim chemotherapy to be an effective cancer treatment, and their unsuspecting patients believe that "effective" equals "cure." The doctors, of course, refer to the FDA's definition of an "effective" drug, one which achieves a 50% or more reduction in tumor size for 28 days. They neglect to tell their patients that there is no correlation whatsoever between shrinking tumors for 28 days and curing the cancer or extending life. Temporary tumor shrinkage through chemotherapy has never been shown to cure cancer or to extend life. In other words, you can live with an untreated tumor for just as long as you would with one that has been shrunken or been eliminated by chemotherapy (or radiation).

Chemotherapy has never been shown to have curative effects for cancer. By contrast, the body can still cure itself, which it actually tries to do by developing cancer. Cancer is more a healing response than it is a disease. The "disease" is the body's attempt to cure itself of an existing imbalance. And sometimes, this healing response continues even if a person is subjected to chemotherapy (and/or radiation). Unfortunately, as the previously mentioned research has demonstrated, the chances for a real cure are greatly reduced when patients are treated with chemotherapy drugs.

The side effects of the treatment can be horrendous and heartbreaking for both patients and their loved ones, all in the name of trustworthy medical treatment. Although the drug treatment comes with the promise to improve the patient's quality of life, it is just common sense that a drug that makes them throw up and lose their hair, while wrecking their immune system, is doing the exact opposite. Chemo-therapy can give the patient life-threatening mouth sores. It attacks the immune system by destroying billions of immune cells (white blood cells). Its deadly poisons inflame every part of the body. The drugs can slough off the entire lining of their intestines. The most common side effect experienced among chemo patients is their complete lack of energy. The new additional drugs now given to many chemo patients may prevent the patient from noticing some of the side effects, but they hardly reduce the immensely destructive and suppressive effect of the chemotherapy itself. Remember, the reason chemotherapy can shrink some tumors is because it causes massive destruction in the body.

If you have cancer, you may think that feeling tired is just part of the disease. This rarely is the case. Feeling unusually tired is more likely due to anemia, a common side effect of most chemotherapy drugs. Chemo drugs can dramatically decrease your red blood cell levels, and this reduces oxygen availability to the 60-100 trillion cells of your body. You can literally feel the energy being zapped from every cell of your body -- a physical death without dying. Chemo-caused fatigue has a negative impact on day-to-day activities in 89% of all patients. With no energy, there can be no joy and no hope, and all bodily functions become subdued.

One long-term side effect is that these patients' bodies can no longer respond to nutritional or immune-strengthening approaches to cancerous tumors. All of this may explain why cancer patients who do not receive any treatment at all, have an up to four times higher remission rate than those who receive treatment. The sad thing is that chemotherapy does not cure 96% to 98% of all cancers anyway. Conclusive evidence (for the majority of cancers) that chemotherapy has any positive influence on survival or quality of life does not exist.

To promote chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer is misleading, to say the least. By permanently damaging the body's immune system and other important parts, chemo-therapy has become a leading cause of treatment-caused diseases such as heart disease, liver disease, intestinal diseases, diseases of the immune system, infections, brain diseases, pain disorders, and rapid aging.

Before committing themselves to being poisoned, cancer patients need to question their doctors and ask them to produce the research or evidence that shrinking a tumor actually translates to any increase in survival. If they tell you that chemotherapy is your best chance of surviving, you will know they are lying or are simply misinformed. As Abel's research clearly demonstrated, there is no such evidence anywhere to be found in the medical literature. Subjecting patients to chemotherapy robs them of a fair chance of finding or responding to a real cure and deserves criminal prosecution.

Source - Natural News

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


What Makes Us Sick

Dr. Kaayla Daniel and Dr. Galen Knight have observed that even when people follow healthy dietary guidelines, they can still have serious health problems. They may digest their food poorly, experience digestive distress, or be generally sickly.

One reason may be toxic metals like:
  • Mercury
  • Aluminum
  • Cadmium
  • Arsenic
  • Lead
  • Nickel, and other metal poisons that flood the environment and invade your body.

These toxic metals can cause or contribute to a long list of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain and neurological disorders. While the medical establishment recognizes the acute toxicity that comes from high levels of metals in your body, far more people suffer the adverse effects of low-level, chronic exposure.

Most people are absolutely clueless about just how toxic mercury is. It is toxic at one in one billion-part quantities. That is about the same concentration of one grain of salt in one swimming pool. That is why having mercury fillings is such a major challenge to your health.

Heavy metal toxicity, just like chemical toxicity, has become one of the most pressing health hazards of our day. Your body is assailed by chemicals and heavy metals on a daily basis, oftentimes from the most innocent-looking sources, from your everyday cookware to your child’s rubber ducky.

