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  1. Atypical is offline
    02-24-2011, 07:55 PM #11

    Do You Want Goverment To Control Food? No? Then Don't Allow Business To Either

    Control over your food: Why Monsanto's GM seeds are undemocratic
    By Christopher D. Cook

    Large biotech agribusinesses like Monsanto control much of the global seed market with genetically modified (GM) crops. This centralization of GM seeds threatens food safety, food security, biodiversity, and democratic ideals.

    Question: Would you want a small handful of government officials controlling America's entire food supply, all its seeds and harvests?

    I suspect most would scream, "No way!"

    Yet, while America seems allergic to public servants - with no profit motive in mind - controlling anything these days, a knee-jerk faith in the "free market" has led to overwhelming centralized control of nearly all our food stuffs, from farm to fork.

    The Obama administration's recent decision to radically expand genetically modified (GM) food - approving unrestricted production of agribusiness biotech company Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" alfalfa and sugar beets - marks a profound deepening of this centralization of food production in the hands of just a few corporations, with little but the profit motive to guide them.

    Even as United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials enable a tighter corporate grip on the food chain, there is compelling evidence of GM foods' ecological and human health risks, suggesting we should at very least learn more before allowing their spread.

    Numerous peer-reviewed studies suggest these crops - the result of reformulating plant and animal genes, with minimal oversight and no food labeling disclosures - increase allergens in the food supply. And according to the World Health Organization, "The movement of genes from GM plants into conventional crops...may have an indirect effect on food safety and food security. This risk is real, as was shown when traces of a maize type which was only approved for feed use appeared in maize products for human consumption in the United States of America."

    Corporate-controlled seeds are undemocratic.

    But these corporate-controlled seeds pose an even graver threat: Both the technology and economy of GM crops are intrinsically anti-democratic.

    What's wrong with having a few corporations control virtually every aspect of our sustenance? Far from abstract, the genetic and proprietary control of our diets by a handful of companies (Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta combined own an astounding 47 percent of the global seed market) directly robs consumers and farmers of the most basic right to choose what they will eat and grow.

    The entire concept of creating and selling patented GM seeds is based on proprietary corporate control: The seeds are non-replenishing and must be purchased anew each season, eliminating the time-honored farmer tradition of saving and re-using seeds.

    Anyone doubting Monsanto's obsession with control can just ask just ask the thousands of farmers who have been sued and spied upon for alleged "seed piracy" - at least 2,391 farmers in 19 states through 2006, according to Monsanto website documents obtained by the Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety (CFS). A report by CFS, using company records, found that "Monsanto has an annual budget of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers."

    Or ask Monsanto. Under the headline, "Why Does Monsanto Sue Farmers Who Save Seeds?" on its website, the firm states: "When farmers purchase a patented seed variety, they sign an agreement that they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seed they buy from us. More than 275,000 farmers a year buy seed under these agreements in the United States."

    Threats to food safety, biodiversity.

    The USDA, and even some leaders of the organics business such as Whole Foods and Stonyfield Farms, endorse the notion of "coexistence" between GM and organic crops - a comforting yet flawed claim. Numerous organic farmers have reported the unwanted arrival of GM seeds contaminating their fields, rendering organic crops unmarketable.

    Even more troubling, "Roundup Ready" and other herbicide-resistant seeds by their nature promote the use of toxic herbicides - the use of which, contrary to industry claims, has risen as GM crops have proliferated, according to USDA data.

    Even with buffer zones to segregate GM and organic fields, "Some degree of cross-pollination will occur regardless of what mechanism is going to be put in place," agronomist Jeff Wolt, of Iowa State University's Seed Science Center, told the Associated Press.

    The GM threats to biodiversity and democracy are closely related. When you pair proprietary technology that's designed to retain company control of seeds (the very lifeblood of our food supply) along with highly concentrated market control, you get a hazardous blend of ecological, economic, and political centralization.

    According to research of industry statistics by the non-profit ETC (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration), "the top 3 seed companies control 65% of the proprietary maize seed market worldwide, and over half of the proprietary soybean seed marketŠMonsanto's biotech seeds and traits (including those licensed to other companies) accounted for 87% of the total world area devoted to genetically engineered seeds in 2007."

    Of course, few of us think about market control when we're hustling through supermarket aisles getting our shopping done. But when our elected leaders (from both parties) approve the expansion of risky seeds that endanger biodiversity as well as farmer and consumer choice, there should be more than a little outcry.

    Genetically centralized control over seeds and the future of our food supply isn't inevitable. Over 80 towns across the state of Vermont, and numerous counties across the country have approved moratoria on GM crops. Monsanto has encountered mass farmer and political resistance in India and throughout much of Africa and Europe.

