Sunday, June 7, 2009

The history of the synthetic H1N1 flu virus and a not-so-rosy future

By Wayne Madsen (Online Journal)

The history of the extraction of the genetic material from the corpses of victims of the 1918 Spanish influenza virus who were buried in Arctic permafrost is part “X-Files” and part “Jurassic Park.”

After an unsuccessful 1951 mission, that involved U.S. biological warfare specialists, to extract 1918 Spanish flu genetic material in 1951 from a cemetery in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Brevig Mission, Alaska, scientists made another attempt, a successful one it turns out, in 1997.

Dr. Johan Hultin, from the State University of Iowa, successfully extracted genetic material from the corpse of an obese 30-something female who died from the Spanish flu in 1918, along with 85 percent of Brevig Mission's (called Teller Mission in 1918) villagers in a single week. The pandemic killed at least 50 million people around the world.

Once the Spanish flu genetic material was obtained from the lungs, spleen, liver, and heart of the Eskimo woman's corpse, scientists, in a scene reminiscent of the fictional movie “Jurassic Park,” in which genetic material from extinct dinosaurs is used to bring the creatures back to life, recreated the long-since dead 1918 Spanish flu in a U.S. government-funded laboratory. The woman's organs were cut into one-inch cubes and shipped to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville, Maryland, where the virus's genetic RNA material was identified and the 1918 Spanish flu was successfully brought back to life.

The search for the frozen bodies of 1918 flu victims was not limited to Alaska. Another team of scientists, acting like Dr. Frankenstein's “Igor,” set out to dig up the graves of miners who died from the flu in the remote Norwegian mining village of Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen, which lies north of the Arctic Circle.

WMR has learned from a research scientist who has been working on the recreation of the 1918 flu that the genetic material has been re-engineered to synthetically create what is now known as the A/H1N1 virus, or as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls it, the “novel flu.”

The A/H1N1 influenza, which contains genetic material from two strains of swine flu, two strains of human flu, and a single strain of avian flu, has, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), infected, as of May 13, a total of 4,880 people in North America: 2,059 in Mexico; 2,535 in the United States, and 286 in Canada. There have been 56 reported deaths from the flu in Mexico, three in the United States, and one in Canada.

WMR has learned from an A/H1N1 researcher that the current “novel” flu strain is mutating rapidly in humans but no animals have contracted the virus. The enzyme in A/H1N1, as with all influenza A viruses, is called a polymerase. Scientists have calculated the molecular clock of A/H1N1 form the virus's polymerase rate. Because of the rapid mutation of the virus and the fact that, unlike 1918, rapid global transportation is now the norm, scientists are predicting that the molecular clock of the A/H1N1 virus, coupled with modern transportation, means that almost all the countries of the world will experience an A/H1N1 outbreak within the next few months.

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Government experiments on U.S. soldiers: Shocking claims come to light in new court case

By Bruce Falconer (Mother Jones)

Their stories are a staple of conspiracy culture: broken men, suffering hallucinations and near-total amnesia, who say they are victims of secret government mind-control experiments. Think Liev Schreiber in The Manchurian Candidate or Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. Journalists are a favorite target for the paranoid delusions of this population. So is Gordon Erspamer—and the San Francisco lawyer's latest case isn't helping him to fend off the tinfoil-hat crowd. He has filed suit against the CIA and the US Army on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of America and six former American soldiers who claim they are the real thing: survivors of classified government tests conducted at the Army's Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland between 1950 and 1975. "I get a lot of calls," he says. "There are a lot of crazy people out there who think that somebody from Mars is controlling their behavior via radio waves." But when it comes to Edgewood, "I'm finding that more and more of those stories are true!"