It has now gotten to the point where babies are being BORN toxic due to the toxic load of their mothers. A 2004 study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that blood samples from newborns contained an average of 287 toxins, including mercury, fire retardants, pesticides and Teflon chemicals.

Despite these dire warning signs, giant corporations and industry advocates like DuPont and The American Chemistry Council are fighting tooth and nail to block any and all proposed bans on toxic agents that happen to be part of their profit-making schemes. According to EnviroBlog, the latest army of lobbyists is trying to crush U.S. Senate Bill 1313, which calls for a ban of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in concentrations exceeding 0.1 percent from food packaging, for example.

And California State Senate Bill 1713, which would ban BPA from baby bottles and toys, is also under attack by hired guns who are trying to scare everyone into believing this bill will put an end to all canned and jarred goods.

If there ever was a time to get more involved in the political process – as these are serious survival issues -- now might be a good time.

How Do You Know if You’re Suffering from Heavy Metal Toxicity?

Acute heavy metal toxicity is a lot easier to diagnose than that of chronic exposure. Indications of acute toxicity include:

  • Sudden, severe cramping and/or convulsions
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Impaired cognitive, motor and language skills

Symptoms of toxic build-up due to chronic heavy metal exposure, however, are much more subtle, in large part because these symptoms are so “common,” such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Digestive distress, and reduced ability to properly assimilate and utilize fats
  • Aching joints
  • Depression
  • Impaired blood sugar regulation
  • Female reproductive problems such as menstrual difficulties, infertility, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension and premature birth

Sound like anyone you know?

Add to that your exposure to toxic fluoride in your municipal drinking water, which actually increases your body’s uptake of aluminum, in addition to all the other health damaging effects it has in and of itself, and it’s no wonder you’re feeling less than great.

Why is Your Diet so Important When it Comes to Heavy Metal Detox?

In addition to limiting your exposure to toxic metals, which I will go over shortly, you need to focus on eating a healthy diet, preferably based on your nutritional type to reap the maximum overall health benefits.

The Weston A. Price diet recommendations, which were written in 1920 and still, like all truths, hold true today, includes these timeless guidelines:

  • Eat foods that are natural, unprocessed, and organic (and contain no sugar except for the occasional bit of honey or maple syrup).
  • Eat foods that grow in your native environment. In other words, eat locally grown, seasonal foods.
  • Eat unpasteurized dairy products (such as raw milk) and fermented foods.
  • Eat at least one-third of your food raw.
  • Make sure you eat enough healthy fats, including those from animal sources like omega-3 fat, and reduce your intake of omega-6 from vegetable oils.

As Dr. Daniel explain in this article, optimal nutrition is essential when dealing with heavy metal toxicity because if you are deficient in essential metals, your body will use toxic heavy metals as “stand-ins” instead. For example:

  • Calcium is replaced by lead, which deposits primarily in bone, and disrupts the formation of red blood cells. Lead contributes to poor bone health such as osteopenia and osteoporosis.
  • Zinc is replaced by cadmium, which tends to accumulate heavily in your kidneys. Cadmium overload is associated with peripheral neuropathy.
  • Magnesium is replaced by aluminum, which, among other things, induces neurochemical changes and has been identified as a contributing factor to developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Manganese is replaced by nickel, which is carcinogenic.

Secondly, you also need vital nutrients to aid your natural detoxification process.

I also highly recommend subscribing to the Weston A. Price Foundation’s journal, Wise Traditions. This quarterly journal is dedicated to exploring the scientific validation of dietary, agricultural and medical traditions throughout the world. It features informative and thought-provoking articles on current scientific research; human diets; non-toxic agriculture; and holistic therapies. It also offers sources for organic foods that have been conscientiously grown and processed.

Guidelines for Reducing Your Heavy Metal Exposure

It may seem like a fight you’re destined to lose, however I firmly believe you can reduce you exposure to heavy metals quite dramatically, thereby giving your body a fighting chance to eliminate accumulated toxins and restore health.

These guidelines can help limit your exposure:

  • Use glass, cast iron, carbon steel, titanium, and enamel cookware. Both aluminum and Teflon are well known for their toxic dangers, and stainless steel can expose you to carcinogenic nickel.
  • Minimize consumption of restaurant food as restaurants are required to use stainless steel pots and vats.
  • Avoid vaccinations that inject mercury or aluminum directly into your bloodstream.
  • Avoid and remove dental amalgam fillings.

