Truthout Stories Mon, 05 Oct 2015 17:01:48 -0400 en-gb Bernanke: Jail the Banksters

Ben Bernanke (Photo: Medill DC)Ben Bernanke (Photo: Medill DC)

President Obama should have thrown the banksters in jail.

That's more or less what former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said in an interview this weekend with USA Today.

Bernanke doesn't get off totally scot-free here.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

If he really felt that way back in 2009, he could have said so publicly.

Yes, the Fed "isn't a law enforcement agency," but its word still carries a lot of weight in Washington and around the world.

If Bernanke, as the Fed chair, had said that it was a good idea to prosecute bank executives, that would have put a ton of pressure on the Justice Department to do so.

But anyways, all questions of personal responsibility aside, Bernanke is right.

We SHOULD have criminally punished more banksters after the financial crisis, and the fact that we didn't - and still haven't - will go down in history as one of this administration's biggest screw-ups.

That's because the only thing that actually keeps big financial institutions in check is prosecutions.

Just ask Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

In the wake of the savings and loans debacle of the 1980s, the Reagan and Bush administrations prosecuted more than 1,000 different individuals for their role in the crisis, and of those prosecutions, 839 resulted in convictions.

The Reagan and Bush administrations also stripped the savings and loans associations of their assets, nationalized them and then resold them to the public using a special agency called the Resolution Trust Corporation.

Not coincidentally, savings and loans associations have been remarkably stable ever since.

President Obama should have done what Reagan did.

He should have criminally prosecuted the Wall Street banksters.

But he didn't, and if there's one person most responsible for that, it's former Attorney General Eric Holder, the granddaddy of "too big to jail."

Back when he was a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Holder wrote an infamous memo in which he laid out a plan for how to deal with large financial crimes.

Nicknamed the "Holder Doctrine," his plan was simple: Instead of prosecuting big banks and thus "destabilizing" the financial system, the government should just hit them with financial penalties - just fine them.

Ten years later, Holder got a chance to put his doctrine into practice when he became Attorney General, and he followed it to a tee.

During his tenure as the nation's top law enforcement officer, no major Wall Street player in the great mortgage bubble of the 2000's went to jail for their crimes.

Holder's Justice Department did slap a few big banks like JP Morgan with multi-million dollar settlement fines, but those fines are chump change compared to the billions those banks take in every year in profits, including the profits from illegal activity.

These fines have just become a routine cost of doing business for the banksters.

They're also tax-deductible, which makes the idea that they could ever serve as a deterrent to future bad behavior just flat-out ridiculous.

Thanks to the Holder Doctrine, the big banks are bigger than ever and comfortable in the knowledge that they're still too big to jail, six years after they got caught robbing the US blind.

That needs to change, and it needs to change now.

Eric Holder is now out as Attorney General, and his successor, Lorretta Lynch has promised to hold the banks to a tougher standard.

Let's hope that standard means prosecuting high-up executives and CEO's, because if it doesn't, the odds of another crash are rapidly approaching 100 percent.

Opinion Mon, 05 Oct 2015 16:41:43 -0400
On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Corporate Elite Rig the System Against Us, and More

In today's On the News segment: Americans pay more for food, internet, banking services, airline tickets and prescription drugs than citizens of any other advanced nation; room and board charges are actually the fastest-growing expense related to going to college; Donald Trump's new tax plan calls for giant tax cuts for corporations and millionaires, and would create a huge budget deficit; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...

You need to know this. It seems like the most popular word in this election cycle is "inequality," but we need more than talk to narrow the great divide between the haves and have-nots in our nation. According to a recent article by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, the pro-corporate elite have rigged the system against us, and it's going to take the majority of us standing together to change the system. As Secretary Reich explains, Americans pay more for food, internet, banking services, airline tickets and prescription drugs than citizens of any other advanced nation. Despite that, we give corporations the power to create their own set of rules, which ensure that we can never challenge those exorbitant prices. Patents and trademarks and other intellectual property rights have been manipulated to benefit the largest companies, while inventors, artists and scientists rarely see much of the profit generated by their own work. Our anti-trust laws once promoted fair competition, but they've been weakened to allow banks, airlines, telecoms and food companies to become giant monopolies. Even our bankruptcy laws have been distorted to make it easy for someone to bankrupt a company, but nearly impossible to discharge debt from student loans or underwater mortgages. According to Robert Reich, "The more basic problem is that the market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it." And, he added, "The answer to this problem is not found in economics. It is found in politics." That's exactly why every single Democratic candidate for president - and even some of the Republicans - has pledged to fight income inequality as a cornerstone of their campaign. But, they will need our help to make it happen. The system is rigged and it will take each of us fighting hard to change it. Democracy is not a spectator sport and now is the time for each of us to get active.

There has been a lot of focus on the rising cost of college tuition, but a huge part of the overall cost of college is hardly being discussed. According to Suzanne McGee of the Guardian newspaper, room and board charges are actually the fastest-growing expense, and may be the easiest place to find some savings. In fact, these costs are often higher than the tuition rates that have gotten so much attention. For example, McGee says that in-state residents will pay about $10,000 per year in tuition and fees at Ohio State University, but students and parents will have to fork over another $11,600 for that university's most popular room and board plan. And, lodging and meal plans cost even more in cities like New York and Berkeley. The good news is that a student can cut the cost of their degree substantially by living off campus during college, or lower the cost by half simply by staying at home. Public scrutiny and regulation have started to keep tuition rates in check, but room and board charges - which aren't being watched - are rising fast. The best way to address this problem is to make public college free for all students, and to regulate all room and board charges to protect students and their families.

Donald Trump's new tax plan is huge. As in, the giant tax cuts he wants to give corporations and millionaires would create a huge budget deficit. According to the conservative Tax Foundation, "the Donald's" plan would add about $12 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, but his campaign calls that plan "fiscally responsible." Mr. Trump says he will create jobs by cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and eliminating the estate tax, but he may be overestimating the number of people that the rich might hire to count their piles of money. When he announced his plan, Mr. Trump said that he would take on "the hedge fund guys," but his plan actually gives them a huge tax cut. According to Robert McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice, "Trump has made many false claims about his tax plan. Of course, he's been known to say many other things that aren't true, too."

For all their talk about family values, it turns out that Republicans aren't willing to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to taking care of kids. According to a recent article over at the Think Progress blog, total federal spending on children made up only 10 percent of total spending in 2014, and that number could fall further in the years to come. Although government spending on seniors is protected, the money earmarked for children is increasingly under attack. From public education to nutritional programs, and everything in between, it's been a fight to keep Republicans from slashing budgets more than they've already been cut. Funding new programs that benefit our kids has pretty much been out of the question. As Julia Isaacs of the Urban Institute explained, "Many children's programs like Head Start depend on annual appropriations, so they get squeezed every time there's a budget cap." Our budget should never be balanced on the backs of children, and any lawmakers who cut these programs should keep quiet about their so-called "family values."

And finally... Whether or not you're a supporter of Bernie Sanders, you should be a fan of his views on worker-owned cooperatives. That's the business model which allows employees to own a piece of the company, and allows them to help shape the business's policies on things like employee pay and customer relations. In a recent article over at, Joe Fletcher highlighted this important plank in the Democratic candidate's 2016 platform. According to Fletcher, in 2014, Senator Sanders introduced legislation to help build more worker-owned co-ops, which often have higher wages and better benefits than typical corporate entities. In a press release about that legislation, Sanders said, "we need to expand economic models that help the middle class. I strongly believe that employee ownership is one of those models." Let's encourage all 2016 candidates to support this business model so that we can expand worker-owned co-ops all over our nation.

And that's the way it is - for the week of October 5, 2015 - I'm Thom Hartmann - on the Economic and Labor News.

News Mon, 05 Oct 2015 13:12:46 -0400
"Economic Migrants" Getting Bad Rap in Refugee Debate

There is a difference between economic migrants and refugees, the latter defined as those fleeing war or persecution. Economic migrants, individuals who move from place to place in search of employment or other ways to support themselves and their families, also deserve the right to relocate, as they are fleeing another kind of violence: poverty.

 Migrants at the Abu Salim detention center in Tripoli, Libya, April 25, 2015. Many of the African migrants trying to get to Europe, hundreds of which end up drowning, come from countries in Africa that are not at war, and are not especially repressive. (Tyler Hicks / The New York Times) Migrants at the Abu Salim detention center in Tripoli, Libya, April 25, 2015. Many of the African migrants trying to get to Europe, hundreds of which end up drowning, come from countries in Africa that are not at war, and are not especially repressive. (Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

As sympathy from around the world pours in for victims of war seeking asylum in the West, government leaders from Europe to the United States who once dug their feet are finally agreeing to open their doors to more refugees. But there is one category of people that are specifically being excluded, in some cases with scorn: the population known as "economic migrants."

Simply defined, these are individuals who move from place to place in search of employment or other ways to earn an income to support themselves or their families back home. The World Bank estimates that overall, there are about 250 million migrants globally - and nine out of 10 are economic migrants. Just 3 percent are refugees.

Yet both the mainstream media and government leaders are quick to dismiss them as somehow less worthy than those fleeing war and physical persecution.

"What we see [with these people] has nothing to do with seeking refuge and safety," said Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, as reported by The Washington Post. "It is nothing but opportunism."

The UK's Telegraph reported that, "Migrants from North Africa and the Middle East are using fake Syrian passports bought via Facebook to pose as refugees and enter Europe. Thousands of fraudulent documents are in circulation in Turkey and other migration routes into the EU, which the head of Europe's border police described as a 'windfall' for economic migrants."

