Major US news media have presented a grossly distorted and misleading interpretation of vaccines and their relationship to public health since early January. These journalistic organs have suggested the recent measles outbreak in the Western US has been a crisis of monumental proportions.
This flagrant and cynical sensationalism has become a foundation for intense advocacy on behalf of the pharmaceutical corporate and regulatory cartel targeting patient informed consent—a founding principal of modern medical practice and personal freedom. Keeping in mind the close to 300 vaccine products now in the pharmaceutical industry’s pipeline, closer analysis of “measles outbreak” press coverage suggests a conscious effort by corporate news media to virtually banish such notions and practices from the public mind. A news media dependent on over $1 billion in advertising dollars from big pharma must almost by necessity indulge their clients’ broader agenda.
An impartial journalistic approach to the question of vaccination and personal choice would provide equal and unprejudiced airing of “both sides,” in addition to the varied grey areas in the debate, from the corporate and statist entities flying the banner of mandatory vaccination to cautious segments of the citizenry voicing reservations toward such technology alongside the foremost prerogative of personal choice.
A LexisNexis search of US newspaper and wire service articles from December 28, 2015—the official start date of the California measles outbreak—to February 8, 2015  using the search terms “measles” and “vaccination” yields 799 press releases or wire stories and 746 newspaper articles and opinion pieces. Much of this coverage predictably emphasizes the array of vaccine-friendly assumptions and pronouncements from entities abetting the pharmaceutical industry’s long-term profit-specific objectives.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is, alongside the Food and Drug Administration, the most powerful bureaucratic arm utilized by the global pharmaceutical cartel to elicit compliance with the federal vaccine schedule for children from the medical profession and broader population. Of the article sample referenced above, close to one-third (517) reference the “Centers for Disease Control” or “CDC” in their text, suggesting citation of the agency and its policies to persuasively instruct readers on vaccine efficacy and safety.
In contrast, the same body of over 1,500 press releases, news stories and editorials reference “informed consent” only three times—and when the term is used it is done so either in passing or to disparage the practice itself. For example, Arthur Caplan, a professor of medicine at New York University, warns against doctors even considering the practice of informed consent in regard to vaccines. “The science is unimpeachable,” Caplan proclaims. ” Vaccines do not cause autism; measles is dangerous and contagious; inoculating against the disease is neither pointless nor riskier than abstention.” The physician then amazingly suggests that genuine informed consent–explaining how a vaccine such as Measles, Mumps, Rubella, which can severely injure, incapacitate, or kill the child patient–must be categorically replaced by the dissemination of pharmaceutical industry propaganda and half-truths. “Those doctors who counsel otherwise – who distort what patients need to know to preserve their health or that of their children – have crossed a bright red line. They have violated a patient’s right to informed consent, which depends on accurate information.”
The foremost US organization advocating the fundamental doctrine of informed consent, the National Vaccine Information Center, is referenced a paltry 22 times in the sizable article sample. And while the NVIC routinely emphasizes that it is not “anti-vaccine” and merely advocates that patients or their parents fully understand the risks associated with the industrialized, “one size fits all” immunization process, it is nevertheless framed as the official voice of “anti-vaccination.” A recent New York Times article from the data set is exemplary of this practice. “Members of the anti-vaccine movement said the public backlash had terrified many parents. ’People are now afraid they’re going to be jailed,’ said Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a clearinghouse for resisters.”
Of the 746 articles published in newspapers, 143 are editorial and opinion pieces. Almost without exception each vigorously supports wide-scale vaccination, even proposing punitive measures for those clinging to informed consent and personal choice. Such uniform opinion among newsroom management provides a clear indication of exactly how warped the overall news coverage of the “measles outbreak” has been.
“If we’re not willing to permanently exile anti-vaxxers from the public square,” one opinion in thePhiladelphia Daily News remarks, “we should at least make emergency provisions to do so. Anti-vaxxers should be made to understand that when there is a public-health emergency – such as a measles outbreak – they’ll be quarantined for the duration.” “Those who refuse to vaccinate are wrong,” the Salt Lake Tribune argues. “They endanger themselves and those around them.” “The growing anti-vaccination movement is one of the most frustrating developments of this decade,” the San Jose Mercury News similarly contends. “Some of the parents who mistrust vaccine are uneducated and have no access to pediatric counsel, but there’s no excuse for the irresponsible parents who have access to the latest science yet irrationally fear that vaccines are not safe for their children.”
In an effort to console parents concerned about the very real possibility of vaccines causing autism, US government press releases and US news outlets alike reference a 1998 study authored by British physician and medical scientist Andrew Wakefield linking vaccination to Crohn’s disease and autism. “Public health officials blame a decline in parents having their kids vaccinated that began after a now-thoroughly discredited 1998 British report alleged that common early childhood vaccinations triggered autism,” the San Diego Union Tribune grouses. “Unfortunately, that discredited report continues to be cited by know-nothing celebrities and vapid New Age authors who broadly reject modern medicine. They do so even as life expectancy hits all-time highs and medical researchers make steady progress on many fronts.”
The US government’s own public relations service—US Official News—likewise chimes in on Wakefield’s alleged deceit. “A 1998 article in the medical journal The Lancet caused a firestorm of controversy when it was published and helped create the anti-vaccine movement that continues today,” one US government press release reads. “There’s only one problem–the article was later retracted by the publisher for being ‘utterly false,’ and the author, Andrew Wakefield, was found to have been paid big bucks by plaintiffs’ lawyers.”
The fact that Wakefield’s 1998 findings have been upheld in 19 peer-reviewed papers he has contributed to the literature between 1998 and 2010, in addition to 28 studies from other scientists around the world  has been consciously overlooked by US newspaper editors and other drug industry propagandists. That this key piece of disinformation–soundly rebutted in the published research–continues to be repeated by journalists and government publicists alike suggests the hardcore disinformation tactics deployed to perpetuate the misunderstanding and unwarranted faith the majority of US families continue to place in big pharma’s immensely profitable vaccine agenda.
As direct result of this well-coordinated publicity campaign and resulting hysteria the legal right by which families may exercise informed consent is now under intense legal assault across the US. “Hearings to remove philosophical/conscientious exemptions to vaccine mandates have already taken place in Washington and Oregon,” NVIC reports.
California, Maine, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont all have bills already filed or press announcements of bills about to be filed to remove philosophical/conscientious exemptions. Maine, Minnesota and Texas have bills to substantially restrict philosophical/conscientious exemptions. Religious exemptions are also under attack. Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Vermont have bills filed or announced to eliminate religious exemptions, and Illinois, New Mexico and Texas have bills filed or announced to unconstitutionally restrict religious exemptions.
In addition, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia all have legislation underway to expand vaccine mandates.
In light of the above one should be unsurprised at the mob-like antipathy toward “anti-vaxxers,” and how the notions of personal liberty and informed consent have been made to appear increasingly bizarre by being effectively stricken from public discourse. The population has been expertly propagandized on the issue by medical practitioners, their professional associations, and regulatory agencies tethered to the pharmaceutical industry’s agenda vis-a-vis a news media reliant on drug advertising revenue. With these observations in mind one must seriously ask themselves, In what meaningful way would a wholly scientific authoritarianism differ from what is witnessed in America today?
 Medicines in Development: A Report on the Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Vaccines, Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, 2013.
 Jennifer Zipprich, Kathleen Winter, et al, “Measles Outbreak – California, December 2014-February 2015,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 20, 2015.
 Arthur Caplan, “Quacks Against Vaccines? Revoke Their Licenses,” Washington Post, February 8, 2015.
 Jack Healy and Michael Paulson, “Vaccine Critics Turn Defensive Over Measles,” New York Times, January 31, 2015.
 Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuck, “The Vaccination Debate Continues,” philly.com, February 9, 2015.
 “Washington Post: Measles in America,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 3, 2015.
 “Disneyland’s Measles is a Hard Lesson in How Vaccines Work,” San Jose Mercury News, January 29, 2015.
 “Anti-Vaccination Charlatans Take Toll on Public Health,” San Diego Times Union, January 19, 2015.
 “Flashback: The Anti-Vaccine Movement and a Trial Lawyer-Funded Climate of Fear,” Plus Media Solutions/US Official News, February 17, 2015.
 Joseph Mercola, “Why Medical Authorities Went to Such Extremes to Silence Dr. Andrew Wakefield,”Mercola.com, April 10, 2010, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/10/wakefield-interview.aspx
 “You Need to Act Now: Vaccine Exemptions and Mandates Threatened in Even More States,” National Vaccine Information Center, February 23, 2015.
Reprinted with permission from GlobalResearch.ca.
There’s something weird and cruel about the fact that diesel engines are – for the most part – for the affluent-only. You’d think it’d be the reverse.
And it is … in Europe.
Over there, more than half the passenger vehicles on the road have diesels under the hood and most models (cars, crossovers, SUVs) offer the option. This is not surprising, given that gas costs about the same per gallon as a decent quality whiskey costs per liter here.
But why aren’t diesel engines more commonly available here? Or rather, why are they almost exclusively offered in high-end models like the BMW 7 Series I reviewed recently (here) or the Audi Q5 I just posted a review of? Indeed, with the exception of a few Volkswagens (Golf, Beetle and Jetta) and one Chevrolet (Cruze) there are no diesel-powered passenger cars that aren’t also high-end/luxury-branded cars (i.e., BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes-Benzes).
This seems counterintuitive at first. Diesel engines, after all, are fundamentally economy (and durability) engines. Their performance attributes are secondary. People buy them because they go farther on a gallon of fuel and (historically) cost less to maintain and tend to last almost forever with decent care.
So, what’s up? How come there are so few economy-minded (and modestly priced) diesel-powered passenger cars available for sale in the United States – while the same kinds of cars are so readily available in Europe?
Form a picture in your mind of a belligerent-looking old man with a goatee wearing a red, white and blue costume… .
Uncle has made it very costly to sell – and drive – a diesel powered vehicle in the United States. Severe (and severely stupid; give me a minute) emissions regs that are also different from the regs in Europe mean that before a manufacturer (ack, jargon alert; this is what car journalists say in lieu of “car company”) can legally offer a diesel-powered car in the United States, it must meet emissions regs at both the federal and state level. There are 50 different states and several of them (individually and in regional blocks) have different (or additional) regs in force. Plus the feds. It can be a big hassle – and a really big expense – to alter/adjust a given model that’s ok to sell in Europe so that it’s legal to sell in every U.S. state.