  • Avoid stainless steel orthodontics such as braces and palate wideners.

  • Avoid costume jewelry if you are sensitive to metals.

  • Avoid smoking and second hand smoke as it causes cadmium poisoning.

  • Make sure you purchase your natural herbal remedies from a reputable source with strict quality testing. Some colloidal silvers can lead to silver poisoning, and some folk remedies can be high in mercury, lead and arsenic, either due to alleged medicinal properties or through unintentional contamination.

  • Avoid conventional household cleaning products.

  • Avoid conventional insecticides and herbicides. Also be VERY cautious when using the “natural alternative” Borax (boric acid), which can also cause serious health problems, including death.
Source - Mercola

Monday, July 21, 2008


Filthier Than Thou

A hereditary Hindu priest, Veer Bhadra Mishra is wont, shortly after sunrise, to totter down the stone steps of his temple to the Ganges river, and there perform a three-part ritual. He touches the sacred water. He dips himself in it. He cups it in his hands and drinks it.

Mr Mishra, 70, cannot make it down to the river every day. The steps are steep. And the river-level at Varanasi, Hinduism’s holiest city, where Mr Mishra is the eighth-generation custodian of a temple dedicated to the monkey-god Hanuman, has fallen. Diversion of the river-water, for industry, agriculture and dozens of upstream cities, is the cause of this. So, to save Mr Mishra’s creaking knees, his acolytes sometimes bring him a morning cup of Ganges water—a cloudy brown soup of excrement and industrial effluent—to relish.

Mr Mishra has contracted typhoid, polio, jaundice and other water-borne ailments. A hydrologist turned environmental activist, he reasonably assumes that his morning devotions are to blame. By official standards, water containing more than 500 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres is considered unsafe for bathing. As it passes Mr Mishra’s temple, at the upstream end of Varanasi’s 6.5km (4 mile) stretch of terraced riverbank, or ghats, the Ganges contains 60,000 bacteria per ml.

Downstream of the ghats, where 60,000 devotees perform daily ablutions in the river and 32 streams of raw sewage empty into it, the figure rises to 1.5m. Two cremation grounds along the ghats, which dispose, wholly or partly, of 30,000 corpses a year, do not help. (Over 3,000 corpses were reported bobbing in the river last year.) In places, the Ganges becomes septic: tar-black, stinking, without life. Mr Mishra fears that Hinduism, which reveres the Ganges as “the source of life”, will suffer for this. But the corporeal effects of foul water in India may be easier to measure.

By official estimates, India has facilities to treat 18% of the 33,200m litres of sewage its cities produce every day. In fact, it treats only 13%, because of shortages of power, water and technical expertise in its sewage plants. These figures may underestimate the problem: measuring the output of 700m Indians who have no access to a toilet is tricky. But it is enough to suggest why most Indian rivers, from which millions of Indians draw their water, are horribly polluted. Unsurprisingly, then, despite much progress in related areas, such as availability of safe drinking-water, an estimated 1,000 Indian children die of diarrhoeal sickness every day. In the words of Sunita Narain, a prominent environmentalist, mocking the tourist ministry’s slogan: “Incredible India, drowning in its excreta”.

As India rapidly industrialises, this invites a troubling thought. By 2020, according to the World Bank, India’s water, air, soil and forest resources will be under more human pressure than those of any other country. Undaunted, India plans to sustain its current high rate of economic growth without the environmental devastation that Western countries, and recently China, have wrought. Its democratic traditions, it is often said, including a free press, independent judiciary and vigorous social activism, will help prevent the damage. So should its voters: according to a survey last year by the Pew Research Centre, 79% of Indians considered pollution a “very big problem”. And yet, if India cannot begin to deal with its own excrement, how will it cope with more complicated, and politically contested, hazards?

After all, its rivers are noxious despite many excellent environmental laws and regulations. Nor is a lack of money the main problem. Since 1985, and the launch of an emergency plan to save the Ganges, India has dedicated 51 billion rupees ($1.2 billion) to cleaning its rivers, mostly by urging state governments to build sewage-treatment plants beside them. The Ganges and one of its main tributaries, the Yamuna, which runs through Delhi, were allotted over half of this cash. But less than half has been spent. And the sanitation it has built would be hopelessly insufficient even if properly used, which it is not.

In Varanasi, the state government of Uttar Pradesh (UP) has built three treatment plants with a total capacity of around 100m litres of sewage a day. But Varanasi produced 150m litres when they were built, and may now produce twice this amount. Moreover, the plants rarely operate at full capacity. During frequent power cuts, the sewage flows untreated into the Ganges. During rainy seasons—around five months of each year—the river floods the plants’ sump wells, with the same effect.

