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The Wholesale Sedation of America’s Youth

By Andrew M. Weiss | Skeptical Inquiry | May 6, 2009

In 1950, approximately 7,500 children in the United States were diagnosed with mental disorders. That number is at least eight million today, and most receive some form of medication.

Is this progress or child abuse?

In the winter of 2000, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a study indicating that 200,000 two-to four-year-olds had been prescribed Ritalin for an “attention disorder” from 1991 to 1995. Judging by the response, the image of hundreds of thousands of mothers grinding up stimulants to put into the sippy cups of their preschoolers was apparently not a pretty one. Most national magazines and newspapers covered the story; some even expressed dismay or outrage at this exacerbation of what already seemed like a juggernaut of hyper-medicalizing childhood. The public reaction, however, was tame; the medical community, after a moment’s pause, continued unfazed. Today, the total toddler count is well past one million, and influential psychiatrists have insisted that mental health prescriptions are appropriate for children as young as twelve months. For the pharmaceutical companies, this is progress.

In 1995, 2,357,833 children were diagnosed with ADHD (Woodwell 1997)—twice the number diagnosed in 1990. By 1999, 3.4 percent of all American children had received a stimulant prescription for an attention disorder. Today, that number is closer to ten percent. Stimulants aren’t the only drugs being given out like candy to our children. A variety of other psychotropics like antidepressants, antipsychotics, and sedatives are finding their way into babies’ medicine cabinets in large numbers. In fact, the worldwide market for these drugs is growing at a rate of ten percent a year, $20.7 billion in sales of antipsychotics alone (for 2007, IMSHealth 2008).

While the sheer volume of psychotropics being prescribed for children might, in and of itself, produce alarm, there has not been a substantial backlash against drug use in large part because of the widespread perception that “medically authorized” drugs must be safe. Yet, there is considerable evidence that psychoactive drugs do not take second place to other controlled pharmaceuticals in carrying grave and substantial risks. All classes of psychoactive drugs are associated with patient deaths, and each produces serious side effects, some of which are life-threatening.

In 2005, researchers analyzed data from 250,000 patients in the Netherlands and concluded that “we can be reasonably sure that antipsychotics are associated in something like a threefold increase in sudden cardiac death, and perhaps that older antipsychotics may be worse” (Straus et al. 2004). In 2007, the FDA chose to beef up its black box warning (reserved for substances that represent the most serious danger to the public) against antidepressants concluding, “the trend across age groups toward an association between antidepressants and suicidality . . . was convincing, particularly when superimposed on earlier analyses of data on adolescents from randomized, controlled trials” (Friedman and Leon 2007). Antidepressants have been banned for use with children in the UK since 2003. According to a confidential FDA report, prolonged administration of amphetamines (the standard treatment for ADD and ADHD) “may lead to drug dependence and must be avoided.” They further reported that “misuse of amphetamine may cause sudden death and serious cardiovascular adverse events” (Food and Drug Administration 2005). The risk of fatal toxicity from lithium carbonate, a not uncommon treatment for bipolar disorder, has been well documented since the 1950s. Incidents of fatal seizures from sedative-hypnotics, especially when mixed with alcohol, have been recorded since the 1920s.

Psychotropics carry nonfatal risks as well. Physical dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms are associated with virtually all psychoactive drugs. Psychological addiction is axiomatic. Concomitant side effects range from unpleasant to devastating, including: insulin resistance, narcolepsy, tardive dyskenisia (a movement disorder affecting 15–20 percent of antipsychotic patients where there are uncontrolled facial movements and sometimes jerking or twisting movements of other body parts), agranulocytosis (a reduction in white blood cells, which is life threatening), accelerated appetite, vomiting, allergic reactions, uncontrolled blinking, slurred speech, diabetes, balance irregularities, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, sleep disorders, fever, and severe headaches. The attempt to control these side effects has resulted in many children taking as many as eight additional drugs every day, but in many cases, this has only compounded the problem. Each “helper” drug produces unwanted side effects of its own.