Not to be outdone, The Washington Post revealed that, "There are well-dressed Iranians speaking Farsi who insist they are members of the persecuted Yazidis of Iraq."

The UK's Express added that Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to call for a tougher stance on migrants entering the European Union among "genuine" refugees.

There are indeed some people trying to escape their home country for reasons that are trivial when compared to the abject tragedy of others. And there is indeed a difference between economic migrants and refugees, defined as those fleeing war or persecution. It's also true that the brutality of war demands immediate action and thus priority resettlement for its victims.

However, before we too easily dismiss these seemingly trifling "others," it's worthwhile to take a look at who they are and why they often take the same risks as refugees to create a better life.

Perhaps it cannot be put more poignantly than how it was by a 20-year-old Palestinian named Ahmed Al-Naouq, assistant for a project called We Are Not Numbers: "War leads to the killing of humans physically. Poverty leads to the killing of humans mentally and spiritually. Poverty is cruel."

Al-Naouq lives in the Gaza Strip, a place that is often torn apart by war but is not considered a source of "genuine refugees" (as is Syria, Iraq and Eritrea). However, unemployment is an estimated 60 percent among young adults in Gaza due to the stifling Israeli blockade, and in September, the UN Conference on Trade and Development predicted that if current trends continue, the Gaza Strip will be "uninhabitable by 2020."

"[The 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza] has effectively eliminated what was left of the middle class, sending almost all of the population into destitution," the report observed.

Palestinians are not alone, of course. There is a world of pain out there, and not just from war and occupation. Take Egypt, for instance, which has tumbled even further into poverty and oppression since the revolution in 2011 and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's ascension to the presidency in 2014. According to the country's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, about a quarter of all Egyptians earn below the poverty line; in Upper Egypt, 49 percent of residents cannot provide for basic food needs. Dissidents from any faction are thrown in prison if they speak out. Mohammed Salah, a 31-year-old who lives just outside of Cairo, completed an undergraduate degree in history ("Egyptology"), but says he has been unable to pay the fee required to receive his graduation certificate, without which he can't get the job he wants as a government tour guide. For all other jobs he earns barely enough to cover his transportation costs. Unemployed at an age when most are usually marrying, he continues to live in his parents' home and takes class after class in Chinese and other languages in the hope that one day he can emigrate and use his linguistic skills abroad.

"I am so sorry about the war in Syria, and I want the people to have the chance to live," he said. "But what about me? I ... feel like my future is going further down the drain every day."

Kathleen Newland, cofounder of the Migration Policy Institute, commented at a recent World Affairs Council meeting in Washington, DC, that, "It is becoming more and more difficult to draw a bright line between refugees and non-refugees of all types. Many non-refugees migrate under some sort of compulsion, including extreme poverty, which is as much a humanitarian issue as the violence of war."

It goes almost without saying that there is almost no support for totally open borders, and the capacity of any one country is not unlimited. However, at the same DC meeting, Dilip Ratha, head of the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) for the World Bank, urged a much more inclusive and embracing view of migration in general. In fact, he warned that anything but will mean increasing poverty and rebellion in one part of the world and an aging population without the means to support itself in the other.

"Most migrants are simply looking for a job," he said, "not the perfect job, but anything that will allow them to support themselves and their families. People must move, and we should be glad they do."

In 2014, Ratha told Truthout, migrants sent home $436 billion in remittances to support family members left behind. That compares to just $135 billion in donor aid. Unlike common perception, "It's the poor people who are providing a lifeline to their families back home, not the international community," he said.

According to Ratha's World Bank team, migrants send home an average of $200 per month. Repeated month after month, by millions of people, this sum of money adds up to "rivers of foreign currency." In 2014, India received $72 billion in remittances, larger than what it receives from its IT exports. In Egypt, remittances are three times the size of revenues from the Suez Canal. And in poorer, smaller, fragile and conflict-afflicted countries, remittances are a lifeline, as in Somalia or Haiti. That is, as long as they are allowed to move.

But that's how the developing countries benefit. What about wealthier nations? The focus has been almost exclusively on competition for jobs. However, there is a lot of evidence at the macro, long-term level that the opposite is true.

"There's not any credible research that I know of that in the medium- and long-term that refugees are anything but a hugely profitable investment," Michael Clemens, a senior fellow who leads the Migration and Development Initiative at the Center for Global Development, recently told The Washington Post.

Refugees and other migrants who do not have jobs waiting for them open small businesses at a high rate, creating ripples of more commerce for everyone. Their arrival also boosts demand for food, shelter, infrastructure and many other services.

"There is a myth that desirable immigrants are the ones with PhDs, and that people with only high school degrees aren't desirable. But there's no economic substance behind that myth," Clemens added.

And then there is the stark fact that many countries are aging rapidly. Germany's population, for example, is expected to shrink from 81 million inhabitants to around 68 to 73 million in 2060. Since most refugees are younger, they can provide a boost to the working age population that will help economies grow and pay for the care of elders. In fact, Americans should thank immigrants for their comparatively strong demographic situation. In 2014, the Pew Research Center estimated that, from 1960 to 2005, immigrants and their descendants accounted for 51 percent of the increase in the US population. Looking ahead, from 2005 to 2050, immigrants and their descendants are projected to contribute 82 percent of the total increase in the US population. Without immigration, Pew noted, the United States would face the same kind of aging problems that Europe does.

I work in the community development field in the United States, and it is a common mantra that one's zip code should not determine one's fate. It seems to me that the same is true at the global level.

As the World Bank's Ratha asked rhetorically, "Do we take the approach that we must stop people who are desperate to move due to poverty and crime? Are we still 'barbarians' who think everyone must stick to their tribe, and thus are born to their fate? Moving to improve is a basic human instinct, and should be a basic human right. It is up to us to learn how to manage it."

Opinion Mon, 05 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Climate Change Could Be Catalyst to Build a Fairer Economic System

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is calling this weekend's torrential rainfall that has triggered flooding and led to eight deaths in the Carolinas a once-in-a-millennium downpour. According to the National Weather Service, the storm had dumped more than 20 inches of rain in parts of central South Carolina since Friday. This month also marks the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, one of the most destructive storms in the nation's history. Researchers say such extreme weather events are becoming more frequent with the effects of climate change, with 2015 on track to be the hottest year in recorded history. In Part Two of our conversation with Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis on their new film, This Changes Everything, we talk about what we can learn from such extreme weather events.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We move on to the dramatic news of what has taken place in this country over the last week, a once-in-a-millennium downpour. That's what South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is calling the torrential rainfall that's triggered massive flooding over the weekend. At least eight people have died in the Carolinas. This is South Carolina Governor Haley.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY: When you think about what we're sitting in right now, we are at a thousand-year level of rain in parts of the Lowcountry. What does that mean? We haven't seen this level of rain in the Lowcountry in a thousand years. That's how big this is. That's how South Carolina is - what South Carolina is dealing with right now. The Congaree River is at its highest level since 1936.

AMY GOODMAN: According to the National Weather Service, the storm had dumped more than 20 inches of rain in parts of central South Carolina since Friday. Researchers say extreme weather events are becoming more frequent with the effects of climate change. The year 2015 is on track to be the hottest in recorded history. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released a report showing July was the single warmest month in history, and nine of the 10 hottest months since record keeping began in 1880 have occurred since 2005.

Well, we're going to spend the remainder of the hour bringing you Part Two of our conversation with Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis on their remarkable new film that re-imagines the vast challenge of climate change. The film is called This Changes Everything. It's based on Naomi Klein's global best-seller, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. And, yes, we dare to say what the meteorologists over the weekend, all the news reports, 24 hours a day, that are certainly dealing with this once-in-a-thousand-year flood in South Carolina, don't mention: the words "climate change." I began by asking Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis about extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, which hit three years ago this month. This is a clip from their film, followed by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein.

NAOMI KLEIN: But a strange thing happened as the fossil fuel economy spread over the world: The sacrifice zone got bigger and bigger. It started with the places considered the middle of nowhere. And then, one day, I watched it come to the place that sees itself as the center of everywhere.

REPORTER: This was the moment when Sandy struck, 90-mile-an-hour winds slicing through New York's streets. Three-quarters of a million people have been forced to evacuate.

NAOMI KLEIN: All those years, we imagined that we had freed ourselves from nature's bonds, that we were the boss. There was a part of the story we couldn't yet see: Our machines were filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Could it be that we're not the masters, after all, that we are just guests here and that we can get evicted for bad behavior?

AMY GOODMAN: What we just came out of, this clip on Superstorm Sandy, what it teaches us now?

AVI LEWIS: Well, you know, it's - we were here in New York a week after the film - after the storm. Obviously, you guys lived right through it. I watched your broadcasts in those days, and it was staggering. And I think now that - everyone gets triggered with post-traumatic stress about these terrible, terrible climate-driven disasters. And I think there are fewer and fewer parts of the world where people don't hear the warnings and relive the last disaster, because this is a crisis of the now. And I think New Yorkers really are in a state of returning, you know, having flashbacks to that. We need to harness that fear and that trauma, and actually turn it into healing and positive change.

AMY GOODMAN: Blockadia, the grassroots movements around the world that are standing up to the fossil fuel companies, talk about this global phenomenon that the corporate media rarely covers, let alone links.

