Archive for the ‘Attacks on Civil Liberties’ Category

Farmageddon

Directed by Kristin Canty (2011)

Film Review

Farmageddon (unrelated to the book Farmageddon) tells the story of a deliberate campaign by federal and state regulatory agencies to harass small family farmers and buying cooperatives.

Kanty begins by briefly outlining the major food safety problem which has accompanied the boom in industrial farming and agrobusiness in the US. Instead of addressing the unhygienic conditions factory farmed animals are raised in (with animals being confined in small cages and pens with their own feces , Congress has imposed an array of useless regulations on all food production and processing.

These regulations allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct warrantless raids on small family farms and private coops. The film tells the story of various families who have been raided at gunpoint by federal and state SWAT teams – often where no or only minor infractions have occurred. Most face confiscation of their animals, product and equipment, as well as destruction of their livelihood.

Many of the raids relate to raw milk production. The latter has proven health benefits in asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis – due to to beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are destroyed when milk is pasteurized.

The laws regulating raw milk vary from state to state – in California you can buy it at supermarkets but can’t sell yogurt or cheese made from raw milk. In some states you can only buy it at the farm gate. In others it’s illegal to sell it at all. Although it’s legal in all states for farmers and farm cooperatives to produce raw milk for their own consumption, the film depicts SWAT teams shutting down several farms and coops for doing so.

In no instance, were any of the confiscated products found to be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria. This is the implicit guarantee you get from sourcing food locally from farmers you know and trust: no  farmer selling milk that makes people sick will stay in business. The source of supermarket food, in contrast, is extremely difficult to trace.

The message that comes across loud and clear in this film in this film is that food regulations created by the FDA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are written by agrobusiness. The latter are clearly threatened by growing consumer demand for locally produced, unprocesssed, organic food. These regulations clearly serve the interests of Food Inc rather than the public.

Informants

Al Jazeera (2014)

Film Review

Informants is an Al Jazeera documentary about the FBI use of informants to entrap vulnerable African and immigrant men and convict them on phony terrorism charges.

Their investigation focuses on three specific informants in Miami, Los Angeles and Toledo. In one Miami sting operation, an informant paid poor African American men and Muslim immigrants to take photos of federal buildings and got them to recite a pledge swearing allegiance to Osama bin Laden. This, in turn, would be the principal evidence against them at trial. There was no evidence whatsoever that any of them planned or engaged in acts of violence – nor had contact with any terrorist groups other than the FBI.

One African American convicted in this operation received a seven year sentence and spent two years in solitary confinement.

In Toledo, the FBI paid a mentally unstable victim’s rent as well as funding a trip to Jordan to visit his relatives. The informant also paid him to procure some secondhand laptops to smuggle into Iraq from Jordan. The victim received a 20 year sentence for his role in smuggling laptops to Al Qaeda and making the statement “I wish I could kill some American soldiers” in an on-line chat room.

 

Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century

(Election 2016 Edition)

Jonathon Simon

In Code Red, Simon lays out a powerful case that computerized voting machines have opened US elections to large scale fraud and election theft. The book offers an impressive compilation of studies demonstrating exactly how the vote hacking is carried out – both on Direct Recording (DRE) voting machines and optical scanners that count paper ballots. The book also highlights the immense danger of denying access to the public, and more importantly election officials, to voting memory cards, programming code and server logs to verify the validity of American elections. All of this information is declared off-limits by the handful of right-leaning corporations that supply voting equipment to local jurisdictions. On the spurious claim this is proprietary corporate information.

Simon also presents his own extensive research into marked discrepancies between vote counts and voter exit polls over the last 15 years – reminding us that the US State Department uses voter exit polls to verify the legitimacy of overseas elections.

As a Bernie Sanders supporter, I was most interested in the section on the 2016 Democratic primary. Here Simon not only examines discrepancies between the vote count and the original exit polls (before the corporate media massaged the data to bring it in line with the vote count), but serious discrepancies between states that choose candidates via caucus (where ballots must be counted by hand) with demographically similar states that choose candidates via primary elections.

In all but the first two states (Iowa and Nebraska), Sanders didn’t just beat Clinton – he won by a landslide. I confess to my absolute fury on seeing the table below and realizing how thoroughly we were ripped off by the Democratic National Committee and the corporate media.

In The Red Shift, Simon examines every presidential and congressional election since 2002, when computerized voting was first introduced. He finds evidence of a fraudulent “red shift” (ie a hacker-based shift towards the more pro-corporate candidate) in each of them, including the 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 elections where there were significant Democratic victories.

He also finds evidence of a “red shift” in most gubernatorial and state house elections from 2002 on, including the 2012 recall election of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker.

People can download a free excerpt from the 2016 Election Edition by registering at Simon’s website: http://codered2014.com/

State Sanders Clinton
Colorado 59.0% 40.3%
Minnesota 61.6% 38.4%
Kansas 67.7% 32.3%
Nebraska 75.1% 42.9%
Maine 64.3% 35.5%
Idaho 78.0% 21.2%
Utah 79.3% 20.3%
Alaska 86.1% 18.4%
Hawaii 69.8% 30.0%
Washington 72.7% 27.1%
Wyoming 55.7% 44.3%
North Dakota 64.2% 25.6%
Average 68.0% 31.4%

Field of Vision – Relatively Free

Alex Winter (2016)

Field of Vision is the first media interview journalist Barrett Brown gave (in November 2016) after spending four years in federal prison. He was originally arrested for publishing (on his website) publicly available material that had been hacked from private intelligence/security contractor Stratfor. When these charges were eventually dropped, he pled guilty to making threats against an FBI office, obstruction of justice and being an accessory to cyber threats.

While in federal prison, he spent six months in solitary confinement.

***

The link below is a Democracy Now clip from a May 2017 interview from Brown’s halfway house. It delves more deeply into ongoing federal harassment again him, owing to his role in publicizing illegal collusion between the FBI, Stratfor and other private security contractors. Among others, Brown published emails in about private corporations who received Department of Justice assistance in discrediting activists who tried to expose their various criminal activities.

One particular email revealed a request by Bank of America to discredit Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald, based on fears they were about to publish leaked documents about their illegal BoA activities.

During the interview, Brown reveals the FBI re-arrested him in April to prevent him from appearing in a PBS documentary. The FBI claims (erroneously) that he’s prohibited from speaking to the media as a condition of his probation. He was only released after a first amendment lawyer threatened to sue the Department of Justice for violating federal law.

Brown is thinking strongly of immigrating after he completes his probation.

Democracy Now: Jailed Reporter Barrett Brown

from KASM (Kiwis Against Sand Mining) website

Last Wednesday was a busy day for me with oral submissions to New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) on sand mining and to the Health Select Committee on water fluoridation. The EPA is considering a renewed application by mining company Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) to dig up 50 million tonnes of seabed yearly in a 66 sq. km section of the South Taranaki Bight – for 35 years. The EPA refused the company a consent in 2014. TTR has now re-applied.
 

MY SUBMISSION

I am speaking to oppose this consent because I believe that coastal residents who will be negatively impacted by this project should have the final say whether it goes ahead or not. The likely environmental impacts – based on numerous studies in other regions on the effect of dredging and deep sea mining will cause wide ranging damage to deep sea plants and animals (ranging from microscopic to large marine mammals).

Killing the microscopic animals in the food chain has been shown to significantly reduce fish stocks and bird an mammal populations. In prior studies, the recovery period after sand mining was as long as 3-10 years. And none of these prior projects were anywhere near as extensive as TTR is proposing.

Computer Modeling Isn’t Proof

We also don’t see how some computer modelling done tens of thousands of miles away in London that somehow “proves” TTR’s proposal will cause no environmental damage. Surely if TTR were serious about investigating potential environmental harm, they would making more of an effort to study the marine life that already lives in the area they propose to mine instead of sending sediment samples to London for computer modelling. How can they possible predict the likely response of deep sea organisms when they haven’t made an effort to identify and count what’s already there?

With some of our marine mammals – including the Maui dolphin, the blue whale and the blue penguin – already seriously threatened, this major disruption in their food supply has the potential to wipe them out altogether.

Potential Major Harm to Fishing and Tourism

Taranaki’s fishing industry is already in deep trouble with declining fish stocks and the major environmental impact of sand mining also pose a major threat to tourism, which is now Tarankai’s primary industry. People come to Taranaki for surfing and recreational fishing, which are also threatened by sand mining, and for the pristine environment of our coast and beaches.

The people of Taranaki are fed up with being a sacrifice zone for the oil and gas industry, which in my view explains why the vast majority of submissions oppose this proposal. We’re fed up with having our livelihoods, health and quality of life sacrificed to increase the profits of offshore corporations.

Getting Stuck with the Final Clean-Up Bill

There are also major concerns over who will fix the environmental damage when this project finishes – or fails. With the drop in the price of oil, we see numerous oil companies pulling out of Taranaki – leaving us to clean up the environmental risk. With the current glut in the global price of steel – due to major stockpiles in China – we see ourselves in a similar situation in 35 years time when the mining for iron sands either ends or fails.

Lack of Transparency

We also have a problem with TTR’s overall lack of transparency around this application. It appears the real value of this permit is the fact that it’s locked in for a guaranteed period of time – irrespective of future governments who impose stricter environmental regulation. It’s our firm belief that TTR has no intention of exercising the permit themselves. That their main agenda is to obtain the permit and then to sell it on to the highest bidder – not for the iron sands themselves which can’t be sold profitably in the current market – but for the rare earth minerals (which they mention in their application) which have the potential to be far more lucrative.

Like many other locals, I have major problems with any process that allows multinational corporations, to have precedence over democratic efforts of local people to protect themselves against projects such as this one that allow overseas companies to reap all the profit while forcing local residents to bear all the costs.

 

 

 

 

My Oral Submission to the Health Select Committee on the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill. If passed, this bill would introduce mandatory water fluoridation throughout New Zealand. At present, decisions are on the local level and only 27 out of 67 local councils fluoridate their water. With the current ban in most of western Europe against water fluoridation, the current trend is for local authorities to remove fluoride from their water.

Only 11 countries in the world have more than 50% of their population drinking fluoridated water: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Guyana, Hong Kong, the Irish Republic, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States and New Zealand

SUBMISSION

I speak in opposition to this bill.

I am a retired Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. I have 33 years clinical experience post-training – eight of them for the New Zealand Health Service. I have a subspecialty in child development.

Before moving to New Zealand in 2002, I was also on the clinical faculty at the University of Washington Medical School for over 15 years. As part of this role, I was expected to keep abreast of the medical literature and to demonstrate an ability to apprise scientific studies for their reliability and validity. This was not only in the field of psychiatry, but in the field of genetics, metabolism, neurobiolgy and endocrinology – owing to their major impact on psychological functioning.

The Scandal in US Public Health Research

Based on this background, I wish to alert the select committee to the current scandal in the US in the area of public health research. The scandal largely relates to flawed nutrition research resulting in decades of recommendations by the public health community for people to eat low fat, low salt, high carbohydrate diets. The tragic effect of these recommendations – without a shred of valid or reliable research evidence – is a global epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.

Much of the research supporting water fluoridation is of a similar vein. The studies typically have a very small effect size, lack vital design features that eliminate observer bias and confuse statistical association with causality. There isn’t a single double blind randomly controlled trial showing that water fluoridation is either safe or effective in preventing tooth decay. Likewise there are no observational studies – where populations are followed over 20-30 years to ascertain the long term effect of drinking fluoridated water.

Fluoride is a Neurodevelopmental Toxin Like Lead and Mercury

In contrast, there are extensive studies suggesting that fluoride – even in the low doses used in water fluoridation is a neurodevelopmental toxin – ie that it has toxic effects on the fetus and in young children as their brains are developing. A 2014 peer-reviewed article about the pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity in The Lancet, one of the world’s preeminent medical journals specifically lists fluoride as as one of 12 common neurodevelopmental toxins – along with lead, mercury and PCBs. Fluoride has been identified as a potential neurotoxin largely on the basis of over 100 human studies and even more animal studies indicating that it causes cognitive damage and a range of long term behavioral and psychological problems through continuous exposure during pregnancy and early childhood.

One of the points emphasized in The Lancet is that substances that cause neurodevelopmental toxicity do so at very low doses – doses that are much, much smaller than the doses that cause acute poisoning. For many years the public health community reassured us that a low dose of lead and mercury poisoning caused no harm to human health – a position that has been reversed (after causing significant permanent disability for hundreds of thousands of children) after decades of careful research.

Now public health advocates are trying to convince us that low doses of fluoride are perfectly safe and based on past history I think the public has good reason to be skeptical.

No Research Evidence on Maximum Safe Dose

The problem with this approach – and the main argument that has caused all western European countries except Britain and Ireland to ban water fluoridation – is that there has been absolutely no research to determine what the maximum safe fluoride dose is, especially in vulnerable populations, such as those with kidney failure or infants whose ONLY food intake is formula prepared with fluoridated water.

All existing research focuses on the concentration of fluoride in drinking water, with recommendations ranging between 0.7 to 1.0 parts per million. The problem with focusing on concentration is the daily dose individuals receives varies greatly depending on how much tap water they drink, whether they concentrate it via cooking and other sources of fluoride in the diet. Tea is a major source of fluoride and Kiwis are great tea drinkers – which means they consume substantial additional fluoride in this way.

The prevailing sentiment in Europe is that when governments claim low doses of fluoride are safe, they have an absolute obligation to produce research evidence demonstrating the dosage at which daily exposure becomes unsafe before they force an entire population to consume it daily in their tap water.

This is also the main argument that persuaded New Plymouth District Council to remove the fluoride from our water in 2011 – like hundreds of local authorities in other English speaking countries that still fluoridate water. The New Zealand government most definitely has the same obligation to the New Zealand people.

photo credit: tankgirlrs Florine[F]9 via photopin (license)

The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1990 movie based on feminist Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel. Sales of The Handmaid’s Tale have recently skyrocketed, largely owing to the extreme Christian fundamentalists in Trump’s new cabinet, his advocacy for military and police expansion and torture and his attacks on women’s rights.

The plot focuses around a military theocracy during a future period in which most have become infertile through toxic chemical exposure. All women are stripped of their rights and all fertile women are enslaved and forced to produce babies for infertile elite couples of the ruling elite.

In addition to the presence of heavily armed military on every street corner, social control is maintained through a perverted fundamentalist Christian doctrine that sanctions slavery and ceremonial rape. Although the lower classes are forced into strict religious conformity, the elite rulers willfully ignore it as they pursue a life of clandestine debauchery.

Last year the film was remade into a 10-part TV series that premiers in April.

Hulu Handmaids Tale Teaser Trailer