The child drug market has also spawned a vigorous black market in high schools and colleges, particularly for stimulants. Students have learned to fake the symptoms of ADD in order to obtain amphetamine prescriptions that are subsequently sold to fellow students. Such “shopping” for prescription drugs has even spawned a new verb. The practice is commonly called “pharming.” A 2005 report from the Partnership for a Drug Free America, based on a survey of more than 7,300 teenagers, found one in ten teenagers, or 2.3 million young people, had tried prescription stimulants without a doctor’s order, and 29 percent of those surveyed said they had close friends who have abused prescription stimulants.

In a larger sense, the whole undertaking has had the disturbing effect of making drug use an accepted part of childhood. Few cultures anywhere on earth and anytime in the past have been so willing to provide stimulants and sedative-hypnotics to their offspring, especially at such tender ages. An entire generation of young people has been brought up to believe that drug-seeking behavior is both rational and respectable and that most psychological problems have a pharmacological solution. With the ubiquity of psychotropics, children now have the means, opportunity, example, and encouragement to develop a lifelong habit of self-medicating.

Common population estimates include at least eight million children, ages two to eighteen, receiving prescriptions for ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, autism, simple depression, schizophrenia, and the dozens of other disorders now included in psychiatric classification manuals. Yet sixty years ago, it was virtually impossible for a child to be considered mentally ill. The first diagnostic manual published by American psychiatrists in 1952, DSM-I, included among its 106 diagnoses only one for a child: Adjustment Reaction of Childhood/Adolescence. The other 105 diagnoses were specifically for adults. The number of children actually diagnosed with a mental disorder in the early 1950s would hardly move today’s needle. There were, at most, 7,500 children in various settings who were believed to be mentally ill at that time, and most of these had explicit neurological symptoms.

Of course, if there really are one thousand times as many kids with authentic mental disorders now as there were fifty years ago, then the explosion in drug prescriptions in the years since only indicates an appropriate medical response to a newly recognized pandemic, but there are other possible explanations for this meteoric rise. The last fifty years has seen significant social changes, many with a profound effect on children. Burgeoning birth rates, the decline of the extended family, widespread divorce, changing sexual and social mores, households with two working parents—it is fair to say that the whole fabric of life took on new dimensions in the last half century. The legal drug culture, too, became an omnipresent adjunct to daily existence. Stimulants, analgesics, sedatives, decongestants, penicillins, statins, diuretics, antibiotics, and a host of others soon found their way into every bathroom cabinet, while children became frequent visitors to the family physician for drugs and vaccines that we now believe are vital to our health and happiness. There is also the looming motive of money. The New York Times reported in 2005 that physicians who had received substantial payments from pharmaceutical companies were five times more likely to prescribe a drug regimen to a child than those who had refused such payments.

So other factors may well have contributed to the upsurge in psychiatric diagnoses over the past fifty years. But even if the increase reflects an authentic epidemic of mental health problems in our children, it is not certain that medication has ever been the right way to handle it. The medical “disease” model is one approach to understanding these behaviors, but there are others, including a hastily discarded psychodynamic model that had a good record of effective symptom relief. Alternative, less invasive treatments, too, like nutritional treatments, early intervention, and teacher and parent training programs were found to be at least as effective as medication in long-term reduction of a variety of symptoms (of ADHD, The MTA Cooperative Group 1999).

Nevertheless, the medical-pharmaceutical alliance has largely shrugged off other approaches and scoffed at the potential for conflicts of interest and continues to medicate children in ever-increasing numbers. With the proportion of diagnosed kids growing every month, it may be time to take another look at the practice and soberly reflect on whether we want to continue down this path. In that spirit, it is not unreasonable to ask whether this exponential expansion in medicating children has another explanation altogether. What if children are the same as they always were? After all, virtually every symptom now thought of as diagnostic was once an aspect of temperament or character. We may not have liked it when a child was sluggish, hyperactive, moody, fragile, or pestering, but we didn’t ask his parents to medicate him with powerful chemicals either. What if there is no such thing as mental illness in children (except the small, chronic, often neurological minority we once recognized)? What if it is only our perception of childhood that has changed? To answer this, we must look at our history and at our nature.