At least there is hope, in the shape of the activist priest, Mr Mishra. For over a decade, he has been engaged in a legal dispute with UP’s government over how to fix the problem. The government wants to build more of Varanasi’s current expensive and unsuccessful treatment plants. Mr Mishra, with support from the municipal government, wants a cheaper sort, designed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, which relies on gravity and naturally occurring bacteria and uses almost no power. On June 30th the ministry of environment, in Delhi, requested UP’s rulers to abandon their plan in favour of testing Mr Mishra’s.

Occasional victories by dogged activists, backed by the courts, are justly celebrated in India. A successful campaign in 2001 by Ms Narain’s organisation to convert Delhi’s buses and taxis from diesel to gas, and thereby reduce air pollution in the capital, was a cheering example. But these are exceptional cases amid a pervasive institutional weakness. Clueless local governments; corrupt state governments; feuding, overburdened central government: all three have played a part in the Ganges foul-up. To achieve relatively clean economic growth India will have to overcome these frailties, even as its capacity to pollute soars. Against such forces, the efforts of environmentalists to affect policies with powerful backers seem puny, and their triumphs short-lived. Alas, with 1,000 extra vehicles on its roads every day, Delhi’s air is now filthier than ever.

Source - Economist


Film Review - "Diva"

A case of style over substance? Perhaps. But more likely, it's a case of style is substance, for it's impossible to separate the two in "Diva," the delirious, highly enjoyable thriller, which represents Jean-Jacques Beineix's impressive directorial debut. This 1981 work is credited with the renaissance of foreign language films—particularly French--in the early 1980s. But "Diva" holds up extremely well, and remains impressive viewing a generation later, as was evident in a recent run at New York's entrepreneurial Film Forum.

A combo of thriller and fairytale romance, "Diva" draws on a diversity of genres, including mystery and film noir, with Beinex's cool approach recalling the early French New Wave, in style, subject matter-—and love of pure cinema. Beineix had spent years working as assistant director before he made "Diva," and it shows. In crafting an arty genre film, he has also made it his own, adding elements of fantasy, romance, and even a touch of existentialism.

Frederic Andrei plays Jules (a tribute to Truffaut's "Jules et Jim"?), a young moped courier who is smitten by an Afro American opera star, Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez). Since Cynthia has always refused to record her voice, Jules makes a high quality bootleg of the diva's performance for his personal enjoyment, only to be chased by copyright pirates who want to release the recording for profit.

When the tape is mistaken with another tape that's accidentally dropped into his carrying bag, it implicates a high official in a drug and prostitution ring. Pursued by copyright pirates and corrupt police, Jules turns to his mysterious new friends Alba (Thuy An Luu) and Gorodish (Richard Bohringer) for help; Gorodish is described at one point as "going through his cool period."

The mix-up and incrimination of the police force in racketeering and murder set the plot in motion. However, entertaining as it is, the plot is secondary to the charming if unlikely central couple and the film's contagious style. Though based on the mystery novel by Delacorta, at the time, some critics held that the casual, offhand plot was a parody of the Watergate Scandal, as well as Hollywood blockbusters such as The French Connection."

What we care about is not the tape-switch, or even the pair of psychopathic thugs (Pinon and Gerard Darmon) on Jules' trail, but the threat of turning Jules' obsessive dream of a romance with the beautiful, older opera singer into a nightmare.

Beineix and cinematographer Phillippe Rousselot have made a playful, visual work that uses to the max the unique properties of film as a medium. Indeed, one of the most exciting feature debut in years, "Diva" is unified by its inventive production design, extraordinary décor, and color schemes, which combine pop art with surrealism, placed against a more realistic milieu of contemporaneous Paris.
Click here to find out more!

Paying home to a staple of Hollywood actioners, there's a great chase scene through the Paris Metro. But Beineix has the smarts to contrast the action sequences with the languid ambience of Gorodish's loft and the romantic piano music of Jules and Cynthia's night walk through Paris. Beineix and Rousselot imbue the film with seductive neon hues.

Vladimir Cosma's opera-tinged score, which draws on Act I of Alfredo Catalani's "La Wally," is impressive, creating a witty, playful film that's highly diverting. With its distinctive touches, this exquisitely composed hybrid of genres (noir, neo New Wave, interracial fairytale romance) serves as a reminder of why we fell in love with the movies in the first place.

Source - Emmanuel Levy

Saturday, July 19, 2008


China - Emergent Evil

On June 5, 1873, in a letter to The Times, Sir Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin and a distinguished African explorer in his own right, outlined a daring (if by today's standards utterly offensive) new method to 'tame' and colonise what was then known as the Dark Continent.

