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The US Hand in Libya’s Tragedy

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 21, 2015

The mainstream U.S. news media is lambasting the Europeans for failing to stop the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea as desperate Libyans flee their war-torn country in overloaded boats that are sinking as hundreds drown. But the MSM forgets how this Libyan crisis began, including its own key role along with that of “liberal interventionists” such as Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power.

In 2011, it was all the rage in Official Washington to boast about the noble “responsibility to protect” the people of eastern Libya who supposedly were threatened with extermination by the “mad man” Muammar Gaddafi. We also were told endlessly that, back in 1988, Gaddafi’s agents had blown Pan Am 103 out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The R2Pers, led by then-National Security Council aide Power with the backing of Secretary of State Clinton, convinced President Barack Obama that a “humanitarian intervention” was needed to prevent Gaddafi from slaughtering people whom he claimed were Islamic terrorists.

As this U.S.-orchestrated bombing campaign was about to begin in late March 2011, Power told a New York City audience that the failure to act would have been “extremely chilling, deadly and indeed a stain on our collective conscience.” Power was credited with steeling Obama’s spine to press ahead with the military operation.

Under a United Nations resolution, the intervention was supposed to be limited to establishing no-fly zones to prevent the slaughter of civilians. But the operation quickly morphed into a “regime change” war with the NATO-led bombing devastating Gaddafi’s soldiers who were blown to bits when caught on desert roadways.

Yet, the biggest concern in Official Washington was a quote from an Obama aide that the President was “leading from behind” – with European warplanes out front in the air war – when America’s war hawks said the United States should be leading from the front.

At the time, there were a few of us who raised red flags about the Libyan war “group think.” Though no one felt much sympathy for Gaddafi, he wasn’t wrong when he warned that Islamic terrorists were transforming the Benghazi region into a stronghold. Yes, his rhetoric about exterminating rats was over the top, but there was a real danger from these extremists.

And, the Pan Am 103 case, which was repeatedly cited as the indisputable proof of Gaddafi’s depravity, likely was falsely pinned on Libya. Anyone who dispassionately examined the 2001 conviction of Libyan agent Ali al-Megrahi by a special Scottish court would realize that the case was based on highly dubious evidence and bought-and-paid-for testimony.

Megrahi was put away more as a political compromise (with a Libyan co-defendant acquitted) than because his guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, by 2009, the conviction was falling apart. Even a Scottish appeals court expressed concern about a grave miscarriage of justice. But Megrahi’s appeal was short-circuited by his release to Libya on compassionate grounds because he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer.

Yet the U.S. mainstream media routinely called him “the Lockerbie bomber” and noted that the Libyan government had taken “responsibility” for the bombing, which was true but only because it was the only way to get punitive sanctions lifted. The government, like Megrahi, continued to proclaim innocence.

A Smirking MSM

During those heady days of bombing Libya in 2011, it also was common for the MSM to smirk at the notion that Megrahi was truly suffering from advanced prostate cancer since he hadn’t died as quickly as some doctors thought he might. Then, in September 2011, after Gaddafi’s regime fell, Megrahi’s family invited the BBC and other news organizations to see Megrahi struggling to breathe in his sick bed.

His son, Khaled al-Megrahi, said, “I know my father is innocent and one day his innocence will come out.” Asked about the people who died in the Pan Am bombing, the son said: “We feel sorry about all the people who died. We want to know who did this bad thing. We want to know the truth as well.”

But it was only after Megrahi died on May 20, 2012, that some elements of the MSM acknowledged grudgingly that they were aware of the many doubts about his conviction all along. The New York Times’ obituary carried a detailed account of the evidentiary gaps that were ignored both during the trial in 2001 and during the bombing of Libya in 2011.

The Times noted that “even some world leaders” saw Megrahi “as a victim of injustice whose trial, 12 years after the bombing, had been riddled with political overtones, memory gaps and flawed evidence. … Investigators, while they had no direct proof, believed that the suitcase with the bomb had been fitted with routing tags for baggage handlers, put on a plane at Malta and flown to Frankfurt, where it was loaded onto a Boeing 727 feeder flight that connected to Flight 103 at London, then transferred to the doomed jetliner.”

Besides the lack of proof supporting that hypothesis was the sheer implausibility that a terrorist would assume that an unattended suitcase could make such an unlikely trip without being detected, especially when it would have been much easier to sneak the suitcase with the bomb onto Pan Am 103 through the lax security at Heathrow Airport outside London.

The Times’ obit also noted that during the 85-day trial, “None of the witnesses connected the suspects directly to the bomb. But one, Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who sold the clothing that forensic experts had linked to the bomb, identified Mr. Megrahi as the buyer, although Mr. Gauci seemed doubtful and had picked others in photo displays. …

“The bomb’s timer was traced to a Zurich manufacturer, Mebo, whose owner, Edwin Bollier, testified that such devices had been sold to Libya. A fragment from the crash site was identified by a Mebo employee, Ulrich Lumpert. Neither defendant testified. But a turncoat Libyan agent testified that plastic explosives had been stored in [Megrahi’s co-defendant’s] desk in Malta, that Mr. Megrahi had brought a brown suitcase, and that both men were at the Malta airport on the day the bomb was sent on its way.”

In finding Megrahi guilty, the Scottish court admitted that the case was “circumstantial, the evidence incomplete and some witnesses unreliable,” but concluded that “there is nothing in the evidence which leaves us with any reasonable doubt as to the guilt” of Megrahi.

However, the evidence later came under increasing doubt. The Times wrote: “It emerged that Mr. Gauci had repeatedly failed to identify Mr. Megrahi before the trial and had selected him only after seeing his photograph in a magazine and being shown the same photo in court. The date of the clothing sale was also in doubt.” Scottish authorities learned, too, that the U.S. Justice Department paid Gauci $2 million for his testimony.

As for the bomb’s timer, the Times noted that the court called Bollier “untruthful and unreliable” and “In 2007, Mr. Lumpert admitted that he had lied at the trial, stolen a timer and given it to a Lockerbie investigator. Moreover, the fragment he identified was never tested for residue of explosives, although it was the only evidence of possible Libyan involvement.

“The court’s inference that the bomb had been transferred from the Frankfurt feeder flight was also cast into doubt when a Heathrow security guard revealed that Pan Am’s baggage area had been broken into 17 hours before the bombing, a circumstance never explored. Hans Köchler, a United Nations observer, called the trial ‘a spectacular miscarriage of justice,’ words echoed by [South African President Nelson] Mandela.”

In other words, Megrahi’s conviction looked to have been a case of gross prosecutorial misconduct, relying on testimony from perjurers and failing to pursue promising leads (like the possibility that the bomb was introduced at Heathrow, not transferred from plane to plane to plane). And those problems were known prior to Megrahi’s return to Libya in 2009 and prior to the U.S.-supported air war against Gaddafi in 2011.

Yet, Andrea Mitchell at MSNBC and pretty much everyone else in the MSM repeated endlessly that Megrahi was “the Lockerbie bomber” and that Libya was responsible for the atrocity, thus further justifying the “humanitarian intervention” that slaughtered Gaddafi’s soldiers and enabled rebel militias to capture Tripoli in summer 2011.

Al-Qaeda Hotbed

Similarly, there was scant U.S. media attention given to evidence that eastern Libya, the heart of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, indeed was a hotbed for Islamic militancy, with that region supplying the most per-capita militants fighting U.S. troops in Iraq, often under the banner of Al-Qaeda.

Despite that evidence, Gaddafi’s claim that he was battling Islamic terrorists in the Benghazi region was mocked or ignored. It didn’t even matter that his claim was corroborated by a report from U.S. analysts Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman for West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

In their report, “Al-Qaeda’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” Felter and Fishman analyzed Al-Qaeda documents captured in 2007 showing personnel records of militants who flocked to Iraq for the war against the Americans. The documents showed eastern Libya providing a surprising number of suicide bombers who traveled to Iraq to kill American troops.

Felter and Fishman wrote that these so-called Sinjar Records disclosed that while Saudis comprised the largest number of foreign fighters in Iraq, Libyans represented the largest per-capita contingent by far. Those Libyans came overwhelmingly from towns and cities in the east.

“The vast majority of Libyan fighters that included their hometown in the Sinjar Records resided in the country’s Northeast, particularly the coastal cities of Darnah 60.2% (53) and Benghazi 23.9% (21),” Felter and Fishman wrote, adding that Abu Layth al‐Libi, Emir of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), “reinforced Benghazi and Darnah’s importance to Libyan jihadis in his announcement that LIFG had joined al‐Qa’ida.”

Some important Al-Qaeda leaders operating in Pakistan’s tribal regions also were believed to have come from Libya. For instance, “Atiyah,” who was guiding the anti-U.S. war strategy in Iraq, was identified as a Libyan named Atiyah Abd al-Rahman.

It was Atiyah who urged a strategy of creating a quagmire for U.S. forces in Iraq, buying time for Al-Qaeda Central to rebuild its strength in Pakistan. “Prolonging the war [in Iraq] is in our interest,” Atiyah said in a letter that upbraided Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for his hasty and reckless actions in Iraq.

After U.S. Special Forces killed Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, in Pakistan, Atiyah became al-Qaeda’s second in command until he himself was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike in August 2011. [See Consortiumnews.comTime Finally Ran Out for Atiyah.”]

However, to most Americans who rely on the major U.S. news media, little of this was known, as the Washington Post itself acknowledged in an article on Sept. 12, 2011, after Gaddafi had been overthrown but before his murder. In an article on the rise of Islamists inside the new power structure in Libya, the Post wrote:

“Although it went largely unnoticed during the uprising that toppled Gaddafi last month, Islamists were at the heart of the fight, many as rebel commanders. Now some are clashing with secularists within the rebels’ Transitional National Council, prompting worries among some liberals that the Islamists — who still command the bulk of fighters and weapons — could use their strength to assert an even more dominant role.”