The human inclination to use psychoactive substances predates civilization. Alcohol has been found in late Stone Age jugs; beer may have been fermented before the invention of bread. Nicotine metabolites have been found in ancient human remains and in pipes in the Near East and Africa. Knowledge of Hul Gil, the “joy plant,” was passed from the Sumerians, in the fifth millennium b.c.e., to the Assyrians, then in serial order to the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Indians, then to the Portuguese who would introduce it to the Chinese, who grew it and traded it back to the Europeans. Hul Gil was the Sumerian name for the opium poppy. Before the Middle Ages, economies were established around opium, and wars were fought to protect avenues of supply.

With the modern science of chemistry in the nineteenth century, new synthetic substances were developed that shared many of the same desirable qualities as the more traditional sedatives and stimulants. The first modern drugs were barbiturates—a class of 2,500 sedative/hypnotics that were first synthesized in 1864. Barbiturates became very popular in the U.S. for depression and insomnia, especially after the temperance movement resulted in draconian anti-drug legislation (most notoriously Prohibition) just after World War I. But variety was limited and fears of death by convulsion and the Winthrop drug-scare kept barbiturates from more general distribution.

Stimulants, typically caffeine and nicotine, were already ubiquitous in the first half of the twentieth century, but more potent varieties would have to wait until amphetamines came into widespread use in the 1930s. Amphetamines were not widely known until the 1920s and 1930s when they were first used to treat asthma, hay fever, and the common cold. In 1932, the Benzedrine Inhaler was introduced to the market and was a huge over-the-counter success. With the introduction of Dexedrine in the form of small, cheap pills, amphetamines were prescribed for depression, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, motion sickness, night-blindness, obesity, narcolepsy, impotence, apathy, and, of course, hyperactivity in children.

Amphetamines came into still wider use during World War II, when they were given out freely to GIs for fatigue. When the GIs returned home, they brought their appetite for stimulants to their family physicians. By 1962, Americans were ingesting the equivalent of forty-three ten-milligram doses of amphetamine per person annually (according to FDA manufacturer surveys).

Still, in the 1950s, the family physician’s involvement in furnishing psychoactive medications for the treatment of primarily psychological complaints was largely sub rosa. It became far more widespread and notorious in the 1960s. There were two reasons for this. First, a new, safer class of sedative hypnotics, the benzodiazepines, including Librium and Valium, were an instant sensation, especially among housewives who called them “mothers’ helpers.” Second, amphetamines had finally been approved for use with children (their use up to that point had been “off-label,” meaning that they were prescribed despite the lack of FDA authorization).

Pharmaceutical companies, coincidentally, became more aggressive in marketing their products with the tremendous success of amphetamines. Valium was marketed directly to physicians and indirectly through a public relations campaign that implied that benzodiazepines offered sedative/hypnotic benefits without the risk of addiction or death from drug interactions or suicide. Within fifteen years of its introduction, 2.3 billion Valium pills were being sold annually in the U.S. (Sample 2005).

So, family physicians became society’s instruments: the suppliers of choice for legal mood-altering drugs. But medical practitioners required scientific authority to protect their reputations, and the public required a justification for its drug- seeking behavior. The pharmaceutical companies were quick to offer a pseudoscientific conjecture that satisfied both. They argued that neurochemical transmitters, only recently identified, were in fact the long sought after mediators of mood and activity. Psychological complaints, consequently, were a function of an imbalance of these neural chemicals that could be corrected with stimulants and sedatives (and later antidepressants and antipsychotics). While the assertion was pure fantasy without a shred of evidence, so little was known about the brain’s true actions that the artifice was tamely accepted. This would later prove devastating when children became the targets of pharmaceutical expansion.

