Saturday, July 20, 2013

Grand Dame of Washington Press Corps, Thomas Dead at 92

Helen Thomas on Her Resignation and Middle East


Thomas: Israel should get out of Occupied Territories; White House Correspondents Assoc. out of line.

Helen Thomas (August 4, 1920 – July 20, 2013) was an American news reporter, member of the White House Press Corps and author. She was the first female officer of the National Press Club and the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents Association. Her most recent book, co-authored with Craig Crawford is Listen Up, Mr President: Everything you Always Wanted Your President To Know and Do. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

9/11, Chomsky, and That Egyptian River

Noam Chomsky is in Denial About 9/11

by Mark H Gaffney

During a recent interview on Democracy Now, Noam Chomsky stated that he believes Osama bin Laden was probably behind the attacks of September 11, 2001.i The statement was curious because in earlier interviews Chomsky described the evidence against bin Laden as thin to nonexistent,ii which was accurate and, no doubt, explains why the US Department of Justice never indicted bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks.

Nor has any new evidence against bin Laden come to light; on the contrary. A compelling body of evidence now points in a very different direction, toward the unthinkable.

Three years ago (in July 2010) I attempted to engage Professor Chomsky in a conversation about this new evidence. Chomsky, however, showed no interest in the subject. After responding in a way that can only be described as incomprehensible, Chomsky repeated what he had stated in an earlier email: that skeptics of the official story should pursue the usual pathways to advance their ideas. In other words, they should publish their work.

By 2010, however, this had already been done. Indeed, my reason for contacting Chomsky at the time was to alert him to the serious implications of the new research that I will very briefly summarize in this article.

Before I do that, however, I need to preface this discussion with the obvious. Professor Chomsky has been one of our leading intellectuals for more than half a century. Since the time he first began to participate in teach-ins at MIT protesting the Vietnam War, Chomsky has mentored successive generations of US peace activists, including this writer. Much of what I know about geopolitics, especially the Middle East, I learned from Chomsky. The man’s grasp of the region’s history and its fractious politics is near-encyclopedic. I have never once caught Chomsky in a historical error. He seems never to forget a name, a date, or a place.

Beyond this, I owe Chomsky a personal debt of gratitude. Without his assistance my first book would never have seen print. Chomsky was there for me at a crucial moment, and I have no doubt that other writers and activists can relate similar stories. I was always amazed by the way Chomsky stayed on top of his correspondence, given the heavy demands on his time. Without fail, he would get right back. This kind of accessibility and generosity has no parallel in my experience, and it explains my respect for the man and my reluctance to criticize him. Nor would I do so now if the facts in the case were not so compelling, and the need so great.

Now, on to the evidence: In two peer-reviewed papers published in 2008-2009, independent scientists reported finding residues of nanothermite, an incendiary, in dust samples from the collapsed World Trade Center. The scientists also found tiny flakes of unexploded nanothermite.iii They found, in other words, not just the smoking gun but the gun itself. Nanothermite was originally developed for the US military at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.iv

Here was powerful evidence that the horrifying World Trade Center collapses witnessed that morning by a stunned world were likely caused by cutting-edge explosives, not, as we have been told ad nauseum, by plane impacts and fires. The publication of these papers should have been front-page news at the New York Times and Washington Post; but, of course, there was not a peep.

By this time, a large body of additional physical evidence, expert testimony, and eyewitness accounts also pointed to the same conclusion. See the following note for a concise summary and sources.v

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the federal agency charged to investigate the World Trade Center collapses, admitted that it failed to look for chemical residues, even though this is standard procedure in cases of building fires,vi a telling omission. Nor has anyone, thus far, attempted to refute the two papers cited above. They stand unchallenged in the scientific literature and must be viewed as the most up-to-date thinking on the issue.

By 2010, other important information had also come to light. In 2008, after years of foot-dragging, NIST finally released its report on the other steel-frame structure that collapsed on 9/11, Building Seven (WTC-7), which was located one block from the North Tower. Building Seven did not collapse on the morning of September 11, but later that afternoon, at 5:20 P.M.

