U.S. Response to Ebola: We Don’t Have the “Strongest” Medical System In the World … Only the Most EXPENSIVE

U.S. Healthcare Executives Are Talking Their Book

U.S. medical officials have repeatedly said – almost like a mantra – that Ebola can’t possibly effect our country because we have the “strongest” and “best” medical system in the world.

Were they speaking as scientists … or salesman?   After all, the U.S. has the most expensive medical system in the world.  And – like all good salesmen – they have to talk up and justify the super-pricey product.

In fact, independent studies rank the strength and quality of our system as low.  In June, the Washington Post headlined, “Once again, U.S. has most expensive, least effective health care system in survey“:

A report released Monday by a respected think tank ranks the United States dead last in the quality of its health-care system when compared with 10 other western, industrialized nations, the same spot it occupied in four previous studies by the same organization. Not only did the U.S. fail to move up between 2004 and 2014 — as other nations did with concerted effort and significant reforms — it also has maintained this dubious distinction while spending far more per capita ($8,508) on health care than Norway ($5,669), which has the second most expensive system.

“Although the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country and has the highest proportion of specialist physicians, survey findings indicate that from the patients’ perspective, and based on outcome indicators, the performance of American health care is severely lacking,” the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that promotes improved health care, concluded in its extensive analysis.

How could that be?

Roy Poses, MD – Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University, and the President of the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine -  notes:

From 1983 to 2000, the number of managers working in the US health care system grew 726%, while the number of physicians grew 39%, so the manager/physician ratio went from roughly one to six to one to one (see 2005 post here). As we noted here, the growth continued, so there are now 10 managers for every US physician.

We have frequently discussed how generic managers in charge of health care organizations may follow business-school dogma at the expense of patients’ and the public’s health.  In particular, they may also prioritize short-term revenue ahead of all other concerns, and hence may favor high-technology and procedural care, often performed electively, ahead of the the less glamorous and remunerative parts of health care, e.g., ED care of poor, uninsured, febrile patients.

Unfortunately, much of the country’s efforts to ward off Ebola are likely to be lead by generic managers who may have little understanding of epidemiology, public health or virology, and little understanding of the state of health care at the sharp end.  So unfortunately I expect continuing “glitches,” or worse.  Hopefully, the country, although not every single one of its inhabitants, will survive them.  Then we need to seriously reflect on the wisdom of handing control of health care over to generic managers, rather than health care professionals.

Dr. Poses gives a specific example, the Dallas hospital – Texas Health Presbyterian – where sloppiness has caused 2 nurses (so far) to contract Ebola:

USA Today published on October 14, “Texas Health Presbyterian was a respected, renowned hospital.”

***

Instead, it appears that the leaders appeared tremendously overconfident, and worse, may have silenced employees from raising concerns that could have reflected badly on leadership.  This occurred in a context in which transparency was imperative so that other people who might have to deal with Ebola patients might be better prepared.

On the other hand, based on what we have been posting on Health Care Renewal for nearly 10 years, the conduct of the Texas Health Resources leaders should have come as no surprise.  On Health Care Renewal we have been connecting the dots among severe problems with cost, quality and access on one hand, and huge problems with concentration and abuse of power, enabled by leadership of health care organizations that is ill-informed, incompetent, unsympathetic or hostile to health care professionals’ values, self-interested, conflicted, dishonest, or even corrupt and governance that fails to foster transparency, accountability, ethics and honesty.

We have seen many examples of hospital executives who seemed vastly impressed by their own brilliance, egged on by board members who were themselves executives of other organizations, and by marketing and public relations functionaries dependent on these executives for their own career advancement.  In particular, we have posted examples of hospital CEOs and other top executives making millions of dollars a year based on their supposed “brilliance,” or “visionary” capacity, at least according to the board members who supposed to be exercising stewardship over their institutions, and the public relations people they hired.  Such brilliance has often been asserted, but rarely been explained or justified  (The latest example was here, and much more discussion is here.)

Most such ostensibly “brilliant” hospital executives had no direct experience in clinical care, public health, or biomedical science.

Making hospital leaders feel entitled to make more and more money regardless of their or their institutions’ performance seems to be a recipe for “CEO Disease,” leading to disconnected, unaccountable, self-interested leaders.  Hospital leaders suffering from the CEO disease may be particularly willing to countenance suppression of any facts or ideas that might raise doubts about their brilliance.

So the leadership of Texas Health Resources may in fact be very typical of that of large non-profit hospital systems.  THR is such a system.  A Dallas Morning News article about Mr Doug Hawthorne, the Texas Health Resources CEO who just retired in September, 2014, stated

In 1997, Doug Hawthorne helped reshape the health care industry in North Texas by leading the creation of Texas Health Resources, an alliance of Presbyterian Healthcare Resources, Harris Methodist Health System and Arlington Memorial Hospital.

By 2014,

 With more than 22,000 employees in fully owned and joint venture operations, Texas Health is one of the largest care providers in North Texas. For its 2012 fiscal year, it had $3.7 billion in total operating revenue and $5.3 billion in total assets.

For leading this system, Mr Hawthorne made a lot of money, although apparently no recent data is available on his compensation,

He was among the most highly compensated not-for-profit CEOs in the region. For 2012, the most recent information available, his base salary was about $1 million and his bonus was about $1.1 million.

It should be no surprise that to justify this compensation, Mr Hawthorne was proclaimed a visionary.  According to the Dallas/ Fort Worth Healthcare Daily, Mr Hawthorne was inducted in 2014 into the Texas Business Hall of Fame.  At that time,

A healthcare visionary, Mr. Hawthorne is at the helm of one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health care delivery systems in the United States, Texas Health Resources,’ the Hall said in a release announcing the induction.

Yet Mr Hawthorne had no direct patient care experience, public health experience, or biomedical or clinical science experience.  Mr Hawthorne is on the board of directors of the LHP Hospital Group Inc, a for-profit that provides capital and services to non-profit hospitals.  The official bio, posted by LHP stated his educational background only included

B.S. and M.S. degrees in healthcare administration from Trinity University in San Antonio.

Furthermore, as we mentioned earlier, the current CEO of Texas Health Resources, Mr Barclay E Berden, who has only been on the job since September 1, 2014, also was hailed by system board of trustees for his “unique leadership strengths.”  His current compensation is unknown, but I would guess is likely over $1 million/year.  He highest degree is a MBA, and like his predecessor, had much experience in hospital management, but apparently none in clinical care, public health, or biomedical science.

Lambert Strether notes:

I found this the most vivid:

Among the nurses’ allegations was that the Ebola patient’s lab samples were allowed to travel through the hospital’s pneumatic tubes [instead of being hand-delivered], opening the possibility of contaminating the specimen delivery system. The nurses also alleged that hazardous waste was allowed to pile up to the ceiling.

What could go wrong? Isolation wards won’t do the trick if the specimen tubes got contaminated. Dear Lord. IMNSHO, it’s not aerosolization we have to worry about, but out-of-control neo-liberal infestations that hollow out our rickety, “jalopy institutions.” Institutionally, this is third-world stuff, and it’s an especially noxious and lethal form of American exceptionalism to pretend that it isn’t. If there were a specimen tube that ran straight to the CEO’s office, or medical waste piled up outside his door, you can bet these problems would be fixed toot sweet, but since that will never happen, more canaries will have to suffer and die.

While Democrats pretend that the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare) will help fix this problem, real liberals say that Obamacare is really just a giveaway to the big, for profit healthcare companies … and will only make things worse.

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 3 Comments

Why the State Has Failed to Reform Our Broken Financial System

Expecting the state to truly reform the nation’s engines of financialization is like asking the cocaine addict married to the wealthy dealer to divorce the dealer.

Most observers think they know why the government (i.e. the state) has failed to truly reform the financial system: corrupt politicos on the receiving end of the Too Big to Fail (TBTF) banks and financiers’ millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions do the banks’ bidding.

While the reduction of democracy to an auction in which the highest bidder controls the state is certainly one systemic reason for this abject failure,there is an even greater, more deeply systemic reason why the state cannot reform the rotten core of financialization.

The state has become dependent on the wages and profits of finance for its own revenues.

Here’s an analogy of what’s happened in the past few decades of financialization: you meet Mr./Ms. Right (he/she is attractive, makes a lot of money, well-dressed, good social skills, etc.), fall in love and marry.

Unbeknownst to you, Mr./Ms. Right is a cocaine dealer. When you find out the source of the fat paychecks, he/she reassures you it’s just business and that he/she never uses the stuff. But if you want to try a taste, go ahead–it won’t hurt you.

You think about leaving him/her, but the money is just so good. Life without all that easy money looks bleak and difficult.

Just to see what all the fuss is about, you try the cocaine.

So now you’re addicted not just to the easy money but to the cocaine, too. Now it’s impossible to leave the dealer.

Substitute finance-dependent profits and wages for cocaine and you now understand the marriage of the state and the engine of financialization:financialization has generated the big profits, the hefty wages that pay most of the state’s income taxes and enabled most of the consumption of the past three decades.

Were the state to actually limit financialization–excessive debt, leverage and risk– it would be cutting the primary source of its own revenues. The wages and profits generated by financialization aren’t limited to banks and financial institutions–every industry that depends on leveraged debt and cheap credit is ultimately an arm of financialization.

This includes the entire FIRE economy–finance, insurance and real estate–as well as the auto industry, home furnishings, boating, recreation, tourism–every industry that has been living off credit cards, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and other sources of cheap credit.

Cheap credit is the cocaine, and not only is the state addicted to the cocaine of cheap credit that enables its own stupendous borrowing, it’s also addicted to the easy money that is generated by our economy’s addiction to credit.

Take a look at this chart of financial sector profits. Recall that all corporate profits are about 11% of gross domestic product (GDP). So purely financial profits are about one-third of all corporate profits–an extraordinarily high percentage historically.

But this chart vastly under-represents the true impact of financialization on profits and jobs. How many homes would be sold if all buyers had to put down 20% istead of 3.5% for FHA loans? How many vehicles would be sold if buyers had to put down 20% of the vehicle’s cost in cash and qualify for a 3-year loan? How much of the economy’s consumption would go away if credit cards had to paid in full every month?

How much federal income tax does a minimum-wage retail worker pay? Zero. How much income tax does a $300,000 a year finance worker pay? A lot. Truly reforming the financial sector to eliminate the cocaine of financialization would gut not just credit-based consumption but state tax revenues.

Expecting the state to truly reform the nation’s engines of financialization is like asking the cocaine addict married to the wealthy dealer to divorce the dealer.

This is why socio-economist Immanuel Wallerstein characterizes our finance-dependent version of capitalism as “a particular historical configuration of markets and state structures where private economic gain by almost any means is the paramount goal and measure of success.”


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The Head of the CDC Was Behind the Big Gulp Soda Ban In New York

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NANNY COLABloomberg the Nanny, by William Banzai

Libertarians were outraged by New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s “Big Gulp” ban (which a state court ultimately struck down). They slammed it as a “Nanny State” measure.

But it was current Centers for Disease Control head Tom Frieden who was actually behind the ban.

The New York Times reported in 2004:

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, has turned out to be an active policy advocate among the city’s department heads, the outspoken architect of some of the Bloomberg administration’s more controversial policies.

Although Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is more closely associated with a law that bans smoking citywide, the legislation was actually developed by Dr. Frieden, who was also given responsibility for helping to push it through the City Council.

***

Even Mayor Bloomberg’s partnership with Snapple to sell juice in vending machines in schools has not gone without his notice.

”I would have preferred water,” he admitted, although he added that he liked the money that the agreement will raise.

He is almost certainly the only city agency head who keeps a bowl of condoms in the reception area of his office.

And the Daily Caller reported in 2010:

  • In 2009, Frieden took to the pages of the New England Journal of Medicine to sell the need for a soda tax. “It is difficult to imagine producing behavior change of this magnitude through education alone, even if government devoted massive resources to the task,” Frieden wrote. “Only heftier taxes will significantly reduce consumption.”
  • In 2010, after Obama tapped Frieden to head up the Centers for Disease Control, Bloomberg announced his support for a soda tax. “The soda tax is a fix that just makes sense,” he said in a March 2010 radio address. “It would save lives. It would cut rising health care costs. And it would keep thousands of teachers and nurses where they belong: in the classrooms and clinics.” Three years earlier, Bloomberg said he was opposed to a soda tax.
Posted in Politics / World News | 3 Comments

CDC AUTHORIZED EBOLA AIRLINE FLIGHT

Staggering Negligence

The Centers for Disease Control said that the second nurse to catch Ebola at the Dallas hospital shouldn’t have flown commercially.

But as CBS News reports,  CDC itself authorized her flight in advance:

In the case of Amber Vinson, the Dallas nurse who flew commercially as she was becoming ill with Ebola, one health official said “somebody dropped the ball.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Vinson called the agency several times before flying, saying that she had a fever with a temperature of 99.5 degrees. But because her fever wasn’t 100.4 degrees or higher, she didn’t officially fall into the group of “high risk” and was allowed to fly.

Update: Confirmed by NBC News.

Update: the CDC now says that the nurse may have been symptomatic while on the flight.

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 3 Comments

World Health Organization Forced to Admit that Ebola Might Be Spread to Healthcare Workers through Coughing and Sneezing

CDC and WHO Admit Frontline Healthcare Workers Might be Exposed

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control were forced to admit that Ebola could be spread through coughing or sneezing in a cramped healthcare setting.

The World Health Organization also wrote last week:

Common sense and observation tell us that spread of the virus via coughing or sneezing is rare, if it happens at all. Epidemiological data emerging from the outbreak are not consistent with the pattern of spread seen with airborne viruses, like those that cause measles and chickenpox, or the airborne bacterium that causes tuberculosis.

Theoretically, wet and bigger droplets from a heavily infected individual, who has respiratory symptoms caused by other conditions or who vomits violently, could transmit the virus – over a short distance – to another nearby person.

This could happen when virus-laden heavy droplets are directly propelled, by coughing or sneezing (which does not mean airborne transmission) onto the mucus membranes or skin with cuts or abrasions of another person.

That’s why all frontline healthcare workers should wear respirators … just like CDC personnel.

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 1 Comment

Why Bush Censored Discovery of Chemical Weapons in Iraq

Reports out today:

Democracy Now:

A new report says the Bush administration concealed the discovery of chemical weapons in Iraq that had been developed with U.S. support in the 1980s — and then denied medical care to the wounded American soldiers involved. According to The New York Times, U.S. troops secretly reported finding more than 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or bombs after the 2003 invasion. All of the chemical weaponry predated 1991, just one year after Saddam Hussein stopped being a U.S. ally and recipient of the Western military aid that helped build his arsenal. At least 17 American and six Iraqi troops were wounded in their handling of the munitions in six separate incidents between 2004 and 2011. The weapons’ existence was kept from the troops entering those areas, and officials denied the victims the care they needed. One soldier talked about his health problems as a result of chemical exposure.

Andrew Goldman: “I still have residual blisters every now and then. I still have a lot of trouble breathing. I have a constant headache. I haven’t not had a headache since 2008 … Only thing I can think of is politics. Doesn’t jive with the story they wanted.”

In addition to raising new questions about the neglect of soldiers’ health and the Bush administration’s false pretext for going to war, the disclosure also carries implications for Iraq’s ongoing crisis. The Islamic State now controls most of the territory where the chemical weapons were found.

New York Times (via RT):

“In five of six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been designed in the United States, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies…”

As reported by RT and others, the chemical weapons, etc., that the US provided Saddam Hussein:

…may now be in the hands of Islamic State militants [who now control the very areas where the weapons were found].

People are acting like this is all new information, but it is absolutely not.

Anyone who wanted to know could have known, starting in the early 1980s, that the USA was (completely openly, not even covertly) providing Saddam with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons components, as well as diplomatic and political support, since the USA was one of the members of the Axis of Evil that was waging a war of aggression and genocide against Iran and the Kurds, killing over a million (in addition to 500,000 young Iraqis, mainly conscripts).

In 1982, the USA took Saddam off its “terrorist” list (leaving Nelson Mandela on until 2007) so the USA could join in Saddam’s Axis for the invasion and genocide (the USA also committed genocide against the Kurds in Turkey, under Bill Clinton.)

Here, for example, is Noam Chomsky in 2006, giving what today is being reported as “new” information:

Bush administration policies have, again, consciously been carried out in a way, which they know is likely to increase the threat of terror. The most obvious example is the Iraq invasion. That was undertaken with the anticipation that it would be very likely to increase the threat of terror and also nuclear proliferation. And, in fact, that’s exactly what happened, according to the judgment of the C.I.A., National Intelligence Council, foreign intelligence agencies, independent specialists. They all point out that, yes, as anticipated, it increased the threat of terror. In fact, it did so in ways well beyond what was anticipated.

To mention just one, we commonly read that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. Well, it’s not totally accurate. There were means to develop weapons of mass destruction in Iraq [provided by the USA] and known to be in Iraq. They were under guard by U.N. inspectors, who were dismantling them. When Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest sent in their troops, they neglected to instruct them to guard these sites. The U.N. inspectors were expelled, the sites were left unguarded. The inspectors continued their work by satellite and reported that over a hundred sites had been looted, in fact, systematically looted, not just somebody walking in, but careful looting. That included dangerous biotoxins, means to hide precision equipment to be used to develop nuclear weapons and missiles, means to develop chemical weapons and so on. All of this has disappeared. One hates to imagine where it’s disappeared to, but it could end up in New York.

Here is Chomsky in 2008 talking about how the US supported Saddam, including providing him with chemical weapons, etc.

Here is Chomsky in 2002 talking about how in the ’80s he was strongly opposing the USA’s noble mission to ensure Saddam could gas Iran and the Kurds.

Neither Iraq having US-provided WMD or US soldiers being injured by them and denied care by all-loving, all-benevolent US leaders (who always have the best interests of the world in their hearts) is news:

Here is William Blum in 1998:

U.S. companies sold Iraq the ingredients for a witch’s brew

The United States almost went to war against Iraq in February because of Saddam Hussein’s weapons program. In his State of the Union address, President Clinton castigated Hussein for “developing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them.”

“You cannot defy the will of the world,” the President proclaimed. “You have used weapons of mass destruction before. We are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again.”

Most Americans listening to the President did not know that the United States supplied Iraq with much of the raw material for creating a chemical and biological warfare program. Nor did the media report that U.S. companies sold Iraq more than $1 billion worth of the components needed to build nuclear weapons and diverse types of missiles, including the infamous Scud.

When Iraq engaged in chemical and biological warfare in the 1980s, barely a peep of moral outrage could be heard from Washington, as it kept supplying Saddam with the materials he needed to build weapons.

According to a 1994 Senate report, private American suppliers, licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, exported a witch’s brew of biological and chemical materials to Iraq from 1985 through 1989. Among the biological materials, which often produce slow, agonizing death, were:

* Bacillus Anthracis, cause of anthrax.

* Clostridium Botulinum, a source of botulinum toxin.

* Histoplasma Capsulatam, cause of a disease attacking lungs, brain, spinal cord, and heart.

* Brucella Melitensis, a bacteria that can damage major organs.

* Clostridium Perfringens, a highly toxic bacteria causing systemic illness.

* Clostridium tetani, a highly toxigenic substance.

Also on the list: Escherichia coli (E. coli), genetic materials, human and bacterial DNA, and dozens of other pathogenic biological agents. “These biological materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction,” the Senate report stated. “It was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and removed from the Iraqi biological warfare program.”

The report noted further that U.S. exports to Iraq included the precursors to chemical-warfare agents, plans for chemical and biological warfare production facilities, and chemical-warhead filling equipment.

The American company that provided the most biological materials to Iraq in the 1980s was American Type Culture Collection of Maryland and Virginia, which made seventy shipments of the anthrax-causing germ and other pathogenic agents, according to a 1996 Newsday story.

Other American companies also provided Iraq with the chemical or biological compounds, or the facilities and equipment used to create the compounds for chemical and biological warfare. Among these suppliers were the following:

* Alcolac International, a Baltimore chemical manufacturer already linked to the illegal shipment of chemicals to Iran, shipped large quantities of thiodiglycol (used to make mustard gas) as well as other chemical and biological ingredients, according to a 1989 story in The New York Times.

* Nu Kraft Mercantile Corp. of Brooklyn (affiliated with the United Steel and Strip Corporation) also supplied Iraq with huge amounts of thiodiglycol, the Times reported.

* Celery Corp., Charlotte, NC

* Matrix-Churchill Corp., Cleveland, OH (regarded as a front for the Iraqi government, according to Representative Henry Gonzalez, Democrat of Texas, who quoted U.S. intelligence documents to this effect in a 1992 speech on the House floor).

The following companies were also named as chemical and biological materials suppliers in the 1992 Senate hearings on “United States export policy toward Iraq prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait”:

* Mouse Master, Lilburn, GA

* Sullaire Corp., Charlotte, NC

* Pure Aire, Charlotte, NC

* Posi Seal, Inc., N. Stonington, CT

* Union Carbide, Danbury, CT

* Evapco, Taneytown, MD

* Gorman-Rupp, Mansfield, OH

Additionally, several other companies were sued in connection with their activities providing Iraq with chemical or biological supplies: subsidiaries or branches of Fisher Controls International, Inc., St. Louis; Rhone-Poulenc, Inc., Princeton, NJ; Bechtel Group, Inc., San Francisco; and Lummus Crest, Inc., Bloomfield, NJ, which built one chemical plant in Iraq and, before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, was building an ethylene facility. Ethylene is a necessary ingredient for thiodiglycol.

In 1994, a group of twenty-six veterans, suffering from what has come to be known as Gulf War Syndrome, filed a billion-dollar lawsuit in Houston against Fisher, Rhone-Poulenc, Bechtel Group, and Lummus Crest, as well as American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) and six other firms, for helping Iraq to obtain or produce the compounds which the veterans blamed for their illnesses. By 1998, the number of plaintiffs has risen to more than 4,000 and the suit is still pending in Texas.

A Pentagon study in 1994 dismissed links between chemical and biological weapons and Gulf War Syndrome. Newsday later disclosed, however, that the man who headed the study, Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg, was a director of ATCC. Moreover, at the time of ATCC’s shipments to Iraq, which the Commerce Department approved, the firm’s CEO was a member of the Commerce Department’s Technical Advisory Committee, the paper found.

A larger number of American firms supplied Iraq with the specialized computers, lasers, testing and analyzing equipment, and other instruments and hardware vital to the manufacture of nuclear weapons, missiles, and delivery systems. Computers, in particular, play a key role in nuclear weapons development. Advanced computers make it feasible to avoid carrying out nuclear test explosions, thus preserving the program’s secrecy. The 1992 Senate hearings implicated the following firms:

* Kennametal, Latrobe, PA

* Hewlett Packard, Palo Alto, CA

* International Computer Systems, CA, SC, and TX

* Perkins-Elmer, Norwalk, CT

* BDM Corp., McLean, VA

* Leybold Vacuum Systems, Export, PA

* Spectra Physics, Mountain View, CA

* Unisys Corp., Blue Bell, PA

* Finnigan MAT, San Jose, CA

* Scientific Atlanta, Atlanta, GA

* Spectral Data Corp., Champaign, IL

* Tektronix, Wilsonville, OR

* Veeco Instruments, Inc., Plainview, NY

* Wiltron Company, Morgan Hill, CA

The House report also singled out: TI Coating, Inc., Axel Electronics, Data General Corp., Gerber Systems, Honeywell, Inc., Digital Equipment Corp., Sackman Associates, Rockwell Collins International, Wild Magnavox Satellite Survey, Zeta Laboratories, Carl Schenck, EZ Logic Data, International Imaging Systems, Semetex Corp., and Thermo Jarrell Ash Corporation.

Some of the companies said later that they had no idea Iraq might ever put their products to military use. A spokesperson for Hewlett Packard said the company believed that the Iraqi recipient of its shipments, Saad 16, was an institution of higher learning. In fact, in 1990 The Wall Street Journal described Saad 16 as “a heavily fortified, state-of-the-art complex for aircraft construction, missile design, and, almost certainly, nuclear-weapons research.”

Other corporations recognized the military potential of their goods but considered it the government’s job to worry about it. “Every once in a while you kind of wonder when you sell something to a certain country,” said Robert Finney, president of Electronic Associates, Inc., which supplied Saad 16 with a powerful computer that could be used for missile testing and development. “But it’s not up to us to make foreign policy,” Finney told The Wall Street Journal.

In 1982, the Reagan Administration took Iraq off its list of countries alleged to sponsor terrorism, making it eligible to receive high-tech items generally denied to those on the list. Conventional military sales began in December of that year. Representative Samuel Gejdenson, Democrat of Connecticut, chairman of a House subcommittee investigating “United States Exports of Sensitive Technology to Iraq,” stated in 1991:

“From 1985 to 1990, the United States Government approved 771 licenses for the export to Iraq of $1.5 billion worth of biological agents and high-tech equipment with military application. [Only thirty-nine applications were rejected.] The United States spent virtually an entire decade making sure that Saddam Hussein had almost whatever he wanted. . . . The Administration has never acknowledged that it took this course of action, nor has it explained why it did so. In reviewing documents and press accounts, and interviewing knowledgeable sources, it becomes clear that United States export-control policy was directed by U.S. foreign policy as formulated by the State Department, and it was U.S. foreign policy to assist the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

Subsequently, Representative John Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, investigated the Department of Energy concerning an unheeded 1989 warning about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. In 1992, he accused the DOE of punishing employees who raised the alarm and rewarding those who didn’t take it seriously. One DOE scientist, interviewed by Dingell’s Energy and Commerce Committee, was especially conscientious about the mission of the nuclear non-proliferation program. For his efforts, he received very little cooperation, inadequate staff, and was finally forced to quit in frustration. “It was impossible to do a good job,” said William Emel. His immediate manager, who tried to get the proliferation program fully staffed, was chastened by management and removed from his position. Emel was hounded by the DOE at his new job as well.

Another Senate committee, investigating “United States export policy toward Iraq prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait,” heard testimony in 1992 that Commerce Department personnel “changed information on sixty-eight licenses; that references to military end uses were deleted and the designation ‘military truck’ was changed. This was done on licenses having a total value of over $1 billion.” Testimony made clear that the White House was “involved” in “a deliberate effort . . . to alter these documents and mislead the Congress.”

American foreign-policy makers maintained a cooperative relationship with U.S. corporate interests in the region. In 1985, Marshall Wiley, former U.S. ambassador to Oman, set up the Washington-based U.S.-Iraq Business Forum, which lobbied in Washington on behalf of Iraq to promote U.S. trade with that country. Speaking of the Forum’s creation, Wiley later explained, “I went to the State Department and told them what I was planning to do, and they said, ‘Fine. It sounds like a good idea.’ It was our policy to increase exports to Iraq.

Though the government readily approved most sales to Iraq, officials at Defense and Commerce clashed over some of them (with the State Department and the White House backing Commerce).

“If an item was in dispute, my attitude was if they were readily available from other markets, I didn’t see why we should deprive American markets,” explained Richard Murphy in 1990. Murphy was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 1983 to 1989.

As it turned out, Iraq did not use any chemical or biological weapons against U.S. forces in the Gulf War. But American planes bombed chemical and biological weapons storage facilities with abandon, potentially dooming tens of thousands of American soldiers to lives of prolonged and permanent agony, and an unknown number of Iraqis to a similar fate. Among the symptoms reported by the affected soldiers are memory loss, scarred lungs, chronic fatigue, severe headache, raspy voice, and passing out. The Pentagon estimates that nearly 100,000 American soldiers were exposed to sarin gas alone.

After the war, White House and Defense Department officials tried their best to deny that Gulf War Syndrome had anything to do with the bombings. The suffering of soldiers was not their overriding concern. The top concerns of the Bush and Clinton Administrations were to protect perceived U.S. interests in the Middle East, and to ensure that American corporations still had healthy balance sheets.

What are US “interests” in the Middle East?  Blum, in the same article, quotes Chomsky:

“It’s been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the United States and its clients, and, crucially, that no independent indigenous force will be permitted to have a substantial influence on the administration of oil production and price.”

Not one US official who participated in the Axis of Evil genocide against Iran and the Kurds has been prosecuted or jailed.  Instead, Obama is protecting them, and has even hired at least one Bush Jr. era torturer into his regime (and Obama is himself, of course, a torturer).

However, one Dutch businessman, Frans van Anraat, who also provided Saddam with chemicals, etc., was jailed for 17 years for War Crimes, illustrating that trying American-monster counterparts of Anraat is, technically, possible.  At the very least, Anraat’s arrest confirms that we can, and should, disassociate ourselves from and boycott the heinous US corporate government.

Iraq having US and European weapons did not make an invasion legal in any way, which is why the highest authority in the UN stated that the invasion was illegal.  Do US chemical weapons and other WMD stockpiles, the world’s biggest, or the fact that the US has used them more than any other country, or the fact that the US was an accomplice in Saddam’s worst crimes, mean other countries can invade the US?

Robert Barsocchini is a researcher focusing on global force dynamics.  He also writes professionally for the film industry.  Here is his blog.  Also see his free e-book, Whatever it Takes – Hillary Clinton’s Record of Support for War and other Depravities.  Click here to follow Robert and his UK-based colleague, Dean Robinson, on Twitter.

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Top U.S. Military Leaders are Worried About Ebola

In Contrast to Civilian Leaders, the Military Is Expressing Real Concern

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – the American top military leader – told CNN today:

“If you bring two doctors who happen to have that specialty [i.e. doctors who are experts in Ebola] into a room, one will say, ‘No there is no way it will ever become airborne, but it could mutate so it could be harder to discover,’ ” and another might say something completely different, Dempsey said.

He said he is alarmed by the World Health Organization’s warning that Ebola cases could increase and the virus could mutate.

“Then it will be an extraordinarily serious problem,” he said. “I don’t know who is right. I don’t want to take that chance, so I am taking it very seriously.”

The head of the U.S. Southern Command – the branch of the U.S. military responsible for all U.S. military activities in South America and Central America – says:

There is no way we can keep Ebola [contained] in West Africa.

If it breaks out [in Central America], it’s literally, ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States … They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.

[I saw how easy it is for illegals to enter the United States. While visiting the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua with U.S. embassy personnel, I saw a group of men] waiting in line to pass into Nicaragua and then on their way north.

The embassy person walked over and asked who they were and they told him they were from Liberia and they had been on the road about a week. They met up with the network in Trinidad and now they were on their way to the United States — illegally, of course.

[The men] could have made it to New York City and still be within the incubation period for Ebola.

And he said:

The nightmare scenario, I think, is right around the corner.


(starting at 28:40.)

A U.S. Border Patrol agent – and vice president of the National Border Patrol Council #3307 – agrees that mass migration could spread Ebola to the U.S. , and says that “NOTHING” has been done to secure the border in the event the Ebola virus spreads to Central America.

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 4 Comments

Can We Admit That Economic Policy Has Failed Yet?

Government Economic Policy Has Been As Bad As Its Policy Towards ISIS or Ebola

What’s causing the market to tank?

Lets turn back the clock a couple of days, when the head of the International Monetary Fund said that there was too much financial gambling (based on overly-low interest rates):

“A sudden shift in sentiment could easily cascade across the entire globe,” IMF Managing Director  Christine Lagarde told the fund’s governing board. “There is too little economic risk-taking, and too much financial risk-taking.”

And let’s travel back 2 weeks:

The recent edition of the Geneva report – “an annual assessment informed by a top drawer conference of leading decision makers and economic thinkers” – finds that the “poisonous combination” of spiraling debts and low growth could trigger another crisis. The report also notes:

Contrary to widely held beliefs, the world has not yet begun to de-lever and the global debt to GDP ratio is still growing, breaking new highs.

And as the Telegraph puts it:

On a global level, growth is being steadily drowned under a rising tide of debt, threatening renewed financial crisis, a continued squeeze to living standards, and eventual mass default.

(A number of billionaires also believe a crash is imminent.)

This is not surprising …

The Bank for International Settlements has been warning for years that the U.S. and other Western countries have been using all of the wrong approaches to fix the economy.

Instead of helping to reduce unemployment, bad government policy has made it much worse. And see here and here.

Excessive leverage was one of the main causes of the 2007-2008 crisis … and yet governments responded by encouraging more leverage.

And bad government policy has driven the entire world into debt.

Indeed – instead of fixing any of the real problems which led to the 2007 crisis – governments on both sides of the Atlantic have simply tried to paper over them.   It’s pretty clear how this movie is going to end …

Let’s jump back a year, when we pointed out that quantitative easing hurts the economy, that failing to break up the big banks is killing us, and that:

Bad government policy has created a years-long unemployment problem. But instead of fixing the problem, the government is trying to paper over it.

***

The U.S. and British governments encouraged interest rate manipulation. And central banks have been directly manipulating interest rates for hundreds of years.

Government agencies have helped banks manipulate commodities prices for decades.

The government twisted statistics and intentionally lied when it pretended that the banks it was bailing out were solvent

The government has long ignored energy and food prices when reporting on inflation.

Fraud is Wall Street’s business model, which is – unfortunately – being supported by the government.

The government helped cover up the crimes of the big banks, used claims of national security to keep everything in the dark, and changed basic rules and definitions to allow the game to continue. See this, this, this and this.

It is not only a matter of covering up fraud that has already happened. The government also created an environment which greatly encouraged fraud. Here are just a few of many potential examples:

  • Business Week wrote on May 23, 2006:

“President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations.”

  • Tim Geithner was complicit in Lehman’s accounting fraud, (and see this), and pushed to pay AIG’s CDS counterparties at full value, and then to keep the deal secret. And as Robert Reich notes, Geithner was “very much in the center of the action” regarding the secret bail out of Bear Stearns without Congressional approval. William Black points out: “Mr. Geithner, as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since October 2003, was one of those senior regulators who failed to take any effective regulatory action to prevent the crisis, but instead covered up its depth”
  • The former chief accountant for the SEC says that Bernanke and Paulson broke the law and should be prosecuted
  • The government knew about mortgage fraud a long time ago. For example, the FBI warned of an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud in 2004. However, the FBI, DOJ and other government agencies then stood down and did nothing. See this and this. For example, the Federal Reserve turned its cheek and allowed massive fraud, and the SEC has repeatedly ignored accounting fraud. Indeed, Alan Greenspan took the position that fraud could never happen
  • Bernanke might have broken the law by letting unemployment rise in order to keep inflation low
  • Paulson and Bernanke falsely stated that the big banks receiving Tarp money were healthy, when they were not
  • Of course, deregulation by Larry Summers, Robert Rubin, Phil Gramm and many other high-level politicians and regulators also helped to grease the skids for fraud

Economist James K. Galbraith wrote in the introduction to his father, John Kenneth Galbraith’s, definitive study of the Great Depression, The Great Crash, 1929:

The main relevance of The Great Crash, 1929 to the great crisis of 2008 is surely here. In both cases, the government knew what it should do. Both times, it declined to do it. In the summer of 1929 a few stern words from on high, a rise in the discount rate, a tough investigation into the pyramid schemes of the day, and the house of cards on Wall Street would have tumbled before its fall destroyed the whole economy. In 2004, the FBI warned publicly of “an epidemic of mortgage fraud.” But the government did nothing, and less than nothing, delivering instead low interest rates, deregulation and clear signals that laws would not be enforced. The signals were not subtle: on one occasion the director of the Office of Thrift Supervision came to a conference with copies of the Federal Register and a chainsaw. There followed every manner of scheme to fleece the unsuspecting ….

This was fraud, perpetrated in the first instance by the government on the population, and by the rich on the poor.

***

The government that permits this to happen is complicit in a vast crime.

Let’s rewind 2 years, when we showed that never-ending war destroys our economy.

Let’s step back 3 years, when we noted that the economy would crash again unless we fix the following core problems:

    • Focusing on policy objectives other than reducing unemployment (which has the net effect of actually increasing unemployment)

And let’s flash back 6 years, when we showed the the root of the economic crisis was dishonesty.

Indeed, this market crash was foreseeablethousands of years ago.

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News | 4 Comments

The Globalization of War

obama soldiers globalresearch.ca

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, who publishes Global Research.

The world is at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. The U.S. and its NATO allies have embarked on a military adventure, “a long war”, which threatens the future of humanity. This “war without borders” is intimately related to a worldwide process of economic restructuring, which has been conducive to the collapse of national economies and the impoverishment of large sectors of the World population.

The U.S. weapons producers are the recipients of  U.S. Department of Defense multibillion dollar procurement contracts for advanced weapons systems. In turn, “The Battle for Oil” in the Middle East and Central Asia directly serves the interests of the Anglo-American oil giants. The U.S. and its allies are “Beating the Drums of War” at the height of a worldwide economic depression.

The military deployment of US-NATO forces coupled with “non-conventional warfare” –including covert intelligence operations, economic sanctions and the thrust of “regime change”– is occurring simultaneously in several regions of the world. 

Central to an understanding of war, is the media campaign which grants it legitimacy in the eyes of public opinion. War has been provided with a humanitarian mandate under NATO’s “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P). The victims of U.S. led wars are presented as the perpetrators of war.  Civilians in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq are responsible for their own deaths.

Meanwhile,  the Commander in Chief of the largest military force on planet earth is presented as a global peace-maker. The granting of the Nobel “peace prize” in 2009 to President Barack Obama has become an integral part of the Pentagon’s propaganda machine. It provides a human face to the invaders, it demonizes those who oppose US military intervention.

The Nobel Committee says that President Obama has given the world  “hope for a better future”.   The prize is awarded for Obama’s “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”

…His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population. 1 (The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009: Barack H. Obama, Press Release, October 9, 2009)

Realities are turned upside down. “War is Peace”  said  George Orwell.  The media in chorus upholds war as a humanitarian endeavor. “Wars make us safer and richer” says the Washington Post.

The Big Lie becomes The Truth. In turn, upholding The Truth –through careful documentation and investigative analysis of the horrors of U.S. led wars– is casually categorized as “conspiracy theory”.

While Washington wages a “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT), those who forcefully oppose America’s wars of aggression are branded as terrorists.  War becomes peace, a worthwhile “humanitarian undertaking”.  Peaceful dissent becomes heresy.

With unfolding events in Ukraine and the Middle East, humanity is at a dangerous crossroads.  At no time since the Cuban Missile Crisis has the World been closer to the unthinkable: a World War III scenario, a global military conflict involving the use of nuclear weapons.

The killing machine is deployed at a global level, within the framework of the unified combat command structure. It is routinely upheld by the institutions of government, the corporate media and the mandarins and intellectuals of The New World Order in Washington’s think tanks and strategic studies research institutes, as an unquestioned instrument of peace and global prosperity.

A culture of killing and violence has become imbedded in human consciousness.

War is broadly accepted as part of a societal process: The Homeland needs to be “defended” and protected.

“Legitimized violence” and extrajudicial killings directed against “terrorists” are upheld in western democracies, as necessary instruments of national security.

A “humanitarian war” is upheld by the so-called international community. It is not condemned as a criminal act. Its main architects are rewarded for their contribution to world peace.

Nuclear weapons are heralded by the US government as instruments of peace. The pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons is categorized as an act of “self-defense” which contributes to an illusive concept of “global security”. (see Chapter II).

The so-called “missile defense shield” or “Star Wars” initiative involving the first strike use of nuclear weapons has been developed globally in different regions of the world. The missile shield is largely directed against Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Meanwhile, in the context of unfolding events in Syria and Ukraine, there has been a breakdown of international diplomacy. Whereas a Neo-Nazi regime directly supported by the West has been installed in Kiev, the Russian Federation is now threatened by US-NATO with military action on its Western frontier. (See Chapter IX).

New Cold War?

While this renewed East-West confrontation has mistakenly been labelled a “New Cold War”, none of the safeguards of The Cold War era prevail. Russia has been excluded from the Group of Eight (G-8), which has reverted to the G-7 (Group of Seven Nations). Diplomacy has collapsed. There is no Cold War East-West dialogue between competing superpowers geared towards avoiding military confrontation. In turn, the United Nations Security Council has become a de facto mouthpiece of the U.S. State Department.

Moreover, nuclear weapons are no longer considered a “weapon of last resort” under The Cold War doctrine of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD).  Nuclear weapons are heralded by the Pentagon as “harmless to the surrounding civilian population because the explosion is underground”. In 2002, the U.S. Senate gave the green light for the use of nuclear weapons in the conventional war theater.  Nukes are part of the “military toolbox” to be used alongside conventional weapons.

The “Communist threat” of The Cold War era has been replaced by the worldwide threat of “Islamic terrorism”. Whereas Russia and China have become capitalist “free market” economies, a first strike pre-emptive nuclear attack is nonetheless contemplated.

China and Russia are no longer considered to be “a threat to capitalism”.  Quite the opposite. What is at stake is economic and financial rivalry between competing capitalist powers. The China-Russia alliance under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) constitutes a “competing capitalist block” which undermines U.S. economic hegemony.

In Asia, the U.S. has contributed under its “Pivot to Asia” to encouraging its Asia-Pacific allies including Japan, Australia, South Korea, The Philippines and Vietnam to threaten and isolate China as part of a process of “military encirclement” of China, which gained impetus in the late 1990s.

Meanwhile, war propaganda has become increasingly pervasive. War is upheld as a peace-making operation.

When war becomes peace, the world is turned upside down. Conceptualization is no longer possible. An inquisitorial social system emerges. (See Chapter X). The consensus is to wage war. People can longer think for themselves. They accept the authority and wisdom of the established social order.

An understanding of fundamental social and political events is replaced by a World of sheer fantasy, where “evil folks” are lurking. The objective of the “Global War on Terrorism” narrative –which has been fully endorsed by the US administration– has been to galvanize public support for a worldwide campaign against heresy.

Global Warfare

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest. The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the world simultaneously.

The concept of the “Long War” has characterized US military doctrine since the end of World War II. Worldwide militarization is part of a global economic agenda.

Militarization at the global level is instrumented through the U.S. military’s Unified Command structure: the entire planet is divided up into geographic Combatant Commands under the control of the Pentagon. U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska plays a central role in coordinating military operations.

While surrounding and confronting Russia and China, new U.S. military bases have been set up with a view to establishing U.S. spheres of influence in every region of the World.  There has been a reinforcement of the six geographic commands including the creation in 2008 of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM).

As heralded by the Pentagon, AFRICOM becomes a “full-spectrum combatant command” responsible for what are described as “defense” and U.S. “national  security” operations “through focused, sustained engagement with partners in support of our shared security objectives”. AFRICOM’s area of jurisdiction extends to the entire “African continent, its island nations, and surrounding waters”. 2 US Africa Command, “What We Do”,

This US militarization of Africa supports the concurrent economic conquest of the continent, the pillage of its natural resources, the acquisition of its extensive oil and gas reserves, etc.

AFRICOM is an instrument of a U.S. led neocolonial project in alliance with the United Kingdom which consists in expanding the Anglo-American sphere of influence specifically in Central Africa, Francophone West Africa and North Africa largely at the expense of France.

While the US has military bases and/or facilities in more than 150 countries, with 160,000 active-duty personnel, the construction of new military bases is envisaged in Latin America including Colombia on the immediate border of Venezuela.

Military aid to Israel has increased. The Obama presidency has expressed its unbending support for Israel and the Israeli military, which is slated to play a key role in US-NATO led wars in the Middle East. The unspoken agenda is outright elimination of Palestine and the instatement  of “Greater Israel”.

Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalization of War. America’s Long War against Humanity, excerpt from forthcoming book, Global Research Publishers, 2014.  Expected date of publication November-December 2014.
Posted in Politics / World News | 1 Comment

Ebola: Everything you need to know right now

The current Ebola outbreak, unlike others throughout history, is lasting a very long time; with cases now being reported on a variety of continents well outside of its equatorial African origin.

I’m not especially worried about Ebola striking me or my loved ones, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. But I’m growing increasingly concerned about government response to the outbreak.

So let’s spend some time understanding the nature of Ebola, specifically, and viral contagion, more generally. At the very least, Ebola can serve as an instructive reminder about how our society’s responses to a viral outbreak could prove to be at least as disruptive and damaging as the virus itself.

Ebola

While very often cited as being 90% fatal once contracted, Ebola is rarely that lethal. In fact it was only that lethal in a single isolated outbreak. A 50% to 70% mortality rate is more common. As of Oct 10 2014, the latest outbreak had afflicted 8,376 and killed 4,024 — a mortality rate of 48%.

This places the Ebola strain responsible for the latest outbreak on the lower end of the Ebola lethality scale. Don’t misunderstand me: this is still a very deadly virus, to be sure. But it’s not a guaranteed death sentence, either.

Viruses come in a wide variety of types and shapes. But the general structure they all share is that they have some form of nuclear material, either DNA itself or RNA, housed inside of a protein capsule. Think of a peanut M&M, where the peanut is the genetic payload and the outer coatings serve both a protective purpose (while the virus is seeking a new host) and as the means of docking with a host’s cell.

That’s really all a virus is. A few proteins and some genetic material. No membranes, no sexual merging of genetic material, and no ability to replicate themselves all on their own. There are debates still ongoing today as to whether a virus should even be considered a living thing.

The life cycle of a virus is very simple. A virus particle will dock with a target host cell (most viruses are highly specific for the precise sorts of cells they will and won’t bind to), insert its genetic payload which hijacks the host’s replicative machinery, replicate the genetic payload wildly which codes for both new genetic material and protein capsule subunits, and then reassemble lots of intact virus particles which then escape the host cell to go and find other cells to infect.

Within a mammalian host, once a virus attack is recognized, an antibody response is mounted and the fight is on. As the virus particles escape the host cell (which is usually damaged or killed as a consequence of having been hijacked) it is vulnerable to being identified by a host antibody, itself a highly-specialized protein that will ‘dock’ with a virus particle more or less permanently (they bind together very tightly) and thereby incapacitate the virus’ ability to dock to a new host cell.

With lethal viruses, something goes wrong with this process. Either the virus replicates too quickly for the host to counter effectively, or the virus tricks the immune response into either too little or too much activity — both conditions which can end poorly for the host.

For example, the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 preferentially killed those between the ages of 20 and 40. This was unusual because it’s exactly opposite the flu mortality patterns we normally expect, where the very young and the very old are the most susceptible.

The best prevailing explanation for this is that it was the very health and vigor of the patients that did them in. The Spanish flu (and other avian flu strains) cause the host body to unleash a ‘cytokine storm‘ which is a very unhealthy, and sometimes lethal, positive feedback loop between immune cells and a class of attractor signaling molecules called cytokines. As more cytokines are released, say into the lung tissue, immune cells are attracted and can then release more cytokines, which attracts more immune cells, and so on. The place to which they are attracted becomes damaged by this overly-aggressive response of the immune cells and for the Spanish flu victims, this happened in the lungs, critically impairing respiration. Hence, the ‘healthier’ a host was, the more damage the Spanish flu virus caused.

In the case of Ebola, the virus preferentially targets the cells that line the inner walls of blood vessels (a.k.a. endothelial cells) as well as white blood cells, a fact which helps to spread the virus throughout the body fairly rapidly, as white blood cells actively migrate system-wide.

Through a variety of mechanisms, the Ebola virus causes the endothelial cells to detach from the blood vessels and die, which compromises blood vessel integrity. This targeting of the blood vessels is why the Ebola virus is classified as a hemorrhagic fever. The patient’s blood vessels literally break down. That leads to the many visible symptoms of an Ebola victim, not the least of which is various burst blood vessels all throughout the body.

(Source)

Currently, it’s thought that once exposed, an Ebola victim will incubate the virus for a period of up to 21 days before symptoms express. It’s only once the victim is symptomatic that they themselves can transmit the virus and infect others.

This characteristic of Ebola, more than any other, is why I don’t fear it overly much as a pandemic risk. A far more worrisome virus would be one that’s infective during asymptomatic stages of its host cycle, as is the case with HIV.

Early symptoms of Ebola include the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Unfortunately, that pretty much describes any reasonably intense flu, which complicates screening procedures and causes unnecessary worry among those who merely have the flu but worry about the possibility of Ebola.

Nonetheless, authorities have no choice but to take every traveling passenger with these very ordinary flu symptoms as a possible Ebola case. It’s a safe bet we’ll hear plenty in the coming days and weeks about Hazmat-suited response teams escorting sickly passengers off of planes.

A tip: if you have a fever, don’t travel. You’ll worry a lot of people unnecessarily. And you may end up in quarantine, really throwing your travel plans off the rails.

The Short-Term Risk

While gruesome and heartbreaking, the actual number of deaths by Ebola as well as the total number of people infected is very, very low compared to other hazards out there.

Are you more worried about Ebola than driving to work? If so, you have those risks entirely inverted.

(Source)

In the above chart, there are 27 years worth of data contained in each data point. That means that if the chart reads 2,700 for a given day, then an average of 100 people died on US roads on that day each year out of 27.

For the US, the above chart translates into ~33,000 vehicle deaths per year. Even in Africa where some 4,000 people have died from Ebola so far in 2014, America’s vehicle fatalities dwarf that current statistic.

Other communicable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and diarrheal disease cause some 9 million deaths worldwide each year.

This is why I’m personally not that worried about Ebola striking me or my family here in the eastern US at this time. Nor would I be overly worried in Dallas, where the first two US-soil cases of Ebola command national attention. The odds of getting infected at this point are very low at the individual level.

The Longer-Term Risk

However, I do think that the reaction to Ebola, which could include ex- and inter-US travel bans and other economically and socially disruptive practices could be another matter altogether at this moment in time. While there is a small, but non-zero, chance that this Ebola strain could morph into something more virulent, there is a very good chance of a more Draconian government response developing.

In Part 2: Prudent Precautions To Take Now, we dive into not only what damage to our civil liberties and livelihood these heavy-handed and poorly executed government responses are likely to be, but we also address the actions that individuals can take today on important questions like:

 

  • Who is at risk of infection in the current ebola outbreak?
  • What’s the likelihood the current strain will morph into a more virulent form?
  • What are the best steps to take today to reduce your vulnerability to a pandemic?

What Ebola reminds us of is that when a true pandemic arrives it will travel much faster than those in the past (thanks to air travel being an order of magnitude faster than dawning recognition) and that our complex, highly leveraged, just-in-time global economy is utterly unprepared for even a minor glitch in the flow of goods let alone the virtual lockdown that a true pandemic would require.

A small amount of preparing can make you much less vulnerable should (when?) that comes to pass.

Click here to access Part 2 of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access)

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New Evidence Links CIA to APA’s “War on Terror” Ethics

By Dr. Roy Eidelson and Dr. Trudy Bond.

“The position of the American Psychological Association is clear and unequivocal: For more than 25 years, the association has absolutely condemned any psychologist participation in torture.”

Statement by the APA, November 2013

“The American Psychological Association, the largest professional organization for psychologists, worked assiduously to protect the psychologists who did get involved in the torture program.”

–James Risen, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, October 2014

********

New information may soon be revealed by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s yet-to-be-released report on the CIA’s post-9/11 abusive and torturous detention and interrogation operations. But what already has been clear for a long time — through reports from journalists, independent task forces, congressional investigations, and other documents — is that psychologists and other health professionals were directly involved in brutalizing “war on terror” prisoners in U.S. custody. Of particular note, contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen have been identified as the architects of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included waterboarding, stress positions, exposure to extreme cold, sensory and sleep deprivation, and isolation.

At the same time, what has remained a matter of dispute is the extent to which the American Psychological Association (APA) collaborated with and worked to support the intelligence community and its program of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Critics (including both of us) have argued that the APA repeatedly failed to take the steps necessary to prevent the misuse of psychology, instead allowing perceived opportunities for a “seat at the table” to trump a firm commitment to professional ethics. In response to these allegations, the APA’s leadership has issued denials and statements asserting that the Association has always been steadfast in its opposition to torture.

Where the truth lies in this ongoing debate just became much clearer with the publication of James Risen’s new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. In a chapter titled “War on Decency,” the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist offers fresh evidence from an unexpected inside source: Scott Gerwehr, a RAND Corporation analyst with close ties to the CIA, the Pentagon, and the APA. When Gerwehr died in a motorcycle accident in 2008, he left behind an archive of personal emails, which Risen obtained while conducting research for his book.

These emails document that the CIA and the Bush Administration played a direct role in guiding APA’s stance and actions in regard to the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in national security detention and interrogation operations. As Risen writes:

The e-mail archives of one researcher with ties to the CIA, who died on the cusp of becoming a whistleblower, provide a revealing glimpse into the tight network of psychologists and other behavioral scientists so eager for CIA and Pentagon contracts that they showed few qualms about helping to develop and later protect the interrogation infrastructure. The e-mails show the secret, close relationships among some of the nation’s leading psychologists and officials at the CIA and Pentagon. And the e-mails reveal how the American Psychological Association (APA), the nation’s largest professional group for psychologists, put its seal of approval on those close ties — and thus indirectly on torture. (pp. 178-179)

The emails of particular interest are Gerwehr’s correspondence over several years with a small group of regular confidants and collaborators: the CIA’s chief behavioral scientist Kirk Hubbard (who introduced Mitchell and Jessen to the CIA as “potential assets” and then went to work for their firm when he retired from the CIA), White House science advisor Susan Brandon (who previously had been a senior scientist at the APA and is currently research director for the government’s High Value Detainee Interrogation Group), and the APA’s Director of Science Policy Geoff Mumford. Risen’s book offers important details about that collaboration.

In July 2004, shortly after the shocking photos from Abu Ghraib prison became public, senior APA staff from the Ethics Office and Science Directorate arranged a private meeting with officials from intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense (DOD). The email invitation from APA Ethics Office Director Stephen Behnke — to Hubbard from the CIA, Kirk Kennedy from DOD, and Gerwehr from RAND, among others — noted that the purpose of the meeting, at least in part, was to “identify the important questions, and to discuss how we as a national organization can better assist psychologists and other mental health professionals sort out appropriate from inappropriate uses of psychology” (p. 198).

But it is unclear how or why these particular invitees would be considered well suited to provide instruction to the APA on psychological ethics. Indeed Risen suggests a different motivation:

The invitation to the lunch meeting showed that the APA was opening the door to psychologists and other behavioral science experts inside the government’s national security apparatus to provide advice and guidance about how to address the furor over the role of psychologists in torture before the APA went to its own membership. The insiders were being given a chance to influence the APA’s stance before anyone else. (p. 199)

According to Gerwehr’s emails, APA’s Behnke also highlighted the following in his invitation:

I would like to emphasize that we will not advertise the meeting other than this letter to the individual invitees, that we will not publish or otherwise make public the names of attendees or the substance of our discussions, and that in the meeting we will neither assess nor investigate the behavior of any specific individual or group. (p. 198)

It is difficult to discern how such constraints and reassurances could have served the interests of the public or the profession, or how they could have helped “sort out appropriate from inappropriate uses of psychology” as Behnke stated in his invitation. Rather, these pre-conditions ensured that the actions of the psychologists in question would be protected from scrutiny rather than questioned — and that the CIA and DOD would take the lead role in establishing the ethics for psychologists in U.S. counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence activities. The national security psychologists would also guide the APA’s response to resistance or uproar from the public or its own members.

From this private meeting of undisclosed participants emerged a proposal for the creation of the APA’s Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS). This task force met in June of 2005 at APA headquarters in Washington, DC. The small group quickly decided that it was ethical for psychologists to serve in various national security-related roles, including as consultants to detainee interrogations. Risen describes the events leading up to the weekend meeting this way:

Gerwehr’s e-mails show for the first time the degree to which behavioral science experts from within the government’s national security apparatus played roles in shaping the PENS task force. They show that APA officials were secretly working behind the scenes with CIA and Pentagon officials to discuss how to shape the organization’s position to be supportive of psychologists involved in interrogations — long before the task force was even formed. (p. 197)

In this regard, critics have long noted irregularities and possible collusion in the PENS process and the report itself. For example, most members selected for the task force worked for the military or intelligence agencies, and several had served in chains of command where detainee abuses reportedly took place. There were several participant-observers whose identities were never officially disclosed; among them were Susan Brandon, who had just recently left a position at the White House, and Russ Newman, a senior APA official whose spouse was a BSCT psychologist at Guantanamo. APA staff withheld the names of the task force members in response to press inquiries, and these names never appeared on the published report. The APA Board quickly adopted the PENS report in an inexplicable “emergency” session, without bringing it to the Association’s full governing body for review. The report included language nearly identical to the DOD language provided to the task force before the meeting had even started — namely, that psychologists serve to keep detention and interrogation operations safe, legal, ethical, and effective. And the task force and report prioritized the Bush Administration’s contorted interpretations of U.S. law over longstanding and broadly respected principles of international human rights law and health profession ethics.

Another email in Gerwehr’s archive reinforces these significant concerns. As Risen writes:

After succeeding in getting the PENS task force to endorse the continued involvement of psychologists in the interrogation program, congratulations were in order among the small number of behavioral scientists with connections to the national security community who had been part of the effort. In a July 2005 e-mail to Hubbard from Geoffrey Mumford (on which Gerwehr was copied), Mumford thanked Hubbard for helping to influence the outcome of the task force. “I also wanted to semi-publicly acknowledge your personal contribution… in getting this effort off the ground,” Mumford wrote. “Your views were well represented by very carefully selected task force members.” Mumford also noted that Susan Brandon had served as an “observer” at the PENS task force meetings and “helped craft some language related to research” for the task force report. (p. 200).

In unmistakable terms, the APA’s Science Policy Director Mumford first thanked Hubbard — a top CIA official with close professional ties to Mitchell and Jessen — for initiating the collaboration that led to the PENS report and then assured him that the task force members were carefully chosen with Hubbard’s own expressed objectives in mind. As well, the same email reveals that part of the responsibility for drafting the PENS report — a report that was supposed to reflect a full and careful consideration of the APA’s ethics code — was given to Susan Brandon, who only weeks earlier was working for the Bush White House.

Beyond the evidence highlighted here, Risen also offers a broader description of psychologists’ and the APA’s involvement with and acquiescence to U.S. government torture and abuse. Based on his research, he reports that those psychologists who supported the White House and CIA agenda “were showered with government money and benefits,” and that the APA “worked assiduously to protect the psychologists who did get involved in the torture program.” Risen also notes that changes to the APA’s ethics code in 2002 “gave greater professional cover for psychologists who had been helping to monitor and oversee harsh interrogations.” Indeed, he suggests that the entire “enhanced interrogation” program may have depended upon the willingness of the APA to go along with it. Finally, he refers to the desperate “spin control” that absorbed senior APA staff once journalists began to uncover the extent to which psychologists played essential roles in the torture program.

It is reasonable to wonder whether Risen’s investigative work will matter. For the past decade the APA’s leadership has repeatedly denied any collaboration with the military or intelligence agencies that engaged in torture and abuse. Such APA statements have consistently been coupled with a professed resolute commitment to defend the profession’s do-no-harm ethics. Even when these pronouncements have strained credulity, the APA’s rank-and-file members — eager to believe that critics’ assertions could not possibly be true — have accepted the claims of innocence and independence. This insistent benefit of the doubt, along with unwarranted deference to APA’s leaders, continues to insulate the Association from calls for investigations, accountability, and reform. To date, no psychologist has been held accountable for involvement in the abuse and torture of detainees, and no APA official has been held accountable for facilitating or protecting government programs that violated core professional ethics.

Several questions will be answered in the days immediately ahead, as the world’s largest organization of psychologists grapples with the damning revelations in Pay Any Price. Will APA members once again dutifully follow the Association’s leaders and drink from a polluted well of tired cliches and obfuscating language? Will they still find feeble justifications and implausible denials palatable? Or will the membership and the governing Council of Representatives finally demand the substantive independent investigation that is so long overdue? With the profession’s ethics and credibility hanging in the balance, we believe it is certainly time to hold the APA accountable for the choices it has made.

Note: This essay first appeared in Counterpunch.

Roy Eidelson is a psychologist who studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is president of Eidelson Consulting, a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. www.eidelsonconsulting.com.

Trudy Bond, Ph.D., earned her doctorate in counseling psychology from Oklahoma State University at age 26 and moved to Toledo, Ohio where she became licensed to practice psychology in 1980. As an independent psychologist, Dr. Bond has filed complaints with state licensing boards and the APA regarding individual psychologists implicated in the torture and abuse of detainees at Guantanamo.

Posted in Politics / World News | 2 Comments

What Options Are Left for Central Banks?

Central banks have reached a fork in the road.

Never before have quasi-omnipotent financial gods had so few powers. A lot is being written about central bank policies now as the Federal Reserve ends its primary quantitative easing (QE) program and the limitations of central bank easing become increasingly apparent in Europe and Japan.

Let’s start by listing the tools central banks have on hand. Strip away the fancy footwork and econospeak mumbo-jumbo, and what’s left is:

1. Offer cheap credit to the banking sector, the idea being that the banks will use the free money to make loans to households and businesses. These new loans would inject the central banks’ new money into the real economy.

2. Buy bonds to push interest rates down and buy mortgages to support the housing market.

3. Provide unlimited liquidity so banks and key financial institutions facing a liquidity crunch have a lender of last resort.

The basic idea here is that central banks provide a buffer against financial crises. When short-term loans come due and the borrower has run out of cash, rather than slip into insolvency they can borrow short-term money from the central bank.

The ability to push down interest rates is helpful as a buffer when credit-tightening and fear of defaults push interest rates up enough to choke off normal lending.

What happened over the past six years is that central banks have moved from providing short-term buffers to being the saviors of the government, economy and asset markets. This is an extraordinary transformation, and it’s the core reason why central bank policies are now failing to move the needle: they were designed to serve as short-term buffers during crisis and the resulting recession, not permanent props under government borrowing, the financial sector and the stock, bond and real estate markets.

Every conventional analyst expected the global economy to recover quickly after the central banks provided the usual buffer. But they were wrong; the structural problems stemming from financialization–excessive debt, leverage, risk and opacity–coupled with near-zero oversight and perverse incentives have wreaked havoc on economies around the world.

On Monday, I suggested central banks would resort to buying stocks to prop up the stock market: Will the Fed Let the Stock Market Crash Before an Election? Reports suggest central banks and states are already buyers of equities, either via proxies or via public pension funds that have increased their ownership of equities.

Central banks have reached a fork in the road. The policies have the past six years– jawboning, i.e. talking up the power of the central banks, buying bonds and shoving new money into the financial sector–have reached diminishing returns. The public’s once unbounded faith in the efficacy and power of these policies is waning, and now central banks face open skepticism.

One path is to admit the limits of central bank powers. This is tough to do when you’ve been glorified for so long, but the honest confession of the limits of making short-term buffers into permanent policies would force governments to deal with the issues that have been avoided for the entire six years of central bank free money.

The second path is to start buying assets en masse. With jawboning and easing both discredited, there really is nothing else the central banks can do to support asset prices and keep the thin veneer of a healthy economy from peeling off.

The third choice–continue jawboning and launching yet another failed easing program–will only further discredit central banks and their policies. 


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Photography … From Space

Astronaut Chris Hatfield has just come out with a new book of his space photos.

Here’s a really cool video on how he shoots the pics:

If you want to see the current generation of insanely good space-station images, check out Reid Wiseman’s amazing Twitter feed.

More amazing views of Earth from space:


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12 Charts That Show The Permanent Damage That Has Been Done To The US Economy

By Michael Snyder.

Most people that discuss the “economic collapse” focus on what is coming in the future.  And without a doubt, we are on the verge of some incredibly hard times.  But what often gets neglected is the immense permanent damage that has been done to the U.S. economy by the long-term economic collapse that we are already experiencing.  In this article I am going to share with you 12 economic charts that show that we are in much, much worse shape than we were five or ten years ago.  The long-term problems that are eating away at the foundations of our economy like cancer have not been fixed.  In fact, many of them continue to get even worse year after year.  But because unprecedented levels of government debt and reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve have bought us a very short window of relative stability, most Americans don’t seem too concerned about our long-term problems. 

They seem to have faith that our “leaders” will be able to find a way to muddle through whatever challenges are ahead.  Hopefully this article will be a wake up call.  The last major wave of the economic collapse did a colossal amount of damage to our economic foundations, and now the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.

#1 Employment

The mainstream media is constantly telling us about the “employment recovery” that is happening in the United States, but the truth is that it is just an illusion.  As the chart below demonstrates, just prior to the last recession about 63 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  During the last wave of the economic collapse, that number dropped to below 59 percent and stayed there for a very long time.  In the past few months we have finally seen the employment-population ratio tick back up to 59 percent, but we are still far, far below where we used to be.  To call the tiny little bump at the end of this chart a “recovery” is really an insult to our intelligence…

Employment Population Ratio 2014

#2 The Labor Force Participation Rate

The percentage of Americans that are either employed or currently looking for a job started to fall during the last recession and it has not stopped falling since then.  The labor force participation rate has now fallen to a 36 year low, and this is a sign of a very, very sick economy…

Labor Force Participation Rate 2014

#3 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Years

Some blame the decline in the labor force participation rate on the aging of our population.  But it isn’t just elderly people that are dropping out of the labor force.  In fact, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years (25 to 54) continues to rise and is now at the highest level that has ever been recorded…

Inactivity Rate Men 2014

#4 Manufacturing Employees

Once upon a time in America, anyone that was reliable and willing to work hard could easily find a manufacturing job somewhere.  But we have stood by and allowed millions upon millions of good paying manufacturing jobs to be shipped out of the country, and now many of our formerly great manufacturing cities have been transformed into ghost towns.  Over the past few years, there has been a slight “recovery”, but we are still well below where we were at just previous to the last recession…

Manufacturing Employees 2014

#5 Our Current Account Balance

As a nation, we buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us.  In other words, we perpetually consume far more wealth than we produce.  This is a recipe for national economic suicide.  Our current account balance soared to obscene levels just prior to the last recession, and now we have almost gotten back to those levels…

Current Account Balance 2014

#6 Existing Home Sales

Our economy has never fully recovered from the housing crash of 2007-2008.  As you can see from the chart below, the number of existing home sales is still far below the level that we hit back in 2006.  At this point we are just getting back to the level we were at in 2000, but our population today is far larger than it was back then…

Existing Home Sales 2014

#7 New Home Sales

Things are even more dramatic when you look at new home sales.  This is an industry that have been absolutely emasculated.  The number of new home sales in the United States is just a little more than half of what it was back in 2000, and it isn’t even worth comparing to what we experienced during the peak of 2006.

New Home Sales 2014

#8 The Monetary Base

In a desperate attempt to get the economy going again, the Federal Reserve has been wildly printing money.  It has been so reckless that it is hard to put it into words.  When I look at this chart, the phrase “Weimar Republic” comes to mind…

Monetary Base 2014

#9 Food Inflation

Thankfully, much of the money that the Federal Reserve has been injecting into the system has not made it into the real economy.  But enough of it has gotten into the system to force food prices significantly higher.  For example, my wife went to the store today and paid just a shade under 10 bucks for just four pieces of chicken.  And as you can see from the chart below, food prices have been steadily going up in America for a very long time…

Food Inflation 2014

#10 The Velocity Of Money

One of the reasons why we have not seen even more inflation is because the velocity of money is extraordinarily low.  In general, when an economy is healthy money tends to flow through the system rapidly.  People are buying and selling and money changes hands frequently.  But when an economy is sick, money tends to stagnate.  And that is exactly what is happening in the United States right now.  In fact, at this point the velocity of the M2 money stock has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded…

Velocity Of Money 2014

#11 The National Debt

As our economic fundamentals have deteriorated, our politicians have attempted to prop up our standard of living by borrowing from the future.  The U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during the Obama years, and it increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2014 alone.  Despite assurances that “the deficit is under control”, the federal government borrows about a trillion dollars a year to fund new spending in addition to borrowing about 7 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is coming due.  What we are doing to future generations of Americans is absolutely criminal, and it is just a matter of time before this Ponzi scheme totally collapses…

National Debt 2014

#12 Total Debt

Of course it is not just the federal government that is gorging on debt.  When you add up all forms of debt in our society (government, business, consumer, etc.) it comes to a grand total of more than 57 trillion dollars.  This total has more than doubled since the year 2000…

Total Debt 2014

If you know anyone that believes that we are in good economic shape, just show them these charts.

The numbers do not lie.  Our economy is sick and it is getting sicker by the day.

And of course the next major financial crisis could strike at any time.  U.S. stocks just experienced their worst week in three years, and if cases of Ebola start popping up around the country the fear that would cause could collapse our economy all by itself.

The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is not real.  We are living on the fumes of our past, and every single day our long-term problems get even worse.

Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what is coming.

Sadly, most Americans will continue to deny the truth until it is far too late.

———-

A former Washington, D.C., attorney, Michael Snyder runs a number of websites, including:

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News | 3 Comments

Federal Reserve Bank Admits Again That It Is NOT a Federal Agency

No More Federal than Federal Express

As we’ve reported for over 4 years, the Federal Reserve banks are private, not government agencies.

Indeed, the government admitted 86 years ago that the Fed banks are private. And the Fed has repeatedly reaffirmed this fact.

As Matt Stoller points out, they have just done so again … in the AIG trial. Specifically, government lawyers said:

Now, some of the documents … were not actually produced by the United States, they were produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which is a third party.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bz6ZINECYAAmF-k.png

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News | 9 Comments