Friday, October 31, 2014

Is Xi serious about cracking down on corruption?

Is Xi serious about cracking down on corruption?

By Jamie Metzl, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jamie Metzl is a Senior Fellow at the Asia Society. He served in the National Security Council and State Department during the Clinton administration. You can follow him @jamiemetzl or visit his website. The views expressed are his own.
There are many signs that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s unprecedented anti-corruption drive is serious. In recent weeks, an investigation was launched into former security chief and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, while former top General Xu Caihou was expelled from the Communist Party. Nearly 200,000 party members of all levels have reportedly been disciplined for corruption over the last two years. But if this top down approach is not matched by a bottom-up empowerment of the people being most harmed by China’s corruption pandemic it will have little chance of success.
China’s leadership faces a crisis of confidence among the Chinese people. Endemic corruption has become the rule rather than the exception, highlighted in the social media the government is straining to contain. Downstream effects of corruption – environmental degradation, food and consumer safety lapses, massive inequality, and thwarted innovation to name a few – are suppressing the natural talents of the Chinese people and causing many of China's most capable to emigrate.
Xi has promised that the anti-corruption campaign will snare “tigers” as well as “flies,” senior leaders as well as smaller fry, and he has been true to his word. Those charged include officials from all levels and associated with virtually all major factions.
But because corruption is so pervasive, it’s difficult not to see political and public relations motives. When Chinese media reports critically on the vast wealth accrued by the families of former Chongqing leader Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, and others, it’s easy to remember the Bloomberg and New York Times reports on the millions of dollars held by Xi’s and former Premier Wen Jiabao’s families. And no one believes that China’s government leaders, among the wealthiest in the world, are getting rich from their salaries alone.
This corruption passes from the top down. Officials in senior positions receive bribes from businessmen they then use to secure their own promotions and strengthen their essential patronage networks according to qian gui ze, the “hidden rules” of the road. It doesn’t end there. Parents in schools across China are expected pay teachers to ensure fair treatment for their children, journalists require envelopes of cash for attending press conferences, doctors in public hospitals demand payment for providing care. Nearly everyone with something to offer can expect additional payments under the table.
For Xi, cracking down on the likes of Zhou in the name of anti-corruption removes his most powerful rivals, demonstrates power consolidation, and is good public relations. But ultimately, corruption in China is not a cancer on the system, it is the essence of it.
Xi and his team are no doubt betting that a top down approach can clean up the system enough, or at least make it look like they doing enough, to prevent the party and government from being delegitimized, while at the same time maintaining the party’s dominant role. But while it might be conceptually possible for China to address its corruption problem with a Singapore-like good governance approach if its leaders were willing to take vows of chastity and poverty, the far likelier bet is that it can’t because the party itself is the problem. As long as the party remains above the law with zero transparency or public accountability, leaders like Zhou are expelled while others have amassed far greater spoils are exempt, and Chinese citizens are sent to jail for protesting official corruption or advocating that China live up to its own constitution, that problem will remain.
If, on the other hand, Xi is serious about addressing corruption, he will need to push the kinds of political reforms required to facilitate bottom-up pressure for accountability and good governance – rule of law, sunshine and disclosure legislation, a free press, conflict of interest rules, supporting non-governmental watchdog groups, empowering the public, etc.  Ultimately, but not necessarily immediately, the Chinese Communist Party will need a mandate by the people conferred through meaningful elections.
Although the Chinese government has delivered spectacular results in many areas over past decades, China is now at a crossroads where nearly every major problem stems ultimately from the distortions of its political system. For the country to realize its potential, these distortions must be addressed.
Since taking over two years ago, Xi has moved steadily to consolidate power and isolate his rivals. Up to this point, the anti-corruption campaign can only be seen as part of this process. The big question, however, is consolidating power for what? If Xi proves to be moving strategically towards implementing the political reforms China needs to address its corruption and unlock the great potential of its people in a more open, distributed, and creative system, then the anti-corruption drive will have meaning. The announcement that the party plenum scheduled for October will address legal reform issues is a positive potential step in the right direction.
But if Xi does not push for political reforms, the campaign will simply look like a risky political and public relations maneuver to get rid of rivals, an approach that won’t get China out of its morass.
I hope it’s the former, but the jury is still out.

Post by:CNN's Jason Miks
Topics: China

China's biggest 'military tiger' Xu Caihou confesses to taking bribes

By Paul Armstrong and Steven Jiang, CNN
updated 1:18 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Xu Caihou was also expelled from the Communist Party and had his rank of general revoked.
Xu Caihou was also expelled from the Communist Party and had his rank of general revoked.

  • Xu was a former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission
  • Statement: He took advantage of his position to promote others and take bribes
  • Xu is the most senior military leader to face corruption charges in recent memory
  • Was one of four senior members to be expelled from the ruling Communist Party
Hong Kong (CNN) -- A top retired general has confessed to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in President Xi Jinping's war on corruption.
Xu Caihou, formerly the vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission that runs the two-million strong People's Liberation Army (PLA), was also expelled from the Chinese Communist Party and had his rank of general revoked, according to a statement from military prosecutors cited by the state-run Xinhua news agency Wednesday.
The seven-month investigation, which began in March this year, found that Xu took advantage of his position to assist the promotion of other people, accepting huge bribes personally and through his family.
He was also found to have sought profits for others in exchange for bribes taken through his family members. The amount of bribe was "extremely huge", the statement added.
The allegations against Xu, 71, were announced on June 30 when President Xi presided over a leadership meeting to expel the retired general and three other senior members from the ruling Communist Party.

China's Xi snares an 'untouchable' tiger

Are corruption arrests just politics?