On Sept. 15, 2011, the New York Times published a similar article, entitled “Islamists’ Growing Sway Raises Questions for Libya.” It began: “In the emerging post-Qaddafi Libya, the most influential politician may well be Ali Sallabi, who has no formal title but commands broad respect as an Islamic scholar and populist orator who was instrumental in leading the mass uprising. The most powerful military leader is now Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of a hard-line group once believed to be aligned with Al Qaeda.”

Belhaj was previously the commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was associated with Al-Qaeda in the past, maintained training bases in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks, and was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

Belhaj and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group denied continued allegiance to Al-Qaeda, but Belhaj was captured during George W. Bush’s post-9/11 “war on terror” and was harshly interrogated by the CIA at a “black site” prison in Thailand before being handed over to Gaddafi’s government which imprisoned and – Belhaj claims – tortured him.

The Times reported that “Belhaj has become so much an insider lately that he is seeking to unseat Mahmoud Jabril, the American-trained economist who is the nominal prime minister of the interim government, after Mr. Jibril obliquely criticized the Islamists.”

The Times article by correspondents Rod Nordland and David D. Kirkpatrick also cited other signs of growing Islamist influence inside the Libyan rebel movement: “Islamist militias in Libya receive weapons and financing directly from foreign benefactors like Qatar; a Muslim Brotherhood figure, Abel al-Rajazk Abu Hajar, leads the Tripoli Municipal Governing Council, where Islamists are reportedly in the majority.”

It may be commendable that the Post and Times finally gave serious attention to this consequence of the NATO-backed “regime change” in Libya, but the fact that these premier American newspapers ignored the Islamist issue as well as doubts about Libya’s Lockerbie guilt – while the U.S. government was whipping up public support for another war in the Muslim world – raises questions about whether those news organizations primarily serve a propaganda function.

Gaddafi’s Brutal Demise

Even amid these warning signs that Libya was headed toward bloody anarchy, the excited MSM coverage of Libya remained mostly about the manhunt for “the madman” – Muammar Gaddafi. When rebels finally captured Gaddafi on Oct. 20, 2011, in the town of Sirte – and sodomized him with a knife before killing him – Secretary of State Clinton could barely contain her glee, joking in one interview: “We came, we saw, he died.”

The months of aerial slaughter of Gaddafi’s soldiers and Gaddafi’s own gruesome death seemed less amusing on Sept. 11, 2012, when Islamic terrorists overran the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. diplomatic personnel. In the two-plus years since, Libya has become a killing ground for rival militias, including some now affiliated with the Islamic State.

As the BBC reported on Feb. 24, 2015, the Islamic State “has gained a foothold in key towns and cities in the mostly lawless North African state [Libya], prompting Egypt – seeing itself as the bulwark against Islamists in region – to launch air strikes against the group. …

“IS has launched its most high-profile attacks in Libya, bombing an upmarket hotel in the capital, Tripoli, in January, and releasing a video earlier this month showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians it had kidnapped. On 20 February, it killed at least 40 people in a suicide bombing in the eastern town of al-Qubbah.”

Now, the chaos that the U.S.-sponsored “regime change” unleashed has grown so horrific that it is causing desperate Libyans to climb into unseaworthy boats to escape the sharp edges of the Islamic State’s knives and other depredations resulting from the nationwide anarchy.

Thus, Libya should be a powerful lesson to Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and the other R2Pers that often their schemes of armed “humanitarianism” can go badly awry and do much more harm than good. It should also be another reminder to the MSM to question the arguments presented by the U.S. government, rather than simply repeating those dubious claims and false narratives.

But neither seems to be happening. The “liberal interventionists” – like their neoconservative allies – remain unchastened, still pumping for more “regime change” wars, such as in Syria. Yet, many of these moral purists are silent about the slaughter of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, Palestinians in Gaza, or now Houthis and other Yemenis dying under Saudi bombs in Yemen.

It appears the well-placed R2Pers in the Obama administration are selective in where that “responsibility to protect” applies.

Samantha Power, now serving as U.S. ambassador to the UN, remains the same self-righteous scold denouncing human rights abuses in places where there are American-designated “bad guys” while looking the other way in places where the killing is being done by U.S. “allies.” As for Hillary Clinton, she is already being touted as the presumptive Democratic nominee for President.

Meanwhile, the MSM has conveniently forgotten its own propaganda role in revving up the war on Libya in 2011. So, instead of self-reflection and self-criticism, the mainstream U.S. media is filled with condemnations of the Europeans for their failure to respond properly to the crisis of some 900 Libyans apparently drowning in a desperate attempt to flee their disintegrating country.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What should renewables pay for grid service?

There is a lot of public debate around the rates utilities charge solar customers, but very little of it shows an awareness of the embedded technical and philosophical issues.

This posting will seek to provide a general context to help sort out issues in that ongoing debate. It will focus on transmission for simplicity’s sake, but the concepts can be extended to generation as well.

Part of the problem is that people associate rates with costs. Rates are crude ways to collect costs that work out on average. Early innovators can often take advantage of rate structures to get more than they pay for. But as usage patterns change and as more consumers “game” the system – rates need to be refined and adjusted. For example, for many years many systems did well charging residential customers just a flat energy rate. Based on the average use of their customers over the year they were able to collect their fixed cost and variable costs. However, for example, some areas saw increasing numbers of summer cottages that used only limited amounts of energy. Charging for their limited usage did not accrue enough to cover the fixed cost for providing the meter, the line and their usage. Some utilities corrected by adding a fixed monthly charge. People get irate when they have to pay something they did not before. They rarely realize that perhaps before they were getting below cost service and that as rate structures are exploited they need to change.

Traditionally the costs of transmission service were collected from consumers through their electric energy usage charges. For homes with behind the meter solar the price of the transmission cost can’t effectively be distributed for them across regular usage hours. While transmission costs are driven by peak demand periods, it would be extremely cumbersome and costly to individually monitor and bill residences for their contribution to transmission costs. Rate methods are devised to get approximate appropriate charges from individual customers, but these rate methods need to keep up with changes in how customers use (and “game”) the system.

Customers with their own generation are receiving a different service from the utility than traditional customers and traditional cost structures will not work for them. They are benefiting from back up service that will not be paid for by their use under existing rates in most cases. Extra costs are incurred to provide backup service to residential solar customers from the grid. Utilities can’t collect transmission expenses from them that are spread out across hourly energy costs. To recoup the costs associated with backup, utilities either can have a general charge for backup, charge backup customers’ extremely high costs when it is needed or subsidize them by charging rates designed for higher usage customers. The subsidized approach was acceptable when roof top solar made up a small portion of the customer base. The inequity could be ignored because supporting fledgling renewables did not cost other customers much and was seen as desirable or not worth the trouble to fix. This approach will cause problems with higher penetrations of intermittent renewables.

A digression

To get away from the emotion generated by consideration of renewables here is a short discussion of potential philosophies around cost sharing.

Imagine you are having a contractor do some work in your backyard for a cost of $8,000. You learn that your neighbor is planning a similar smaller project that will cost him $4,000. You talk to your contractor and he can combine both jobs and do it for $10,000. There are multiple ways that the $2,000 savings could be apportioned.

Business Model: You go to your neighbor with an offer that competes with his. Perhaps because you are overseeing all the work, he would prefer to have you do it for $4,000 or perhaps you have to lower the price some to be competitive. But basically you seek to use your capabilities to meet your neighbor’s need and offer him some small benefit, so you can maximally offset your costs.

Subsidy Model: Perhaps you decide to treat your neighbor. If you decide to pay more than $8,000 for the combined project you are subsidizing your neighbor. He could see anywhere from a $2,000 to $4,000 benefit from the combined project from this approach. There likely needs to be some other motivating factor to make you accept this arrangement.

Incremental Cost Model: You pay the $8,000 for your share and charge the neighbor the $2,000 increment. The neighbor gets his project at half of what his cost would be otherwise, as the entire $2,000 saving goes to benefit him. You’ve done your neighbor a favor, but received no benefit.

Shared Savings Model: You and your neighbor each reduce your cost by $1,000 or perhaps you each reduce your cost by 20%. This provides benefits to both parties and encourages cooperation from both sides.

None of the above models are generically right or wrong, but may be more or less applicable in various situations.

Hypothetical renewable example

Imagine a system with a level of solar roof penetration such that the transmission system would cost $10 billion for combined service to traditional and solar rooftop customers. If the system only served traditional customers it would cost $8 billion. A system to serve just the solar rooftop customers would cost $4 billion. Let’s look at the models introduced above in the context of this example.

Business Model: the utility would seek to get as close as possible to $4 billion from the solar customers to provide benefits to their traditional customers. I don’t believe anything approximating such an arrangement has or would occur in the electric utility industry. Such a model would cripple the potential for most self-generating customers who require grid back up as they do not have other feasible alternatives.

Subsidy Model: The traditional full service customers could be responsible for most of the costs. This is the model which dominates the utility industry today. At small penetration levels the costs are not large for the traditional customers, but as costs increase they can get very burdensome increasing the risk of a death spiral. A death spiral would occur if rising costs to traditional customers cause defections to solar customers and the reduced customer base has to continue subsidizing the growing base of solar customers.

Incremental Cost Model: Here the traditional customers are held neutral and the solar customer reaps all the benefits of the combined system. This is a controversial model today because it makes it very difficult to justify solar programs in many areas.

Shared Savings Model: For those familiar with cost accounting, charging renewable customers their fully allocated costs would be one way of doing this. I don’t know anywhere that this approach is currently being seriously and successfully advocated in cost of service studies for renewables, though it is generally common for other classes of service. (I welcome reader input and enlightenment here.) It would greatly reduce the risk of a death spiral but it would also greatly delay the implementation of renewable resources until such time as they were more cost competitive.

