Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 31, 2009 Global Research Video on the Global Financial Crisis

Obama’s New Bank Giveaway
Is this administration’s bank policy Bush-3 – or Clinton-5 or Reagan 8?

by Michael Hudson

Global Research, January 29, 2009

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(1) threatening for eight years that the prospect of a trillion-dollar deficit spread over a generation or so is sufficient reason to stiff Social Security recipients and abolish debts to the nation’s retirees, and

(2) after the Bush administration provided $8 trillion over the past three months in cash-for-trash swaps of good Treasury bonds for Wall Street junk derivatives, the Obama Administration is now speaking of

(3) some $2 to $4 trillion more to be given in just the next week or so.

Not a single Republican Congressman went along, just as Rep. Boehmer refused to support the Bush bailout on that fatal Friday when Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama debated each other over marginal issues not touching on the giveaway, which both candidates passionately supported. The Party of Wealth sees the political handwriting on the wall, for which the Party of Labor seems happy to take all responsibility. This probably is the only place where I’d like to see "bipartisanship." Watch the campaign contributions flow for an index of how well this will pay off for the Democrats!

How many families would like a "give-back" on every bad investment they’ve ever made? It’s like a parent coming to a child who has just broken a toy, saying "That’s all right. We’ll just go out and buy you a new one." This from the apostles of "responsibility" for poverty, for mortgage debtors owing more than they can afford to pay, for people who get sick and can’t afford medical care, and for states and cities now left high and dry by the fiscal wipe-out that the Bush-Obama "cleanup" has foisted onto the economy. No do-over for anyone but the hundred or so billionaires who have just been endowed with enough free money to become America’s ruling elite for the rest of the 21st century.

After spending a lifetime denouncing socialism as inherently unfair, Wall Street is now doing a hideous parody – as if "socialism for the rich" were not an oxymoron in the first place. Certainly the banks are not being "nationalized." Giving away the largest sum of spendable securities in history without direct managerial power that goes with ownership is not "nationalization." Ask Lenin.

Now that the details of the new, larger but definitely not improved bank giveaway of between $2 and $4 trillion more have been leaked out in time for Wall Street’s Davos attendees to celebrate, we may ask whether, financially speaking, the Obama Administration should best be thought of as Bush-3 – or indeed, whether it is still on a pro-creditor trend that may better be traced as Clinton-5, or perhaps even Reagan-8. Since 1980 the financial sector has made a sustained money grab at the expense of labor and "taxpayers." More accurately, it has been a debt grab, on the opposite side of the balance sheet from assets.

Backed by Mr. Summers, Boris Yeltsin’s Harvard Boys transferred trillions of dollars of Russian mineral wealth and public enterprises into the hands of kleptocrats. That was an asset transfer, pure and simple. In 1997, to be sure, the IMF gave Russia a loan that immediately disappeared into the kleptocrats’ bank accounts, to be paid out of subsequent oil-export proceeds. But assets were the name of the game. Today’s U.S. giveaway has a new twist. The analogy is the "watered stocks" and bonds that railroad magnates and Wall Street emperors of finance gave themselves and their political mouthpieces, simply adding the interest coupons and dividends onto the prices charged the public as if they were real "costs." Today’s version – "watered Treasury bonds" – are being created on the public sector’s balance sheet. "Taxpayers" must pay bear the interest charges – leaving less for the infrastructure investment that Mr. Obama suggests we may need.

The Bush-Obama bailout bore "small print" already has given Wall Street a decade’s tax-free status by letting it count its financial losses against its tax liability. So not only has there been a great fiscal giveaway, there has been a tax shift off finance onto labor and industry. States and localities already have begun to announce plans to sell off roads and airports, land and other public assets to the financial sector in order to finance their looming budget deficits (which localities are not allowed to run under present legislation). No federal funding has been granted to finance the cities as their tax receipts plunge. There has been a token amount to relieve some low-income families saddled with junk mortgages. But this does not involve actually giving them a spendable money "bonus." Their role is simply to be trotted out like widows and orphans used to be, as justification to bail out banks for their bad gambles on currency, interest rates and bond derivative gambles. Insolvent debtors are merely passive vehicles to get a book-credit of mortgage relief that the government will turn over in their name to their bankers to make these institutions whole.

Whole, and then some! Chris Matthews just reported his statistic of the day (January 29): $18.4 billion in Wall Street bonuses, paid for out of the government giveaway.

This is called "saving the economy." That is as much an oxymoron as "socializing the losses." Socializing the losses would mean wiping the mortgages and other bank loans of debtors off the books. These giveaways are to keep the debts on the books, but for the government to buy them and make the creditors whole – while a quarter of real estate has fallen into Negative Equity as its debts are not being bailed out but kept on the books. The economy’s "toxic waste" remains. But a matching volume of new waste is being created and given to a few hundred families. No wonder the stock market soared by 200 points on Wednesday, led by bank stocks!

In the seemingly frenetic ten days since Mr. Obama took office, it is beginning to look as if his good political decisions regarding Guantanamo, Iraq, employee rights to sue for employer wrongdoing, are sugar coating for the giveaway to Wall Street, a quid pro quo to avert opposition from his Democratic Party constituency. At least this seems to be their effect. To accuse Mr. Obama of a giveaway would seem at first glance to contradict the basic thrust of his actions – or would be if one did not take into account his appointments of Larry Summers at the White House and the conspicuous leadership role in the bailout played by Barney Frank in the House and Chuck Schumer in the Senate.

There is a simple way to think about what has happened – and why it won’t help the economy, but will hurt it. Suppose the new $4 trillion "bad bank" works. The government shell will give away Treasury bonds for bad bank loans and derivatives gambles, without the government "marking to market." (So much for the pretense that giving Wall Street credit is "free market" policy. But the alternative to free markets does not turn out to be "socialism" at all, even if "socialism for the rich." There are worse words for it, which I won’t use here.)

The real question is what the Wall Street elite will do with the money. From Chuck Schumer and Barney Frank through Larry Summers, the Obama administration hopes that the banks will lend it out to Americans. Borrowers are to take on yet more debt – enough to start re-inflating house prices and making homes yet more unaffordable, requiring buyers to take on yet larger mortgages. Larger mortgages at rising prices are supposed to help the banks rebuild their balance sheets – to earn enough to compensate for their gambling losses.

But this neglects the fact that today’s looming depression is caused by debt deflation. Families, businesses and government having to spend more wage income, profits and tax revenues on debt service instead of buying goods and services. So why is the solution to this debt overhead held to be yet MORE debt? Is there not something crazy here?

The government’s solution, placed in its hands by the financial lobbyists, is to bail out the bankers and Wall Street while leaving the "real" economy even more highly indebted. All this talk about "more credit" being needed, all this begging of banks to lend more money and then extract yet more interest and amortization from the economy, is leading it even deeper into the debt hole. It is not helping families repay their debts. And indeed, homeowners whose mortgages already exceed the market price of their property are not going to be able to borrow more.

It would take only $1 trillion or so – or simply to let "the market" work its magic in the context of renewed debtor-oriented bankruptcy laws – to cure the debt problem. But that obviously is not what the government aims to solve at all. It simply wants to make creditors whole – creditors who are, after all, the largest political campaign contributors and lobbyists these days.

The most important thing to understand about the present economic crisis is that it was not necessary technologically, politically or fiscally. Government at the state, local and federal levels are strapped for funds – but only because the natural source of taxation, land rent and monopoly rent and the user fees from public enterprise have been financialized. That is, whereas property taxes used to finance about three-quarters of state and local budgets back in 1930, today they supply only about a sixth. The shrinkage has not been passed on to homeowners and renters or commercial users. Prices for homes and office buildings are set by the marketplace. The rise in market price has been pledged to bankers as mortgage interest. The financial sector thus has replaced government as recipient of the economic surplus – leaving the public sector starved of cash.

The financial sector also has replaced the government as economic planner. This role has followed from its monopoly in credit creation, which turns out to be the key to resource allocation.

Bank credit is created freely. Governments could do the same. Indeed, this is what the U.S. Treasury did during America’s Civil War, when it issued greenback credit.

If today’s looming economic depression is a manmade (that is, lobbyist-financed) phenomenon, then what policy is needed as a remedy?

2009 Bailout.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Doctor-Patient Confidentiality Relationship in Jeopardy

Depression: Ten Alternatives to Psychiatric DrugsJanuary 30, 2009...4:57 pm
From AAHF: Medical Confidentiality in “Jeopardy”

Doctor-Patient Confidentiality Relationship in Jeopardy

The economic stimulus bill, as currently written, mandates electronic health records for every citizen WITHOUT providing for an opt-out or patient consent provision starting in 2014.

The House has already passed this egregious bill and the Senate will consider the bill starting Monday.

“Without those protections, Americans’ electronic health records could be shared—without their consent—with over 600,000 covered entities through the forthcoming nationally linked electronic health-records network,” says Sue Blevins, Institute for Health Freedom president.

“President Obama has pledged to advance freedom. Therefore the freedom to choose not to participate in a national electronic health-records system must be upheld,” Blevins says. “Unless people have the right to decide if and when their health information is shared or whether to participate in research studies, they don’t have a true right to privacy.”….

Francis Collins Addresses State of Personalized Medicine

Francis Collins Addresses State of Personalized Medicine
January 30, 2009
By Matt Jones
Type size: - + Email RSS Feed NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — In order for personalized medicine to progress as many US researchers want it to, it will require a more focused commitment from better informed federal agencies, smarter collaborations across public and private sectors, bigger studies and bolder science, and intelligent changes in the healthcare system overall, former Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute Francis Collins said this week.

Collins described himself as "an unemployed geneticist," who just finished spending months "working night and day" with the White House transition team led by HHS Secretary Tom Daschle. He said he now feels free to discuss how federal research and academic research, business, and larger political forces commingle in the effort to tailor medicine for individuals.

Speaking to attendees — including biomedical researchers, biotech execs, and policy people — of a meeting in Washington, DC, organized by the Personalized Medicine Coalition, Collins said that he currently is writing a book for mainstream audiences that will talk about the promise of personalized medicine by profiling real-world cases.

"Pharmacogenomics, which from my perspective has been one of the most promising areas of personalized medicine, has also turned out to be extremely complicated, not that we shouldn't have known that," Collins said.

Collins pointed out as a pharmacogenomics success how studies of an AIDS drug led to a Food and Drug Administration guidance for a genetic test. It was "exciting to see the Abacavir example come forward this past year where hypersensitivity reactions are almost entirely predictable by a genetic test," he said. "It was good to see that that was well demonstrated in a carefully controlled clinical trial… [and that] led to a clear change in the FDA labeling."

Wafarin, however, has been a different story, in Collins' mind. He said the data on the anticoagulant drug, which has serious adverse effects in some patients, is "starting to look a little tired."

Although FDA has cleared tests for sensitivity to the drug, we still don't have the right type of evidence "to enable a clear statement to providers about whether this kind of genetic testing ought to be done prospectively before trying to prescribe this drug with all of its complications.

"Because [warfarin] has become a poster child for the future of pharmacogenomics," Collins said, "it's appropriate to do this kind of rigorous analysis with prospective studies, but I'm not sure that we can afford to do that every time."

If DNA testing keeps coming down in price, Collins suggested, it could turn out that the "very, very, rigorous" approach taken for warfarin "may be something we can't afford and shouldn't necessarily advocate as having to do every time."

He also said that he is "delighted" that direct-to-consumer genetic testing services are being offered, even though the field "has become a favorite whipping boy for some of us." He said it is good "that the public is having the chance to learn about their genomes if they think they want to know … and that companies are doing this in a responsible way. But, of course, there are some things on the web that are not responsible."

In addition, Collins endorsed the call by the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genomics, Health and Society to create a public database of information that would give consumers "a place to go to seek objective information about the clinical validity and clinical utility of these tests.

"It's disturbing to see that there hasn't been much progress on that because it makes so much sense," he said, adding that without "some objective way to evaluate" these gene tests there will be "some other entities on the scene that are a little less responsible."

Collins is adamant in his call for more studies of gene and environment interactions, and he said he is concerned that not enough investment has gone into that area.

"If we're serious about preventive medicine, and using personalized genomics to inform that, we're not going to change the genome," he said. "It's the environment we're going to want to change."

In order to collect such data, Collins called for a massive study. "Wouldn't it be nice if we invested in an organized US prospective cohort which was a snapshot of the population?"

Collins guessed that such a study would require "a genome project kind of budget," and that it could cost around $300 million or $400 million a year and include at least half a million people and possibly a million.

"But we're probably going to spend that amount anyway on a whole bunch of studies that are cobbled together to look at individual diseases, so why don't we just do it right the first time and have this study which could be a stimulus for many spin-offs?" he asked.

The upshot of such spending would be a study that could become "the centerpiece of our efforts to try to figure out how to take genomic discoveries and implement them into public health."

Collins also noted that for personalized medicine to become a usable reality healthcare providers will need help translating the new science into their offices and hospitals. For average family practitioners, he speculated, personalized medicine could become a "net negative."

Healthcare providers now are "ill-prepared for what's coming" he warned, and said more efforts and more funding needs to be put behind educational efforts.

In federal drug development research, Collins said he sees "a great deal of interest in being a more effective partner with the private sector." He said that government could contribute more to the front end of drug development and to "de-risk" problems which may otherwise seem to industry "too much to take on.

"I think that's something we're going to be talking about in the course of the next couple of years … ways to make this interaction between government, academia, and the private sector more effective in the translational effort," he said.

Looking forward to 2015, Collins said there are some milestones he expects to see achieved, chief among them he said he could nearly guarantee complete genome sequencing for $1,000 or under. He also expects that researchers will identify many more risks for heritable diseases and a growing number of targeted therapeutics.

Collins said he has "great hopes" for the new administration in Washington. He said that his experience on the transition team left him with the impression that "the vision, and the smarts, and the determination are all there" to push medicine and healthcare forward in many ways, including the adoption of electronic medical records.

While the economy is "a bit of a problem," Collins admitted, he hopes research will receive proper investment.

"I think if we all work together on this we have a chance of doing what we've promised all along … we're going to revolutionize medicine."

Pakistani Envoy Slams India Over Mumbai Article

Pakistani Envoy Slams India Over Mumbai Article
more in World »By MATTHEW ROSENBERG in New Delhi and MARC CHAMPION in Davos, Switzerland
A senior Pakistani diplomat said last year's terrorist rampage in Mumbai wasn't planned in Pakistan, and accused India of backing up its allegations of a Pakistani link with "fabricated" and "flimsy" evidence.
Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's high commissioner to Britain, made his comments Friday to The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets. It was unclear whether his views represented the government's official conclusions on a dossier provided several weeks ago by India.

The dossier, prepared by the Indian government, said the plot for the late-November assault was hatched in Pakistan and carried out by Pakistanis directed by Pakistan-based terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Mr. Hasan, speaking from London in a telephone interview, cautioned that he had only talked with people involved in the Pakistani investigation and hadn't seen his government's official report on the Indian dossier. Mr. Hasan said the report is likely be released Monday or Tuesday.

Mr. Hasan's comments contradict statements by Pakistani security officials, who have said privately that at least one suspect -- a senior Lashkar member --arrested by Pakistan after the assault, has confessed that his group plotted the operation, trained the attackers at bases inside Pakistan and maintained phone contact with the gunmen during the three-day killing spree.

Pakistan's prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, who is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, that the investigation is continuing. Mr. Gilani said he didn't want to comment on the investigation or the High Commissioner's remarks, which he said he hadn't seen.

Mr. Hasan's remarks appear to reflect broader uncertainty in Islamabad over how to respond to the Mumbai attacks. While some officials are inclined to pursue the culprits -- because of international pressure and Pakistan's battle against Islamic militant groups -- at the same time, many don't want to be seen as caving to Indian demands for action.

Mr. Hasan said he was speaking with the media only because of persistent questions about whether the attacks "were planned in Pakistan or the U.K.'

He said the people he spoke with told him that "it was not the U.K., not Pakistan that was used for planning purposes."

Mr. Hasan said Pakistan's Interior Ministry is still investigating where the planning took place. "It could have been a neighboring country," he added. He declined to be more specific.

An Indian foreign ministry official expressed disbelief when told of Mr. Hasan's statements. The official said "we expect them to come clean" but that New Delhi would wait for the final report on the Pakistani investigation before formally responding.

In Washington, U.S. officials said they continue to believe that Lashkar-e-Taiba members in Pakistan were behind the Mumbai attacks. "There are strong indications that much of the plot was hatched by individuals in Pakistan," a U.S. counterterrorism official said.

Mr. Hasan said the fact that the sole surviving gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, is Pakistani proves nothing: "Like I am a Pakistani national living and operating in Britain, this Kasab chap could be operating anywhere and holding a Pakistani passport."

Indian police say Mr. Kasab has told investigators that he was trained in Pakistan by Lashkar and that he sailed from the port of Karachi in Pakistan to Mumbai with nine other gunmen, who were all killed by Indian security forces. U.S. and European officials say they have intelligence that backs up that account. In December, Pakistan arrested dozens of Lashkar members under pressure from the international community.

Prime Minister Gilani, during the Davos interview, said the new administration in Washington should make visible changes to U.S. strategy in the region "so it should not be seen as the previous (U.S.) government."

Mr. Gilani singled out the issue of U.S. drones making attacks on Pakistani soil, saying that such attacks stir anti-Americanism and make it harder to win hearts and minds on the ground. A better approach, he said, would be for the U.S. to share intelligence so that Pakistan's military can carry out attacks on militants themselves.

—Zahid Hussain in Islamabad and Siobhan Gorman in Washington contributed to this article.
Write to Matthew Rosenberg at and Marc Champion at

Wednesday, January 28,2009 The 10 Worst Corporations of 2008

Wednesday, January 28,2009
The 10 Worst Corporations of 2008
By Robert Weissman

What a year for corporate criminality and malfeasance! As the Multinational Monitor compiled its annual list of the 10 Worst Corporations, it would have been easy to restrict the 2008 awardees to Wall Street firms.

But the rest of the corporate sector was not on good behavior during 2008 either, and didn’t deserve to escape justified scrutiny.

So, in keeping with the tradition of highlighting diverse forms of corporate wrongdoing, the list includes only one financial company out of the 10 worst. Here, presented in alphabetical order, are the 10 Worst Corporations of 2008.

AIG: Money for Nothing

There’s surely no one party responsible for the ongoing global financial crisis. But if you had to pick a single responsible corporation, there’s a very strong case to make for American International Group (AIG), which has already sucked up more than $150 billion in taxpayer support. Through “credit default swaps,” AIG basically collected insurance premiums while making the ridiculous assumption that it would never pay out on a failure—let alone a collapse of the entire market it was insuring. When reality set in, the roof caved in.

Cargill: Food Profiteers

When food prices spiked in late 2007 and through the beginning of 2008, countries and poor consumers found themselves at the mercy of the global market and the giant trading companies that dominate it. As hunger rose and food riots broke out around the world, Cargill saw profits soar, tallying more than $1 billion in the second quarter of 2008 alone.

In a competitive market, a grain-trading middleman would not make super-profits. In fact, rising prices would crimp the middleman’s profit margin. But the global grain trade is not competitive, and the legal rules of the global economy—devised at the behest of Cargill and friends—ensure that poor countries will be dependent on, and at the mercy of, the global grain traders.

Chevron: “We Can’t Let Little Countries Screw Around With Big Companies”

In 2001, Chevron swallowed up Texaco. It was happy to absorb Texaco’s revenue streams. It has been less willing to take responsibility for Texaco’s ecological and human-rights abuses.

In 1993, 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians filed a class-action suit in U.S. courts, alleging that over a 20-year period Texaco had poisoned the land where they live and the waterways on which they rely, allowing billions of gallons of waste to spill and leaving hundreds of waste pits unlined and uncovered. Chevron had the case thrown out of U.S. courts on the grounds that it should be litigated in Ecuador, closer to where the alleged harms occurred. But now the case is going badly for Chevron in Ecuador—Chevron may be liable for more than $7 billion. So, the company is lobbying the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to impose trade sanctions on Ecuador if the Ecuadorian government does not make the case go away.

“We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this—companies that have made big investments around the world,” a Chevron lobbyist said to Newsweek in August. (Chevron subsequently stated that the comments were not approved.)

CNPC: Fueling Violence in Darfur

Sudan has been able to laugh off existing and threatened sanctions for the slaughter it has perpetrated in Darfur because of the huge support it receives from China, channeled above all through the Sudanese relationship with the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC).

“The relationship between CNPC and Sudan is symbiotic,” notes the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights First in a March 2008 report, “Investing in Tragedy.” “Not only is CNPC the largest foreign investor in the Sudanese oil sector, but Sudan is CNPC’s largest market for overseas investment.”

Oil money may have fueled violence in Darfur. “The profitability of Sudan’s oil sector has developed in close chronological step with the violence in Darfur,” notes Human Rights First.

Constellation Energy Group: Nuclear Operators

Although it seems too dangerous, too expensive and too centralized to make sense as an energy source, nuclear power won’t go away, thanks to equipment makers and utilities that find ways to make the public pay and pay.

Constellation Energy Group, the operator of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland—a company recently involved in a startling, partially derailed scheme to price-gouge Maryland consumers—plans to build a new reactor at Calvert Cliffs, potentially the first new reactor built in the United States since the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979.

It has lined up to take advantage of U.S. government-guaranteed loans for new nuclear construction, available under the terms of the 2005 Energy Act. The company acknowledges it could not proceed with construction without the government guarantee.

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10 Worst CompaniesAIGGargillHIV DrugsCargillChevronCNCPDarfurConstellation Energy GroupDole PineappleGeneral ElectricGEBrazilImperial SugarPhilip MorrisTobaccoRocheSouth KoreaFuzeon
Dole: The Sour Taste of Pineapple

A 1988 land reform effort in the Philippines has proven to be a fraud. Plantation owners helped to draft the law and invented ways to circumvent its alleged purpose. Dole pineapple workers are among those paying the price.

Under the land reform, Dole’s land was divided among its workers and others who had claims on the land prior to the pineapple giant. Workers were then required to form labor cooperatives. However, wealthy landlords maneuvered to gain control of these cooperatives, and then focused more on maximizing profits than providing fair wages and healthy working conditions, according to an October report by Washington, D.C.-based International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF).

Dole has since slashed its regular workforce and replaced them with contract workers from these labor cooperatives. Contract workers are paid under a quota system, and earn about $1.85 a day, according to ILRF.

GE: Creative Accounting

In June, former New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston reported on internal General Electric (GE) documents that appeared to show the company had engaged in a long-running effort to evade taxes in Brazil. In a lengthy report in Tax Notes International, Johnston reported on a GE subsidiary’s scheme to invoice suspiciously high sales volume for lighting equipment in lightly populated Amazon River regions of the country. These sales would avoid the higher value added taxes (VAT) of urban states, where sales would be expected to be greater.

Johnston wrote that the state-level VAT at issue, based on the internal documents he reviewed, appeared to be less than $100 million. But, he speculated, the overall scheme could have involved much more.

Johnston did not identify the source that gave him the internal GE documents, but GE has alleged it was a former company attorney, Adriana Koeck. GE fired Koeck in January 2007 for what it says were “performance reasons.”

Imperial Sugar: 14 Dead

On Feb. 7, 2008, an explosion rocked the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Ga., near Savannah. Days later, when the fire was finally extinguished and search-and-rescue operations completed, the horrible human toll was finally known: 14 dead, dozens badly burned and injured.

As with almost every industrial disaster, it turns out the tragedy was preventable. The cause was accumulated sugar dust, which, like other forms of dust, is highly combustible.

A month after the Port Wentworth explosion, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors investigated another Imperial Sugar plant, in Gramercy, La. They found one-fourth-inch to 2-inch accumulations of dust on electrical wiring and machinery. They found as much as 48inch accumulations on workroom floors.

Imperial Sugar knew of the conditions in its plants. It had in fact taken some measures to address its operations prior to the explosion. The company brought in a new vice president to clean up operations in November 2007, and he took some important measures to improve conditions. But it wasn’t enough. The vice president told a congressional committee that top-level management had told him to tone down his demands for immediate action.

Philip Morris International: Unshackled

The old Philip Morris no longer exists. In March, the company formally divided itself into two separate entities: Philip Morris USA, which remains a part of the parent company Altria, and Philip Morris International. Philip Morris USA sells Marlboro and other cigarettes in the United States. Philip Morris International tramples the rest of the world.

Philip Morris International has already signaled its initial plans to subvert the most important policies to reduce smoking and the death toll from tobacco-related disease (now at 5 million lives a year). The company has announced plans to inflict on the world an array of new products, packages and marketing efforts. These are designed to undermine smoke-free workplace rules, defeat tobacco taxes, segment markets with specially flavored products, offer flavored cigarettes to appeal to youth and overcome marketing restrictions.

Roche: “Saving Lives Is Not Our Business”

The Swiss company Roche makes a range of HIV-related drugs. One of them is enfuvirtide, sold under the brandname Fuzeon. Fuzeon brought in $266 million to Roche in 2007, though sales are declining.

Roche charges $25,000 a year for Fuzeon. It does not offer a discount price for developing countries.

Like most industrialized countries, South Korea maintains a form of price controls. The national health insurance program sets prices for medicines, and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs listed Fuzeon at $18,000 a year. South Korea’s per capita income is roughly half that of the United States. Instead of providing Fuzeon at South Korea’s listed level—and still turning a profit—Roche refuses to make the drug available in South Korea.

South Korean activists report that the head of Roche Korea told them, “We are not in business to save lives, but to make money. Saving lives is not our business.”

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Mercury In Vaccines Was Replaced With Something Even MORE Toxic

January 29, 2009
Mercury In Vaccines Was Replaced With Something Even MORE Toxic
Posted by Barbara Peterson under vaccines | Tags: eugenics, medical infanticide, population control |

Provided by Mercola

The short, eye-opening eBook linked below is titled Aluminum in Vaccines — a Neurological Gamble, by Neil Miller, director of the Thinktwice Global Vaccine Institute. It documents the hazards associated with aluminum-laden vaccines. Children are receiving high concentrations of aluminum in their shots.

This well-documented neurotoxin may be more dangerous than mercury.

Vaccines containing high concentrations of neurotoxic aluminum were added to the child immunization schedule when several vaccines containing mercury were removed. Two-month old babies now receive 1,225 mcg of aluminum from their vaccines — 50 times higher than safety levels! Although the FDA, CDC and World Health Organization are aware of the dangers, they expect parents to play Russian roulette with their children.

Aluminum in Vaccines — a Neurological Gamble (PDF)

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
When mercury was removed from many vaccines (except the flu vaccine) years ago, it was under the false guise that finally vaccines were now safe. What health agencies did not want you to know is that there are many other toxic additives still in vaccines, and one of them is aluminum.Aluminum has not received the widespread media attention that mercury has, therefore many people don’t realize it’s a health risk.

“Aluminum is not perceived, I believe, by the public as a dangerous metal. Therefore, we are in a much more comfortable wicket in terms of defending its presence in vaccines,” said Dr. John Clements, WHO vaccine advisor.

Notice he said that aluminum is “not perceived” by the public as a dangerous metal … he couldn’t say simply that aluminum is safe, because this would be a lie.
Why is Aluminum Added to Vaccines?

Every vaccine has two components, the agent that you’re seeking to elicit an immune response to, such as a measles virus, and an immune adjuvant, which enhances the immune response and is typically made from a variety of highly toxic compounds including aluminum compounds, MSG, and mercury. The purpose of immune adjuvants is to boost your immune system, or to make it react as intensely as possible for as long as possible.

Unlike a natural immune boost that would come from, say, eating healthy and exercising, artificial immune adjuvants can be dangerous in and of themselves. Says Dr. Russell Blaylock, M.D., a board-certified neurosurgeon and author:

“Studies have shown that these adjuvants, from a single vaccine, can cause immune overactivation for as long as two years. This means that the brain microglia remain active as well, continuously pouring out destructive chemicals.

In fact, one study found that a single injection of an immune activating substance could cause brain immune overactivation for over a year. This is very destructive.”
How Aluminum Can Harm Your Brain

When you or your child is injected with a vaccine, the aluminum compounds it contains accumulate not only at the site of injection but travel to your brain and accumulate there. In your brain, aluminum enters neurons and glial cells (astrocytes and microglia).Studies have shown that aluminum can activate microglia and do so for long periods, which means that the aluminum in your vaccination is priming your microglia to overreact.

The next vaccine acts to trigger the enhanced inflammatory reaction and release of the excitotoxins, glutamate and quinolinic acid, Dr. Blaylock points out.Meanwhile, if you come down with an infection, are exposed to more toxins, or have a stroke or head injury of any kind, this will magnify the inflammatory reaction occurring in your brain due to the vaccines. Research has shown that the more your immune system remains activated, the more likely it is you’ll suffer from a neurodegenerative disease.

The aluminum hydroxide used in many vaccines, including hepatitis A and B, and the Pentacel cocktail for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, and meningitis, has been clearly linked to symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and Alzheimer’s.

Scientists discovered the link after injecting mice with an anthrax vaccine developed for the first Gulf War. After 20 weeks, a fifth of the mice developed a skin allergy, and memory problems increased by 41 times compared to a placebo group. Also, inside the brains of mice, 35 percent of the cells that control movement were destroyed.

There is overwhelming evidence that chronic immune activation in your brain, as discussed by Dr. Blaylock above, is a major cause of damage in numerous degenerative brain disorders, from multiple sclerosis Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and ALS, which may explain the link between aluminum-containing vaccines and these diseases.

Late last year a team of scientists also found that vaccination involving aluminum-containing adjuvants could trigger the cascade of immunological events that are associated with autoimmune conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome and macrophagic myofasciitis, a condition that causes profound weakness and multiple neurological syndromes, one of which closely resembles multiple sclerosis.Even a study in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, admitted that:

“Aluminum is now being implicated as interfering with a variety of cellular and metabolic processes in the nervous system and in other tissues.”

This has led some experts to suggest that aluminum in vaccines may be linked to autism.
Just How Much Aluminum Could Your Child be Exposed To?

If you are a parent of a young child I highly recommend you read the entire eBook linked above, as it spells out very clearly just how much aluminum will be injected into your child if you follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) vaccine schedule.

In short, babies who follow the recommended vaccination schedule are injected with nearly 5,000 mcg (5 mg) of aluminum by the time they are just 1.5 years old.

The FDA considers levels of aluminum up to 0.85mg to be “safe,” so you do the math on the risk involved here.

For parents, the issue of what to do about these risks can be very confusing. So please do take your time to thoroughly research the risks of vaccinations before making up your mind. Dr. Blaylock’s article, The Danger of Excessive Vaccination During Brain Development: The Case for a Link to Autism Spectrum Disorders, is an excellent starting point that I highly recommend.If you’re looking for a more sensible, “user-friendly” vaccination schedule that may present fewer risks than the CDC’s “one-size-fits-all” schedule, Dr. Donald Miller advises the following:

1. No vaccinations until your child is 2 years old.
2. No vaccines that contain thimerosal (mercury).
3. No live virus vaccines.
4. The following vaccines should be given one at a time (not as a combination vaccine), every six months, beginning at age 2:

a. Pertussis (acellular, not whole cell)
b. Diphtheria
c. Tetanus
d. Polio (the Salk vaccine, cultured in human cells)
And that would be pretty much it as far as vaccinations. Your pediatrician will not like this schedule, but if you have reviewed the evidence and still feel your child should be inoculated to a certain degree, this is a far safer alternative to the standard vaccination schedule. If your pediatrician doesn’t agree, or isn’t open to discussing this issue with you, it’s high time to find a new one who will understand your concerns.

The World is Facing the First Truly Global Economic Crisis by Vladimir Putin

The World is Facing the First Truly Global Economic Crisis

by Vladimir Putin

Global Research, January 29, 2009
World Economic Forum

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s speech at the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum Davos, Switzerland January 28, 2009

Good afternoon, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank the forum’s organisers for this opportunity to share my thoughts on global economic developments and to share our plans and proposals.

The world is now facing the first truly global economic crisis, which is continuing to develop at an unprecedented pace.

The current situation is often compared to the Great Depression of the late 1920s and the early 1930s. True, there are some similarities. However, there are also some basic differences. The crisis has affected everyone at this time of globalisation. Regardless of their political or economic system, all nations have found themselves in the same boat.

There is a certain concept, called the perfect storm, which denotes a situation when Nature’s forces converge in one point of the ocean and increase their destructive potential many times over. It appears that the present-day crisis resembles such a perfect storm.

Responsible and knowledgeable people must prepare for it. Nevertheless, it always flares up unexpectedly.

The current situation is no exception either. Although the crisis was simply hanging in the air, the majority strove to get their share of the pie, be it one dollar or a billion, and did not want to notice the rising wave.

In the last few months, virtually every speech on this subject started with criticism of the United States. But I will do nothing of the kind.

I just want to remind you that, just a year ago, American delegates speaking from this rostrum emphasised the US economy’s fundamental stability and its cloudless prospects. Today, investment banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exist. In just 12 months, they have posted losses exceeding the profits they made in the last 25 years. This example alone reflects the real situation better than any criticism.

The time for enlightenment has come. We must calmly, and without gloating, assess the root causes of this situation and try to peek into the future.

In our opinion, the crisis was brought about by a combination of several factors.

The existing financial system has failed. Substandard regulation has contributed to the crisis, failing to duly heed tremendous risks. Add to this colossal disproportions that have accumulated over the last few years. This primarily concerns disproportions between the scale of financial operations and the fundamental value of assets, as well as those between the increased burden on international loans and the sources of their collateral.

The entire economic growth system, where one regional centre prints money without respite and consumes material wealth, while another regional centre manufactures inexpensive goods and saves money printed by other governments, has suffered a major setback.

I would like to add that this system has left entire regions, including Europe, on the outskirts of global economic processes and has prevented them from adopting key economic and financial decisions. Moreover, generated prosperity was distributed extremely unevenly among various population strata. This applies to differences between social strata in certain countries, including highly developed ones. And it equally applies to gaps between countries and regions. A considerable share of the world’s population still cannot afford comfortable housing, education and quality health care. Even a global recovery posted in the last few years has failed to radically change this situation. And, finally, this crisis was brought about by excessive expectations. Corporate appetites with regard to constantly growing demand swelled unjustifiably. The race between stock market indices and capitalisation began to overshadow rising labour productivity and real-life corporate effectiveness.

Unfortunately, excessive expectations were not only typical of the business community. They set the pace for rapidly growing personal consumption standards, primarily in the industrial world. We must openly admit that such growth was not backed by a real potential. This amounted to unearned wealth, a loan that will have to be repaid by future generations.

This pyramid of expectations would have collapsed sooner or later. In fact, this is happening right before our eyes.

Esteemed colleagues,

One is sorely tempted to make simple and popular decisions in times of crisis. However, we could face far greater complications if we merely treat the symptoms of the disease.

Naturally, all national governments and business leaders must take resolute actions. Nevertheless, it is important to avoid making decisions, even in such force majeure circumstances, that we will regret in the future.

This is why I would first like to mention specific measures which should be avoided and which will not be implemented by Russia. We must not revert to isolationism and unrestrained economic egotism. The leaders of the world’s largest economies agreed during the November 2008 G20 summit not to create barriers hindering global trade and capital flows. Russia shares these principles. Although additional protectionism will prove inevitable during the crisis, all of us must display a sense of proportion. Excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state’s omnipotence is another possible mistake. True, the state’s increased role in times of crisis is a natural reaction to market setbacks. Instead of streamlining market mechanisms, some are tempted to expand state economic intervention to the greatest possible extent. The concentration of surplus assets in the hands of the state is a negative aspect of anti-crisis measures in virtually every nation. In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state’s role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated. Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the spirit of free enterprise, including the principle of personal responsibility of businesspeople, investors and shareholders for their decisions, is being eroded in the last few months. There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state. And one more point: anti-crisis measures should not escalate into financial populism and a refusal to implement responsible macroeconomic policies. The unjustified swelling of the budgetary deficit and the accumulation of public debts are just as destructive as adventurous stock-jobbing.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Unfortunately, we have so far failed to comprehend the true scale of the ongoing crisis. But one thing is obvious: the extent of the recession and its scale will largely depend on specific high-precision measures, due to be charted by governments and business communities and on our coordinated and professional efforts. In our opinion, we must first atone for the past and open our cards, so to speak. This means we must assess the real situation and write off all hopeless debts and “bad” assets. True, this will be an extremely painful and unpleasant process. Far from everyone can accept such measures, fearing for their capitalisation, bonuses or reputation. However, we would “conserve” and prolong the crisis, unless we clean up our balance sheets. I believe financial authorities must work out the required mechanism for writing off debts that corresponds to today’s needs. Second. Apart from cleaning up our balance sheets, it is high time we got rid of virtual money, exaggerated reports and dubious ratings. We must not harbour any illusions while assessing the state of the global economy and the real corporate standing, even if such assessments are made by major auditors and analysts.

In effect, our proposal implies that the audit, accounting and ratings system reform must be based on a reversion to the fundamental asset value concept. In other words, assessments of each individual business must be based on its ability to generate added value, rather than on subjective concepts. In our opinion, the economy of the future must become an economy of real values. How to achieve this is not so clear-cut. Let us think about it together.

Third. Excessive dependence on a single reserve currency is dangerous for the global economy. Consequently, it would be sensible to encourage the objective process of creating several strong reserve currencies in the future. It is high time we launched a detailed discussion of methods to facilitate a smooth and irreversible switchover to the new model.

Fourth. Most nations convert their international reserves into foreign currencies and must therefore be convinced that they are reliable. Those issuing reserve and accounting currencies are objectively interested in their use by other states. This highlights mutual interests and interdependence. Consequently, it is important that reserve currency issuers must implement more open monetary policies. Moreover, these nations must pledge to abide by internationally recognised rules of macroeconomic and financial discipline. In our opinion, this demand is not excessive. At the same time, the global financial system is not the only element in need of reforms. We are facing a much broader range of problems. This means that a system based on cooperation between several major centres must replace the obsolete unipolar world concept. We must strengthen the system of global regulators based on international law and a system of multilateral agreements in order to prevent chaos and unpredictability in such a multipolar world. Consequently, it is very important that we reassess the role of leading international organisations and institutions.

I am convinced that we can build a more equitable and efficient global economic system. But it is impossible to create a detailed plan at this event today.

It is clear, however, that every nation must have guaranteed access to vital resources, new technology and development sources. What we need is guarantees that could minimise risks of recurring crises. Naturally, we must continue to discuss all these issues, including at the G20 meeting in London, which will take place in April.

Our decisions should match the present-day situation and heed the requirements of a new post-crisis world.

The global economy could face trite energy-resource shortages and the threat of thwarted future growth while overcoming the crisis. Three years ago, at a summit of the Group of Eight, we raised the issue of global energy security. We called for the shared responsibility of suppliers, consumers and transit countries. I think it is time to launch truly effective mechanisms ensuring such responsibility.

The only way to ensure truly global energy security is to form interdependence, including a swap of assets, without any discrimination or dual standards. It is such interdependence that generates real mutual responsibility.

Unfortunately, the existing Energy Charter has failed to become a working instrument able to regulate emerging problems.

I propose we start laying down a new international legal framework for energy security. Implementation of our initiative could play a political role comparable to the treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community. That is to say, consumers and producers would finally be bound into a real single energy partnership based on clear-cut legal foundations.

Every one of us realises that sharp and unpredictable fluctuations of energy prices are a colossal destabilising factor in the global economy. Today’s landslide fall of prices will lead to a growth in the consumption of resources.

On the one hand, investments in energy saving and alternative sources of energy will be curtailed. On the other, less money will be invested in oil production, which will result in its inevitable downturn. Which, in the final analysis, will escalate into another fit of uncontrolled price growth and a new crisis.

It is necessary to return to a balanced price based on an equilibrium between supply and demand, to strip pricing of a speculative element generated by many derivative financial instruments.

To guarantee the transit of energy resources remains a challenge. There are two ways of tackling it, and both must be used. The first is to go over to generally recognised market principles of fixing tariffs on transit services. They can be recorded in international legal documents. The second is to develop and diversify the routes of energy transportation. We have been working long and hard along these lines. In the past few years alone, we have implemented such projects as the Yamal-Europe and Blue Stream gas pipelines. Experience has proved their urgency and relevance. I am convinced that such projects as South Stream and North Stream are equally needed for Europe’s energy security. Their total estimated capacity is something like 85 billion cubic meters of gas a year. Gazprom, together with its partners – Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi – will soon launch capacities for liquefying and transporting natural gas produced in the Sakhalin area. And that is also Russia’s contribution to global energy security. We are developing the infrastructure of our oil pipelines. The first section of the Baltic Pipeline System (BPS) has already been completed. BPS-1 supplies up to 75 million tonnes of oil a year. It does this direct to consumers – via our ports on the Baltic Sea. Transit risks are completely eliminated in this way. Work is currently under way to design and build BPS-2 (its throughput capacity is 50 million tonnes of oil a year. We intend to build transport infrastructure in all directions. The first stage of the pipeline system Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean is in the final stage. Its terminal point will be a new oil port in Kozmina Bay and an oil refinery in the Vladivostok area. In the future a gas pipeline will be laid parallel to the oil pipeline, towards the Pacific and China. Addressing you here today, I cannot but mention the effects of the global crisis on the Russian economy. We have also been seriously affected.

However, unlike many other countries, we have accumulated large reserves. They expand our possibilities for confidently passing through the period of global instability.

The crisis has made the problems we had more evident. They concern the excessive emphasis on raw materials in exports and the economy in general and a weak financial market. The need to develop a number of fundamental market institutions, above all of a competitive environment, has become more acute.

We were aware of these problems and sought to address them gradually. The crisis is only making us move more actively towards the declared priorities, without changing the strategy itself, which is to effect a qualitative renewal of Russia in the next 10 to 12 years.

Our anti-crisis policy is aimed at supporting domestic demand, providing social guarantees for the population, and creating new jobs. Like many countries, we have reduced production taxes, leaving money in the economy. We have optimised state spending.

But, I repeat, along with measures of prompt response, we are also working to create a platform for post-crisis development.

We are convinced that those who will create attractive conditions for global investment already now and will be able to preserve and strengthen sources of strategically meaningful resources will become leaders of the restoration of the global economy.

This is why among our priorities we have the creation of a favourable business environment and development of competition; the establishment of a stable loan system resting on sufficient internal resources; and implementation of transport and other infrastructure projects.

Russia is already one of the major exporters of a number of food commodities. And our contribution to ensuring global food security will only increase.

We are also going to actively develop the innovation sectors of the economy. Above all, those in which Russia has a competitive edge – space, nuclear energy, aviation. In these areas, we are already actively establishing cooperative ties with other countries. A promising area for joint efforts could be the sphere of energy saving.

We see higher energy efficiency as one of the key factors for energy security and future development.

We will continue reforms in our energy industry. Adoption of a new system of internal pricing based on economically justified tariffs.

This is important, including for encouraging energy saving. We will continue our policy of openness to foreign investments.

I believe that the 21st century economy is an economy of people not of factories. The intellectual factor has become increasingly important in the economy. That is why we are planning to focus on providing additional opportunities for people to realise their potential.

We are already a highly educated nation. But we need for Russian citizens to obtain the highest quality and most up-to-date education, and such professional skills that will be widely in demand in today’s world. Therefore, we will be pro-active in promoting educational programmes in leading specialities.

We will expand student exchange programmes, arrange training for our students at the leading foreign colleges and universities and with the most advanced companies. We will also create such conditions that the best researchers and professors – regardless of their citizenship – will want to come and work in Russia.

History has given Russia a unique chance. Events urgently require that we reorganise our economy and update our social sphere. We do not intend to pass up this chance. Our country must emerge from the crisis renewed, stronger and more competitive.

Separately, I would like to comment on problems that go beyond the purely economic agenda, but nevertheless are very topical in present-day conditions. Unfortunately, we are increasingly hearing the argument that the build-up of military spending could solve today’s social and economic problems. The logic is simple enough. Additional military allocations create new jobs. At a glance, this sounds like a good way of fighting the crisis and unemployment. This policy might even be quite effective in the short term. But in the longer run, militarisation won’t solve the problem but will rather quell it temporarily. What it will do is squeeze huge financial and other resources from the economy instead of finding better and wiser uses for them.

My conviction is that reasonable restraint in military spending, especially coupled with efforts to enhance global stability and security, will certainly bring significant economic dividends. I hope that this viewpoint will eventually dominate globally. On our part, we are geared to intensive work on discussing further disarmament.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the economic crisis could aggravate the current negative trends in global politics. The world has lately come to face an unheard-of surge of violence and other aggressive actions, such as Georgia’s adventurous sortie in the Caucasus, recent terrorist attacks in India, and escalation of violence in Gaza Strip. Although not apparently linked directly, these developments still have common features.

First of all, I am referring to the existing international organisations’ inability to provide any constructive solutions to regional conflicts, or any effective proposals for interethnic and interstate settlement. Multilateral political mechanisms have proved as ineffective as global financial and economic regulators. Frankly speaking, we all know that provoking military and political instability, regional and other conflicts is a helpful means of distracting the public from growing social and economic problems. Such attempts cannot be ruled out, unfortunately.

To prevent this scenario, we need to improve the system of international relations, making it more effective, safe and stable. There are a lot of important issues on the global agenda in which most countries have shared interests. These include anti-crisis policies, joint efforts to reform international financial institutions, to improve regulatory mechanisms, ensure energy security and mitigate the global food crisis, which is an extremely pressing issue today.

Russia is willing to contribute to dealing with international priority issues. We expect all our partners in Europe, Asia and America, including the new US administration, to show interest in further constructive cooperation in dealing with all these issues and more. We wish the new team success.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The international community is facing a host of extremely complicated problems, which might seem overpowering at times. But, a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step, as the proverb goes. We must seek foothold relying on the moral values that have ensured the progress of our civilisation. Integrity and hard work, responsibility and self-confidence will eventually lead us to success. We should not despair. This crisis can and must be fought, also by pooling our intellectual, moral and material resources.

This kind of consolidation of effort is impossible without mutual trust, not only between business operators, but primarily between nations.

Therefore, finding this mutual trust is a key goal we should concentrate on now.

Trust and solidarity are key to overcoming the current problems and avoiding more shocks, to reaching prosperity and welfare in this new century.

Thank you.

Global Research Articles by Vladimir Putin

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Germany set to create 'bad banks'David Gow in Brussels

Germany set to create 'bad banks'David Gow in Brussels, Sunday 25 January 2009 15.39 GMT David Gow Brussels

The German government is poised to do a U-turn and approve several "bad banks" to take over its banks' toxic assets for up to five years as the financial crisis and recession deepen.

German banks are estimated to have between €300bn (£285bn) and €1tn of these assets sitting on their books, adding to the pressure on Berlin to act. The total of bad assets held by banks across Europe could be as high as €4.8tn.

Private sector banks and Landesbanken, or state-owned regional banks, in Germany are due to declare multibillion losses for 2008. Deutsche Bank, the country's biggest, has already indicated a near-€4bn loss and BayernLB, the Bavarian regional bank, one of €5bn.

This dire situation has emerged as eurozone and EU governments consider handing the European Central Bank the lead role in supervising Europe's 46 big cross-­border banks in the wake of the crisis that saw the nationalised Fortis bank of Belgium indicate last week it had lost close to €20bn last year.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Peer Steinbrück, are under pressure from leading Bundestag deputies of their respective parties — the Christian (CDU) and Social (SPD) Democrats — to draw up a second bank rescue plan on top of the current €480bn scheme.

Steinbrück has been the most vocal opponent of the notion of a bad bank, and his spokesman said late last week that there could be no question of nationalisation. CDU experts said a "state-financed toxic waste dump" was out of the question. The finance minister has also sharply queried Britain's latest scheme to insure the banks' toxic assets, saying that nobody could price these and they could potentially amount to up to 30% of banks' balance sheets.

But Berlin's "grand coalition" is now reportedly coming round to the notion of adopting a solution whereby individual banks would park their toxic assets in separate bad banks. The state would guarantee these as they were unwound and sold off over the next few years.

The new Obama administration in the US is also reportedly considering a bad banks solution as EU governments pile the pressure on the banks to come clean about how big their exposure is.

On February 25 an independent body of advisers, led by Jacques de Larosière, the ex-Bank of France chairman, is due to propose an overarching supervisory role for the ECB to prevent a recurrence of the crisis. This will come in a report to the European commission. Both he and the current French central bank chairman, Christian Noyer, have pinpointed the ECB as a more viable solution than the current system of cross-border supervisors, including the City-based Committee of European Banking Supervisors.

But David Wright, deputy head of the European commission's internal market department, has insisted that the banks must first own up to the scale of their toxic assets. "How can you deal with the problem if you don't know where it is? Even today we are struggling to define the size of the problem," he said on Friday.

The UK government, pressing British and other European banks to come clean, is already casting a wary eye on the proposed new ECB role, given the once-mighty position of the City as the EU's leading financial centre.

Could becoming a father after age 40 raise the risks that your children will have a mental illness?

February, 2009 in Biology The Father Factor: How Dad's Age Increases Baby's Risk of Mental Illness
Could becoming a father after age 40 raise the risks that your children will have a mental illness?
By Paul Raeburn

Key Concepts
It is widely recognized that a 40-year-old woman has an increased risk of bearing a child with Down syndrome. What is not known is that a 40-year-old man has the same risk of fathering a child with schizophrenia—and even higher odds of his offspring having autism. The risk of bipolar disorder appears to rise as well.
In the past couple of decades, the number of older fathers has increased. Birth rates for men older than 40 have jumped as much as 40 percent since 1980.
The mechanisms behind the higher risks are still being investigated, although scientists have several hypotheses that could someday lead to better therapies or possibly even cures for these mental illnesses.
When my wife, Elizabeth, was pregnant, she had a routine ultrasound exam, and I was astonished by the images. The baby’s ears, his tiny lips, the lenses of his eyes and even the feathery, fluttering valves in his heart were as crisp and clear as the muscles and tendons in a Leonardo da Vinci drawing. Months before he was born, we were already squabbling about whom he looked like. Mostly, though, we were relieved; everything seemed to be fine.

Elizabeth was 40, and we knew about all the things that can go wrong in the children of older mothers. We worried about Down syndrome, which is more common in the offspring of older women. Elizabeth had the tests to rule out Down syndrome and a few other genetic abnormalities. That was no guarantee the baby would be okay, but the results were reassuring to us.

The day after Henry was born, while we were still bleary-eyed from a late-night cesarean delivery, we caught part of a report on the hospital television about an increased risk of autism in the children of older fathers. Until then, all we’d thought about was Elizabeth’s age—not mine. We’d had no idea that my age could be an important factor in our baby’s health.

When we got home, I looked up the study. Researchers had analyzed medical records in Israel, where all young men and most women must report to the draft board for mandatory medical, intelligence and psychiatric screening. They found that children born to fathers 40 or older had nearly a sixfold increase in the risk of autism as compared with kids whose fathers were younger than 30. Children of fathers older than 50—that includes me—had a ninefold risk of autism.

The researchers said that advanced paternal age, as they call it, has also been linked to an increased risk of birth defects, cleft lip and palate, water on the brain, dwarfism, miscarriage and “decreased intellectual capacity.”

What was most frightening to me, as someone with mental illness in the family, is that older fatherhood was also associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia. The risk rises for fathers with each passing year. The child of a 40-year-old father has a 2 percent chance of having schizophrenia—double the risk of a child whose father is younger than 30. A 40-year-old man’s risk of having a child with schizophrenia is the same as a 40-year-old woman’s risk of having a child with Down syndrome.

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We wouldn’t know for two years or so whether Henry had autism. And because schizophrenia does not usually appear until the early 20s, we had decades to wait before we would know if Henry was affected.

Advancing Years
Data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that in the U.S. the number of births to men aged 40 to 49 nearly tripled between 1980 and 2004, rising from 120,702 to 328,465. Much of that jump is the result of an increase in the overall population. But there has been a shift over the past generation toward more older fathers beyond what can be accounted for by the growth in population. Birth rates for men in their 40s (a number that takes population growth into account) have risen by up to 40 percent since 1980—whereas birth rates for men younger than 30 have fallen by as much as 21 percent.

The idea that a father’s age could affect the health of his children was first hinted at a century ago by an unusually perceptive and industrious doctor in private practice in Stuttgart, Germany. Wilhelm Weinberg was a loner who devoted much of his time to caring for the poor, including delivering 3,500 babies during a 40-year career. He also managed to publish 160 scientific papers without the benefit of colleagues, students or grants. His papers, written in German, did not attract much attention initially; most geneticists spoke English. It was not until years later that some of Weinberg’s papers were recognized as landmarks.

One of these was a 1912 study noting that a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia was more common among the last-born children in families than among the first-born. Weinberg didn’t know why that was so, but he speculated that it might be related to the age of the parents, who were obviously older when their last children were born. Weinberg’s prescient observation was confirmed decades later when research showed that he was half right: the risk of dwarfism rose with the father’s age but not the mother’s.

Since then, about 20 inherited ailments have been linked to paternal age, including progeria, the disorder of rapid aging, and Marfan syndrome, a disorder marked by very long arms, legs, fingers and toes, as well as life-threatening heart defects. More recent studies have linked fathers’ age to prostate and other cancers in their children. And in September 2008 researchers linked older fathers to an increased risk of bipolar disorder in their children.

Eggs vs. Sperm
Dolores Malaspina, a professor of psychiatry at the New York University Langone Medical Center, was in college when her sister, Eileen, who was two years younger, began behaving in ways the family couldn’t explain. At first, Malaspina recalls, Eileen seemed like she was going through the usual problems of adolescence. Eileen’s behavior became harder to overlook, however, and she was soon diagnosed with schizophrenia.

It was the early 1970s, when many psychiatrists believed schizophrenia was caused by a dominant, overpowering mother who rejected her child. Further, Eileen’s doctors said, there was no treatment. The damage done by a schizophrenia-inducing mother was irreparable.

At the same time Eileen was deteriorating, Malaspina earned a master’s in zoology and took a job at a drug company, where she drifted into research on substances that could alter brain chemistry. She was in the job for a while before she made the connection with her sister. “I was looking at molecules in the lab that might be related to psychosis,” she says. “My sister had very bad psychosis.” Researchers were then beginning to establish a biological basis for schizophrenia that would ultimately demolish the so-called schizophrenogenic-mother theory. Malaspina quit her job, went to medical school, became a psychiatrist and focused her research on schizophrenia.

While schizophrenia was being recast as a biological illness, most researchers still looked to mothers as the cause of the illness. A woman’s eggs age as she does, and it seemed reasonable to conclude that they deteriorate over the years, giving rise to increased problems in her offspring. Sperm are freshly manufactured all the time.

That’s not quite the way biology works, however. Because sperm are being continuously manufactured, genetic copying is going on constantly. Geneticists think it is that incessant copying and recopying that gives rise to the genetic errors that cause dwarfism, Marfan syndrome and the other inherited ailments. Malaspina decided to explore whether genetic errors in sperm might be at least partly responsible for schizophrenia. It was an unfashionable line of research. Nobody worried about fathers because everybody assumed mothers were the source of most problems in children. But Malaspina and others were beginning to think about it differently.

Schizophrenia and Autism
Later, while doing her residency at Columbia University, Malaspina learned about a unique research opportunity in Israel. During the 1960s and 1970s, all births in and around Jerusalem were recorded in conjunction with information on the infants’ families, including the ages of the parents. And all those children received a battery of medical tests as young adults, a requirement of Israel’s military draft. Because the records cover an entire population, the data are free from the biases that might creep in if researchers looked at, say, only people who graduated from college or only those who went to see a doctor.

Malaspina used the Israeli group to look first at the risk of schizophrenia in children of older fathers—and then at the risk of autism. Then she correlated birth and family information on some 90,000 children with information on which of them had developed schizophrenia as recorded on their military physicals. In 2001 Malaspina and her colleagues reported that paternal age was strongly linked to the risk of schizophrenia, as she had suspected.

It was the first large-scale study to link sporadic cases of schizophrenia to fathers’ age, and few researchers believed it. “We were absolutely convinced it was real, but other people didn’t think it was,” Malaspina says. “Everybody thought men who waited to have children must be different.” That is, maybe these older fathers had some of the makings of schizophrenia themselves—not enough for the disease to be recognized but enough that it took them a little longer to get settled, married and have children.

Other groups tried to repeat the study using different populations. In all these studies, researchers took a close look at whether there was something about the older fathers—unrelated to age—that increased the risk of schizophrenia in their children. When they did, the link with age became even clearer. “That result has been replicated at least seven times,” says Robert K. Heinssen, chief of the schizophrenia research program at the National Institute of Mental Health (which has funded some of Malaspina’s work). “We’re talking about samples from Scandinavia, cohorts in the United States, Japan. This is not just a finding that pertains to Israeli citizens or people of Jewish background.”

Malaspina knew that the draft-induction tests identified young men and women with autism, and she realized that, too, could be looked at to see whether it was linked to paternal age. “There are similarities between autism and schizophrenia—they both have very severe social deficits,” says one of her collaborators, Abraham Reichenberg, a neuropsychologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. “There was some reason to think similar risk factors might be involved.” In 2006 they and their colleagues published a report showing that the children of men who were 40 or older were nearly six times as likely as the kids of men who were younger than 30 to develop autism or a related disorder.

Autism and related disorders—referred to as autism spectrum disorders—occurred at a rate of six in 10,000 among the children of the younger fathers and 32 in 10,000 among the children of the older fathers. (That is closer to five times the risk, but statistical adjustments showed the risk was actually about six times higher in the offspring of the older dads.) In the children of fathers older than 50, the risk was 52 in 10,000.

That was the study I heard about the day after my son Henry was born.

Reichenberg interprets these results as very solid findings: “In epidemiology, you look for an odds ratio of two. Anything above that, you’re happy. When you have an odds ratio more than five, you’re excited.” The study could not absolutely rule out some effect of older mothers, but “we’re pretty confident that the paternal age risk holds no matter what the maternal age,” he says.

As these studies were being done, Mala­spina asked Jay Gingrich, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Columbia who works with mice, whether he could look for the same effect in the offspring of older mouse fathers.

Gingrich can’t ask his mice whether they are suffering delusions or hearing voices. But he can give them tests that people with schizophrenia have difficulty passing. In one such test he looked at how mice reacted when startled by a loud sound. Mice are like people—when they hear a loud noise, they jump. And there is more similarity than that: when mice or people hear a soft sound before being startled, they don’t jump as much. It is called prepulse inhibition; the soft pulse inhibits the reaction to the louder one. “It’s abnormal in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorders and some of the others,” Gingrich says. And he found that the response was abnormal in mice with older fathers.

The results were so striking that Gingrich thought they were too good to be true. He and a postdoctoral researcher, Maria Milekic, collected data on 100 offspring of younger dads and another 100 offspring of older dads before they decided the results were correct.

Missing a Mechanism?
Not everyone agrees on what Malaspina’s results mean. Daniel R. Weinberger, a psychiatrist and schizophrenia expert at the National Institute of Mental Health, for instance, accepts the findings—that the incidence of schizophrenia is higher in the children of older fathers. But he does not agree with Malaspina that this could be one of the most important causes of schizophrenia. The reason, he says, is researchers know too little about which genes conspire to cause schizophrenia: “It’s a seminal observation, but like many seminal observations, it doesn’t identify a mechanism.” Weinberger wants to know exactly how this happens before he can say what it means.

Malaspina has thought a lot about the mechanism. What happens to the sperm of men as they age that could give rise to these increased risks in their offspring? The first thought was a classic kind of genetic mutation—a typo in the DNA, a stutter or some other scramble of the code.

There is, however, another possibility. The genetic code we are familiar with is expressed in the DNA itself. But there is a second genetic code, separate from what is embedded in the DNA. To distinguish it from the genetic code, it is referred to as “epigenetic” information. It is like a bar code imprinted on the outside of a gene. The information in that bar code can turn the gene on or off—sometimes inappropriately. If it turns the wrong genes on or off, it can affect health and disease just as surely as can changes in the DNA itself.

Malaspina has not yet proved it, but she suspects that as men grow older they develop defects in the machinery that stamps this code on the genes. These imprinting defects may give rise to the increased risk of schizophrenia, autism and perhaps some of the other ailments related to paternal age.

It is not possible to poke around in people’s brains to see whether those who have schizophrenia show errors in this imprinting. But that can be done in Gingrich’s mice. He is just now beginning to examine the imprinting in the brain tissue of his mice, and he is betting he will find errors there. That is precisely the kind of research that could address Weinberger’s concerns about the mechanism responsible for increasing the incidence of schizophrenia in the children of older dads.

This research could represent an important advance in understanding schizophrenia and autism. “This is work that we will pursue and fund, because we’re so eager to get the genetics worked out,” says Thomas R. Insel, a psychiatrist and director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “It’s a very interesting observation.” With persistence—and some luck—the research could lead to better treatments or even, one day, a cure for schizophrenia and autism.

Some researchers worry that these new findings are just among the first of the problems that might ultimately be associated with older dads. “If there is one common disease that we know is associated with older biological fathers, we can safely assume there are more remaining to be discovered,” says University of Chicago psychiatrist Elliot S. Gershon.

Gershon’s prediction has already come true. In September 2008 researchers in Sweden, in collaboration with Reichenberg, reported that the children of older fathers had an increased risk of acquiring bipolar disorder. And the risk increased as the fathers’ age rose, encouraging confidence in the results.

For now, prospective parents might want to rethink their plans about when to have children, says Herbert Meltzer, a psychiatrist and widely recognized schizophrenia expert at Vanderbilt University. He believes the risks for children of older fathers will eventually be seen to be as noteworthy as the risks facing older mothers. “It’s going to be more and more of an issue to society,” he notes. “Schizophrenia is a terrible disease, and anything that can be done to reduce it is terribly important.”

Meltzer thinks women should take a man’s age into consideration when choosing a partner to have children with. And men might want to think about having sperm stored when they are young. Because despite the advances in understanding autism and schizophrenia, treatment is limited and difficult, and a cure remains elusive.

As for Henry, that decision has been made. The question, for me, is whether I would make the same choice, knowing what I know now. Despite the increase in risks, the absolute risks “to any individual child of a man at any age are quite small,” Malaspina says.

My answer: I don’t know.

Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "The Father Factor".

Astronaut Jack Schmitt Joins Skeptics

Published: January 06,2009Send to a friend
Astronaut Jack Schmitt Joins Skeptics

Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer to address conference
American astronaut Dr. Jack Schmitt - the twelfth person to walk on the Moon, when he and Eugene Cernan were the last two to walk there - is the latest scientist to be added to the roster of more than 70 skeptics who will confront the subject of global warming at the second annual Astronaut Jack Schmitt Joins SkepticsAstronaut at the second annual International Conference on Climate Change in New York City March 8-10, 2009
The conference expects to draw 1,000 attendees including private-sector business people, state and federal legislators and officials, policy analysts, media, and students.

Schmitt, who earned a PhD from Harvard in geology, resigned in November from the Planetary Society, an international non-profit organization devoted to inspiring "the people of Earth to explore other worlds, understand our own, and seek life elsewhere." He is the twelfth person to walk on the Moon; as of 2008, of the nine living moonwalkers, he and his crewmate Eugene Cernan were the last two to walk there.

"As a geologist, I love Earth observations," Schmitt wrote, "But, it is ridiculous to tie this objective to a 'consensus' that humans are causing global warming when human experience, geologic data and history, and current cooling can argue otherwise.
'Consensus,' as many have said, merely represents the absence of definitive science. You know as well as I, the 'global warming scare' is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making..."

Schmitt will be joined by more than 70 other economists, public officials, legal experts, and climate specialists calling attention to new research that contradicts claims that Earth's moderate warming during the 20th Century primarily was man-made and has reached crisis proportions.

Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, producer of the event along with more

Immigration and Customs Enforcement told not to arrest Zeituni Onyango

Immigration and Customs Enforcement told not to arrest Zeituni Onyango
7 comments January 26, 4:22 PM
by John Zorabedian, Boston Top News Examiner
« PreviousNext » President Barack Obama's aunt Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Obama's late Kenyan father, remains in the United States despite a judge's refusal to grant her asylum in 2004, and attended an inaugural ball in Washington, DC the night Obama was officially sworn in, the Associated Press reported today. An unusual directive from the US immigration agency may have been put in place to prevent her arrest just before the presidential election on November 4, 2008.

Just days before the election, word leaked out to the news media that Onyango was living in public housing in Boston despite an order for her deportation in 2004. Onyango has since left Boston and is fighting her deportation, according to the AP. News organizations observed her attending an inaugural ball at Washington's Renaissance Mayflower Hotel with her immigration lawyer, Margaret Wong.

The directive from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, which was obtained last week by the AP in a Freedom of Information Act request, was e-mailed to ICE agents on Oct. 31 and expressed concerns about "negative media or congressional interest" and ordered ICE agents to seek approval before making arrests. Now a spokeswoman for the ICE, Kelly Nantel, has told the AP that the directive was reversed weeks after the election. From the AP:

The directive was lifted at the end of November, after Obama's win, ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Monday. Nantel previously had told the AP the directive was still in place, and the White House told the AP late Sunday that Obama would consider whether to overturn it. Nantel said she had been under the impression the directive was still in effect.
Nantel also told the AP that the directive was intended for any high-profile cases, and was not specific to Obama's family. The Obama administration commented that the president "has not contacted any government agency regarding Ms. Onyango's case, nor has any representative of the president."

However, the timing of the directive and its subsequent reversal raises the question of whether it was issued to prevent Onyango's arrest in order to protect the agency from the appearance of interfering with the election.

What do you think? Please comment below.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Musharraf ranks South Asia among most volatile regions

Musharraf ranks South Asia among most volatile regions

* Former president calls on Obama to force Pakistan and India to resolve their disputes

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Former president Pervez Musharraf has branded South Asia “one of the most volatile regions in the world”, and called on US President Barack Obama to address the root causes of problems in the region and force Pakistan and India to resolve their political differences.

Citing a speech at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Musharraf as saying that Afghanistan, Pakistan and India were ‘the focal point in the world today’. He said the region faced three major challenges: terrorism and extremism, the acrimonious relationship between India and Pakistan, and poverty and underdevelopment. “Pakistan faces all facets of extremism, including Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” he said, “and such groups must be stopped from spreading in the society … this is a battle for hearts and minds”.

Musharraf noted that India and Pakistan had fought three wars since 1947, and said, “We have so much to lose if there is a confrontation, so much to gain if there is peace.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that as Musharraf addressed a crowd inside the Franklin Institute, protesters against his regime gathered outside to make their views known.

Musharraf dodged a question on why he suspended his country’s constitution, saying he would ‘rather skip this’. But said what he did was ‘with all legal governance’.

Bailout This! by Andrew Hughes

Bailout This!
The Stabilization of the Financial Sector: The Holy Grail of Economic Salvation

by Andrew Hughes

Global Research, January 27, 2009

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Idiocy is usually described as "endlessly repeating the same process, hoping for a different result". Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden et al are straining at the leash to get the Bailout Ball rolling once again. The stabilization of the financial sector, as elusive as it has been so far, has become the Holy Grail of Economic salvation. That makes $8.5 Trillion worth of trying and $0 of result. The Knights of the Oval Table are gathered to plan their mission as their beleaguered subjects are trying to batter down the castle gates. It's no small wonder that Geithner wants to get the money out the door as soon as the end of this week.

The most recent report from the Comptroller of the Currency seems to have gone unnoticed in Washington and the press. If banks are not lending because of increased capital requirements in the face of Credit Default Swaps, other derivatives and loan defaults then the report goes a long way in describing exactly why.

Credit Exposure to Capital ratio. Amounts in $Millions

Credit Exposure to Capital Ratio

J.P. Morgan Chase


Bank Of America


The assets comprise largely of Real estate, residential mortgage, student, car and credit card loans. With the rise in defaulting mortgages, delinquent credit card and other debt the problem can only get worse. To recapitalize the banks to the point where exposure is low enough to encourage lending would take trillions and that's before any more fallout from the collapsing economy. Lending also requires creditworthy borrowers, the number of which is in a nosedive. The $165 Trillion in notional derivatives and the associated credit risk related to $15 Trillion in Credit Default Swaps illustrated below is the poison apple that the taxpayer has been forced to bite into.

Total Credit Derivatives

J.P. Morgan Chase


Bank Of America


When the "credit crunch" began and Washington began the rush to solve the problem with taxpayer cash, no accounting of this derivative nightmare was ever brought to bear. In all the deliberations and press releases there was not a single mention of the fact that the primary cause of the bank collapse was due to these "instruments of mass destruction". It was widely discussed in the blogosphere but, like the real reasons for invading Iraq, never made it in to the mainstream media. As with Iraq, one would have to assume that the reason was to obfuscate the facts and cajole a shocked public in to accepting as a remedy whatever was proposed by Paulson, Bernanke and Bush. The latter had to be completely aware of the OCC data at the time and to assume that they did not is simply not credible. It would have been completely obvious that $700 Billion would do absolutely nothing to alleviate the crisis. As witnessed in the ensuing months since the TARP bill, how the money was used has been obfuscated and concealed.This was always a scam.

Even as the economic indicators broke one record after another, the recipients of the TARP funds were selling Credit Default Swaps to each other, betting on each other's downfall. They knew the game was up and wanted to profit on the way down as much as they had on the way up. All the major Banks on Wall St. are seeing mounting losses and the failure of one will increase the losses of the other. They are joined at the hip and will fall like a house of cards.

The question begs to be asked, and this is where the cynic in me dominates, what's the plan? When they do fall will the Government nationalize the last one standing for the good of the country and socialize even more of the losses? This would be the coup of the millennium and give birth to a new Governmental paradigm. To have this complete before the economy and society have completely broken down would be a good reason to declare a real National Emergency and declare Martial Law, the legislation, executive orders and infrastructure of which are already in place. How can one not be a cynic when we reflect on what has happened so far?

The numbers are in and the scam stands exposed to those who will look. Which way the story unfolds from here is anyone's guess. But I am ready to bet that Congress will not include the OCC data in the upcoming debate on the next round of cash for the Banks.