This makes it really problematic to sell a diesel-powered economy car. Or even a diesel-powered mid-priced car. The margins are already tight for cars in those classes. An additional 5 percent in “up front” costs tends to focus the consumer’s gaze in a more affordable direction.
One of the assumptions of the eurozone – those 19 countries in Europe that use the euro as their national currencies – is that if any country left the zone, economic disaster would follow in its wake.
Only a few days ago, it appeared that heavily indebted Greece might be forced to drop the euro and return to the drachma, the currency it used before the euro.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Greece was spending money like a sailor on shore leave with a limitless credit card. The government ran up debts amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars to prepare for the 2004 Olympics, among many other infrastructure projects. It also promised retired Greek citizens some of the cushiest pensions in the EU.
In 2002, Greece was among the first EU members to adopt the euro. Entrance into the eurozone was contingent on Greece’s accomplishing certain reforms and demonstrating a threshold level of economic prudence. Among the requirements was to maintain a budget deficit of less than 3% and a total government debt under 60% of GDP.
Greece never even came close to meeting these targets. To make it look as if it were, Greek politicians engaged in such sleights of hand as not counting military spending as a government expenditure. But if it wanted to join the euro, Greece needed to do more. And Greek politicians weren’t about to ask voters permission to dismantle the cradle-to-grave welfare state financed by borrowed money.
To solve the problem, the government hired Goldman Sachs to help tidy up its balance sheet. Goldman created a series of currency swap arrangements using fictional exchange rates. The swaps took billions of dollars of debt off Greece’s balance sheet and allowed the country to issue far more debt than what was actually showing up in its account ledgers. Goldman used similar financial engineering to help prop up ill-fated energy trader Enron Corp., and we all know how well that experiment turned out.
In other words, Greece never, ever should have been allowed to join the eurozone. But now that it’s part of it, there seems to be no end to the willingness of EU politicians to throw money at Greece to keep it from leaving.
The Greek euro-farce escalated in 2010, when what has become known as the “troika” – the European Commission (the executive body of the EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) – agreed to a €110 billion bailout after Greece agreed to draconian austerity measures. Then, in 2011, the EU agreed to second bailout, this time to the tune of €130 billion.
And Greece did deliver some of the promised reforms. Taxes were raised, pension payments were cut, and the cradle-to-grave welfare state was partially dismantled. Government salaries were frozen. Annual government spending fell nearly 25% from 2011 to 2015.
But austerity alone wasn’t enough, as the Greek economy also shrank 25% during this period. More than one in four Greeks of working age are unemployed. As matters now stand, while Greece’s budgetary position is much improved, with a 2014 deficit of only 2.5% of GDP, its debt-to-GDP ratio is much worse than it was in 2010: 175% vs. 130%.
In a sane world, the EU never would have allowed Greece to become part of the eurozone. And as soon as the EU understood the extent of the Goldman-inspired subterfuge to allow Greece into the eurozone, it would have forced Greece out of it.
You could also be excused for thinking that the election last month of former communist youth activist Alexis Tsipras as prime minister of Greece might have been the end of the charade. Tsipras, whom I wrote about in this essay examining the political impact of austerity measures, campaigned on a promise to end them. (Yes, I “called it”!)
Among other goodies, Tsipras promised free electricity and food stamps for the poor, and boosts in pension payments. He also promised an end to privatizations of government-owned shipping facilities, airports, and energy companies.
The election of Tsipras sparked a fresh euro crisis. But all is now smoothed over. Tsipras has promised the EU to resume the process of reform, even at the risk of setting off a revolt from his leftist backers. In return, the EU has given him four months to start implementing the promised reforms. My guess is that Tsipras will be back in Brussels in four months, asking for more money. And the troika, spineless as an amoeba, will comply with the request.
Of course, Greece is only the most recent and most visible example of this “kick the problem down the road” farce. Central banks worldwide are engaged in desperate and increasingly futile efforts to rejuvenate growth and price inflation through quantitative easing and other stimulus measures.
The wholesale failure of these policies worldwide places central banks in a real bind. You can be sure that Alexis Tsipras won’t be the only politician from a small, heavily indebted EU country to ask for further handouts, at the same time resisting the demanded reforms.
Even in the US, the one country where some sluggish real economic growth has resumed, the Federal Reserve is under attack. The “audit the Fed” movement has, for the first time, real bipartisan support. No less an authority than Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen warned last week of the dire consequences of auditing a central bank.
What is it that the central bankers fear most? Here it is: The policies they have put in place to encourage one asset bubble after another can no longer be sustained. Having inflated the biggest financial bubble in history, they are terrified that it will pop, with devastating economic consequences, leading to a global deflationary depression that will make the recession of 2008-2009 look mild by comparison.
The beneficiaries of central banks’ largesse – governments, money center banks, and stock market investors worldwide – are equally terrified. And if they’re not, they should be.
I don’t know when it will happen, but there will be, as my former boss Bill Bonner says, a “day of reckoning.” Only this debacle will not be sorted out in a day. Ordinary citizens who realize that central banks are powerless to stop the unraveling of the bubbles created by quantitative easing and similar measures won’t be happy. They will elect men like Alexis Tsipras who promise an end to austerity. But without a greater fool – central banks creating money out of thin air – they won’t be able to deliver on their promises.
Things could get really ugly for a while, as all the fiat money-created bubbles in real estate, stocks, and commodities collapse. Political and social unrest will become part of daily life in many countries, as it already is in Greece.
How do you protect yourself? For starters, don’t believe the establishment claptrap trumpeted by the mainstream media. Central banks can’t solve the problems they’ve created with their easy-money policies. And since the bubbles will collapse, make sure you’re out of real estate and other inflated assets before they do (other than possibly your own home and property you own debt free). Keep your liquid assets in physical currency or in strong, highly capitalized banks. Gold is fine, too, but since it’s a commodity, don’t be surprised if it falls in value along with everything else when serious deflation begins.
Reprinted with permission from Nestmann.com.
With all the Cheers and Jeers of C-PAC 2015 fading into Yesterday’s News, let us carpe the diem to add to the growing list of oxymoronic fantasies in desperate need of extinction, a term heard early and often whenever conservatives and libertarians congregate: “Limited Government”. Like “settled science”, the Tooth Fairy and Honest Politicians, not only is there no such thing, there never has been.
The utter nonsense that a piece of parchment, even inscribed with swell ideas, can successfully “limit” the Leviathan, i.e. Big Government has been proven ludicrous for 226 years; considerably longer if we include all recorded human history. Like Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, the Bush and Obama administrations brought to life Government as “a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Constitutional “protection” of our natural rights from Government trampling has morphed from an American ideal fortified by the Rule of Law into a Bad Joke inflicted by the increasing immorality inherent in the leaders of a crumbling empire; a tragedy being acted out in the daily news to an audience that only craves bread and circuses. And cute Budweiser commercials.
“[The] conservative keeps repeating the litany that the central government should be severely limited by a constitution. Yet, at the same time that he rails against the corruption of the original Constitution and the widening of federal power since 1789, the conservative fails to draw the proper lesson from that degeneration. The idea of a strictly limited constitutional State was a noble experiment that failed, even under the most favorable and propitious circumstances. If it failed then, why should a similar experiment fare any better now?” - For A New Liberty – Murray Rothbard
While I didn’t see a C-PAC Meet-Up to discuss this, it is precisely the question conservatives, Republicans and not a few Libertarians need to reconcile. While any measurable reduction in Rights Violations and Property Confiscation would be welcome from the all-consuming monstrosity languishing inside the Logic Free Zone, with spawn festering in State pustules across the fetid plane, there isn’t enough ganja in the hills of Jamaica to successfully delude one into believing “limited government” could actually happen or be sustained. Individually and collectively, the “governing” gangs of flaming sociopaths are too broke, too desperate to feed their addiction to power and control to ever – ever – entertain the notion of Limited Anything except the Limited Liberty of its constituents servants slaves.
As my friend Walter E. Williams often observes, “There has never been a tyrant who woke one morning and said, ‘Oh, OK – then…let’s try Freedom!”. As proof, “America’s Mayor”, Rudy Giuliani, sporting an “I Heart Winston Smith” button, said in a public speech, sans sarcasm or his notorious knee-slapping humor:
Let’s also refresh our mental screens to the simple truths: Government is Force. Force is immoral. Force is anathema to Freedom. To push the belief that “Limited Government” inoculates us, canceling the eventual onslaught of Corrupt Government is to reveal a flaccid grasp of Logic and the English language as well as tacitly agreeing “limited rape” is OK; just poor “technique”.
In the chapter “Why Not Limited Government”, Against the State, Lew Rockwell succinctly points out, “The Constitution creates a government that is the judge of its own powers.” This coincides with a comment often attributed to SCOTUS Justice Scalia “We all get our paychecks from the same place.” Whether the Justice actually made the statement or it’s another Internet myth, the sentiment is noteworthy when using the light of Rockwell’s observation to cast a jaundiced eye toward the tortured reasoning of certain SCOTUS decisions, Legislative skullduggery and blatant Executive scandals that uniquely fortify the interests of Leviathan, loosening Constitutional restraints and eroding the preservation of natural rights. Once in Rouge Mode, every branch of any size Government will turn its monopoly on Force on those it was charged to serve and protect, compelling them to support and preserve its power over their rights.
As Rockwell states “Each person properly has the right to rule over himself, a right no majority can override.” And Rothbard “…the society of absolute self-ownership for all rests on the primordial fact of natural self-ownership by every man…as he exercises his natural freedom of choice…”. While this may have been the essence of what the Founding Dads had conceived with their version of “Limited Government”, when charged with “securing these rights”, it wasn’t long before the sainted Founders fell victim to Lord Acton’s siren song, nudging the fledgling Republic over the edge to begin is slow decent into unavoidable implosion.
If “Limited Government” could actually be achieved, it would necessarily have to come with “Limited Freedom”, “Limited Liberty” and, most importantly, “Limited Success”. As Government is Force and Force is Power, the veracity of Acton’s observation “Power corrupts…” is unassailable and incurable. “Limited Government” would only have Limited Time to achieve Limited Success before beginning its decent into Unlimited Corruption and tyranny.