With Ritalin’s FDA approval for the treatment of hyperactivity in children, the same marketing techniques that had been so successful with other drugs were applied to the new amphetamine. Pharmaceutical companies had a vested interest in the increase in sales; they spared no expense in convincing physicians to prescribe them. Cash payments, stock options, paid junkets, no-work consultancies, and other inducements encouraged physicians to relax their natural caution about medicating children. Parents also were targeted. For example, CIBA, the maker of Ritalin, made large direct payments to parents’ support groups like CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) (The Merrow Report 1995). To increase the acceptance of stimulants, drug companies paid researchers to publish favorable articles on the effectiveness of stimulant treatments. They also endowed chairs and paid for the establishment of clinics in influential medical schools, particularly ones associated with universities of international reputation. By the mid 1970s, more than half a million children had already been medicated primarily for hyperactivity.

The brand of psychiatry that became increasingly popular in the 1980s and 1990s did not have its roots in notions of normal behavior or personality theory; it grew out of the concrete, atheoretical treatment style used in clinics and institutions for the profoundly disturbed. German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, not Freud, was the God of mental hospitals, and pharmaceuticals were the panacea. So the whole underlying notion of psychiatric treatment, diagnosis, and disease changed. Psychiatry, which had straddled psychology and medicine for a hundred years, abruptly abandoned psychology for a comfortable sinecure within its traditional parent discipline. The change was profound.

People seeking treatment were no longer clients, they were patients. Their complaints were no longer suggestive of a complex mental organization, they were symptoms of a disease. Patients were not active participants in a collaborative treatment, they were passive recipients of symptom-reducing substances. Mental disturbances were no longer caused by unique combinations of personality, character, disposition, and upbringing, they were attributed to pre-birth anomalies that caused vague chemical imbalances. Cures were no longer anticipated or sought; mental disorders were inherited illnesses, like birth defects, that could not be cured except by some future magic, genetic bullet. All that could be done was to treat symptoms chemically, and this was being done with astonishing ease and regularity.

In many ways, children are the ideal patients for drugs. By nature, they are often passive and compliant when told by a parent to take a pill. Children are also generally optimistic and less likely to balk at treatment than adults. Even if they are inclined to complain, the parent is a ready intermediary between the physician and the patient. Parents are willing to participate in the enforcement of treatments once they have justified them in their own minds and, unlike adults, many kids do not have the luxury of discontinuing an unpleasant medication. Children are additionally not aware of how they ought to feel. They adjust to the drugs’ effects as if they are natural and are more tolerant of side effects than adults. Pharmaceutical companies recognized these assets and soon were targeting new drugs specifically at children.

But third-party insurance providers balked at the surge in costs for treatment of previously unknown, psychological syndromes, especially since unwanted drug effects were making some cases complicated and expensive. Medicine’s growing prosperity as the purveyor of treatments for mental disorders was threatened, and the industry’s response was predictable. Psychiatry found that it could meet insurance company requirements by simplifying diagnoses, reducing identification to the mere appearance of certain symptoms. By 1980, they had published all new standards.

Lost in the process was the fact that the redefined diagnoses (and a host of new additions) failed to meet minimal standards of falsifiability and differentiability. This meant that the diagnoses could never be disproved and that they could not be indisputably distinguished from one another. The new disorders were also defined as lists of symptoms from which a physician could check off a certain number of hits like a Chinese menu, which led to reification, an egregious scientific impropriety. Insurers, however, with their exceptions undermined and under pressure from parents and physicians, eventually withdrew their objections. From that moment on, the treatment of children with powerful psychotropic medications grew unchecked.

As new psychotropics became available, their uses were quickly extended to children despite, in many cases, indications that the drugs were intended for use with adults only. New antipsychotics, the atypicals, were synthesized and marketed beginning in the 1970s. Subsequently, a new class of antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft was introduced. These drugs were added to the catalogue of childhood drug treatments with an astonishing casualness even as stimulant treatment for hyperactivity continued to burgeon.

In 1980, hyperactivity, which had been imprudently named “minimal brain dysfunction” in the 1960s, was renamed Attention Deficit Disorder in order to be more politic, but there was an unintended consequence of the move. Parents and teachers, familiar with the name but not always with the symptoms, frequently misidentified children who were shy, slow, or sad (introverted rather than inattentive) as suffering from ADD. Rather than correct the mistake, though, some enterprising physicians responded by prescribing the same drug for the opposite symptoms. This was justified on the grounds that stimulants, which were being offered because they slowed down hyperactive children, might very well have the predicted effect of speeding up under -active kids. In this way, a whole new population of children became eligible for medication. Later, the authors of DSM-III memorialized this practice by renaming ADD again, this time as ADHD, and redefining ADD as inattention. Psychiatry had reached a new level: they were now willing to invent an illness to justify a treatment. It would not be the last time this was done.

In the last twenty years, a new, more disturbing trend has become popular: the re-branding of legacy forms of mental disturbance as broad categories of childhood illness. Manic depressive illness and infantile autism, two previously rare disorders, were redefined through this process as “spectrum” illnesses with loosened criteria and symptom lists that cover a wide range of previously normal behavior. With this slim justification in place, more than a million children have been treated with psychotropics for bipolar disorder and another 200,000 for autism. A recent article in this magazine “The Bipolar Bamboozle” (Flora and Bobby 2008) illuminates how and why an illness that once occurred twice in every 100,000 Americans, has been recast as an epidemic affecting millions.

To overwhelmed parents, drugs solve a whole host of ancillary problems. The relatively low cost (at least in out-of-pocket dollars) and the small commitment of time for drug treatments make them attractive to parents who are already stretched thin by work and home life. Those whose confidence is shaken by indications that their children are “out of control” or “unruly” or “disturbed” are soothed by the seeming inevitability of an inherited disease that is shared by so many others. Rather than blaming themselves for being poor home managers, guardians with insufficient skills, or neglectful caretakers, parents can find comfort in the thought that their child, through no fault of theirs, has succumbed to a modern and widely accepted scourge. A psychiatric diagnosis also works well as an authoritative response to demands made by teachers and school administrators to address their child’s “problems.”

Once a medical illness has been identified, all unwanted behavior becomes fruit of the same tree. Even the children themselves are often at first relieved that their asocial or antisocial impulses reflect an underlying disease and not some flaw in their characters or personalities.

Conclusions

In the last analysis, childhood has been thoroughly and effectively redefined. Character and temperament have been largely removed from the vocabulary of human personality. Virtually every single undesirable impulse of children has taken on pathological proportions and diagnostic significance. Yet, if the psychiatric community is wrong in their theories and hypotheses, then a generation of parents has been deluded while millions of children have been sentenced to a lifetime of ingesting powerful and dangerous drugs.

Considering the enormous benefits reaped by the medical community, it is no surprise that critics have argued that the whole enterprise is a cynical, reckless artifice crafted to unfairly enrich them. Even though this is undoubtedly not true, physicians and pharmaceutical companies must answer for the rush to medicate our most vulnerable citizens based on little evidence, a weak theoretical model, and an antiquated and repudiated philosophy. For its part, the scientific community must answer for its timidity in challenging treatments made in the absence of clinical observation and justified by research of insufficient rigor performed by professionals and institutions whose objectivity is clearly in question, because their own interests are materially entwined in their findings.

It should hardly be necessary to remind physicians that even if their diagnoses are real, they are still admonished by Galen’s dictum Primum non nocere, or “first, do no harm.” If with no other population, this ought to be our standard when dealing with children. Yet we have chosen the most invasive, destructive, and potentially lethal treatment imaginable while rejecting other options that show great promise of being at least as effective and far safer. But these other methods are more expensive, more complicated, and more time-consuming, and thus far, we have not proved willing to bear the cost. Instead, we have jumped at a discounted treatment, a soft-drink- machine cure: easy, cheap, fast, and putatively scientific. Sadly, the difference in price is now being paid by eight million children.

Mental illness is a fact of life, and it is naïve to imagine that there are not seriously disturbed children in every neighborhood and school. What is more, in the straitened economy of child rearing and education, medication may be the most efficient and cost effective treatment for some of these children. Nevertheless, to medicate not just the neediest, most complicated cases but one child in every ten, despite the availability of less destructive treatments and regardless of doubtful science, is a tragedy of epic proportions.

What we all have to fear, at long last, is not having been wrong but having done wrong. That will be judged in a court of a different sort. Instead of humility, we continue to feed drugs to our children with blithe indifference. Even when a child’s mind is truly disturbed (and our standards need to be revised drastically on this score), a treatment model that intends to chemically palliate and manage ought to be our last resort, not our first option. How many more children need to be sacrificed for us to see the harm in expediency, greed, and plain ignorance?

Andrew Weiss holds a PhD in school-clinical psychology from Hofstra University. He served on the faculty of Iona College and has been a senior school administrator in Chappaqua, New York. He has published a number of articles on technology in education. E-mail: anweiss [at] optonline.net.

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Russia threatens to quit START as US deploys Aegis destroyer to Spain

RT | February 2, 2014

The US has deployed a ballistic missile defense destroyer to Spain to boost NATO’s anti-missile shield in Europe. The move, allegedly aimed at curbing the Iranian threat, has sparked talks about Russia possibly scrapping the START nuclear treaty.

The deployment of the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook, equipped with the Aegis shipboard integrated combat weapons system, was announced by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

“An important posture enhancement is European missile defense in response to ballistic missile threats from Iran,” Hagel said, adding that the US is committed “to deploying missile defense architecture there,” as a part of Phase 3 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).

Hagel also said that over the next two years, three additional Aegis-enabled missile defense-capable destroyers will join the effort to protect NATO countries on the European continent.

“Despite fiscal constraints, the budget that we will release next month fully protects our investment in European missile defense,” Hagel said, reiterating views he also expressed on a visit to Poland earlier last week.

“There are some capabilities that the United States military will continue to invest heavily in,” Hagel told the Munich conference. “We will continue to be the world leader in those kinds of capabilities.”

In his Munich speech, Hagel also mentioned that China and Russia “are rapidly modernizing their militaries and global defense industries, challenging our technological edge and defense partnerships around the world.”

The USS Donald Cook will become the first of four ballistic missile defense (BMD)-capable ships based in Europe. It will be joined by the destroyer Ross in a few months, while Carney and Porter will reach European waters in 2015.

The US Navy estimates that 1,239 military personnel will move to Spain’s port of Rota as part of the EPAA plan, according to the Congressional Research Service. The move will cost $92 million, with another $100 million being spent annually on maintaining the ships in Spain.

The Obama administration claims this deployment will serve to protect US allies in Europe from Iranian and possibly North Korean missile threats.

The movement of the four destroyers to Spain and a creation of a ground-based radar is Phase 1 of the EPAA. Phase 2 is the installation of the Aegis Ashore armed with Standard SM-3 IB interceptor missiles in Romania. Phase 3 of EPAA is the creation of Polish Aegis Ashore installation, armed with SM-3 IIA missiles. Phase 4, involving deployment of SM-3 IIB missiles, was canceled by the US in March 2013.

The destroyers in Spain are known as “forward deployed naval forces” (FDNF), as they enable the US Navy to provide more forward-based presence with fewer ships, and also cut down on the transit time when tackling a wide range of threats.

“Permanently forward-deploying four ships in Rota will enable us to be in the right place, not just at the right time, but all the time,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said, Defense News reported.

Russia may consider withdrawing from START treaty

In the meantime, if the US continues boosting its anti-missile capabilities through developing its missile defense system in Europe, Russia may eventually be forced to withdraw from the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the Russian Foreign Ministry’s top disarmament official, Mikhail Ulyanov, has warned.

“We are concerned that the US is continuing to build up missile defense capability without considering the interests and concerns of Russia,” Ulyanov told Interfax. “Such a policy can undermine strategic stability and lead to a situation where Russia will be forced to exercise [its] right of withdrawal from the [START] treaty.”

Ulyanov said that the legal basis for Moscow to scrap the START treaty is legislated for within the text of the agreement, which Russia says it has so far fully implemented. In certain exceptional cases, involving a known threat to national security, both Russia and the US have the option to quit the treaty.