Discussion

History, inertia and the desire to support renewables have resulted in significant support for the idea that traditional customers should subsidize renewable customers. Perhaps this is coupled with the idea that traditional customers should be punished while renewable customers should be rewarded. Many of the battles around charges to solar customers are just over what the appropriate degree of the subsidy should be. Moving away from the subsidy model engenders great conflict. I have not read all the details, but I believe the Salt River Project’s controversial pricing plan is just trying to recoup the incremental costs of serving rooftop solar. (Perhaps they are asking for some help with shared/common costs. Any help readers?) In the press Salt River Project has been accused of “penalizing” solar customers, being anti-competitive, sabotaging their customer’s right to choose and far worse.

We need to move the public debate so that it is not just about the level of subsidy utilities should provide to solar. The subsidy model nearly guarantees that if the system transitions to high levels of local renewables there will be a major death spiral collapse as the traditional customer base erodes and the subsidized population increases. While some envision utilities as highly profitable entities with deep pockets that can well afford massive subsidies, in fact, the subsidies come from the ratepayers. Whether utilities pay for their system through money collected from their traditional customers or backup customers, their profits are in the hands of their public service commissions. Unlike the utilities, which will make money if they work with their regulators, ratepayers will be materially impacted by the cost sharing model selected. Indirect taxes placed upon electric utility ratepayers are terribly regressive and in the area of rooftop solar they result in significant wealth transfers from the less affluent to the more affluent.

Renewable subsidies disproportionately impact the poor, impacting their quality of life. To avoid these effects traditional customers should pay no more than incremental costs. If as a society we want to offer subsidies to rooftop solar we should consider funding it through a less regressive and punishing approach. That source will likely be less convenient to target but far more appropriate.

Aside from the appeals to fairness for ratepayers, the other models have further benefits. They send appropriate price signals to encourage more rational choices. They could help provide better flexibility for a transition to a renewable future that avoids price collapses and is open and potentially better able to serve newer and better “clean” energy alternatives.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , | 8 Comments

A Fact-Resistant ‘Group Think’ on Syria

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 20, 2015

On Sunday evening, CBS’s “60 Minutes” presented what was pitched as a thorough examination of the infamous sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria, on Aug. 21, 2013, with anchor Scott Pelley asserting that “none of what we found will be omitted here.” But the segment – while filled with emotional scenes of dead and dying Syrians – made little effort to determine who was responsible.

Pelley’s team stuck to the conventional wisdom from the rush-to-judgment “white paper” that the White House issued on Aug. 30, 2013, just nine days after the incident, blaming the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. But Pelley ignored contrary evidence that has emerged in the 20 months since the attack, including what I’ve been told are dissenting views among U.S. intelligence analysts.

The segment also played games with the chronology of the United Nations inspectors who had been invited to Damascus by Assad to investigate what he claimed were earlier chemical attacks carried out by Syrian rebels, a force dominated by Islamic extremists, including Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the even more brutal Islamic State.

Though Pelley starts the segment by interviewing a Syrian who claimed he witnessed a sarin attack in Moadamiya, a suburb south of Damascus, Pelley leaves out the fact that Moadimiya was the first area examined by the UN inspectors and that their field tests found no evidence of sarin. Nor does Pelley note that UN laboratories also found no sarin or other chemical agents on the one missile that the inspectors recovered from Moadamiya.

The two labs did have a dispute over whether trace elements of some chemicals found in Moadamiya might have been degraded sarin. But those disputed positives made no sense because when the UN inspectors went to the eastern suburb of Zamalka two and three days later, their field equipment immediately registered positive for sarin and the two labs confirmed the presence of actual sarin.

So, if the sarin had not degraded in Zamalka, why would it have degraded sooner in Moadamiya? The logical explanation is that there was no sarin associated with the Moadamiya rocket but the UN laboratories were under intense pressure from the United States to come up with something incriminating that would bolster the initial U.S. rush to judgment.

The absence of actual sarin from the rocket that struck Moadamiya also raises questions about the credibility of Pelley’s first witness. Or possibly a conventional rocket assault on the area ruptured some kind of chemical containers that led panicked victims to believe they too were under a chemical attack.

That seemed to be a working hypothesis among some U.S. intelligence analysts even as early as the Aug. 30, 2013 “white paper,” which was called a U.S. “Government Assessment,” an unusual document that seemed to ape the form of a “National Intelligence Estimate,” which would reflect the consensus view of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and include analytical dissents.

By going with this new creation – a “Government Assessment,” which was released by the White House press office, not the Office of Director of National Intelligence – the State Department, which was then itching for war with Syria, got to exclude any dissents to the hasty conclusions. But the intelligence analysts managed to embed one dissent as a cutline to a map which was included with the “white paper.”

The cutline read: “Reports of chemical attacks originating from some locations may reflect the movement of patients exposed in one neighborhood  to field hospitals and medical facilities in the surrounding area. They may also reflect confusion and panic triggered by the ongoing artillery and rocket barrage, and reports of chemical use in other neighborhoods.”

In other words, some U.S. intelligence analysts were already questioning the assumption of a widespread chemical rocket assault on the Damascus suburbs – and the strongest argument for the State Department’s finger-pointing at Assad’s military was the supposedly large number of rockets carrying sarin.

Possible ‘False Flag’

However, if there had been only one sarin-laden rocket, i.e., the one that landed in Zamalka, then the suspicion could shift to a provocation – or “false-flag” attack – carried out by Islamic extremists with the goal of tricking the U.S. military into destroying Assad’s army and essentially opening the gates of Damascus to a victory by Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State.

That was what investigative journalist Seymour Hersh concluded in ground-breaking articles describing the alleged role of Turkish intelligence in assisting these Islamic extremists in securing the necessary materials and expertise to produce a crude form of sarin.

In December 2013, Hersh reported that he found a deep schism within the U.S. intelligence community over how the case was sold to pin the blame on Assad. Hersh wrote that he encountered “intense concern, and on occasion anger” when he interviewed American intelligence and military experts “over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence.”

According to Hersh, “One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote.

“A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.

“The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy.”

Despite Hersh’s legendary reputation dating back to the My Lai massacre story during the Vietnam War and revelations about CIA abuses in the 1970s, his first 5,500-word article — as well as a second article — appeared in the London Review of Books, a placement that suggests the American media’s “group think” blaming the Assad regime remained hostile to any serious dissent on this topic.

Much of the skepticism about the Obama administration’s case on the Syrian sarin attack has been confined to the Internet, including our own Consortiumnews.com. Indeed, Hersh’s article dovetailed with much of what we had reported in August and September of 2013 as we questioned the administration’s certainty that Assad’s regime was responsible.

Our skepticism flew in the face of a “group think” among prominent opinion leaders who joined in the stampede toward war with Syria much as they did in Iraq a decade earlier. War was averted only because President Barack Obama was informed about the intelligence doubts and because Russian President Vladimir Putin helped arrange a compromise in which Assad agreed to surrender his entire chemical weapons arsenal, while still denying any role in the sarin attack.

A Short-Range Rocket

Later, when rocket scientists — Theodore A. Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Richard M. Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories — analyzed the one home-made, sarin-laden rocket that landed in Zamalka, they concluded that it could have traveled only about two to three kilometers, meaning that it would have been fired from an area controlled by the rebels, not the government.

That finding destroyed a conclusion reached by Human Rights Watch and the New York Times, which vectored the suspected paths of the two rockets — one from Moadamiya and one from Zamalka — to where the two lines intersected at a Syrian military base about 9.5 kilometers from the points of impact. Not only did the vectoring make no sense because only the Zamalka rocket was found to contain sarin but the rocket experts concluded that it couldn’t even fly a third of the way from the military base to where it landed.

After touting its original Assad-did-it claim on the front page on Sept. 17, 2013, the Times snuck its retraction below the fold on page 8 in an article published on Dec. 29, 2013, between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

But none of these doubts were examined in any way in Pelley’s “60 Minutes” presentation. Instead, Pelley simply pointed the finger at the Syrian government, citing U.S. intelligence. Pelley said: “The rockets were types used by the Syrian army and they were launched from land held by the dictatorship. U.S. intelligence believes the Syrian army used sarin in frustration after years of shelling and hunger failed to break the rebels.”

Pelley did note one anomaly to the conventional wisdom: Why would Assad have ordered a chemical attack outside Damascus after inviting in a team of UN inspectors to examine another site? Pelley then shrugs off that contradiction while offering no alternative scenario and leaving the clear impression that the attack was carried out by the Syrian government.

When I asked the Office of Director of National Intelligence about the “60 Minutes” segment, spokesperson Kathleen C. Butler responded with this e-mailed response: “The intelligence community assess[es] with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. The intelligence community assesses that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely.”

In a subsequent e-mail, she added that there was “full consensus on the assessment.”  [For more details on the sarin incident, see Consortiumnews.com’sThe Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

Clueless over Iraq

Pelley has built a highly successful CBS career by always parroting the official line of the U.S. government no matter how obviously false it is. For instance, in 2008, he conducted an interview with FBI interrogator George Piro who had questioned Iraq’s Saddam Hussein before his execution.

Pelley wondered why Hussein had kept pretending that he had weapons of mass destruction when a simple acknowledgement that they had been destroyed would have spared his country the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

“For a man who drew America into two wars and countless military engagements, we never knew what Saddam Hussein was thinking,” Pelley said in introducing the segment on the interrogation of Hussein about his WMD stockpiles. “Why did he choose war with the United States?”

The segment never mentioned the fact that Hussein’s government did disclose that it had eliminated its WMD, including a 12,000-page submission to the UN on Dec. 7, 2002, explaining how its WMD stockpiles had been destroyed. In fall 2002, Hussein’s government also allowed teams of UN inspectors into Iraq and gave them free rein to examine any site of their choosing.

Those inspections only ended in March 2003 when President George W. Bush decided to press ahead with war despite the UN Security Council’s refusal to authorize the invasion and its desire to give the UN inspectors time to finish their work.