That government scientists conducted human experiments at Edgewood is not in question. "The program involved testing of nerve agents, nerve agent antidotes, psychochemicals, and irritants," according to a 1994 General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) report (PDF). At least 7,800 US servicemen served "as laboratory rats or guinea pigs" at Edgewood, alleges Erspamer's complaint, filed in January in a federal district court in California. The Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that military scientists tested hundreds of chemical and biological substances on them, including VX, tabun, soman, sarin, cyanide, LSD, PCP, and World War I-era blister agents like phosgene and mustard. The full scope of the tests, however, may never be known. As a CIA official explained to the GAO, referring to the agency's infamous MKULTRA mind-control experiments, "The names of those involved in the tests are not available because names were not recorded or the records were subsequently destroyed." Besides, said the official, some of the tests involving LSD and other psychochemical drugs "were administered to an undetermined number of people without their knowledge."

Erspamer's plaintiffs claim that, although they volunteered for the Edgewood program, they were never adequately informed of the potential risks and continue to suffer debilitating health effects as a result of the experiments. They hope to force the CIA and the Army to admit wrongdoing, inform them of the specific substances they were exposed to, and provide access to subsidized health care to treat their Edgewood-related ailments. Despite what they describe as decades of suffering resulting from their Edgewood experiences, the former soldiers are not seeking monetary damages; a 1950 Supreme Court decision, the Feres case, precludes military personnel from suing the federal government for personal injuries sustained in the line of duty. The CIA's decision to use military personnel as test subjects followed the court's decision and is an issue Erspamer plans to raise at trial. "Suddenly, they stopped using civilian subjects and said, 'Oh, we can get these military guys for free,'" he says. "The government could do whatever it wanted to them without liability. We want to bring that to the attention of the public, because I don't think most people understand that." (Asked about Erspamer's suit, CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf would say only that the agency's human testing program has "been thoroughly investigated, and the CIA fully cooperated with each of the investigations.")

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Cheney and Rumsfeld pressured CIA to mislead Congress in the 1970s, too

By Margie Burns (Online Journal Contributing Writer)

The first time Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld pressured the CIA to mislead Congress was in 1975 and 1976, when Cheney was chief of staff to President Gerald Ford and Rumsfeld was Ford's secretary of defense.

Cheney, having held a series of positions alongside Rumsfeld -- starting under him in the Nixon administration -- also became campaign manager for Ford's reelection campaign. George H. W. Bush was head of the CIA, appointed by Jerry Ford when Ford switched Rumsfeld from White House chief of staff to secretary of defense.*

The mission of the three men was to protect the Ford presidency and some elements in the CIA from the Church Committee. According to researcher Lamar Waldron, they succeeded.

Waldron is co-author, with Thomas Hartmann, of Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination, an exhaustively documented 800 pages compiling more than three decades of research into the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. In two recent interviews of more than an hour each, Waldron discussed how much some things haven't changed since before Watergate.

Reacting to public outrage over a series of abuses -- including domestic surveillance -- exposed during Watergate, the Nixon impeachment and the winding down of the Vietnam War, in 1975 Congress authorized a special senate committee chaired by Democrat Frank Church of Idaho to look into abuses of the intelligence agencies, primarily the CIA and FBI. The Church Committee was convened, getting off to a slow start and under steady CIA-friendly media fire from the beginning; Ford appointed George H. W. Bush as head of the CIA and Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense in October 1975.

As Waldron points out, we now know from thousands of documents declassified since the 1970s that a massive amount of vital information was withheld by Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush from the Senate's Church Committee. The White House and top echelon of the CIA withheld from the committee information about the CIA's manipulation of the news media; domestic spying; and material about Cuba, including JFK's plan to topple Fidel Castro on December 1, 1963, the Mafia's infiltration of the anti-Castro plan, and the CIA's unauthorized continuation of agency plotting to use the Mafia to assassinate Castro. Waldron and Hartmann document in Legacy of Secrecy that then-CIA official Richard Helms withheld the unauthorized extension of the mob-linked anti-Castro plots from JFK himself, and from President Lyndon Johnson and from the Warren Commission afterward -- and even from JFK's own CIA Director.

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Did Prabhakaran surrender?

Hardnews Bureau

"It would have been nice if the Sri Lankan army had got Pottu Amman alive. Then we would have known exactly what the role of LTTE was in the assassination of late Rajiv Gandhi," sighed an Indian investigator associated with the probe of the late Prime Minister.

However, it seems that Sri Lanka (SL) was not willing to take any prisoners. This was despite the fact that the beleaguered LTTE leadership had made desperate attempts to wriggle out of the vice-like grip of the army. As stated by SL chief of army staff, General Fonseka, that some western powers had tried to rescue Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and his associates by negotiating a surrender. Hardnews learns that some of them actually came out with white flags, but they were not spared. The big question is: Did Prabhakaran, too, try to surrender?

Some intelligence reports claim that Prabhakaran was also one of those who tried to save his life through negotiations, but the Sri Lankans were in no mood to relent. Sources told Hardnews that the Indian government was in the loop in real time, but chose to look the other way. Colombo, however, respected the sensitivities of the Indian government that the end game against LTTE and Prabhakaran should be deferred till the voting of May 13 in Tamil Nadu as it could trigger a firestorm of protest against the SL government and impact the outcome of the elections. Some intelligence sources do not rule out the possibility of Prabhakaran being killed on May 13 itself and its announcement delayed to meet Indian interests.

Immediately after the Sri Lankan army cleaned up the last bit of resistance, Indian Foreign Secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon, and National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan, had flown to Colombo to cajole President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his administration to provide relief and rehabilitation to internally displaced Sri Lankan Tamils. The manner in which the operation was choreographed is an evidence of how the Indian government was tacitly backing the Sri Lankans.

Even DMK government in Chennai did not show great sympathy to a holed-up Prabhakaran or the plight of the Tamils in the no-fire zone in the northern areas. DMK had threatened to resign from the UPA government last year if the military operations against the Tamils in SL did not cease. But, inexplicably Karunanidhi seemed mollified even when there was no perceptible change in the plight of the people. Sources had then told Hardnews that what was pinching the DMK leadership was not what was happening to the Tamils in the teardrop island, but the fear of a CBI probe in the alleged malfeasance in the telecom department that was under one of their ministers. DMK eased the pressure on the government only after promises were made by the Central government that the guilty minister would not be touched.

The Indian government may have given a go-ahead to smoke out the LTTE, but there is no reason why they should not have - within means - demanded restraint to prevent colossal collateral damage. There are reports that the official death figures in the last few weeks of the war is a gross underestimation. Heavy artillery was used in areas where lakhs of Tamils were used as human shields. Sri Lankan army tried to show that this was an exercise to liberate those who had been held captive by the Tigers, but the way they went about it had the makings of genocide. Latest reports suggest that more than 20,000 people may have been killed in the military operation. Satellite images confirm this massacre.

This impression has been aggravated by the refusal of the Sri Lankan government to allow oversight by their own media and the international community. Worse, journalists had been threatened into submission and a dozen odd were murdered. The gruesome killing of the editor of The Island, Lasantha Wickrematunge, remains mired in mystery. Fingers are being pointed at some powerful interest group of the ruling elite who wanted Lasantha to shut up.

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Ray of greatness

By Arup K De Kolkata  (Hard News)

The story of the making of Pather Panchali, the all-time masterpiece that established Satyajit Ray's reputation for being "one of the greatest and most sublime filmmakers to emerge in the 1950s" at one stroke, is well-documented. Ray was toying with the idea of quitting his lucrative advertising job for a career in the cinema when he met the French-born American director, Jean Renoir, who came to Kolkata in 1949 to look for locations to shoot The River. Ray met Renoir at the Great Eastern Hotel, spoke to him at length and also accompanied him to various locations. Meeting Renoir was an immediate experience that encouraged Ray to take the plunge in filmmaking.

It was not until his 1967 tour of the US that Ray got a chance to watch The River, shot entirely in Bengal with a partly Indian cast. The screening over, both Renoir and Ray were invited on to the stage. "Ray owes a lot to Renoir," said the introducer. But, Renoir hardly thought as much. "I don't think Ray owes anything to me. I think he had it in his blood. Though he is very young still, he is the father of Indian cinema," he said.

