Monthly Archives: October 2012

Yup, that's the size of it.

Here is last night’s foreign policy debate in a nutshell.  This is a quick and dirty count; I can’t spend too much time looking at this crap and certainly could not tolerate the pain of watching it live; there is a link to the transcript I used below.

Number of times each candidate agreed that Israel was our bestest friend forevah, no matter what:
Obama: 6
Romney: 6

Number of times the new US law giving Israel special preferences was mentioned [see: and  on Israel being granted air space in the US, more funding, first steps to inclusion into NATO, and participation in our internal security.]:
Obama: 0
Romney: 0

Number of times Iran threatened:
Obama: 5
Romney: 5

Number of times the latest IAEA report showing Iran is not developing nuclear weapons was mentioned [see: “(1) The IAEA is confident about ‘the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran’; and (2) The IAEA can ‘conclude that all nuclear materials in Iran is in peaceful activities.’ …” –]   :
Obama: 0
Romney: 0

Number of times candidate agreed to continue the use of drone-bombing:
Obama: 1
Romney: 1

Number of times reference made to reports that drone-bombing leads to new terrorist threats and/or angers other countries and/or that the UN is taking steps to make drones illegal under international law:
Obama: 0
Romney: 0

Number of times candidate gives specific number of countries we are drone-bombing currently:
Obama: 0
Romney: 0

Approving references made to killing bin Laden, or whoever that poor old guy was who we shot as he stood unarmed and then dumped his body in the ocean:
Obama: 2
Romney: 2

Approving references made to assassinating Ghaddafi:
Obama: 3
Romney: 1

Number of times it was suggested that President Assad of Syria be “removed”:
Obama: 4
Romney: 5

Number of times candidate mentioned that we supported al Qaeda and terrorist groups in Libya and are doing the same in Syria [See:]:
Obama: 0
Romney: 0

Number of times the candidate used mafioso-style language in reference to handling foreign affairs (i.e.; expressions such as “take out”, “go after”, “days are numbered”, “kill them”, “finish the job”, “bad guys”, etc.)  Note: I only counted each response as “one” even if such a phrase occurred multiple times in a given response. :
Obama: 10
Romney: 7

transcript of debate:

1 Comment

Posted by on October 23, 2012 in elections


The main thing you won't hear about before the election.

Let me ask you something: how do you think this is all going to end?

Do you suppose that somehow, magically, presto-chango, everything will all turn out for the best?  If so, why do you think that?  Because it always has, you say?  Because this is America, the best country on earth.  Because it always turns out well, in the end; we have a democracy in place, a republic, we are the shining beacon to the world and we have a Congress who will look out for us.  In the end.  Oh, they might squabble and fuss with each other, but in the long run, they care.

Listen up.  They don’t care.  No-one is going to worry about jobs or unemployment, unless you count ending unemployment benefits as ‘caring’ in some sense of the word.  They aren’t going to worry over environmental concerns or toxic shit in your food and water.  They don’t care if you die or how well you live while you are around.

Everyone has their list of things you won’t hear about during the debates and election season.  Most of the lists are accurate just by default: the truth is you aren’t going to hear much about anything.  Here are a few items you won’t hear about, if I may be so bold as to add to the lists.  The crap in our food.  [See my previous entry on arsenic in the rice supply.]  The ongoing leak at the Macando well site in the Gulf of Mexico and the continuing ruin of the Gulf and its ecosystem.  People getting sick and dying from fracking compounds entering the water system.  []  The truth about tar sands oil. []

The ground under Fukushima Unit 4 is sinking and the structure is on the verge of complete collapse.  []  In response to growing angst about nuclear power, our regulatory agencies have weakened regulations for nuclear facilities here in the US.  [See and this:]

The massive data-base center in Utah that is going to be used to store and sort all the emails and phone calls that the NSA is collecting from us. []

The latest IAEA report on Iran’s lack of nuclear ambitions.  [“…The next debate, on Monday, will be mostly on foreign policy; would any of these candidates please show some respect to US – and world – public opinion and at least acknowledge the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, released last month? These are the two money quotes. (1) The IAEA is confident about ‘the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran’; and (2) The IAEA can ‘conclude that all nuclear materials in Iran is in peaceful activities.’ …” –]

In retaliation for the Benghazi attack, Obama plans to drone-bomb a extra country or two.  Because, why not?  Let’s kill them all. [–election.html]  I must say, Mali?  How many countries are we drone-bombing now?  Maybe at this point it would be easier to count the ones we are not.

Or how about we talk about this: turns out our ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, who was killed in Benghazi a couple of weeks ago, was secretly arming the “rebels” in Libya during the “uprising”.   A few brave journalists used the word ‘ironic’ to describe his death at the hands of those he armed just last year – but not a one wondered why a “diplomat” was running around Libya like some special operations secret agent encouraging, indeed, facilitating, Islamist extremists and members of al Qaeda, most of whom came in from different countries or who were CIA assets, to rise up against a government that we (and Stevens specifically) previously supported.  We neither know nor care the correct definitions of the words ‘diplomat’ and ‘diplomacy’ and so no-one minded the revelations about Stevens’ real role in Libya.

Or how about this: can someone explain why we are still under a State of Emergency eleven years after 9/11?  And are we operating under the Continuity of Government Plans that Bush enacted or are we not?  Congress does not seem to know if we are – but then, they aren’t even privy to what the CoG plans are exactly.  And why the hell is that?

