BBC – Realities of the US Economy

Tent cities have sprung up outside Los Angeles as people lose their homes in the mortgage crisis. Closely resembling shantytowns from the 1930s, these areas offer a distressing picture of the US economy’s current decline.

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Filed under Economy, Recession, Shantytowns, Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis, US

US Inspector General – Haliburton Delivered Dangerous Water to Troops

A recently released report by the US Inspector General concludes that Haliburton did in fact deliver unclean water to US troops stationed in Iraq. According to the report, dozens of soldiers fell sick, suffering ‘skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using the ‘discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry.’

When asked about the report during a press briefing on Monday, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell dismissed the company’s negligence.

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Filed under Bush-Cheney, Byron Dorgan, Haliburton, Industry, Inspector General, news, Politics, The Real News, US Politics

John McCain Advocates Immediate Withdrawal of US Troops, 1993

McCain denounces nation-building and explains why US troops should be immediately withdrawn from Somalia:

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Filed under 1993, Clinton, Election, iraq, John McCain, Somalia, US Politics

AP Investigation Finds Drinking Water Contaminated by Pharmaceuticals

pharmaceuitcals have contaminated our drinking water
Associated Press, March 9, 2008:

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows….The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested by the positive test results in the major population centers documented by the AP.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

The EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals. The EPA had analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for possible inclusion on a draft list of candidates for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, [but] only one, nitroglycerin, was on the list. To the degree that the EPA is focused on the issue, it appears to be looking at detection [rather than regulation].

While researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

Contamination is not confined to the United States [however]. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. In Canada, a study of 20 Ontario drinking water treatment plants by a national research institute found nine different drugs in water samples.

Another issue: There’s evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Food and Water Watch, March 10, 2008:

Scaring people away from their taps into the bottled water aisle at the grocery store will cost them thousands of dollars a year without making them any safer. Nearly 40 percent of bottled water is simply repackaged tap water. What’s more, there’s no government agency testing bottled water contamination from known hazards such as bacteria, synthetic contaminants, or heavy metals.

While the Associated Press did not test bottled water, earlier testers have found dangerous substances such as arsenic and bromate, both known carcinogens. And bottled water comes with its own list of unknown hazards from chemicals leached into the water from the plastic bottles. Tap water is still the best choice for most Americans.

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Filed under AP Investigative Report, Drinking Water Contamination, EPA, news, No Regulation, Pharmaceuitcals

US Dollar’s Clout Sinks Worldwide

Bush
Associated Press, March 13, 2008:
Antique store owners in lower Manhattan, ticket vendors at India’s Taj Mahal and Brazilian business executives heading to China all have one thing in common these days: They don’t want U.S. dollars.

Hit by a free fall with no end in sight, the once mighty U.S. dollar is no longer just crashing on currency markets and making life more expensive for American tourists and business people abroad; its clout is evaporating worldwide as foreign businesses and individuals turn to other currencies.

Experts say the bleak U.S. economic forecast means it will take years for the greenback to recover its value and prestige.

Negative dollar sentiment is growing in nations where the dollar was historically accepted as equal or better than local currency — and dollar aversion is even extending to some quarters in the United States.

Associated Press, March 14, 2008:

The Federal Reserve invoked a rarely used Depression-era procedure Friday to bolster troubled Bear Stearns Cos. and said it will provide even more help to combat a serious credit crisis.

Senior Federal Reserve staffers said the arrangement allows JP Morgan Chase to borrow from the Fed’s discount window and put up collateral from Bear Stearns to back up the loans. (JP Morgan, a bank, has access to the discount window to obtain direct loans from the Fed, but Bear Stearns, an investment house, does not.) JPMorgan Chase is providing an undisclosed amount of secured funding to Bear for 28 days, backstopped by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

This type of procedure, Fed officials said, dates back to the Great Depression of the 1930s but has rarely been used since that time.

Delivering a speech on the economy in New York, Bush voiced confidence in the Fed’s actions to aggressively cut interest rates and the Fed announcement last week that it would supply up to $200 billion in loans to cash-strapped financial institutions.

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Filed under Bush, Economy, news, Politics, Recession, US Dollar

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

mlk

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States and in honour of the man I thought I’d provide you with a condensed version of one of his greatest speeches. On April 24th, 1967, King spoke at the New York City Riverside Church and voiced his opposition to America’s war in Vietnam. While the impetus for his speech was topical, most of his words are still apt today. The following are his words.

The long line of military dictators offered no real change.
The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support.
All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy…
Now they languish under our bombs and consider us…the real enemy.
They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met.
They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.
So they go, primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops.
They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees.
They wander into the hospitals..mostly children…[wounded] from American firepower.
They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals.
They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food.
They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords…
What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe?
The more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

Where are the roots of…the independ[ence]…we claim to be building?
Is it among these voiceless ones?
I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless…
We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise.
These, too, are our brothers.

Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions.
Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence.
Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves.
For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

Somehow this madness must cease.
We must stop now.
I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor.
I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted.
I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption [abroad].
I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken.
I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless…

We must find new ways to speak for peace…and justice throughout the developing world – a world that borders on our doors.
If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries.
Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional.
Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.
This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept – so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force – has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man.
When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response.
I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.
Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.
The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate.
History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.
We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation.
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.

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Filed under 1967, MLK, US, War

Russian Police Raid Opposition Party Headquarters, Arrest Opposition Leader, Abduct Journalists


AFP, November 23:

Russian police late Friday raided an office of The Other Russia coalition led by former chess champion Gary Kasparov, hours before he was to lead a march in Moscow against President Vladimir Putin.
“They had no documents, acted on the authority of some secret decree, so they could not say what it was about,” …said [coalition’s spokeswoman Lyudmila Mamina].
“It was all connected to (Saturday’s) March of Dissenters. It was an attempt to scare off its organisers,” [she] said.

Associated Press, November 24:

Riot police beat and detained opposition leader Garry Kasparov Saturday as they took dozens of protesters into custody at a rally against President Vladimir Putin.
The city gave the organizers permission to hold the rally but forbid them to march to the Central Elections Commission.
Riot police surrounded the rally…mov[ing] in after the rally had ended and about 150 of the protesters… began to march toward the Central Elections Commission. Kasparov had not joined the young protesters who had broken away from the crowd. He was detained after walking over to see what had happened to them.

BBC, November 24:

The [Central Elections] Commission has barred Other Russia candidates from the 2 December election.
[Kasparov] was later charged with organising an illegal protest and resisting arrest.

AFP, Novembr 24:

The Other Russia rally was one of around 10 political demonstrations that took place in the Russian capital on Saturday.
Around 3,600 police officers were on special duty to supervise the rallies, with more than half of them assigned to The Other Russia gathering alone, according to Echo Moskvy radio.

The New York Times, November 24:

Kasparov…was arrested Saturday and sentenced to five days in jail after trying to lead a march to the offices of the federal election authorities. …he had intended to present a letter asserting that the parliamentary election on Dec. 2 was biased toward President Vladimir V. Putin’s party.
City officials had given his loose opposition coalition, Other Russia, permission to conduct a rally on Saturday, but not a march.

Reuters, November 24:

A senior Russian rights activist said he and a television crew had been abducted and beaten by security agents… just hours before a protest against police brutality.
Orlov said the kidnappers were from the security forces or the police, whom he accused of employing scare tactics before a planned mass opposition demonstration across the country.

International Herald Tribune, November 24:

A police officer confirmed that the journalists and rights activist were taken from the Assa hotel in Nazran at about midnight and beaten by armed men.
Orlov said the men in camouflage represented themselves as members of an anti-terrorist unit and forced him and the journalists into a white minibus without license plates. They were driven to the Sunzha district, beaten and then ordered to get out of the vehicle.
A statement issued later by his organization, Memorial, said the journalists were barefoot and dressed only in their underwear.
Police appeared to want to prevent the journalists from filming an opposition rally that day in Nazran, Orlov said.

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Filed under news, Pre-Election, Protest, Russia, tyranny