The unique and pragmatic advantages of Anarcho-Capitalism over such quaint notions as “Limited Government” are revealed and discussed enthusiastically in Lew Rockwell’s “Against The State” which can be read in far less time than it took to endure C-PAC 2015. And way more productive.
There is no government like no government.
No Government; know Peace.
Over at Salon, Edwin Lyngar tells us that he has given up on libertarianism because of a recent vacation he took to the Honduras. He classified the trip as a nightmare: My libertarian vacation nightmare: How Ayn Rand, Ron Paul & their groupies were all debunked
I am really not sure how he reached the conclusion that the Honduras is a libertarian country, but he did:
Eliminate all taxes, privatize everything, load a country up with guns and oppose all public expenditures, you end up with Honduras.
Empresa Nacional de Energía Eléctrica is Honduras’s government owned and operated electrical power company. ENEE supplies 84.8% of Honduras’ electricity.
Hondutel is Honduras’ government owned telecommunications company. It has a monopoly on international calls.
Neither of these government owned companies would be something you would find in a libertarian country.
But Lyngar goes on:
The country has a handful of really rich people, a small group of middle-class, some security guards who seem to be getting by and a massive group of people who are starving to death and living in slums.
This tipped me off right away. There is no way you are going to see such slums in a country, unless there are high minimum wage laws and regulations which make it difficult to start a business. So I did some digging.
Honduras has the most complex minimum wage laws I have ever seen. Take a look for yourself.
As far as starting a business, the World Bank lists it as extremely difficult to do so in Honduras, with a rank of 138 out of 189 countries. Which is to say nothing about its ranking for Enforcing Contracts (166).
I only took a few minutes to do research on the obvious, minimum wage laws and start up difficulties, but any country which is so oppressive in these two sectors is likely to be a regulation nightmare across the board. That’s why you have extensive slums in the country—and it has nothing to do with the philosophy of Ron Paul or Ayn Rand.
Reprinted with permission from Target Liberty.
A team hunting for the legendary ‘lost city’ of Ciudad Blanca in Honduras has made a dramatic discovery of untouched ruins deep in the jungle that are thought to be thousands of years old, according to National Geographic.
Researchers believe the complex of plazas, mounds, a pyramid and dozens of artefacts belong to a civilization which was blooming thousands of years ago and then vanished without a trace.
It prompts the tantalizing possibility that they have found the lost civilization known as the White City, which as been the subject of local rumors among tribes people and Spanish explorers around the la Mosquita area of jungle in Honduras for hundreds of years.
Some people call it the White City Of Gold, after ancient texts described ivory temples filled with treasure – and western explorers first made reference to it from conquistador Hernando Cortes to King Charles V of Spain in 1526.
Since then countless adventurers have scoured the jungle for the ancient civilization, rumored to have enjoyed treasures beyond the wildest dreams of many budding Indiana Jones’.
One such adventurer even suggested that the city was in fact known as the White City of the Monkey God, and saw an ancient civilization worship a giant simian deity, symbolized by a large statue.
Theodore Morde, writing of his adventures in US magazine The American Weekly, said that local tribes people told him of the monkey worshiping civilization and went on with even more outlandish suggestions that a monkey from the city. Locals even told him that one ‘monkey god’ from the city kidnapped a local woman and bred half-human, half-chimp children. The children were then hunted for revenge.
Local tribes people also reportedly related the same story to an anthropologist, according to a Honduran media report.
Morde said that local people told him of a huge monkey temple inhabited by a civilization known as the Chorotegas, and claimed to have fond evidence of such a place on his expedition in 1939-40. But Morde never revealed the location of his alleged find and killed himself in 1954.
However, despite archaeologists’ following attempts to detect man-made structures – whether they be from Ciudad Blanca, The White City of the Monkey God or elsewhere – have been unsuccessful. Until now.
Traveling into uncharted territory last month, a National Geographic team found the mounds of white rubble in the shape of a monkey’s skull that experts believe to be thousands of years old.
The National Geographic’s Douglas Preston wrote: ‘The tops of 52 artifacts were peeking from the earth. Many more evidently lie below ground, with possible burials.
Reprinted from The Beacon Blog.
Our eyes put up with a lot: Hours in front of the TV or computer, low mood lighting in a restaurant, squinting into the sun while driving (even with sunglasses). There’s a long list. Despite how important our eyesight is, we tend to take it for granted.
There are certain habits, in particular, that we continue to put our eyes through that are actually quite damaging. If any of the following sound familiar, now’s the time to stop. You’ve only got the one pair, after all…
Rubbing or touching your eyes
Whether they’re dry, itchy, or maybe an eyelash got in, touching or rubbing your eyes with your fingers and hands is not advised.
Right off the bat, picture all the things you touch and handle throughout the day and really think about how often you’ve washed your hands. Probably not a whole lot. When you start rubbing and touching your eyes, all the things you touched that day can now become transferred to your eye. That includes germs, bacteria, and anything else that can make us sick or cause infection.
Worse yet, the more you rub your eyes, the more minor tears in the tissue can occur. They can break and damage capillaries, and you might end up with visible veins which can make you look older – or end up with dark spots around the eye.
When your eye is feeling itchy, keep your eyelid closed to avoid any germs from entering your eye, and be gentle with rubbing. It can damage blood vessels and cause inflammation. Overall, keep your hands away from your line of vision, and wash them before rubbing or touching your sensitive eyes.
Skipping an eye exam
You may think that as long as you can see your surroundings, you have no problems with your vision. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it! So you continue to put off that eye exam appointment because you feel your eyes are fine. Not good!
Just because you can see alright, doesn’t mean there aren’t underlining issues developing. Whereas most of the rest of your body will create pain when something is wrong, your eyes do not have pain receptors and therefore symptoms reveal themselves in different ways.
An eye doctor, or ophthalmologist, has the expertise and the equipment to give you an accurate diagnosis and the best advice for your eye health. They can spot any issues, minor or major, and help to resolve or prevent anything they may put your vision at risk.
Don’t wait until you notice a difference in your vision to see an eye doctor. By that time, it may be too late. Regular visits are a must, especially as you get older.
Using expired eye health products
Do you have a habit of just holding onto medications, eye drops or solutions? Well, if you’ve been looking at the same bottle for quite some time, it’s probably past its expiry date and should be thrown away. Just because drops and solutions aren’t something you ingest through your mouth, they are still being absorbed in your body and can be dangerous once they expire.
If you wear contact lenses, expired solution is a no-no. The cleaning properties in the solution are meant to kill bacteria, so the contacts are safe to put in your eyes. Over time, these ingredients lose their potency and if they aren’t killing the bacteria, that means the bacteria is entering your eyes. The same goes for over-the-counter or prescribed drops; they, too, will become less effective post-expiry date.
You may want to do a clean sweep of your medicine cabinet and ensure your products are still safe to use. It’s not worth risking your vision over a few droplets.
Eating poorly and missing out on key nutrients
Your diet has a lot to do with your vision! Like the rest of your body, your eyes need proper nourishment, and many of those nutrients come from the foods you eat.
An eye-friendly diet consists of leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, and omega-3s – the healthy fatty acids which you can get from most fish. Two main nutrients your eyes require are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are commonly found in vegetables. These nutrients act as important disease-fighting antioxidants for the eyes and the body as a whole.
If you’re always picking up a meal on the go, it’s time to switch up your diet. What you eat can also affect how you see, so a diet filled with fresh, colorful produce, lean proteins and whole grains is your best bet for your eye health.
Your vision doesn’t need to get worse just because you’re getting older. You can take these important steps as good insurance for your eye health. By swapping out a few of these bad habits, you can keep enjoying those day-to-day activities, like going for a drive, reading the newspaper, and watching your favorite TV program, for years to come.
Reprinted with permission from Bel Marra Health.
By Dr. Mercola
In today’s world it’s harder than ever to keep your weight under control, as evidenced by the fact that two-thirds of American adults and one-third of children and teens are either overweight or obese.1
Weight management is a concern for most people, and many struggle to determine what they’re doing wrong. Even exercising regularly can fail to make a dent for some people.
It is important to understand that while exercise is certainly part of the formula for success, the foods you choose to eat are three times more important for controlling your weight than your exercise.
It’s very easy to sabotage yourself with processed foods and sweetened beverages. Many also do not get enough fiber, which research suggests may be another key component for effective weight loss.
Simply upping your fiber intake may actually help you achieve results rivaling more complicated diets. Previous research has demonstrated that fiber has appetite-suppressant qualities that helps you feel more satiated2,3,4,5 thereby preventing unhealthy snacking.
It’s also been shown to improve metabolic markers such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar. Fiber also helps protect your heart6 and cardiovascular7 health, and appears to reduce mortality from all causes.8,9,10,11
High-Fiber Diet Rivals Calorie Restriction for Weight Loss
- The American Heart Association15 (AHA) diet, which involves reducing daily calorie intake and limiting saturated fat
- A plan that simply called for adding a minimum of 30 grams of fiber per day from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
No exercise recommendations were provided. After one year, both groups lost about the same amount of weight. The mean weight loss for those on the AHA diet was 2.7 kilos, compared to 2.1 kilos for the high-fiber group.
Like those on the AHA diet, the high-fiber group also improved their cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammation markers, although far more people proceeded to develop diabetes in the high-fiber group compared to the AHA diet—a total of seven, compared to just one in the AHA group.
Still, the researchers are encouraged by the results, which suggest that adding more fiber to your diet is a simple measure that can significantly improve your diet and health status. As noted by Time Magazine:16
“[Study author Dr. Yunsheng] Ma notes that while dietary guidelines to lower the risk of various diseases have been around for decades, obesity, heart problems and diabetes remain the most common conditions affecting Americans.
“Very few people reach the goals that are recommended,” he says. Asking them to focus on eating more of a certain food—rather than telling them what not to eat—may help people to think more positively about changes in their diet, and make the goals more achievable.
From there, it might be easier to make the other changes, such as those included in the AHA diet. ‘[Adding fiber] might be one new idea for how to get people to adhere to a diet,’ he says. That’s the first step, and perhaps most important, to eating healthier.”
Are You Getting Enough High-Quality Fiber?
Dietary guidelines call for 20-30 grams of fiber per day. I believe an ideal amount for most adults is around 32 grams daily. Most people, however, get only half that, or less—despite the fact that most eat a diet high in grains.
What many fail to realize is that grain-based fiber is far from ideal as the grains that accompany it can actually promote insulin and leptin resistance. Processed foods are also a poor source of beneficial fiber. So what is fiber and where do you find the good stuff? There are basically two types:
- Soluble fiber, found in cucumbers, blueberries, beans, and nuts. Soluble fiber dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer, which can help with weight control
- Insoluble fiber, found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots, does not dissolve and helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination
Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain bothsoluble and insoluble fiber. This is ideal, as both help feed the microorganisms living in your gut. These beneficial bacteria in turn assist with digestion and absorption of your food, and play a significant role in your immune function.
The same cannot be said for grains (including whole grains) and processed foods, as the carbohydrates found in both can serve as fodder for microorganisms that tend to be detrimental to health. Gliadin and lectins in grains may also increase intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut can cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps, as well as cause or contribute to many others symptoms such as fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, allergies, psychological symptoms, and more.
So, to maximize your health benefits, focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Following is a small sampling of foods that contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber.
A simple tip to increase the amount of fiber and biodense nutrients in your diet would be to add sunflower sprouts to your meal. They work great in salads but can also be added to virtually any dish to radically improve its nutrition.
Organic whole husk psyllium is another effective option. Taking it three times a day could add as much as 18 grams of dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) to your diet. Opting for an organic version of psyllium will prevent exposure to pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, as conventional psyllium is a very heavily sprayed crop. I also recommend choosing one that does not contain additives or sweeteners, as these tend to have a detrimental effect on your microbiome.
Boost Your Health and Weight Loss Efforts by Eating More Fiber
There’s little doubt that fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. According to a report17 by the Council for Responsible Nutrition Foundation (CRNF), if American adults over the age of 55 with heart disease took psyllium dietary fiber daily, it could reduce health care costs by nearly $4.4 billion a year. These savings would primarily be related to reductions in heart disease-related medical events. The report estimated that it costs a mere 30 cents per day to take psyllium fiber at “preventive intake levels,” noting that it also helps support healthy cholesterol levels by inhibiting its absorption in your intestine.
Just keep in mind that all sources of fiber are not created equal. Fresh whole vegetables are among the best. And while many recommend whole grains, I caution against whole grains if you’re already struggling with insulin and leptin resistance—and half of all Americans are—as whole grains will raise your insulin and leptin levels, thereby exacerbating your condition.
Moreover, processed grains and processed foods boasting added fiber are more or less worthless, and will not provide you with the health benefits you’re looking for. If you still fall short of the recommended 30-32 grams per day (20 grams being a bare minimum), consider adding organic psyllium husk and/or sprouted sunflower seeds to your diet, both of which can help bring you closer to this ideal amount, along with plenty of high-fiber vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. To learn even more about how you can optimize your health through diet, please refer to my free online nutrition plan.
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- National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) – A non-profit organization that seeks to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and defending your right of informed choice.
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Sources and References
- 1 Weight Control Information Network
- 2 Nature Communications April 29, 2014 [Epub ahead of print]
- 3 Bioscience Technology April 30, 2014
- 4 Scientific American April 30, 2014
- 5 Time Magazine May 1, 2014
- 6 JAMA. 1996 Feb 14;275(6):447-51.
- 7 Stroke March 28, 2013 [Epub ahead of print]
- 8 Am. J. Epidemiol December 31, 2014 [Epub ahead of print]
- 9 Scientific American January 12, 2015
- 10 BMJ2014;348:g2659
- 11 Time Magazine April 29, 2014
- 12 Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(4):248-257
- 13 WebMD February 16, 2015
- 14 Forbes February 16, 2015
- 15 American Heart Association Diet Recommendations
- 16 Time February 16, 2015
- 17 CRN Foundation Report
The United States and Russia still maintain vast nuclear arsenals of mutual assured destruction, putting the future of humanity in jeopardy every instant. But an unnerving nonchalance has settled over the American side which has become so casual about the risk of cataclysmic war that the West’s propaganda and passions now ignore Russian fears and sensitivities.
A swaggering goofiness has come to dominate how the United States reacts to Russia, with American politicians and journalists dashing off tweets and op-eds, rushing to judgment about the perfidy of Moscow’s leaders, blaming them for almost anything and everything.
These days, playing with nuclear fire is seen as a sign of seriousness and courage. Anyone who urges caution and suggests there might be two sides to the U.S.-Russia story is dismissed as a wimp or a stooge. A what-me-worry “group think” has taken hold across the U.S. ideological spectrum. Fretting about nuclear annihilation is so 1960s.
So, immediately after last Friday night’s murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, the West’s media began insinuating that Russian President Vladimir Putin was somehow responsible even though there was no evidence or logic connecting him to the shooting, just 100 meters from the Kremlin, probably the last place Russian authorities would pick for a hit.
But that didn’t stop the mainstream U.S. news media from casting blame on Putin. For instance, the New York Times published an op-ed by anti-Putin author Martha Gessen saying: “The scariest thing about the murder of Boris Nemtsov is that he himself did not scare anyone,” suggesting that his very irrelevance was part of a sinister political message.
Though no one outside the actual killers seems to know yet why Nemtsov was gunned down, Gessen took the case several steps further explaining how – while Putin probably didn’t finger Nemtsov for death – the Russian president was somehow still responsible. She wrote:
“In all likelihood no one in the Kremlin actually ordered the killing — and this is part of the reason Mr. Nemtsov’s murder marks the beginning of yet another new and frightening period in Russian history. The Kremlin has recently created a loose army of avengers who believe they are acting in the country’s best interests, without receiving any explicit instructions. Despite his lack of political clout, Mr. Nemtsov was a logical first target for this menacing force.”
So, rather than wait for actual evidence to emerge, the Times published Gessen’s conclusions and then let her spin off some even more speculative interpretations. Yet, basing speculation upon speculation is almost always a bad idea, assuming you care about fairness and accuracy.
Remember how after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, some terrorism “experts” not only jumped to the false conclusion that the attack was a case of Islamic terrorism but that Oklahoma was chosen to send a message to Americans that no part of the country was safe. But the terrorist turned out to be a white right-wing extremist lashing out at the federal government.
While surely hard-line Russian nationalists, who resented Nemtsov’s support for the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev, should be included on a list of early suspects, there are a number of other possibilities that investigators must also consider, including business enemies, jealous rivals and even adversaries within Russia’s splintered opposition – though that last one has become a target of particular ridicule in the West.
Yet, during my years at the Associated Press, one of my articles was about a CIA “psychological operations” manual which an agency contractor prepared for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels noting the value of assassinating someone on your own side to create a “martyr” for the cause. I’m in no way suggesting that such a motive was in play regarding Nemtsov’s slaying but it’s not as if this idea is entirely preposterous either.
My point is that even in this age of Twitter when everyone wants to broadcast his or her personal speculation about whodunit to every mystery, it would be wise for news organization to resist the temptation. Surely, if parallel circumstances occurred inside the United States, such guess work would be rightly dismissed as “conspiracy theory.”
What do former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, an appeals court justice, several potential members of the Boston Marathon bombing jury and thousands of regular Americans have in common?
They all believe that they’ve seen a video of accused bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev dropping a deadly backpack behind victims at the marathon on April 15, 2013—a video his defense said “does NOT actually exist.”
In a pre-trial hearing yesterday, Tsarnaev defense attorney David Bruck argued that the April 18, 2013, press conference in which former Boston FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers identified the brothers should be excluded from evidence. That, he argued, is because the FBI agent described the video footage that doesn’t really exist, which subsequently was used to convict Tsarnaev in the media.
U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole ordered the defense and prosecution to edit the recording of DesLauriers’ press conference in a manner satisfactory to both sides. He reserved the right to rule on the defense’s motion to suppress the entire recording if the two sides can’t agree.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate. I … January is marked with for consumers and the financial markets … get lots of optimistic views of white there to kill investments are gonna go up … sometimes we like to divert from that point of view … and Jack Otter Editor Barron’s the common for the opposite point of view I’ve gotten Mark Palmer who is editor of the boom boom and doom report … I got the drawn to … the gloom doom and gloom reports … on mark to give us your outlook for the global economy in twenty fifty … well I think it would OPEC different parts of the world to America as we selected American Norse America Canada Mexico … and in Europe and binned the emerging market calm breaks was known to be Asia … and Africa and Central Asia the Middle East … then have to say that Europe is unlikely to grow … maybe grows by one percent to eighty contracts by one percent to be … statistical other nations … I don’t think that the U S economy speaking uprising slowing down … and in emerging economies we have no gross at the present I … in some countries they may be growing a one two percent than in others they Harry’s of contraction the new dos new production … the Chinese economy which is … the dominant emerging economy in the world … he said that the slowing down … being the only other hand has probably at the present time around five six percent growth … rate in general … you tobacco aches for staff cannot … even go back to the global reserve accumulation that they’re not … so I think that who face a disappointing two thousand and fifteen in terms of … economic growth … India sounds like you’re only bright spot there … whoa in terms of gross yes but don’t forget last year in dollar terms the stock market was up thirty five percent … and the chairman of the new capital from the Fed to from the was up close to fifty percent last year … twenty outperformed the in the seas … I don’t think that these will be repeated maybe will go up another fifteen percent or so … but in general I think a lot of my kids … are that not terribly explains the Renault … bargains any good news sounds like a soaring price twelve × topped the Barron’s full conference I think it was in October … I think the Chinese economy slowing down but the stock of the two will go up to the markets … and the economy can move in different directions … and said that there is a lot of central bank interventions that … expectations buying basis while … the central bank will do what makes … and so in basis ironing the stops in the expectation that the … Bank of China was thinking he’s … so into this sign environment where do you invest where were one of their money … well I mean I think they are there for the first time in a long time since two thousand and seven teams thousand and eight … actually some shorting opportunities … some coconut shorting some … sectors I thing is quite dangerous to short EU stops … this um it may come and take him over … the country line with the exit so … that I would say that BdB you know some CDC’s like the biotechnology index the Psalm and the very Heidi and … social media … ETA these are relatively high tea in my opinion … Bibi other people at the frontier was … or that the stops in that same icon Doctor … I stopped eating dates is on the high side … reading these are shorting opportunities I think … you say in the least probably stayed a short … although it’s a very oversold and send them is a negative second rebound like the euro … the police concerns about the U S dollar is enormous … so we may have a setback in the rebound the euro’s … I think it at my bake … he’s the I cord short … central banks I would short central banks into was out on and defeat in that is I think … investors … will suddenly realize … what the scam central banking fees … and then Daewoo was competence … and based only one way to short central banks idea and I went to to buy gold … ah so … are you long gold are you three as on long gold up in great Moallem gold things that … need nineteen nineties … and dare I polls recently became more … and I think if someone really wanted to make a lot of money in gold … he’s the higher your risk proposition Venetian by … the small mining stocks like the TT exchange their junior year I guess that the ice data that tends to do with … better than the old one it does well and were so a lesson that absolutely … last year when gold went up by fifteen percent … in the first few months … of two was thousand and fourteen … the GDX stayed with the forty percent so … it’s more much more what
Reprinted from MarcFaberNews.com.
Give your heart health some attention! The heart is like your engine room, pumping nutrient-and-oxygen-rich blood throughout the body and beating 100,000 times a day. That’s almost 40 million times a year. So if you don’t treat your heart right, with daily activity, good food and exercise – and natural heart health supplements – you could be setting yourself up for trouble.
When it comes to your health, heart disease is like public enemy No. 1. It’s the top killer of men and women worldwide. And I’m sure our sedentary fast-food culture in America isn’t doing us any favors.
There are routine prescription medications to reduce the risk factors and control blood pressure, but they can be expensive and come with serious side effects. People are always asking me what natural heart health supplements they should be taking on a regular basis. There are a number of natural remedies for heart to be on the lookout for, and I’ve rounded up the top 10 to get you started.
1 Omega-3 fatty acids
Fat is not the dietary villain it used to be cast as. While you don’t want too much of the saturated kind found in butter, cheese and red meat, you do want to consume omega-3 fatty acids that are essential nutrients for health – for things like blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. Two crucial ones, EPA and DHA, are found primarily in certain fish, especially oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and lake trout.
Not a fish fan? Countless studies have documented the benefits of fish oil natural remedies for heart, including protection against heart disease and possibly stroke. Most important to note, since our bodies cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, we have to get them through food or natural supplements.
2 Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10, known as CoQ10, is a vitamin-like substance found everywhere in the body. Your cells use it to produce the energy you need for cell growth and maintenance. It also works as a natural antioxidant to fight against cell damage. And CoQ10 is big news in natural supplements for heart health.
Its highest concentrations naturally-occurring in the human body have been measured in your vital organs, like your heart and pancreas. Clinical trials in the United States and Europe have shown that CoQ10 supplementation has helped support a strong and healthy hart by helping provide the heart with the energy it needs.
The interesting thing about coenzyme Q10 is that a healthy, youthful human body can make its own CoQ10, so at age 20, it’s suggested that your heart has a higher CoQ10 level than other major organs. But by age 80, heart levels of CoQ10 are far lower. Add to the mix, statin drugs, commonly prescribed for lowering cholesterol for the good of your heart, may interfere with your body’s natural production of CoQ10. So there’s good reason to try this natural supplement for heart health.
What could be more healthy than garlic? The vegetable (yes, it’s a vegetable in the onion family!), used to flavor any number of culinary dishes, is potent when it comes to natural remedies for heart. Scientists have documented its effectiveness in supporting cardiovascular health. Garlic’s active component is an amino acid called allin, one of the building blocks for protein in the body known to help boost immunity.
In a notable 2014 study out of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), aged garlic extract, a natural supplement for heart health, was found to provide incredible support for heart and overall health.
Another plus for garlic extract is that it’s odorless, so no need to turn off your friends or partner with garlic on your breath. Reach for capsules instead of bulbs.
Why is everyone talking about tomatoes as a natural remedy for heart? They’re tasty in salads and pasta sauce, certainly, but it’s their lycopene which makes them a great natural supplement for heart health. Lycopene is a carotenoid, a family of pigments that color fruits and vegetables those bright reds, yellows and oranges, so you’ll find lycopene in lots of good-for-you produce. It’s another powerful antioxidant that helps fight off invaders that cause cell damage and make you sick.
Studies on lycopene have demonstrated its effectiveness as an antioxidant that can help protect your heart. One published by Finnish researchers in followed over 1,000 middle-aged men for 12 years and found those with the most lycopene in their blood had significant odds for having good heart health.
Your body makes L-carnitine to help turn fat into energy – we all need that! It’s made in the liver and kidneys and stored in your muscles, heart and brain. Problem is, some people can’t make enough of it or transport it to tissues to be used. Many factors can lower your body’s levels of L-carnitine.
But there’s good evidence to show that supplementing with L-carnitine can help with physical performance. By helping you exercise better, L-carnitine can help you support your heart health.
6 Plant sterols
Plant sterols supplements are made from plant sterols, the natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts and whole grains. They’re good for cholesterol control, which is good for your heart. In fact, studies have demonstrated that plant sterols, included with a heart-healthy diet, may reduce your risk for heart disease. They block the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine, which lowers the low-density “bad” LDL cholesterol without lowering the high-density HDL good cholesterol. All good news for your heart.
7 Hawthorn extract
The leaves, berries, and flowers of the Hawthorn plant have long been used in traditional herbal medicine to help support a healthy heart. Hawthorn extract is known for its relaxing, calming effect. It’s also excellent for digestion. Talk to your doctor before taking because it does interact with certain prescription medications.
Another top natural supplement for supporting heart health is niacin or vitamin B3. Higher amounts of niacin have been linked to healthy cholesterol levels and reduced cardiovascular risks. Because niacin is a water-soluble vitamin, any niacin your body doesn’t need is excreted in urine. It’s not stored in your body for later use, so you need to make sure to consume it daily.
Arginine is another essential amino acid in your body that changes into nitric oxide, a powerful brain chemical that helps blood vessels relax and improves circulation. Arginine has been getting quite a bit of attention for its potential heart benefits, and that’s why it’s important to include on my top 10 list here. There’s evidence to suggest it helps improve blood flow in the arteries of the heart. As a result, this can help with symptoms of clogged arteries, chest pain or angina, and coronary artery disease. This supplement is worth considering, especially if you’re at risk for heart disease.
Another natural supplement is lecithin, a fatty substance found in plants, egg yolk, meats and soy – and produced naturally in your body. It’s essential for cell function, helping with the delivery of nutrients into your cells. Lecithin has a B-vitamin-like substance called inositol to help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure, both key for the health of your heart. So the idea is, by adding lecithin to your diet, you’ll provide some of the raw materials your cardiovascular system needs to stay in top shape.
Now, there has been some controversy about lecithin, with studies showing high levels of lecithin in the gut bacteria of people with cardiovascular disease, but nothing definitive. There’s no argument that it’s certainly a natural substance your body requires. As with any new supplementation, please speak to your doctor before trying this natural remedy for heart.
Good reason to try natural supplements for your heart
Ready to give your heart some love? A heart-healthy diet, exercise and – let’s face it – keeping your stress to a minimum, will go a long way to protect your ticker. And trying natural supplements for heart health can offer you the added insurance you’re doing some good things for your heart.
Reprinted with permission from Bel Marra Health.
The BLS put out their monthly CPI lie last week. They issued the proclamation that inflation is dead. Did you know your costs are 0.1% lower than they were one year ago. They then used these deflation numbers to proclaim your real wages soared last month. It’s all good. The American consumer is so flush with cash, they decided to spend less money for the second month in a row. The Wall Street shysters are so happy with declining consumer spending, declining corporate profits, and a global recession, they pushed the NASDAQ up to 5,000 for the first time in 15 years. Hey!!! That was the year 2000. Things really got better after that milestone.
So we know gasoline prices have plummeted in the last year (but are up 20% in the last month), but I’m trying to think of other things I use in my everyday life that have declined in price. Maybe going through the BLS detailed list will jog my memory. Here is the link to their data:
Let’s see how much deflation we’ve experienced in the last year for things we need to live our everyday lives.
Beef and veal +22.5%
Ground beef +21.0%
Whole Chicken +6.1%
Fresh Fish +3.5%
Fresh Vegetables +4.3%
Restaurant food +3.1%
Owners Equivalent Rent +2.6%
Homeowners Insurance +5.6%
Water & Sewer +5.5%
Home Repairs +4.4%
Car Insurance +5.0%
Parking Fees & Tolls +2.3%
Medicinal Drugs +4.2%
Prescription Drugs +5.6%
Hospital Services +4.3%
Veterinarian Services +3.2%
Sporting Events +3.6%
Newspapers & Magazines +4.6%
College Tuition +3.6%
Educational Books & Supplies +6.5%
Grade School & High School Tuition +4.0%
Childcare & Nursery School +3.0%
Financial Services +5.7%
Tax Return Prep +9.3%
Conservatives are out with yet another of their policy proposals. But as usual, it is heavy on reform and light on repeal.
The Heritage Foundation, a D.C. think tank “whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense,” and Heritage Action for America, which takes “the conservative policy visions outlined by our sister organization,” and makes them “a reality,” “have teamed up to outline specific recommendations for the 114th Congress.”
The document is titled Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None. This should not be confused with America’s Opportunity For All, a Heritage publication issued in 2013 that “grows out of and expands upon the fiscal solution that Heritage first offered two years ago in Saving the American Dream, our comprehensive plan to fix the debt, cut spending, and restore prosperity by balancing the budget within a decade and restructuring entitlement programs to preserve them for future generations of American.”
The new document shares its name with the theme of the 2015 Conservative Policy Summit, hosted by Heritage Action for America, that took place at the Heritage Foundation on January 12 & 13. If you missed the conference, and hearing “from over 20 lawmakers who are introducing innovative principled conservative legislation,” you can read the agenda here and the handout and legislation preview here.
After a foreword by Jim DeMint, the former U.S. senator who serves as the president of the Heritage Foundation, and an introduction by Michael A. Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action for America, there are twelve chapters that “represent a return to a proper conservatism of free markets and a free society”:
- Restoring Opportunity in the Labor Market
- Free Market Energy Solutions
- Federalism and Education: Pre-K-12
- Beyond Student Loans and Grants: Changing the Game on Higher Education
- A Fresh Start for Health Care Reform
- Regulation: Killing Opportunity
- Ending Too-Big-to-Fail
- Welfare Reform
- Eliminating Waste and Controlling Government Spending
- How Tax Reform Would Help American Families
- Indivisible: Life, Marriage, Religious Liberty, and Prosperity
- A New Foreign Policy Agenda
All but two of the chapters have different authors. Some have two or more authors. Most of the authors currently work at Heritage. None are household names so I won’t bother mentioning them.
I have read the Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None so you don’t have to. It ought to be called Welfare for Some, Favoritism to the Warfare State. This 189-page document proposes a series of reforms, but never addresses the root causes of the problems. Are there some good reform proposals? Certainly. But reform is not what the monstrosity called the U.S. government needs. It needs to be dismantled, root and branch.
In the chapter on the labor market, the author has excellent discussions of the harmful effects of government licensing and labor unions. However, he says that “for some occupations” licensing “makes perfect sense” since “mandatory government-imposed qualifications can protect consumers from quacks who could endanger health or safety.” There is curiously no mention of minimum-wage laws. The author concludes that “policymakers should make it easier and less expensive for workers to increase their skills and productivity.” However, this is to be achieved by “reforming K–12 education,” “expanding access to charter and private schools,” and “reducing the cost of higher education.” The government should “expand access to new job opportunities to help current workers get ahead, and it should relax or eliminate policies that unnecessarily restrain innovation and investment in key sectors, such as energy production.” It would have been better if the author had called for the elimination of the Department of Labor and the ending of federal involvement in the labor market.
The chapter on energy is probably the best one in the book, although it falls short in not calling for the elimination of the Department of Energy and the EPA.
In the chapters on education, the author proposes that Congress “limit federal intervention in and spending on preschool and child care programs, eliminate ineffective and duplicative K-12 programs, and advance education choice, as appropriate” and streamline the Higher Education Act (HEA) “in a way that more closely adheres to its primary purpose of allocating federal student loans and grants to ease the cost of college” by “eliminating duplicative, unnecessary, or ineffective programs and titles that have accrued over the decades and considering reforms that would ensure the HEA best serves students.” All of this instead of the elimination of the Department of Education, the repeal of the Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education Acts, and the complete separation of education from the state.
In the chapter on health care reform, the authors propose transitioning “the entire Medicare program from a defined-benefit system to a defined-contribution system (“premium support”), in which the government would make a defined contribution to the health plan of an enrollee’s choice.” Those on Medicaid should be able “to opt out of Medicaid and purchase coverage of their choice using existing Medicaid dollars.” In the long term, “Congress should restructure the traditional federal funding formula to a per capita amount based on each eligibility group.” Although the authors are critical of Obamacare, they do not make the case for a real free market in medical care and medical insurance.
In the chapter on regulation, the authors recognize that “the regulatory burden imposed on Americans and the U.S. economy has grown in each of the past 30 years,” “regulatory growth is a long-term, persistent problem,” and “reforms of the regulatory process are critically needed.” But two major things the authors propose—that “no major regulation should be allowed to take effect until Congress explicitly approves it” and “a regulatory assessment should be required for any measure before it reaches the floor for a vote”—wouldn’t necessarily lower the amount or cost of federal regulations. The authors make proposals like these because they still believe: “Not all regulations are unwarranted, of course. Some rules are justified.” The conservative authors then use an argument for government regulations out of the liberal playbook: “No one is talking about eliminating airline safety rules or allowing contaminated meat to be sold deceptively to consumers.”
The chapter on the financial crisis is another good one. The author recognizes that “the root of the crisis was the housing bubble inflated by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac” and calls for these enterprises to be “permanently shut down.” He likewise calls for eliminating the Financial Stability Oversight Council and repealing Dodd-Frank. No mention, however, of eliminating the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And although the author doesn’t call for ending the Fed, he does propose ending “the Fed’s broken lender-of-last-resort function,” ending “the Fed’s role as a financial regulator,” reviewing “the effectiveness of the Federal Reserve with a formal commission,” ending “discretionary monetary policy,” reversing QE, and instituting a major congressional reform of the Fed.
In the chapter on welfare reform, the authors recognize that LBJ’s War on Poverty has failed. They even term it “a colossal flop.” They point out that “welfare spending has increased by 16-fold since then,” “means-tested welfare costs taxpayers nearly $1 trillion annually,” “means-tested welfare is the second largest category of spending in the United States government, exceeded only by old-age entitlements,” and “the welfare system includes roughly 80 means-tested programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower-income Americans.” But the authors still want to continue the redistribution of income from one group of Americans to another:
A properly designed welfare system should be based on reciprocal moral obligation: society should provide aid to those who truly need it because they have nowhere else to turn, but able-bodied recipients should be expected to contribute back to society and to take steps toward self-sufficiency in return.
Effective welfare reform should consist of a few key components. First, it must get out-of-control welfare spending under control. Second, it must ensure that welfare programs require work for able-bodied adults. Third, it should address marital decline and the high rate of unwed childbearing.
Simply put, the authors want to reform welfare instead of repeal welfare.
In the chapter on waste and government spending, the author proposes the usual:
- entitlement programs should be refocused
- welfare programs should be reformed
- spending caps should be enacted and enforced
- Congress should return the debt to below its historical average of 40 percent of GDP
- Congress should keep spending within its means
The author recognizes that Social Security and Medicare “pose the biggest challenge to eliminating waste and controlling government spending.” The author even acknowledges that these programs—the federal government’s two largest ones—“redistribute money from younger working generations to older and on-average wealthier generations, regardless of need.” Yet, instead of calling for the elimination of these programs, the authors merely want them to be refocused and retargeted:
Social Security should focus benefits on those least able to prevent destitution in old age or those with disabilities, while encouraging others to save for their own nest egg.
Medicare and Medicaid spending, other than for the needy disabled and elderly who may require additional administrative support, should be targeted to those individuals who need support the most, in the form of a premium support payment that enables beneficiaries to choose their own health care plans.
The author correctly concludes that “eliminating waste and controlling government spending is best accomplished by reducing the size and scope of government.” The author rightly argues that “the federal government does too many things that would better be done by individuals and organizations in the private sector, or by state and local governments, or that should not be done at all.” But then the author maintains that “a smaller, more limited federal government would focus on providing essential public services, legal services, and a basic social safety net, and would otherwise leave individuals free to determine their own affairs to the maximum extent possible in the defense of liberty.” Really? Then certainly the author believes that the war on drugs should be ended and individuals should be free to determine their own affairs in regard to using drugs? Don’t count on it. The Heritage Foundation loves the war on drugs.
In the chapter on tax reform, the author correctly maintains that “the tax code imposes tax rates that are too high, is biased against saving and investment, and wrongly picks winners and losers.” However, the author believes that the “central purpose of tax reform is to improve the economy’s potential by fixing each of these problems”—not to make taxes as low as possible, and certainly not to eliminate them altogether. This is why he insists that “tax reform must expend as much effort establishing the correct tax base as lowering rates.” Therefore, either a “traditional flat tax, a consumed-income flat tax, a national retail sales tax, or a combination of these methods (a business transfer tax)” will do since “each of them uses the correct consumption tax base.” And furthermore, “a well-executed tax reform plan would eliminate economically unjustified tax preferences—those not necessary to maintain neutrality.” This means that the author wants to eliminate tax deductions, credits, and exemptions in the name of simplicity.
The chapter on life, marriage, and religious liberty recommends that Congress pass legislation limiting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and permanently ending “all federal funding of abortion and health plans that include elective abortions across all federal law, including the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.” The problem with the first part of this is that the federal government should have nothing to do with abortion—whether one views it as a crime or a medical procedure. This is a state matter. The rest of the chapter mainly deals with the assault on the institution of marriage. Where it falls short is in not recommending that government get out of the marriage business altogether.
As might be expected from an organization that never met an increase in defense spending it did not like, the chapter on foreign policy is the worst chapter in the book. The new foreign policy agenda envisioned by the authors is one of more intervention, more military spending, more foreign aid, more U.S. troops, more alliances, more commitments, more weapons, more ships, more bombers, more foreign wars, and more fighting against terrorism.
Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None clearly took hundreds of hours of research and writing to compile. It has many valuable facts and figures and is enhanced by numerous helpful charts and graphs. But the conservative solutions it offers generally suffer from the same drawbacks: reform instead of repeal, make more efficient instead of eliminate, continue instead of cut, limit instead of liquidate, defend instead of denounce. Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None is perfectly compatible with the welfare/warfare state.
Conservatives in Congress won’t pay any more attention to this new Heritage plan than they did the last one, but it will serve the purpose of convincing grassroots conservative donors that the hundreds of hours spent compiling it was not a waste of money and that Heritage is influencing Congress to implement legislation that upholds conservative values and principles.
Last week, John Kerry seemed to be auditioning for the role of Dr. Pangloss.
Despite jihadi violence across the Middle East and ISIS terror in Iraq and Syria, Kerry told Congress, we live in “a period of less daily threat to Americans and to people in the world than normally — less deaths, less violent deaths today than through the last century.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared to undercut Kerry the next day when he testified, “When the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years [since] such data has been complied.”
From January through September 2014, said Clapper, there were 13,000 terrorist attacks that killed 31,000 people. Afghanistan and Pakistan accounted for half of these attacks. And the Islamic State ranks first among terrorist organizations.
Yet, is Kerry wrong?
Despite our outrage over the barbarity of ISIS — beheadings of journalists and aid workers by “Jihadi John,” and of Christians on a beach — this century does not remotely rival in evil the bloodiest century of them all, the 20th.
From 1914-1918, nine million men died in the Great War. A comparable number of civilians perished.
At war’s end came the Russian Revolution and civil war, the Red Terror of Lenin, the genocide of the kulaks, the Holodomor in Ukraine and Stalin’s Great Purge of the ’30s.
Stalin’s butcher’s bill alone has been estimated at 30 million.
From World War II, 1939-45, European and Asian theaters together, the dead are estimated at another 50 million.
From 1945-49, in the Chinese civil war between the Communists of Mao Zedong and the Nationalists of Chiang Kai-shek, millions more died. The 1947-48 war in the subcontinent that severed Pakistan from India also consumed millions of Hindu and Muslim lives.
Came then Korea and Vietnam, where the U.S. dead totaled well over 90,000, and the Korean and Vietnamese dead numbered in the millions. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge produced a million dead Cambodians in their first year in power in 1975.
The Biafran War of secession from Nigeria from 1967 to 1970, the Derg coup in Ethiopia in 1974 and subsequent Marxist rule until 1991, Rwanda in the 1990s, were each responsible for over a million deaths.
World War I gave us poison gas and starvation blockades; World War II provided ethnic cleansing, genocide, saturation bombing of cities and women and children, with the firestorms of Tokyo, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki the grand finale.
Does not Kerry have a case?
We Americans lost more than 600,000 dead from 1861-1865, and another 600,000 died in World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.
In this century, in Afghanistan and Iraq, the two longest wars in our history, the death toll is 7,000 — a terrible loss, but a tiny fraction of the number of Americans lost in wars during many of our lifetimes.
What Americans seem to lack today is a sense of perspective and what Mark Twain called “the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces.”
Jihadi John is a psycho, a sicko, a Charlie Manson who is loving all this publicity. He is not an “existential threat” to the United States.
Nor is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or as he now calls himself, “Caliph Ibrahim,” who told his American captors who handed him over to Iraqi authorities in 2009, “I’ll see you guys in New York.” Not likely, Abu.
This is not to say that America should dismiss the revolutionary forces roiling an Islamic world of dozens of nation states. If the Sunni regimes do not cope with this challenge, the epidemic could engulf them.
But as threats to the United States, ISIS, al-Qaida and Boko Haram are pathetic compared to Hitler’s Reich, Tojo’s Japan, or the nuclear-armed “evil empire” of the Cold War.
During the height of the Vietnam War in 1968, we were losing 200 dead a week. During World War II, it was 2,000 dead a week.
How many Americans are dying each week at the hands of ISIS?
Make no mistake. These terrorists can bring down an airliner, shoot up malls, blow up buildings and kill a number of us. And they will behead any American who falls into their hands. But they cannot run a country. And they cannot defeat the United States.
Let us put this peril in perspective.
Each year, 33,000 American die in auto accidents and tens of thousands die of the flu. Last week, the Center for Disease Control reported that in 2011 alone, Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, a disease this writer had never heard of, caused 15,000 deaths in the USA.
How many American deaths did ISIS cause?
As the Shiites are already engaged against ISIS, we should inform our Sunni friends — the Turks, Egyptians, Saudis, Gulf Arabs: As you are the most threatened here, you are the first responders to this blaze.
We will have your back, but we will not fight your war for you.
As noted last week, the aggregate amount of loans for new and used cars will in short order eclipse the $1 trillion mark, joining total student debt in full-on bubble mode. Better still, early delinquencies on auto loans are now sitting back at their 2008 highs (both for all borrowers and for subprime borrowers, with 9% of the latter now missing a payment within the first 8 months of origination). Despite this, and despite the fact that nearly a third of all auto loans in 2013 were made to subprime borrowers (the same amount we saw in 2006 at the very height of reckless underwriting standards), Experian says everything is fine.
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo recently noted that although lending standards had indeed gotten back to “normal” (and as a reminder, “normal” now means how things were in 2006) it’s beginning to look like some households “might be overleveraged.” Simultaneously, lenders are again showing a propensity towards origination for the purpose of selling loans rather than holding them; that is, originating loans and then happily passing them on to the Wall Street securitization machine, which explains why despite a collapse in the issuance of ABS backed by home equity loans since the crisis, total ABS issuance in the U.S. hit its highest level since 2008 last year.
These are things that Wells should know something about as they made some $30 billion in auto loans last year and indeed it now appears the bank may be getting concerned about the market it’s helped to build. As the NY Times reports:
Wells Fargo, one of the largest subprime car lenders, is pulling back from [subprime auto lending], a move that is being felt throughout the broader auto industry…
Wells Fargo has imposed a cap for the first time on the amount of loans it will extend to subprime borrowers.
The bank is limiting the dollar volume of its subprime auto originations to 10 percent of its overall auto loan originations, which last year totaled $29.9 billion, bank executives said.
The decision, detailed in interviews with top Wells Fargo executives, along with other large auto lenders, is a sobering moment for the booming market. Other lenders may decide to take their cue from Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest lenders.
The Times’ description of industry dynamics could easily be mistaken for a recap of the buildup to the housing bust, as investors chase returns, Wall Street chases fees, banks ease lending standards to increase volumes, and borrowers who are jobless (which must mean they aren’t experienced waiters) throw every semblance of prudence out the window:
Large banks, weathering a slowdown in other types of lending like mortgages, have increased their auto lending. And much as in the housing boom, investors in search of higher returns, like insurance companies and hedge funds, are buying billions of dollars of investments backed by subprime auto loans.
Such growth, though, has given rise to concerns, like those at Wells Fargo, that growing competition is fostering lax lending practices, including longer repayment periods and increased loan balances.
Federal and state authorities, meanwhile, are examining whether dealerships have been inflating borrowers’ income or falsifying employment information on loan applications to ensure that any borrower, even some who are unemployed and have virtually no source of income, can buy a car.
Just how bad has it gotten? This bad:
Last week at the annual conference of the Global Association of Risk Professionals in New York, Darrin Benhart, a senior regulatory official at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates Wells Fargo, noted that lenders had extended repayment periods to 84 months — 40 percent longer than the typical period — and were making loans that were far greater than the value of the car.
This is perhaps the clearest sign yet that we have learned literally nothing from the crisis years. That is, this is precisely the same dynamic and it will end precisely the same way: defaults will rise, investors in assets backed by these loans will suffer outsized losses, and the assets themselves will become completely illiquid. Indeed, the dominoes have already started to fall. Here’s Fitch with the last word:
Weaker seasonal trends led to annualized net losses (ANL) on U.S. subprime auto ABS reaching their highest level since 2009, according to the latest monthly index results from Fitch Ratings.
Subprime auto loan ABS ANL rose 4.5% month-over-month (MOM) to 8.19% last month, the highest level since February 2009 (9.07%). Prime ANL also crept higher in January.
In the subprime sector, 60+ day delinquencies rose to 4.75% in January, a 7.7% move higher and were 24% above the same period in 2014. This is the highest level recorded since October 2009 (4.76%). Meanwhile, ANL rose 4.5% MOM in January hitting a five-year high when 9.07% was recorded in early 2009. Asset performance has slowed over the past two years driven mainly by softer underwriting and collateral credit quality in securitized pools.
Reprinted with permission from Zero Hedge.
Archaeology aims to answer our questions about the past and, with any luck, give us some perspective on our present and future. But sometimes, artifacts raise mysteries that may never be solved. Like reading an engrossing novel with an ambiguous ending, you’re left to savor the possibilities without ever being fully satisfied.
10 The Temple People Structures – Malta And Gozo
The Temple people existed on the islands of Malta and Gozo in the Mediterranean for about 1,100 years (from 4000–2900 B.C.) then simply vanished without a related culture to succeed them. As far as archaeologists can tell, the cause of their disappearance wasn’t invasion, starvation, or disease. It’s possible that religious extremism and environmental factors contributed to their demise, but no one really knows.
Archaeologists are studying the islands to learn more about these mysterious people. They were obsessed with building stone temples, covering both islands with more than 30 temple complexes during the time they lived there. In fact, the Temple people are credited with building the oldest free-standing stone structures ever found. Researchers found extensive evidence of animal sacrifices and complicated rituals within the structures, as well as a civilization fixated on life, sexuality, and death. Phallic symbols, figurines of fertile “fat ladies,” and other sexual representations were common.
The archaeologists also found hypogea, or complex underground burial chambers, which confirm the Temple people’s respect for the dead. Over time, these people seemed to do more communal burials, suggesting a matriarchal society based on grave gifts presented only to the females.
They also created an abundance of artwork, including hundreds of statues, that took three main forms: elaborately dressed figures, naked fat figures, and monstrous or abbreviated forms like phallic symbols. Such rich artwork was unusual for its time.
Archaeologists are continuing to study soil samples and other evidence to determine what an average day was like for the Temple people, whom they may have traded with, and why they died.
9 Por Bajin – Siberia
High in the mountains in the middle of a lonely Siberian lake, scientists discovered the most mystifying archaeological site in Russia in 1891. Por-Bajin (which means “Clay House “) is a 1,300-year-old structure of 7 acres that takes up most of the small island on which it sits. Containing a maze of over 30 buildings, its high outer walls sit only 30 kilometers (20 mi) from the border with Mongolia. But over a century since its discovery, archaeologists are no closer to understanding who built this structure or why.
At first, researchers thought Por-Bajin was an ancient fortress of the Uighur Empire, nomads who ruled southern Siberia and Mongolia from 742–848. It’s constructed with a Chinese architectural style from that time. However, it’s so out of the way of trade routes and other settlements that competing theories eventually arose. Maybe it was a monastery, a summer palace, a memorial for a ruler, or an observatory for the stars. Evidence is accumulating that a Buddhist monastery was at the center of the complex, although only a few artifacts have been unearthed.
The complex does not appear to have been inhabited for long. Archaeologists found indications of earthquakes that may have caused a fire that burned some of the original site. However, the fire appears to have occurred after the island was abandoned for reasons unknown.
8 Etruscan Underground Pyramids – Italy
“Most likely, the answer waits at the bottom,” said archaeologist Claudio Bizzarri of the extraordinary mystery posed by the discovery of an Etruscan pyramid underneath the medieval city of Orvieto, Italy. “The problem is we don’t really know how much we have to dig to get down there.” The excavators found it almost four years ago and still don’t have a clue what awaits them.
It all started when they noticed Etruscan-style stairs carved into a wine cellar wall. As they began to dig, they found tunnels and eventually a medieval floor. The walls slanted upward like a pyramid. Continuing down, they unearthed Etruscan pottery from the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. in addition to other artifacts from before 1000 B.C. They’ve also found over 150 Etruscan language inscriptions.
As they resumed digging, the stone stairs went down with them. The discovery of another tunnel leading to a different underground pyramid added to the intrigue. So far, they’ve been able to rule out that it’s a cistern or a quarry. But that still leaves a lot of possibilities.
The Etruscans themselves remain a historical puzzle. They thrived in Italy from about 900–400 B.C., then they melded into the Roman Empire. Although they left no literature to help decipher their language, the Etruscans were known for their exquisite metalworking, art, farming, and commerce. Until these most recent finds, the only information we had about them came from their ornate tombs. The archaeologists hope that these underground pyramids will shed some light on the daily activities of the Etruscans.