'My proposal is to make the encouragement of Chinese settlements of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race,' wrote Galton.

'I should expect that the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order-loving Chinese, living either as a semidetached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law.'

Despite an outcry in Parliament and heated debate in the august salons of the Royal Geographic Society, Galton insisted that 'the history of the world tells the tale of the continual displacement of populations, each by a worthier successor, and humanity gains thereby'.

A controversial figure, Galton was also the pioneer of eugenics, the theory that was used by Hitler to try to fulfil his mad dreams of a German Master Race.

Eventually, Galton's grand resettlement plans fizzled out because there were much more exciting things going on in Africa.

But that was more than 100 years ago, and with legendary explorers such as Livingstone, Speke and Burton still battling to find the source of the Nile - and new discoveries of exotic species of birds and animals featuring regularly on newspaper front pages - vast swathes of the continent had not even been 'discovered'.

Yet Sir Francis Galton, it now appears, was ahead of his time. His vision is coming true - if not in the way he imagined. An astonishing invasion of Africa is now under way.

In the greatest movement of people the world has ever seen, China is secretly working to turn the entire continent into a new colony.

Reminiscent of the West's imperial push in the 18th and 19th centuries - but on a much more dramatic, determined scale - China's rulers believe Africa can become a 'satellite' state, solving its own problems of over-population and shortage of natural resources at a stroke.

With little fanfare, a staggering 750,000 Chinese have settled in Africa over the past decade. More are on the way.

The strategy has been carefully devised by officials in Beijing, where one expert has estimated that China will eventually need to send 300 million people to Africa to solve the problems of over-population and pollution.

The plans appear on track. Across Africa, the red flag of China is flying. Lucrative deals are being struck to buy its commodities - oil, platinum, gold and minerals. New embassies and air routes are opening up. The continent's new Chinese elite can be seen everywhere, shopping at their own expensive boutiques, driving Mercedes and BMW limousines, sending their children to exclusive private schools.

The pot-holed roads are cluttered with Chinese buses, taking people to markets filled with cheap Chinese goods. More than a thousand miles of new Chinese railroads are crisscrossing the continent, carrying billions of tons of illegally-logged timber, diamonds and gold.

The trains are linked to ports dotted around the coast, waiting to carry the goods back to Beijing after unloading cargoes of cheap toys made in China.

Confucius Institutes (state-funded Chinese 'cultural centres') have sprung up throughout Africa, as far afield as the tiny land-locked countries of Burundi and Rwanda, teaching baffled local people how to do business in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Massive dams are being built, flooding nature reserves. The land is scarred with giant Chinese mines, with 'slave' labourers paid less than $1 a day to extract ore and minerals.

Pristine forests are being destroyed, with China taking up to 70 per cent of all timber from Africa.

All over this great continent, the Chinese presence is swelling into a flood. Angola has its own 'Chinatown', as do great African cities such as Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.

Exclusive, gated compounds, serving only Chinese food, and where no blacks are allowed, are being built all over the continent. 'African cloths' sold in markets on the continent are now almost always imported, bearing the legend: 'Made in China'.

From Nigeria in the north, to Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola in the west, across Chad and Sudan in the east, and south through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, China has seized a vice-like grip on a continent which officials have decided is crucial to the superpower's long-term survival.

'The Chinese are all over the place,' says Trevor Ncube, a prominent African businessman with publishing interests around the continent. 'If the British were our masters yesterday, the Chinese have taken their place.'

Likened to one race deciding to adopt a new home on another planet, Beijing has launched its so-called 'One China In Africa' policy because of crippling pressure on its own natural resources in a country where the population has almost trebled from 500 million to 1.3 billion in 50 years.

China is hungry - for land, food and energy. While accounting for a fifth of the world's population, its oil consumption has risen 35-fold in the past decade and Africa is now providing a third of it; imports of steel, copper and aluminium have also shot up, with Beijing devouring 80 per cent of world supplies.

Fuelling its own boom at home, China is also desperate for new markets to sell goods. And Africa, with non-existent health and safety rules to protect against shoddy and dangerous goods, is the perfect destination.

The result of China's demand for raw materials and its sales of products to Africa is that turnover in trade between Africa and China has risen from $5 million annually a decade ago to $6 billion today.

However, there is a lethal price to pay. There is a sinister aspect to this invasion. Chinese-made war planes roar through the African sky, bombing opponents. Chinese-made assault rifles and grenades are being used to fuel countless murderous civil wars, often over the materials the Chinese are desperate to buy.