Anti-corruption campaign surprises many
Zero tolerance
In a statement released after that meeting, President Xi and other Chinese leaders reiterated their "zero tolerance" for corruption in the government and military -- long a lightning rod for mass discontent across the country -- but they also acknowledged the anti-graft task would be "ongoing, complex and formidable."
The three other former senior officials ousted from the Communist Party for corruption were Jiang Jiemin, a former minister in charge of state assets; Li Dongsheng, a former vice minister of public security; and Wang Yongchun, a former deputy head of state-owned oil behemoth China National Petroleum Corporation.
State media characterized Xu as a big "military tiger" caught in the massive anti-graft campaign launched by President Xi, who is also the commander-in-chief. After becoming the head of the Communist Party in late 2012, Xi banned official extravagance -- from banquets to year-end gifts -- and vowed to target "tigers and flies" alike in his fight against corruption when describing his resolve to spare no one regardless of their position.
Xinhua recently touted the catching of 30 "tigers" since Xi took power less than two years ago.
Zhou Yongkang
Some China watchers have noted ties between an increasing number of disgraced officials to Zhou Yongkang, the former domestic security czar who has been rumored to be under investigation for some time. Jiang, Li and Wang have long been considered Zhou protégés.
State media has reported official probes into many of Zhou's family members as well as former associates in the domestic security apparatus, state oil industry and southwestern Sichuan Province -- three places Zhou once ruled. If announced, Zhou would become the highest-ranking official ever to face corruption charges in the history of the People's Republic.
In 2013, some 182,000 officials were disciplined while courts nationwide tried 23,000 corruption cases, according to the Communist Party's disciplinary commission.
State media has cited the trial and conviction last year of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai -- though called politically motivated by Bo supporters -- as one prime example of President Xi's determination to clean up the Party.

Europe: Building a Banking Union

Europe: Building a Banking Union

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The recent stress tests by the European Central Bank offered few surprises and did not cause any significant political or financial reactions in the Continent. However, these tests were only the beginning of a complex process to build a banking union in the European Union. Unlike the stress tests, the next steps in this project could create more divisions in Europe because national parliaments will be involved at a time when Euroskepticism is on the rise. More important, the stress tests will not have a particular impact on Europe's main problem: tight credit conditions for households and businesses. Without a substantial improvement in credit conditions, there cannot be a substantial economic recovery, particularly in the eurozone periphery.


The European Central Bank had two basic short-term goals for this year's stress tests. On one hand, it had to come up with a test that was tough enough to be credible after tests held in 2010 and 2011 were widely seen as too soft and lacking in credibility. On the other hand, the tests could not produce results dire enough to generate panic. The European Union is going through a phase of relative calm in financial markets, and the European Central Bank was not interested in creating a new wave of uncertainty over the future of Europe's banks.
While the tests did attract some criticism, the central bank achieved both goals. Of the 130 banks involved in the tests, 25 had capital shortfalls, a finding slightly more severe than forecasts projected. Of those 25 banks, 13 must raise fresh capital and come up with 9.5 billion euros ($12.1 billion) in the next nine months. None of the failed tests came as a surprise, however. Italy's Monte dei Paschi, the worst performing bank in the tests, has been in trouble for a long time and had to receive assistance from the Italian government in 2012. Other failing banks are located in countries such as Slovenia and Greece, which have been severely affected by the financial crisis. And while the price of several banks' shares dropped during the Oct. 27 trading session, no collapses occurred.

The tests were not perfect -- they used data from December 2013 and were mostly done by each participating state. The methodology and scenarios were also criticized. For example, the most extreme "adverse scenario" included in the tests considered a drop in inflation to 1 percent this year, although the rate has already fallen to around 0.3 percent. The decision to include only 130 "systemic" banks while turning a blind eye on smaller -- and probably weaker -- institutions also drew criticism. But overall, markets considered the tests legitimate, especially in comparison with the weak tests that have taken place since the beginning of the European crisis.
The stress tests, however, are only the starting point in the much deeper and complex process of creating a banking union in Europe. The issue has traditionally been very controversial in the Continent. As Europe became more integrated, several policymakers proposed the creation of a banking union to complement the Continent's internal market and common currency. Nationalism and diverging political interests, however, made this quite difficult, and the idea was abandoned during the Maastricht Treaty negotiations in 1991 and again after it was reconsidered during deliberations for the Treaty of Nice in 2000.
But the eurozone crisis -- and the fear of financial instability spreading among the countries that share the euro -- has reignited the debate about a banking union. Simultaneous crises in countries such as Spain and Ireland, where national governments were forced to request international aid to rescue failing banks, made Europe consider the need to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns.

The Upcoming Political Debate

In 2012, the European Union announced that the banking union would be implemented in two stages. During the first stage, the European Central Bank would centralize the supervision of participating banks' financial stability. At a later stage, Brussels would introduce a "Single Resolution Mechanism" and a "Single Resolution Fund" to be responsible for the restructuring and potential closing of significant banks.
The first stage of the banking union was controversial because some member states refused to give the central bank full power to supervise every single bank in the European Union. A compromise was eventually found, and the bank was given supervisor powers over banks with holdings greater than 30 billion euros or 20 percent of their host nation's gross domestic product. This was not a minor compromise. National regulators remained in charge of supervising smaller banks such as Spain's cajas and Germany's Landesbanken, institutions generally having strong ties with local political powers -- and troubled balance sheets. The stress tests were a precondition for this stage of the banking union implementation process.
As the November implementation of the banking union's first stage draws nearer, the Europeans will have to make difficult political decisions regarding the second phase of the project. Twenty-six members of the European Union (Britain and Sweden decided not to participate) signed an intergovernmental agreement in May to create a special fund and a central decision-making board to rescue failing banks. According to the agreement, the fund will be built up over eight years until it reaches its target level of at least 1 percent of the amount of deposits of all credit institutions in all the participating member states, projected to be some 55 billion euros. The fund will initially consist of national compartments that will gradually merge into a single fund. The agreement also made official the "bail-in" procedure for future rescue plans.
Members of the European Parliament have said the fund should be larger because it may not be enough to deal with a new banking crisis. There is also the question of how the Single Resolution Fund will be financed. On Oct. 21, the European Commission proposed that the largest banks, representing some 85 percent of total assets, contribute around 90 percent of the funds. Opponents have criticized that instead of designating the contributions in proportion to the risks each bank presents, the proposal assigns contributions using a bank's total assets. The European Council, which represents member states, will have to ratify this proposal.
More important, the transfers of banks' contribution to the Single Resolution Fund are scheduled to start in January 2016. Before that happens, however, the parliaments of member states will have to ratify the intergovernmental treaty that was signed in May, a difficult proposition in the wake of rising Euroskeptical parties. In addition, a group of German professors have said they would challenge the banking union before the German Constitutional Court. According to this group, the banking union represents a huge risk for German taxpayers while leaving Berlin without any oversight authority. This is the same group that is currently challenging the European Central Bank's Outright Money Transactions bond-buying program.

The Real Problem: A Lack of Easily Accessible Credit

While the stress tests and asset quality review offer a clearer view of banks in Europe, most European households and businesses are facing more immediate problems. On Oct. 27, the central bank revealed that loans to the private sector fell by 1.2 percent year-on-year in September after a contraction of 1.5 percent in August. The data shows a slower rate of contraction in credit lending but does not signal a strong recovery of credit in the eurozone. The data also confirmed that credit conditions remain particularly tight in the eurozone periphery.
Since banking credit is crucial to households and companies, credit conditions are intimately linked to Europe's economic recovery. The European Central Bank has recently approved a battery of measures, including negative interest rates and cheap loans for banks. However, as banks are still trying to clean up their balance sheets, lending remains timid. Even in those cases where banks are willing to lend, they tend to impose strict conditions that are hard for customers to meet. There is also a demand problem. With weak economic activity and high unemployment in the European periphery, many households and companies are simply not asking for credit.
Finally, the central bank's latest policies have created significant disagreement within the institution. Some members of the governing council -- most notably Germany's Bundesbank -- are wary of measures that could finance governments and weaken the pace of economic reforms. The Germans are also concerned about the legality of measures such as quantitative easing and its potential impact on inflation.
The current frictions within the central bank are representative of the wider debate that is taking place in Europe between countries led by Germany that believe reforms should come before stimulus packages, and those led by France that think crises are not the best time to apply deep spending cuts. In the coming weeks and months, this debate will be key in deciding the future of the European Union.

Read more: Europe: Building a Banking Union | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook



truther 2
Dave Hodges | thecommonsenseshow
The following information comes exclusively from my confidential sources as well as European news agencies. Do not expect to be informed, in detail, by the American media, about the unfolding crisis taking place in Europe. The American media is intent on promoting the Ebola hype as a prelude to installing complete medical martial law. Nothing can be allowed to break the concentration of news reports designed to promote an obsessional fear regarding the spread of Ebola with the goal of placing the U.S. under medical martial law. Martial law, in the U.S., is a prerequisite condition in order to force America to accept the coming world war. Therefore, the preconditions which will plunge the nations of the planet into World War III will go largely under-reported in the United States until the last moment.

Putin’s Plan B

Yesterday, I reported that Putin has been aligning his new military allies in India, Brazil, Bolivia, El Salvador, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, China, and even in South Africa in attempt to force the U.S. to prepare for a Red Dawn scenario here at home in the event that hostilities break out. This was Putin’s version of “Plan B” as he obviously was anticipating the loss of control over Ukraine.
After the pro-Western forces prevailed in Ukraine’s recent election, Putin wasted no time in putting an approximate 60% embargo of Russian oil and gas shipments into Europe, via Ukraine. An embargo, much like a blockade is an act of war. And war is largely where this present situation is headed.

The Big Chill

Gas prices are quickly rising in London. Britain’s energy prices have already soared 18% as of this morning with the announcement that Putin is placing an embargo of energy Russian energy shipments into Europe. It is estimated that Europe gets anywhere from 25% to 33% of its energy needs from Russian sources, much of it via Ukraine.
With the onset of cold weather, Bulgaria has already reached a ‘crisis’ point with regard to supplying energy to its people. Many nations in Europe are now in crisis mode. b
It is safe to say that Putin’s response to the Ukraine elections, which favored pro-Western interests, has succeeded in plunging the continent into an energy crisis.  This morning, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Croatia are reporting the enactment of desperate energy saving measures due to the devastating embargo of Russian gas shipped via Ukraine today. These nations have almost no energy reserves.
Major shifts in policy are being witnessed within a mere 24 hours of the enactment of the embargo. Croatia said it was temporarily reducing supplies to industrial customers while Bulgaria said it had enough gas for only ‘for a few days’.

US Allies Have Very Limited Energy Reserves

Britain only has an energy storage buffer estimated to be about 16 days of energy demands. What lies beyond 16 days under the present set of circumstances. The coming Britain reduction in energy usage will be imposed through rationing and denial of service to non-essential entities and service. In contrast, Germany has 77 days of energy reserves and France has 88 days. However, none of these nations have enough energy reserves to get through the winter.
Britain, France and Germany are luckier than most European nations who have almost no energy reserves and are very dependent on Russian gas exports sent through Ukraine.

Putin Is Under Enormous Pressure At Home

The Russian energy industry has grown to monumental levels. The Russian and gas and oil and industry, much like in the United States, are very intertwined with the military industrial complex of their nation and with their nation’s banking interests.
If Ukraine leaves the Russian empire of influence and eventually joins the European Union, as the recent Ukrainian election results would suggest, Putin’s days as the leader of the Russian Federation are numbered.

