Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Russia’s main consumer watchdog organization, Rospotrebnadzor, yesterday suspended the import of all American grown, Monsanto GMO corn, following the publication of a French study in the Food & Chemical Toxicology Journal which found that even minimal exposure to genetically modified corn caused severe liver and kidney damage, as well as mammary tumors (breast cancer) in lab rats.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also ordered an evaluation of the peer-reviewed study, and has promised to petition the European Union to block the import of all GMO corn should the findings be substantiated.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Caen, took a full two years to complete, and investigated the effect of genetically modified food on the rats over the span of the entire lives. Previous studies have evaluated the safety of GMO crops based upon only a small portion of the lives of the test subjects.

Monsanto, for its part, has disparaged the study, calling it “insufficient” and scientifically unsound, and producing a whole array of associated, pro-GM scientists who call into question the study’s findings. The agro giant has been forced to engage in international damage control since the publication of the study one week ago.

Among the accusations of bias aimed to discredit the study’s conclusions is that the particular breed of rat used in the study is naturally more prone to mammary tumors than other breeds, and that this was not taken into consideration by the researchers when they compiled their conclusions.

But now Dr. Michael Antoniou, a specialist in molecular genetics and leading member of Criigen (Committee of Research & Independent Information on Genetic Engineering) has come out in defense of the study’s scientific credibility, stating that

“The key is that there were both quantitative and qualitative differences in the tumours arising in control and test groups. In the former they appeared much later and at most there was one tumour per animal, if at all…Many animals in the test groups had to be euthanised for welfare legal reasons due to the massive size of the tumours; none of the control animals had to be euthanised but died in their own time. One should not ignore these biological facts…[T]here are big differences between the tumour frequencies in the control and the experimental groups. Claims that the results are just the result of random variation in a rat line that has a high frequency of tumours is not valid.”

Dr. Antoniou further lauded the study for its breadth and scope, saying that it was unique among other studies of its kind for evaluating the potential risks associated with GMO corn over the life spans of the rats, rather than for just a limited period of time:

 “This study used more rats in test groups, for a far longer duration than any previous investigation employed by industry to obtain approval for this and other GM crop products.”

Meanwhile, Jose Bove, ranking member of the European Parliament’s commission for agriculture, has called for an immediate halt to all cultivation and importation of GM crops throughout the European Union, stating that “it is urgent to quickly review all GMO evaluation processes.” He encouraged the European Parliament to act on the study’s findings, saying:

“National and European food security agencies must carry out new studies financed by public funding to guarantee healthy food for European consumers.”

GM crops have already been outlawed in the UK, Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia. And now Russia has joined the list. Whereas, in the United States, repeated efforts to require that GM foods simply be labeled as such have met with failure.

But then, perhaps it’s no wonder, as President Barack Obama only recently appointed a former vice president of Monsanto to a senior advisory position at our own Food and Drug Administration.

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Brandon Raub, the 26-year-old Marine and Iraq war veteran who is currently being indefinitely detained because of inflammatory posts made on his Facebook page, faces yet another hurdle following a psychiatric “evaluation” on Monday.

Raub is being held against his will and without charges at John Randolph Psychiatric Hospital in Hopewell, Virginia, following an arrest (though some have challenged the technical accuracy of this word) by numerous FBI agents and the Chesterfield County Police Department on the 16th of August.

He was lead away in handcuffs without being read his rights, and it was only following his detainment that his mother received a call from FBI Agent Sherry Grainger, who informed her of the following:

“We have taken your son. He has been arrested by the Chesterfield County Police Dept because he assaulted an officer and resisted arrest. He has been arrested and taken to the Chesterfield Police Department.”

As was reported previously, the CCPD initially told  a different story, claiming that the arrest was spearheaded by the FBI, with Chesterfield officers only assisting the agents involved. Additionally, CCPD claims that Raub has not been charged with either resisting arrest or assaulting an officer, directly contradicting the claims of Agent Grainger.

Some have observed that one of the more disturbing aspects of this case is that neither the FBI, nor the CCPD, nor the Secret Service which assisted with Raub’s initial interview after he was taken into custody, seem to want to take responsibility for his detention. The Richmond spokesperson for the FBI stated unequivically:

“When we left we had not arrested him, we had not placed our hands on him, we did not detain him and we did not charge him.”

Brian Leary, Secret Service representative, released the following statement:

“The Secret Service assisted the FBI with the interview. He was not arrested by the Secret Service. The Secret Service will continue to monitor the situation. We have no further comment at this time.”

And the CCPD also effectively washed their hands of the matter, writing that:

“Raub was evaluated by a Chesterfield mental health official, who determined that he should be held under a temporary [detention] order and transported to John Randolph Medical Center for additional evaluation.

Raub was not arrested and he faces no criminal charges in Chesterfield.”

On Monday, Raub was forced to undergo a psychological “evaluation” at the psychiatric hospital where he is currently being held. According to his mother, the evaluation “was 15 minutes long, and basically the evaluator said that he was not ready to go back into society and he needed additional psychiatric treatment.” The evaluation resulted in Raub being sentenced to a minimum of 30 days in the mental hospital, despite the fact that no charges have been brought against him.

According to Russia Today, the government is utilizing state legislation (Virginia State Code §37.2-808) which states that authorities may indefinitely detain a person without charges in a mental institution upon obtaining a recommendation from a medic.

The Rutherford Insitute, a civil rights watchdog group, has begun to assemble a defense on behalf of Raub. A statement posted on their website from the executive director of the Institute, John Whitehead, reads as follows:

“For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights [to freedom of speech], but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon.”

Rutherford Institute lawyers decried the government’s decision to hold Raub without charges for the next month, saying that “government officials again pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the sole reason for their concern and for his continued incarceration.”

Raub himself, during a telephone interview with the Times-Dispatch, had the following to say:

“I really love America, and I think that idea that you can be detained and sent somewhere without due process and a lawyer … is crazy.”

A former Marine and veteran of two wars, Brandon Raub was arrested late Thursday evening at his house in Virginia for inflammatory comments that he made on Facebook.

The arrest was made by numerous FBI agents in conjunction with the Chesterfield County Police Department. Raub was not read his rights, according to numerous witnesses, and was initially taken to an undisclosed location. It has since emerged that he is being held indefinitely and without charges at John Randolph Psychiatric Hospital in Hopewell, Virginia.

His mother, Kathleen Thomas, was reportedly contacted by FBI agent Sherry Grainger, who informed her of the following:

“We have taken your son. He has been arrested by the Chesterfield County Police Dept because he assaulted an officer and resisted arrest. He has been arrested and taken to the Chesterfield Police Department.”

However, upon contacting the CCPD, Thomas was told that her son was arrested by the FBI, and that “[the arrest] was an FBI matter and [CCPD officers] were just there to assist them.” Additionally, the CCPD states that Raub has not been charged with either resisting arrest or assaulting an officer.

Agent Grainger went on to tell Thomas that the comments which appeared on Raub’s Facebook page had been deemed “terrorist in nature.” Thomas then asked the agent whether or not free speech still exists in the United States of America, to which Grainger responded: “Yes, we still have freedom of speech.”

Brandon Raub had been outspokenly critical of the US government’s official story surrounding the events of 9/11, and was a vocal advocate of what some have referred to as “the Ron Paul Revolution.”

His Facebook comments included references to the coming of a new American revolution, a 9/11 cover-up, and the necessity of honest government. Some examples of his more recent posts follow:

Courage. Loyalty. And Honor. [August 16th]

The Revolution will come for me. Men will be at my door soon to pick me up to lead it. 😉 [August 14th]

Do you know why the American people will win the civil war that is coming? Because we are Americans. [August 12th]

Whether or not one agrees with the sentiments expressed by Brandon Raub, his defenders are quick to point out that what he has said on Facebook is not illegal, nor do his comments justify his indefinite detention without charges at a mental hospital.

His mother reports that Raub is due to see a judge on Monday, but as of now still has no idea why he’s been arrested or held against his will.

Civil rights activists are concerned that this arrest may be a sign of things to come under the government’s seemingly limitless power to detain American citizens without charges, as specified by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law on New Year’s Eve 2011 by President Obama.

The Obama administration has been engaged in a fierce courtroom battle over the legislation since a May 2012 injunction against the “indefinite detention” provision was issued in federal court.

The injunction was issued after a lawsuit was brought against the federal government on behalf of such notable plaintiffs as Noam Chomsky and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, which argued that the NDAA was unconstitutional.

Judge Katherine Forrest agreed, saying that indefinite detention “failed to pass Constitutional muster” and issued an injunction barring the administration from arresting and indefinitely detaining American citizens without charges or trial. Judge Forrest stated:

“In the face of what could be indeterminate military detention, due process requires more. An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an [anti-American] force without even being aware that he or she was doing so.”

The White House, however, is challenging the injunction and demanding that their power to indefinitely detain anyone they deem a “terrorist” be restored.

Worse, the Obama administration is refusing to disclose whether or not the government has abided by the federal injunction. Journalist Tangerine Bolen, a plaintiff in the suit filed against the NDAA, stated in an op-ed that:

“Obama’s attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA’s section 1021 – the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial – has not been applied by the US government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest’s injunction. In other words, they were telling a US federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama’s government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them.”

So despite a federal injunction prohibiting the Obama administration from acting upon the “indefinite detention” provision, could the arrest of Brandon Raub and others like him be the first sign of things to come in the new United States? And more importantly, what is our role now, as active and informed citizens of a democracy apparently under siege?

The Catholic church has had a tough week. And on Pentecost, too!

Rome was rocked by yet another in a series of scandals, as it emerged that Father Thomas Williams, the public face of the Legionaries of Christ, a religious order begun in 1941, fathered a child that the Church attempted to keep secret for at least the past 7 years.

The Legionaries suffered a similar humiliation back in 2009, when it was revealed that their founder, Father Marcial Maciel, had lead a double life throughout his association with the Church, and was not only a pedophile and drug addict, but started two families that he concealed from the Holy See.

Father Thomas Williams, an American based in Rome who has made numerous speeches and written several books on Christian morality, was allowed to continue his public ministry by the current leader of the order, Father Alvaro Corcuera, even after his illegitimate child was revealed.

Father Corcuera stated that he found out about Williams’s child “early in [his] new assignment” as leader of the order, in 2005. Although Corcuera had urged Williams to “start withdrawing from public ministry”, critics and activist groups charge that such a recommendation was not severe enough.

One such group, named the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), released a statement calling strongly on the Pope to fire Corcuera, saying:

“Virtually nothing will change if the Pope and other Church officials continue to let their colleagues and underlings act recklessly and deceitfully – year after year after year – and get by with saying, when they’re caught, ‘Oops, sorry, I goofed.'”

The Legionaries scandal comes on the heels of the arrest of Pope Benedict’s personal butler on charges of spying. The butler, Paolo Gabriele, is accused of contributing to an enormous dump of classified information, since dubbed “Vatileaks”, which revealed internal financial corruption and bickering about money.

Additionally, it was reported last week that the chief Vatican exorcist, appointed by Pope John Paul II, has implicated the Church in the unsolved murder of a 15-year-old girl, allegedly to cover up regular orgies participated in by high-level Church officials.

The Vatican has yet to officially respond to each allegation.

The Vatican’s chief exorcist, appointed by Pope John Paul II, claims that the unsolved murder of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, a case dating back to 1983, can be traced to underground sex parties organized for high-ranking members of the Catholic Church.

Father Gabriele Amorth alleges that at that time, regular orgies were organized by the a former archivist at the Holy See, monsignor Simeone Duca, as well as the Vatican gendarme (private security force) at the behest of Vatican officials. He states:

“Parties were organized, with a Vatican gendarme acting as the ‘recruiter’ of the girls. The network involved diplomatic personnel from a foreign embassy to the Holy See. I believe Emanuela ended up a victim of this circle.”

This is not the first time Father Amorth has ruffled sacerdotal feathers with his outspoken opinions. In 2010 he commented that the sexual scandals rocking Rome were proof that “the Devil was at work in the Vatican.”

The Orlandi case has stymied Italian police for nearly 30 years. Just last month, acting on an anonymous tip, they opened the coffin of notorious Italian gangster Enrico De Pedis, buried in Sant’Apollinare basilica near the center of Rome, in search of Emanuela’s remains. Bones found inside the tomb were tested and proven to belong to someone other than De Pedis, and DNA testing is currently underway to determine whether or not they’re Orlandi’s.

Father Amorth dismisses such notions, however. He remains convinced that after Emanuela was recruited to perform at a Vatican sex party, she subsequently fell victim to the criminal appetites of various Church officials:

“This was a crime with a sexual motive…I have motives to believe that this was just a case of sexual exploitation. It led to the murder and then the hiding of her body. Also involved are diplomatic staff from a foreign embassy to the Holy See.”

The Vatican has offered no comment on Father Amorth’s allegations, though they maintain that they have always complied with any official request regarding the Orlandi case.

 

 

A professional treasure hunter in California is actively seeking the remains of Osama Bin Laden, allegedly dumped from a U.S. Naval vessel after the raid that took the life of the terrorist leader last May.

Bill Warren, an adventurer and expert on shipwrecks, wants to recover the body of the infamous Bin Laden in order to subject it to DNA tests and prove or disprove the official government story of Osama’s death.

According to Gizmodo, Warren doesn’t buy the Obama administration’s narrative of the events of the night of May 1st, 2011, and hopes to come closer to truth by recovering the body (whomever it belonged to) that the Navy threw from a ship on that fateful night:

Warren—who claims he has discovered more than 200 shipwrecks during his career as a treasure-hunter—says that bin Laden’s body is still at that same location, deep under water. His thought is that, since the Navy weighted down the bag, the body hasn’t moved from where it was dropped. He is now trying to rent Russian deep diving equipment to locate his payload, and to conduct DNA tests once he finds him…Warren says he is doing this because he doesn’t “believe the Obama administration” and he wants to have proof that it is really his body.

Numerous individuals expressed disbelief and incredulity in the aftermath of the assassination of Al-Qaeda’s number one, just a little over a year ago today. Pakistanis are still reeling from the perceived violation of their national sovereignty, with many openly doubting the official version of events provided by the White House.

Tasvir Hussein, a resident of the Abbottabad neighborhood where Bin Laden was supposedly found, expressed his outrage:

“I’m not very sure whether Osama was here or not because the way his so-called dead body was dropped in the sea, what was the reason? Why did they have to do that? Why couldn’t they have produced evidence?”

Hussein´s views echo those of thousands of average Americans who doubt the veracity of the government’s story. Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group, was just denied a request that its members had submitted in District Court for the release of the photos of Osama Bin Laden’s body.

The presiding judge who denied the request issue the following statement with his ruling:

“A picture may be worth a thousand words. Yet, in this case, verbal descriptions of the death and burial of Osama Bin Laden will have to suffice, for this court will not order the release of anything more.”

President Obama agreed, saying in an interview on 60 Minutes that “we do not tout our trophies”.

Of course, it can be argued that this is not consistent with the government’s attitude following the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq or the brutal killing of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, with pictures of the latter appearing on the front page of multiple national newspapers.

Treasure hunter Warren, for his part, is determined to locate Bin Laden’s supposed body, his only fear being that Obama administration might attempt to kill him or sink his boat before he can accomplish his mission.

With Obama’s recent murder of American citizens, his signing of the NDAA, and the destruction of civil liberties under his administration increasing at a breakneck pace, Warren can hardly be blamed for being concerned.

Today, May 1st,  is known and celebrated everywhere around the world as International Workers’ Day.

Well, almost everywhere. In the United States, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially declared May 1st to be “Law Day” in 1958. This was on advice of his legal counsel, in order to avoid the populist and (eek!) socialist stigma of Workers’ Day.

Ironically, May 1st is commemorated as International Workers’ Day because of what happened in the streets of Chicago, Illinois, in 1886.

Prior to unionization and pressure from worker’s associations, most employees in the United States were forced to work upward of 12-14 hours per day following the industrial revolution. In 1810, Robert Owen, one of the early socialist thinkers, began advocating for the 8-hour workday as part of his utopian ideal, and introduced the rallying cry of “8 hours for work, 8 hours for recreation, 8 hours for rest.”

It caught on. On May 1st of 1867, the workers of Chicago implemented a general strike which brought the city’s economy to standstill for an entire week. In 1872, the building trades workers of NYC struck until they won the eight hour day. But despite national popular support, and a slew of toothless legislation aimed at pacifying the labor guilds, the 8 hour work day remained a dream for the majority of the population.

On May 1st of 1886, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution in Chicago stating that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organizations throughout this jurisdiction that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.”

Three days later, on the 4th of May, a large assembly of workers and tradesmen met in Haymarket Square in Chicago to peacefully protest for the legal codification of the 8 hour day. The police were called to drive the protesters out. An unknown individual hurled a bomb at the police as they sought to deprive the workers of their Constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful assembly. In response, the police opened fire indiscriminately on the crowd, resulting in the wounding of scores of protesters, along with the deaths of 4 civilians and 7 police officers (it’s not clear whether the police were killed in the bomb blast or were caught in the crossfire of the shooting that followed).

This became known as the Haymarket massacre. Numerous leaders of the labor movement were subsequently rounded up and arrested, and despite the court’s affirmation that not one of them had actually thrown the bomb, seven men were sentenced to death. Two sentences were commuted by the Governor, and one man committed suicide in prison. The remaining four were hanged November 11th, 1887.

The subsequent strikes around the country resulted, over the next 20 years, in an 8-hour workday for the majority of unionized trade workers. May 1st, 1886, is still looked upon as the date on which the movement truly found its feet, and the repercussions of the May 1st Chicago resolution gave the movement its first martyrs. International Workers’ Day commemorates their fight.

Sadly, the national implementation of the 8-hour workday for all citizens wouldn’t occur until the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 under FDR’s New Deal. This piece of legislation was also the first to mandate a Federal minimum wage to check the rampant growth of sweatshop labor in the industrial sector:

Before the minimum wage was introduced during the Great Depression of the 1930s, there was no national minimum wage, or indeed any legislation to protect workers from exploitation. Because of this lack of regulation tens of thousands of workers were routinely exploited in sweatshops and factories, forced to work in horrible conditions and for pennies a week. Early attempts by labor unions to create a mandatory minimum wage were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that they “restricted the worker’s right to set the price for his own labor”. This allowed employers to continue exploiting their workers through the Great Depression of the 1930s, when incredible demand for jobs caused wages to drop even further to an all-time low.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees were legally guaranteed a fair wage for an honest day’s work for the first time in the history of the United States.

The important lesson to take away from both of the above stories is that our rights, even the most seemingly basic of them, were not given to us freely from above. We had to take them. Whether it was through protests, strikes, legal battles or even street brawls, our grandparents and great grandparents had to forcefully wrest control of their own destinies from the hands of the bankers and the industrial monopolies of the time.

As America continues its backward slide into 1920s-style corporatism, with more and more of our rights and civil liberties being stripped away in order to appease the wealthy and the powerful, now more than ever we need to bear in mind the incredible power we command when we stand united against the tyranny of moneyed interests and political corruption.

Something to think about, this May Day.