AVI LEWIS: Well, it's been an extraordinary few years for the climate justice movement. I mean, to be here in New York in the fall is very emotional for us, because we were on the streets with almost half a million people in the People's Climate March. And what made that moment so extraordinary was the diversity and the connecting-the-dots feeling of the movement these days. You have front-line communities, whether on the front lines of fossil fuel extraction or on the front lines of pollution, and, you know, marginalized communities. We know that the impacts of climate change and industrialization are racialized. The people of economic - without economic means are much more vulnerable. And you see these communities coming together and connecting causes and naming the system at the heart of it. It's happening around the world.

And what's really exciting nowadays, I think, is that we're starting to see not just the no to these damaging projects and to this logic of extraction - extraction of wealth as well as extraction of resources - but we're seeing more and more of the yes. So look at the divestment movement, which has exploded in three years, $1.2 trillion in capital now -

NAOMI KLEIN: Four-point-six.

AVI LEWIS: How much?

NAOMI KLEIN: Four-point-six trillion.

AVI LEWIS: Four-point-six trillion dollars in capital which is committed to divesting from fossil fuel investments. But it's not just the no to the fossil fuel stocks and bonds. It's the yes in terms of redirecting and reinvesting that money in community cooperatives, in renewable energy. And we're seeing this, and we see it throughout the film, the communities on the front lines of the no -

AMY GOODMAN: Explain those communities that you cover.

AVI LEWIS: Well, so, we went - so, for instance, we went to northern Greece in the middle of this horrific economic assault, you know, of the austerity being imposed on Greece, which is being used as an excuse to open up all these new dirty projects. They're talking about drilling for oil in the Aegean and Ionian seas, some of the most storied oceans in history. And there's this massive gold mine proposed and starting to be developed by a Canadian company in a very beautiful area of northern Greece. And there's this extraordinary community resistance to it, people in a fairly conservative part of the world, who are not activists, who are not lefties, who start to see what's being done in the name of this economic model and the excuse this brings -

AMY GOODMAN: It fits very much in with your previous book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I mean, the truth is, I see this book and this project as a sequel to The Shock Doctrine, because that book begins and ends with Hurricane Katrina. And what we are seeing is what climate change looks like when you have an economic system that systematically fuels inequality, ever wider inequality, often along racial lines. And we know what it looks like. It looks like Katrina. Right? I mean, if you had money and resources, you were able to get out of the city, call your insurance company. But if you needed a functional state, you were out of luck, first of all because the levees were neglected, second of all because there was no evacuation, there was - you know, FEMA couldn't find the Superdome for five days. I mean, you know the story. But then, what happened next, right? The disaster-capitalism complex, as I called it in that book, descends on the city to privatize the school system, to get rid of public housing and replace it with condominiums, you know, to decide not to open Charity Hospital that serves the city's poor.

So, this book is an attempt to think about how do we respond to crisis collectively in a way that reduces inequality, that builds a fairer society, that is democratic instead of this incredibly antidemocratic process that I described in The Shock Doctrine. And look, you know, climate change is the biggest shock of all. It hits us with shock after shock after shock, whether it's a hurricane, whether it's the endless drought in California. And, you know, Amy, I was really - you know, it takes a lot to shock me, because I've been immersed in this stuff for a long time. But I didn't realize that a third of California's firefighters are prison inmates, being paid $2 an hour to fight California's - yeah, and for CAL FIRE, it's apparently half of the firefighters. So this is incredibly dangerous work. They're being paid $2 an hour, or - and if they're not actively fighting fires, some of them are being paid less than $2 a day. And it turns out that there are forces in California that are resisting prison reform measures that would lower California's prison population, because they're worried about the impact of their firefighter supply.

This is what it looks like to try to deal with climate change within an economic context of what around the world is called neoliberalism, relentless austerity, which - you know, one of the impacts of relentless austerity is increased incarceration, locking up and locking out the people who are losing within this economic system. So, that's why we're calling for looking at the root causes of what is driving climate change, and also using climate change as a catalyst to build a fairer economic system. And what we show in the film is that people are doing this very organically. As they're fighting the fossil fuel projects, they're fighting for energy democracy, community-controlled renewable energy, that keeps resources in the community so they can pay for services.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi, you mentioned that part of the crisis in Syria is caused by climate change. Explain.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, what we know is that Syria, right before the civil war broke out, had the worst drought in its history, a record-breaking drought. And obviously there are multiple drivers for any conflict, just as there are multiple drivers for any storm. It's not like you can say this is just because of climate change. But what we do know is that climate change loads the dice, right? It's an accelerant. So the storm would happen anyway, but because water is warmer, the storm is stronger. Well, climate change is an accelerant on many different levels. So you have conflicts and tensions already, fueled by military intervention, fueled by support for dictatorship. But then, when you layer on top a drought and the fact that people move, and more and more people crowd into cities, and that causes more conflict. So it's not, you know, a direct causal this - you know, X causes Y. It's another layer fueling it.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the pope coming to town? He's left the building now. The pope is no longer in the United States. But he gave the first address a pope has ever given to a joint session of Congress. Before the pope came here, he was in Cuba. Before that, you were at the Vatican. You were invited to address his unprecedented encyclical on climate change and the environment.


AMY GOODMAN: What about his message here?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think, first of all, this reflects the fact that the climate movement, and specifically the climate justice movement, is growing. And it's growing in different constituencies. And the faith community is really, really a major part of this movement.

You know, as I've said before, I think, in earlier discussions we've had, one of the things that's most remarkable about the encyclical is the way that it challenges dominant - this idea that humans have a right to dominate nature, that everything in nature is just here to serve us. I think what's really most bold about the document is the way it celebrates interconnection, that we are all a part of this complex system, and that nature has inherent rights. I mean, this is something that the pope said when he addressed the U.N., which is - I don't know if people understand quite how remarkable that is, because just a few years ago, before Pope Francis, under Benedict, the Holy See, which is - you know, actually has negotiating status at the United Nations as a country, would try to get references to the rights of nature and Mother Earth taken out of negotiating texts when countries like Bolivia and Ecuador would put them in, because they didn't like this idea of natural rights, of nature having inherent value, because they were still subscribing, to some degree, to this idea of dominion. So there's a major shift.

And look, I certainly don't agree with the Vatican on everything. In fact, we could go through a very, very long list, which I won't go - won't bore you with right now. But what I find most remarkable about this pope is he is a man in a hurry. You know, you think about this trip in the US and all of the speeches he made. He's addressing Congress. He's on the balcony. He's talking to the homeless. He's zipping to New York. I mean, how - and it's dizzying, and it really - this is what leadership looks like as if the world depended on it. You don't have to agree with him on everything, but the urgency of this political moment, the fact that we are on such a tight science-based deadline, the fact that it matters so much what we do in the next five years. I think from Obama we've seen what it looks like as if your legacy depends on it. But we need to see leadership as if the world depended on it.


AVI LEWIS: And just what about the resonance that this message is having? I mean, I, as a Canadian, you know, to be in the States right now and see the unbelievable support for Bernie Sanders and the enthusiasm for someone who's talking about inequality, relentlessly talking about inequality, and connecting it to climate change, which, of course, is central to the pope's message, too. These two intertwining crises are the defining crises of our time. And these two old guys, who are talking about it in very blunt ways, are summoning massive crowds and real resonance. And yet, you know, obviously, the mainstream media has no interest in connecting these topics or even really addressing them. But the popular support and resonance is just astonishing.

AMY GOODMAN: Filmmaker Avi Lewis and author Naomi Klein on their new film, This Changes Everything. When we come back, we talk to them about The Leap Manifesto, Canada's upcoming elections, and Shell saying they won't be drilling in the Arctic. Stay with us.

News Mon, 05 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0400
One Year After "End" to War in Afghanistan, Aid Workers Reveal Real Story

While many Americans believe that the war in Afghanistan is winding down, peace activists and medical aid workers tell a different story. "It really shows how mainstream media has failed to tell the truth to the world," says Dr. Hakim, a medical doctor who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade. "The war is going on. It is accelerating. Both the Red Cross and the United Nations has reported an increased civilian deaths in the past few years. It is getting worse. It is definitely not scaling down. I think Americans need to know the taxpayer money is going to a war that is worsening." Doctors Without Borders is calling for an independent investigation of a US airstrike on a hospital in Kunduz that left 22 dead, including 12 staff members and 10 patients, three of them children. We speak with Dr. Hakim, as well as Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who just returned from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Dr. Gino Strada, co-founder of Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides free medical care to victims of war.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We're talking about the airstrike over the weekend by US and Afghan forces in the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz on a Doctors Without Borders, Médecins Sans Frontières, hospital that's killed 22 people, the majority staff and children in this hospital. Our guests are Dr. Gino Strada, who's joining us from Milan, Italy - he's co-founder of Emergency, operates a clinic in Kabul and dealing with some of the war wounded, as well, from Kunduz. Also, Dr. Hakim is with us. He is head of Afghan Peace Volunteers.

Dr. Hakim, you're in Kabul right now. Can you talk about the Afghan response to this bombing in Kunduz?

DR. HAKIM: Well, thank you for having me on the program, Amy. Afghans have been inured to the many, many years of mistakes that the US-NATO coalition have made in not only bombing, unfortunately, the hospital in Kunduz, but ordinary civilian events, like weddings, that Afghans hold. So I don't think Afghans are surprised. They are definitely angry.

AMY GOODMAN: And what you're seeing - Dr. Gino Strada just explained, at the clinic in Kabul that Emergency is operating out of, the increased casualties, as I think people in the United States think of the war in Afghanistan as certainly gearing down.