Putin Is Governing Out of Desperation

The coming European winter, and the accompanying seasonal European energy needs, makes every European winter day a “Black Friday” shopping day, every day, for the Russian gas and oil industry. These Russian industries cannot afford to lose Ukraine as transporter of Russian gas and oil for very long. The energy moguls of Russia will likely tolerate Putin’s energy embargo on Europe for a short while in an attempt to leverage the West into backing off of their absolute control of Ukraine’s political future.  However, Putin knows that the Russian energy leaders and affiliated bankers will not wait very long to see results.
Even if the Russian energy interests were to allow Putin unlimited time to let the consequences of the embargo play out, NATO, on behalf of the impacted European nations, will not let this go on for very long as many NATO nations will be brought to their knees before Thanksgiving and all will be irreparably damaged by Christmas.

 Russia Is Entering Full-Scale War Mode

According to Russian Defense Minister, Army General Sergey Shoigum, Russia will be very active in developing its military bases abroad in places like Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia.  The Russian defense minister went on to say that they were conducting drills in Belarus and Tajikistan. In fact, as of today, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan are holding war games in Ural region, according to the TASS Russian News Agency. It has leaked out that Russia and China are holding joint terrorist drills inside of China. Russia is clearly preparing for war.


The patience of the Russian energy moguls and bankers is not without limits. Putin is a cornered and wounded animal. As a result, in the coming weeks, Putin’s actions will likely become more erratic and unpredictable.
The Russian money interests will undoubtedly give Putin the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the embargo as a leverage tool designed to bring Europe to the table to negotiate about the future of Ukraine. However, I do not see this going on much longer than a month.  The Russian energy sector will not permit a 60% drop in revenue because Putin could not maintain control over Ukraine. Putin’s days could be numbered if this desperate strategy is not successful. Further, NATO is not going to allow its member nation citizens to freeze to death in the dead of winter. By mid-December at the latest, NATO will force this issue to a head.
Meanwhile, in the USA, real pressure now falls on the Obama administration to get the country under (medical) martial law as a mechanism of control and a prelude to WW III.

Anti-quarantine nurse Hickox was trained as intelligence officer by the CDC

Anti-quarantine nurse Hickox was trained as intelligence officer by the CDC
Thursday, October 30, 2014
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Tags: Ebola quarantine, Kaci Hickox, intelligence officer
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(NaturalNews) Nurse Kaci Hickox, who has made headlines over the last few days by refusing to quarantine herself after returning from the Ebola front lines in Africa, turns out to have been trained as an "intelligence officer" under a two-year CDC program modeled after the U.S. military.

As you can see from the document below, Hickox graduated from a two-year CDC intelligence officer training program in 2012. This is the same nurse whose LinkedIn page was recently scrubbed to hide her ties to the CDC, an agency that stands to benefit tremendously in both political power and budgets if an Ebola outbreak sweeps across America.

The official intelligence designation granted to Nurse Hickox by the CDC was "Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer," and she is a graduate of the 2012 EIS program according to this CDC document (PDF). (See page 138 - 139 for her name and photo, or view photo below.)

That same year, the CDC graduated 81 such "intelligence officers" whose names and photos are also listed in the public document.

The CDC models its operations after the U.S. military
What is a CDC intelligence officer? To understand the answer, you first have to realize that the CDC models itself after the U.S. military which is why CDC "officers" wear military costumes when appearing before Congress, complete with shoulder stripes, stars and badges.

Just as with the U.S. Army, the CDC also has "intelligence officers" whose jobs include gathering intelligence, analyzing intelligence and conducting counterintelligence ops. The CDC's sanitized description of this job is found on this web page which states:

EIS officers are on the public health frontlines, conducting epidemiologic investigations, research, and public health surveillance both nationally and internationally.

That same page shows a photograph of a CDC intelligence officer wearing a military costume, complete with multiple stars on the shirt collar and a military-style name tag. These are symbols used to project the appearance of authority by adopting military dress even though the CDC isn't even under the command of the Dept. of Defense.

The uniforms are just one sign of the militarization of the CDC, an organization so steeped in delusional theatrics that it still won't admit sneeze particles can travel farther than 3 feet or that Ebola actually has a 42-day incubation period, not the 21 days we are repeatedly told.

Serving the public, or endangering it?
With all this said, why is a CDC-trained intelligence officer screaming so loudly about putting herself into a home quarantine for 21 days to reduce the risk of transmitting Ebola to other Americans? If the CDC is supposed to be serving the public, then why is this CDC-trained intelligence officer clearly abandoning any real concern for public safety by refusing to comply with a sensible self-quarantine rule?

"I don't plan on sticking to the guidelines," she said in a Today interview. [1] "I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me... I'm not going to sit around and be bullied around by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public."

These are not the words of a concerned, ethically-driven epidemiologist. They are the words of a CDC intelligence operative who has been trained in the art of information warfare. Her words reflect the aims of the CDC which has openly opposed all sensible pandemic protections for Americans.

America's most important medical decisions, in other words, are right now being influenced by an intelligence operative trained by the CDC under a two-year program modeled after the military.

Are her actions and words now starting to make a lot more sense?

Sources for this article include:


Learn more:

Obama: Ebola is a “Trial Run” For a Deadlier Airborne Disease

Obama: Ebola is a “Trial Run” For a Deadlier Airborne Disease

President's comments raise eyebrows
Obama: Ebola is a "Trial Run" For a Deadlier Airborne Disease
In little noticed comments made earlier this week, President Barack Obama said that the Ebola outbreak in the United States could be a “trial run” for a deadlier airborne disease in the future.
During remarks made after a White House meeting with the administration’s Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain, Obama tried to reassure the public that the U.S. health infrastructure was prepared to deal with additional cases of Ebola.
However, the President raised some eyebrows when he suggested that the current outbreak could merely be a precursor to a more deadly epidemic.
“If there is a silver lining in all the attention that the Ebola situation has received over the last several weeks, it’s a reminder of how important our public health systems are, and in many ways what this has done is elevated that importance,” said Obama.
“There may come a time sometime in the future where we are dealing with an airborne disease that is much easier to catch and is deadlyand in some ways this has created a trial run for federal, state and public health officials and health care providers as well as the American people to understand the nature of that and why it’s so important that we’re continually building out our public health systems but we’re also practicing them and keeping them in tip top shape and investing in them,” added Obama (emphasis mine).
Obama’s suggestion that the current Ebola outbreak may merely be a means of helping health authorities prepare for a much deadlier outbreak of an airborne virus is likely to pique the interest of those who have expressed concerns about the CDC’s measures for dealing with an outbreak of a communicable disease, which allow for the quarantine of “well persons” who “do not show symptoms” of the disease.
While the White House has failed to block incoming travelers from West Africa, President Obama did sign an executive order at the end of July which allows for the apprehension and detention of Americans who merely show signs of “respiratory illness.”

Rising Eastern Empire: Shanghai Co-operation Organization as the new NATO?

Rising Eastern Empire: Shanghai Co-operation Organization as the new NATO?

 Source: Standart News
Moscow is forging three rising alliances which are about to shake the very basics of the current EU-US hegemony. The three upcoming giants you should watch out for are the Eurasian Economic Union/EEU/, Russia’s new „best friends forever” alliance with China based on the new Power of Siberia pipeline and their increasingly joint efforts to strengthen the Shanghai Co-operation Organization.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is juggling several balls to rebuild Russia’s old Tsarist splendeour – and not the Soviet Union, as often portrayed by the Western media-. This new empire is by no ways Socialist, just on the contrary: in a very capitalist manner Moscow as a center of the EEU would use the rich resources of the satellite states through strengthened economic ties in the common market, yet without an outspokenly common political system.

Before we start discussing the Eurasian Union, which will be the main topic of this article, we have to touch upon a few other initiatives through which Putin is trying to create a new strong Eastern empire. The most important is the Shanghai Co-operation Organization /SCO/ which is well worth our attention: as an Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Kazahstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, it is the scene of some of the most significant developments on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. The potential significance of the organization is highlighted by the fact that Iran, India and Pakistan are among its potential member candidates. In fact, they may be able to join SCO in the near future, even as early as the end of this year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. Note that the launch of the Eurasian Union is also scheduled for January 1, 2015.
Though the group has thus far been more about talk than action, Russia’s interest in SCO’s enlargement is relatively obvious in the wake of the collapse of its relations with the West. This seems to outweight Moscow’s previous concerns that the organization would act as the stalking horse for Chinese expansion into Central Asia. India’s and Pakistan’s membership would highlight two important developments: first that China and Asia are leaving mutual suspicion against each other behind their backs and perhaps even more importantly that military conflict in the region of the SCO will become less likely.
One of the original purposes of the SCO was namely to serve as a counterbalance to NATO and in particular to avoid conflicts that would allow the United States to intervene in areas bordering both Russia and China. As it was also apparent in the annual summit convened in Dushanbe this September, security issues are at the top of the SCO agenda with terrorism being its major security concern. Anti-terrorism is, not coincidentally, also a huge point of emphasis for China. Afghanistan is another focal point for the SCO, as from all the countries bordering Afghanistan, only one (Turkmenistan) is not an SCO member or observer state (and Afghanistan is an SCO observer itself). Thus, should Afghanistan’s security fall apart in the post-NATO era, the SCO would be on the frontlines of the disaster. According to a Russian observer, the United States is deliberately using the aggravation of the situation in Afghanistan to prevent the enlargement of the SCO. According to the same commentator, the current Hong Kong protests are also saving the same purpose.
The USA has indeed reasons to be worried about the SCO: although not a member state, the former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has used his speeches at the SCO to make verbal attacks against Washington. The idea of Russia, China and potentially India and Iran in a military union freaked out Washington to such an extent, that the United States applied for observer status in the SCO – but was rejected in 2006.
On the other hand, Russia is not even making a secret of the fact that it is aiming to create a new post- US world order. In November 2005 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that the “Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is working to establish a rational and just world order” and that “The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation provides us with a unique opportunity to take part in the process of forming a fundamentally new model of geoolitical integration”. The eventual goal of SCO is to replace NATO as the main military alliance of the East.

Foreign jihadists flock to IS despite air strikes

Foreign jihadists flock to IS despite air strikes


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In this Monday, June 16, 2014 file photo, demonstrators chant slogans to support al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as they carry al-Qaida flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The al-Qaida breakaway group that has seized much of northern Syria and huge tracks of neighboring Iraq formally declared the creation of an Islamic state on Sunday, June 29, in the territory under its control. (AP Photo, File)
London (AFP) - The Islamic State group is recruiting foreign jihadists on an "unprecedented scale" despite international efforts to stem the tide, according to experts and extracts of a UN report published by Britain's Guardian newspaper.
Latest US figures show that around 1,000 foreign fighters are flocking to fight in Iraq and Syria every month, and experts warn that the newest militants may be more extreme than early recruits.
The number of jihadists travelling to fight since 2010 exceeds the cumulative total of those joining other global extremist organisations over the 20 preceding years by "many times", the UN Security Council study said, according to the Guardian.
"Many foreign fighters that originally left for Syria really did think they were going out for a humanitarian cause," said Erin Marie Saltman, senior researcher at counter-extremism think tank Quilliam.
"Now the stakes are slightly higher. Anyone going over as a foreign fighter now, you have to have been radicalised into believing in martyrdom, so most of those individuals will not actually be expecting to come back," she said.
Russian fighters constitute the biggest single fighting force from a non-Muslim country, numbering over 800, and the US-led air strikes will only strengthen their resolve, according to a local expert.
"They are idealists, fanatics, who believe in a global caliphate as we believed in communism," said Alexei Malashenko, from the Carnegie Endowment in Moscow.
Malashenko said the air campaign against IS jihadists had failed to put off new recruits.
"Air strikes have had no effect on recruitment," he said.
The Central Intelligence Agency estimates there are around 15,000 foreigners fighting with the Islamic State (IS) and other hardcore militant groups, although Saltman suggested the number may be closer to 16,000.
Previous figures showed there were 7,000 foreign jihadists fighting in March, and 12,000 in July suggesting 1,000 a month increase, despite the launch of air strikes against IS combatants three months ago.
"It's safe to say this conflict stands out with the highest rate in the last decade," a US security official told AFP. "All of these numbers are trending upward."
According to the Soufan Group think-tank, the highest numbers of foreign jihadists were from Muslim countries, including 3,000 from Tunisia and 2,500 from Saudi Arabia.
- IS reach spreading -
If anything, the air strikes in Iraq and Syria could be used as a propaganda tool by IS leaders to attract more recruits, experts warned.
"Any message they can send saying, 'Look at what the West does to Muslims', they will use that as a rallying call," said Simon Palombi, terrorism expert at think-tank Chatham House.
"ISIS have been very savvy when it comes to their propaganda and recruitment, as the 15,000 that have been recruited demonstrates," he said, using an alternative name for the IS group.
The report was produced by a UN committee that monitors al-Qaeda, and concluded that the once mighty and feared extremist group was now "maneuvering for relevance" following the rise of the even more militant IS group, which was booted out of al-Qaeda by leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The UN agreed with the US government that "core al-Qaeda remains weak", but argued that its demise had only paved the way for more bloody groups.
There is also growing evidence that IS cells are strengthening across the Middle East and North Africa, with 3,000 fighters already based in Libya, according to Romain Caillet, jihadist expert with French research group IFPO.
- 'Call of Duty' ads -
The UN report put the IS group's recruitment success down to its "cosmopolitan embrace" of modern media and social networking.
"Some of their adverts have pretty much copied 'Call of Duty' (computer game) to recruit that sort of age group, they're looking at young impressionable men," said Palombi.
But the reality of warfare could see the tactic backfire, said the experts.
Some recruits are trying to return home "because of disillusionment, because they have witnessed horrific events," said Saltman.
The UN warned that more nations than ever face the problem of dealing with fighters returning from the battle zone, with figures showing fighters from 81 countries.
To lower the risk of attacks in the home country, returning fighters must be put through deradicalisation programmes, Saltman stressed, and security forces will need to utilise all of their powers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Large-Scale Reclamation Projects in the South China Sea: China and International Law

RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical issues and contemporary developments. The views of the authors are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. These commentaries may be reproduced electronically or in print with prior permission from RSIS and due recognition to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email: for feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentary, Yang Razali Kassim. 

No. 213/2014 dated 29 October 2014
Large-Scale Reclamation Projects in the South China Sea:
China and International Law
By Robert Beckman


Several of the reefs occupied by China in the Spratly Islands are being greatly expanded through land reclamation. China’s reclamation activities cannot enhance its claim to sovereignty over the reefs or change the legal status of the reefs under international law.


THE INTERNATIONAL media has reported that China is undertaking large-scale reclamation works on several of the seven reefs it occupies in the Spratly Islands. The 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea states that the parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate the disputes in the area. Although reclamation works and the construction of installations and structures on occupied features would seem to be inconsistent with this provision, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have all undertaken such activities on the features they occupy and control in the Spratly Islands.

What is new is the scale of the reclamation works currently being undertaken by China. It has been reported that China is expanding Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef) so that it will be two square kilometres in size. This would be a very significant change, as that reef would then be as large as the combined size of the thirteen largest islands in the Spratly Islands.

Reefs occupied by China
China occupies and controls seven reefs in the Spratly Islands, the legal status of which are at issue in the case between the Philippines and China that is currently before an international arbitral tribunal established under the dispute settlement provisions in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Although China has decided not to participate in that case, the matter is proceeding without China’s participation as provided in UNCLOS.

In the arbitration case, the Philippines admits that three of the seven reefs meet the definition of an island, that is, they are naturally formed areas of land surrounded by and above water at high tide. If so, they are capable of a claim to sovereignty and to maritime zones of their own. However, the islands on the three reefs occupied by China are very small and contain little vegetation. Therefore, the Philippines maintains that they should be classified as “rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own”. If so, they would be entitled to a 12 nautical mile (nm) territorial sea, but not to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or continental shelf of their own.

With regard to the remaining four reefs occupied by China, the Philippines maintains that they are not islands under UNCLOS as they are submerged at high tide. Therefore, they are not subject to a claim of sovereignty and are not entitled to any maritime zones of their own.
Issues of international law on the status of the reefs

If the scale of China’s recent reclamation works is correct, this raises interesting issues of international law.

Firstly, will the reclamation works strengthen China’s sovereignty claim to the Spratly Islands under international law? The answer is no. Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan also claim sovereignty over the islands/features occupied by China. Once there is a dispute over sovereignty, the State that occupies and controls the islands/features cannot strengthen its sovereignty claim by undertaking reclamation or building installations and structures.

Secondly, can China use reclamation to convert submerged reefs into islands capable of supporting human habitation or economic life of their own that are entitled to maritime zones of their own? Again, the answer is no. This is because an “island” is defined as a “naturally formed” area of land surrounded by and above water at high tide. If a feature is above water at high tide because of reclamation works, it is an “artificial island”. Under UNCLOS, an artificial island is not entitled to any maritime zones of its own, not even a 12 nm territorial sea. Therefore, the reclamation works on features that are submerged at high tide will not change their legal status.

Thirdly, can China use reclamation to convert a “rock which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of its own” into an island that would be entitled to an EEZ and continental shelf of its own? There is no clear answer to this question. However, since an island is defined as a “naturally formed area of land” surrounded by and above water at high tide, it seems reasonable to conclude that it should not be permissible to use artificial means to change a rock into an island entitled to an EEZ and continental shelf of its own.

Other issues of international law

Questions also arise on whether UNCLOS and international law impose any other restraints on China in conducting reclamation works on the features it occupies and controls.

One issue is whether China’s large-scale reclamation works are consistent with its obligation under UNCLOS to protect and preserve the marine environment. If a State is planning activities in an area under its jurisdiction and control that may have significant harmful effects on the marine environment of other States, it has a ‘duty to cooperate’ with those States. It must consult the States that might be affected in advance and in good faith.

It may also have to undertake an environmental impact assessment and share the results with the potentially affected States. In this case, the Philippines is a potentially affected State because three of the features on which China is undertaking reclamation works are either just inside or just outside its 200 nm EEZ. Vietnam is also a potentially affected State because it occupies reefs very close to those occupied by China.

In addition, given that the geographic features in question are in the middle of an area that is the subject of highly contentious sovereignty and maritime disputes, China is under an obligation under international law to exercise restraint and not take unilateral actions that would permanently change the status quo regarding the features in question. This is especially so in this case because the status of the very features on which China is doing major reclamation works are the subject of an ongoing case before an international arbitral tribunal.

Robert Beckman is  Director of the Centre for International Law and an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law of the National University of Singapore (NUS). He is also an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
Click HERE to read this commentary online.

New, More Toxic Breed of Genetically Engineered Crops Gain Approval

New, More Toxic Breed of Genetically Engineered Crops Gain Approval

October 28, 2014 | 175,325 views
| Available in EspañolDisponible en Español

By Dr. Mercola
Two major categories of genetically engineered (GE) seeds currently account for 99 percent of all acreage dedicated to GE crops in the US:
  1. Those engineered to withstand high amounts of herbicide, such as Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready varieties
  2. Those engineered to produce their own internal insecticide (so-called Bt crops)
The widespread use of these GE crops has led to chemical resistance among weeds and insects alike, despite initial assurances from the chemical technology industry that such an outcome was highly unlikely.
Well, the results are now too evident to ignore—weed resistance has been documented on 60 million acres on farms across the US, and Bt resistant rootworm is being reported in the US and Brazil.
As GE seeds became the norm, chemical resistance rapidly emerged. As a result, farmers have been applying increasingly higher amounts of pesticides in an effort to keep up with rising resistance.
The United States now uses about 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides each year,1, 2 and mounting research has linked pesticides to an array of serious health problems. What we need is not a new breed of chemical-resistant crops, but that’s exactly what we’re getting...

Even More Toxic GE Crops and Herbicide Receive Approval

Instead of taking a proactive approach to save the environment and human life, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently decided to deregulate Dow Chemical’s next-generation GE crops.
These crops are not only resistant to glyphosate, but also carry resistance to toxins like 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange, and Dicamba, which has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The chemical 2,4-D and other herbicides of this class have also been linked to:
  • Immune system cancers
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Reproductive problems
Then, on October 15, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced3 its final decision to register Enlist Duo—a new herbicide manufactured by Dow Chemical, to be used on corn and soybeans genetically engineered  to tolerate both 2,4-D and glyphosate.
This was the final barrier standing between this new generation of GE crops and their widespread commercialization. According to the EPA:4
“The agency’s decision reflects a large body of science and an understanding of the risk of pesticides to human health and the environment... EPA scientists used highly conservative and protective assumptions to evaluate human health and ecological risks for the new uses of 2,4-D in Enlist Duo.
The assessments confirm that these uses meet the safety standards for pesticide registration and, as approved, will be protective of the public, agricultural workers, and non-target species, including endangered species.
The agency evaluated the risks to all age groups, from infants to the elderly, and took into account exposures through food, water, pesticide drift, and as a result of use around homes. The decision meets the rigorous Food Quality Protection Act standard of ‘reasonable certainty of no harm’ to human health.”

EPA Thinks a Few Restrictions Will Safeguard Against Resistance...

To “ensure that weeds will not become resistant to 2,4-D,” the approval of Enlist Duo comes with certain restrictions. For example, Dow is required to search for resistant weeds and report any occurrences of resistance to the EPA.
Farmer education and remediation plans are also part of these additional requirements that must be met. To prevent drift, farmers will not be permitted to spray Enlist Duo from the air, or apply it when the wind speed exceeds 15 miles per hour.
Farmers must also leave a 30-foot “no spray buffer zone” around treated crops.  The registration is set to expire in six years, at which time the EPA will evaluate the emergence of resistance.
I do not believe in these assurances of safety. Nor do I think adding a different set of toxins to the growers’ mix will ameliorate resistance. Instead, what we’ll end up with is simply an increasingly toxic food supply and further environmental destruction. As noted by Pesticide Action Network:5
USDA predicts 2,4-D use in corn and soybean production to increase between 500 percent and 1,400 percent over the course of nine years, depending on farmers’ practices and changes in Dow’s share of corn and soybean seed markets.
In making this decision, EPA officials failed to consider several important health and safety factors.
By ignoring the potential synergistic effects of 2,4-D and glyphosate, not addressing the cumulative impacts of the expected increase in 2,4-D use, and failing to implement an appropriate 10-fold safety factor to limit exposures — as required under the Food Quality Protection Act — EPA has given Enlist Duo an unjustified approval, based on a flawed and inadequate review of the chemical’s harms.
In addition, neither USDA nor EPA have looked at the economic impact that Enlist Duo drift will have on surrounding farms and communities.” [Emphasis mine]
Center for Food Safety also cites a 2012 study published in the journal Bioscience, which concluded that this new generation of GE crops “will trigger still more intractable weeds resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D.”

We Need a New Direction, Not More Toxins

A lot of harm can be done in six years, and we simply don’t have the time to sit back and wait to see how bad it can get. Just how bad does it have to get before our government starts taking these problems seriously?
What we need is a whole new direction for our agricultural system. We need a system that is NOT reliant on chemicals—one that is not only sustainable, but also regenerative.
Toxic chemicals form the very basis of GE agriculture. Chemicals are added into the soil, on the seed, on the plant, and on some crops herbicides are also added right at harvest, to increase seed release. This technique is called desiccating.
For example, desiccating non-organic wheat crops with glyphosate just before harvest came in vogue about 15 years ago, and Dr. Stephanie Seneff suspects this practice may be the reason why we’ve seen such a dramatic increase in celiac disease since then... It’s important to realize that agriculture today is not driven by true agricultural companies. Patented seeds are actually a creation of the pesticide industry. While they try to portray themselves as “biotechnology” companies, they’re really chemical technology companies, and they have no financial incentive whatsoever to discontinue or even reduce the use of chemicals.

Research Bias Is a Direct Threat to Human Health 

As for the “large body of science” the EPA claims to base its foolhardy decision on, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of this research has major conflicts of interest as it is done by the company selling the chemicals. This fact was directly addressed in a January 2014 report6 on 2,4-D, jointly published by Testbiotech, GeneWatch UK and Pesticides Action Network Europe:
“Many of the publications are authored by the manufacturers’ scientists or are sponsored by the manufacturers of 2,4-D. This leads to large confusion, because on the one hand these papers are scientific, peer reviewed papers, but on the other hand, it can be assumed that the financial interest leads to a bias towards studies showing no negative effects. A recent study by Diels et al. (2011) has shown that in studies with genetically engineered crops, there is a strong relation between funding and outcome.
Some industry financed publications leave out important information, for example Ross et al. (2005), who do not mention results which show a high dermal uptake of 2,4-D... Basically, the industry funded/authored studies lead to a ‘dilution’ of information—a tactic also applied by the tobacco industry. The parallels between the tobacco industry and the pesticide industry are manifold, not only in their argumentation and strategy, but also in the final results – despite the evidence - cancer causing agents are not prohibited.”

All Available Legal Options Will Be Pursued to Stop These Dangerous Crops

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network, has called the lack of protection from the EPA and USDA “shocking,” saying:7 “It’s time for real reform in these agencies. We need a new system of government oversight that is powerful enough to say ‘No’ to Dow and Monsanto when their products will harm the health and livelihoods of our farmers and rural communities.”
In response to the USDA’s and EPA’s complete failure to protect the American public against the growing threat of a toxic food supply and devastating pest resistance that could decimate our natural resources, the Center for Food Safety has announced8 it will “pursue all available legal options to stop the commercialization of these dangerous crops.” Sixty members of Congress have signed a letter opposing the approval and release of 2,4-D tolerant corn and soybeans. On June 30, 35 prominent doctors, scientists, and researchers also issued a letter of opposition to the EPA.9 According to Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR):10
For years, the scientific community has been sounding the alarm about the increased use of herbicides and the link to a multitude of health problems. It’s shocking that EPA thinks it’s a good idea to allow the widespread use of a toxic chemical once found in Agent Orange on this nation’s farm fields.  EPA should be working to reverse the trend of chemicals that poison our food supply, water and soil. It will be just a matter of time before weeds develop a resistance to 2,4-D, and the chemical industry comes up with an even more dangerous and potent product.”
Indeed, there’s already a lineup of new GE crops with built-in resistance to a variety of toxic chemicals awaiting federal approval (below). In addition to 2,4-D and Dicamba, each and every one of these will eventually cause resistance. And more than likely, we’ll end up seeing multi-chemical resistance, just as we now have antibiotic-resistant bacteria with multiple-drug resistance:
  • ALS-tolerant crops (Pioneer Hi-Bred)
  • Bromoxynil-tolerant crops (Calgene)
  • Imidazolinone-tolerant crops (BASF)
  • Isoxaflutole-tolerant crops (Bayer)
  • Sulfonylurea-tolerant crops (DuPont)

The Way Out of This Nightmare Starts at Home

The way off this out-of-control chemical treadmill will decimate profits for the chemical technology industry, and THAT is why they do not want you to know which foods contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). If Americans started making dramatically different food choices, it could quickly revolutionize the US agricultural system because farmers will grow that which sells. If people want uncontaminated organic foods, that’s what farmers will grow—and there’s already evidence that biodynamic farming can be done even on the large scale. In fact, using biodynamic principles, you can grow a lot more food on fewer acres.
Real solutions are available. What’s lacking is the political will to stand up to the chemical technology industry and break its iron grip on our food supply. But we can still get it done, by making conscious choices each and every time we shop for food. Remember, your money either goes to support the chemical-based system that threatens the survival of the earth and your descendants, or it supports a system that can regenerate and revitalize the soil and the environment so that healthy food and healthy people can thrive. To make conscious choices, we need information, and that is why GMO labeling is so crucial.

I recently named the GMA “the most evil corporation on the planet,” considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers who are going to great lengths to violate some of your most basic rights—just to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo.
The insanity has gone far enough. It’s time to unite and fight back, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. To learn more about this boycott, and the traitor brands that are included, please visit I also encourage you to donate to the Organic Consumers Fund. Your donation will help fight the GMA lawsuit in Vermont, and also help win the GMO labeling ballot initiative in Oregon in November.
Donate Today!
Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference. By boycotting GMA Member Traitor Brands, you can help level the playing field, and help take back control of our food supply. And as always, continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and share what you’ve learned with family and friends.