In its final report on Building Seven, NIST tacitly conceded that the 47-story high-rise, with a base the size of a football field, dropped into its footprint at free-fall speed.vii The admission of free-fall was damning because this is the sine qua non of a controlled demolition. Interestingly, in its earlier draft report NIST had attempted to obscure the free-fall by fudging the start-time of the collapse. However, at a public hearing sponsored by NIST in August 2008, David Chandler, a high school physics teacher, and Dr. Steven Jones, a former professor of physics at Brigham Young University, asked penetrating questions that exposed the obfuscation. At the hearing senior scientists from NIST were unable to defend their work, a remarkable display of incompetence (though malfeasance is probably more accurate) that forced NIST back to the drawing boards. In its final report released two months later NIST tacitly acknowledged free-fall.viii Chandler has since posted a simple but thorough analysis of the WTC-7 collapse, based on video footage, showing that free-fall is indisputable.ix

By 2009 the facts were clear. The evidence pointed to the use of explosives at the World Trade Center, a very disturbing conclusion because Islamic terrorists could not have been responsible.

Nor was this all. By this time a separate line of evidence pointed in the same direction. A statistical study by Allen Poteshman published in 2006 in the Journal of Business found that early press reports about pre-9/11 insider trading were almost certainly correct. Poteshman studied trading data from the Chicago Board Option Exchange (CBOE), and concluded that “there is evidence of unusual option market activity in the days leading up to September 11 that is consistent with investors trading on advance knowledge of the attacks.”x Two other more recent papers also support Poteshman’s work.xi These academic papers also deserved to be headline news, because they flatly contradict claims by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the 9/11 Commission that there was no insider trading in the days prior to 9/11.xii Once again, however, the US media took the day off.

Surely one not need be a structural engineer or a professor of statistics to understand what all of this means. The possibility that Islamic terrorists somehow obtained explosives that were developed here in the US and managed to sneak into the World Trade Center unawares and plant them beforehand along with the necessary control technology is approximately zero. The probable use of explosives and the strong likelihood of insider trading tells us that highly-placed individuals on Wall Street were complicit in the 9/11 attacks. No other conclusion is possible. Although we do not yet know the full degree of their complicity, it had to be at the highest level.

By 2010 such a conclusion should have been evident to every thinking American. Even so, at the time I was prepared to cut Chomsky some slack. Everyone, after all, is at a different place on the learning curve. Chomsky’s recent statements on Democracy Now, however, indicate that his views on 9/11 have not evolved and may even have regressed. Therefor, I believe we must now hold Chomsky (and other left-wing gatekeepers) accountable for statements about 9/11 that amount to denial. Sorry, but there is no other word for it.

Judging from his emails, Chomsky thinks 9/11 truth is a distraction “that draws energy away from activism to oppose shocking crimes of state.” Such a view is not only mistaken, it is incomprehensible. However, before I comment further, here is the relevant passage from the email that I received from Chomsky in July 2010. The reader may draw his or her own conclusions:

“I'm surprised, however, that you cannot see that if your claims [about 9/11] are correct, the [sic] absolve George Bush and point the finger at Saddam and bin Laden. History may regard it as curious that so many people have labored so hard for 9 years to establish this conclusion, believing themselves to be courageous dissidents, and having no impact on policy apart from drawing energy away from activism to oppose shocking crimes of state.”xiii

I was dumfounded when I read Chomsky’s email. How does one respond to his strange assertion that 9/11 truth absolves Bush? The evidence pointing to complicity on Wall Street does nothing of the sort. If the financial elite was involved, then, the 9/11 attacks must rank as the most audacious crime of state in US history. Far from distracting us, the latest evidence serves to empower us. What better way to oppose crimes of state than by unmasking the perpetrators?

Chomsky is one of the most rational people in the western hemisphere. Despite advancing age, he remains sharp. So, how do we explain his aversion to 9/11 truth? It is an interesting question, and I have some thoughts about it. However, in my opinion, the reason (whatever it is) is less important than the simple fact that one of our leading intellectuals has lost his way on a key issue.

9/11 is key because 9/11 was the pivotal event that set the stage for everything that has occurred since. But 9/11 is also key for another reason, one that Chomsky should understand but does not. The terrible truth about that fateful day holds the power to unite Americans of every political persuasion. This is why unmasking the big lie is so important. The untold truth about 9/11 could yet rally the 99% against the financial elite, including the much smaller group of insiders who rule this country from behind the scenes. The same individuals shape US foreign policy and are thus responsible for crimes of state. No doubt, many of the same people were also responsible for dismantling the US economy, off-shoring millions of jobs, creating the real estate bubble, the 2008 meltdown, the continuing bail-outs to the corrupt too-big-to-fails, and as we have recently learned, the blackmailing of Congressmen and government officials by means of unlimited surveillance, and so on.

One would think that the Left would have awakened to this long ago, and embraced 9/11 truth. Sadly, it never happened. Many prominent Left-wing gatekeepers continue to serve as unwitting tools of power by ridiculing skeptics of the official 9/11 story. If we survive the coming days with a measure of equanimity and are able to look back to the present with the advantage of hindsight, their blind servility will be obvious at a glance. Surely, this explains the continuing malaise of the US peace movement.

Today, there is no one to look up to. We have no leaders worthy of the name, certainly none on the Left. The same may be said of US institutions. None are worthy of our respect. We are on our own. We need to recognize this, accept it, and commit ourselves to helping one another in the difficult days that lie ahead.
Mark H. Gaffney’s latest book is Black 9/11: Money, Motive and Technology (Trineday, 2012). Check out his website at Mark can be reached for comment at



ii For example, see

iii Kevin R. Ryan, James R. Gourley, Steven E. Jones, “Environmental anomalies at the World Trade Center: evidence for energetic materials,” Environmentalist (2009) 29:56–63. First posted on line in 2008.

Niels H. Harrit et al, “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe,” The Open Chemical Physics Journal, 2009, 2, 7-31. Posted at

iv Kevin Ryan, “The Top Ten Connections Between NIST and Nano-Thermites,” 9/, July 2, 2008, posted at

The Los Alamos National Lab has also developed thermite matches.

v The physical evidence is consistent with the use of explosives. Extremely high temperatures persisted at the World Trade Center for many weeks after 9/11. The temperatures were in excess of 4500 F, far far beyond what can be explained by burning jet fuel and office fires. For a good summary see James Gourley, The 9/11 Toronto Report (Dallas, International Center for 9/11 Studies, 2013); also see David Ray Griffin, The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7 (Northhampton, MA, Olive Branch Press, 2010).

With regard to testimony by experts: more than 1900 architects and engineers now agree that the plane impacts and fires could not and did not cause the World Trade Center collapses on 9/11. Hear them explain why the official story cannot be right in this excellent video

In addition to many press accounts, 118 New York City firemen reported explosions at the World Trade Center. The 9/11 Commission had all of this testimony but ignored it. For an excellent discussion see the paper by Graeme MacQueen posted at

vi See question #22.

vii See the diagram on page 46.

viii Ibid.

ix In its final report, NIST nonetheless attempted to finesse the issue by incorporating free-fall within a computer-generated collapse model. NIST claimed that WTC-7 had suffered a so-called “progressive collapse.” Although a forensic examination of recovered steel columns from the WTC rubble pile would have definitively resolved the matter, NIST had none to study because during the weeks after 9/11 nearly all of the steel columns from the World Trade Center rubble pile (including Building Seven) were removed from the site, sold, and shipped abroad. This destruction of evidence was itself a crime.

In the absence of physical evidence, NIST resorted to a computer model. It also proposed a new phenomenon to explain the collapse of Building Seven, what experts at NIST called “thermal expansion.” NIST argued that the heat from the building fires in WTC-7 caused floor beams to expand and detach from one main core column (#79), setting in motion a catastrophic collapse within the structure that was not visible from without until the last instant when the whole building came down. The temperature at which all of this happened: a mere 570 degrees F.

The low temperature at which catastrophic failure supposedly occurred should have raised skeptical eyebrows, because the insulation protecting the building’s steel infrastructure remained intact throughout the structure. No plane impacted WTC-7. NIST also acknowledged that the collapse of the nearby North Tower caused only minor damage to one corner of WTC-7 and played no significant role.

NIST’s explanation for the collapse of Building Seven amounted to an extraordinary claim because no steel-frame high-rise has ever failed due to thermal expansion, not before nor since. As Carl Sagan once said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” But the only evidence NIST offered was a computer-generated model that no one outside of NIST has ever seen. NIST has yet to explain how minor fires on just six floors (out of 47) triggered an unprecedented phenomenon across an entire structure. The fact that NIST refused to allow independent scientists access to its computer model, essential for verification, is the clearest indication that the NIST investigation was rigged: a scientific fraud.

x Allen M. Poteshman, “Unusual Option Market Activity and the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001,” Journal of Business, 2006, vol. 79, no. 4. Archived at

xi Marc Chesney, Remo Crameri and Loriano Mancini, “Detecting Informed Trading Activities in the Options Markets,” Swiss Financial Institute Research Paper No. 11-42, July 3, 2012. Posted at

Wing-Keung Wong, Howard E. Thompson and Kweehong Teh, “Was there Abnormal Trading in the S&P 500 Index Options Prior to the September 11 Attacks?”, Multinational Finance Journal, 2011, vol. 15, no. 1/2, pp. 1–46. Posted at

xii For an excellent discussion see
xiii email from Chomsky, July 8, 2010.

Salmon Secrets: The Deep Dark on Fish Farm Viruses in BC

Public Prevented from Knowing About Diseased Farmed Salmon

by Twyla Roscovich - Dissident Voice

SOINTULA, BC The first scientific publication on the occurrence of piscine reovirus outside of Norway was published on July 11 in Virology Journal. The report, Whole-genome analysis of piscine reovirus (PRV) shows PRV represents a new genus in family Reoviridae and its genome segment S1 sequences group it into two separate sub-genotypes, was co-published by researchers from the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas Aplicadas in Chile, and the Raincoast Research Society in British Columbia.

Piscine reovirus (PRV) was identified in 2010 as the causative agent of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) in Norway. This disease, first recognized in Atlantic salmon farms in Norway in 1999, is a condition that weakens salmon, making it difficult for their hearts to pump blood. HSMI is spreading rapidly in Norway. Marine Harvest, who grows one-fifth of the world’s farm-raised salmon, lists HSMI as the second largest cause of death of their fish in their 2012 Annual General Report.

In this paper, the co-authors show that piscine reovirus is in British Columbia and it came from Norway.The process of tracing viruses is similar to matching fingerprints. Scientists around the world enter viral sequence data into GenBank so matches can be run. The piscine reovirus found in British Columbia is most similar to a Norwegian PRV sequence from Atlantic farmed salmon suffering from HSMI in the Lofoten Archipelago in northern Norway. The paper also reports PRV is now in Chile and it most closely matched a Norwegian PRV sequence from the Trondheim region.

The newly published paper reports piscine reovirus entered British Columbia from Norway in 2007 ± 1 year and Chile in 2008 ± 1 year. The piscine reovirus sequences included in the paper were from farmed Atlantic salmon bought in Vancouver supermarkets, wild cutthroat trout from Cultus Lake, chum salmon from near Campbell River, farmed steelhead from Lois Lake and farmed Atlantic salmon morts from the central coast of British Columbia. The Chilean samples were all Atlantic farmed salmon.

Experts in Norway continue to publish papers on the relationship between PRV and the disease HSMI. With over 400 Norwegian salmon farms now infected with PRV there are warnings in their papers:

measures must be taken to control PRV not only because it threatens domestic salmon production but also due to the potential for transmission to wild salmon populations.

In ongoing work, Morton and Kibenge have found PRV in nearly 97% of the farmed salmon tested from B.C. supermarkets. The Province of British Columbia does not accept that PRV causes HSMI. There is no published research supporting the province’s theory.