DR. HAKIM: That really shows how mainstream media has failed to tell the truth to the world. The war is going on. It is deteriorating. Both the International Red Cross as well as the United Nations have reported an increase in civilian casualties over the past few years. So it is getting worse. It is definitely not scaling down. And I think Americans need to know that their taxpayer money is going to a war that is worsening.

AMY GOODMAN: Kathy Kelly, you're now in Portland, Maine, but you just returned from Afghanistan. You're a leading peace activist in this country and around the world, several times nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Can you talk about what's just happened in Kunduz and what you think needs to happen?

KATHY KELLY: Well, Amy, I think the United States military has again shown itself to be the most formidable warlord in the area. What is patently a war crime, the terrible bombing of the hospital in Kunduz, which went on from 2:08 in the morning until 3:15 in the morning, bombings that happened in 15-minute intervals. Eyewitness survivors said it was so terrible to be watching patients burning in their bed. This has now left an entire region without a hospital. And the United States referred to it as "collateral damage." The United States military made that reference.

And I think it's important to see this in the context of the healthcare [inaudible] that the United States has provided through USAID. You know, in July, the inspector general for Afghanistan, John Sopko, issued a letter to the head of USAID, saying 80 percent of the hospitals and healthcare facilities that they had listed as getting support from the United States, you couldn't find the hospitals in Google Earth searches. They said that there was question raised about many of these locations. And so, you've got [inaudible] unverifiable locations of healthcare facilities supported by the United States. And then in Kunduz, you've got doctors and nurses being in a very terrible situation trying to deliver healthcare, and the United States bombs -

AMY GOODMAN: Kathy, we're going to go to Dr. Gino Strada and get you on the telephone so we can hear you more clearly. Dr. Gino Strada, in Milan, Italy, can you talk about what it means that Doctors Without Borders will be shutting down their operation in northern Kunduz after this US airstrike on the hospital that killed so many? What will it mean for the people there? What kind of access will they have to medicine?

DR. GINO STRADA: Well, this is a major problem that we still have to understand. The main issue is to ensure at the moment a sort of fast track, a fast corridor, in order for the patients and wounded - that will be wounded, because fighting is ongoing - in the northern area could reach at least Kabul or an alternative, as far as emergency is concerned, a surgical center in Panjshir, which is probably slightly closer than Kabul to Kunduz. In Afghanistan, the surgical facilities are very, very poor and very few. So, the risk is that the entire areas remain unserved. We will try our best to make sure that ambulance services will be available to guarantee a safe and quick referral of the patients to the surgical facilities.

AMY GOODMAN: How does this compare to what you have faced with Emergency, Dr. Gino Strada? And also, congratulations on the announcement that you have just won the Right Livelihood Award.

DR. GINO STRADA: Well, thank you for - yeah, we are quite proud of this award, because I think it's a good recognition for the tremendous work that Emergency has been doing in the past 22 years in favor of the victims of war, particularly in Afghanistan, where we have one of the largest programs with three surgical centers, one maternity center and 54 clinics and first-aid posts scattered throughout the country. It's an important recognition. We are very happy. We'll try to have our program in Afghanistan expanding even further.

One of the main questions now is how to ensure the delivery of the humanitarian assistance. What we have seen in the past years is that it's becoming more and more difficult to guarantee that wounded people or sick people could safely reach hospitals. Whenever there is an ongoing fighting, normally militaries from all parties are preventing the evacuation of the wounded. And this is also, by itself, a war crime, although on a smaller scale. But preventing wounded people from being evacuated and looked after is definitely a crime. And this is done every day. And there's no investigation ongoing. It's quietly accepted by everybody that wounded patients have no rights. And we know very well that more than 90 percent of these patients are civilians, are people who have never had a weapon in their hands, who did not take part into the hostilities. And this is the social tragedy of that country.

AMY GOODMAN: Kathy Kelly, just back from Afghanistan, what does this say about the reliability of drone surveillance and US intelligence overall?

KATHY KELLY: Well, given that the coordinates of the hospital had been made very clear to the Afghan military, the United States military, in the months leading up to this critical weekend, also this past week, it certainly is clear that the United States knew, had the intelligence, knew that it was bombing a hospital, and decided to go ahead with the attack anyway. The drone flights certainly frighten people, and airstrikes like this frighten people, and they don't know where to turn for protection, particularly in the rural areas. And, of course, now without a hospital in that region, they won't know where to turn for any kind of healthcare.

But, you know, the United States is pouring enormous resources into drone surveillance, constant surveillance, that's supposed to establish patterns of life in Afghanistan. But far better if the United States people would understand the hunger and the lack of healthcare, the disease that plagues people in Afghanistan. And that's the kind of intelligence, that's the sort of literacy about the consequences of our wars, which people don't have.

AMY GOODMAN: Gino Strada, Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders, says they treat all people, without discrimination, whether it's Taliban, whether it's Afghan civilians, whether it would be US injured. Do you think that is part of the reason this hospital might have been attacked, if there were Taliban in the hospital?

DR. GINO STRADA: Well, this could be one of the - I will use the term "excuses," not "reasons." We had a similar experience four or five years ago with our hospital in the Helmand province, where we made public that more than 40 percent of the victims that we were treating, war victims, in our hospital were children, and they were all injured by the bombing of the coalition around the villages of the Helmand region. And then, all of a sudden, we found that some of our staff was arrested, that Afghan security forces and UK security forces entered our hospital in Helmand, and, surprisingly, they found two or three pistols in the pharmacy store in the hospital. Probably they put them there six hours before. It was another excuse, because nobody once witnessed this, of these continuous and repeated crimes against the Afghan people that is going on since years and years. And so, it's not surprising that someone might have been disturbed by this situation, and therefore they found an excuse to continue the killing.

AMY GOODMAN: As The New York Times put it, Doctors Without Borders issued this sharp statement saying they were disgusted by statements of Afghan authorities trying to justify the strike on the hospital. The group's general director, Christopher Stokes, what we quoted at the beginning: "These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present," said the head of Doctors Without Borders. Gino Strada?

DR. GINO STRADA: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. You know, I think that everybody who is trying to help the wounded in Afghanistan is facing the same problem. Wounded are not all the same. Someone believes that some of the wounded do not deserve any right because they are their enemies. But doctors have no enemies. We are not involved in Afghan politics. We are not taking sides. We are just trying to look after sick and wounded people. And this creates a lot of difficulties for all the militaries involved in this situation.

There is a solution. Well, I think so. The only solution is to understand that war and violence take you nowhere. We are completely in agreement with a statement from great human beings, such as Albert Einstein, who quoted, you know, that war can only be abolished, cannot be humanized. And that's the reality. Every time we have to prove that this statement from Einstein was the solution of the problem. We should abandon war. We should try to think and solve our problems in a different way, excluding violence and war. And this is very difficult to accept for someone and has very dramatic consequences also for health personnel who are trying to help in war zones and difficult situations. There is no respect, no more respect for anybody. Doctors, nurses, they are all enemies.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank - I want to thank you all for being with us, Dr. Gino Strada, co-founder of Emergency, speaking to us from Milan, Italy; Dr. Hakim of Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, Afghanistan; and Kathy Kelly with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, just back from Afghanistan. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report.

News Mon, 05 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Lyme Disease Guidelines Panelists Engage in Coordinated Propaganda Campaign

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Advocates and medical professionals say current guidelines that dispute the existence of chronic Lyme disease harm large numbers of patients who are misdiagnosed or denied treatment because of health coverage restrictions imposed by the guidelines.

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Since they were first published in 2000, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) guidelines for diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease have been the subject of intense controversy, including an antitrust investigation by the state of Connecticut and hundreds of protests.

Advocacy groups say the IDSA guidelines misrepresent science and restrict access to care for patients with chronic Lyme disease. They say additional harm occurs when patients are denied insurance coverage for evidence-based treatment options that could help them regain their health.

Advocates have complained that IDSA guidelines authors have been engaged in a long-running misinformation campaign to promote the IDSA guidelines and discredit research that contradicts the evidence and recommendations of the guidelines.

Much of the propaganda is produced by the shadowy Ad Hoc International Lyme Disease Group, which consists of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) employees and most authors of the IDSA guidelines.

Two Standards of Care

Controversy over Lyme disease has sharply divided the medical community, resulting in two competing standards of care that disagree on most aspects of the disease, including diagnosis and treatment.

The center of the debate is over the existence of chronic Lyme, also referred to as "persistent infection," which means that some Lyme bacteria can tolerate and survive antibiotic treatment.

The view enforced by IDSA is that Lyme disease is easy to diagnose and simple to treat with a limited course of antibiotics. According to the IDSA guidelines, chronic Lyme does not exist and long-term antibiotic treatment is not warranted. The IDSA guidelines were developed in close coordination with the CDC and are followed by most physicians and used by insurers to determine limits on coverage.

The alternative paradigm, represented by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), maintains that Lyme disease is a serious national medical problem of epidemic proportion that needs to be researched, diagnosed and treated more aggressively and often requires long-term treatment beyond the limits set by IDSA. The ILADS guidelines recognize chronic Lyme disease and recommend that the "duration of therapy be guided by clinical response, rather than by an arbitrary treatment course."