    The Obama administration's effective rubber stamp on Monsanto's latest GM products is out of step with international thinking about food democracy and biodiversity, and an affront to that very American notion of consumer and producer choice - and voice - in the marketplace.


    Everyone in the country should be aware of this issue and the corporate control of what we eat. These companies will do whatever they can to maximize profit; we have to be sure that pursuit is not going to be a danger to us. This company already controls farmers by forcing them to purchase seeds from the company yearly. Be informed.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-24-2011 at 08:25 PM.

  2. Atypical is offline
    02-27-2011, 01:26 PM #12

    USDA Approved Monsanto Alfalfa Despite Warnings of New Pathogen Discovered in

    Genetically Engineered Crops.

    by: Mike Ludwig, t r u t h o u t

    Just two weeks before the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) fully deregulated Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa, a senior soil scientist alerted the department about a newly discovered, microscopic pathogen found in high concentrations of Roundup Ready corn and soy that researchers believe could be causing infertility in livestock and diseases in crops that could threaten the entire domestic food supply.

    Dr. Don Huber, a plant pathologist and retired Purdue University professor, wrote in a letter to the USDA that the pathogen is new to science and appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably humans.

    "For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks," Huber wrote in his January 16 letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency."

    Also See: Why Monsanto Always Wins.

    Huber called for an immediate moratorium on approvals of Roundup Ready crops, but on January 27, the USDA fully deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa after nearly five years of legal battles with farmers and environmental groups. The USDA partially deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beats on February 4.

    The pathogen is about the size of a virus and reproduces like a micro-fungal organism. According to Huber, the organism may be the first micro-fungus of its kind ever discovered, and there is evidence that the infectious pathogen causes diseases in both plants and animals, which is very rare.

    The pathogen is prevalent in soy crops suffering from a disease called sudden death syndrome and corn crops suffering from Goss' wilt disease.

    Laboratory tests show that the pathogen is present in a "wide variety" of livestock suffering from infertility and spontaneous abortions. Huber warned that the pathogen could be responsible for reports of increased infertility rates in dairy cows and rates of spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45 percent.

    Huber is concerned that the pathogen could be spreading because of overreliance on Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops systems, which have come to dominate American agribusiness during the past decade.

    Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn, soy, cotton and alfalfa are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate-base herbicides like Monsanto's Roundup. Farmers can blanket fields of Roundup Ready crops with glyphosate knowing that unwanted weeds will be killed and the genetically engineered crops will not.

    "We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of alfalfa," Huber wrote. "Naturally, if either the Roundup Ready gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity."

    Critics like Huber have long criticized glyphosate products like Roundup for weakening crops' natural defense systems and promoting the spread of glyphosate-resistant "superweeds" that have developed their own tolerance to glyphosate and infested millions of acres of farmland in the US alone.

    "We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders," Huber wrote. "This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure."

    Huber is a longstanding critic of biotech crops and coordinates a committee of the American Phytopathological Society as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System.


    Be informed.

  3. Atypical is offline
    02-27-2011, 02:07 PM #13

    Boeing’s Reward for Paying No Federal Taxes Over Last

    Three Years? A $35 Billion Federal Contract.

    Despite reporting nearly $10 billion in domestic pre-tax profits between 2008 and 2010, the
    Boeing Corporation, which was granted a contract worth as much as $35 billion to build
    airplanes for the federal government earlier this week, did not pay a dime of U.S. federal
    corporate income taxes during this three-year period.

    In particular:

    �� In 2010, Boeing reported $4.4 billion in pre-tax profits, and paid just 0.3 percent of its
    pre-tax income in federal income taxes.
    �� In 2009, Boeing reported $1.5 billion in pre-tax profits, but didn’t pay any federal
    income tax at all on those profits. Instead, the company claimed an outright tax rebate
    of $132 million.
    �� In 2008, the company reported $3.77 billion in pre-tax profits, and paid a paltry 1.2
    percent federal income tax rate on those profits.
    �� Over the three-year period from 2008 to 2010, the company didn’t pay a dime of its
    profits in federal taxes, and actually received a rebate of $75 million. Its pretax U.S.
    profits over this period were $9.7 billion.

    The data, which are based on Boeing’s tax filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, don’t make it clear exactly which tax avoidance mechanisms Boeing used to reduce its tax liabilities in this way. But a 2008 report from the General Accounting Office found that Boeing had 38 subsidiaries located in foreign tax havens.

    Throughout the competition for this lucrative federal contract Boeing has tried to position itself as the company that supports America,” said Bob McIntyre,
    “executive director of Citizens for Tax Justice. “But its shocking success in avoiding payment of US corporate income taxes tells a very different story.”