“The statement on missile defense made by the Russian side on April 8, 2010, at the signing of the START Treaty, explicitly states that such exceptional circumstances include the build-up of missile defense systems by the United States, which threatens the potential of Russian Federation’s strategic nuclear forces,” Ulyanov said. “A similar [regulation] is contained in the Federal Law on the Ratification of the New START treaty.”

Ulyanov said that “at the current stage” Russian experts estimate that the US missile defense system “has not yet reached a level that would represent a threat to the efficiency of Russian strategic deterrence forces.”

Moscow hopes to eventually come to terms with Washington on the issue of European missile shield, Ulyanov said. “Such a chance, of course, remains, but everything depends on the political will of the US.”

The New START Treaty was signed between US and Russia in April 2010 and entered into force after ratification in February 2011. It is planned to last until at least 2021.

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel to raze dozens of Palestinian homes in Arab Al-Jahalin area

Palestine Information Center – 02/02/2014

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Palestinian sources in occupied Jerusalem said that the Israeli occupation authority recently distributed 24 demolition orders against European-funded homes belonging to Palestinian families from Al-Jahalin Arabs to the east of the holy city.

The sources explained that the homes to be razed were donated and funded by European human rights groups in the wake of the damage that happened to the residents’ homes and tents as a result of the devastating weather conditions in the winter of 2012-2013.

The Israeli army’s civil administration claimed that the European-funded prefabricated homes are illegal and unlicensed and created housing expansion and a change to the style of architecture in the area.

However, the Palestinian residents asserted that their destroyed homes and structures were only replaced with new ones and their number did not change or take one meter extra from the area.

Although, the natives of Al-Jahalin hamlet have been living in the area between Issawiya and Anata town for more than 60 years, the Israeli army’s legal advisor keeps claiming that the residents broke into the area and seized it illegally.

The Israeli decision to demolish their homes will lead to the displacement of 68 Palestinian families composed of 450 individuals.

Al-Jahalin Arabs moved to live in this area in the early 1950s after the Israeli occupation forces expelled them from their homes in the Negev region.

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment

US to step up war on Syria after Geneva

By Finian Cunningham | Press TV | February 1, 2014

Just as the designed-to-fail Geneva II negotiations between the Syrian government and the Western-backed fake opposition came to a close at the weekend, another media smear campaign against the Damascus authorities conveniently surfaces.

The latest “sensational” story is that the Syrian state army has been “wiping civilian residential areas off the map” in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Hama.

This must be seen as not just another sporadic Western propaganda stunt. It appears to signal a concerted effort to intensify the US-led agenda of regime change in Syria – an agenda that is criminal to the core. It dovetails with the “failure” of Geneva talks and reports of increased weapons supply from the US to the Al Qaeda proxies waging a war of terror inside Syria, as well as renewed threats of military aggression by Washington’s top diplomat, John Kerry.

Human Rights Watch – a proven propaganda tool for the US government – presented satellite images that purport to show large residential areas having been “razed to rubble” by deliberate Syrian army demolition. In an all-too familiar pattern of dissemination, the story was duly given prominence by Western media, including France 24 and the [state-run] BBC.

HRW claims that the alleged demolitions represent a “war crime” and that the UN Security Council should now refer the Syrian government for prosecution.

It is no coincidence that the lurid allegations should emerge just as the Geneva II talks were coming to an inconclusive end. In Geneva, the Syrian government delegation quite rightly rejected the preposterous demands made by the Western, Saudi, Qatari-backed so-called Syrian National Coalition for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

As previously noted in this column, the SNC – which exists only in the figment of exiled imagination – has negligible mandate from the Syrian people. The only “mandate” it has is from Washington and its allies, who created the front to do their political bidding for regime change in Syria.

The fake “peace conference” never had a chance of succeeding in its ostensible purpose. By placing impossible demands on the Syrian government it appears that the real agenda of the conference, from the Western point of view, was aimed at casting the Syrian government as intransigent.

The sensational claims of “wiping civilian residences off the map” are timed to add further smear on the Syrian government.