Drones will be increasingly used over the US, to spy on US citizens.  Anyone care?  [] and []

But we will adapt to these things, so there is no need to talk them to death.  No need to talk about them at all, come to think of it.  Someone will take care of things.  We don’t really want to hear about hunger in America or the grand theft of all the hard assets in the world perpetrated by the big banks.  No difficult discussions about entirely rethinking our relationship to money and economy.  We can’t be bothered to wonder about the intelligence gathering agencies being turned on us or drone technology and the like.  I would point out, as did Aristotle, that “what it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do”, but that is hard thinkin’ type stuff. Homo sapiens sapiens; we are so sure we are the pinnacle of evolution that we put the “wise” in there twice.  So you get to vote for Obama or Romney.  You get to listen to endless jokes about Big Bird.  (Really?  Big Bird from Sesame Street?  Are you for fucking real?)  Now, I can’t vote for a guy who made more money on the money he had already inherited by shipping jobs overseas and wrecking businesses, and who says quite clearly that he wants to take away all the social benefits we have in order to give more money to rich assholes like himself.  And who supports more spending on the Pentagon.  Nor can I vote for the man who claims the right to kill me arbitrarily, or have me detained without trial.  That Romney also agrees he would use this power does not mitigate the fact that Obama was the one who signed this bill into law and has, in fact, been using it.  I cannot vote for someone who claims the right to end my life at his whim.  Listen –  the majority in the House and everyone in the Senate voted ‘yes’ to the 2012 NDAA, giving the President this power and undoing 500 years of what we understand as our most basic right. (Think about that when you consider re-electing your Congressman to office.  This is how much these guys really care about you.)   Obama signed the bill into law.  Romney thinks it is good law and says ‘absolutely’, he would use it.  So which is the lesser of two evils?  Both these guys claim the right to kill you at their discretion, no arrest, no trial, just fucking kill you.  Do you get that?

One would think that we would have enough of this at some point.  One would think that finally enough is egoddamnednough and no-one would listen to these guys any more, much less vote for them to be in charge of our welfare and well-being.  One would be wrong.  Apparently we just can’t get enough of the sickening and strange free-fall ride we are now embarked upon.

But here is the main thing you won’t hear about before the election; there are other candidates for president running for the office aside from Obama and Romney.  None of them will be at the next debate, just as none were at the first two debates.  The media won’t mention them.  As a matter of fact, I suspect that the only reason Obama is running is not a desire to stay in office (let’s face it, he will be in the history books as the first black president, so what else does he need the office for?  He never intended to fulfill any of his ‘promises’ anyway, that much is obvious), so much as making sure that we do not hear about any of the other candidates or parties on the ballot.  With Obama running, it remains a race between the two parties and we are chided, on the rare occasions that anyone mentions third parties at all, that a vote for a third party candidate is a “wasted vote”.    Yet no-one can explain how we ever get any other parties into the running if we never vote for them.  No-one can explain how it is that in most other democratic countries there are multiple parties represented and yet somehow their elections work.  Hell, no-one can adequately explain what the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans even is any more.  The media and the two main political parties will do anything to keep you from considering anything outside their prescribed norms.

They work this pretty well.  According to the rules of the debate committee, the Commission on Presidential Debates, a candidate can be included in the debate if s/he has support from “at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations.”  So what they do is make sure that other parties or candidates are not mentioned in the polls.  Et voila.  The debates have sponsors, too, and although no-one knows exactly what the sponsors do, they are supposed to be bipartisan and unable to influence the debate process.  The 2012 sponsors are:

Anheuser-Busch Companies
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation
Sheldon S. Cohen, Esq.
Crowell & Moring LLP
International Bottled Water Association (IBWA)
The Kovler Fund
Southwest Airlines

Anheuser-Busch is not even an American company any longer.  It was purchased by InBev in ’08.  InBev is a Belgian-Brazilian company.

The Howard Buffett Foundation is currently working on a project to help eradicate hunger in America.  With Monsanto.  Through genetically modified food.  (Dead people are not hungry people, or such is the theory.)

“Farmer and philanthropist Howard Buffett challenged all American farmers to donate the profits from at least one acre of their harvest to their local food banks in an effort to eradicate hunger nationwide. Buffett, the son of Omaha billionaire investor Warren Buffett, pushed for the donations during his keynote address at the Iowa Hunger Summit, part of the World Food Prize activities on Tuesday in Des Moines.  Buffett’s private foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, has partnered with agricultural companies ADM and Monsanto and the hunger-fighting charity Feeding America to create the Invest an Acre program.[…]” –

From wikipedia on Crowell and Moring LLP:

“Crowell & Moring represented Blackwater Worldwide in the investigation after a series of deadly shootouts in the Iraqi capital left several Iraqi security agents and civilians dead in May 2007. According to the Legal Times, two other large defense contractors, Erinys Iraq and Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Co., are among the firm’s clients. Crowell also routinely counsels companies bidding for government contracts and in oversight investigations that sometimes result from those contracts.”

The International Bottled Water Assoc.  Bringing you privatized water and bisphenol-A globally.

So you did not see Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party, at the debates.  You did not see her running mate, Cheri Honkala, at the vice presidential debate.  (The Green Party was founded in 1991, so it is not exactly an exotic new group.)  Matter of fact, during the most recent debate, they were tied up.  Literally.