    1 General Accounting Office, Large U.S. Corporations and Federal Contractors with Subsidiaries in Jurisdictions Listed as Tax Havens or
    Financial Privacy Jurisdictions,

    Never a word about this from any conservative - NEVER! Just BS about how high our tax rates on corporations are. But few pay anywhere near those rates as the many examples posted here and available for research show. Oh, and the middle class makes too much money. That's their regular message.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-27-2011 at 05:09 PM.

  4. SiriuslyLong is offline
    SiriuslyLong's Avatar
    Joined: Jan 2009 Location: Ann Arbor, MI Posts: 3,560
    03-01-2011, 02:29 PM #14
    I am outraged! One has to pay something! Their employees pay their fair share, but at least they contribute to FICA along with their employees. One has to look for something positive about our overlords.

  5. Atypical is offline
    03-01-2011, 03:25 PM #15

    The War Against the Republic: The Battle Of Madison

    Sometimes it's worth looking at current events through the eyes of a historian chronicling the end of an age, or those of a district attorney in a time of corruption. Come to think of it, the two perspectives aren't all that different.

    However you look at it, calling the Wisconsin struggle a "labor dispute" is like calling the Battle of Normandy "a fight over a beach." There's a war going on, one that's best understand by using an Latin expression popular among prosecutors: Cui bono? Who benefits? Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting budget contains buried goodies for somebody, including possibly the Koch Brothers who paid to have it drafted. More importantly, it's another step toward replacing the American dream of prosperity for all with imperial visions of massive wealth for the few.

    The heavily-financed army behind Scott Walker has as its ambition the death of the American Republic. If that sounds like rhetorical overkill, then it's worth remembering the words of someone who watched a republic fall. "The enemy is within the gates," said Cicero. "It is with our own opulence, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend."

    "Money money money money," added the O'Jays, "some people do things, do things, do bad things with it."

    If this end-of-the-republic rhetoric sounds extreme, listen to Gov. Walker's phone call with a prankster pretending to be David Koch. He spoke to Koch the way an employee talks to the boss. That's a glimpse into the world of corporate political power. Madison's the epicenter for a battle between the dying American middle class and a plutocracy -- no, make that a "Lootocracy" -- determined to rob it of everything it's earned over the last 75 years.

    But wait, says Joe Klein. He says they're protesting against democracy in Wisconsin. "The Republicans won," Klein says, "and there are consequences to elections." But did Scott Walker announce that he would magnify a budget problem and use it to break the ability of state employees to negotiate on their own behalf? That approach is opposed by 61% of Wisconsin voters, according to the latest Gallup poll.

    The election in Wisconsin is the latest example of a two-party system where neither party adequately represents the majority's will. One tramples on it, using lies and fear, and the other offers only the weakest defense. The system's been corrupted by money -- "cash money," as the O'Jays would say -- which casts a shadow over its results. Those results include the election of leaders like Gov. Walker, who's just a footsoldier in the war on the American Dream. There's big money at stake -- cash money -- and the government swag in Wisconsin's just the tip of the iceberg.

    Klein's energy would be better spent fighting for a truly representative democracy, rather than dismissing protestors who represent a majority of their own state's people.

    Civil Discourse vs. Civil War

    Historians of the future may look back on our time with an indulgent chuckle when they consider the pundits and politicians who, in their anxiety to ensure a 'civil dialogue,' ignored the cui bono principle. Under current conventions, we're supposed to assume that every political action must be the result of selfless ideologies. We must "disagree without being disagreeable," as the president would say.

    Meanwhile the plunder goes on unabated. Kevin Drum toted up the score so far from the plutocratic project: a massive upward redistribution of wealth, and the growing dominance of wealthy interests in politics and the media.

    How would things have turned out if during the days of Tammany Hall in New York City or Huey Long in Louisiana journalists and reformers had adopted that attitude? Wall Street caused a global crash two years ago. Today it's richer than ever and throwing its weight around politically as if nothing happened. Next time someone lectures you about 'civil discourse' just say, Look around, pal. This ain't a debating society. Somebody's wheels are getting greased -- and the rest of us are on the skids.

    Power Grab

    At the risk of sounding disagreeable, it's hard to find an "honest difference of opinion" on ideology that explains a paragraph like this one in Gov. Walker's new bill, spotted by my eagle-eyed pal Mike Konczal:

    ... the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount ... no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant ...
    This allows the governor to bypass regulators and legislators and sell the state's power plants, built with millions in taxpayer money to anybody he likes. This paragraph goes on to say that "any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project." The governor can give these plants away if he wants, and nobody can stop him.

    Cui bono? Who could possibly benefit from giving the governor the ability to sell the state's "heating, cooling, and power plants" (there are 32 of them), or "contract with a private entity" to operate them, without a bid process or any regulatory oversight?

    Let's see now: Wisconsin has nearly one million natural gas customers, so it would presumably be a company that "provides consulting, engineering, design, procurement, fabrication and construction services for the natural gas and gas processing industries worldwide" and has "been the general contractor on some of the largest natural gas plants built in the U.S." And since there are a number of coal-fired plants on the state's list, our corporation would need to be a "leading supplier of coal and related products typically used in industrial applications or to generate electricity."

    Those quotes were taken from the website of Koch Industries, the company whose owners are bankrolling a little-known group that's behind initiatives like Walker's budget proposal.

    Of course, the winning candidate doesn't have to be Koch Industries. Kris Broughton at BigThink found another candidate. ThinkEnergy says it "eliminates the waste of energy and money in facilities through a blend of Supply-Side and Demand-Side energy management measures," and they've placed a hiring ad that reads "Energy client is looking for experienced Plant Managers for multiple power plants located in Wisconsin."

    The real issue isn't whether Koch Industries gets the deal to operate Wisconsin's power plants. Somebody will -- and the assets built by Wisconsin taxpayers (including the public employees now under assault) will undoubtedly be given to the private sector at very favorable rates. It will be one more step in the Great American Giveaway -- the seizure of public resources by the private sector.

    The Great American Giveaway

    One of the Lootocracy's objectives is to confiscate all the assets that the middle class has built with its tax dollars. For decades the "privatization" movement has been a front for this plunder of the public's resources, allowing private corporations to enrich themselves by providing services that were once provided at lower cost by the government itself.

    How did that work out? Xe, the Company Formerly Known as Blackwater, provides mercenaries for our Middle Eastern wars -- at great public expense, and sometimes acting outside the law in ways that harm our national security. The privatization of prisons and reform schools gave us the case of the monstrous judges who railroaded innocent kids into incarceration in return for bribes from a private youth detention facility contractor.

    On a national scale, money intended for worthy college students got diverted into private jets and fat salaries after the privatization of the student loan enterprise Sallie Mae, and the privatization of mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac led to a series of scandals, multimillion dollar payouts for incompetent executives, and a worsening of our financial crisis.

    Private Parties

    With a record like that, you'd think the privatization movement would be dead. And you'd be right -- if it weren't for the billions being provided to it by the Koch Brothers and other private financiers. They're major backers of "ALEC" -- the "American Legislative Exchange Council" -- an organization that proves how smart and determined the armies of the Lootocrats really are. There are two very smart strategies behind ALEC:

    1) While everybody's focused on what goes on in Washington, ALEC is able to plunder the massive resources of state and local government.

    2) State legislatures are the "farm league" for tomorrow's governors, Senators, and Presidents. ALEC isn't just buying state government. It's buying tomorrow's national leaders too.

    This secret army has a clear agenda: Attain power, give away the "store" once in office, and decimate programs that help the middle class and lower income people. Scott Walker's actions fit the playbook perfectly. In fact, his bill was reportedly drafted by ALEC, whose primary objectives include the drafting of "model legislation."

    Two enterprising representatives from People for the American Way were able to get into an ALEC meeting in 2005 and, as Joshua Holland reported, they cast a light on ALEC's role as " the connective tissue that links state legislators with right-wing think tanks, leading anti-tax activists and corporate money." They were also able to collect information on the breadth and audacious scope of the ALEC agenda, which is mirrored by other groups offering support for Walker's efforts -- groups such as "Americans For Prosperity," another Koch-funded front group.
    Last edited by Atypical; 03-01-2011 at 04:03 PM.

  6. Atypical is offline
    03-01-2011, 03:26 PM #16

    Part Two

    The war on unions is an essential part of the ALEC Assault. Unions are a double threat: First, they interfere with the Lootocracy's ability to treat its private-sector employees as badly as the law will allow. And government employees are fighting for pay and benefits that interfere with the broader agenda of strangling all forms of government spending so that taxes can be kept low for the Lootocrats. That's why, as Harold Meyerson points out, unions are under attack in a number of GOP-led states, and by Republican members of Congress who are trying to strip funding from the National Labor Relations Board.

    All across the nation Republican governors are using the same playbook: Cry "poor" while giving tax cuts to the rich, then use the resulting crises to bust unions and gut services for the poor and middle class. They're all reading from the same script, and if their line readings aren't convincing it doesn't really matter. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger have already taught us that Republicans don't need to be good actors to succeed.

    As Wisconsin Goes

    Gov. Walker insists that the state's pension plan is a key driver of the state's fiscal problems. But the state is actually projected to have a small surplus next year, depending on how it handles its debt to Minnesota and a couple of other key issues. In any case, the state's pension plan is extremely well-funded, with 99.67% already in its accounts.

