Bradley Manning is off limits at SF Gay Pride parade, but corporate sleaze is embraced

From The Guardian UK:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/27/bradley-manning-sf-gay-pride

A seemingly trivial controversy reveals quite a bit about pervasive political values


guardian.co.uk, Saturday 27 April 2013

News reports yesterday indicated that Bradley Manning, widely known to be gay, had been selected to be one of the Grand Marshals of the annual San Francisco gay pride parade, named by the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee. When the predictable backlash instantly ensued, the president of the Board of SF Pride, Lisa L Williams, quickly capitulated, issuing a cowardly, imperious statement that has to be read to be believed.

Williams proclaimed that “Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration” and termed his selection “a mistake”. She blamed it all on a “staff person” who prematurely made the announcement based on a preliminary vote, and she assures us all that the culprit “has been disciplined”: disciplined. She then accuses Manning of “actions which placed in harms way [sic] the lives of our men and women in uniform”: a substance-free falsehood originally spread by top US military officials which has since been decisively and extensively debunked, even by some government officials (indeed, it’s the US government itself, not Manning, that is guilty of “actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform”). And then, in my favorite part of her statement, Williams decreed to all organization members that “even the hint of support” for Manning’s action – even the hint – “will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride”. Will not be tolerated.

I originally had no intention of writing about this episode, but the more I discovered about it, the more revealing it became. So let’s just consider a few of the points raised by all of this.

First, while even a hint of support for Manning will not be tolerated, there is a long roster of large corporations serving as the event’s sponsors who are welcomed with open arms. The list is here. It includes AT&T and Verizon, the telecom giants that enabled the illegal warrantless eavesdropping on US citizens by the Bush administration and its NSA, only to get retroactively immunized from Congress and thus shielded from all criminal and civil liability (including a lawsuit brought in San Francisco against those corporations by their customers who were illegally spied on). Last month, AT&T was fined by OSHA for failing to protect one of its employees who was attacked, was found by the FCC last year to have overcharged customers by secretly switching them to plans they didn’t want, and is now being sued by the US government for “allegedly bill[ing] the government improperly for services designed for the deaf and hard-of-hearing who place calls by typing messages over the web.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/27/bradley-manning-sf-gay-pride

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Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer

From The New York Times Magazine:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/our-feel-good-war-on-breast-cancer.html?ref=magazine

April 25, 2013

I used to believe that a mammogram saved my life. I even wrote that in the pages of this magazine. It was 1996, and I had just turned 35 when my doctor sent me for an initial screening — a relatively common practice at the time — that would serve as a base line when I began annual mammograms at 40. I had no family history of breast cancer, no particular risk factors for the disease.

So when the radiologist found an odd, bicycle-spoke-like pattern on the film — not even a lump — and sent me for a biopsy, I wasn’t worried. After all, who got breast cancer at 35?

It turns out I did. Recalling the fear, confusion, anger and grief of that time is still painful. My only solace was that the system worked precisely as it should: the mammogram caught my tumor early, and I was treated with a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation; I was going to survive.

By coincidence, just a week after my diagnosis, a panel convened by the National Institutes of Health made headlines when it declined to recommend universal screening for women in their 40s; evidence simply didn’t show it significantly decreased breast-cancer deaths in that age group. What’s more, because of their denser breast tissue, younger women were subject to disproportionate false positives — leading to unnecessary biopsies and worry — as well as false negatives, in which cancer was missed entirely.

Those conclusions hit me like a sucker punch. “I am the person whose life is officially not worth saving,” I wrote angrily. When the American Cancer Society as well as the newer Susan G. Komen foundation rejected the panel’s findings, saying mammography was still the best tool to decrease breast-cancer mortality, friends across the country called to congratulate me as if I’d scored a personal victory. I considered myself a loud-and-proud example of the benefits of early detection.

Sixteen years later, my thinking has changed. As study after study revealed the limits of screening — and the dangers of overtreatment — a thought niggled at my consciousness. How much had my mammogram really mattered? Would the outcome have been the same had I bumped into the cancer on my own years later? It’s hard to argue with a good result. After all, I am alive and grateful to be here. But I’ve watched friends whose breast cancers were detected “early” die anyway. I’ve sweated out what blessedly turned out to be false alarms with many others.

Recently, a survey of three decades of screening published in November in The New England Journal of Medicine found that mammography’s impact is decidedly mixed: it does reduce, by a small percentage, the number of women who are told they have late-stage cancer, but it is far more likely to result in overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment, including surgery, weeks of radiation and potentially toxic drugs. And yet, mammography remains an unquestioned pillar of the pink-ribbon awareness movement.

Continue reading at:   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/our-feel-good-war-on-breast-cancer.html?ref=magazine

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Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever

This is one worth buying a hard copy of Rolling Stone in order to read it carefully.

From Rolling Stone:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/everything-is-rigged-the-biggest-financial-scandal-yet-20130425

The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There’s no price the big banks can’t fix

By Matt Taibbi
April 25, 2013

Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”

That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.

Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It’s about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.

It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/everything-is-rigged-the-biggest-financial-scandal-yet-20130425

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Maddow: Right wing fringe is now a cynical money-making ‘racket’

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/27/maddow-right-wing-fringe-is-now-a-cynical-money-making-racket/

By David Ferguson
Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow discussed the elaborate money-making schemes dreamed up by the anti-government conspiracy theorists currently making a living off of conservative Americans’ fears about the Obama administration.

There is, for example, the Info Wars dating service.

“If you like Info Wars which is a show hosted by Alex Jones,” Maddow said, “If you like Glenn Beck and Alex Jones who says we faked the moon landing and that 9/11 was an elaborate hoax and that it was secretly the White House that bombed the Boston Marathon, Michelle Obama was in on it and there was no massacre at Sandy Hook, they were hoaxes, if you are one of those folks, a conspiracy theorist who believes in the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones view of the world, well, that doesn’t mean you don’t need love.”

Hence the prank Twitter hash tag that appeared late this week, #InfoWarsPickupLines, which featured romantic opening salvos for conspiracy-minded singles on the make like “How about we get illuminaughty and you show me your nude world order?” and “I’d like to shoot all over your grassy knoll, if you know what I mean….” or “What’s your sign? Mine is ‘Trespassers shot on sight.’”

But it doesn’t stop with just dating services. Men like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck, said Maddow, are monetizing their fame in any way they can. If you’re already in a relationship and don’t need Info Wars dating, you can still buy some Glenn Beck pants or some Rush Limbaugh iced tea.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who Maddow “has always counted on the conspiracy theorists to be part of his base,” has now left Congress and decided to get back in bed with the right wing fringe. Friday, he appeared on Alex Jones’ radio show.

Continue reading at:   http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/27/maddow-right-wing-fringe-is-now-a-cynical-money-making-racket/

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Redesigning Civilization — with Permaculture

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Los Angeles to San Onofre: “Not So Fast!”

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/27

by Harvey Wasserman

A unanimous Los Angeles City Council has demanded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conduct extended investigations before any restart at the San Onofre atomic power plant.

)The move reflects a deep-rooted public opposition to resumed operations at reactors perched in a tsunami zone near earthquake faults that threaten all of southern California.

Meanwhile, yet another top-level atomic insider has told ABC News that San Onofre Units 2 and 3 are not safe to operate.

On April 23, LA’s eleven City Council members approved a resolution directing the NRC to “make no decision about restarting either San Onofre unit” until it conducts a “prudent, transparent and precautionary” investigation. The city wants “ample opportunity” for public comment and confirmation that “mandated repairs, replacements, or other actions” have been completed to guarantee the public safety.

California’s largest city thus joins Del Mar, Encinitas, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Santa Monica, Solana Beach, Vista, Berkeley, Fairfax and the San Diego Unified School District board in asking the NRC to take all steps necessary to guarantee the public safety. Some resolutions include the demand that the NRC make utility officials testify under oath in public before San Onofre might be allowed to go back on line.

The sentiment has been echoed by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the NRC. Boxer has been joined by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) in questioning whether Southern California Edison knew steam generators being installed at San Onofre were faulty.

The new Mitsubishi generators cost some $770,000,000. But critical tubes began banging together and sprang leaks after less than a year of operations. As many as 17% of the plant’s 19,400 tubes may have been involved.

The reactors were shut in January, 2012. Edison has since billed ratepayers roughly a billion dollars for them, even though they’ve generated no electricity for more than a year. The utility says it needs the reactors’ power for the coming southern California summer, even though the region operated just fine last summer without them.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/27

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Arch Coal Denied Permission to Blow Up West Virginia Mountain

From Corp Watch:  http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15835

by Puck Lo,
April 25th, 2013

A subsidiary of Arch Coal of St. Louis, Missouri, has been denied permission to dump nearly three billion cubic feet of dirt into local headwater streams after blowing up a mountain in West Virginia. The object was to extract coal from a project known as the Spruce No. 1 Surface Mine.

Arch Coal, the second largest coal producer in the U.S., sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010 when the agency vetoed a mining permit that had been approved in 2006. The EPA said that new studies published since the permit had been issued showed potential harm to the area’s water quality.

A landmark decision issued Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA was within its rights to revoke water permits after another agency had issuing them.

“This is a major milestone in the fight to end the destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining,” Mary Anne Hitt, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign director, wrote. “Today’s ruling affirms EPA’s authority to ensure the safety of our waterways and the health of our communities, including by vetoing improper permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.”

The damage from this project would be irreversible,” said Shawn Garvin, the Mid-Atlantic regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which has issued an order to stop the project. “EPA has a duty under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on these waters for drinking, fishing and swimming.”

Mountaintop Coal Removal

What Arch Coal was proposing is a relatively new technology called mountaintop coal removal which has often been described as “strip mining on steroids.” Forests are razed and burned. Age-old rocks are blasted through. Giant, 20-story tall shovels and bulldozers tear into the remaining mountain, filling one 240-ton dump truck at a time. Once exposed, the embedded coal seams are carted off for processing.

The remaining rubble is dumped into surrounding valleys, submerging streams and rivers. Toxic chemicals used in the mining process, as well as naturally occurring minerals that are dangerous for wildlife and human consumption, leach out from the debris into the waterways. So far, at least 2,200 square miles (5,632 square kilometers) of the Appalachian mountain ranges have been obliterated, and 1,200 miles (1,920 kilometers) of streams have been buried, according to the EPA.

Continue reading at:  http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15835

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