Ray met John Huston, yet another Hollywood great, in Kolkata in the early 1950s. Ray showed some silent rough cut of Pather Panchali to Huston who called it "a fine, sincere piece of filmmaking". Years later, in 1987, while looking back on his Kolkata trip, Huston said that he had "recognised the footage as the work of a great filmmaker. I liked Ray enormously on first encounter. Everything he did and said supported my feelings on viewing the film."

The idea of filming Pather Panchali, in particular, began to take shape while Ray did the illustrations for Aam Antir Bhepu, a children's edition of Bibhuti Bhusan Bandyopadhyay's epic novel chronicling the growing up of a wonderstruck child in the back of beyond in the Bengal countryside. In 1950, Ray went to London with wife Bijoya for a five-month stay. On his way back, he did the visual scenario of Pather Panchali on ship.

"I produced a book of wash drawings describing the scenario of the film," said Ray in an interview with the London-based Bengali author, Sasthi Brata. "But none of the producers from top down wanted to know. They all said, you cannot work on location, you cannot shoot in the rain, you cannot do this, you cannot do that." Finally, he started to shoot on his own.

The shooting for Pather Panchali, which continued fitfully over a period of nearly two years, started in October 1953, on the day of Jagaddhatri Puja (worship of the goddess Jagaddhatri), in a field filled with autumnal Kaash flowers, near Shaktigarh in West Bengal's Burdwan district. "I remember the first day's shooting of Pather Panchali very well. ...It was an episode in the screenplay where the two children of the story, brother (Apu) and sister (Durga), stray from their village and chance upon a field of Kaash flowers," Ray wrote in 1957.

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Africa: Biofuels and neo-colonialism

Analysis by Seif Madoffe for AllAfrica:

As climate change forces economies around the world to cap carbon emissions, investors are pouring cash into the development of biofuels, as a replacement for fossil fuels. Seif Madoffe writes that this has led to 'climate colonialism' - 'a massive land-grabbing scramble in Africa', as European companies - some with foreign aid money support - rapidly establish enormous carbon monoculture fields in tropical countries.

With reference to the Saadani National Park in Tanzania, Madoffe asks whether it is ethical for rich countries in the North to make 'renewable' carbon in places where it has serious negative impacts on poor people and tropical forests that will be cut down to create space for 'carbon fields' in monoculture plantations.

We are currently witnessing a new and massive land-grabbing scramble in Africa, unprecedented since the fall of colonialism. The 'justification' for this land-grabbing is supposedly that global climate change is threatening the entire world and that therefore huge tracts of land are required for the planting of biological crops which produce 'biofuels' which should replace 'fossil fuels' so as not to add net carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

But this ignores the underlying fact that the vast majority of carbon dioxide is being produced by rich countries in the North who do not want to reduce their excessive fuel consumption and wastage levels. It is postulated by the proponents of 'biofuels' that enormous areas of unused (or under-used) land supposedly exist in Africa, which can be bought (cheaply) by commercial enterprises from the rich countries in the North. The logic is that rich countries can thus 'buy' their way out of a situation wherein they would otherwise have to drastically reduce their carbon dioxide production if indeed they really are serious about the threats posed by such emissions.

We shall explain why we consider these neo-colonial proposals for biofuels to be a new form of neo-colonialism - 'climate colonialism'.

Several questions arise - are there really enormous areas of unused land? No, this is a myth. Should the re-incorporation of carbon into plant material happen where the carbon was emitted originally, or could it be 'exported' from one country to another? This raises problems in the context of unequal power relations and unfair commercial deals. Should one make 'renewable' carbon in places where it has serious negative impacts on poor people and tropical forests that will be cut down to create space for 'carbon fields' in monoculture plantations? Furthermore, should this be done by taking over large tracts of agricultural land in poor countries, using huge quantities of water and polluting the soil, the rivers and coastal ecosystems - for example, giant plantation projects owned by European or American corporations, subsidised by 'development assistance' funds?

This scenario requires urgent consideration because European companies - some with foreign aid money support - are rapidly establishing enormous carbon monoculture fields in tropical countries. In Tanzania alone, there are ambitious proposals put forward by more than twenty European companies to establish several sugar, Jatropha and palm-oil plantations in order to produce biofuels. We will elucidate this by examining one such sugar-ethanol example from coastal Tanzania.

In Tanzania, Saadani National Park is situated at the coast, and it serves as an important connection between the coastal environment of the Indian Ocean and inland areas. This National Park is an area with unique fauna and flora. Nearby, in the Zaraninge Forest reserve in Bagamoyo district there is a proposed sugarcane plantation site between the two major rivers of the area, Wami and Ruvu. These rivers provide fresh water to large tracts of natural land and are situated close to the coast adjacent to coral reefs, mangroves and other biologically diverse marine environments. There are several villages inhabited by many thousands of farmers and pastoralists. An enormous 22,000 hectares of this area has been leased by a Swedish company, SEKAB, for the production of ethanol for Sweden, supposedly to make Sweden more 'eco-friendly'. SEKAB furthermore aims to expand to 400,000 hectares or more to include also areas in Rufiji.

What are the values found in the area that will be destroyed and what are the ecological and social consequences of this, both in Tanzania and in Europe?

SEKAB's project is one of several that are intended to be located near the coast so that ethanol or vegetable oil may be easily exported by sea. The plantations are also placed where there is good availability of fresh water, and in places remote enough to make it 'easier' to marginalise local villagers and move them out of their traditional areas at a low cost to the rich corporations (if indeed any compensation is paid at all).

When a corporation wants to undertake such a huge change in an area, as for instance converting it from tropical forest to sugarcane monoculture, an assessment needs to be done (called ESIA, environmental and social impact assessment) as well as seeking approvals from different levels of the government in the country in question. Such assessments are usually done by consultant agencies, which are often from the same country as the corporation proposing the project.

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Deforestation 'faster in Africa'

Africa's forests are disappearing faster than those in other parts of the world because of a lack of land ownership, a report says.

Less than 2% of Africa's forests are under community control, compared to a third in Latin America and Asia, say the Rights and Resources Initiative.

The deforestation rate in Africa is four times the world's average.

At the current rate, it will take Congo Basin countries 260 years to reach the level of reform achieved in the Amazon.

Action on land tenure could help to halt deforestation, slow climate change and alleviate poverty, says the report, entitled Tropical Forest Tenure Assessment: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities.

The study was presented in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, at a meeting of forest community representatives from Africa, Latin America and Asia.
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Poetic document making

Niels Van Tomme interviews Andrea Geyer for Foreign Policy in Focus:

Investigating concepts such as national identity, gender, and class, German-born artist Andrea Geyer uses both fiction and documentary elements in her image and text-based works. Her multifaceted projects include Queen of the Artists' Studios, The Story of Audrey Munson, an exploration of the continuous struggle of women through the life of one of New York's most famous artist's models. 9 Scripts from a Nation at War, her much-discussed collaboration with Sharon Hayes, Ashley Hunt, Katya Sander, and David Thorne, is a room-sized, 10-channel video installation. Through this complex presentation, the artists reflect on the war in Iraq and how it constructs specific positions for individuals to fill, enact, speak from, or resist.

Focusing on the ongoing readjustment of cultural meanings and social memories in current politics, Geyer has constituted a revolutionary as well as poetic body of work. Living and working in New York, she has exhibited at numerous prestigious institutions worldwide, including the Secession in Vienna, the Whitney Museum in New York, TATE Modern in London, and Documenta 12 in Kassel.

NIELS VAN TOMME: Your latest project, Solemnly Proclaimed, is a collaboration with a group of 10 Canadian Inuit activists around the UN Declaration for the Rights for Indigenous Peoples. What was the starting point for this project?

ANDREA GEYER: I must say as a disclaimer to start off with that Solemnly Proclaimed is on hold right now, because there is absolutely no funding for it. The idea came out of two projects I've worked on since about 2003. 9 Scripts from a Nation at War deals with the situation of individuals in relation to the war that is happening in Iraq. The other project is Spiral Lands, a sequence of works that address land rights and questions of identity and identity claims in North America, taking the Southwest as an example.

In both of these projects, the role of law and questions of justice became very prominent. Spiral Lands contains passages on how the court system was used to deconstruct Native sovereignty and land rights in the 19th century (see Cherokee Cases, Chief Justice John Marshall). And then, of course, there is the part in 9 Scripts From A Nation At War that addresses the detainees in Guantanamo Bay and the role of the Enemy Combatant Status Review Tribunals. Now, with the Obama administration, we'll see how the detainees will be tried.

The project Solemnly Proclaimed looks at the Declaration for the Rights for Indigenous Peoples (DRIPS) that the UN passed in September 2007 After 30 years of trying to get it passed, activists finally built a consensus to ensure indigenous rights worldwide. The reason why there needs to be a special declaration is due to the history of colonialism and the fact that indigenous communities need a particular kind of protection, being colonized and living mostly within postcolonial conditions. There were four states that voted against DRIPS: Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand (although Australia has signed it since). All were, interestingly enough, British settler states. They could not ratify the declaration, mostly because of questions of land rights and entitlement of Indigenous people to their land, their history, and their culture.

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Unrest in the Amazon - Understanding the issues

On May 15, 2009, the Peruvian Times spoke with Richard Chase Smith, Executive Director of El Instituto del Bien Común, an agency that works with indigenous peoples in Peru`s jungles, in order to gain a better understanding of the roots of the current unrest in Peru`s Amazon.

Musical Innerlube: Asian Dub Foundation - 'Fortress Europe'

The sociopathic police personality

Is it a product of the “Rotten Apple” or the “Rotten Barrel?”

Catherine Griffin1 and Jim Ruiz1
(1) Westfield State College, Westfield, USA

Abstract The “Rotten Apple” theory states that deviant police officers are those who psychological testing fails to screen out. This concept is favored by police administrators because it offers a quick and easy solution to police deviant behavior. However, there is a growing body of literature that suggests that it is the stressful occupation that is policing that is the fertile soil from which police deviant behavior springs otherwise known as the “Rotten Barrel” theory. This article shall explore police deviant behavior from the perspective that it is the “Rotten Barrel” that leads to police deviant behavior.

Cell phone video shows highway patrol grabbing paramedic by the throat

Even More Reporters getting arrested filming cops! Part 3

Col. Ralph Peters - "Kill Em All". How does a sociopath get to be a Colonel in the Army?

~ Source: Police State Jobs Available for Psychopaths ~

13 killed in Peru as Indians battle police

Reporting from Lima, Peru, and Bogota, Colombia -- Protests by indigenous communities over oil drilling and mining in the Peruvian Amazon region turned violent Friday, leaving at least 13 people dead in clashes with police and subsequent rioting.

According to local officials, nine police officers and four Indians were killed in an early morning confrontation on a road between Jaen and Bagua in northern Peru and in the protests that followed. The Bagua public defender's office said 45 people were injured.

 Violence continued throughout much of the day. Rioters sacked city offices, the local headquarters of President Alan Garcia's political party and 50 stores.

Some reports said the death toll was even higher. One said protesters were holding 38 police officers hostage and threatening to kill them unless the police withdrew.

The Health Ministry said it was sending emergency teams of doctors and paramedics to the area, raising concern that the casualty totals were far higher than officially reported.

Tensions between the indigenous communities and the government have been boiling since early April, when tribal members began protesting Garcia's granting of mineral development rights to foreign companies. Half a dozen indigenous communities claim the jungle as their ancestral lands.

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