Take, for example, Zimbabwe. Recently, a giant container ship from China was due to deliver its cargo of three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 3,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 1,500 mortars to President Robert Mugabe's regime.

After an international outcry, the vessel, the An Yue Jiang, was forced to return to China, despite Beijing's insistence that the arms consignment was a 'normal commercial deal'.

Indeed, the 77-ton arms shipment would have been small beer - a fraction of China's help to Mugabe. He already has high-tech, Chinese-built helicopter gunships and fighter jets to use against his people.

Ever since the U.S. and Britain imposed sanctions in 2003, Mugabe has courted the Chinese, offering mining concessions for arms and currency.

While flying regularly to Beijing as a high-ranking guest, the 84-year-old dictator rants at 'small dots' such as Britain and America.

He can afford to. Mugabe is orchestrating his campaign of terror from a 25-bedroom, pagoda-style mansion built by the Chinese. Much of his estimated $1 billion fortune is believed to have been siphoned off from Chinese 'loans'.

The imposing grey building of ZANU-PF, his ruling party, was paid for and built by the Chinese. Mugabe received $200 million last year alone from China, enabling him to buy loyalty from the army.

In another disturbing illustration of the warm relations between China and the ageing dictator, a platoon of the China People's Liberation Army has been out on the streets of Mutare, a city near the border with Mozambique, which voted against the president in the recent, disputed election.

Almost 30 years ago, Britain pulled out of Zimbabwe - as it had done already out of the rest of Africa, in the wake of Harold Macmillan's 'wind of change' speech. Today, Mugabe says: 'We have turned East, where the sun rises, and given our backs to the West, where the sun sets.'

Despite Britain's commendable colonial legacy of a network of roads, railways and schools, the British are now being shunned.

According to one veteran diplomat: 'China is easier to do business with because it doesn't care about human rights in Africa - just as it doesn't care about them in its own country. All the Chinese care about is money.'

Nowhere is that more true than Sudan. Branded 'Africa's Killing Fields', the massive oil-rich East African state is in the throes of the genocide and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of black, non-Arab peasants in southern Sudan.

In effect, through its supplies of arms and support, China has been accused of underwriting a humanitarian scandal. The atrocities in Sudan have been described by the U.S. as 'the worst human rights crisis in the world today'.

The government in Khartoum has helped the feared Janjaweed militia to rape, murder and burn to death more than 350,000 people.

The Chinese - who now buy half of all Sudan's oil - have happily provided armoured vehicles, aircraft and millions of bullets and grenades in return for lucrative deals. Indeed, an estimated $1 billion of Chinese cash has been spent on weapons.

According to Human Rights First, a leading human rights advocacy organisation, Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifles, grenade launchers and ammunition for rifles and heavy machine guns are continuing to flow into Darfur, which is dotted with giant refugee camps, each containing hundreds of thousands of people.

Between 2003 and 2006, China sold Sudan $55 million worth of small arms, flouting a United Nations weapons embargo.

With new warnings that the cycle of killing is intensifying, an estimated two thirds of the non-Arab population has lost at least one member of their families in Darfur.

Although two million people have been uprooted from their homes in the conflict, China has repeatedly thwarted United Nations denunciations of the Sudanese regime.

While the Sudanese slaughter has attracted worldwide condemnation, prompting Hollywood film-maker Steven Spielberg to quit as artistic director of the Beijing Olympics, few parts of Africa are now untouched by China.

In Congo, more than $2 billion has been 'loaned' to the government. In Angola, $3 billion has been paid in exchange for oil. In Nigeria, more than $5 billion has been handed over.

In Equatorial Guinea, where the president publicly hung his predecessor from a cage suspended in a theatre before having him shot, Chinese firms are helping the dictator build an entirely new capital, full of gleaming skyscrapers and, of course, Chinese restaurants.

After battling for years against the white colonial powers of Britain, France, Belgium and Germany, post-independence African leaders are happy to do business with China for a straightforward reason: cash.

With western loans linked to an insistence on democratic reforms and the need for 'transparency' in using the money (diplomatic language for rules to ensure dictators do not pocket millions), the Chinese have proved much more relaxed about what their billions are used for.

Certainly, little of it reaches the continent's impoverished 800 million people. Much of it goes straight into the pockets of dictators. In Africa, corruption is a multi-billion pound industry and many experts believe that China is fuelling the cancer.

The Chinese are contemptuous of such criticism. To them, Africa is about pragmatism, not human rights. 'Business is business,' says Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong, adding that Beijing should not interfere in 'internal' affairs. 'We try to separate politics from business.'