But none of that reality was part of the faux history that Pelley delivered to the American public. He preferred the officially sanctioned U.S. account, as embraced by Bush in speech after speech, that Saddam Hussein “chose war” by defying the UN over the WMD issue and by misleading the world into believing that he still possessed these weapons.

In line with Bush’s made-up version of history, Pelley pressed Piro on the question of why Hussein was hiding the fact that Iraq no longer had WMD. Piro said Hussein explained to him that “most of the WMD had been destroyed by the UN inspectors in the ‘90s, and those that hadn’t been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq.”

“So,” Pelley asked, “why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk, why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?”

After Piro mentioned Hussein’s lingering fear of neighboring Iran, Pelley felt he was close to an answer to the mystery: “He believed that he couldn’t survive without the perception that he had weapons of mass destruction?”

But, still, Pelley puzzled over why Hussein’s continued in his miscalculation. Pelley asked: “As the U.S. marched toward war and we began massing troops on his border, why didn’t he stop it then? And say, ‘Look, I have no weapons of mass destruction,’ I mean, how could he have wanted his country to be invaded?”

On Sunday, Pelley was reprising that role as the ingénue foreign correspondent trying to decipher the mysterious ways of the Orient.

Just as Pelley couldn’t figure why Hussein had “wanted his country to be invaded” — when no one at “60 Minutes” thought to mention that Hussein and his government had fully disclosed their lack of WMD to save their country from being invaded — Pelley couldn’t fully comprehend why the Assad regime would have launched a sarin gas attack with UN inspectors sitting in Damascus.

The possibility that the attack actually was a provocation by Al-Qaeda or Islamic State extremists — who have demonstrated their lack of compassion for innocents and who had a clear motive for getting the U.S. military to bomb Assad’s army — was something that Pelley couldn’t process. The calculation was too much for him even after last week’s disclosure that Syrian rebels had staged a 2013 kidnapping/rescue of NBC’s correspondent Richard Engel, whose abduction was falsely blamed on Assad’ allies.

Inviting a Massacre

Besides being an example of shallow reporting and shoddy journalism – using highly emotional scenes while failing to seriously investigate who was responsible – the “60 Minutes” episode could also be a prelude to a far worse human rights crime, which could follow the defeat of the Syrian army and a victory by Al-Qaeda or its spin-off, the Islamic State.

Right now, the only effective fighting force holding off that victory – and the very real possibility of a massacre of Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other religious minorities – is the Syrian army. Some of those Syrian Christians, now allied with Assad, are ethnic Armenians whose ancestors fled the Turkish genocide a century ago.

The recent high-profile comment by Pope Francis about the Armenian genocide can be understood in the context of the impending danger to the survivors’ descendants if the head-chopping Islamic State prevails in the Syrian civil war, the possibility that these Sunni extremists backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia might finish the job that the Ottoman Empire began a century ago.

Yet, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the American neocons are still set on the overthrow of the Assad government and continue to pretend that Obama could have averted the Syrian crisis if he had only bombed or invaded Syria several years ago.

The Washington Post’s neocon editorial page editor Fred Hiatt recited that theme in an op-ed on Monday that made a major point out of the Assad government’s alleged use of something called “barrel bombs” — as if some crude explosive device is somehow less humane than the more sophisticated weapons that were used to slaughter countless innocents by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel in Gaza and Lebanon and now Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

“Obama could have destroyed Assad’s helicopters or given the resistance the weapons to do so,” Hiatt said, arguing the neocon assertion that to have intervened earlier would have somehow prevented the rise of Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State. But that is another simplistic argument since there were terrorist elements in the Syrian civil war from the beginning and many of the so-called “moderates” who were trained and armed by the United States have since joined forces with the extremists. [See Consortiumnews.com’sSyrian Rebels Embrace Al-Qaeda.”]

The key question for Syria’s future is how can a realistic political settlement be reached between Assad’s government and whatever reasonable opposition remains. But such a complex and difficult solution is not advanced by irresponsible journalism at CBS and the Washington Post.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Are the Starving and Besieged Residents of Yarmouk and Why Are They There?

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | April 21, 2015

There are many illusions about what is happening to the Yarmouk district of Damascus and its Palestinian refugee population. The district was originally set aside in 1957 for Palestinian refugees already living there, whom Israel had expelled from their homes in 1948, with periodic additional populations thereafter. Today it is home to around one million Syrians and Palestinians, of whom the Palestinians number roughly 170,000. Palestinians in Syria have all the rights of Syrian citizens except voting, and in Yarmouk their homes are indistinguishable from those of the Syrian residents.

Starting in 2012, armed elements trying to overthrow the Assad government gained a foothold in Yarmouk. Most Palestinians disapproved, since this violated the traditional exchange of Syrian hospitality for Palestinian neutrality. However, there was no consensus among Palestinians to forcibly expel the intruders.

By June, 2013, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) had established a siege on the camp in order to prevent further encroachment toward the center of Damascus, which already receives a daily dose of random mortar attacks. (Three landed just outside my hotel in April, 2014, one killing three people.) Most of the population fled, until only 18,000 remained by October, 2013, according to Fateh leader Abbas Zaki, as reported to Ma’an News. Many thousands are now living outside the camp, in shelter provided by the Syrian government and Syrian humanitarian aid organizations.

In April, 2014 I visited a school that had been converted to living quarters for Yarmouk refugees. The accommodations were immensely crowded and by no means comfortable, a consequence of having to provide for nearly 8 million displaced people in government areas, doubling the normal population for those areas. Nevertheless, food is being provided, as well as education and health services.

Until Daesh (ISIS or the Islamic State) entered the camp on April 1, 2015, the figure of 18,000 residents continued to be reported consistently for the next year and a half despite a siege that cut off electricity and water and reduced the availability of essential food and medical supplies. More than a hundred civilians are reported to have died of starvation or lack of medical treatment during those eighteen months. Who are the remaining civilians and why are they refusing to evacuate to outside shelter like so many others?

Local humanitarian relief supervisors report (personal communication) that some of them are not from Yarmouk and some are not Palestinian. They include the families of Syrian and foreign fighters that are trying to overthrow the Syrian government by force of arms, and some of them came from districts adjacent to Yarmouk, such as the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad. It is hard to know how many are being forcibly prevented from leaving by the armed groups in the camp and how many choose not to leave because they are afraid of the potential consequences.

Some might be considered “human shields”, used by the fighters to deter attacks against them. But they might equally be concerned about becoming “human hostages” if they leave, i.e. of being used to pressure fighters to surrender. The motivations can be complex, but no evidence has been presented to show that the Syrian government is preventing civilians from leaving the camp. In fact, 90% of the population has already left.

Is the Syrian government preventing the distribution of food and medicine in the camp?

Siege is one of the most common military strategies of the SAA. Typically, the army lays siege to an area and prevents food, medicine and of course arms from entering, to the extent possible. On the other hand it welcomes evacuation of civilians, and provides humanitarian aid to those who leave.

The objective is to remove the civilians from the area as much as possible and then attack the enemy or provoke surrender, sometimes with amnesty as an inducement. This is classic military strategy, though hard on the civilians, as usual.

In the case of Yarmouk, there is another dimension to the siege. The Syrian government has a long-standing agreement with the Palestinian governing council of the camp that it will not enter without their request. However, the council has never made such a request and the Syrian authorities have never asked for permission. This agreement still holds, although Palestinian forces defending the camp against Daesh have recently formed a joint command and are coordinating their efforts with the Syrian military, which has been providing artillery and aerial support. In addition, the army has been attacking areas adjacent to Yarmouk that are Daesh strongholds, in order to impede their access to Yarmouk and prevent resupply to Daesh forces in the camp.

There is no indication that the SAA is preventing humanitarian aid from being distributed in Yarmouk. Despite the siege, it has allowed the stockpiling of supplies on the edge of the camp and it has permitted civilians from inside to collect and distribute the aid. However, the government wants the civilians to leave, not to introduce additional persons into the camp, so it is reluctant to allow outsiders to enter, especially in consideration of the fact that they have no means of assuring their safety. Nevertheless, it has permitted humanitarian NGOs, including UNRWA, to distribute aid roughly half the time.

The result has been a modest but insufficient flow of aid to camp residents until Daesh captured much of the area. In the fighting to defend the camp and retake the Daesh-occuped areas, it has been much too dangerous for anyone to undertake aid distribution, with horrific consequences on the remaining civilians. As a result, the number of civilian residents has probably dropped to less than half of the 18,000 initial estimate, despite their qualms about evacuating.

Has the Syrian military been using barrel bombs on Yarmouk?

There is no recorded use of barrel bombs in Yarmouk before the entry of Daesh in late March, 2015. Their use in April, 2015 is confirmed, although the number of casualties due to such ordnance is astonishingly small. One or possibly two barrel bombs appear to have been dropped on the street outside the Palestine Hospital in the camp, but with no reported casualties. Higher numbers have been mentioned, but without evidence.

During the heaviest fighting, the Syrian Air Force (SAAF) has used both conventional bombs delivered by jet aircraft and “barrel” bombs in the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad and the adjacent part of Yarmouk. Residents report hearing dozens of explosions, but it is unclear how many were in Yarmouk, how many casualties there may have been and how many were civilians. A total of 18 civilian casualties were counted in all of Yarmouk during a week of intensive fighting at the beginning of April, but none have been attributed to the barrel bombs and it is uncertain who is responsible for the killings.

Does the Syrian army massacre civilians?

One of the main complaints against barrel bombs and the tactics of the SAA is that they cause massive civilian casualties. There is no doubt that disproportionate numbers of civilian casualties have occurred on specific occasions. Overall, however, the number of civilians killed by government forces and loyalists is less than the number of casualties in the fighting forces themselves, possibly as low as two combatants for each civilian. Not since World War One has this been the case for US forces.