Just before the Geneva II conference opened, we had another synchronized Western media psyops campaign courtesy of the Guardian and CNN, which claimed that they had been provided with over 50,000 images of “industrial-scale killing” of prisoners carried out by Syrian state forces. The alleged source of the images was an un-named single individual who was described as an ex-policeman.

As with all smear tactics, the telling thing is that they never seem to be followed up with substantiation. How many times during the three-year Syrian conflict have we been told of “massacres” committed by the Syrian state, only for these massacres to fade into obscurity with no conclusive evidence? Indeed, in some cases, it quietly emerges much later that the culprits of massive violations were the Western-backed foreign mercenaries.

One such notorious incident was the alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians near Damascus on 21 August last year. Recall that the incident nearly resulted in an all-out US military attack on Syria.

Both the New York Times and Human Rights Watch have since slyly backed away from their once-adamant claims that the Syrian army was responsible, as evidence subsequently shows that the perpetrators of that horror – involving hundreds of deaths – were the Western-backed terror gangs.

So what were the alleged demolitions in Damascus, Aleppo and Hama about? For a start, what the Western propaganda complex of human rights groups, media and governments conveniently omits is that the residential areas in question were already vacated by civilians. The innuendo that the Syrian forces were bombing civilians out of their homes does not stand up.

Secondly, the Western-backed foreign insurgents are typically operating by holding towns and city districts under a siege of terror. It is these foreign mercenaries that are the ones creating a humanitarian crisis in Syrian urban areas by cutting off the supply of food and medicines.

This nefarious criminal practice of holding civilians as hostages and human shields was clearly demonstrated this past week in the Yarmouk district of Damascus, where aid convoys finally began arriving to besieged civilians after the stranglehold of the Western-backed al-Qaeda-linked militants was broken. It was also seen in the town of Qusayr when the Syrian army liberated it from the vice of the mercenaries last June.

The same criminal practice of holding civilian communities to ransom is extant in other areas of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama. There are credible reports of civilians protesting against the militants over their inhumane conditions and being brutalized or killed for daring to protest.

The Syrian army’s demolition of buildings from which civilians have fled under the reign of terror imposed on them by the regime-change Western covert army – buildings which are then turned into sniper nests, explosive dumps and operating centers to further inflict sieges on adjacent civilian areas – is therefore an entirely legitimate national security response.

It is the legitimate right of the Syrian authorities to use such military force to root out the foot soldiers of this Western covert war of terror against Syria.

And it is risible that Western media and so-called human rights groups then turn around and try to blame the Syrian government for “war crimes”.

This is all part of an odious choreography. Set up a “peace process” designed to fail and combine it with heaps of smear against the Syrian government. Add that to reports this week of the US Congress voting secretly for increased weapons supply to the extremists in Syria, and now we have US secretary of state John Kerry threatening Syria with more war because it is allegedly “failing to meet targets for handing over chemical weapons”. (Ironically, chemical weapons that the Syrian army never even used in the first place, but most probably were fired by Western-backed militants.)

The concerted propaganda campaign in the context of “failed negotiations” at Geneva has a foreboding meaning – Western regime-change efforts in Syria are about to be intensified.

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | Leave a comment

Terrorist Groups in Syria Treat over 700 of Their Injured in Israeli Hospital

Al-Manar | February 2, 2014

The Israeli occupation army established a field hospital on the Golan Heights to treat injured militants who belong to the terrorist groups in Syria.

These groups have treated over 700 of their injured militants in that hospital, according to Israeli media outlets.

The Zionist army prevented media outlets from broadcasting the activities of the field hospital yet allowed the Second Channel to prepare a report about it in order to promote the “humane Israeli step towards the Syrians.”

The report mainly focused on Israeli intentions behind treating the militants, clarifying that the Israelis aim at strengthening and deepening their relations with the terrorist groups in Syria in order to keep the calm and stability which now prevails between these groups and Israel at the Palestinian-Syrian borders.

The report also included interviews with a number of the militants who stated that “Zionism is not macabre as it has been portrayed by the Syrian regime.”

“The regime used to force us to believe that our enemy is all the surrounding world, yet after the beginning of the revolution, we recognized our real friends and real enemies.”

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment