Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Saturday, 9 July 2011

North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans -

North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans - 

The deaths of 31 people in Europe from a little-known strain of E. coli have raised alarms worldwide, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Our food often betrays us.
Just a few days ago, a 2-year-old girl in Dryden, Va., died in a hospital after suffering bloody diarrhea linked to another strain of E. coli. Her brother was also hospitalized but survived.

Every year in the United States, 325,000 people are hospitalized because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s right: food kills one person every two hours.

Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer.

Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system — I say this as an Oregon farmboy who once raised sheep, cattle and hogs — is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster.

The Food and Drug Administration reported recently that 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States go to livestock, not humans. And 90 percent of the livestock antibiotics are administered in their food or water, typically to healthy animals to keep them from getting sick when they are confined in squalid and crowded conditions.

The single state of North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans.

This cavalier use of low-level antibiotics creates a perfect breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The upshot is that ailments can become pretty much untreatable.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America, a professional organization of doctors, cites the case of Josh Nahum, a 27-year-old skydiving instructor in Colorado. He developed a fever from bacteria that would not respond to medication. The infection spread and caused tremendous pressure in his skull.

Read more - http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/opinion/12kristof.html

The “War On Drugs” Is A $2.5 Trillion Racket: How Big Banks, Private Military Companies And The Prison Industry Cash In -

The “War On Drugs” Is A $2.5 Trillion Racket: How Big Banks, Private Military Companies And The Prison Industry Cash In - 

Anyone who researches the “War on Drugs” already knows that it has been a very costly disaster. As the Global Commission on Drug Policy recently reported:
“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world….
Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption….
Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction.”
The War on Drugs has cost US taxpayers over $2.5 trillion dollars. From 1998 – 2008, a UN study estimates that the use of opiates has increased 35 percent and cocaine use has increased 27 percent. Due to nonviolent drug offenses, the US prison population has increased “more thantwelvefold since 1980.”
The War on Drugs has also fueled organized crime and drug related violence has dramatically increased over the past few years. Due to drug war violence, since December of 2006, a stunning45,000 people have been killed in Mexico alone.
Despite numerous reports and a mountain of evidence proving the utter failure of the War on Drugs, the Obama Administration has defended the effort and escalated the war. What many reports criticizing the War on Drugs fail to discuss is how successful the war has been at enriching the global financial elite. The War on Drugs, just like the War on Terror, is another criminal racket set up to benefit profiteering banks, military companies and the prison industrial complex at our tragic expense.
Here’s a concise summation of how the global bankers cash in:
How Drug Profits Saved Capitalism
“Drug profits, in the most basic sense, are secured through the ability of the cartels to launder and transfer billions of dollars through the US banking system. The scale and scope of the US banking-drug cartel alliance surpasses any other economic activity of the US private banking system. According to US Justice Department records, one bank alone laundered $378.3 billion dollars between May 1, 2004 and May 31, 2007. Every major bank in the US has served as an active financial partner of the murderous drug cartels….
If the major US banks are the financial engines which allow the billion dollar drug empires to operate, the White House, the US Congress and the law enforcement agencies are the basic protectors of these banks…. Laundering drug money is one of the most lucrative sources of profit for Wall Street; the banks charge hefty commissions on the transfer of drug profits, which they then lend to borrowing institutions at interest rates far above what – if any – they pay to drug trafficker depositors. Awash in sanitized drug profits, these US titans of the finance world can easily buy their own elected officials to perpetuate the system.”
Here’s an example of how private military companies are profiteering:
Private Contractors Making a Killing off the Drug War
“As tens of thousands of corpses continue to pile up as a result of the US-led ‘War on Drugs’ in Latin America, private contractors are benefiting from lucrative federal counternarcotics contracts amounting to billions of dollars, without worry of oversight or accountability.
U.S. contractors in Latin America are paid by the Defense and State Departments to supply countries with services that include intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, training, and equipment.
‘It’s becoming increasingly clear that our efforts to rein in the narcotics trade in Latin America, especially as it relates to the government’s use of contractors, have largely failed,’ said U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, chair of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight which released a report on counternarcotics contracts in Latin America this month. ‘Without adequate oversight and management we are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we’re getting in return.’”
For a further understanding of how the War on Drugs is deeply intertwined with the War on Terror, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has led to an explosive increase in drug trade profits:
Afghanistan as a Drug War
“From a modest 185 tons at the start of American intervention in 2001, Afghanistan now produced 8,200 tons of opium, a remarkable 53 percent of the country’s GDP and 93 percent of global heroin supply.
In this way, Afghanistan became the world’s first true ‘narco-state.’ If a cocaine traffic that provided just 3 percent of Colombia’s GDP could bring in its wake endless violence and powerful cartels capable of corrupting that country’s government, then we can only imagine the consequences of Afghanistan’s dependence on opium for more than 50 percent of its entire economy.
At a drug conference in Kabul this month, the head of Russia’s Federal Narcotics Service estimated the value of Afghanistan’s current opium crop at $65 billion. Only $500 million of that vast sum goes to Afghanistan’s farmers, $300 million to the Taliban guerrillas, and the $64 billion balance ‘to the drug mafia,’ leaving ample funds to corrupt the Karzai government in a nation whose total GDP is only $10 billion.”
Another major beneficiary of the drug war racket is the booming US private prison industry. With a stunning 2.3 million citizens imprisoned, the US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. Most of these people are in jail as a result of draconian drug laws. Even former President Jimmy Carter recently spoke out against the mass incarceration resulting from the War on Drugs:
Call Off the Global Drug War
“Drug policies here are more punitive and counterproductive than in other democracies, and have brought about an explosion in prison populations. At the end of 1980, just before I left office, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009 the number was nearly 2.3 million. There are 743 people in prison for every 100,000 Americans, a higher portion than in any other country and seven times as great as in Europe. Some 7.2 million people are either in prison or on probation or parole — more than 3 percent of all American adults!
Some of this increase has been caused by mandatory minimum sentencing and “three strikes you’re out” laws. But about three-quarters of new admissions to state prisons are for nonviolent crimes. And the single greatest cause of prison population growth has been the war on drugs, with the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses increasing more than twelvefold since 1980.
Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets.”
To capture the absurdity that is the War on Drugs, here’s the Daily Show’s coverage of the ATF’s deliberate arming of Mexican drug cartels:
“The ATF plan to prevent American guns from being used in Mexican gun violence is to provide Mexican gangs with American guns.”
Read more -  http://ampedstatus.org/the-war-on-drugs-is-a-2-5-trillion-dollar-racket-how-big-banks-private-military-companies-and-the-prison-industry-cashes-in/

US Taxpayers Just Paid $780 Million To Fund The Latest Greece Bailout Tranche -

US Taxpayers Just Paid $780 Million To Fund The Latest Greece Bailout Tranche - 

The IMF is delighted to announce that it just approved a €3.2 billion disbursement of cash for Greece, its fifth, as part of the €12 billion in money that Greece needs in order to continue operating in the months July and August. And just for what purpose will this money be used, one may ask? Well, as explained a few weeks ago, in Greek Math: €12 Billion In, €18.2 Billion Out the entire amount will be promptly recycled by global financial institutions in the form of debt maturities and interest payments, which amount to €18.2 billion in the months of July and August. Simply said ECB, EU and IMF money in, money owed to bankers out. The kicker: 17.09% of the money coming from the IMF, comes from, that’s right dear US taxpayer, you (and since 21% of the quota contributions allocated to the IMF are deemed “non-usable”, the actual number funded by the US is likely much higher). But this plot has a bonus kickeras we reported on Wednesday, the actual Greek debt is no longer owed by European banks to the extent it had been previously expected: a development that threatens to scuttle the entire second Greek bailout plan as currently proposed. So as the banks have been selling Greek debt, who has been buying? Mostly hedge funds, such as everyone’s favorite John Paulson. So to recap: US taxpayers have just paid out about $780 million of the $4.6 billion in order to fund interest owed to… hedge funds.
The WSJ provides a pretty chart explaining who is responsible for what:


Read more - http://www.zerohedge.com/article/us-taxpayers-just-paid-780-million-fund-latest-greece-bailout-tranche

Has the U.S. Turned Against Consumers? - Federal Reserve, the government, and Wall Street are all bleeding the consumer -

Has the U.S. Turned Against Consumers? - Federal Reserve, the government, and Wall Street are all bleeding the consumer - 

"It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. They can invent reasons why oil prices go to $130 or $150, but history shows that these people are capable of moving markets. It is not Exxon (XOM) or BP (BP) or Shell (RDS.A) that moves the oil markets. It is the financial players. It is theGoldman Sachs (GS), the Morgan Stanley (MS), or the other guys. It is a shame on the government that allows them to get away with that." —Oppenheimer oil analyst Fadel Gheit, Bloomberg TV, May 25, 2011
I recently explained here how excess liquidity lent to investors by the Federal Reserve at virtually no interest—helping investors use leverage as never before—created a maelstrom of activity in the commodities market. All that cheap money has pushed oil prices much higher than actual supply and legitimate demand would dictate. Covered also was the fact that during the campaign of 2008, when oil was nearing a new high of $147 a barrel, Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) knew why and promised to fix it.
Both candidates recognized what was happening in the markets and promised to repeal the Enron loophole that was created in 2000 by the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. This essentially deregulated financial products known as over-the-counter derivatives and loosened capital requirements. It allows traders to run roughshod over our economy, pocketing excessive profits and slowing the pace of recovery.
Amazingly, many continue to debate whether or not commodity traders are even responsible for today’s outrageous oil pricing. To industry professionals—among them Fadel Gheit, one of the most respected oil analysts; key members of OPEC; Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil; and the heads of Petronas (PTG:MK) of Malaysia and Total (TOT) of France—what is taking place is obvious.
Not long after these columns were published, Gary Gensler, head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, slammed the commodities markets with his sharpest criticisms yet. Gensler pointed out that as of today, 88 percent of recent trades for benchmark West Texas Intermediate Crude are made solely by speculators, not by the real end-users of crude.
When speculators make 88 percent of all trades, they’re not just heavily influencing the market. They have absolute control.


Gensler went on to state that creeping control of the market was similarly occurring in food commodities. He said speculators accounted for a whopping 90 percent of recent trades for wheat on the Chicago Board of Trade. A recent column in Foreign Policy magazine concurred. The market has gone from $13 billion in total contract holdings early in the last decade to $318 billion in contracts as of July 2008 (the same month oil peaked at $147 a barrel), driving food prices up 80 percent from 2005 to 2008. Foreign Policy quoted Kendell Keith, president of the National Grain and Feed Assn., as saying: "It’s unprecedented how much investment capital we’ve seen in the commodities market."
Is it any wonder that the average American working family is holding back on consumer purchases, thereby throttling the economic recovery? Two critical monthly expenses—energy and food—keep rising, steadily draining what little disposable income consumers might otherwise be able to spend on consumer goods.
As McClatchy’s Washington Bureau pointed out in a column covering the CFTC’s announcement: "… these [commodities] markets have driven up prices to the speculators’ profits and to the punishment of the public."