You may have noticed that the Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, was absent from the “town hall” presidential debate at Hofstra University the other night. That’s because she was shackled to a chair in a nearby New York police facility, along with her running mate, Green Party vice president nominee Cheri Honkala. Their crime: attempting to get to the debate so Stein could participate in it. While Mitt Romney uttered the now-famous line that he was given “whole binders full of women” while seeking staff as newly-elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002, the real binders were handcuffs used to shackle these two women, who are mothers, activists and the Green Party’s presidential ticket for 2012.

I interviewed Stein the day after the debate, after their imprisonment (which ended, not surprisingly, not long after the debate ended). She told me: “We are on the ballot for 85 percent of voters. Americans deserve to know what their choices are. The police said they were only doing job. I said, ‘This is about everyone’s jobs, whether we can afford health care, whether students will be indentured.’ There are critical issues left out of the debate. Ninety million voters are predicted to stay home and vote with their feet that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney represent them. That’s twice as many voters than expected for either of them.

Even if Stein and Honkala hadn’t been hauled off a public street and handcuffed to those chairs for eight hours, Stein’s exclusion from the debate was certain. The debates are very closely controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which excludes third-party candidates, among other things. George Farah is the founder and executive director of Open Debates, and author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.” Farah told me on the morning of the Hofstra debate about how the CPD gained control over the debates from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters: “We have a private corporation that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties called the Commission on Presidential Debates. It seized control of the presidential debates precisely because the League was independent, precisely because this women’s organization had the guts to stand up to the candidates that the major parties had nominated.”

The League of Women Voters allowed third-party candidate John B. Anderson to participate in a presidential debate in 1980, and in the decade that followed, the two major parties, Republican and Democrat, sparred with the League. In 1988, the parties tried to force the League into a contract detailing how the debates would be run. Farah explained: “It talked about who could be in the audience and how the format would be structured, but the League found that kind of lack of transparency and that kind of candidate control to be fundamentally outrageous and antithetical to our democratic process. They released the contract and stated they refuse to be an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people and refuse to implement it.”

Farah said that early contract was “tame” compared with the binding contract, leaked to Time magazine this week, that governed the so-called town hall, moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley. The 21-page “Memorandum of Understanding” includes a reference to their standards for candidate eligibility to participate. The CPD requires that a candidate have support from “at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations.” This is a classic Catch-22. In order to debate, you must have broad support. In order to earn public support, candidates without huge campaign war chests need the access that the televised debates offer. So the Democrats and Republicans control the debates, and limit the public’s access to alternative views.

If the Green Party’s nominee, Jill Stein, had been allowed to debate, what might the public have heard? To find out, our “Democracy Now!” news hour went ahead and invited major third-party candidates to participate in the debate, virtually, the morning after. In addition to Stein, we had Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party (Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson declined).

Instead of the Obama/Romney debate, where each attempted to trumpet his superior commitment to fossil-fuel extraction, the public would have heard Jill Stein say, “We support a Green New Deal, which will put everyone back to work, at the same time that it puts a halt to climate change and it makes wars for oil obsolete.” Climate change is simply not discussed in these debates.

That’s just one example. Imagine if we had a functional electoral system, with genuine, vigorous, representative debates. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala are on the ballot in 38 states, and available as write-ins for the rest. Rocky Anderson, with his new Justice Party, is on in 15 states. Now that the candidates have been unshackled, it’s time to unshackle the debates.

From their own website:

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala are now free from police custody after eight hours handcuffed to a metal chair in a remote police warehouse on Long Island. The Green Party presidential and vice-presidential candidates were arrested earlier today as they attempted to enter the grounds of today’s presidential debate organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

News of the incident spread quickly around the world via media coverage carried on ABC, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Democracy Now!, and many other channels, as well as via social media, trending on Twitter, for example, as far away as Egypt.

On her release, Dr. Stein said that, “It was painful but symbolic to be handcuffed for all those hours, because that what the Commission on Presidential Debates has essentially done to American democracy.” Stein and Honkala were eventually released into the cold at 10:30pm. Police provided no advance notice of the release to campaign lawyers and staff, and did not allow the two candidates to make any phone calls.

Cheri Honkala called her incarceration, “extremely uncomfortable, but standard for what so many Americans face on a daily basis in our corrections system.” Added Stein Campaign Manager Ben Manski, “These arrests and this treatment are outrageous and disportionate; who do the police think they are protecting here?” […]

This happened in America.  This is how we treat presidential candidates in this country now, if they are not from one of the two main parties; we zip-tie them to chairs for eight hours for doing a mild bit of protesting.  This country and its form of democracy only came into existence because of civil disobedience, as did most of our cherished but now-disappearing civil rights.  But that is one of those hard thinkin’ type things you may decide not to ponder on.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 21, 2012 in civil rights, elections


Arsenic in US-grown rice.

It seems to me that there are a few reasons to have a government as opposed to living with free-range anarchy.  One of the major reasons is that a government can better protect the welfare of the people and the commons, rather than an every-man-for-himself system which would allow the powerful to simply plunder and lay waste to the commons and kill competitors at their whim.  This is ostensibly the purpose of collecting taxes – to fund agencies and departments that see to the common good of the country.  The founding fathers considered the welfare of the people a prime concern of the government they were attempting to set up.