While the bounty has, not surprisingly, been welcomed by African dictators, the people of Africa are less impressed. At a market in Zimbabwe recently, where Chinese goods were on sale at nearly every stall, one woman told me she would not waste her money on 'Zing-Zong' products.

'They go Zing when they work, and then they quickly go Zong and break,' she said. 'They are a waste of money. But there's nothing else. China is the only country that will do business with us.'

There have also been riots in Zambia, Angola and Congo over the flood of Chinese immigrant workers. The Chinese do not use African labour where possible, saying black Africans are lazy and unskilled.

In Angola, the government has agreed that 70 per cent of tendered public works must go to Chinese firms, most of which do not employ Angolans.

As well as enticing hundreds of thousands to settle in Africa, they have even shipped Chinese prisoners to produce the goods cheaply.

In Kenya, for example, only ten textile factories are still producing, compared with 200 factories five years ago, as China undercuts locals in the production of 'African' souvenirs.

Where will it all end? As far as Beijing is concerned, it will stop only when Africa no longer has any minerals or oil to be extracted from the continent.

A century after Sir Francis Galton outlined his vision for Africa, the Chinese are here to stay. More will come.

The people of this bewitching, beautiful continent, where humankind first emerged from the Great Rift Valley, desperately need progress. The Chinese are not here for that.

They are here for plunder. After centuries of pain and war, Africa deserves better.

Source - UK Daily Mail

Friday, July 18, 2008


Energy Shortages - The Blackouts Spread

Of the 266 distinct nations or entities on the world today, nearly 100 are now reporting continuing energy shortages, mostly in the form of inadequate electricity supply, but in a growing number of cases, shortages of liquid fuels and natural gas. The actual number of countries affected is probably well over 100 but there are dozens of isolated island-states scattered around the world that are rarely heard from and are almost certainly suffering in silence while waiting for the next oil tanker to come in.

The majority of these energy-short states are small, poor and play only a minor role in world trade. While we should feel sorry for the plight of their inhabitants who are, or shortly will be, enduring severe hardships from greatly reduced supplies of electricity, water, food and use of motor transport, the impact of their problems on the better-off OECD world is likely to be minimal for a while.

Shortages, however, are not confined to small, poor states, but, in an increasing number of cases, are appearing in large, relatively well-off and active states on which the OECD world of North America, Europe and parts of Asia are very dependent. Several of the countries having energy problems are actually oil exporting states that, for one reason or another, are not able to turn their increasing oil wealth into smoothly functioning shortage-free economies. Unfortunately, several major countries appear to be on the path to an energy shortage-induced economic and perhaps political collapse within the foreseeable future which obviously will have serious consequences for us all.

Currently, the most serious situations appear to be in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Both are nations with populations in excess of 150 million people that are ensnared in devastating power shortages that have destroyed their export industries. Both are facing water and agricultural problems that threaten their food supplies. Liquid fuels are running short and reductions in exports threaten their ability to import oil and natural gas. It was recently revealed that the Saudis already are forgiving $6 billion of Pakistan's $12 billion annual oil import bill.

On top of this, Pakistan has nuclear weapons and its strategic location is vital to the course of the insurgency in Afghanistan. Worsening blackouts, the liquid fuels shortage and probably the food situation are likely to lead to serious political instability before the year is out.

The next important pair of countries in terms of their impact on western economies is China and India, and although their situations are nowhere near as serious as the problems in Pakistan and Bangladesh, both are beginning to suffer from electricity shortages which will impact economic growth. China, which now has a shortfall of around four percent of its normal electricity production, is compensating by cutting back on production of aluminum and zinc which consume prodigious quantities of electric power. The recent earthquake has given Beijing pause in its ambitious plans to expand hydro and nuclear power production. If China cannot increase coal production rapidly enough to keep up electricity generation for its rapidly expanding economy, it is likely to increase imports of coal and oil keeping pressure on world prices.

So far there is no indication of an unusually large increase in Chinese oil imports as there was during the power shortage four years ago. The world price of diesel is simply too expensive to be used to generate electricity for industrial production these days. India's energy shortages are more serious than China's.

Its nuclear power plants are failing, hydro-power from the Himalayas is drying up due to global warming, and the costs of imported fuels are soaring. Over 85 percent of India's oil must be imported and coupled with the subsidies of oil prices the increasing costs are taking a heavy toll on the state budget. Although the situation in India is not yet as bad as in Pakistan, blackouts and liquid fuel shortages are being reported almost every day somewhere in the country. There is no end in sight to this situation and likelihood of an economic slowdown, coupled with water and food shortages, is increasing.