Both guidelines are listed by the National Guidelines Clearinghouse, although unlike the ILADS guidelines, the IDSA guidelines do not comply with the Institute of Medicine Standards for Developing Trustworthy Clinical Practice Guidelines or the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation Working Group system for grading quality of evidence and strength of recommendations. In addition to being contested by dozens of advocacy groups, IDSA guidelines are contested by physicians, scientists and lawmakers.

In 2008, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now a US senator (D-Connecticut), conducted an antitrust investigation of IDSA based on allegations of abuses of monopoly power and exclusionary conduct. In a May 2008 press release, Blumenthal said:

The IDSA's 2006 Lyme disease guideline panel undercut its credibility by allowing individuals with financial interests - in drug companies, Lyme disease diagnostic tests, patents and consulting arrangements with insurance companies - to exclude divergent medical evidence and opinion.

The resulting guidelines harm large numbers of patients who are misdiagnosed or otherwise denied treatment because of restrictions imposed by the guidelines.

Solid Science Tips the Balance

There are now hundreds of peer-reviewed articles that support the ILADS viewpoint. Lyme bacteria are called spirochetes because of their spiral shape. Spirochetes can drill through tissue to reach immunoprivileged sites (with less immune activity), including the central nervous system (brain and nerves) and collagen dense tissues, such as tendons and cartilage (joints) and the heart.

When conditions are unfavorable for growth, such as when the spirochetes are under attack by antibiotics, they can evade treatment by changing into dormant forms that remain viable by mooching nutrients but do not cause inflammation unless they receive signals to reactivate. With little or no metabolic activity, such as protein synthesis or replication, there is nothing for an antibiotic to disrupt. Bacteria that are capable of surviving targeted antibiotic therapy for any reason are referred to as "persisters." Some forms of Lyme persisters are also called "round bodies" because the spirochetes change from an elongated spiral to a more compact round form.

According to a July 2014 article in Emerging Microbes & Infections, "Frontline drugs such as doxycycline and amoxicillin kill the replicating spirochetal form of B. burgdorferi quite effectively, but they exhibit little activity against non-replicating persisters ..."

The April 2013 article "Review of Evidence for Immune Evasion and Persistent Infection in Lyme Disease" describes how Lyme can evade the immune system and survive antibiotic treatment. Mechanisms include varying its outer surface proteins to confuse the immune system and participating in biofilm communities, which protect it from antibiotics.

Biofilms are colonies of bacteria bound together by a DNA-containing gel of nutrients protected by an ultra-thin calcified shell. Groups of bacteria within the biofilm specialize to handle metabolic functions. Biofilms are considered a hallmark of chronic infections by many scientists.

Pathologist Alan MacDonald, Eva Sapi and other researchers have documented biofilms of Lyme bacteria, both in the lab and in human tissue. The presence of Lyme biofilms was confirmed by atomic force microscopy and DNA probes.

IDSA Gatekeepers at Major Journals

Research published in scientific journals goes through a process called peer review to determine if the material meets the editorial and scientific standards of the publication. Peer review is part of the scientific process intended to weed out flawed research and highlight the best science.

In the case of chronic Lyme disease, reviewers with serious conflicts of interest are able to prevent articles that support the ILADS point of view from being published.

According to information compiled in the 2008 antitrust investigation, IDSA panelists and others who endorse the IDSA guidelines sit on the editorial boards of 20 major medical journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet Infectious Diseases, where they can use their positions to prevent publication of studies that challenge their views on chronic Lyme.

Several members of the current IDSA guidelines panel published a flurry of papers in advance of the upcoming guidelines review process, with the apparent intent of relying on their own articles as the "evidence" requisite to assure the guidelines are "evidence-based." However, many of these articles were published in IDSA's own journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases, which further subverts the peer-review process.

An example is the July 2015 article "Poor Positive Predictive Value of Lyme Disease Serologic Testing in an Area of Low Disease Incidence," which includes current guidelines panelists Paul M. Lantos and Gary P. Wormser as co-authors.

Although unethical, this practice is not necessarily illegal. However, it shows that the peer-review system has the potential to suppress good science that conflicts with a reviewer's opinions.

IDSA panelists frequently point out that much of the information about Lyme disease published on the internet is inaccurate or misleading. This may be true, but it's also true of much of the clinical research cited by IDSA in its guidelines.

In a New York Review of Books article "Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption," former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine Dr. Marcia Angell writes, "It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines."

Misinformation From IDSA Panelists

In addition to controlling access to the major medical journals, the guidelines' authors have misinformed the public about Lyme disease through a series of published statements and media interviews.

One example occurred during a July 8, 2015, "Diane Rehm Show" on Lyme disease, when an IDSA physician, Dr. Sunil K. Sood, made a series of inaccurate and misleading statements about key aspects of the disease.

Sood specializes in pediatric infectious disease and is chairman of pediatrics at Southside Hospital North Shore-LIJ Health System. He also serves on the panel that is tasked with updating the IDSA guidelines for Lyme disease.

During the show, Sood said, "What we know for certain is that the persistent symptoms are not due to the persistence of the Lyme bacterium in the body." This statement is contradicted by a growing number of peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate persistent infection in both humans and animals after short-term antibiotic treatment.

If Sood knows this for certain, he's either ignorant of all this research or he's being deceptive. Culture confirmed cases of persistent infection in humans after short-term antibiotic treatment show that chronic Lyme disease is a very real and widespread problem.

Landmark studies by Barthold, Yrjänäinen, Embers, Hodzic, Lewis and Baumgarth indicate that dormant forms survive without causing inflammation unless they receive signals to reactivate. Signals thus far known to reactivate the Lyme bacteria include getting bit by another tick and immunosuppressant drugs, such as corticosteroids. According to Sood, a bull's-eye rash is present in "90 percent of cases." There is little evidence to support this claim; however, there is plenty of evidence that shows large numbers of patients never see a rash.

Sood also said that ticks must be attached "48 to 72 hours" to transmit the disease. This is contrary to the latest research, which shows that Lyme can be transmitted in less than 24 hours, and that no minimum attachment time has been conclusively established. Misinformation of this type has the potential to harm patients who trust experts to provide accurate information. Imagine if patients take this information as gospel and do not seek treatment because a tick has been attached for less than 48 hours. Imagine if they or their doctors discount the possibility of Lyme disease because they did not see a bull's-eye rash.

Organized Propaganda Campaign by Ad Hoc Lyme Group

Unfortunately, Dr. Sood is not an exception. Misleading information that has been refuted by good science has been published in a series of peer-reviewed articles by IDSA panelists.

The Ad Hoc International Lyme Disease Group was formed in 2005 by CDC and NIH employees and 14 authors of the IDSA guidelines. CDC emails released in 2012, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by science writer Kris Newby, show how the Ad Hoc Group has been covertly setting government policy on Lyme for the past decade.

The 2007 article "A Critical Appraisal of 'Chronic Lyme Disease'" in The New England Journal of Medicine lists the Ad Hoc Group under contributing authors. The article goes to great lengths to discredit the concept of chronic Lyme.

The authors cite NIH-funded, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials in claiming "there is substantial risk, with little or no benefit, associated with additional antibiotic treatment for patients who have long-standing subjective symptoms."

A rigorous biostatistical review of the NIH trials, published in an independent peer- reviewed journal, determined that "long term treatment can be beneficial" and explains that "significant findings and errors may arise when disagreement and uncertainty exists in the medical community, as is the case with Lyme disease." The review concludes, "It is incorrect to draw strong conclusions regarding antibiotic retreatment in patients with persistent symptoms of Lyme disease based on the NIH-sponsored randomized controlled trials."

The supplementary information for The New England Journal of Medicine article recommends that "The physician should arm, them [patients] with an explanation of the antibiotic-responsive nature of this infection and its lack of persistence." This recommendation flies in the face of definitive peer-reviewed studies on persistence that suggest otherwise.

The most recent of the NIH trials was a primate study by Monica Embers in which investigators recovered intact Lyme spirochetes from rhesus macaques (a class of monkeys) treated with the IDSA recommended antibiotic regimen, using "xenodiagnosis," where sterile ticks are attached to the patient for a period of time and then tested for Lyme.

It's hypothesized that chemicals secreted by the ticks wake up the dormant spirochetes and draw them toward the site of the bite. Similar studies have yet to be conducted in humans, but the Embers study provides the strongest evidence to date that short-term antibiotics will not always eradicate the Lyme bacteria.

Another more recent example of collaboration by members of the Ad Hoc Group is the July 2015 article, "Unorthodox Alternative Therapies Marketed to Treat Lyme Disease," authored by IDSA guidelines panelists Paul M. Lantos, Eugene D. Shapiro, Paul G. Auwaerter, John J. Halperin and Gary P. Wormser, along with Phillip J. Baker, a former NIH official, and Edward McSweegan, a former NIH Lyme program officer who currently serves as program manager for the NIH Global Virus Network.

Baker is the executive director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation, a nonprofit organization that according to advocates is a front for IDSA that masquerades as a patient organization. Baker was responsible for management of two of the NIH trials on Lyme disease.

Patients Under Attack

In addition to attempting to discredit research and researchers, IDSA panelists have attacked patients and patient advocacy groups in a series of public statements and in articles published in influential medical journals.

One such article, "Antiscience and Ethical Concerns Associated with Advocacy of Lyme Disease," co-authored by members of the Ad Hoc Group, vilifies Lyme patient advocates and accuses them of being part of an "antiscience movement."

The article claims there is "no microbiological evidence for persistence of B. burgdorferi," and that "Lyme disease activists have created a parallel universe of pseudoscientific practitioners, research, publications, and meetings."