In the Declaration of Independence we find this complaint about King George III:
“[…]He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good

The Constitution opens with this:
“We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.[…]”

There were obvious blind spots in the brains of the Founders, of course; these guys were not perfect.  Let’s acknowledge that it seems passing strange that the same men who felt the king of England was not looking out for their best interests also included as a grievance that he wasn’t protecting them from the “savages” well enough – these would be the same Indians who lived here for thousands of years before the colonists arrived and whose land we invaded.   (“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”)  And famously, despite all men being “created equal”, they went on to affirm the right to own slaves and bar women and blacks from the vote.  I’m not going to get into all that here; the point is that the welfare of the public was clearly stated as a primary purpose in forming the government of this country.  However, when the agencies being funded to “promote the general welfare” are deliberately allowed to be taken over and run by the industry insiders from the corporations they are supposed to be regulating, the system breaks down.  We can no longer count on the government to see to our welfare because the externalities such as consumer protection and health are completely compromised for the sake of profits for the big companies.  This particular government is not working too well; they seem to have forgotten one of their prime directives.

We have reached the point where Goldman, Sachs guys run the Treasury.  Former bankers and bank lobbyists fill the financial regulatory agencies.  Eric Holder, Obama’s Attorney General, worked as a lawyer for the law firm which devised the MERS scheme to defraud homeowners.  Monsanto people now work in the EPA, the FDA, and the State Dept.  Hillary Clinton herself, our Secretary of State, was once an attorney for Monsanto.  Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, was Monsanto’s VP for Public Policy.  Islam Siddiqui, our ag negotiator trade representative, was a Monsanto lobbyist.

Congressmen regularly take bribes, known colloquially as “donations” or “lobbying cash”, from lobbyists and simply let them write legislation.  Members of Congress are given positions on various committees based on how much they raise in campaign contributions for their parties. (And here you thought Todd Akin sits on the House Committee for Science, Space and Technology and Michele Bachmann on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Financial Services Committee because they are just so damn smart.)  Etc., etc.  You get my drift.  Add to this that the media is mostly owned by a few huge corporations, weapons manufacturers in the main, and we begin to see why no-one is looking out for our welfare and why none of us seems to know about it.

Before I get to the particular issue of arsenic levels in rice, I want to go through a quick list of other things affecting our well-being that you may not have heard about from the mainstream press.

“In May 2011, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it illegal for Transportation Security Administration officials to touch a person’s genitals when carrying out a patdown. The bill failed in the Senate after the Department of Justice threatened to make Texas a no-fly zone if the legislation passed.  []”

TSA agent steals to punish passenger:  This website follows news on the TSA closely.

“[…] After the Fukushima disaster – in an effort to protect the American nuclear industry – the U.S. has joined Japan in raising “acceptable” radiation levels.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also signed a pact with her counterpart in Japan agreeing that the U.S. will continue buying seafood from Japan, despite the fact that the FDA is refusing to test seafood for radiation in any meaningful fashion. […]” -

Cane sugar is usually not made from GMO sources; beet sugar usually is. If the package does not specifically say ‘pure cane sugar’, it is probably either beet or a combination of both.  Sugar in the US does not have to be labeled as to source.

There is another new leak at the BP Macando site in the Gulf.

One very rich man (Bill Gates) can plan a massive experiment with the atmosphere and risk the health of an entire state or two and will apparently be allowed to just go ahead and play with our lives as he wishes.   Not only are the sulfate particles he is going to seed into the upper atmosphere the same thing that cause the hole in the ozone layer, thereby letting dangerous UV rays through, but there are at least a dozen of other, equally valid and obvious, reasons why this one wealthy asshole should not be allowed to mess with our atmosphere.

This is a bit outdated only in the “stop Taylor from being promoted” petition – he has been appointed and is in his new office.  The rest of the information is still valid.

Okay.  Arsenic in our rice.

Last Wednesday, Consumer Reports came out with a study  [ ] which finds that rice grown in the US, particularly brown rice and particularly that grown in the southern states, has arsenic in it.  The EPA sets limits to how much arsenic is acceptable in water; the amounts found in rice are over those limits.  The FDA, which handles food safety issues, says it will “do a study” as to what might be acceptable and will have some report available “soon”.  Currently there is no legal limit set for allowable amounts of arsenic in food products.

Rice grown in California appears to have much lower amounts of arsenic in it and imported rice none.   Although imported rice is way more expensive than domestic because the US recently switched to rice production and put heavy tariffs on imported rice, there does not seem to be a problem with rice grown overseas and the cost is probably worth it if you eat a lot of rice.

We have known the effects of arsenic on the human body (i.e., it kills you eventually) for more than a hundred years.  I spoke to a chemist about this and he made a few simple remarks:  the idea that arsenic from water and arsenic from food perhaps having different “acceptable” levels is ludicrous.  Your body does not differentiate between sources.  Babies’ bodies are so small that any level of arsenic is just completely unacceptable.  His recommendation was to eat potatoes.

There is also an issue with arsenic in other food products, namely certain juices, which apparently has been known by the FDA for some time. []

Because of the Consumer Reports study, South Korea has announced it will no longer bid on US rice products. []

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – A new report suggests high levels of arsenic may be tied to eating large amounts of rice.

 Consumer Reports released a study stating many common rice products contain “worrisome levels” of arsenic. 

The report said rice eaten just once a day could drive arsenic levels in the human body up 44-percent and if rice was eaten twice a day, the levels can increase 70-percent. 