Several members of OPEC are having electricity and/or liquid shortages. In Nigeria, and Iraq where there are active insurgencies that have damaged the infrastructure, the shortages are endemic. Indonesia, which is just about out of OPEC due to lack of exportable oil, is beginning to face frequent power blackouts and fuel shortages. Even Venezuela and Iran have occasional electricity and fuel supply problems as they are trying to do without substantial foreign technical assistance. In Mexico, demand for gasoline has outrun refining capacity and the country is forced to rely on imports. There are now daily diesel shortages along the border as Americans cross over to fill-up on subsidized half-priced Mexican fuel.

Aside from the major oil-producing states, most countries in Africa, Latin America and Central Asia are enduring some form of energy shortages. In a number of important mineral producing countries such as South Africa, Chile and Zambia, they have already reduced production due to shortages of electricity and diesel fuel.

The global wave of blackouts and shortages is almost certain to get worse. Although most governments have announced optimistic plans to increase electricity production and bring oil to market within the next few months or years, these are almost certain to fail. The cost of building electrical generation capacity is soaring and finding affordable fuel unlikely.

In the OECD world, the effects of these shortages is likely to be felt in the form of much higher prices for declining exports from the energy-poor. For the citizens of the energy-poor world, life is going to become much harder very soon as electric lights, computers, motor transport, refrigeration, fresh water and imported anything become scarcer and scarcer.

Source - Tom Whipple

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gas Prices To Double In Europe

The price of natural gas in continental Europe is to double in the space of a year as a result of the rise in oil prices, according to a leading consultancy.

Such an increase would put a further squeeze on hard-pressed European consumers and businesses, and add to the upward pressure on inflation in the eurozone, which has been estimated at 4 per cent in June.

It would also stoke concerns about the prevalence in continental Europe of long-term contracts for gas supply, which link the price to the cost of oil products such as heating oil.

European gas prices ­typically follow the price of oil with a lag of about nine months, so if the price of crude oil remains at record ­levels, the future price of gas can be calculated with a ­reasonable degree of ­confidence.

According to Cambridge Energy Research Associates (Cera), a US-based consultancy, the rise in the oil price from about $70 a barrel a year ago to about $145 today will result in the gas price rising from about $350 per thousand cubic metres at the start of the year to about $730 by April 2009.

Any rise in the price of gas would also push up the cost of electricity because gas is generally the marginal fuel for power generation.

Household energy bills, including for electricity, gas and heating oil, make up about 5 per cent of consumers’ expenditure in the eurozone. In Germany – the bloc’s biggest economy – the average is 7 per cent. Energy bills and food costs have been the main factor behind the rise in inflation this year across the European Union.

“As the eurozone’s exports slowed, people thought it would be compensated for by a consumer spending spree. But what’s happened has been a sharp rise in inflation that has hurt consumers’ spending power, hit their confidence and limited their spending,” said Howard Archer of Global Insight, another consultancy.

The higher gas price in continental Europe has driven up prices in the UK. Britain has a more liberalised gas market that is not formally linked to the oil price but it has become increasingly tied to the rest of Europe as North Sea gas production has declined.

Consumer groups argue that the link between gas and oil prices should be broken because it supports co-operation between large gas producers and utilities.

Jonathan Stern, of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said that there was “no reason why gas prices should be so high”.

“When oil was at $25-$30 we could live with that. At $60 oil we started thinking the gas price was a bit high. At $140 oil this is craziness: there is no way anyone can argue this reflects the balance of supply and demand for gas,” he said.

Demand for gas in the EU fell in 2006 and again in 2007.

Prof Stern said the justification for the price linkage – that gas was a substitute for fuel oil in power stations and heating oil in homes – had weakened as the use of oil in power generation in Europe had waned.

However, Shankari Srinivasan, of Cera, suggested the price link to oil was likely to persist. “An oil-linked price is not necessarily a higher price, but it is more predictable and can show less volatility than a pure gas market price,” she said.

The growth in liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipped in tankers is expected to strengthen the links between regional gas markets and potentially bring supplies to the EU that are not linked to oil prices.

But the ability to deliver LNG to where suppliers achieve the best returns has, generally, seen it shipped to Asia rather than the US or Europe. Japanese demand has been particularly strong since nuclear reactors were shut down following an earthquake a year ago.

The volumes of LNG shipped from the Atlantic basin and from countries such as Egypt, Nigeria and Trinidad to Asia have risen from nothing in 2005 to 9bn cubic metres last year, according to Wood Mackenzie, another consultancy.

Source - Financial Times