As for the “barrel bombs”, the claims of their use against civilians and their exaggerated savagery do not hold up. Like any bomb, they are made of high explosives, sometimes with projectiles added. In this respect they are no different from many types of explosive ordnance used in military forces throughout the world. They are designed for destruction, including destruction of life.

The complaints against them are that a) they are by nature indiscriminate and hit unintended targets and b) they are almost invariably used against civilians. The first is patently untrue. Conventional bombs are usually delivered by fighter-bombers at high speed and often in proximity to the target. In Syrian and other engagements, the speed of delivery offers protection from ground fire. Such speed also reduces accuracy, but the relative proximity to the target compensates substantially for this disadvantage.

Barrel bombs are usually deployed from relatively a greater height that is out of range of ground fire. However, they are dropped from stationary helicopters, which provides greater accuracy that compensates for the height disadvantage. There are few if any reports of barrel bombs failing to hit their intended target (although occasionally the selected target might be the result of poor intelligence).

It has been reported that thousands of barrel bombs have been used by the SAAF since 2012, when they were first deployed, and that there have been thousands of casualties from such weapons. Unfortunately, little more is known except for anecdotal cases. Although some bombs have resulted in only material destruction, others have caused two dozen or more casualties. The available data do not provide much statistical help, such as the average number of casualties per use. Is it more or less than for convention bombs or for US drone weapons, for example? How many of the casualties are civilians and how many combatants? We do not know, but the overall civilian casualty rate remains unusually low compared to most other conflicts in the past century.

What seems clear is that the western press, governments and NGOs have treated barrel bombs as the devil’s weapon. The reason seems to be that while conventional bombs are capable of inflicting just as much damage and loss of life (and are being used extensively by the Ukrainian government), western arsenals do not contain barrel bombs. If these weapons can be sufficiently vilified as a weapon type rather than by their manner of use, Syrian military forces can be blamed for inhumane weaponry without the taint falling upon nations that use different weapons, even ones that are equally or more destructive. Oddly enough, the inhumane DIME and white phosphorous weapons used in Gaza did not provoke equal condemnation, even though the ratio of Israeli military to civilian casualties has been as much as 100 times higher than for the Syrian military.

Why, then, are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Chris Gunness of UNRWA, and most western press agencies condemning the Syrian government for the use of barrel bombs, for starving camp residents, and for preventing residents from leaving? Palestinians and their supporters are accustomed to false and biased reporting on the subject of Palestine. They know that the western media work overtime to protect Israel. That is their agenda. Do they think that these agencies are unbiased with respect to Syria?

The west, Israel, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and many sycophants and puppets of western powers have made abundantly clear that they intend to overthrow the Syrian government, in violation of the UN Charter and other international law prohibiting wars of aggression, and against Syrian national sovereignty. AI, HRW, and other human rights imperialists have never once recognized these facts vis-à-vis Syria. In fact, they have supported the west’s illegal push for regime change.

Is it not also clear that western institutions and media are distorting their coverage of Syria in order to promote this goal? Apparently not, even to persons who should know better and are accustomed to seeing such distortions in the reporting on Palestine.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

Home demolition in Jerusalem: “Tomorrow, I don’t know if I have a place to sleep”

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Aref Tohta with the demolition order in his hand and his family
International Solidarity Movement | April 20, 2015

Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine – On Wednesday night, the Tohta family received a demolition order for their house in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz. After being warned that soldiers would come early on Sunday morning for the demolition, the family was joined by a group of about a dozen international supporters. Despite the warning, nothing happened that night – leaving the family afraid that their house could be demolished at any time without prior warning.

After being told by soldiers that during a demolition they “don’t see anything in front of [them]”, meaning everything will be destroyed, Aref Tohta and his family moved their most needed and precious belongings out of the house. They piled up boxes with warm clothes and blankets for the night, as far away from the house as possible, moved animal shelters and gave the five family dogs away knowing that they would be killed in a demolition.

A demolition of the family home will leave the fifteen family members without a shelter. Twelve of them are children aged between four and eighteen years. Jenny, an ISM-volunteer, staying with the family during the night explained: “any noise – a car door slamming somewhere, a voice heard in the vicinity – made everyone turn their head towards it, fearing an imminent destruction of the house. The fear was visible on everyone’s face”.

When no demolition happened, the father believed it was because the army did not want to have an international presence documenting this aggression. Now, the family lives in constant fear of the army showing up without any prior warning and tearing down the house. Aref Tohta explained the uncertainty the family has to live with every day: “Tomorrow, I don’t know if I have a place to sleep”.

Wadi al-Joz located directly outside the Old City of Jerusalem, is a vulnerable neighborhood that has seen three demolitions in the last three weeks. On 31st of March, the army illegally demolished the Amro family home, neighbors of the Tohta’s, without any demolition order or prior warning.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel boycotts Carter’s visit over “his meetings with Hamas”

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Palestine Information Center – April 21, 2015

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israel decided not to meet former US President Jimmy Carter and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland when they visit the region over their expected meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haneyya and over their anti-Israeli views, Yediot Ahranot revealed.

Carter and Brundtlend will arrive on April 30 for a 3-day trip to Israel, the Palestinian Authority territories, and the Gaza Strip. Israel officially decided to boycott Carter’s visit, although it will not prevent him from entering Israel or entering the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing, the newspaper said.

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin heeded the Foreign Ministry’s advice and decided not to meet former US President Jimmy Carter and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland when they visit the region.

Carter and Brundtland are both members of the Elders, an independent group of global former leaders who work together for peace and human rights. They were brought together in 2007 by Nelson Mandela.

Carter had earlier met with head of Hamas’s political bureau Khaled Mishaal and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haneyya.

Sources in the Israeli Foreign Ministry said the reason they were boycotting Carter’s visit was because “he consistently helps delegitimize Israel and that any meeting with an Israeli official would only contribute to this process.”

Carter will arrive in the region on an emergency mission, mainly intended to mediate between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza, according to the newspaper.

Carter has been vocally critical of Israel in recent years. He has referred to Israeli apartheid numerous times.

The newspaper said that Carter has visited Israel in the last few years, but former Israeli president Shimon Peres would generally meet him even though Carter spent the meetings criticizing the former president’s views.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Yemen: The Little Army That Could

By Dr. Cesar Chelala | CounterPunch | April 21, 2015

In his book Century of the Wind, the late Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano tells how in 1927 the U.S. Marines landed in Nicaragua to quell a revolutionary revolt by Augusto César Sandino, who led a ragtag army of Nicaraguan peasants to fight the invasion. The Marines had gone to Nicaragua to protect the lives and properties of United States citizens.

Armed primarily with machetes and 19th century rifles, Sandino’s army fought the Marines, undergoing heavy losses in an enormously unequal fight. In November 1927, the Marines succeeded in locating El Chipote, Sandino’s mountain headquarters. However, when the Marines reached it, they found the place abandoned and guarded by straw dummies.

Despite massive efforts, American forces were never able to capture Sandino, and eventually, due in large part to the 1929 Great Depression, U.S. soldiers were withdrawn from Nicaragua following the 1932 Nicaraguan elections. As Alfonso Alexander, a Colombian journalist fighting in Sandino’s army said at the time, “The invaders were like the elephant and we the snake. They were immobility, we were mobility.” Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral called Sandino’s warriors, admiringly, Crazy little army.

There is an eerie resemblance between these facts and what is now happening in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, where a small army of Houthi soldiers is fighting the combined forces of Saudi Arabia and its allies (the five Gulf Arab States and Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan), with the support of the U.S. The disproportion of forces between both sides would be laughable, if it weren’t tragic.

The Houthi rebels belong to a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism, and make up almost a third of the country. They have ruled the north of the country for almost a thousand years, until the 1960s. The rise of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula –whom they oppose- and their long-held feelings that the central government wasn’t sharing fairly the country’s resources led to their taking up arms and overtaking the government.

Considered a threat to the regime stability the Yemeni government waged brutal war against the Houthis in their stronghold in Sa’ada province, in the north of Yemen. Although their leader, Hussein al Houthi, was killed in the first war, he was replaced by his brother and current leader, Abdul Malik.

The Houthis rose to power because most Yemenis want a strong leader, with a clear vision about where the country should go. Both brothers were able to provide that vision that essentially encompasses the desire for government accountability, an end to corruption, fair fuel prices, job opportunities for ordinary citizens and a more fair distribution of resources.

The Houthis have been shown to be well organized and reliable. Since taking control of Sa’ada, their birthplace, they have made it one of the most peaceful and well-run areas in Yemen. The sound of gunfire has almost ceased now in Sa’dah, the Sa’ada Governorate capital city. Residents have electricity for most of the day and reliable water supply.

Since declaring control of Yemen on February 6, the Houthis have been advancing steadily south, in spite of heavy losses and constant bombardment by Saudi Arabia and its allies that have provoked a serious humanitarian crisis in the country.

Unrelenting air strikes have killed and injured thousands of people, many of them civilians, and thousands more have been forced to leave their homes and are desperately trying to find food and potable water. In April 18, 2015, Oxfam’s warehouse in Sa’ada containing humanitarian supplies has been hit and destroyed by an airstrike, leaving thousands of civilians without help.

A group of Yemeni scholars, residents and nationals of the UK and the U.S. have issued a statement regarding the situation in Yemen in which they state, “The military attack by Saudi Arabia, backed by the GCC states (but not Oman), Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, the UK and above all the USA, is into its third week of bombing and blockading Yemen… The targets of the campaign include schools, homes, refuge camps, water systems, grain stores, and food industries. This has the potential for appalling harm to ordinary Yemenis as almost no food or medicine can enter…Rather than contributing to the destruction of the country, the USA and UK should support a UN Security Council resolution demanding and immediate, unconditional ceasefire and use of their diplomatic influence to strengthen the sovereignty and self-government of Yemen. As specialists we are more than aware of the internal divisions within Yemeni society, buy we consider that it is for the Yemenis themselves to be allowed to negotiate a political settlement.”