    What happened in Wisconsin? The Governor cut taxes for the wealthy, then declared a budget emergency. In classic "Shock Doctrine" fashion, he used that emergency to slash a retirement plan that's highly stable financially, along with medical services for middle-class and lower-income people.

    What's happening in Washington? In the name of "austerity economics" and deficit-cutting, a deal was cut that extends tax cuts for the wealthy. Now the conventional wisdom is that we must cut Social Security, a benefit program that's much more solvent than most government programs, and then gut medical assistance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

    Let's see: A tax cut for the wealthy, followed by the declaration of a budget emergency and the gutting of retirement and medical programs. And along the way, a giveaway of public resources to private corporations. That's not coincidence: It's the plan.

    The Home Front

    So, cui bono? The richest 1% of Americans, along with the corporations -- and politicians -- they own. We know who the warriors are, we know their strategy. We know they're winning, too. Can the tide be turned? Not if the people opposed to this Lootocracy refuse to acknowledge what's happening. Republicans are gutting the republic and not enough Democrats will fight for democracy.

    "Don't let money rule you," said the O'Jays. And Cicero, who knew a thing or two about military and economic warfare, said "Nothing is so strongly fortified that it cannot be taken by money."

    Cicero and the O'Jays ... have they ever been to Madison?

  7. Atypical is offline
    03-06-2011, 05:17 PM #17

    If It Sounds Too Good ... What You Need to Know, but Don't,

    About Privatizing Infrastructure

    Saturday 05 March 2011
    by: Ellen Dannin, t r u t h o u t

    Remember the old joke about some sharpie who takes innocents by "selling" them the Brooklyn Bridge? By the time the poor guy finds out he was taken, the crook is long gone.

    Flash forward to the present. States and cities are being told that they can fix their budgets and have money left over by leasing their infrastructure for 50, 75 or even 99 years. It sounds great, even miraculous. But we all need to slow down and do our homework, because the rule "If it sounds too good to be true, it is" still applies, and there are good reasons why state and local governments should not want any part of these deals.

    The truth is that, rather than making money on just tolls and fees, private contractors make their money through big tax breaks and by squeezing state and local governments for payments for the life of the contracts.

    In fact, tax breaks explain why the deals last generations. One tax break for leases that last longer than the useful life of the infrastructure allows investors to write off their investment in just over a decade. A second tax break lets private companies issue tax-free bonds to finance their deals. While tax-free bonds and tax breaks make it less expensive to finance these deals, the downside is that governments lose tax revenue. Losing tax revenue puts government budgets deeper in the red and worsens problems privatization was supposed to fix.

    But that's not all. Infrastructure privatization contracts are full of "gotcha" terms that require state or local governments to pay the private contractors. For example, now when Chicago does street repairs or closes streets for a festival, it must pay the private parking meter contractor for lost meter fares. Those payments put the contractors in a much better position than the government. It gets payments, even though Chicago did not get fares when it had to close streets.

    Highway contractors can be entitled to payments if there is an accident on the highway and if the police, fire and emergency crews do not give "appropriate" notice and do not perform their emergency work in a way that is "reasonable under the circumstances." And, given the vagueness of those standards, states and cities may end up paying just to avoid the costs of litigation.

    Highway privatization contracts also often include terms that forbid building "competing" roads or mass transit. Some even require making an existing "competing" road worse. For example, the contract for SR-91 in Southern California prohibited the state from repairing an adjacent public road, creating conditions that put drivers' safety at risk. A proposed private highway around the northwest part of Denver required that local governments reduce speeds and install speed humps and barriers and narrow lanes on "competing" roads to force drivers to use the privatized road.

    And worst of all, these deals put a stranglehold on democratic decision making and the public interest. For example, Virginia decided to promote carpooling to cut down on pollution, slow highway deterioration and lessen highway and urban congestion. As a result, Virginia must reimburse the private contractor for lost revenues from carpoolers, even though not all of the people in a car would otherwise have driven individually.

    Chicago is not allowed to reduce the number of parking meters for the life of the contract. So, when there have been changes that mean parking meters in one location are no longer appropriate, the city has had to install meters where none have ever been.

    All of these contract terms put the public safety and well-being last and the investors' profits first. And although infrastructure privatization proponents claim that the deals transfer risk from the public to the contractors, a fair reading of the contract terms shows that this is not the case. State and local governments lose control of their destinies and communities, while giving private investors power over our new dollar democracies.
    These problems will persist even when the private contractor does a good job in maintaining the infrastructure and providing good public access to it. But contractors have not always done a good job in keeping their agreements.

    Shortly after it took over the Indiana Toll Road, the private contractor put sand-filled barrels in turn-arounds with no notice to the state. State officials begged and pleaded for the barrels to be removed, so police and emergency crews could get to accidents and deal with other public safety problems as quickly as possible. Those pleas fell on deaf ears, while the turn-arounds remained blocked for months.

    Or consider the poor people of Auckland, New Zealand. Their government had become enamored of privatization, because they had been told that the private sector always provided better service at lower cost. The private company, Mercury, that bought the electrical service for Auckland decided to save costs by eliminating backup power, by not replacing parts of the system that were years past their normal life, by doing no maintenance, by having no electrical cables in reserve and by terminating its repair crews. When they were terminated, the crews left New Zealand to find work elsewhere. All these decisions were made to increase company profits.

    Those decisions may have lowered the company's costs, but at a huge price, most of which it did not bear when the power cables to Auckland's central business district failed. Banks, stock exchanges, restaurants and all functions that depended on electricity were hard hit. Water, sewage and all systems went down and the power outage lasted nearly two months, because it had no repair crews or replacement components on hand.

    Auckland's businesses lost millions of dollars. Companies tried to stay open by using generators, office workers climbed stairs in skyscrapers in mid-summer and generator noise and diesel smoke filled downtown. At one point, Auckland was provided power to essential facilities through an electric cable plugged into a large ship in the harbor.

    You would think that New Zealand privatization advocates would have rethought their positions after they saw the carnage created by Mercury. But that was not the case. They actually claimed that the problem was caused by not having privatized enough infrastructure. While ludicrous, given what they had experienced, that view is not unique.
    Consider, then, that at this very moment, state and local governments are contemplating signing contracts that restrict their rights to inspect infrastructure paid for with public money. Consider that they are agreeing to sign away their ability to protect the public interest and are setting in motion the same sort of disaster that Auckland faced, while the federal government is offering tax breaks to promote privatization.

    The lesson and warning for states and local governments that are being wooed by private contractors is to do their due diligence. Read the contracts. Demand explanations and information. Ask for evidence that the public sector cannot do what private contractors do - and at lower cost - since the public sector does not need to pay dividends to investors. Get advisers who are not beholden to the privatization industry. And use common sense.

    If you had thought the miracle of infrastructure privatization sounded too good to be true, now you know it is. But if you still have a hankering to give privatization a try, well, I just might have a bridge to show you ...

    Another area where misinformation/lies are rife: to wit; private business can do it better than government. In a time of financial stress these "deals" must be reviewed and reviewed and reviewed...

  8. Atypical is offline
    03-09-2011, 02:52 PM #18

    'I Thought I Was Dying': A Common Synthetic Antibiotic Can Cause Permanent Side FX

    By Carey Purcell, AlterNet

    Bobby Grozier was on top of the world before he took the pills. A senior software adviser for a Fortune 500 company based in Manhattan, he earned a great salary and was happily married with a young daughter. That changed when he was prescribed a toxic combination of drugs to treat lingering symptoms of what his doctor thought was prostatitis. Ten years later, he suffers from permanent brain damage, is on disability and has lost more than $3 million in medical costs and income.

    Grozier was prescribed a combination of Ciprofloxacin and Vioxx, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Shortly after taking the medicine his ears began to ring. He called Bayer, the company that produces Ciprofloxacin, and reported his symptoms to a pharmacist who told him to keep taking the drug to get the full effect.

    Shortly after Grozier stopped taking the prescriptions, he suffered a psychotic episode. He had difficulty breathing, experienced hallucinations, and was barely able to call his mother to ask her to take him to the hospital.

    "Things in my ears were resonating like I was in an echo chamber," Grozier said. "And everything was wavyŠit was unbearable. I really thought I had a heart attack and was dying."

    At the hospital, Grozier was given a sedative. The doctor he spoke with blamed the episode on irritable bowel syndrome, wrote him a prescription for Xanax and sent him home. But his symptoms steadily worsened. He experienced numerous petite mal seizures, was unable to bathe himself and suffered from severe anxiety.

    "I was praying to God to take my life, let me die," Grozier said. "It was unbearable."

    After researching his symptoms online, Grozier concluded that he had been poisoned by the medications his doctor prescribed. Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections in many different parts of the body. Fluoroquinolones include Ciprofloxacin, Levofloxacin and Levaquin, as well as many other drugs. Fluoroquinolone poisoning is a little-known reaction to the drug. Symptoms include central nervous system (CNS) toxicity, phototoxicity, cardiotoxicity, arthropathy and tendon rupture. Several fluoroquinolones have been taken off the market due to severe adverse reactions, but these instances are few and often result in long legal battles.

    The actual amount of poisonings that occur due to floroquinolones is uncertain. Some consider the occurrence to be rare while others say it is far more common than many realize. The lack of recorded cases is due to several factors. Often people do not realize that they have been poisoned, or their doctors do not credit the symptoms to the medication, partly due to the delayed toxicity. Patients can react to the drugs weeks or months after they are prescribed and patients and doctors do not make a connection between the drugs and the symptoms.

    Another reason the condition is often unrecognizable is due to its lack of visible physical symptoms. One victim of the poisoning said it is often referred to as "the invisible illness," saying, "[people] look at you and think you're normal because there's no open wound or castŠon the inside our nerves are damaged, our tendons are damaged, certain receptors in the brain are not functioning properly."

    While stories about floroquinolone poisoning have been published in the Inter Press Service News Agency, the Associated Press and numerous medical journals, the topic is not reported on frequently in the media, and people tend to be skeptical when first learning about it. This lack of knowledge has caused many sufferers to become activists, helping to educate people about the topic. A documentary titled Certain Adverse Events was produced and is available on YouTube. Stephen Fried's book, Bitter Pills, examines the corruption within the pharmaceutical industry, focusing on his own experiences after his wife was poisoned by an antibiotic.


    There is more at this link.

    The article spells out the many dangers that occur because of pharmaceutical company practices, some doctors lack of concern and trust in the system, greed, and federal oversight that is ineffective at the least and non-existent due to collusion with RX companies at its worst.

    Be informed!
    Last edited by Atypical; 03-09-2011 at 03:29 PM.

  9. Atypical is offline
    03-17-2011, 12:54 PM #19

    Wall Street Front Group President Sneers At Protesters,

    Says Public Servants Are Paid Too Much.

    by Lee Fang

    On Friday, two dozen protesters gathered outside of an event for the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, where U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue gave a lunchtime presentation about the economy. As ThinkProgress first reported in April of 2010, the U.S. Chamber operated as a front group for banks like J.P. Morgan and Bank of America to kill Wall Street reform.

    The local CBS affiliate in St. Louis noted that, while Donohue gave a speech demanding more deregulation of the economy, the protesters outside called for better government oversight of Wall Street. Asked by a reporter at the event what he thought of the protesters, Donohue mocked their intelligence:

    When a reporter informed U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue that protestors were planning to demonstrate against his visit to St. Louis, he questioned their intelligence. "Do you think they even know what a derivative is?" Donohue said.

    Asked about the massive protests against Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Donohue said that public servants have "over bloated" compensation:

    Donohue turned truculent when asked whether events in Wisconsin are weakening unions and the right of workers to collective bargaining. [....] He went on to express his concerns that public sector pensions are "out of control" and that public workers compensation is "over bloated."

    Speaking of "over bloated" compensation, Donohue "travels in a chauffeured Lincoln and a leased jet, and his salary, $3.7 million last year, makes him the sixth highest paid lobbyist in the country."

    Donohue apparently has no problem taking cheap shots at people who have dedicated themselves to public service, but what does he do to deserve so much money? As we've reported, Donohue runs nothing more
    than a shell organization to help big corporations pursue nasty lobbying campaigns under the brand of the "U.S. Chamber of Commerce," a group misleadingly associated with local chambers of commerce. For instance, the health insurance industry secretly funneled $86 million to the Chamber in 2009 to try to kill health reform. Similarly, oil companies, chemical firms, and defense industry corporations have used to the Chamber to run ads or lobby against regulations.


    Ladeez and Gentlemaan - Meet some of your corporate overlords. Ain't they great? AND aren't we stupid for not understanding what THEY understand. We need them - don't we?

  10. Atypical is offline
    03-17-2011, 06:07 PM #20

    They Will Stop At Nothing!!!!

    Oscar-Nominated 'Gasland' Director Calls Latest Attack on His Film 'Outlandish' and Tells Why the Industry Is Getting Desperate.

    By Brad Jacobson, AlterNet

    When the gas industry sent an open letter this month to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences demanding it revoke its best documentary nomination for the gas-drilling exposé Gasland, many seemed surprised by this brazen missive.

    Gasland director Josh Fox wasn't one of those people.

    "What this points to is the culture of that industry, which is bullying, which is aggressive, which is outlandish in their tactics, which will stop at nothing," Fox told AlterNet during a nearly hour-long interview.

    The Oscar nomination, of course, ensures wider attention to the dangers of the natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on our nation's water supply, air quality and overall impact on citizens' health.

    Gasland already won the prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and debuted on HBO last summer. The film's Facebook page boasts 40,000 followers -- which Fox said is "like a news ticker of gas drilling contamination stories" -- with people linking to the latest reports of poisoned aquifers, sickened citizens and calls for drilling moratoriums, as well as first-person accounts of those living in the gaslands.

    Fox and actor/activist Mark Ruffalo stormed Capitol Hill a few days ago, garnering heightened national attention to the issue as they called for an immediate federal moratorium on natural gas drilling.

    The momentum, for now, appears to be in favor of Fox and anti-drilling advocates.

    Industry "Very Upset" Over Losing Control of the Message

    The letter to the Academy, Fox said, is also an act of desperation because the gas industry is "very, very upset about having lost control over the message." Something, he adds, "They have kept very tightly."

    Fracking is a technique that blasts toxic chemicals and millions of gallons water deep underground to access natural gas deposits trapped in rock formations. Natural gas drilling has been billed by the oil and gas industry as the "clean" alternative to coal and the best method to wean America off foreign oil. But it has gone unregulated since 2005, when a clause in an energy bill spearheaded by then Vice-President Dick Cheney opened a loophole exempting the practice from federal clean water laws.

    To this day, gas drilling companies do not have to report what chemicals, from an array of over 500 proprietary substances, they're pumping into the ground.

    Energy in Depth, the group that sent the letter to the Academy, is a shadowy front group for the oil and gas industry that unleashed its smear campaign, including its report "Debunking Gasland," in June, when the documentary first began receiving wider attention. On the film's Web site, Fox, in turn, released a 39-page point-by-point rebuttal, or what he called a "de-de-bunking document in response to specious and misleading gas industry claims."

    In the letter to the Academy, Energy in Depth's executive director, Lee O. Fuller, argues that the documentary should be ineligible because it presents "stylized fiction" filled with "many errors, inconsistencies and outright falsehoods." Yet the letter is short on details and simply attaches the same "Debunking Gasland" document that Fox and contributing experts have already "de-de-bunked."

    Oddly, Lee O. Fuller does not appear on Energy in Depth's Web site. He is listed, however, as the vice president of government relations for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a major lobbying group for oil and natural gas interests.

    IPAA also happens to be the same group, among dozens of other energy entities, that Fox listed at the end of Gasland as having declined him an interview.

    Letter Reminds Fox of His Original Quest for Truth

    Fox said the gas industry's letter to the Academy makes him feel like he's come full circle in a unexpected journey that began when he received a letter in the mail from a natural gas company offering him $100,000 to drill on his property in Milanville, Pennsylvania, a small town near the Delaware River.

    First, he was excited over the sum. But after the initial thrill, he said he thought about the old saying, "When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

    He set out to discover why he was being offered this ostensibly generous amount and what natural gas drilling was all about.

    Fox said he "went into this with a very measured approach," seeking all perspectives on the issue. He soon found out that his home, which has been in his family since he was a little kid, was sitting in the middle of the Marcellus Shale, a sprawling natural gas deposit worth billions of dollars that stretches over 500 miles from New York through Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, known as the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas."

    Fox also began to realize that the members of the gas industry and the politicians who support them were not interested in speaking with him.

    Nevertheless, he said, "We were comprehensive in our approach to try and get anybody from the gas companies to talk to us."

    But he noted, "In a way the gas companies do get interviewed in the film, not by me, although I was in the room, but by Congress and you see the results."

    In a pivotal scene in Gasland, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), vice chairwoman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, grills gas industry executives until they openly admit they have no viable reason for objecting to disclose chemicals used in the fracking process.

    Fox began to meet with people in his own state and those across the country whose experiences with natural gas drilling on or near their land has led to devastating health effects and economic disaster as their water and air became toxic and their homes devalued.

    Attack Further Exposes Industry's Modus Operandi

    "What you're also seeing to the Academy in this letter," Fox explained, "is the same exact type of outlandish thing that they've been using for many, many years. They just come right into your door and say, 'Everything is going to be fine.' But this is such a massive lie and you realize that they're twelve steps ahead of you before you even got in the room."

    He continued, "You can't live in areas where they're doing hydro-fracking because your water is going to go to hell, the area around you is dangerous to you. You're living in a massive industrial zone with no quality of life, no peace, no property value anymore. Every ounce of value of living in that place has been drained away."

    Fox added, "Oh, and by the way, those areas also are the breadbasket of the nation and the water supply for major cities and they don't care."

    In a way, he thinks the letter puts the Academy in the position that people all over the country have been put when gas companies are faced with facts.

    "It's a very strange thing to see," said Fox, "that they have the same tactic toward the Academy as they would toward a tiny landowner in western Pennsylvania who has no clout, who is in the dark, who's cornered, who doesn't have media attention, who would again have to go ahead and do all this scientific research to try to prove what's staring them in the face, which is that the gas well across the street from them is making their kids sick, has contaminated their water and has upended their lives."

    While the letter didn't surprise him, he views it as an ill-advised PR move, one that only further supports his film's indictment of the gas industry's modus operandi.

    "I feel it's an outing of their very business model," Fox noted, “which is to stonewall, deny, attack and even in the most outlandish ways."

    He added, "Because they're used to tying people down and tying them up in court, forcing them into non-disclosure agreements," as opposed to accounting for their actions.

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