Consumer Reports said the following were trends they noticed while researching the study:
•    White rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas, which account for 76 percent of domestic rice, generally had higher levels of total arsenic and inorganic arsenic in our tests than rice samples from elsewhere.
•    Within any single brand of rice we tested, the average total and inorganic arsenic levels were always higher for brown rice than for white.
•    People who ate rice had arsenic levels that were 44 percent greater than those who had not, according to our analysis of federal health data. And certain ethnic groups were more highly affected, including Mexicans, other Hispanics, and a broad category that includes Asians.
•    Reducing arsenic in food is feasible. We examined the efforts of two food companies, including Nature’s One, trying to tackle the problem and learned about methods being used to try to reduce arsenic in products.
•    Based on these findings, our experts are asking the Food and Drug Administration to set limits for arsenic in rice products and fruit juices as a starting point.
Arsenic is considered a level 1 carcinogen and has been linked to both lung and bladder cancers.

Consumer Reports said some products tested had more than five times the arsenic found in oat meal, an amount one and a half times more than the EPA’s legal standard for drinking water.

The USA Rice Federation does not dispute that arsenic is in rice but said there is no documented case of illness related to rice.[…]


Arsenic and Rice. Yes, again.
•    By Deborah Blum
•    Email Author
•    September 19, 2012
Today, the magazine Consumer Reports  released a report  on independent laboratory tests that found inorganic arsenic – a known carcinogen – in some 200 rice products purchased in grocery stores across the United States. The admitted point was to pressure the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into setting a safety standard for arsenic in the American food supply, something the FDA has been embarrassingly reluctant to do.

In a neatly choreographed response, the FDA promptly released its own sample results from – yes – some 200 rice products which turned up a comparable amount of inorganic arsenic in the selected foods, which ranged from baby cereal to rice cakes to bagged rice. As The Washington Post reported, the agency also reiterated that it is still testing another 1,000 rice samples and plans to release a more complete report by the end of the year.

As readers of this blog know, there’s nothing incredibly new in these results; scientists have been publishing studies on arsenic in rice for more than a decade. You can find links to some of that research, in an earlier post, The Arsenic Diet. And as I wrote back in February, there’s a straightforward reason for this. Of all the commercially grown grains, the rice plant is best designed to uptake arsenic – a widespread and naturally occurring element – from the soil, using the same mechanisms that allow it to store minerals like silicon that help strengthen the rice grains. It’s not surprising that Consumer Reports found that inorganic arsenic levels in rice cereals were “at least five times more than has been found in alternatives such as oatmeal.”

Still there are a few points from these latest findings that are definitely worth repeating. As the magazine also notes, “White rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas, which accounts for 76 percent of domestic rice, generally had higher levels of total arsenic and inorganic arsenic in our tests than rice samples from elsewhere.”

What does this mean?  Well, first, “total arsenic” refers to the fact that the tests look at two forms, or species, of the poison – organic and inorganic. Organic, of course, refers to an arsenic compound that includes the element carbon. Inorganic arsenic – as an example, the very poisonous compound arsenic trioxide (As2O3) is notably carbon free. And this matters because, as it turns out, the human body does a very reasonable job of metabolizing organic arsenic. In other words, it’s not nearly as risky to us as arsenic in its inorganic forms. As I wrote in a post titled, “Is Arsenic the Worst Chemical in the World?”, inorganic arsenic is basic bad news.

Second, why is rice from the American south popping here? One of the leading theories is that in these states, rice is now growing in fields that used to be home to cotton. For a large part of the 20th century, the primary pesticides used to beat back insects like the boll weevil were lead arsenate compounds, which have left a long-lasting residue in southern soils. There’s another theory – which the magazine Mother Jones has been arguing – that this is related to runoff from nearby chicken farms, thanks to the use of arsenic additives in chicken feed. (Use of these organic arsenic additives has been temporarily suspended due to the finding that they may convert to inorganic arsenic.)

Third, although Southern states produce primarily white rice, recent testing found that arsenic levels overall tend to be higher in brown rice species. This is because as white rice is processed, much of the rice hull is removed and that tends to be a place where the mineral is concentrated. The Dartmouth College toxic metals program offers a very helpful FAQ regarding its own findings on arsenic contamination of brown rice products.

Finally – and this is where the FDA has left all of us hanging – do the levels of inorganic arsenic found in rice pose an actual health threat? So far the agency and, not surprisingly, the USA Rice Federation,  insist not – that these are only trace amounts in a product generally considered a healthy food. And that’s a valid point although it’s unclear what the agency, at least, bases those assurances on as, so far, the only government safety standard comes from the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is aimed at well water.[…]

Of course, this also suggests that we should avoid a rice-rich diet and that some groups who more frequently consume rice – Asians, Latinos, those on a gluten-free diet – may be at more risk. And it’s on this note, I think, that our government is letting us down on the consumer protection front. The general assurances and advice that we eat a varied diet which seems to the current FDA approach is not really a substitute for the very specific answers needed.

Here’s commissioner Margaret Hamberg in an AP story today: “Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food,” And this is what I call a statement on “one particular food”  that raises questions rather than answers them.[…]


See also:

Regarding rice cereal for babies and brown rice syrup in energy bars and baby food:

[…] A team led by environmental chemist Brian P. Jackson found what Jackson called dangerous amounts of arsenic in organic powdered baby formula, intended for toddlers, whose top ingredient was brown rice syrup. That formula contained six times more arsenic than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for the water supply.

Jackson and his colleagues also reported elevated arsenic levels in some brown rice-sweetened cereal bars, energy bars and energy “shots”consumed by endurance athletes, according to a study published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.The results, which do not identify any products by name, follow recent reports about trace levels of arsenic in apple juice and previous reports of arsenic in rice.

ABC News conducted an online search for baby formula with organic brown rice syrup as the primary ingredient and found two products, Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Toddler Formula and Baby’s Only Organic Soy Toddler Formula, both made by Nature’s One.[…]

Given that organic brown rice syrup “may introduce significant concentrations of arsenic to an individual’s diet,” the researchers saw “an urgent need for regulatory limits on arsenic in food.” Dietary sources of arsenic represent “potentially a big public health issue that has not been taken on board,” Jackson told[…]


Now you know.  There have been and will be no recalls or warning labels.  There will be a study one of these fine days, which may or may not lead to, well, something.  Maybe legislation making it illegal for independent scientists to do investigations and report on their findings.  You are on your own.  And that’s how it works under the corporatocracy.

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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in big ag/pharma, Congress, corporatocracy, monsanto


The weather in Syria: cloudy. Getting murkier.

The US has apparently decided to ignore its own list of terrorist organizations when it comes to aiding the “rebels” in Syria, so determined are we to interfere in another nation’s governance and sovereignty.  We liked Assad well enough when he was running some black sites for us; now “his days are numbered”, according to Hillary we-came-we-saw-he-died Clinton.  The US has just announced it will increase its monetary aid to the “rebels” in Syria, bringing the total amount given so far to $170 million.  Imagine what this money could be used for in our own country.  While we are offering only “non-lethal” support at this point – at least (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), we hope the rebels only use the money to purchase cell phones and the like – we are in fact giving money to groups who are on the US State Dept. terrorist list.  Arms to these groups are funneled through proxy countries: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

US seeks to rally Syrian opposition, Clinton pledges $45 million in additional aid
By Associated Press, Published: September 27 | Updated: Friday, September 28, 7:47 PM

NEW YORK — The Obama administration moved Friday to rally Syria’s opposition with pledges of $45 million in new non-lethal and humanitarian assistance as the administration and other world leaders lamented the failure of diplomatic efforts to push Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. would contribute an additional $15 million in non-lethal gear — mostly communications equipment — to the civilian opposition trying to oust Assad as well as $30 million in new humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the continuing violence.

She also delivered a new, stark warning to Iran that it must stop arming and supporting the Assad regime.
“It is no secret that our attempts to move forward at the U.N. Security Council have been blocked repeatedly, but the United States is not waiting,” Clinton said as she announced the new aid at a gathering of the Friends of Syria group that she hosted at a New York hotel on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. She and other foreign ministers from the group met with nine Syrian opposition figures, including several who traveled from Syria to attend Friday’s session, to discuss strategy.

With U.N. action blocked by Russia and China, Clinton said the rest of the world must support the Syrian opposition. She also said it was urgent that the fractured foes of the regime unite around plans for a political transition that could put an end to more than three decades of Assad family rule.[…]

The new U.S. humanitarian assistance — which brings America’s total humanitarian contribution to more than $130 million since the crisis began — will include food, water, blankets and medical services to victims of the violence. U.S. officials said on Thursday that an earlier shipment of medical goods provided by USAID had just arrived in southern Syria. The officials would not provide details of how the aid made it into Syrian territory.

The additional non-lethal support brings the total U.S. contribution in that area to nearly $40 million since the crisis began and includes 1,100 sets of communications equipment, including satellite-linked computers, telephones and cameras and training for more than 1,000 activists, students and independent journalists.

“We are working to help them strengthen their networks, avoid regime persecution and document human rights abuses,” Clinton said. The U.S. is not providing military aid to the rebels although it acknowledges that other countries are.[…]

Neither Russia nor China, which have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to end the violence and enter negotiations on a political transition, were invited to Friday’s meeting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — who was to address the General Assembly on Friday — has accused the U.S. and other countries of encouraging terrorism in their stance on Syria.

However, Clinton told the meeting that the greatest threat to Syria, other than the Assad regime itself was Iran.
“Let’s be very frank here,” she said. “The regime’s most important lifeline is Iran.”

“There is no longer any doubt that Tehran will do whatever it takes to protect its proxy and crony in Damascus. Iran will do everything it can to evade international sanctions,” Clinton said. She urged Syria’s neighbors to take extra steps to ensure that Iran is not smuggling weapons and materiel into Syria through their airspace or territory.

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington.Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

As Americans, we are supposed to hate Russia, China and Iran by reflex.  Yet it is Vladimir Putin of Russia who most clearly and succinctly states the truth of the situation in Syria:

(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin signaled in an interview aired on Thursday that Russia was not ready to shift its stance on Syria, and suggested Western nations were relying on groups such as al Qaeda to help drive President Bashar al-Assad from power.[…]

Putin was asked whether Moscow should rethink its stance on Syria after vetoing three Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to pressure Assad to end violence that has killed 20,000 people.
“Why should only Russia re-evaluate its position?” he said. “Maybe our partners in the negotiation process should re-evaluate their position.”

Without naming any country, he hinted the United States was looking to militants to help topple Assad and would regret it, drawing a parallel with U.S. support for the mujahideen who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the Cold War.

“Today somebody is using al Qaeda fighters or people from other organizations with the same extreme views to achieve their goals in Syria,” Putin said. “This is a very dangerous and short-sighted policy.”[…]

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Jon Boyle)

Out in the hinterlands of the US, we have forgotten that the Taliban was not originally our enemy in Afghanistan nor the main reason for our invasion, although most of us seem to believe now that they were.  We have forgotten that al Qaeda was formed by the CIA out of the mujahideen of Afghanistan and that Osama bin Laden was originally a CIA asset.  al Qaeda is our prime enemy in the war on terror, or whatever this global conflict is now called; yet today, it is expected that we simply won’t notice that we are now on the same side as al Qaeda.  Even Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta admit as much and have done so publicly.  See:

For sure, we won’t notice that the “uprising” in Syria appears to be more of a planned invasion by terrorist groups sent in from elsewhere.  By us.

For a good history of the morphing of al Qaeda and its affiliated groups, you might do worse than to start here:

As well as al Qaeda itself, the Syrian “rebels” include the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and the Tawhid Brigade (also called the Army of Islam).  Regarding the LIFG:

[…]In reality, the “opposition” in Syria constitutes foreign terrorist legions flowing across Syria’s borders, and in particular, staging and crossing over from NATO-member Turkey. In fact, it was recently admitted by the terrorist legions themselves that their headquarters has been located within Turkish territory for the duration of the conflict. In a recent France 24 article titled, “Free Syrian Army move HQ from Turkey to Syria,” armed militants claimed they had only just recently “moved from Turkey to within Syria.”[…]

The presence of LIFG in Syria was first announced by the Western press in November of 2011 when the Telegraph in their article, “Leading Libyan Islamist met Free Syrian Army opposition group,” would report:
“Abdulhakim Belhadj, head of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader
of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, ‘met with Free Syrian Army
leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey,’ said a military
 official working with Mr Belhadj. ‘Mustafa Abdul Jalil (the interim 
Libyan president) sent him there.’ ”

The face of Libya’s “revolution” was literally Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda’s LIFG commander, Abdul Hakim Belhadj, was NATO’s point man in Libya and has now redirected his terrorist forces against Syria. LIFG commanders are now literally running entire brigades in Syria with Western diplomatic, logistic, and military support.  Another Telegraph article, “Libya’s new rulers offer weapons to Syrian rebels,” would admit “Syrian rebels held secret talks with Libya’s new authorities on Friday,
 aiming to secure weapons and money for their insurgency against
 President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, The Daily Telegraph has learned.”

Later that month, some 600 Libyan terrorists would be reported to have entered Syria to begin combat operations and more recently, CNN, whose Ivan Watson accompanied terrorists over the Turkish-Syrian border and into Aleppo, revealed that indeed foreign fighters were amongst the militants, particularly Libyans.[…]

CNN’s reports provide bookends to 2011′s admissions that large numbers of Libyan terrorists flush with NATO cash and weapons had headed to Syria, with notorious terrorist LIFG commanders making the arrangements.

LIFG officially merged with Al Qaeda in 2007, but has fought along Al Qaeda since its inception by the US and Saudis in the mountains of Afghanistan in the 1980′s. This includes fighting alongside Al Qaeda most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq against US troops while sowing sectarian violence, as covered by the US Army’s West Point Combating Terrorism Center in a 2007 report.[…]

It would now appear that LIFG’s logistics capacity aimed at Iraq which was previously routed through Syria and Egypt in cooperation with sectarian extremists, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood based in both nations, is now being directed exclusively at Syria. LIFG is doing this with Qatari, Saudi, US, French, British, and NATO support (predominantly Turkey) after receiving similar support in overthrowing the Libyan government in 2011.[…]

Ironically, the recent infusion of cash and support for Al Qaeda terrorists by the US comes on the heels of assaults staged by the group against US diplomatic missions across the region. One in particular, emanating within LIFG’s own terror emirate in Benghazi, Libya, would claim the life of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. While Stevens’ death was most likely accidental, (he succumbed to smoke inhalation, and was not killed directly by militants), it was most certainly the LIFG militias who dominate Benghazi that staged the attacks.[…]

About the Tawhid Brigade (Army of Islam) and the US attempts to get Iraq to engage in the Syrian matter as a US proxy against Iran:

[…]The “rebel” surge inside Syria’s two main cities is the latest escalation of the long-running proxy war between the United States and its regional allies, on one side, and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Iran, on the other.
The intensified fighting in Syria coincided with Washington’s announcement Friday that it would send additional aid to the opposition militias. The Obama administration declared that it would provide an extra $45 million of “non-lethal” aid to anti-Assad groups, bringing total direct US financial support for the Syrian opposition to $170 million.[…]

Washington has also ramped up its diplomatic offensive to isolate the Assad regime. During a press conference in New York on Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki had been pressured into conducting “random searches of Iranian aircraft en route to Syria.”

The Maliki regime has until now sought to balance the dictates of its US masters with the growing economic and political ties that Iraq has with its neighbors in Iran and Syria. Clinton’s announcement that the US proxy war against Syria has been extended into Iraqi airspace only underscores the bullying and reckless character of Washington’s role in the region. The seizure of Iranian civilian aircraft and their cargoes by Iraqi air defenses, acting under the control of the Pentagon, would amount to a declaration of war between the two countries.[…]

One of the main armed opposition forces waging the current offensive in Aleppo is the Tawhid Brigades. Led by Sunni extremists like Abu Khalid, a 28-year-old Syrian veteran of the sectarian civil war in Iraq, the Tawhid militia is one of the largest armed groups loosely associated with the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Speaking to McClatchy Newspapers in March, Khalid, then based in Jordan, admitted that his organization was running guns into Syria using money provided by the Sunni Gulf sheikdoms and the European powers. “We don’t mind any kind of cooperation,” even from the US, Khalid told a McClatchy journalist. “Our goal now is to end the regime, even if another million people are killed,” the opposition leader added.

While they have gained the sponsorship of Washington and its regional allies, the armed opposition groups have failed to win a significant base of support among the working class and small businessmen in either Aleppo or the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Pro-opposition activists inside Aleppo have estimated that there are around 6,000 “rebel” militants in the city – out of a total population of over 2 million people.Many of these fighters, including elements linked to Al Qaeda and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, have come across the nearby border with Turkey under the auspices of the CIA.[…]

Here is the official list of  terrorist organizations as per the State Dept:  You may notice that al Qaeda, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), and the Tawhid Brigade (listed as the Army of Islam) are on this list.   They are also groups which are part of the “rebel forces”, the Free Syria Army, that we have formed and are backing in Syria.   Laws pertaining to groups on the list as per the State Dept:

Legal Ramifications of Designation
1.    It is unlawful for a person in the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to knowingly provide “material support or resources” to a designated FTO. (The term “material support or resources” is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2339A(b)(1) as ” any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who maybe or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials.” 18 U.S.C. § 2339A(b)(2) provides that for these purposes “the term ‘training’ means instruction or teaching designed to impart a specific skill, as opposed to general knowledge.” 18 U.S.C. § 2339A(b)(3) further provides that for these purposes the term ‘expert advice or assistance’ means advice or assistance derived from scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge.’’
2.    Representatives and members of a designated FTO, if they are aliens, are inadmissible to and, in certain circumstances, removable from the United States (see 8 U.S.C. §§ 1182 (a)(3)(B)(i)(IV)-(V), 1227 (a)(1)(A)).
3.    Any U.S. financial institution that becomes aware that it has possession of or control over funds in which a designated FTO or its agent has an interest must retain possession of or control over the funds and report the funds to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

But Syria is on the way to Iran.  Thus we will ignore the terrorist designations for now and hope that the American public is sufficiently stupefied by this time as to ignore the fact that our own government is aiding and abetting terrorists.  And I sincerely doubt that the entire US government is going to imprison itself indefinitely under the rules of the 2012 NDAA.

The beneficiaries of the continued interference in the Middle East and north Africa are obvious; and it is not the average citizen of the US.  The weapons manufacturers, the oil companies, various mercenary groups, big corporations who get to divvy up the spoils after a country has been “democratized”, the security apparatus in the US that depends on our continued fear of “terrorists” – these are the ones who benefit.  The IMF and big banks do well also, as they rush in to offer “loans” to countries impoverished by our actions.  We will eventually become so impoverished ourselves by the costs of waging these operations that most of us will suffer terribly as our economy grinds to a standstill.  We, however, are not of paramount concern in the scheme of things.  We are useful as cannon fodder and a source of tax money.  (Except for the wealthiest among us, who will never see their tax rates rise.  That is a given.)  When the tax money dries up, as it must when people continue to lose jobs and homes and face unaffordable levels of inflation on basic goods, and the social safety net is finally ripped to complete shreds as part of austerity measures, then we are totally expendable.  That’s when you will see the TransPacific Partnership go into force and the sovereignty of the US given over to the corporations with no further pretense that our Congress has any interest in us.  (Regarding the TPP, see:

Here is a bonus video.  This was taped in June of this year.  In this interview, Hillary Clinton and James Baker are talking with Charlie Rose.  You don’t need to watch the whole thing – start at the 23-minute mark and watch until about the 28-minute mark.  Baker says of Iran, “At the end of the day, we [the US rather than Israel] oughta take ’em [Iran] out.”  Hillary, cackling like the mad witch she is and rubbing her shoulder flirtatiously against Baker: “Ha, ha, ha!  We’re working on it!”  This year?  Next year?  Eventually, is the point – and we do fully intend to “take them out”.  Syria is on the way and in our way on the road to destroying Iran.  For doing what they are not doing.  And because our government seems to have a higher interest in following Israel’s wishes rather than the wishes of the American people, who, by a large margin, do not want war with Iran.

[Note: in case you are too young to remember who James Baker is, here is part of his bio from wikipedia:

[…]In 1981, Baker was named White House Chief of Staff by President Ronald Reagan… He served in that capacity until 1985. Baker is considered to have had a high degree of influence over the first Reagan administration, particularly in domestic policy.[…]
During the Reagan administration, Baker also served on the Economic Policy Council, where he played an instrumental role in achieving the passage of the administration’s tax and budget reform package in 1981.[…]
President George H.W. Bush appointed Baker Secretary of State in 1989. Baker served in this role through 1992. From 1992 to 1993, he served as Bush’s White House Chief of Staff, the same position that he had held from 1981 to 1985 during the first Reagan administration.
On January 9, 1991, during the Geneva Peace Conference with Tariq Aziz in Geneva, Baker declared that “If there is any user of (chemical or biological weapons), our objectives won’t just be the liberation of Kuwait, but the elimination of the current Iraqi regime….”Baker later acknowledged that the intent of this statement was to threaten a retaliatory nuclear strike on Iraq, and the Iraqis received his message.[…]
In 2000, Baker served as chief legal adviser for George W. Bush during the 2000 election campaign and oversaw the Florida recount.[…]
On September 11, 2001, Baker watched television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington DC, where Baker and representatives of Osama bin Laden’s family were among those attending the annual conference for the Carlyle Group. Baker is Senior Counselor for the Carlyle Group, and the bin Ladens are among its major investors.[…] -]


Posted by on October 2, 2012 in economy, MIC, State Dept/diplomacy, Syria