The article also attacks ILADS directly and says, "Several physician members of ILADS - including current and former officers - have been sanctioned by state medical licensing boards."

The authors fail to mention that many of these physicians were providing patients with evidence-based treatments that conflicted with the IDSA guidelines, and were reported to the medical boards by IDSA physicians rather than by patients.

The article attacks efforts by advocacy groups to pass legislation and says the leaders "lobby for legislation to promote their perception of chronic Lyme disease and to protect LLMDs (Lyme Literate Medical Doctors) from licensing boards."

This is especially ironic since IDSA employs professional lobbyists to oppose this type of legislation, and at its 2004 annual meeting, passed a resolution to "oppose patient legislative initiatives."

A recent example of attacks on patients came from IDSA spokesperson and Johns Hopkins physician Paul G. Auwaerter, M.D., who says patients with chronic Lyme symptoms dabble in conspiracy theories. "When you don't understand something," Auwaerter said in an April 2015 interview with the Allentown Morning Call, "you try to insert a framework that makes sense to you."

Rather than address the problem, the recurring theme from IDSA-aligned researchers is that Lyme patients and advocacy groups are the problem.

According to Holly Ahern, microbiology professor at SUNY Adirondack and vice president of Lyme Action Network, "Rhetorical attacks on patients, advocates and physicians who treat chronic Lyme patients do nothing to advance the science or help patients. This is exactly the tactic used in the 1980s to marginalize AIDS patients and advocates, when the infectious nature of that disease was still under dispute."

In an email (obtained by FOIA) to Barbara Johnson, Ph.D., a CDC researcher aligned with the IDSA panelists, Durland Fish, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Yale University and core member of the Ad Hoc Group, wrote, "This battle cannot be won on a scientific front. We need to mount a socio-political offensive."

"For whatever reason, the IDSA panelists view this as a 'war' that must be won at all cost," Ahern said. "Unfortunately, Lyme disease patients and their families are the civilian casualties of this war."

Ethical Questions

Physicians - and particularly specialists and researchers - have a professional obligation to keep up with science in their fields.

According to the American Medical Association code of ethics, "A physician shall continue to study, apply, and advance scientific knowledge, maintain a commitment to medical education, make relevant information available to patients, colleagues, and the public ..."

Rather than advancing scientific knowledge and making relevant information available, IDSA panelists are ignoring good science and withholding relevant information from patients, colleagues and the public.

Time for Change

The effect of this decades-long propaganda campaign is that an entire class of chronically ill patients is discriminated against by a medical society that has lost sight of patient-centered care.

Many of these very sick patients are forced to take the initiative and learn on their own about relevant science and evidence-based treatment options prohibited by the IDSA guidelines. Something is terribly wrong when large numbers of chronically ill patients have to do their own research because widely followed treatment guidelines do not provide an acceptable standard of care.

For more than three decades, the voices of chronic Lyme patients and the doctors who treat them have been drowned out by academic physicians who have controlled the debate. We need to stop this injustice and give this rapidly growing epidemic the attention and funding it urgently needs.

IDSA Response

IDSA issued the following statement in response to a request for comment on this article:

IDSA is committed to ensuring that people with Lyme disease receive the best possible care, based on the best science available. We deeply sympathize with patients who are suffering. We believe more research and better tests are needed. Our position is that long-term use of antibiotics in the treatment of Lyme disease has been shown to have no benefit and is indeed dangerous. IDSA is currently working with the American Academy of Neurology and the American College of Rheumatology and other medical societies to develop a new guideline on Lyme disease, with input from the public.

Dr. Sood did not respond to a request for comment.

Opinion Mon, 05 Oct 2015 11:53:19 -0400
Outrage After US Airstrike on Hospital Kills 22 Patients and Staff in Afghanistan

Doctors Without Borders is demanding an independent international inquiry into a US airstrike Saturday on an Afghan hospital in the city of Kunduz that killed 22 people, including 12 staff members and 10 patients, three of them children. At least three dozen people were injured. The attack continued for 30 minutes after the US and Afghan militaries were informed by telephone that the hospital was being bombed. We speak with Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who just returned from Kabul, Afghanistan; Gino Strada, co-founder of Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides free medical care to victims of war; and Dr. Hakim, a medical doctor who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Doctors Without Borders is demanding an independent international inquiry into a suspected US airstrike Saturday on an Afghan hospital in the city of Kunduz that killed 22 people - 12 staff members and 10 patients, including three children. At least three dozen people were injured. The attack continued for 30 minutes after the US and Afghan militaries were informed by telephone that the hospital was being bombed. Bart Janssens, the director of [operations] for Doctors Without Borders, described the attack.

DR. BART JANSSENS: We now know an aerial attack, of which carries very clearly the signature of being - a lot of indication that it's been carried out by the international coalition forces in Afghanistan. What happened is that a plane arrived, and in several ways, they came four or five times over the hospital and every time extremely precisely hit with a series of impacts on the main building of the hospital. This led to the horrible results of what we see. ...

The hospital is there since four years. It's a large hospital. The compound is larger than a football ground. And we have several times communicated, through the GPS coordinates, the exact location of the hospital to all warring parties in Afghanistan. So we really don't understand, and we definitely do not accept denotification of "collateral damage" as we heard in the beginning, in the first reaction.

AMY GOODMAN: Doctors Without Borders General Director Christopher Stokes said in a statement, quote, "Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body. Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient," he said.

Kunduz has been the scene of fierce fighting since the Taliban seized the northern city in Afghanistan last week. On Sunday, Doctors Without Borders announced it would have to withdraw from Kunduz, where they operated the only free trauma care hospital in northern Afghanistan. Some Afghan officials said the airstrike was justified, claiming Taliban fighters had used the hospital. Doctors Without Borders rejected the claim, saying, quote, "These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present. This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as 'collateral damage.'" The United States acknowledged the hospital may have been, quote, "collateral damage." The Pentagon promised promised a full investigation into what happened. Defense Secretary Carter said, quote, "We do know that American air assets ... were engaged in the Kunduz vicinity, and we do know that the structures that ... you see in the news were destroyed. I just can't tell you what the connection is at this time."

We're joined by a number of guests here in the United States and Afghanistan. We're joined by Dr. Gino Strada, co-founder of Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides free medical care to victims of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. He was just named winner of the Right Livelihood Award. Emergency operates a facility in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which has taken in over 40 patients from the Kunduz hospital bombed on Saturday. Dr. Gino Strada joins us from Milan, Italy.

Kathy Kelly is also with us. She is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, just returned from Kabul - she's now in Portland, Maine - Afghanistan. Her recent article is called, "#Enough! A Campaign to End War and Focus on Food and Health."

And we'll go to Kabul to Dr. Hakim, a medical doctor who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade, who works with Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building nonviolent alternatives to war. Dr. Hakim is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.

I want to go first to Dr. Gino Strada. Though you're in Milan, Italy, the clinic that you operate in Kabul, Afghanistan, is taking in people from the Kunduz hospital. Can you tell us what you understand, Dr. Strada, at this point?

DR. GINO STRADA: Well, we have received 41 patients that were wounded, all coming from Kunduz. They came by different means, many of them by themselves. Some of them, they were directly transferred by MSF personnel. And for our staff in the surgical center in Kabul was a great workload, because we were already at the hospital capacity, quite fully, saturated with the wounded from the area of Kabul. The number of wounded, of civilian wounded, in Afghanistan has increased and been increasing over the years. At the moment, we are having around 300, 320 war-related patients a month, which means more than 10 per day. Many of them, they come obviously from the Kabul area, but in this moment we have to cope also with this war crime that has been committed in Kunduz.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Dr. Gino Strada, if you can talk about the response of the United States, saying they'd conduct an internal investigation, and Doctors Without Borders responding that it cannot be done by one of the parties involved with the bombing?

DR. GINO STRADA: Well, you know, I am a surgeon, I am not a politician. And what I've seen, having spent many, many years, more than seven years in Afghanistan, every time it's the same story: There's been a mistake or a collateral damage. Well, I see no difference between the two ideas. The reality is always the same: Civilians are killed, civilians are wounded, voluntarily or by mistake, but there's the reality of war. In the time we are in Afghanistan, we have been looking after more than 140,000 war wounded, all in Kabul. And Kabul is just one of the three surgical centers we have in Afghanistan, the others being in Helmand province in Lashkar Gah, and in Panjshir. And it's going on like this since years and years. So, I'm not expecting anything to come out from the investigation. This will not bring back to life those who have been killed, will not care for the wounds.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go to break. Dr. Gino Strada is speaking to us on Democracy Now! video stream from Milan, Italy. We're also going to go to Kabul to speak with Dr. Hakim, who works with the war wounded in Afghanistan's capital, and Kathy Kelly, just back from Afghanistan. This is Democracy Now! We'll be back in a minute.

News Mon, 05 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Ayotzinapa: Necropolitics and the Media Become Judge and Jury

"In a tragic incident in Egypt, Mexican tourists were attacked. I deeply regret that people have lost their lives," tweeted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on September 13, shortly after the news was released that a caravan of Mexican tourists was violently attacked by Egyptian security forces. Over the next week Peña Nieto went on to tweet over a dozen more times about these tragic events in Egypt, sending his condolences to families and promises to assist the victims.

Each of these tweets represents 140 characters more than those which Peña Nieto was willing to extend to the Ayotzinapa rural teaching college students. These students known as Normalistas were forcibly disappeared by state security forces on September 26, 2014, in Iguala, Guerrero and to date, their whereabouts are unknown. The same night three of these students were killed, one of whom was found with his face torn off, and three bystanders. Two days after this attack, the president cancelled a trip he had planned to Guerrero and remained silent on the issue for over a week.

The news quickly spread about the attack and thousands took to the streets and social networks to denounce what they called "Narco Politics" where the thin line that separated organized crime and the government was blurred long ago. Peña Nieto found himself on the defensive and officially addressed the nation, promising to investigate what happened, although the resources he dedicated didn't reflect this compromise.

"We still remember your indifference during the first weeks of our tragedy," read a statement by the families of the 43, released three days before the year anniversary as they prepared for a meeting with Peña Nieto.

Last fall, recognizing the government's unwillingness to search for the students, citizen self-defense groups found themselves scourging Guerrero's lush green hilltops to find them. They didn't find the 43 education students, but they did unearth over 100 other clandestine graves. Each one revealed the horror of decaying bodies and bones that did not actually belong to the students. The question then remained who did they belong to? When did Mexico's rural hillsides turn into mass graves? Most likely these bodies belonged to local families who had spent years anguishing over their unexplained absence. Following the unearthing of these graves, hundreds of people in Iguala and other parts of Guerrero found the strength to come forward and speak out about their missing loved ones.

A new phrase then entered the popular vernacular, that of the "Necropolitica," or in English, Necro Politics. African scholar, Achille Mbembe wrote about these politics where the state has the "power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die." On November 7, 2014, a month and a half after the students forced disappearance, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam declared in his "historical truth" that the students were all burned in a garbage dump and that all that was left of them are bags of ashes. Students responded to the government's claim by lighting the government palace on fire and the parents turned to the independent Argentine forensics to see if this twisted horror was actually true.

In Necropolitics, Chembe writes about state violence where, "In the case of massacres in particular, lifeless bodies are quickly reduced to the status of simple skeletons. Their morphology henceforth inscribes them in the register of undifferentiated generality: simple relics of an unburied pain, empty, meaningless corporealities, strange deposits plunged into cruel stupor."

For me the Necro Politics are reflected in the sheer cynicism of a government that kidnaps students, fails to thoroughly investigate their whereabouts and then claims that they were executed and burned to ashes. This is a politics where the very act of living is an act of resistance. A politics where the government not only buries the victims of its failing and poorly named "war on drugs," but also closes their investigations and buries their stories.

This is definitely not the first time that a tragedy of this scale has happened in Mexico but it may be the first time that the victims have had the unity and strength to not let their stories be buried and have refused to be bought off by the government. They have traversed not only all of Mexico in their dignified search for their children but also the world, allowing the international community to understand the grave human rights situation that Mexico is living.

"You have tortured us by privileging a political timeline instead of the rights of the victims," write the parents in their communique toward the president demanding that his government continues to search for the students and stops criminalizing and delegitimizing their struggle.

Last year just as the federal government was ready to close the case, a group of independent experts commissioned by the Inter American commission on Human Rights were called in to thoroughly investigate the case. Six months later they called the government's bluff, saying that the students were not actually burned in the Cocula garbage dump as the government claimed. They also highlighted the role that the various levels of government played in the coordination of the attack, including the military and federal police. In their report they also write about the prevalence of a fifth bus that the government conveniently forgot to include in their investigation and there is a possibility that this bus may have been packed full of heroin ready to be transported to Chicago.

As the government's version of the Iguala case started to crumble, they found themselves on the defensive, cocked their guns and fought back full force. The countries' media outlets helped them fire their weapons. First the government did everything within their power to discredit the independent forensic scientist who said that the fire in Cocula never happened. When that didn't seem to do enough to discredit the report they whipped out their next weapon on September 16, a federal holiday when the majority of the country is too exhausted from the previous night's independence festivities to pay attention to the news. The new Attorney General Arely Gomez delivered her sinister message announcing that Innsbruck, the Austrian forensics lab, had positively identified the remains of yet another Normalista student, Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz.

The press immediately repeated the message with their headlines claiming "Another Normalista identified" instead of saying "Government says another Normalista identified." This difference is essential, considering all the lives that the government has put forth in this case and in fact the following day the EEAF, the Independent Argentine Forensic team released a statement saying that they did not consider the identification as a positive one, that instead it represented a positive genetic correlation. Also, the Argentines maintained that they were not present during the excavation of the bags of ashes and therefore could not confirm that it had come from the Cocula garbage dump as the government had claimed.

And then, somehow the next day, state security forces were able to "peacefully" capture Public Enemy #1 "El Gil," Gildardo López Astudillo, who according to the government is the head capo of Los Guerreros Unidos, the regional drug cartel responsible for the attack. This is not the first time, and surely won't be the last that the government magically captures a wanted drug trafficker when their credibility is on the line. In this case, the media was once again quick to act as judge and jury running headlines like "Head of Guerreros Unidos Captured" before his trial could even start.

The media has also played a powerful role in holding the government accountable and reporting on the numerous massacres in which the government has played a key role, including Tlatlaya and Apatzingan. On this tragic anniversary of a day that will never be forgotten in Mexican history, the media will have the opportunity to just repeat the lies the government has been propagating since day one or amplify the voices of the families clamoring for justice for their missing sons.

This article was also reprinted at ZNet.

Opinion Mon, 05 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0400
US Military Budget Reaches New Record

To listen to the Republican candidates' debate last week, one would think that President Obama had slashed the US military budget and left our country defenseless. Nothing could be farther off the mark. There are real weaknesses in Obama's foreign policy, but a lack of funding for weapons and war is not one of them. President Obama has in fact been responsible for the largest US military budget since the Second World War, as is well documented in the US Department of Defense's annual "Green Book."

The table below compares average annual Pentagon budgets under every president since Truman, using "constant dollar" figures from the FY2016 Green Book. I'll use these same inflation-adjusted figures throughout this article, to make sure I'm always comparing "apples to apples." These figures do not include additional military-related spending by the VA, CIA, Homeland Security, Energy, Justice or State Departments, nor interest payments on past military spending, which combine to raise the true cost of US militarism to about $1.3 trillion per year, or one thirteenth of the US economy.

US Military Budgets 1948-2015

  • Obama FY2010-15 $663.4 billion per year

  • Bush Jr FY2002-09* $634.9 " " "

  • Clinton FY1994-2001 $418.0 " " "

  • Bush Sr FY1990-93 $513.4 " " "

  • Reagan FY1982-89 $565.0 " " "

  • Carter FY1978-81 $428.1 " " "

  • Ford FY1976-77 $406.7 " " "

  • Nixon FY1970-75 $441.7 " " "

  • Johnson FY1965-69 $527.3 " " "

  • Kennedy FY1962-64 $457.2 " " "

  • Eisenhower FY1954-61 $416.3 " " "

  • Truman FY1948-53 $375.7 " " "

*Excludes $80 billion supplemental added to FY2009 under Obama.

The USmilitary receives more generous funding than the rest of the 10 largest militaries in the world combined (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, UK, France, Japan, India, Germany & South Korea). And yet, despite the chaos and violence of the past 15 years, the Republican candidates seem oblivious to the dangers of one country wielding such massive and disproportionate military power.

On the Democratic side, even Senator Bernie Sanders has not said how much he would cut military spending. But Sanders regularly votes against the authorization bills for these record military budgets, condemning this wholesale diversion of resources from real human needs and insisting that war should be a "last resort."

Sanders' votes to attack Yugoslavia in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001, while the UN Charter prohibits such unilateral uses of force, do raise troubling questions about exactly what he means by a "last resort." As his aide Jeremy Brecher asked Sanders in his resignation letter over his Yugoslavia vote, "Is there a moral limit to the military violence that you are willing to participate in or support? Where does that limit lie? And when that limit has been reached, what action will you take?" Many Americans are eager to hear Sanders flesh out a coherent commitment to peace and disarmament to match his commitment to economic justice.

When President Obama took office, Congressman Barney Frank immediately called for a 25% cut in military spending. Instead, the new president obtained an $80 billion supplemental to the FY2009 budget to fund his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and his first full military budget (FY2010) was $761 billion, within $3.4 billion of the $764.3 billion post-WWII record set by President Bush in FY2008.

The Sustainable Defense Task Force, commissioned by Congressman Frank and bipartisan Members of Congress in 2010, called for $960 billion in cuts from the projected military budget over the next 10 years. Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Partycalled for a 50% cut in US military spending in their 2012 presidential campaigns. That seems radical at first glance, but a 50% cut in the FY2012 budget would only have been a 13% cut from what President Clinton spent in FY1998.

Clinton's $399 billion FY1998 military budget was the nearest we came to realizing the "peace dividend" promised at the end of the Cold War. But that didn't even breach the Cold War baseline of $393 billion set after the Korean War (FY1954) and the Vietnam War (FY1975). The largely unrecognized tragedy of today's world is that we allowed the "peace dividend" to be trumped by what Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives calls the "power dividend," the desire of military-industrial interests to take advantage of the collapse of the USSR. to consolidate global US military power.

The triumph of the "power dividend" over the "peace dividend" was driven by some of the most powerful vested interests in history. But at each step, there were alternatives to war, weapons production and global military expansion.

At a Senate Budget Committee hearing in December 1989, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Assistant Secretary Lawrence Korb, a Democrat and a Republican, testified that the FY1990 $542 billion Pentagon budget could be cut by half over the next 10 years to leave us with a new post-Cold War baseline military budget of $270 billion, 60% less than President Obama has spent and 20% below what even Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson called for.

There was significant opposition to the First Gulf War - 22 Senators and 183 Reps voted against it, including Sanders - but not enough to stop the march to war. The war became a model for future US-led wars and served as a marketing display for a new generation of US weapons. After treating the public to endless bombsight videos of "smart bombs" making "surgical strikes," US officials eventually admitted that such "precision" weapons were only 7% of the bombs and missiles raining down on Iraq. The rest were good old-fashioned carpet-bombing, but the mass slaughter of Iraqis was not part of the marketing campaign. When the bombing stopped, US pilots were ordered to fly straight from Kuwait to the Paris Air Show, and the next three years set new records for US weapons exports.

Presidents Bush and Clinton made significant cuts in military spending between 1992 and 1994, but the reductions shrank to 1-3% per year between 1995 and 1998 and the budget started rising again in 1999. Meanwhile, US officials crafted new rationalizations for the use of US military force to lay the ideological groundwork for future wars. Untested and highly questionable claims that more aggressive US use of force could have prevented the genocide in Rwanda or civil war in Yugoslavia have served to justify the use of force elsewhere ever since, with universally catastrophic results. Neoconservatives went even further and claimed that seizing the post-Cold War power dividend was essential to US security and prosperity in the 21st century.

The claims of both the humanitarian interventionists and the neoconservatives were emotional appeals to different strains in the American psyche, driven and promoted by powerful people and institutions whose careers and interests were bound up in the growth of the military industrial complex. The humanitarian interventionists appealed to Americans' desire to be a force for good in the world. As Madeleine Albright asked Colin Powell, "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" On the other hand, the neocons played on the insularity and insecurity of many Americans to claim that the world must be dominated by US military power if we are to preserve our way of life.

The Clinton administration wove many of these claims into a blueprint for global US military expansion in its 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review. The QDR threatened the unilateral use of US military force, in clear violation of the UN Charter, to defend "vital" US interests all over the world, including "preventing the emergence of a hostile regional coalition," and "ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources."

To the extent that they are aware of the huge increase in military spending since 1998, most Americans would connect it with the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the ill-defined "war on terror." But Carl Conetta's research established that, between 1998 and 2010, only 20% of US military procurement and RDT&E(research, development, testing & evaluation) spending and only half the total increase in military spending was related to ongoing military operations. In his 2010 paper, An Undisciplined Defense, Conetta found that our government had spent an extra 1.15 trillion dollars above and beyond Clinton's FY1998 baseline on expenses that were unrelated to to itscurrent wars.

Most of the additional funds, $640 billion, were spent on new weapons and equipment (Procurement + RDT&E in the Green Book). Incredibly, this was more than double the $290 billion the military spent on new weapons and equipment for the wars it was actually fighting. And the lion's share was not for the Army, but for the Air Force and Navy.

There has been political opposition to the F-35 warplane, which activists have dubbed "the plane that ate the budget" and whose eventual cost has been estimated at $1.5 trillion for 2,400 planes. But the Navy's procurement and RDT&E budgets rival the Air Force's.

Former General Dynamics CEO Lester Crown's political patronage of a young politician named Barack Obama, whom he first met in 1989 at the Chicago law firm where Obama was an intern, has worked out very well for the family firm. Since Obama won the Presidency, with Lester's son James and daughter-in-law Paula as his Illinois fundraising chairs and 4th largest bundlers nationwide, General Dynamics stock price has gained 170% and its latest annual report hailed 2014 as its most profitable year ever, despite an overall 30% reduction in Pentagon procurement and RDT&E spending since FY2009.

Although General Dynamics is selling fewer Abrams tanks and armored vehicles since the US withdrew most of its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, its Marine Systems division is doing better than ever. The Navy increased its purchases of Virginia class submarines from one to two per year in 2012 at $2 billion each. It is buying one new Arleigh Burke class destroyer per year through 2022 at $1.8 billion apiece (Obama reinstated that program as part of his missile defense plan), and the FY2010 budget handed General Dynamics a contract to build 3 new Zumwalt class destroyers for $3.2 billion each, on top of $10 billion already spent on research and development. That was despite a US Navy spokesman calling the Zumwalt "a ship you don't need," as it will be especially vulnerable to new anti-ship missiles developed by potential enemies. General Dynamics is also one of the largest US producers of bombs and ammunition, so it is profiting handsomely from the US bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.

Carl Conetta explains the US's unilateral arms build-up as the result of a lack of discipline and a failure of military planners to make difficult choices about the kind of wars they are preparing to fight or the forces and weapons they might need. But this massive national investment is justified in the minds of US officials by what they can use these forces to do. By building the most expensive and destructive war machine ever, designing it to be able to threaten or attackjust about anybody anywhere, and justifying its existence with a combination of neocon and humanitarian interventionist ideology, US officials have fostered dangerous illusions about the very nature of military force. As historian Gabriel Kolko warned in 1994, "options and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is possible in official circles."

The use of military force is essentially destructive. Weapons of war are designed to hurt people and break things. All nations claim to build and buy them only to defend themselves and their people against the aggression of others. The notion that the use of military force can ever be a force for good may, at best, apply to a few very rare, exceptional situations where a limited but decisive use of force has put an end to an existing conflict and led to a restoration of peace. The more usual result of the use or escalation of force is to cause greater death and destruction, to fuel resistance and to cause more widespread instability. This is what has happened wherever the US has used force since 2001, including in its proxy and covert operations in Syria and Ukraine.

We seem to be coming full circle, to once again recognize the dangers of militarism and the wisdom of the US leaders and diplomats who played instrumental roles in crafting the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Kellogg Briand Pact and much of the existing framework of international law. These treaties and conventions were based on the lived experience of our grandparents that a world where war was permitted was no longer sustainable. So they were dedicated, to the greatest extent possible, to prohibiting and eliminating war and to protecting people everywhere from the horror of war as a basic human right.

As President Carter said in his Nobel lecture in 2002, "War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good." Recent US policy has been a tragic experiment in renormalizing the evil of war. This experiment has failed abysmally, but there remains much work to do to restore peace, to repair the damage, and to recommit the United States to the rule of law.

If we compare US military spending with global military spending, we can see that, as the US cut its military budget by a third between 1985 and 1998, the rest of the world followed suit and global military budgets also fell by a third between 1988 and 1998. But as the US spent trillions of dollars on weapons and war after 2000, boosting its share of global military spending from 38% to 48% by 2008, both allies and potential enemies again responded in kind. The 92% rise in the US military budget by 2008 led to a 65% rise in global military spending by 2011.

US propaganda presents US aggression and military expansion as a force for security and stability. In reality, it is US militarism that has been driving global militarism, and US-led wars and covert interventions that have spawned subsidiary conflicts and deprived millions of people of security and stability in country after country. But just as diplomacy and peacemaking between the US and USS.R. led to a 33% fall in global military spending in the 1990s, a new US commitment to peace and disarmament today would likewise set the whole world on a more peaceful course.

In his diplomacy with Cuba and Iran and his apparent readiness to finally respond to Russian diplomacy on Syria and Ukraine, President Obama appears to have learned some important lessons from the violence and chaos that he and President Bush have unleashed on the world. The most generous patron the military industrial complex has ever known may finally be looking for diplomatic solutions to the crises caused by his policies.

But Obama's awakening, if that is what it turns out to be, has come tragically late in his presidency, for millions of victims of US war crimes and for the future of our country and the world. Whoever we elect as our next President must therefore be ready on day one to start dismantling this infernal war machine and building a "permanent structure of peace," on a firm foundation of humanity, diplomacy and a renewed US commitment to the rule of international law.

News Mon, 05 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Pregnant Women's BPA Chemical Exposure Linked to Low Birth Weights in China

A pregnant woman's exposure to BPA may potentially increase the risk of delivering babies with low birth weights, according to a new study from China.

During the course of the study, which ran from 2012 to 2014, 452 mother-infant pairs were selected from Wuhan, the most populous city in Central China. Urine samples were collected from the mothers at delivery and measured for bisphenol-A (BPA). Using birth weight data obtained from medical records, the researchers then evaluated the relationship between urinary BPA levels and low birth weight.

They found that mothers of newborns with lower birth weights had significantly higher BPA levels in their urine than the control mothers, according to the study published this month in Environment International.

They also found that the association between low birth weight and higher BPA levels was more pronounced among the female babies, suggesting female babies might be more susceptible to BPA than males.

The study, the first of its kind in China, adds to growing evidence that fetal exposure to BPA might cause developmental problems.

BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that can act like estrogen in the body. Human and animal studies have linked the chemical to reproductive, behavioral and endocrine effects.

Even the most diligent mothers-to-be may find it challenging to avoid contact with BPA. It is ubiquitous - used to make polycarbonate plastics and commonly found in food and drink packaging, and in thermal receipts.

The study doesn't prove BPA caused the low birth weights. Low birth weight can happen for a number of different reasons.

However, it is concerning as babies with low birth weights may be more at risk for other health problems, such as increased susceptibility to disease and infection, or longer-term problems such as learning disabilities or delayed motor and social development.

And it isn't the first study to link prenatal BPA exposure to impaired development. In 2013, findings from a Dutch study suggest that BPA exposure at levels commonly found in people may slow fetal growth.

In addition, a 2014 study linked high BPA levels in the placenta to lower birth weights.

News Mon, 05 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0400