Saturday, 30 June 2012

Yitzhak Shamir - terrorist dies

'During World War II, Lehi initially sought alliance with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, offering to fight alongside them against the British. On the belief that Nazi Germany was a lesser enemy of the Jews than Britain, Lehi twice attempted to form an alliance with the Nazis. During World War II it initially supported fascism, declaring that it would establish a Jewish state based upon "nationalist and totalitarian principles". After Stern's death in 1942, the new leadership of Lehi began to move it towards support of Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union.In 1944 Lehi officially declared its support for National Bolshevism. It said that its National Bolshevism involved an amalgamation of left-wing and right-wing political elements, however this change was unpopular and Lehi began to lose support as a result.
Lehi assassinated Lord Moyne, British Minister Resident in the Middle East, and made many other attacks on the British in Palestine. It was described as a terrorist organization by the British authorities. Lehi assassinated United Nations mediator Folke Bernadotte and was banned by the Israeli government. The United Nations Security Council called the assassins "a criminal group of terrorists," and Lehi was similarly condemned by Bernadotte's replacement as mediator, Ralph Bunche. Lehi and Irgun were jointly responsible for the massacre in Deir Yassin.

Former Lehi leader Yitzhak Shamir became Prime Minister of Israel in 1983.'

Flooding (again) in north England and bushfires in Colorado: global warming?

Caroline Spelman on BBC News just now, referring to the flooding in Gateshead: “increasing frequency of freak weather events”

This seems a blatant government admission of the danger of manmade global warming.

Isn’t this going to make the public wonder, then, why climate change isn’t a higher governmental priority?

The cost of this incident alone will be massive, e.g. clean-up.

Presumably, insurance companies are hiking the price of premiums as they too (implicitly) recognise the reality of global warming.

Isn’t the public’s experience of increasingly expensive home insurance alerting them to the urgency of global warming?

Despite its destruction of society, doesn’t the corporate sector’s focus on the bottom-line at least reveal to us the truth about the dangers we face. For example, no insurance companies are prepared to offer cover to nuclear power stations, and, presumably, they’re increasingly not prepared to offer affordable home insurance.

Friday, 29 June 2012

The art of milking the NHS

The art of milking the NHS
Thursday 28 June 2012
by Solomon Hughes

David Miliband MP cashed in on NHS privatisation with a £12,500 speech to the financiers behind one of Britain's leading NHS privatisation firms.

Miliband was paid for giving a talk to the annual meeting of Bridgepoint Capital in May. Miliband admitted details of this well-paid gig for financiers in the latest register of MPs' interests.

Miliband says he spent four hours on the speech - a qualified nurse earns around £31,500 a year.

So in four hours entertaining the money men taking cash out the NHS, Miliband earned more than a nurse makes in four months working for the NHS.

Bridgepoint is a private equity firm. It owns Care UK, which grew to be Britain's biggest supplier of private medical care to the NHS under the last Labour government.

Care UK made millions selling overpriced operations to the health service, in competition with existing NHS hospitals. Now Labour is in opposition, shadow ministers are keen to attack the firm.

Andrew Lansley's Tories have picked up new Labour's NHS privatisation programme with enthusiasm. But Ed Miliband's front bench are now critics of the businesses taking over the NHS.

In April Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham attacked the government over "real risks to patient safety and continuity of care in a more fragmented health service" and demanded an investigation into Care UK after the British Medical Journal revealed the firm was not processing urgent X-rays in Brent.

During the last election, Burnham also wrote to David Cameron demanding an investigation into funding of future Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's office by the wife of Care UK's director.

So Lansley is criticised for getting cash from the wife of a Care UK director, but David Miliband gets £12,500 from Care UK's owners.

Former Labour health secretary Alan Milburn now works as head of Bridgepoint Capital's European advisory board - an appointment that attracted controversy as he got the job soon after the last Labour government awarded another Bridgepoint-owned firm, Alliance Medical, a major NHS contract. Alliance Medical sold overpriced and sometimes poor-quality scans to the NHS in a scheme that made money for it and for Bridgepoint but cost the NHS millions.

The firm that paid £12,500 for a four-hour date with David Miliband has interests beyond the NHS. It knows how to make a profit in difficult times - Bridgepoint also owns major British debt collection firm 1st Credit which "focuses on the acquisition and collection of distressed debt portfolios from credit providers such as banks, credit card companies and utilities."

This firm chases poor people so hard over their debts that in 2009 the Office of Fair Trading rebuked it for using false threats of legal action against debtors.

David Miliband's latest high-paid gig shows everything that is wrong with new Labour - it preached about the wonders of the market and then takes money from firms that rip off the health service and squeeze the poor.

Andrew Lansley blamed the private finance initiative (PFI) for forcing him to place South London Healthcare Trust into administration.

The trust, which is in charge of health services for over a million folk in Greenwich, Bromley and Bexley, has a £150 million debt. Lansley is pointing at two PFI schemes for causing the problem.

Private contractors are charging huge amounts for running two hospitals - the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich and the Princess Royal, which replaced Farnborough Hospital, near Bromley.

Lansley's people told the newspapers that "this hospital trust was brought to the brink of bankruptcy by Labour. It is losing £1m a week, money which could be spent on 1,200 extra nurses for local people," adding that "the standard of care that patients receive at the hospital trust is not good enough."

The Tory government is saying that the private contractors squeeze unjustified money out of the NHS and that patients suffer as a result. And they are right.

Former Tory health secretary and current head of the health select committee Stephen Dorrell said the PFI deals were "indefensible." And he is right.

So who is to blame? Alan Milburn was the top Health Minister who gave the green light to the Greenwich and Bromley schemes in 1998.

When Milburn announced the Bromley deal with a bunch of other hospital PFIs, he said: "Every scheme is a bargain." So don't send Milburn to do your shopping - he thinks wasting millions is a good deal.

Milburn boasted that the private contractors would run the hospitals "for 30 years, which makes them even better value." In fact, this means they can gouge profits from the NHS for decades.

But when Milburn was pushing PFI, the opposition didn't come from the Tories. Back then the dissenting voice came from Unison's Bob Abberley who pointed out this was a bad deal, saying: "This is hospitals on hire purchase" and "Britain needs new hospitals run by the public not the private sector."

Tory silence wasn't surprising. PFI deals take years to put together and the plans for Greenwich and Bromley were drawn up in 1996 when the health secretary was Dorrell. So both new Labour and old Tory ministers are to blame.

Dorrell - who has been suggested as a potential replacement for Lansley should the Health Secretary implode - is the architect of a policy he himself describes as "indefensible."

There is a third group to blame for ripping off the NHS - the contractors.

Under the Tory plans, the contractors who got to take over these hospitals were both Tory donors - Taylor Woodrow for Bromley, Trafalgar House for Woolwich.

Under Milburn, Labour-supporting financier David Metter and his firm Innisfree got to cash in on the NHS.

This is what cross-party consensus looks like - Tory and Labour ministers sign "indefensible" deals which mean their business friends profit by squeezing the life out of the NHS.

Friday, 22 June 2012

CIA directing arms shipments to Syria’s “rebels”

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Daniel Ellsberg on why Wikileaks matters daniel ellsberg

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Monday, 18 June 2012

Viewpoint: Why the young should welcome austerity By Prof Niall Ferguson

Sunday, 17 June 2012

BP Announces that Venezuela Now Have the Largest Oil Reserves in the World

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BP Announces that Venezuela Now Have the Largest Oil Reserves in the World
Posted by MikeD on June 17, 2012, 11:06 am

BBC: New satellite images of Venezuela's WMD confirm Washington claims
Posted by gabriele on June 17, 2012, 11:18 am, in reply to "BP Announces that Venezuela Now Have the Largest Oil Reserves in the World"

Re: BBC: New satellite images of Venezuela's WMD confirm Washington claims

Posted by Keith-264 [User Info] [Email User] on June 17, 2012, 11:20 am, in reply to "BBC: New satellite images of Venezuela's WMD confirm Washington claims"

Is that a Norwegian Blue?

264, the last working class hero in England.

    Re: BBC: New satellite images of Venezuela's WMD confirm Washington claims

    Posted by gabriele [User Info] [Email User] on June 17, 2012, 11:43 am, in reply to "Re: BBC: New satellite images of Venezuela's WMD confirm Washington claims"

: Is that a Norwegian Blue?

The UK PM is not sure but insists they can reach London in 45 minutes. When asked about the reliability of the satellite images, the US Secretary of State warned, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Japan Prime Minister orders restart of nuclear reactors under ‘intense pressure’ from banks

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    Japan Prime Minister orders restart of nuclear reactors under ‘intense pressure’ from banks

    Posted by MikeD [User Info] [Email User] on June 16, 2012, 1:23 pm

    Japan Prime Minister orders restart of nuclear reactors under ‘intense pressure’ from banks — “The dustbin of history is waiting for him” says expert — Protests as 70% of public opposed

    Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda approved the first restart of Japan’s power reactors since last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, a decision that could undermine his political support and force early elections.

    A Mainichi News poll shows more than 70 percent of the population opposes restarting the Ohi reactors

    Noda “could end up like all his predecessors in the dustbin of history very quickly,” said Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University’s Tokyo campus. “The dustbin is waiting for him.”

    Noda’s “under intense political pressure from the banks and the utilities who want those restarted,” Andrew DeWit, a professor at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University who focuses on energy policy. “They want to get those income streams back in operation.”

MEA CULPA: BBC world news editor: Houla massacre coverage based on opposition propaganda

As quietly as possible, BBC world news editor Jon Williams has admitted that the coverage of last month’s Houla massacre in Syria by the world’s media and his own employers was a compendium of lies.


Friday, 15 June 2012

UK banks step back from involvement in cluster bombs

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    UK Banks Step Back from Involvement in Cluster Bombs

    Posted by Plus Ultra [User Info] [Email User] on June 15, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Aww. Have a biscuit. Good boy!

    But hang on: if cluster munitions are banned under international treaties acceded to by the UK, then surely the sale of such products, in violation of said treaties, constitutes an international crime? And if that is indeed the case, then why hasn't a single UK bank faced censure for its actions?

    Could it be because - and I'm speculating here - they operate beyond the reach of the law? Indeed it could! Have another biscuit!


        Re: UK Banks Step Back from Involvement in Cluster Bombs

        Posted by thiskneelingfool [User Info] [Email User] on June 15, 2012, 1:28 pm, in reply to "UK Banks Step Back from Involvement in Cluster Bombs"

        as I thought. Nice word trickery by the independent.

        the truth is

        it is not a step back,

        it is a WITHDRAWAL

        step back makes it sound like they were never involved, just positionally close which is clearly not the case. They HAD investments and have decided to withdraw those investments. As your words point out, where is the prosecution of these investment crimes?

        Which banks were involved and have they written to inform all their investors who directly profited, of their implication in war crimes?

Oil Companies That Caused Climate Change Now Fear Its Financial Impacts

Jews embracing the Nazi mindset

Why our food is making us fat

We are, on average, 3st heavier than we were in the 60s. And not because we're eating more or exercising less – we just unwittingly became sugar addicts

Who is responsible for making us fat?
Who is responsible for making us fat? Photograph: Pat Doyle/Corbis
Up a rickety staircase at the Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester, England hangs a portrait of Britain's first obese man, painted in 1806. Daniel Lambert weighed 53st (335kg) and was considered a medical oddity. Too heavy to work, Lambert came up with an ingenious idea: he would charge people a shilling to see him. Lambert made a fortune, and his portrait shows him at the end of his life: affluent and respected – a celebrated son of Leicester.
Two hundred years on, I'm in a bariatric ambulance (an alternative term for obese, favoured by the medical world because it's less shaming to patients) investigating why the UK is in the midst of an obesity crisis. The crew pick up a dozen Daniel Lamberts every week. Fifty-three stone is nothing special, it's at the lower end of the weight spectrum, with only the 80st patients worthy of mention when a shift finishes. The specially designed ambulance carries an array of bariatric gizmos including a "spatula" to help with people who have fallen out of bed or, on a recent occasion, an obese man jammed between the two walls in his hallway. As well as the ambulance, there's a convoy of support vehicles including a winch to lift patients onto a reinforced stretcher. In extreme cases, the cost of removing a patient to hospital can be up to £100,000, as seen in the recent case of 63st teenager Georgia Davis.
But these people are not where the heartland of the obesity crisis lies. On average, in the UK, we are all – every man, woman and child – three stone heavier than we were in the mid-60s. We haven't noticed it happening, but this glacial shift has been mapped by bigger car seats, swimming cubicles, XL trousers dropped to L (L dropped to M). An elasticated nation with an ever-expanding sense of normality.
Why are we so fat? We have not become greedier as a race. We are not, contrary to popular wisdom, less active – a 12-year study, which began in 2000 at Plymouth hospital, measured children's physical activity and found it the same as 50 years ago. But something has changed: and that something is very simple. It's the food we eat. More specifically, the sheer amount of sugar in that food, sugar we're often unaware of.
The story begins in 1971. Richard Nixon was facing re-election. The Vietnam war was threatening his popularity at home, but just as big an issue with voters was the soaring cost of food. If Nixon was to survive, he needed food prices to go down, and that required getting a very powerful lobby on board – the farmers. Nixon appointed Earl Butz, an academic from the farming heartland of Indiana, to broker a compromise. Butz, an agriculture expert, had a radical plan that would transform the food we eat, and in doing so, the shape of the human race.
Butz pushed farmers into a new, industrial scale of production, and into farming one crop in particular: corn. US cattle were fattened by the immense increases in corn production. Burgers became bigger. Fries, fried in corn oil, became fattier. Corn became the engine for the massive surge in the quantities of cheaper food being supplied to American supermarkets: everything from cereals, to biscuits and flour found new uses for corn. As a result of Butz's free-market reforms, American farmers, almost overnight, went from parochial small-holders to multimillionaire businessmen with a global market. One Indiana farmer believes that America could have won the cold war by simply starving the Russians of corn. But instead they chose to make money.
By the mid-70s, there was a surplus of corn. Butz flew to Japan to look into a scientific innovation that would change everything: the mass development of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or glucose-fructose syrup as it's often referred to in the UK, a highly sweet, gloppy syrup, produced from surplus corn, that was also incredibly cheap. HFCS had been discovered in the 50s, but it was only in the 70s that a process had been found to harness it for mass production. HFCS was soon pumped into every conceivable food: pizzas, coleslaw, meat. It provided that "just baked" sheen on bread and cakes, made everything sweeter, and extended shelf life from days to years. A silent revolution of the amount of sugar that was going into our bodies was taking place. In Britain, the food on our plates became pure science – each processed milligram tweaked and sweetened for maximum palatability. And the general public were clueless that these changes were taking place.
There was one product in particular that it had a dramatic effect on – soft drinks. Hank Cardello, the former head of marketing at Coca-Cola, tells me that in 1984, Coke in the US swapped from sugar to HFCS (In the UK, it continued to use sugar). As a market leader, Coke's decision sent a message of endorsement to the rest of the industry, which quickly followed suit. There was "no downside" to HFCS, Cardello says. It was two-thirds the price of sugar, and even the risk of messing with the taste was a risk worth taking when you looked at the margin, especially as there were no apparent health risks. At that time, "obesity wasn't even on the radar" says Cardello.
But another health issue was on the radar: heart disease, and in the mid-70s, a fierce debate was raging behind the closed doors of academia over what was causing it. An American nutritionist called Ancel Keys blamed fat, while a British researcher at the University of London Professor John Yudkin, blamed sugar. But Yudkin's work was rubbished by what many believe, including Professor Robert Lustig, one of the world's leading endocrinologists, was a concerted campaign to discredit Yudkin. Much of the criticism came from fellow academics, whose research was aligning far more closely with the direction the food industry was intending to take. Yudkin's colleague at the time, Dr Richard Bruckdorfer at UCL says: "There was a huge lobby from [the food] industry, particularly from the sugar industry, and Yudkin complained bitterly that they were subverting some of his ideas." Yudkin was, Lustig says simply, "thrown under the bus", because there was a huge financial gain to be made by fingering fat, not sugar, as the culprit of heart disease.
The food industry had its eyes on the creation of a new genre of food, something they knew the public would embrace with huge enthusiasm, believing it to be better for their health – "low fat". It promised an immense business opportunity forged from the potential disaster of heart disease. But, says Lustig, there was a problem. "When you take the fat out of a recipe, food tastes like cardboard, and you need to replace it with something – that something being sugar."
Overnight, new products arrived on the shelves that seemed too good to be true. Low-fat yoghurts, spreads, even desserts and biscuits. All with the fat taken out, and replaced with sugar. Britain was one of the most enthusiastic adopters of what food writer Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat, calls "the low-fat dogma", with sales rocketing.
By the mid-80s, health experts such as Professor Philip James, a world-renowned British scientist who was one of the first to identify obesity as an issue, were noticing that people were getting fatter and no one could explain why. The food industry was keen to point out that individuals must be responsible for their own calorie consumption, but even those who exercised and ate low-fat products were gaining weight. In 1966 the proportion of people with a BMI of over 30 (classified as obese) was just 1.2% for men and 1.8% for women. By 1989 the figures had risen to 10.6% for men and 14.0% for women. And no one was joining the dots between HFCS and fat.
Moreover, there was something else going on. The more sugar we ate, the more we wanted, and the hungrier we became. At New York University, Professor Anthony Sclafani, a nutritionist studying appetite and weight gain, noticed something strange about his lab rats. When they ate rat food, they put on weight normally. But when they ate processed food from a supermarket, they ballooned in a matter of days. Their appetite for sugary foods was insatiable: they just carried on eating.
According to Professor Jean-Marc Schwarz of San Francisco hospital, who is currently studying the precise way in which the major organs of the body metabolise sugar, this momentum creates "a tsunami" of sugar. The effect this has on different organs in the body is only now being understood by scientists. Around the liver, it coalesces as fat, leading to diseases such as type-2 diabetes. Other studies have found that sugar may even coat semen and result in obese men becoming less fertile. One researcher told me that, ultimately, perhaps nothing needs to be done about obesity, as obese people will wipe themselves out.
The organ of most interest, however, is the gut. According to Schwarz and Sclafani, the gut is a highly complex nervous system. It is the body's "second brain", and this second brain becomes conditioned to wanting more sugar, sending messages back to the brain that are impossible to fight.
The Sugar Association is keen to point out that sugar intake alone "is not linked to any lifestyle disease". But evidence to the contrary appears to be emerging. In February, Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis of the University of California wrote an opinion article for the journal Nature citing the growing body of scientific evidence showing that fructose can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases, and in March, the New York Times reported a study that had been published in the journal Circulation, which found that men who drank sweetened beverages most often were 20% more likely to have had a heart attack than those who drank the least. David Kessler, the former head of the US government's most powerful food agency, the FDA, and the person responsible for introducing warnings on cigarette packets in the early 90s, believes that sugar, through its metabolisation by the gut and hence the brain, is extremely addictive, just like cigarettes or alcohol. He believes that sugar is hedonic – eating it is "highly pleasurable. It gives you this momentary bliss. When you're eating food that is highly hedonic, it sort of takes over your brain."
In London, Dr Tony Goldstone is mapping out the specific parts of the brain that are stimulated by this process. According to Goldstone, one of the by-products of obesity is that a hormone called leptin ceases to work properly. Normally, leptin is produced by the body to tell you that you are full. However, in obese people, it becomes severely depleted, and it is thought that a high intake of sugar is a key reason. When the leptin doesn't work, your body simply doesn't realise you should stop eating.
Leptin raises a big question: did the food industry knowingly create foods that were addictive, that would make you feel as though you were never satisfied and always wanted more? Kessler is cautious in his response: "Did they understand the neuroscience? No. But they learned experientially what worked." This is highly controversial. If it could be proved that at that some point the food industry became aware of the long-term, detrimental effects their products were having on the public, and continued to develop and sell them, the scandal would rival that of what happened to the tobacco industry.
The food industry's defence has always been that the science doesn't prove its culpability. Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, a lobby group for the soft-drinks industry, says: "there's a lot of work to try to establish causality, and I don't know that I've seen any study that does that." But it looks as though things might be changing. According to Professor Kelly Brownell at Yale University, one of the world's foremost experts on obesity and its causes, the science will soon be irrefutable and we may then be just a few years away from the first successful lawsuit.
The relationship between the food industry and the scientists conducting research into obesity is also complicated by the issue of funding. There is not a great deal of money set aside for this work and so the food industry has become a vital source of income. But this means that the very same science going into combating obesity could also be used to hone the products that are making us obese. Many of the scientists I spoke to are wary about going on the record because they fear their funding will be taken away if they speak out.
The relationship between government and the food industry is also far from straightforward. Health secretary Andrew Lansley worked, until 2009, as a non-executive director of Profero, a marketing agency whose clients have included Pizza Hut, Mars and PepsiCo. In opposition, Lansley asked public health expert Professor Simon Capewell to contribute to future policy on obesity. Capewell was amazed at the degree to which the food industry was also being consulted: the equivalent, he says, "of putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank". Lansley has made no secret of his work for Profero, and denies a conflict of interest, saying that he did not work directly with the company's clients. And the government argues, not unreasonably, that it's essential to have the industry on board to get anything done. But the relationships are not always kept at arms length. Professor James was part of a WHO committee to recommend global limits on sugar in 1990. As the report was being drafted, something extraordinary happened: the US secretary of state for health Tommy Thompson flew to Geneva to lobby on behalf of the sugar industry. "Those recommendations were never made," says James.
In New York, Mayor Bloomberg is currently planning to reduce soft drink super-sizing while last week, a former executive at Coca-Cola Todd Putman spoke publicly about the need for soft drink companies to move their focus to "healthy products". But it's not going to be easy to bring about change. A previous attempt to bring in a soda tax was stopped by intense lobbying on Capitol Hill. The soft-drinks industry paid for a new ward at Philadelphia Children's Hospital, and the tax went away. It was a children's obesity ward.
Why has Kessler, when he has had such success with his warnings on cigarette packets, not done the same thing for processed foods high in sugar? Because, he tells me, when the warnings came in on cigarettes, the game was already up in the west for the tobacco industry. Their new markets were the far east, India and China. It was no concession at all. The food industry is a different matter. For one thing, the food lobby is more powerful than the tobacco lobby. The industry is tied into a complex matrix of other interests: drugs, chemicals, even dieting products. The panoply of satellite industries that make money from obesity means the food industry's relationship to obesity is an incredibly complex one.
Anne Milton, the minister for public health, tells me that legislation against the food industry isn't being ruled out, because of the escalating costs to the NHS. Previous governments have always taken the route of partnership. Why? Because the food industry provides hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in revenue. It is immensely powerful, and any politician who takes it on does so at their peril. "Let's get one thing straight," Milton tells me, however. "I am not scared of the food industry."
And I believe her, because now, there is something far bigger to be frightened of. Eventually, the point will be reached when the cost to the NHS of obesity, which is now £5bn a year, outweighs the revenue from the UK snacks and confectionery market, which is currently approximately £8bn a year. Then the solution to obesity will become very simple.
The Men Who Made Us Fat, 9pm, Thursday, BBC2.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Is the Labour leadership too meek?

I appreciate that party politics (e.g. Labour vs Tories) is a fatuous vacuous business, but, nevertheless, I do take some interest and follow it a bit.

It’s all a pathetic game, but, given that context, my impression is that David Cameron is a far better ‘player’ than Ed Miliband.

In PMQ, for example, Cameron seems far better at being able to land punches. Miliband seems rather strained and desperate and incapable of going for the jugular.

Miliband seems intellectual enough to grasp the crucial points and to construct a good argument, but he seems to lack the force-of-personality required to pack that into a powerful munition to fire at his opponent; it seems like Miliband himself regards Cameron as someone to be treated with some respect (due to Cameron’s class and background), who should out-of-that-respect be spared humiliation, rather than someone who should be treated with contempt and mercilessly drubbed at every opportunity.

Now, people may say that that’s not possible for Miliband because he and his own party are themselves mired in hypocrisy. But my point is not to do with the merits of Miliband but his tone: his tone towards Cameron simply shows zero contempt, whereas that of Cameron towards Miliband often does display contempt.

Given that this game is all about image, not substance, Cameron clearly has the upper-hand: if the public see you, when you hold the floor, showing contempt for your opponent, they will sense that that contempt is justified and begin to regard that opponent similarly.

Labour seem rather like the LibDems in this respect: so enamoured even to be in the company of the big boys that they’re too timid to ‘own’ the place (PMQ, Parliament, etc).

(Indeed, Clegg himself has revealed his own acute awareness of his status in British politics – referring to his place at some dinner-meeting of the Coalition with News Corp as “at the kids’ end of the table.”)

Party politics is not going to save us but, given that that is our starting point, wouldn’t Labour do better to man-up

Houla massacre carried out by Free Syrian Army

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    WSWS: Houla massacre carried out by Free Syrian Army, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    Posted by The Editors [User Info] on June 13, 2012, 8:18 am

        Re: WSWS: Houla massacre carried out by Free Syrian Army, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

        Posted by John Hilley [User Info] [Email User] on June 13, 2012, 8:48 am, in reply to "WSWS: Houla massacre carried out by Free Syrian Army, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung"

        Crucial point here: why isn't the report even being reported.

        "Even without such corroborative accounts, the silence of the world’s media on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung report is extraordinary. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is a respected, indeed conservative, publication, with a circulation in the hundreds of thousands and a daily readership in 148 countries. Yet no major newspaper took up its report, because they are all complicit in the dissemination of naked propaganda. There is literally nothing in the reports of the mainstream Western media that can be taken as good coin."

        --Previous Message--

Monday, 11 June 2012

Prometheus: Hollywood alludes, yet again, to the destruction of mankind.

Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters are repeatedly echoing the theme of mankind’s (self-)destruction.

In Avatar, we learn that humanity has exhausted Earth’s resources (and degraded the environment severely) so that the species has to invade, terrorise, massacre and plunder another planet for its natural resources (a highly controversial storyline because it was a pretty transparent allegory and indictment of US policy in Iraq and Israeli policy in Palestine).

In Prometheus, we learn that our creators (the ‘Engineers’) have judged that mankind is actually a contemptible species that should be destroyed. If I understood the plot correctly (big ‘if’ because it is quite tricky), then the ‘Alien’ creature that cinemagoers have been familiar with for the last thirty-three years is something that has been bred as a WMD for that purpose (genocide of a species – us).

Indeed, the WMD potential of the Alien is a recurring theme in the Alien films: the Weyland Corporation thinks that it can control and exploit the creature as a component in its biological weapons division.

– Again, an allusion to our own state and politics on Earth: there are recurrent signs that we are on the edge of destroying ourselves through ‘Pandora-box’ technology, e.g. Hiroshima, Cuban Missile Crisis, Chernobyl, Fukushima, perpetual war in the Middle East with the constant threat of WMD use (in fact, the use of depleted uranium weapons in those theatres is already a major step in that direction).

And, apart from WMD, the Prometheus plot also alludes to our species’ suicidal tendency of destroying our own biosphere: at one point in the film, the Dr Shaw character warns the crew that ‘we have changed the climate!’ – and the climate change precipitates a massive deadly hurricane (of sulphur gas, I think).

The weather on their destination planet (‘LV-223’) is always overcast, cold, raining and miserable. I saw the film in mid-June 2012, when our own weather was exactly the same, and bizarre for this time of year; and, moreover, when there were numerous media reports of floods and flood-warnings around the country – again, bizarre for this time of year. So the film’s allusions to humanity’s vandalising of the biosphere seemed particularly prescient.

It is ironic that, on the one hand: Hollywood comprises a nexus of powerful unaccountable corporations whose sole purpose is to maximise profit; yet, on the other hand: it repeatedly produces films whose plots are major indictments of that very corporate philosophy.

On a lighter note: the IMAX cinema experience is great! (Can’t wait for ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ in IMAX.)

Germany Meets Half Its Energy Demand From Solar, Briefly

BY: Dave Levitan  /  Tue, May 29, 2012

Solar power plants in Germany peaked at 22 gigawatts of output for a few hours on Friday and Saturday, yielding almost half the country's energy needs from the renewable resource and setting a new record in the process. The not-particularly-sunny country has long been a leader in solar power thanks to favorable policies like feed-in tariffs. In the wake of the decision to shutter all of its nuclear plants, solar power will need to play an even bigger role in the future. That 22 gigawatts of output is equal to about 20 nuclear reactors.
"Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity," said Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry in Muenster, according to Reuters. And some think that Monday will have been even better: because it is a holiday in Germany and most workplaces are closed, there is the possibility that all of Germany's power needs will be supplied by the sun, at least for a couple of hours.
This would of course be the first time that a country of that size, with large power demands, could produce enough renewable energy to actually run the whole ship. But it is not the first time for any country -- Denmark, among the world leaders in wind energy, sometimes does produce more energy from turbines than the country can use. And on a more localized level, even parts of the U.S. see similar effects: in 2010 I spoke with a representative from PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission operator, who said that there are times of day when demand is low and the wind blows strongly when the price of electricity can actually go negative. In other words, supply exceeds demand.
That negative price includes both renewables and traditional generation, of course, but the fact is that renewable resources are starting to pile up in a number of areas. This past winter in Spain was another example: the country got almost 30 percent of its power from wind over a full two-week period at the beginning of February.
These isolated milestones of renewable generation do raise the specter of storage, however. Without good options for storing excess power, any extra supply is essentially lost. There are other solutions on well-connected grids -- Denmark can export some of that wind power to the rest of Europe, and work is continuing on ideas like vehicle-to-grid (V2G) storage, where a fleet of electric cars could act as batteries for renewable energy. And though records like Germany's are great, we are still a ways off from consistently deriving such large percentages of power from renewable sources.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Scott Noble, director of political documentaries

Scott Noble is the director of several acclaimed and politically charged documentaries, including Psywar, Human Resources and Lifting the Veil. His documentary on Occupy Wall Street, Rise Like Lions, took the #1 spot on Films for Action’s Top Ten Occupy films. His latest, The Power Principle, takes on the American empire, with emphasis on the Cold War period. We sent him a few questions. Here are his responses.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


James Le Fanu

Bitter Pills to Swallow

By David Healy (University of California Press 302pp £27.95)

The everyday practice of medicine is much the same as ever - diagnosing what is amiss and, with luck, putting it right. But recent years have witnessed, or so it seems to many, a profound shift in the nature of the 'clinical encounter', in favour of doctors staring at their computer screens, filling in protocols, checking everyone's cholesterol levels and showing an almost indecent enthusiasm for prescribing drugs. So it is that in just fifteen years the number of prescriptions issued by doctors in Britain has increased a staggering threefold. It is now not unusual for those in their seventies and beyond to be taking half a dozen different medications.
The driving force, and substantial beneficiary, of this mass medicalisation is of course the pharmaceutical industry, or Big Pharma as it has pejoratively become known. Its devious methods of marketing its drugs has rightly attracted much criticism. David Healy's cleverly titled Pharmageddon captures the moral dimensions of what is at stake. Certainly drug companies, like any investor-owned enterprise, have a fiduciary responsibility to increase their shareholder stock by 'growing the business' and maximising their market share. But, Healy alleges, they have done so by systematically subverting the intellectual apparatus of science and its methods of distinguishing truth from falsehood, thus exposing the sick, and indeed healthy, to the hazards of potent and unnecessary treatments.
That subversion now touches every aspect of medicine, starting with its all-important diagnostic criteria. Big Pharma has redefined the symptomatology of medical conditions in such a way as to expand enormously the market for its drugs. This corruption of the nosology of medicine, as it is obscurely known, takes many forms; Healy's account of the curious metamorphosis of manic depression into bipolar disorder illustrates the process well. The former, a relatively rare condition affecting about ten people in a million of the population, is marked, as we all know, by sharp fluctuations in mood from the depths of despair to (inappropriate) euphoria that may warrant admission to hospital for supervision and treatment. Then in the mid-Nineties manic depression simply dropped off the diagnostic radar, displaced by the more benign and vastly more common 'ups and downs' of bipolar disorder.
Fortuitously, or not, this transition coincided with the rebranding of a new class of tranquilliser drugs as 'mood stabilisers' and prominent 'disease awareness' campaigns encouraging people to consult their doctors about this seemingly ubiquitous disorder. Meanwhile the launch of a flurry of new drug company-sponsored specialist journals (The Journal of Bipolar Disorders, Clinical Approaches in Bipolar Disorders) and professional organisations (the European Bipolar Forum, the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, and so on) conferred a reassuring sense of scientific legitimacy on this new diagnostic formulation. Thus within a decade, Healy notes, one of the most serious of mental illnesses became almost fashionable. The ingenuity, foresight, planning - and financial investment - involved must have been phenomenal but would be amply rewarded as the sales of those mood-stabilising drugs soared upwards, generating annual revenues of billions of pounds.
Still, the practicalities of developing new drugs is notoriously costly and time-consuming, leading to the next logical step in the process of subversion - hijacking the methods for evaluating the efficacy and safety of new treatments. Naively, one might suppose that a drug only receives a product licence following rigorous and independent testing by the gold standard of the controlled clinical trial. And indeed for many years that situation prevailed. But now, as Healy points out, 'Pretty well all the trials that a new drug has to go through for approval are designed, and implemented, by the pharmaceutical companies.' They recruit the investigators, analyse the data, decide what it shows and then arrange for its favourable findings to be written up for publication in a prestigious medical journal.
By itself this tight, almost seamless control of the clinical trial data obviously provides numerous opportunities for portraying drugs to be much more effective than they really are. But it is also indicative of the hegemony that the industry now exerts on the whole medical enterprise, coopting all those institutions - government, the regulatory approaches and the medical profession itself - that might stand in its way.
This is the crux of Pharmageddon that Healy illustrates, drawing on his own personal experience as a professor of psychiatry at Cardiff University. He recounts in considerable detail the almost unbelievable obstacles he encountered in exposing how the antidepressant drug Paxil, claimed in the marketing copy for an article published in a prominent medical journal to show 'REMARKABLE Efficacy and Safety in the treatment of adolescent depression', was in reality associated with a threefold increased risk of suicide compared with those on a comparison antidepressant or on placebo.
The final twist of Big Pharma's stranglehold is its role in determining the clinical guidelines for treating raised cholesterol and blood pressure levels - the single most potent factor in mass medicalisation, requiring millions of people to take drugs indefinitely. The composition of the expert committees drawing up those guidelines, when scrutinised, invariably reveals their close involvement in those drug company-sponsored clinical trials demonstrating their efficacy.
Pharmageddon is a powerful and passionate book. Certainly there is no novelty in being sceptical about the activities of the pharmaceutical industry. But this is the first truly comprehensive account of a web of deceit so skilfully spun that few properly appreciate the gravity of the threat Big Pharma now poses to the nation's health and wellbeing.

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James Le Fanu writes a weekly medical column for the Daily Telegraph. His most recent book is Why Us? (HarperCollins).

Saturday, 2 June 2012

US/Arab Complicit in Arming/Funding Syrian Rebels

US/Arab Complicit in Arming/Funding Syrian Rebels

Posted by Plus Ultra [User Info] [Email User] on June 1, 2012, 2:15 pm, in reply to "Re: Guardian's Martin Chulov on the 'international dilemma'"

Obviously the US cannot be seen to arms the rebels publicly. The goal is therefore arm the rebels via Saudi Arabia, or to at least pretend that Saudi Arabia is the main sponsor of terrorism in the region. A good question to ask Chulov: would he agree to arm the FSA when Annan's Six Points are still in play?

France, US Arming Syrian Rebels

Rebel Forces Armed by Wealthy Exiles

Saudi Arabia Backs Arming the Opposition

Syria Rebels Get Arms from Abroad

Pentagon Prepares War Plans for Syria

Amnesty: Clinton Must Reveal Final Military Recipient of Cargo (to Syria?)

US Sends Drones Over Syria as Fighting Spreads
US Funnelling Arms Into Syria

Gulf States Warned Against Sending Arms to Syria

Libya Accused of Supplying Rebels to Syrian Rebels

Qatar Crosses the Rubicon: £63million to Buy Weapons for Rebels (by CHULOV)

Saudi Arabia Arms Rebels Via Jordanian Border

Saudis Seek to Funnel Arms to Syria Rebels

Saudi Arabia Sends Militia Gear to Syrian Rebels

USA Funnels Arms to Syrian Anti-Government Factions?

US is an 'Inch' from Shipping Weapons to Rebels

Israeli and US Weapons Found in Syria

Senators McCain and Lieberman Seek Arms for Syrian Rebels

US Pledges $12million to Syria's Rebels$12m-to-syrias-rebels/

US to Vet Possible Arms Sales to Rebels

Syrian Rebels Get Influx of Arms from Arab Neighbours

US may be willing to green light Arab arms transfers to opponents of Syria’s Assad government

US Assisting Weapons Transfer to Syrian Rebels

Weapons Bought by Gulf States are Flowing to Syrian Rebels from Iraq