Like the valiant Nicaraguan soldiers, Sandino’s “crazy little army”, there is no reason to believe so far that the Yemeni soldiers have other than their country’s peaceful survival in mind.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and a national award on journalism from Argentina.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Police Body Cameras and Police Surveillance: Eviscerating Privacy

By Ben Schreiner | Global Research | April 21, 2015

Using the recent spree of high profile police murders as the latest catalyst, calls to outfit all cops with some sort of body camera are once again reverberating nationally.  But given the staggering amounts of personal data on the American people police agencies are already collecting, the proposals to lend the police one more surveillance device raises significant privacy concerns.

Speaking on the repercussions of the police murder of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a former opponent of body cams, recently remarked, “I think it is a game-changer. What you’ll see is a movement now by many more police departments to go to cameras.”

Indeed, the city of North Charleston has already announced plans to equip its entire police force with body cameras. This comes on the heels of President Obama announcement last December that the federal government would purchase 50,000 body cams for state and local police agencies in response to the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

For their proponents, body cameras promise to provide much needed accountability to the nation’s police agencies and their officers, who continue to gun down Americans at an alarming rate, while still mostly managing to allude prosecution. And as advocates note, limited study of such police cameras have already yielded seemingly promising results. In Rialto, California, for instance, a controlled study found a 60% decline in use of force by officers equipped with body cameras. Cops, to no surprise of anyone who has ever sought to film an on-duty officer, are all too cognizant of the power of recorded video (especially, we might add, when such video is in the hands of citizens).

But the anecdotal evidence championed by body camera backers aside, such police cams offer at best a flawed check on police abuse and brutality, and at worst portend a further bolstering of the already dystopian surveillance capabilities of law enforcement agencies.

The Limits of Police Body Cams

To begin with, as should be readily evident, police body cameras only work when officers turn them on. So in the case of the slaying of Walter Scott in South Carolina, even if Officer Michael Slager had been equipped with a body cam, there is no guarantee it would have captured his shooting of Scott; Slager could have simply turned it off.  Indeed, a trial use of body cameras by Denver, Colorado police from June to December of 2014 saw less than half of all encounters involving the use of force actually recorded by camera equipped officers.

(And yet even when police brutality is captured on video and viewed publicly, accountability for officers is hardly guaranteed. The death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City cops was, after all, captured on film, but no officers were charged in his death.)

For those police body cams that actually are recording, however, all data collected is often held and stored by the police themselves; that is, the very people the cameras are meant to hold to account. As the Washington Post reported, “Officials in more than a dozen states—as well as the District [of Columbia]—have proposed restricting access or completely withholding the [body cam] footage from the public.” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, as the Post explains, has sought to keep the public from viewing police body cam videos by exempting all such videos from the Freedom of Information Act.

Simply put then, police not only control what body cameras record, but also increasingly what is done with the captured video.

It is also worth considering the fact that devices touted as a way to hold police accountable for their actions are configured not to watch and record the police, but rather to watch us from the perspective of the police. And as anyone who has come face-to-face with armored clad riot cops during a political protest will no doubt attest, the routine use of cameras trained on protesters by police brings no measure of accountability to the cops. Police cameras do nothing to stop warrior cops from unleashing their truncheons on peaceful protesters, nor do they do anything to hold them to account afterwards. In fact, the police deploy such cameras at rallies largely to aid the future prosecution of those they will arrest for the great criminal offense that is political dissent.

Snooping Cops

The far more troubling issue with championing police body cameras as some sort of progressive police reform, though, is that their deployment is part of a larger proliferation of mass surveillance capabilities now allowing domestic law enforcement agencies to sweep up a breathtaking amount of data on American citizens.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the 560 body cameras currently employed by officers of the Oakland, California police department “results in about five to six terabytes of data every month—equivalent to about 1,250 to 1,500 high-definition movie downloads.” The data, the Journal continues, “is stored on a department server for two years at a minimum.”

Using the FBI’s Lockheed Martin designed Next Generation Identification system, cops everywhere equipped with body cameras will soon be able to tap into an FBI database containing over 50 million photos in order to utilize facial recognition technology when making routine traffic stops. It’s difficult to see how the use of body cameras to conduct such fishing expeditions would serve in any way to further police accountability.

The threat to personal privacy posed by police body cams is heightened further when considering the intimate places cops routinely go (e.g. inside one’s apartment or home) and the often compromised state of those visited by police. As the Los Angeles Times notes, “Video from dashboard cameras in police cars, a more widely used technology, has long been exploited for entertainment purposes. Internet users have posted dash-cam videos of arrests of naked women to YouTube, and TMZ sometimes obtains police videos of athletes and celebrities during minor or embarrassing traffic stops, turning officers into unwitting paparazzi.”

It doesn’t take much imagination to picture huckster entrepreneurs of the near future using any and all police body cam video released to the public (which will undoubtedly be skewed toward those videos portraying officers in a positive light) to piggyback on the already booming online mug shot industry currently dabbling in the lucrative trade of public humiliation and shame.

Body cameras or not, though, police agencies the nation over are already fixing to amass vast swaths of data on no less than our daily movements via the widespread deployment of things like automatic license plate readers (ALPRs), which snap pictures of car license plates in conjunction with date, time, and location.

According to a separate Journal report, the Justice Department is currently using ALPRs strategically placed on major highways, in combination with those routinely used by state and local law enforcement agencies, to maintain a national database to “track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S.” Many of the devices used to feed the database, the paper notes, “also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities.”

Consider, also, the ability local police agencies already possess to scoop up our electronic communications via devices like “dirtboxes” and “stingrays” (which mimic cellular towers in order to trick all adjacent cell phones into sending their identifying information back to the devices for collection). This is to say nothing of the “haystack” of personal data the National Security Agency is actively compiling in its search for needles.

Such a rush by law enforcement to deploy all the latest surveillance technologies on the American people quite predictably leaves the collecting agencies awash in more data than could ever possibly be of use.  In fact, such mass surveillance is quite lousy at its purported purpose of predicting and preventing crime or “terrorism.” As Julia Angwin writes in her book Dragnet Nation, “the flood of data can be overwhelming and confounding to those who are charged with sorting through it to find terrorists.”  “But,” Angwin goes on to add, “ubiquitous, covert surveillance does appear to be very good at repression.”

Police Surveillance as Repression

What the “war on drugs” was for mass incarceration, the “war on terror” has clearly been to domestic surveillance. So not only are militarized police now sent parading through the streets in their repurposed military vehicles and equipment, they are also increasingly turning to military-styled mass surveillance methods to achieve the very same ends sought by occupying American forces abroad; that is, collective pacification.

As Darwin Bond-Graham and Ali Winston write in a 2014 LA Weekly article on the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of data-intensive “predictive policing”: the “LAPD’s mild-sounding ‘predictive policing’ technique, introduced by former Chief William Bratton [now chief of the NYPD] to anticipate where future crime would hit, is actually a sophisticated system developed not by cops but by the U.S. military, based on ‘insurgent’ activity in Iraq and civilian casualty patterns in Afghanistan.”

Bond-Graham and Winston add: “Records obtained by L.A. Weekly from the U.S. Army Research Office show that UCLA professors Jeff Brantingham and Andrea Bertozzi (anthropology and applied mathematics, respectively) in 2009 told the Army that their predictive techniques ‘will provide the Army with a plethora of new data-intensive predictive algorithms for dealing with insurgents and terrorists abroad.’ In a later update to the Army, after they had begun working with LAPD, they wrote, ‘Terrorist and insurgent activities have a distinct parallel to urban crime.'”

The world, lest we ever forget, is now a battlefield.  But if the American dragnet abroad is, as Alfred McCoy writes, a means of cheaply “projecting power and keeping subordinate allies in line,” the domestic dragnet imposed by militarized cops is likewise as much about keeping domestic threats (activists, dissidents, the working class, and poor) in line as imperial rot takes hold within the “homeland” in the form of widening economic inequality and deepening social crisis.

And utilizing mass surveillance as a tool of repression indeed appears the intent of snooping police departments.

Pouring over documents released on the city of Boston’s now suspended ALPR program, ACLU attorney Catherine Crump found that “The Boston Police Department was targeting mostly low income, working class, and Black neighborhoods with their license plate reader program.”  In one case, Crump discovered that “one motorcycle that was recorded stolen in the police department’s system had driven past one fixed plate reader 60 times.”

“This signals to me that our greatest fear is true,” Crump adds. “While police say, ‘We need this technology because it helps us find stolen cars and criminals,’ we have found they’re also using these tools to collect data about people who they have no reason to believe were involved in any criminal activity.  In Boston, we found that police aren’t using these cameras to respond to hits, they’re sucking up all this data to use potentially down the road for intelligence.”

Are we to believe, then, that the mountains of data to be captured by police body cameras and stored for possibly years by police departments is to be used to hold cops to account? Or is such footage more likely to be kept in secret to further police control over potentially rebellious poor, minority, and working class citizens?

Who gains by entrusting killer cops with policing our privacy?

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

There is Bipartisan Agreement on the ‘Uncivility’ of Civil Asset Forfeiture

By Kanya Bennett and Nkechi Taifa | ACSblog | April 16, 2015

“The FOP does not disagree that there is a need for civil asset forfeiture revision.” That is what the Fraternal Order of Police said at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary hearing on civil asset forfeiture. And when Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked if FOP stood by those words, the response was “absolutely” – even though FOP’s testimony suggested otherwise.

Grassley even offered him some advice, saying that, now is “not the time to oppose needed reforms,” in light of national headlines on police violence.

This should make it clear to everyone that the time is ripe for federal reform. Though work remains to convince some that community policing instead of “slush funds” must be law enforcement’s number one priority, we should be optimistic.

Grassley said “legislation is necessary” and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) believes that “we can come together on a bipartisan basis to fix what is broken.”