“The evidence suggests PRV recently arrived from Norway, which means we have not experienced its full potential to kill B.C. wild salmon yet,” says co-author Alexandra Morton, “but when the experts warn us that PRV should not be allowed to spread because of its threat to wild salmon, I don’t know why we would ignore them. This research has shown most farmed Atlantic salmon in B.C. supermarkets are infected with PRV. This suggests the millions of farm salmon still out in the net pens are also infected, which means the wild salmon swimming home this summer will be exposed to this Norwegian virus. It is extremely poor management to allow a Norwegian salmon virus to infect our wild salmon.”

The only containment of PRV possible would be to cull infected farmed salmon and to end the practice of using net pens to raise Atlantic salmon on wild salmon migration routes. This would be a significant risk to the viability of the 98% Norwegian-owned industry operating in British Columbia.

The co-authors recommend that PRV-HSMI be treated as an emerging disease. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) do not test for PRV.

“The viability of wild salmon has been put at risk in favor of the viability of farmed salmon,” notes Morton.

Last month the World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE) stripped the Kibenge Lab of its international authority as a reference lab for a different European virus, called ISAv. They have declined to give a reason.

Morton has taken the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Harvest to court with the assistance of Ecojustice. Morton seeks to have the Fisheries Act upheld and not allow transfer of salmon into net pens carrying known disease agents into B.C. marine waters.

Twyla Roscovich is an independent documentary filmmaker and underwater cinematographer who grew up on the waters of BC and has been making films on the coast since 1996. She has worked as a director and cinematographer for the BBC Natural History Unit, A&E, and Discovery Channel. For more info visit Read other articles by Twyla, or visit Twyla's website.

Law Like Cowebs: US Hypocrisy Beyond Satire

US Flouts the Rule of Law while Demanding That Other Countries Honor It

by Dave Lindorff - CounterPunch

Ah, the rule of law. How often we hear our government leaders angrily demand that the rest of the world adhere to this sacred stricture, most recently as it demands that countries — even countries with which the US has signed no extradition treaty like Russia or China — honor the US charges leveled against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and send him to the US for trial.

But the rule of law, in truth, means little to the US, which routinely thumbs its nose at the whole notion.

Take the case of Robert Lady, the former CIA station chief in Rome Italy. Lady, along with 21 other CIA operatives, was charged years ago with the illegal 2003 kidnapping off a street in Milan of a man that the US claimed was a suspected terrorist. Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr was thrown into a van and then secretly renditioned first to a secret CIA “black site,” and later to Egyptian police, who, he says, tortured him for the US. Four years later, Nasr was released after an Egyptian court ruled that he was not guilty of anything.

Italy indicted 22 Americans in Nasr’s illegal kidnapping, and sought their presence for a trial. The US, ignoring the rule of law, refused to send its agents to Italy, a country with which the US has a long-established extradition treaty, and which is a long-standing member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), so they were tried in absentia in Italy. Lady, as station chief and chief architect of the kidnapping, was found guilty along with 13 others (eight men were acquitted) and was sentenced, also in absentia, to nine years in prison.

Subsequently, Italy sought to have him extradited by the US to accept his punishment, but the US refused.

Now Lady, who had disappeared from view, has been arrested on an international fugitive warrant in Panama, and Italy is seeking his extradition from that country.

It will be interesting to see how the US responds to this situation. In 2010, documents were leaked from the US Department of Defense (sic) showing that Defense Secretary Robert Gates had worked behind the scenes with then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, to have the CIA agents’ case dropped, with Berlusconi promising to “do what he could,” and complaining that the Italian courts were run by “a bunch of leftists.” (Berlusconi has himself subsequently been tried and convicted of corruption, in a tax evasion case that ended with him sentenced to four years in prison. More recently, he was also tried and convicted of sex with an underage girl, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The US, since Snowden went public with his expose that the NSA is spying on the electronic communications of all Americans, as well as on hundreds of millions of other people around the world, including in nations supposedly allied with the US, the Obama administration has been leaning heavily on countries of Europe, Asia and especially Latin America, to keep them from granting him asylum. Even Russia, where Snowden is currently trapped because the US has publicly announced the cancellation of his US passport, has been subjected to threats and pressure in an effort to keep that country from granting him even temporary asylum.

As Snowden and the human rights attorneys who are working with him have pointed out, it is a grave violation of international law to deny anyone the right of humanitarian asylum. That doesn’t matter to the US, though, which is brazenly warning all countries that those who offer Snowden asylum, or even safe passage, will “pay a price” not just immediately but “for years to come.”

It seems likely that Panama will now feel this same intense US pressure to release CIA spook and kidnapper Lady and to refuse to send him back to Italy to face his punishment.

The rule of law, as far as the US is clearly considered by the Obama administration, like the Bush/Cheney administration before it, to be only for the weak and the poor. Washington makes it clear that international law doesn’t apply to the US.

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Enemy Mine: Who Does the US Government Really Fear?

Who’s Really ‘The Enemy’ In the Bradley Manning Case?

by John Grant - CounterPunch

We now have clarity from a full-bird colonel in judicial robes that Bradley Manning is to be charged with “aiding the enemy.” OK, not much of a surprise here. Colonel Denise Lind’s ruling seems pretty predictable.

Her ruling may make things simple for all the right-leaning pod-people who salute everything a field grade military officer says, but for the rest of us, it raises a profound and rather perplexing question: Exactly who is the “enemy” in this case?

The military and intelligence agency brass and their enablers will tell you it’s some nefarious and nebulous network called al Qaeda, which we should all know by now is a substitute for our old Cold War enemies and fictional entities like Spectre in the original Ian Fleming spy pulps. That is, al Qaeda has become The Boogie Man.

American patriots on the right will get no argument from me that there are, indeed, people and affiliations that mean real harm to Americans (including me) and that we need to protect ourselves from them. But that doesn’t address the question whether al Qaeda and other “terrorist” groups are being exploited as the boogie man for the convenience of the Pentagon, the CIA, NSA and demagogues like New York Congressman Peter King.

I fear a lot of “the hunt for al Qaeda” narrative is standard militarist fear-mongering employed to justify embarrassing and often illegal secret behavior that would shrivel up if it were really exposed to the light of day. Boogie men like al Qaeda are also useful to advance the careers and interests of the usual gang of capitalists and oppressive wealthy dominators that made this nation what it is today — the nation that Bill O’Reilly was wondering the other night might be going down the tubes like Old Rome.

To understand exactly who “the enemy” is in this case, it seems logical to, first, ask who it was Bradley Manning intended to benefit by leaking all that information to WikiLeaks. I’m not sure whether Colonel Lind asked young Manning this, but I doubt it. From his statements and from all that I can glean from following the case in the press — I and other journalists have not had the opportunity to interview Manning — the key reason he leaked all that information, including a damning video of US Apache helicopters gunning down a Reuters cameraman and another Reuters employee and embarrassing leaks of back-channel State Department cables, was to share it with the American people.

If any credence is given to the accused man’s own admissions, which seem absolutely plausible to me, it would seem logical that, from the military’s point of view, the American people are the enemy in this syllogism.

I realize for anyone to conceive of this as a serious analysis as to who the enemy is in this case, one has to be skeptical of our US military and intelligence apparatus circa 2013. Those captivated by the military and its mystique will obviously sputter and groan and see such an analysis as the ravings of a lunatic left-wing journalist. They will also imply, without, of course, openly saying it, that such an analysis is pointless because they — the military and intelligence complex — have young Manning by the you-know-whats. If I’m allowed to put words in their mouth, they might put it this way:

“Eat your hearts out, you left-wing, pinko fags. We have him totally under our control. And we’re gonna do with him as we wish. And, right now, we wish to try him as if he was a raghead in a cave in the tribal areas of Pakistan. So demonstrate all you want. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

The US military/intelligence apparatus realizes in post-9/11 political America they trump pretty much everything. They’re the Big Dog. If it involves lethal weapons or snooping into your private life, it’s OK with them. You can’t be too safe when those al Qaeda characters are out there and Sharia Law threatens our precious bodily fluids.

Thanks to all the revelations of Edward Snowden, who no doubt Colonel Lind would rule was also aiding al Qaeda, we now know our military/intelligence apparatus was chumping the American people. Just recall the NSA boss who stood up in Congress with stars all over his epaulets and swore on a Bible. I think this sums up his testimony: “Spying on you? Us? Are you kidding? We work for you.”