Late Friday night, Congress passed legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security for one week. This vote followed weeks of debate over efforts to attach a prohibition on funding President Obama’s executive order granting amnesty to certain illegal immigrants to the Homeland Security funding bill.
Despite the heated rhetoric from both sides, no one seriously believes that Congress will allow Homeland Security funding to lapse. Most in Congress believe that, without the Department of Homeland Security, Americans would be left unprotected from terrorists and natural disasters. As with most areas of bipartisan agreement, the truth is the exact opposite of the DC consensus. The American people would be much better off if Congress transferred the few constitutional functions performed by Homeland Security to other parts of the government and then shut down the rest of the department.
Many Americans associate Homeland Security with the color–coded terrorist warning system and the “if you see something, say something” public relations campaign. These programs were designed to inspire public confidence in the department, but instead they inspired public ridicule.
Ironically, the best case for shutting down this department is its most well-known component — the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). More terrorist attacks have been thwarted by airline passengers than by the TSA! The TSA may be ineffective at stopping terrorists, but it is very effective at harassing innocent Americans like Lucy Forck. Three-year-old Lucy, who uses a wheelchair, not only had to endure an intrusive screening from TSA agents, but the agents also took away her beloved stuffed animal.
When not abusing children who use wheelchairs, TSA subjects airline passengers to rules that seem designed to make air travel as unpleasant as possible. For example, TSA recently forced a Campaign for Liberty staffer to throw away a jar of Nutella she had in her carry-own luggage. I am sure all airline passengers feel safe knowing that TSA is protecting them from sandwich spreads.
Ending the TSA would return responsibility for airline security to airports and airlines. Private businesses have a greater incentive than a government bureaucracy to ensure their customers’ safety. Those conservatives who think this is a radical idea should try to think of one area where they trust government bureaucrats to do a better job than private business owners.
Another agency within Homeland Security that the American people could do without is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Having spent fifteen years in Congress representing a coastal area subject to hurricanes and floods, I have seen first-hand how FEMA places adherence to bureaucratic rules ahead of aiding victims of a natural disaster. As a result, it is not uncommon for disaster victims to wait months or even years for assistance.
FEMA not only fails to provide effective relief to disaster victims, it also impedes private disaster relief efforts. FEMA even hinders disaster victims’ efforts to help themselves. While in Congress, I heard stories of individuals being threatened with fines or even jail time if they returned to their property without FEMA’s permission. One individual in my district was threatened with arrest if he removed a tarp that FEMA put on his house — even though FEMA was supposed to have put it on his neighbor’s house!
Ten years after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, it is clear that this department has failed to protect our security, but has infringed on liberty. If Congress really wanted to enhance our security and our liberty it would shut down this unnecessary, unconstitutional department.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Two years ago today, I shared the news below for the first time. In light of the fact that a verdict is imminent in the Oklahoma City Bombing Trial that’s been taking place in federal court in Salt Lake City recently (yes, it’s true), I decided to share it again with only minor modifications.
Jesse Trentadue’s ongoing effort to obtain information from the FBI continued this week when he filed a motion (PDF) aimed at convincing a federal judge in Utah to allow him access to information about the FBI’s “Sensitive Informant Program. The move was made one month after the Salt Lake City attorney filed his first motion (PDF) seeking, among other things, to learn whether the FBI has informants working inside American churches.
Why is Trentadue seeking the information? Because he believes it will lead him closer to the truth about the 1995 death of his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, under suspicious circumstances while in custody at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City.
Below, I share the fascinating details of his most-recent motion (PDF). Beginning with the“Background” which begins on page one of the document, the details contained in the document appear below, minus the footnotes contained in the actual document (PDF):
The FBI devotes a considerable portion of the Memorandum that it submitted in opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion to arguing that this is a typical Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) case involving the adequacy of the FBI’s search for responsive documents and/or the applicability of the exemptions claimed by the FBI for not releasing the documents/records. But this is not a typical FOIA case. Neither is it an isolated or stand alone case. This case, as the FBI well knows, is the latest front in Plaintiff’s long war with the Bureau to discover and uncover the truth about the Oklahoma City Bombing and a related matter: the murder of his brother, Kenneth Michael Trentadue.
The first battle in this almost decade long FOIA war was fought before this very Court inTrentadue v. FBI, which revealed that persons other that Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier had participated in the Bombing. That first battle, and the documents/records that Plaintiff obtained as a result, also disclosed: (1) the existence of the FBI’s I-Drive and S-Drive computer systems wherein evidence related to the Bombing was kept hidden so as not to be subject to a FOIA request and/or not made part of the FBI’s official Bombing case file; (2) the CIA’s involvement in the Oklahoma City Bombing; (3) “Patriot Conspiracy” or “PATCON” that was a decade or more long FBI undercover operation designed to infiltrate and monitor or perhaps even incite various right-wing organizations; and (4) the existence of a surveillance camera videotape taken on the morning of April 19, 1995, which according to federal government documents purportedly shows not only the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Building, but also the persons who carried out that attack. That first FOIA battle also disclosed the existence of the FBI’s“Sensitive Informant Program,” which is at the heart of this current FOIA discovery dispute.
The Sensitive Informant Program is the FBI’s disturbing practice of using private citizens as spies on the staffs of members of Congress and perhaps even federal judges, in the national media, within other federal agencies, on defense teams in high profile federal and/or state criminal prosecutions, inside state and local law enforcement agencies and even among the clergy of organized religions. The Sensitive Informant Program is designed to and does result in the circumvention of the protections guaranteed to American citizens by the Bill of Rights and the Separation of Powers Doctrine.
In response to Plaintiff’s FOIA request for the policies, rules, protocols and/or procedures governing the FBI’s recruitment and use of such informants in this secret surveillance program which spies on United States’ citizens on United States’ soil, the FBI produced 205 pages, which appear to be but a small portion of its: “Corporate Policy Directive” on the use of confidential human sources, “Confidential Human Source Validation Standards Manual,”“Confidential Human Source Policy Manual,” and “Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide” (collectively the “Manual”). Those portions of the Manual that the FBI actually provided to Plaintiff were heavily redacted. The FBI withheld all of these portions of the Manual on the basis of various exemptions from disclosure under FOIA.
It is Plaintiff’s belief, however, that NO exemption can be asserted to conceal this unconstitutional domestic spy/surveillance program. Simply put, FOIA, which has as its stated purpose the disclosure of the federal government’s wrongdoing, cannot and should not be used to shield the FBI’s unconstitutional actions undertaken on what appears to be a national scale. However, in order to properly frame and present to the Court his challenge to the FBI’s claims of exemption Plaintiff needs to conduct limited discovery into the scope and duration of this Sensitive Informant Program.
In the “Summary of the Argument,” beginning on page four of the motion (PDF), he presents the latest details:
Plaintiff’s need for this discovery is simple. If, for example, the FBI has never embedded aSensitive Informant on the staff of a member of Congress and/or a federal judge, in the national media, within another federal agency, on the defense team in high profile federal and/or state criminal prosecution, inside of a state or local law enforcement agency or among the clergy of an organized religion, it will admittedly be difficult for Plaintiff to assert that NO FOIA exemptions should apply to those portions of the Manual being withheld from him. This is so because a rare or isolated violation of the Constitution by the use ofSensitive Informants may not be sufficient for the Court to override the FBI’s exemption claims.
However, if the FBI’s Sensitive Informant program has been in operation for years and/or involves the placement of many Sensitive Informants on the staffs of members of Congress and perhaps even federal judges, in the national media, within other federal agencies, on defense teams in high profile federal and/or state criminal prosecutions, inside state and local law enforcement agencies or among the clergy of organized religions, then it is obvious that the Manual is designed to and/or does result in the circumvention of the protections guaranteed to American citizens by the Bill of Rights and the Separation of Powers Doctrine. If this is so, then it is Plaintiff’s position that the FBI cannot lawfully assert any FOIA exemption to keep secret a clearly unconstitutional nationwide program of domestic spying.
The information that Plaintiff’s seeks by way of this discovery will also be necessary for the Court to determine whether the (b)(1) exemption claimed by the FBI applies. Exemption (b)(1) allows the FBI to exempt certain records provided it declares them “secret” on the basis of national security AND pursuant to an Executive Order allowing for that “secret” designation.
In order to obtain information with respect to the scope and duration of the FBI’s Sensitive Informant Program, Plaintiff has moved to conduct limited discovery consisting of just eleven (11) Interrogatories, the answers to which will document the unconstitutionality of the FBI’s Sensitive Informant Program, thereby allowing Plaintiff to challenge the FBI’s assertion of FOIA exemptions to conceal and/or withhold the Manual from Plaintiff and the American public, and the Court to determine the validity/applicability of those exemptions to the Manual. The FBI, however, vehemently opposes that Motion.
Of course, there is a lot more to the case, but Trentadue’s approach, summed up under the“ISSUE” section of the motion (PDF) and shared below, seems brilliant to this non-lawyer:
The issue in this case is not the adequacy of the FBI’s search for the Manual. The FBI found the Manual. The issue for the Court to decide is (1) whether the FOIA exemptions advanced by the FBI for withholding portions of the Manual apply and (2), even if they do apply, can those exemptions be lawfully asserted to conceal FBI activities that clearly subvert theConstitution? Furthermore, this issue cannot and should not be decided without the discovery that Plaintiff is seeking to obtain through his Motion to Conduct Limited Discovery.
During an email exchange March 1, 2013, Trentadue used layman’s terms to boil the matter down to one key issue: “The FBI argues that the discovery (he) seeks would be futile since ‘illegal’ activity by the federal government is shielded from disclosure under FOIA if covered by an exemption.”
He went on to question how the FBI can, in good faith, claim that a national security exemption allows the Bureau to declare its unconstitutional domestic spying program “secret” and, in turn, allows them to keep their illegal activities hidden from the public.
“It is an absurd — no, arrogant — position for the FBI to take,” he said.
Stay tuned for details about how this case turns out. Also, be sure to read other articles in my series, UNTOLD STORIES of the OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING. If you like reading about the FBI, order a copy of my first crime-fiction novel, The National Bet (November 2014), in which an FBI agent plays the role of a hero.
Reprinted from BobMcCarty.com.