Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Barrage O'Bomber

Barrage O'Bomber
by Steve Brodner

Investigative reporter Jane Mayer of The New Yorker magazine reveals the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan has risen dramatically since President Obama took office. During his first nine-and-a-half months in office, Obama authorized as many CIA aerial attacks in Pakistan as President Bush did in his final three years in office. At any time, the CIA now has multiple drones flying over Pakistan, scouting for targets. Mayer writes, "there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official US policy." David Kilcullen, a former adviser to General Petreaus, says that the propaganda costs of drone attacks on civilians have been disastrously high. He recently wrote, "Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased."

Economy fueled recruiting gains in FY09


The active and reserve military branches all met or exceeded both their numeric and quality recruiting goals during fiscal 2009 for the first time in the 36-year history of the all-volunteer force, the Pentagon's top military personnel policy official said Tuesday.

In addition, retention was deemed "successful" in all the services, the Pentagon said in a press release. No retention figures were provided.

A weak economy and increased spending on recruiting were the primary reasons for the recruiting successes, said Bill Carr, under secretary of defense for military personnel policy, who met with Pentagon reporters along with each service's top recruiting officials.

"The investment per accession we were able to deliver this year — because we hadn't built in the unemployment [rate], as it turned out ... left us with more dollars per recruit than proved to be minimally necessary, given the level of unemployment," Carr said.


$400 per gallon fuel in Afghanistan

by Gregory Patin

Cash crop in Afghanistan. Source: http://whatreallyhappened.com/category/afghanistan
According to a Pentagon report submitted to the House Appropriations  Defense Subcommittee, a gallon of fuel costs taxpayers about $400 by the time it arrives in the remote locations in Afghanistan where U.S. troops operate.
That statistic is one of the reasons cited by the Pentagon to explain why the deployment of each individual soldier in Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $1 million per year. That means a surge of 45,000 troops would cost U.S. taxpayers an additional $45 billion per year.
In an interview with The Hill, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense panel said, "It is a number that we were not aware of and it is worrisome. When I heard that figure from the Defense Department, we started looking into it."
That statistic is likely to factor into the debate regarding the deployment of an additional 45,000 troops to Afghanistan.
A large part of the reason for that is logistics. Afghanistan is a landlocked country. Supplies such as fuel have to be shipped to Karachi, Pakistan before they are flown or trucked into Afghanistan. Due to a large insurgent presence along land routes in Afghanistan, the only way for fuel to safely reach U.S. troops in remote bases is for it to be contained in fuel bladders and flown in with helicopters. The helicopters that fly it in consume nearly as much fuel as they can carry on the round trip.

Crazy! African Elephants Extinct by 2025 at Present Poaching Rates


by Matthew McDermott

african elephant photo
photo: Arno & Louise via flickr.

If you hadn't thought much about the illegal ivory trade, sit up an pay attention. According to figures from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, cited by The Telegraph, all 600,000 African elephants will be extinct within in a bit over 15 years at current rates of poaching. Though there's been an international ban in place on ivory sales for the past two decades some 38,000 elephants are stilled killed every year (104 every day!):

Because of this IFAW is calling on the EU and all CITES members to once again take strong action to curtail the ivory trade. The director of IFAW UK told The Telegraph,

Most people will be shocked to hear that...elephants in Africa are still threatened by commercial poaching. The ivory trade must be banned once again, and comprehensively, if we want to prevent the extinction of elephants.

In total, the illegal trade in animals throughout the world is valued at $20.5 billion annually.


CIA branch invests in tech firm that monitors blogs, Twitter, social media.

Huh, turns out the tinfoil-beanie crowd was right all along: the CIA *does* want to read your blog posts, follow your Twitter updates, and muck around in your Amazon book review history. Snip from Wired Danger Room exclusive:
cia_floor_seal.jpg In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It's part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using "open source intelligence" -- information that's publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn't touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what's being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.

"That's kind of the basic step -- get in and monitor," says company senior vice president Blake Cahill.

Exclusive: U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets (Wired Danger Room, thanks Noah)

He wrote the greatest TV themes of all time


Vic Mizzy has died at home in Bel Air at 93. Amid the glut of celebrity and pop culture deaths in 2009, we've of late been relegating notable passings to our Death of The Day section at the right of the page, but Vic Mizzy deserves special mention.

He wrote the theme songs to Green Acres and The Addams Family.

The LA Times:

"Then came an offbeat assignment: 'The Addams Family,' the 1964-66 TV series based on Charles Addams' macabre magazine cartoons and starring John Astin as Gomez Addams and Carolyn Jones as his wife, Morticia. For his theme song, Mizzy played a harpsichord, which gives the theme its unique flavor. And because the production company, Filmways, refused to pay for singers, Mizzy sang it himself and overdubbed it three times. The song, memorably punctuated by finger-snapping, begins with: 'They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky: the Addams family.'

"In the 1996 book 'TV's Biggest Hits: The Story of Television Themes From Dragnet to Friends,' author Jon Burlingame writes that Mizzy's 'musical conception was so specific that he became deeply involved with the filming of the main-title sequence, which involved all seven actors snapping their fingers in carefully timed rhythm to Mizzy's music.'

"For Mizzy, who owned the publishing rights to The Addams Family theme, it was an easy payday.

"'I sat down; I went "buh-buh-buh-bump [snap-snap], buh-buh-buh-bump," he recalled in a 2008 interview on CBS' Sunday Morning show. 'That's why I'm living in Bel-Air: Two finger snaps and you live in Bel-Air.'

Economy Driving Many Job-seekers into Adult Entertainment


NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Despite a recent spate of mainstream articles noting the declining fortunes of the adult entertainment industry, the number of people seeking employment sanctuary in the business continues to rise, perhaps a sign that the porn biz is a facilitator of career dreams as well as sexual fantasies.

But while the odds of succeeding in porn are as steep as in any business, the barrier to entry is admittedly often much lower, and the allure of easy money selling sex in one form or another continues to be a powerful draw. What is different is the fact that people who would not have considered such a move now are.

An article in The Tennessean Monday illustrates the trend. In Nashville alone, the paper reports, the number of people who "applied for or renewed a permit necessary to work in an adult entertainment club or adult bookstore in Nashville reached 330 in September, compared to about 300 this time last year. While that number may not sound like a big increase, it comes as some clubs have shut down and the ones that remain are actually seeing fewer customers.

"Across the country," the article continues, "there is anecdotal evidence that the number of people entering sex industry work—legal and illegal—is on the rise as joblessness continues, said Bernadette Barton, an associate professor of sociology and women's studies at Morehead State University in Kentucky who specializes in the study of sexuality."

The Tennessean also visited local strip clubs for the article, in the process finding a former real estate agent, a former dog groomer and Iraq war veterans—all of whom said they were driven into the business because of the economy.

"For people willing to look," Barton added, "it tells you something about the cost of living, what kind of jobs and what kind of pay may be readily available to women."


Internet pornography statistics

Pornography Time Statistics
  Every second - $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography
  Every second - 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography
  Every second - 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines
  Every 39 minutes: a new pornographic video is being created in the United States

2006 Worldwide Pornography Revenues

  Country Revenue
Per Capita Notes
China $27.40 $27.41 1
South Korea $25.73 $526.76  
Japan $19.98 $156.75  
US $13.33 $44.67  
Australia $2.00 $98.70  
UK $1.97 $31.84  
Italy $1.40 $24.08  
Canada $1.00 $30.21  
Philippines $1.00 $11.18  
Taiwan $1.00 $43.41 1
Germany $.64 $7.77 1
Finland $.60 $114.70 1
Czech Republic $.46 $44.94 1
Russia $.25 $1.76 1
Netherlands $.20 $12.13  
Brazil $.10 $53.17 1
Other 212 Unavailable   2
  $97.06 Billion    
Notes 1=Incomplete, 2=Unavailable data

Click here to read Pornography Statistics, News and Facts Around the World

The pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink

First underwater cabinet meeting

High-Fructose Corn Syrup Produces Toxic Chemical "HMF" When Heated

by Mike Adams

If you know anything about the food supply, you know that honey bees are a crucial part of the food production chain. In the United States, they pollinate roughly one-third of all the crops we eat, and without them, we'd be facing a disastrous collapse in viable food production.

featured stories   High Fructose Corn Syrup Produces Toxic Chemical HMF When Heated
featured stories   High Fructose Corn Syrup Produces Toxic Chemical HMF When Heated featured stories   High Fructose Corn Syrup Produces Toxic Chemical HMF When Heated
If it kills honey bees, could it damage the brains of children?

That's why, when honey bees started to disappear a few years ago, scientists scrambled to find the root cause of the phenomenon, which has since been dubbed "Colony Collapse Disorder."

The name is a bit of a misnomer, though. It's not really a "disorder." It's more of a poisoning. Or at least that's what we may be learning from new research that's just been published in the ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac…).

It's been difficult, of course, trying to determine the cause of colony collapse disorder. Some of the suggested theories for explaining the phenomenon included chemical contamination from pesticides, genetic contamination from genetically modified crops, changes in the Earth's magnetic field, climate change and air pollution. In an attempt to nail down some scientific answers, researchers from the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Tucson, Arizona joined with other researchers in New Orleans and the University of Wisconsin to check out another possible culprit: High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

HFCS, as you may already know, is a processed, liquid sweetener used in disturbingly large amounts throughout the global food supply. You can find it in not just sodas, but pizza sauce, salad dressings and even whole wheat bread. It's in breakfast cereals, food bars, peanut butter, ketchup and a thousand other products.

There are two reasons why you find HFCS in so many food products: 1) It's sweet. 2) It's cheap.

It is for these same two reasons that high-fructose corn syrup is fed to honey bees. It provides them the sugar calories to stay active without resulting in a huge cost for the beekeeper. That's why HFCS has been used for decades as a food source for honey bees.

But this very food source may, in fact, be poisoning the bees.

HFCS forms hydroxymethylfurfural

What these USDA researchers discovered is that when HFCS is heated, it forms hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a chemical that can kill honey bees. The production of HMF during cooking rose in parallel to the temperatures to which HFCS was exposed.

To put it plainly, when you cook HFCS, it becomes contaminated with HMF. And according to the research, levels of HMF "jumped dramatically" when temperatures rose above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (which isn't very hot, by the way).

This is similar to the way in which browning or frying carbohydrates produces acrylamides, a cancer-causing chemical that's also ubiquitous in the food supply. (http://www.naturalnews.com/acrylami…)

The upshot is that HMF could be part of the reason why honey bees are dying off. Feeding a chemical contaminant to your bees, after all, doesn't sound like a good way to support their long-term health. But if HFCS has been fed to honey bees for decades, why the sudden collapse of bee populations in just the last few years?

We don't know the answers to that yet, but HMF is likely only part of the picture. It could be that honey bees are already stressed from pesticides, GM crops and other environmental sources. With their chemical burdens already maxed out, one additional dietary stressor might have just pushed them over the edge. There's a limit, of course, to how much chemical stress any biological organism can tolerate, and honey bees appear to have been pushed one chemical too far.

Perhaps hydroxymethylfurfural will one day be known as "the chemical that killed the honey bees."

You can read a bit more about this chemical on Wikipedia: ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrox…).

Could HMF harm humans, too?

Beyond the issue of honey bees, this research on HFCS and HMF raises some potentially serious questions about the use of the ingredient in the human food supply:

Is HMF toxic to humans?

If it kills honey bees, could it damage the brains of children? Could it disrupt normal neurological function in the human body? And if so, might this help explain why so much research links HFCS to diabetes and obesity?

The researchers from this particular study stated that "…the data from this study are important for human health as well." They also went on to state two very important facts you need to be aware of:

Fact #1) HMF has been linked to DNA damage in humans. (See citation below.)

Fact #2) When HMF breaks down in the human body, it breaks down into substances that may be even more harmful than the HMF itself. (Similar to the way in which aspartame breaks down into formaldehyde, formic acid and other potentially harmful chemicals.)

These are bombshell revelations about the potential dangers of high-fructose corn syrup. There's no such thing as "raw" or "cold-pressed" HFCS. It's all subjected to high temperatures during processing, meaning that all HFCS may be generating some level of the HMF contaminant before it's even put into foods.

And then, once it's added to manufactured food items, it's often cooked again! This second cooking could theoretically generate even more HMF, further contaminating the food with potentially dangerous chemicals.

Perhaps when you eat HFCS, you're consuming a chemical that "scrambles" health intracellular communication, causing physiological disruptions that, if allowed to continue for long enough, are expressed as diseases like "diabetes" or "obesity." We don't know this for sure, but it's a question that clearly needs to be asked… especially given the tremendous quantities of HFCS currently consumed in the diets of mainstream consumers.



The Dow is at 10,000, the Federal deficit is breaking records, unemployment is skyrocketing and money is cheap ~ so let's inflate the same debt bubble, continue Wall Street's derivative Ponzi scheme and let Main Street take the risk while Wall Street takes the profit: Allen L Roland

As Henry Kissinger once said ~ " It's not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true " and, believe me, the recent rally of the Dow Jones to 10,000 is a manipulated Wall Street Ponzi scheme to draw Main Street into the market to reinflate the same credit bubble that just burst ~ while bailing out the financial elite, who are mainly sellers, in the process.
When Robert Reich says " Watch Your Wallet even with the Dow at 10,000 " ~ you had better listen because the real truth of our present financial disaster is just beginning to emerge from the darkness.
Reich goes on to explain why the Dow Jones broke 10,000 while the rest of the economy is barely breathing ~ " Corporate earnings are up ~ mainly because companies have been cutting costs. Payrolls comprise 70 percent of most companies' costs, which means companies have been slashing jobs …… Unsophisticated Investors of all stripes want to get in early and ride the wave. Pension funds, mutual funds, and other institutional investors figure the bull market has more oomph in it because, well, other investors will jump in. Think Ponzi scheme. Nice for now, but watch out if you're one of the last in….In other words, this is all temporary fluff, folks…. Anyone who hasn't learned by now that there's almost no relationship between the Dow and the real economy deserves to lose his or her shirt in the Wall Street casino."
Of course, at the center of all of these financial shenanigans is Goldman Sachs whose surging profits will probably enable it to dispense $23 billion in bonuses this year. Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, rightfully described Goldman as a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming  its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."
And the Obama Administration is top heavy with Goldman people who are not about to kill the Goldman goose that is laying golden eggs. Witness last week, where the S.E.C hired a former Goldman executive, Adam Storch, as the chief operating officer of its enforcement unit.
Far more ominous is the 600 trillion dollar derivative market in the shadows which has purposely been kept from public scrutiny by both the Clinton and Bush administrations but is now about to makes its belated appearance during the Obama administration ~ thanks to PBS's FRONTLINE / THE WARNING.
The must see story that veteran producer / director Michael Kirk (Inside the Meltdown, Breaking the Bank) reports in this Tuesday night's FRONTLINE is both riveting, illuminating and the perfect follow through for Michael Moore's Capitalism / A Love Story ~ for Michael never really gets his questions answered about Derivatives.
Sifting the ashes of the financial meltdown, Kirk finds a lawyer named Brooksley Born, who, from her perch at the little-known Commodities Futures Trading Commission, tried to convince the country's key economic power players to do something which may have helped avert the financial crisis: regulate the increasingly high-risk financial instruments called "derivatives."
"They were totally opposed to it," Born says of the fierce resistance to regulation she met from Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and the other members of President Clinton's "working group" ~ a highly influential and secretive body that determined the country's economic policy. In her first television interview, Born tells FRONTLINE that she was "puzzled" by the opposition she faced in Washington. "What was it that was in this market that had to be hidden?"
Excerpt: The Warning / On air and online October 20, 2009 at 9:00pm

Harry Reid will find a way to lose!

Dead Peasants

by Andrew Tobias
I finally saw Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story," and you should too.  There is much in it that's simplistic or manipulative, but it is at the very least three things: rivetingly interesting, moving, and thought-provoking.*  And as you watch you can do the same two things I did: try to find the flaws in his argument; try to figure out how things should be (unless you think they're perfect now).
*Note to Michael Moore: please don't quote the last part of that sentence without also including the first part.
An example of a flaw, it seems to me, is the section on Dead Peasants Insurance.  The section is introduced with a tearful family in financial crisis because the husband has died young.  They have discovered that his employer had taken out a policy on his life naming itself as the beneficiary.  So the guy dies, the company gets a fat check, shares none of it with the family, and you are meant to feel outrage. 
Indeed, a great many big-name companies have done the same thing, taking out policies on tens of thousands of their employees.  The younger and faster the employees die, the more money the companies make.  A memo is shown expressing concern that death rates are below projection.
This is offered as an example of how greedy and heartless capitalism is. 
Yet it's actually an example of how nutty our tax system is and of how many of our brightest minds are wasted finding ways to outwit it.  If you insure tens of thousands of employees, the insurance company can take a little bit for its trouble and still, after the tax advantages, you, the employer, can expect to come out ahead.
Which is an example of our system at its least productive – absolutely no productive benefit comes from this – but that's not the point the movie makes.  The movie makes it seem as though the companies hope you'll die young.  That they've done all this not as a reprehensible tax dodge, but as a way to make money from your death.  Yet that's nonsense.  Insurers are not in business to lose money.  So unless employers are actually finding ways to speed the death of its employees (committing murder in order to defraud the insurance companies) – which Michael Moore nowhere alleges – this is just a tax avoidance ploy.
Dead Peasants Insurance has nothing to do with the point Moore uses it to make.

So that's a flaw.
And it's not the only section of the movie you will find simplistic or misleading or manipulative.
Then again, you can't possibly watch "Capitalism" without empathy for its victims.  The suffering across the land is real, and brutal, and takes on an extra dimension when you see some of it, not just read about it.
You can't possibly watch "Capitalism" without being concerned for the viability of our system.  How do we get out of the hole that years of over-borrowing, over-consumption, over-extension (e.g., Iraq) and under-taxation have dug us into?
Michael Moore is talking revolution.  He shows 1944 footage of FDR calling for a second bill of rights – the right to a job at a living wage, to health care, and more – and saying that we need to set to work attaining these rights as soon as we win the war.  Well, we won the war and, as Moore points out, Japan, Germany, and Italy, all now enjoy the rights FDR was talking about (we sent folks over to write their constitutions) but we don't.  He thinks we should.
How much longer will people feel the financial vise tighten before they greet the news of $140 billion in Wall Street pay and bonuses with real anger?
The left wants to channel anger at the corporations and the banks.  The right wants to channel anger at illegal aliens, welfare moms, unions, elitists, and "government."  Both sets of targets are wrong.  (Not to say any of those targets are perfect actors.)   But the anger is real and the problems are real and this movie will surely get you thinking about both.

Pranksters stage Chamber of Commerce climate change event

By David A. Fahrenthold

Will the real U.S. Chamber of Commerce please stand up?

Environmental activists held a hoax press conference Monday morning, pretending to be the business group -- and pretending to announce that the chamber was dropping its opposition to climate-change legislation now in Congress.

The event, complete with fake handouts on chamber letterhead, at least a couple of fake reporters, and a podium adorned with the chamber logo, broke up when a spokesman from the real chamber burst in.

What followed was a spectacle not usually seen in the John Peter Zenger Room at the National Press Club: two men in business suits shouting at one another, each calling the other an impostor and demanding to see business cards.

"This guy is a fake! He's lying! This is a stunt that I've never seen before," said Eric Wohlschlegel, an official at the actual Chamber of Commerce, who said he'd heard about the hoax event from a reporter who'd mistakenly shown up at the chamber's headquarters.

The fake Chamber of Commerce official, who called himself "Hingo Sembra," did not give his real name to reporters, saying only that he represented a coalition of climate activists.

He appeared, by comparing photos on the Internet, to be a member of the activist-prankster group called The Yes Men. They have staged several hoaxes to draw attention to what they believe is slow progress in fighting climate change. The group's last big stunt was to print fake copies of the New York Post last month during a U.N. climate conference, bearing the headline "We're Screwed." Asked if he was one of The Yes Men, he merely said, "Who?"

Before the real chamber official burst in, he told reporters that the chamber had decided to give up its aggressive opposition to climate legislation -- which has included a not-a-hoax call for a new "Scopes Monkey Trial" to prove the science of climate change.

He said the chamber would prefer a carbon tax, but would support Senate legislation drafted by  Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and  John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) as a starting point. He said he was responding to the concerns of member companies who have quit the chamber over its previous stance.

"This isn't the cause, of course, of our change of heart. It is simply the cue," he said. When a reporter asked what he would say to chamber members who continued to oppose climate legislation, he replied, "There will always be people behind the times."

A few minutes later, Wohlschlegel -- from the real chamber of commerce -- burst in, and it was all over but the shouting. Afterward, he said the chamber's position had actually not changed: they have called for "strong" legislation on climate change, but they do not support the bill passed by the U.S. House this summer.

"It is a very sad day," Wohlschlegel said.


New gig