For months there has been national discourse around civil asset forfeiture and all that is uncivil about it. Members on both sides of the aisle – and organizations across the spectrum – are demanding reform. And rightfully so.

Civil asset forfeiture gives law enforcement the power to take property away from someone who has not been convicted of a crime. And this property can be cash, cars, homes, and anything else – like a “simple gold cross” – that law enforcement believes is connected to a crime. Yes, a woman had her gold cross necklace seized when she was pulled over for a minor traffic violation!

And just how does one go about getting a necklace … or money, or car, or house back? Well, often they don’t. Due process requirements don’t require judicial hearings. More than 60 percent of federal forfeitures were uncontested over the past few years.

When property owners do get notice and muster the courage to go up against the government, they find the deck is stacked against them. Property owners bear the cost of going to court and the burden of proving their property’s “innocence.” And in almost all instances, property owners are not entitled to counsel.

So, what is driving this practice that sounds unfair, unjust, and un-American? How is it that we still have this “thorn in the side of civil liberties?” Civil asset forfeiture is big business for law enforcement at all levels – federal, state, and local. The practice generates billions of dollars annually and law enforcement is permitted to keep the assets it seizes.

Since 2008, state and local police have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion dollars with the help of the federal government. And in 2014 alone, federal forfeiture laws were used to take in $4.5 billion dollars. This is why civil asset forfeiture has been called “policing for profit” and a “system of legal thievery.”

The price that people pay when their property is taken far exceeds the billions it generates. Civil asset forfeiture has long been used to carry out the ineffective and abusive “War on Drugs.” As has been said, “eighteenth-century maritime laws are being applied to [today’s] drugs laws and the repercussions are horrendous.” Just as the “War on Drugs” disproportionately impacts people and communities of color, so does civil asset forfeiture.

In the 1990’s, in Florida’s Volusia County, 90 percent of the drivers from whom cash was confiscated without arrest were Black or Latino. Then fast forward 20 years, to East Texas, where police seized $3 million dollars in a two year period primarily from African American and Latino drivers.

These civil rights and civil liberties concerns that generated broad support for the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform (CAFRA) Act of 2000 exist today. We all recognize that CAFRA did not go far enough. And now is the time we all come to the table and do something about it.

Kanya Bennett is the Legislative Counsel at American Civil Liberties Union, and Nkechi Taifa is the Senior Policy Analyst at Open Society Foundations.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption | , | 1 Comment

Monsanto knew of glyphosate / cancer link 35 years ago

GM-Free Cymru | April 8, 2015

According to evidence unearthed from the archives of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the United States, it has been established that Monsanto was fully aware of the potential of glyphosate to cause cancer in mammals as long ago as 1981.

Recently the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement in which glyphosate (the main component of Roundup herbicide) was classified as “probably carcinogenic” to humans and as “sufficiently demonstrated” for genotoxicity in animals (1). This announcement of a change to toxicity class 2A was given vast coverage in the global media, causing Monsanto to move immediately into damage limitation mode. The corporation demanded the retraction of the report, although it has not yet been published! Predictably, there was more fury from the industry-led Glyphosate Task Force (2). This Task Force also sponsored a “rebuttal” review article (3) from a team of writers with strong links with the biotechnology industry; but because of the clear bias demonstrated in this paper (which suggests that glyphosate has no carcinogenic potential in humans) it is best ignored until it has been carefully scrutinized by independent researchers (4).

With Monsanto continuing to protest that glyphosate and Roundup are effectively harmless (5) if used according to instructions, in spite of accumulating evidence to the contrary, we undertook a search through Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records with a view to finding out what was known about glyphosate at the time of its initial registration. This followed up earlier investigations by Sustainable Pulse which highlighted a sudden change in the EPA view on toxicity in 1991. What was discovered was very revealing. There were many animal experiments (using rats, mice and dogs) designed to test the acute and chronic toxicity of glyphosate in the period 1978-1986, conducted by laboratories such as Bio/dynamics Inc for Monsanto and submitted for EPA consideration. Two of these reports relate to a three-generation reproduction study in rats (6) (7), and another is called “A Lifetime Feeding Study Of Glyphosate In Rats” (8); but like all the other older studies they were and still are treated as Trade Secrets and cannot be freely accessed for independent scrutiny. That in itself is suggestive that the studies contain data which Monsanto still does not wish to be examined by experts in the toxicology field. It is also deeply worrying that EPA acceded to the routine Monsanto requests for secrecy on the flimsiest of pretexts.

However, archived and accessible EPA Memos from the early 1980’s do give some indications as to what the rat studies contain (9). Although the studies predate the adoption of international test guidelines and GLP standards they suggest that there was significant damage to the kidneys of the rats in the 3-generational study — the incidence of tubular dilation in the kidney was higher in every treated group of rats when compared to controls. Tubular dilation and nephrosis was also accompanied by interstitial fibrosis in all test groups and in some of the lumens the researchers found amorphous material and cellular debris. Less than a third of the control rats showed signs of tubular dilation. In the rat study results, the changes in the bladder mucosa are significant because metabolites, concentrated by the kidneys, have led to hyperplasia that could be considered as a very early and necessary step in tumour initiation. EPA was worried in 1981 that these indications were sinister, and at first declined to issue a NOEL (no observed adverse effect level) — it asked for further information and additional research. In its 1982 Addendum, Monsanto presented evidence that minimised the effects and confused the data — and on that basis EPA accepted that glyphosate was unlikely to be dangerous. But Monsanto knew that scrutiny of the data in the studies would potentially threaten its commercial ambitions, and so it asked for the research documents concerned to be withheld and treated as Trade Secrets. So there was no effective independent scrutiny. Monsanto and EPA connived in keeping these documents away from unbiased expert assessment, in spite of the evidence of harm. (It is clear that EPA was thinking about carcinogenic effects — it knew in 1981 that glyphosate caused tumorigenic growth and kidney disease but dismissed the finding as “a mystery” in order to set the NOEL for the chemical and bring it to market.)

In the rat studies, the glyphosate doses fed to the test groups were 1/100 of those used in a later mouse study (9). It is unclear why these very small doses were decided upon by Monsanto and accepted by EPA, since there must be a suspicion that the studies were manipulated or designed to avoid signs of organ damage. In its 1986 Memo, EPA remarked on the very low doses, and said that no dose tested was anywhere near the “maximally tolerated dose.” Then the Oncogenicity Peer Review Committee said: “At doses close to an MTD, tumours might have been induced.” A repeat rat study was asked for. However, BioDynamics (which conducted the research for Monsanto) used data from three unrelated studies, which they conducted in house, as historical controls to create “experimental noise” and to diminish the importance of the results obtained by experiment.

In a 1983 mouse study conducted by Bio/dynamics Inc for Monsanto (10), there was a slight increase in the incidence of renal tubular adenomas (benign tumours) in males at the highest dose tested. Malignant tumours were found in the higher dose group. However, “it was the judgment of two reviewing pathologists that the renal tumors were not treatment-related”. Other effects included centrilobular hypertrophy and necrosis of hepatocytes, chronic interstitial nephritis, and proximal tubule epithelial cell basophilia and hypertrophy in females. The EPA committee determined there was a “weak oncogenic response” — so evidence was suggestive of early malignancy. The EPA Science Advisory Panel was asked for advice, and they said the data were equivocal and called for further studies in mice and rats. A further report was delivered in 1985. Part of the reason for this dithering was the prevalent but false EPA belief that all physiological effects had to be dose-related: namely, the higher the dose, the greater the effect.

Even though pre-cancerous conditions were imperfectly understood 35 years ago, and cortical adenomas in kidney were not thought dangerous at the time, the evidence from the Memos is that Monsanto, BioDynamics Inc and the EPA Committees involved were fully aware, probably before 1981, of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate when fed to mammals. In the Memos there are references to many more “secret” animal experiments and data reviews, which simply served to confuse the regulators with additional conflicting data. Thus EPA publicly accepted the safety assurances of the Monsanto Chief of Product Safety, Robert W. Street, and the status of the product was confirmed for use in the field (11). But behind the scenes, according to a later EPA memo (in 1991), its own experts knew before 1985 that glyphosate causes pancreatic, thyroid and kidney tumors.

On the EPA website (last updated 31.10.2014) reference is made to five Monsanto studies of 1980 – 1985, and it is noteworthy that these studies have not been made public in the light of current knowledge about malignant tumours and pre-cancerous conditions (12). Neither have they been revisited or reinterpreted by Monsanto and EPA, although one 1981 rat study and one 1983 mouse study are mentioned in the recent review by Greim et al (2015) (3). Following the conclusion that glyphosate was “not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity” nothing in the EPA advice about this chemical has changed since 1990. Given the recent assessment by the WHO Panel, and given the flood of scientific papers relating to health damage associated with glyphosate (13) the EPA attitude smacks of complacency and even incompetence.

Speaking for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John says: “The evidence shows that by 1981 both Monsanto and the EPA were aware of malignant tumours and pre-cancerous conditions in the test animals which were fed small doses of glyphosate in the secret feeding experiments. Although concerns were expressed at the time by EPA committees, these concerns were later suppressed under the weight of conflicting evidence brought forward by Monsanto, some of it involving the inappropriate use of historical control data of dubious quality. None of these studies is available for independent examination (14). That is a scandal in itself. There has been a protracted and cynical cover-up in this matter (15). Glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen”, as now confirmed by the WHO Working Group, and no matter what protestations may now come from Monsanto and the EPA, they have been fully aware of its potential to cause cancer for at least 35 years. If they had acted in a precautionary fashion back then, instead of turning a blind eye to scientific malpractice (16), glyphosate would never have been licensed, and thousands of lives might have been saved.”

Retired Academic Pathologist Dr Stanley Ewen says: “Glyphosate has been implicated in human carcinogenesis by IARC and it is remarkable that, as early as 1981, glyphosate was noted to be associated with pre neoplastic changes in experimental mice. This finding was never revealed by the regulatory process and one might therefore expect to see human malignancy increasing on the record in the ensuing years. John Little (personal communication) has demonstrated an unexpected and alarming 56% upsurge in malignancy in England in those under 65 in the past 10 years. Presumably British urinary excretion of glyphosate is similar to the documented urine levels in Germany, and therefore everyone is at risk. The effect of glyphosate on endocrine tissue such as breast and prostate, or even placenta, is disruptive at least and an increased incidence of endocrine neoplasia is likely to be seen in National Statistics. The Glyphosate Task Force denies the involvement of glyphosate in human malignancy despite their knowledge of many reports of lymphomas and pituitary adenomas in experimental animals dosed with glyphosate. On the other hand, Prof. Don Huber at a recent meeting in the Palace of Westminster, has warned of severe consequences if rampant glyphosate consumption is not reined in. I feel sure that the suppression of the experimental results of 1981 has enhanced the global risk of malignancy.”

Toxico-pathologist Professor Vyvyan Howard says: “”The drive towards transparency in the testing of pharmaceuticals is gathering pace with legislation in the EU, USA and Canada being developed. All trials for licensed drugs will likely have to become available in the public domain. In my opinion the case with agrochemicals should be no different. At least with pharmaceuticals exposure is voluntary and under informed consent. There are several biomonitoring studies which demonstrate that there is widespread exposure of human populations to glyphosate, presumably without informed consent. Given the clear level of mistrust over the licensing of this herbicide and the emerging epidemiological evidence of its negative effects there can, in my opinion, be no case whatsoever for keeping the toxicological studies, used to justify licencing, a secret. They should be put in the public domain.”

Research scientist Dr Anthony Samsel says: “Monsanto’s Trade Secret studies of glyphosate show significant incidence of cell tumors of the testes and tumorigenic growth in multiple organs and tissues. They also show significant interstitial fibrosis of the kidney including effects in particular to the Pituitary gland, mammary glands, liver, and skin. Glyphosate has significant effects to the lungs indicative of chronic respiratory disease. Glyphosate has an inverse dose response relationship, and it appears that its effects are highly pH dependent. Both Monsanto and the EPA knew of the deleterious effects of this chemical in 1980 at the conclusion of their multiple long-term assessments, but the EPA hid the results of their findings as “trade secrets.” Monsanto has been lying and covering up the truth about glyphosate’s harmful effects on public health and the environment for decades. The increases in multiple chronic diseases, seen since its introduction into the food supply, continue to rise in step with its use. Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate based herbicides have a ubiquitous presence as residues in the food supply directly associated with its crop use. Nations must stand together against Monsanto and other chemical companies who continue to destroy the biosphere. We are all part of that biosphere and we are all connected. What affects one affects us all.”

NOTES

(1) Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate (2015)
Kathryn Z Guyton, Dana Loomis, Yann Grosse, Fatiha El Ghissassi, Lamia Benbrahim-Tallaa, Neela Guha, Chiara Scoccianti, Heidi Mattock, Kurt Straif, on behalf of the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group, IARC, Lyon, France
Lancet Oncol 2015. Published Online March 20, 2015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S1470-2045(15)70134-8
International Agency for Research on Cancer 16 Volume 112: Some organophosphate insecticides and herbicides: tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon and glyphosate. IARC Working Group. Lyon; 3–10 March 2015. IARC Monogr Eval Carcinog Risk Chem Hum (in press).

(2) Monsanto seeks retraction for report linking herbicide to cancer
By Carey Gillam, Reuters
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/24/us-monsanto-herbicide-idUSKBN0MK2GF20150324
The response by the pesticide industry association, the Glyphosate Task Force, is here:
http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/story/28574811/statement-of-the-gtf-on-the-recent-iarc-decision-concerning-glyphosate

(3) Helmut Greim, David Saltmiras, Volker Mostert, and Christian Strupp (2015) REVIEW ARTICLE: Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate, drawing on tumor incidence data from fourteen chronic/carcinogenicity rodent studies. Crit Rev Toxicol, 2015; Early Online: 1–24 DOI: 10.3109/10408444.2014.1003423

(4) Not only is this paper written by authors who have strong industry links, but the 14 carcinogenicity studies assessed are carefully selected industry studies which have not been peer-reviewed and published in mainstream scientific journals. All of the studies were conducted for clients (like Monsanto) who would have experienced gigantic commercial repercussions if anything “inconvenient” had been reported upon, with glyphosate already in use across the world. Therefore the possibility of fraud and data manipulation cannot be ruled out. The 14 studies are all secret, and cannot be examined by independent toxicology experts. The fact that the review article in question reproduces (as online supplementary material) a series of tables and data sets is immaterial, since the data are useless in the absence of clear explanations of the laboratory protocols and practices of the research teams involved.

(5) http://www.monsanto.com/glyphosate/pages/is-glyphosate-safe.aspx

(6) “A Three-Generation Reproduction Study in Rats with Glyphosate” (Final Report; Bio/dynamics Project No. 77-2063; March 31, 1981) — submitted by Monsanto to EPA

(7) “Addendum to Pathology Report for a Three-Generation Reproduction Study in Rats with Glyphosate. R.D. #374; Special Report MSL-1724; July 6, 1982″ EPA Registration No 524-308, Action Code 401. Accession No 247793. CASWELL#661A” — submitted by Monsanto to EPA

(8) “A Lifetime Feeding Study Of Glyphosate In Rats” (Report by GR Lankas and GK Hogan from Bio/dynamics for Monsanto. Project #77-2062, 1981: MRID 00093879) — submitted by Monsanto to EPA
and Addendum Report #77-2063

(9) Archived EPA memos from 1982 and 1986:

Click to access 103601-135.pdf


Click to access 103601-210.pdf


The 1991 EPA Memo is accessible via:
http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/03/26/who-glyphosate-report-ends-thirty-year-cancer-cover-up/#.VSVPZ2Z3bJk

(10) Knezevich, AL and Hogan, GK (1983) “A Chronic Feeding study of Glyphosate (Roundup Technical) in Mice”. Project No 77-2061. Bio/dynamics Inc for Monsanto. Accession No #251007-251014 — document not available but cited in EPA 1986 Memo.
Follow-up study: McConnel, R. “A chronic feeding study of glyphosate (Roundup technical) in mice: pathology report on additional kidney sections”. Unpublished project no. 77-2061A, 1985, submitted to EPA by BioDynamics, Inc.

(11) Glyphosate was first registered for use by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) in 1974, and after various reviews reregistration was completed in 1993.
Glyphosate (CASRN 1071-83-6)
Classification — D (not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity)
Basis — Inadequate evidence for oncogenicity in animals. Glyphosate was originally classified as C, possible human carcinogen, on the basis of increased incidence of renal tumors in mice. Following independent review of the slides the classification was changed to D on the basis of a lack of statistical significance and uncertainty as to a treatment-related effect.
http://www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0057.htm
http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/03/26/who-glyphosate-report-ends-thirty-year-cancer-cover-up/
npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphotech.pdf

(12) Monsanto Company. 1981a. MRID No. 0081674, 00105995. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.
Monsanto Company. 1981b. MRID No. 00093879. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.
Monsanto Company. 1985. MRID No. 00153374. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.
Monsanto Company. 1980a. MRID No. 00046362. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.
Monsanto Company. 1980b. MRID No. 00046363. Available from EPA. Write to FOI, EPA, Washington, DC 20460.

(13) http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Scandal_of_Glyphosate_Reassessment_in_Europe.php
http://permaculturenews.org/2012/11/01/why-glyphosate-should-be-banned-a-review-of-its-hazards-to-health-and-the-environment/
Key studies showing toxic effects of glyphosate and Roundup. Ch 4 in GMO Myths and Truths
http://earthopensource.org/earth-open-source-reports/gmo-myths-and-truths-2nd-edition/
Antoniou, M. et al. Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence J Environ Anal Toxicol 2012, S:4
http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2161-0525.S4-006

Click to access RoundupandBirthDefectsv5.pdf

(14) That having been said, Monsanto has allowed access to selected later reports to selected researchers (Greim et al, 2015). It is still uncertain whether these selected reports are available in full, for detailed independent scrutiny — even though there can now be no possible justification for “trade secret” designation, following the lapse of the US glyphosate patent in 2000.

(15) http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/03/26/who-glyphosate-report-ends-thirty-year-cancer-cover-up/
In 1985 the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate was first considered by an EPA panel, called the Toxicology Branch Ad Hoc Committee. The Committee then classified glyphosate as a Class C Carcinogen on the basis of its carcinogenic potential. This classification was changed by the EPA in 1991 to a Class E category on the basis of “evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans”. Mysteriously this change in glyphosate’s classification occurred during the same period that Monsanto was developing its first Roundup-Ready (glyphosate-resistant) GM Crops. Not for the first time, commercial considerations were allowed to trump public health concerns.
The EPA scale of cancer-forming potential of substances:
Group A: Carcinogenic to humans
Group B: Likely to be carcinogenic to humans
Group C: Suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential
Group D: Inadequate information to assess carcinogenic potential
Group E: Not likely to be carcinogenic to humans

(16) Wikipedia 2012: Internal EPA Memos Document Fraud
1983 EPA Scientist on EPA’s public stance: “Our viewpoint is one of protecting the public health when we see suspicious data.” Unfortunately, EPA has not taken that conservative viewpoint in its assessment of glyphosate’s cancer causing potential.”
“There are no studies available to NCAP evaluating the carcinogenicity of Roundup or other glyphosate-containing products. Without such tests, the carcinogenicity of glyphosate-containing products is unknown.”
“Tests done on glyphosate to meet registration requirements have been associated with fraudulent practices.”
“Countless deaths of rats & mice are not reported.”
“Data tables have been fabricated”
“There is a routine falsification of data”

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment