Feb 092012
 

 

* A LITTLE SILICONE AND PETROL IN YOUR McNUGGETS?

McDonald’s makes US chicken McNuggets with oil-based chemical and Silly Putty agent.

By Rady Ananda, FoodFreedom

While the Food Safety police raid raw food co-ops and raw milk farms for selling foods that humans have enjoyed for tens of thousands of years, the US Food and Drug Administration allows giant corporations to sell food adulterated with health-damaging chemicals. McDonald’s chicken McNuggets made news again this summer after a CNN investigation found that England sells a healthier version than what the FDA allows.

In “All McDonald’s nuggets are not created equal,” CNN reports:

American McNuggets (190 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat for 4 pieces) contain the chemical preservative tBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product. They also contain dimethylpolysiloxane …. a form of silicone used in cosmetics and Silly Putty.

“By contrast, British McNuggets (170 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat for 4 pieces) lists neither chemical among its ingredients.”

FDA’s ill treatment of US consumers is not really surprising. The FDA also allowed BP to dump two million gallons of a British-banned toxic oil dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. Refusing to test for Corexit in the food supply, the FDA declared Gulf seafood safe to eat. Corexit is four times more toxic than oil according to the environmental group, Protect the Oceans. “Oil is toxic at 11 ppm (parts per million), Corexit 9500 at only 2.61 ppm.” […]

READ @ http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/a-little-silicone-and-petrol-in-your-mcnuggets/

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* FORMER MONSANTO LAWYER NOW FDA CZAR LEADS RAIDS ON AMISH ORGANIC PRODUCERS

By Joel McDurmon, AmericanVisionNews

You don’t need to have a degree in ethics to see the problem here. According a report by Examiner.com, “Monsanto’s Michael Taylor is the second highest-ranking official at the FDA, and as Food Safety Czar is responsible for implementing the day-to-day policies that govern the food safety laws for the U.S.”

Those “day-to-day” implementations seem to be targeted against the very type of people who pose threats to the anti-organic nature of Taylor’s former client. The report continues,

Not surprisingly, the person responsible for prioritizing armed raids on small dairies over holding agribusiness accountable is a former Monsanto attorney and chief super lobbyist. . . .

Taylor has been leading a departmental crusade against small raw milk dairy producers. So far several dairy farmers have been subject to a year-long undercover sting operation from the East Coast to California.

The hypocrisy and double-standard are open for all to see:

Incredibly, Michael Taylor and FDA inspectors have not arrested or fined the Iowa agribusinessman — Jack DeCoster — who was wholly responsible for the more than 500 million eggs that were recalled in 2010 salmonella-tainted egg recall Though this industrial agribusinessman endangered the health of millions.  Michael Taylor actions show that he thinks Amish farmers producing fresh milk are more deserving targets. Under his leadership the FDA  performs enforcement raids (with guns drawn) on the Amish. […]

READ @ http://americanvisionnews.com/1674/former-monsanto-lawyers-now-fda-czar-leads-raids-on-amish-organic-producers

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* WHY WALL STREET SHOULD STOP WHINING

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

Everybody on Wall Street is talking about the new piece by New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, entitled “The End of Wall Street as They Knew It.”

The article argues that Barack Obama killed everything that was joyful about the banking industry through his suffocating Dodd-Frank reform bill, which forced banks to strip themselves of “the pistons that powered their profits: leverage and proprietary trading.”

Having to say goodbye to excess borrowing and casino gambling, the argument goes, has cut into banking profits, leading to extreme decisions like Morgan Stanley’s recent dictum capping cash bonuses at $125,000. In response to that, Sherman quotes an unnamed banker:

“After tax, that’s like, what, $75,000?” an investment banker at a rival firm said as he contemplated Morgan Stanley’s decision. He ran the numbers, modeling the implications. “I’m not married and I take the subway and I watch what I spend very carefully. But my girlfriend likes to eat good food. It all adds up really quick. A taxi here, another taxi there. I just bought an apartment, so now I have a big old mortgage bill.”

Quelle horreur! And who’s to blame? According to Sherman’s interview subjects, it has nothing to do with the economy having been blown up several times over by these very bonus-deprived bankers, or with the fact that all conceivable public bailout money has essentially already been sucked up and converted into bonuses by that same crowd.

No, it instead apparently has everything to do with the Dodd-Frank bill, and specifically the Volcker rule banning proprietary trading, which incidentally hasn’t gone into effect yet. […]

READhttp://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-wall-street-should-stop-whining-20120208

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* THE TOP TWELVE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HATE THE MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT

By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

As readers may know by now, 49 of 50 states have agreed to join the so-called mortgage settlement, with Oklahoma the lone refusenik. Although the fine points are still being hammered out, various news outlets (New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal) have details, with Dave Dayen’s overview at Firedoglake the best thus far.

The Wall Street Journal is also reporting that the SEC is about to launch some securities litigation against major banks. Since the statue of limitations has already run out on securities filings more than five years old, this means they’ll clip the banks for some of the very last (and dreckiest) deals they shoved out the door before the subprime market gave up the ghost.

The various news services are touting this pact at the biggest multi-state settlement since the tobacco deal in 1998. While narrowly accurate, this deal is bush league by comparison even though the underlying abuses in both cases have had devastating consequences.

The tobacco agreement was pegged as being worth nearly $250 billion over the first 25 years. Adjust that for inflation, and the disparity is even bigger. That shows you the difference in outcomes between a case where the prosecutors have solid evidence backing their charges, versus one where everyone know a lot of bad stuff happened, but no one has come close to marshaling the evidence.

The mortgage settlement terms have not been released, but more of the details have been leaked: […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/02/the-top-twelve-reasons-why-you-should-hate-the-mortgage-settlement.html

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* MEAN-SPIRITED, BAD ECONOMICS

By Simon Johnson, Baseline Scenerio

[…] In some parts of the Midwest, there are roughly four unemployed people for every job vacancy; there are similar figures in many other parts of the country. Simply telling people to move is also not helpful – where exactly do you see hiring on a scale that would put a dent in these overall numbers?

Extended unemployment benefit provides on average about $300 a week – one-third of the average weekly wage and only about 70 percent of the poverty level for a family of four. If you strip even this money from people who remain out of work through no fault of their own, you will push more individuals and families onto the streets and into shelters. The cost of providing those fall-back services is very high – and much higher than providing unemployment benefits.

How does it help any economic recovery when the people who lose jobs cannot even afford to buy basic goods and services – enough to keep their family afloat?

This was the profound insight – under tragic circumstances – learned from the Great Depression. Unemployment insurance and Social Security were introduced together in the 1930s and funded in the same way – through payroll taxes. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said at the time (quoted by David M. Kennedy in “Freedom From Fear,” on Page 267):

“We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security programs.”

That logic worked for nearly 80 years. In the face of our modern mean-spiritedness, it now seems likely to collapse.

READ @ http://baselinescenario.com/2012/02/09/mean-spirited-bad-economics/

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* THE BANKING PROTECTION RACKET – 5 CHARTS HIGHLIGHTING THE LAUNDERING AND DISMANTLING OF THE MIDDLE CLASS. NEW METHOD OF LOOKING T EMPLOYMENT. PEAK DEBT AND TWEAKING STATISTICS

Source: MyBudget360

Part of the crushing blow to the middle class is the misinformation being lobbed out as good economic news.  For example, inflation is increasing yet the average American worker pulls in $25,000 per year.  You also have the civilian population ratio still at levels last seen three decades ago.  It depends on how you look at the data and how much spin you can tolerate.  Should we be jumping up and down for joy that many Americans are now getting low paying jobs with absolutely no long-term security?  As we analyzed in a previous article, in the early 1980s some 60 percent of American workers had some sort of pension.  Even if it was minimal, it was something.  Today it is down to 20 percent and quickly evaporating lower.  Since we have become a debt addicted nation, the fact that household debt has contracted many Americans are now actually “poorer” and definitely feel it.  Consumption makes up a large portion of GDP so this is a potential problem with households facing a major contraction. […]

READ and CHARTS @ http://www.mybudget360.com/banking-protection-racket-5-charts-highlighting-the-laundering-and-dismantling-of-the-middle-class-bank-data-wage-data-inflation/

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* A BUSTLE IN HEDGES’ ROW

By Randall Amster, CounterPunch

[…] A few months ago, when similar arguments about the “destruction of Occupy” were being raised by others in the milieu, I wrote a piece urging inclusivity rather than cashiering out conflicting actors:

“To reject someone from the open spaces of a movement that is purporting to represent the 99 percent is to consign them to where, exactly? Since they are presumably not part of the 1 percent (hired provocateurs aside), if they are banished from the 99 percent what options does that leave them? When a movement decides to ‘self-police,’ that shouldn’t be confused with adopting the same punitive and illogical methods of the state. We can forge agreements and work by consensus, but that cannot be used as a wedge to weed out and expunge those who contravene our best-laid plans. Rather, the aim should be to create processes based on the best practices of restorative justice, peacekeeping, and personal healing in order to promote points of contact and ongoing dialogue among all who find their way to the movement. We won’t all agree on everything, but surely we can at least maintain a perspective in which our interests are seen as broadly aligned and our common humanity remains intact…. Rather than seeing the presence of divergent elements as a threat to movement cohesion or as an exploitable image that the media will seize upon to denigrate us further, Occupy encampments can become models of communities that don’t simply warehouse unpopular or difficult elements, but instead work with them to promote the creation of a society based on mutual respect and the utilization of the productive capacities of all of its members.”

The issue for Hedges, as far as I can tell, seems to be a genuine concern that dangerous factions are hijacking the movement – and thus, not to call for their excision is somehow cowardly. He cites the example of Martin Luther King remaining steadfastly nonviolent in the face of official repression as the key to delegitimizing official power, and potentially as creating a pathway to “win the hearts and minds of the wider public” and even perhaps “some within the structures of power.” Yet King took great pains not to publicly oppose the more militant wings of the Civil Rights movement, focusing instead on developing an empathetic and healing posture toward those who would resort to tactics that he deemed unwise, immoral, or ineffective in the context of the larger movement, as reflected in this statement from Stanford University’s King Papers Project:

“Although King was hesitant to criticize Black Power openly, he told his staff on 14 November 1966 that Black Power ‘was born from the wombs of despair and disappointment. Black Power is a cry of pain. It is in fact a reaction to the failure of White Power to deliver the promises and to do it in a hurry.… The cry of Black Power is really a cry of hurt.’’ […]

READ @ http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/08/a-bustle-in-hedges-row/#.TzKuWdh4OTY.facebook

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* #OCCUPIED: REPORTS FROM THE FRONT LINES

By Jennifer Sacks, The Occupied Wall Street Journal

This week in Occupy, the fallout from #J28 continued, Chicago and Charlotte enacted legislation in an attempt to stave off the wave of occupiers expected there this summer, and some occupations were forced to regroup after a number of prominent encampments were routed.

#Indiana became the first state in the Rust Belt and the 23rd state overall to enact a union-busting right-to-work law, which prohibits employment contracts requiring all workers to pay mandatory union dues, essentially starving unions of funding. Union members shouted “Shame on you!” and “See you at the Super Bowl!” at the statehouse in Indianapolis when the 28-22 vote was announced, referring to the fortuitously-timed  Super Bowl XVI, set to take place in Indianapolis that weekend.

#Ahead of the game, it emerged that several NFL players had lobbied Indiana lawmakers against the legislation by sending letters to the statehouse before the vote, including Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears (who hails from Santa Claus, Ind.), Rex Grossman of the Washington Redskins (from Bloomington, Ind.), New Orleans’ Courtney Roby, Pittsburgh’s Trai Essex, St. Louis’ Mark Clayton and San Diego’s Kris Dielman.

#To protest the law, demonstrators marched through packed crowds in downtown Indianapolis in the week before the Super Bowl.

#Elsewhere in Indiana, the Republican secretary of state was found guilty of voter fraud, something his fellow Republicans like to legislate against.

#The fallout from #J28 continued to reverberate, as video has emerged proving the Oakland police department – which may soon be placed into federal control for failing to expel its violent elements – has been blatantly lying about its treatment of activists during demonstrations.

#The mainstream media is now portraying the movement as split over tactics and conflicted about the role of black bloc affinity groups in direct actions.  While these issues – like every other issue – are continually  debated within the movement, portrayals of Occupy as divisible were met with widespread backlash.

#It emerged that Occupy Oakland activists were being held in inhumane conditions at the Santa Rita and Glenn Dyer jails. This echoes reports of Occupy LA activists being denied food and water following their arrests in December.

#The Chicago City Council overwhelmingly approved measures to tighten parade rules, increase fines, keep public parks and beaches closed an extra two hours a day and give mayor Rahm Emanuel blanket spending authority ahead of the G8 and NATO summits, which will occur there May 19-21 and likely draw tens of thousands of demonstrators. […]

READ @ http://occupiedmedia.us/2012/02/occupied-reports-from-the-front-lines/

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* NYPD MUST PAY $15 MILLION FOR ILLEGALLY ARRESTING 22,000

By Kelly Virella, Dominion of NY

For almost 20 years — from 1983 to 2012 — the New York Police Department went about arresting people under laws that state and federal courts had long declared unconstitutional, cuffing and booking almost 22,000 people. In 2010, federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin finally held them in contempt of court. Yesterday, she signed an order approving what is effectively their punishment: a $15 million class-action settlement that could generate individual payments of as much as $5,000.

Those arrested were forced to defend themselves in court and even served jail time for completely lawful behavior. The class action settlement also requires the city to help the courts vacate and seal all convictions stemming from the illegal arrests.

“NYPD used these void laws over the past few decades to target people based on poverty, race and sexual orientation,” said J. McGregor Smyth, an attorney from the Bronx Defenders and a lead attorney for the class. “We are happy that the city has finally taken responsibilities for these abuses, agreeing to pay meaningful damages to its victims and to stop its unconstitutional practices once and for all.” […]

READ @ http://www.dominionofnewyork.com/2012/02/08/nypd-forced-to-pay-15-million-for-illegally-arresting-22000/#.TzN0eJiLHke

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* THE FEDERAL RESERVE’S EXPLICIT GOAL: DEVALUE THE DOLLAR 33%

By Charles Kadlec, Forbes

The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) has made it official:  After its latest two day meeting, it announced its goal to devalue the dollar by 33% over the next 20 years.  The debauch of the dollar will be even greater if the Fed exceeds its goal of a 2 percent per year increase in the price level.

An increase in the price level of 2% in any one year is barely noticeable.  Under a gold standard, such an increase was uncommon, but not unknown.  The difference is that when the dollar was as good as gold, the years of modest inflation would be followed, in time, by declining prices. As a consequence, over longer periods of time, the price level was unchanged.  A dollar 20 years hence was still worth a dollar.

But, an increase of 2% a year over a period of 20 years will lead to a 50% increase in the price level.  It will take 150 (2032) dollars to purchase the same basket of goods 100 (2012) dollars can buy today.  What will be called the “dollar” in 2032 will be worth one-third less (100/150) than what we call a dollar today. […]

READ @ http://www.forbes.com/sites/charleskadlec/2012/02/06/the-federal-reserves-explicit-goal-devalue-the-dollar-33/

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* ZILLOW: HOUSE PRICES DECLINED 4.7% IN 2011. FORECASTS 3.7% DECLINE IN 2012

Source: Calculated Risk

[…] The Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, released today, show home values decreased 1.1 percent from the third to the fourth quarter of 2011 to $146,900. On an annual basis, this represents a 4.7 percent decline. December’s data show that sequential improvements in year-over-year numbers have stopped, and the pace of monthly depreciation has once again picked up, with December’s monthly depreciation rate at 0.6 percent.

[W] believe 2012 will be a transitional year for real estate. Positive developments will include markets showing organic growth, and home sales increasing as the year proceeds. However, we maintain our forecast that home values will continue to fall in 2012, with the Zillow Home Value Forecast showing a 3.7 percent decline through December 2012.

Based on these forecasts, we expect more home value declines nationally in 2012. However, most markets will see improved trends over the course of the year […]

READ @ http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2012/02/zillow-house-prices-declined-47-in-2011.html

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* CAPITOL ASSETS: SOME LEGISLATORS SEND MILLIONS TO GROUPS CONNECTED TO THEIR RELATIVES

By Scott Higham, Kimberly Kindy and David S. Fallis, Washington Post

Some members of Congress send tax dollars to companies, colleges and community groups where their spouses, children and parents work as salaried employees, lobbyists or board members, according to an examination of federal disclosure forms and local public records by The Washington Post.

A U.S. senator from South Dakota helped add millions to a Pentagon program his wife evaluated as a contract employee. A Washington congressman boosted the budget of an environmental group that his son ran as executive director. A Texas congresswoman guided millions to a university where her husband served as a vice president.

Those three members are among 16 who have taken actions that aided entities connected to their immediate families. The findings stem from an examination by The Post of all 535 members of the House and Senate, comparing their financial disclosure forms with thousands of public records. The examination uncovered a broad range of connections between the public and private lives of the nation’s lawmakers.

(View the full results of the Post investigation.) […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/capitol-assets-some-legislators-send-millions-to-groups-connected-to-their-relatives/2012/01/10/gIQAyrzdxQ_story.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=cheatsheet_morning&cid=newsletter%3Bemail%3Bcheatsheet_morning&utm_term=Cheat%20Sheet

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* DRONES OVER U.S. GETS OK BY CONGRESS

By Shaun Waterman, The Washington Times

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s … a drone, and it’s watching you. That’s what privacy advocates fear from a bill Congress passed this week to make it easier for the government to fly unmanned spy planes in U.S. airspace.

The FAA Reauthorization Act, which President Obama is expected to sign, also orders the Federal Aviation Administration to develop regulations for the testing and licensing of commercial drones by 2015.

Privacy advocates say the measure will lead to widespread use of drones for electronic surveillance by police agencies across the country and eventually by private companies as well. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/feb/7/coming-to-a-sky-near-you/

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* G-8, NATO SUMMITS WILL HIT US WHERE WE LIVE

By John Kass, Chicago Tribune

If President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel really care about Chicago, they’ll cancel the G-8 and NATO summits scheduled for May.

Immediately.

That’s right. Cancel the summits now. Nobody wants them here but the politicians, their contributors and their oily mouthpieces who insist that Chicago needs the events to demonstrate this is a world-class city.

What nonsense. […]

READ @ http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-met-kass-0208-20120208,0,3064068,full.column

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* GUANTANAMO’S DEEPENING FAILURE

The secretive military system for prosecuting accused terrorists is a travesty, says the man who once ran it

By Morris Davis, Salon

The U.S. Defense Department specializes in euphemism. “Limited kinetic action” is a polite way of saying “war,” and “collateral damage” does not sound as blunt as “dead children.”  When I was chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay during the Bush administration, I was told not to say publicly that a detainee had “attempted suicide.”  The government-approved term for the act was “self-injurious behavior.”  I could not say “torture,” or as some called it, the “T-word.” Instead, I had to say “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

The euphemism tradition remains alive and well in the Obama administration.  The slogan “fairness, transparency, justice” is featured prominently throughout the military commissions’ new half-million-dollar website.  The slogan even shows up when case document links lead to a notice saying the “document you are trying to access is currently undergoing a security review” and might be posted later if the government decides it is “publicly releasable.” […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/02/07/guantanamos_deepening_failure/singleton/

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* U.S. PLANNING TO SLASH IRAQ EMBASSY STAFF BY AS MUCH AS HALF

By Tim Arango, NYTimes

BAGHDAD — Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.

Officials in Baghdad and Washington said that Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials were reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy, where the staff has swelled to nearly 16,000 people, mostly contractors.

The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion. But the Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/world/middleeast/united-states-planning-to-slash-iraq-embassy-staff-by-half.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

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* BREAKTHROUGH ON AUSTERITY CLEARS WAY FOR GREEK DEAL

By Rachel Donadio, NYTimes

[...] The leaders appear to have agreed to one of the most unpopular austerity measures, a 22 percent reduction in the minimum wage, to 586 euros a month, according to an earlier statement by the prime minister’s office.

That cut is expected to affect all salaried workers, because the base wage is used as a benchmark by employers.

But the leader of New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, said the talks had foundered over cuts to pensions. Mr. Karatzaferis, whose populist, hard-right former opposition party has been losing ground with voters since it joined the government, said he would support Mr. Samaras to prevent proposed cuts to supplementary pensions. [...]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/business/global/greece-austerity-talks-hit-wall.html?hp

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