It was thanks to the devil-incarnate Snowden that the American people and the world learned they’ve actually been recording and storing the “meta-data” of our phone calls for some time — just in case, so later when the racing technological capacity catches up to their huge, unprecedented ocean of data on you and me they will be able to analyze and fiddle with all that data. Why isn’t that very comforting?

As a journalist who writes opinion pieces like the one you are now reading, all this is getting pretty worrisome. When you link it with the fact a Fox News commentator — Ralph Peters — is actually pushing the idea that in the future journalists and reporters will have to be seen as “lethal combatants” in our wars, you realize all this is no longer a fever dream on the left and that we’re really on a slippery slope. Unless someone can turn it around, it could easily lead to a very unhealthy and dangerous place of no return. The fever dream is now on the right, which in conjunction with a super-secret military and intelligence apparatus clearly has the power to run roughshod in the future.

To any reasonable journalist, Bradley Manning is nothing more than a whistleblower with an axe to grind willing to leak information. This is how things evolve and change. In this view, the widest possible sharing of information is good. The idea that Manning was “aiding the enemy” and, thus, was being subversive in a treasonous and criminal fashion is a case of slipping farther down that dangerous slippery slope.

In a world of super-secret military and intelligence capabilities, on one hand, and a public pacified by marketing, public relations, entertainment and special effects, on the other, the notion of democracy begins to seem a bit quaint and nostalgic.

It’s thanks to courageous people like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden that we, the American people, know a little more than we would if they had not done what they did. What they did makes us all just a little better informed in the arena of democracy. What they did has nothing to do with what Colonel Lind was thinking when she charged Manning with “aiding the enemy” — ie. al Qaeda, Hezbollah or the Earth Liberation Front.

It’s clear who, in this case, the government, the military, the CIA and the NSA see as “the enemy.”

It’s us.

JOHN GRANT is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent three-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. His work, and that of colleagues DAVE LINDORFF, GARY LINDORFF, ALFREDO LOPEZ, LORI SPENCER, LINN WASHINGTON, JR. and CHARLES M. YOUNG, can be found at

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Not Just a River in Egypt: How Denial Began Human Development (and may end it)

The Evolution of Denial

by Ray Grigg - Shades of Green

Consciousness can be costly. Philosophers and poets have long pondered this dilemma. But the idea has rarely entered the theories of evolutionary scientists until Dr. Danny Brower introduced it to Dr. Ajit Varki, an oncologist who is also an authority on cellular biology and an expert on anthropogeny (the origin of humans).

Dr. Varki met Dr. Danny Brower for a brief but intense hour at a 2005 conference on the origins of human uniqueness. As a geneticist, Dr. Brower was fascinated with the evolution of human consciousness. But he was less curious about the human ability to be aware of their own minds and the minds of others as he was about the apparent inability of other animals to develop the same facility. Whales, elephants, apes, dolphins, and some birds such as magpies provide clear evidence of self-awareness. Even though they have existed in evolutionary history for much longer than humans, however, they have never developed the same degree of self-awareness, empathetic sensitivity, social sophistication and intellectual acumen as humans. Dr. Brower thought he had an answer.

His answer haunted Dr. Varki. So, when Dr. Brower died suddenly in 2007, leaving an incomplete manuscript, Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind, Dr. Varki inherited the task of finishing it. The completed book explores the advantages, costs and implications of our human capacity to understand, empathize, organize and act, the attributes that define us as individuals, societies and civilizations.

Dr. Varki notes that some species of animals seem capable of recognizing themselves as individuals and of mourning the death of their fellows. Such animals may even recognize their own mortality, a traumatizing experience that could be psychologically crippling without the protection of an appropriate defence mechanism. And this mechanism, the theory proposes, is denial.

Humans may have succeeded where other species have failed because we have simultaneously developed the contradictory capacity for both self-awareness and denial. Thus we are capable of exercising all the intellectual, empathetic, social and cultural skills that are responsible for our amazing accomplishments but we are also capable of isolating ourselves from the inevitable death which shadows all our efforts. This capacity, the theory suggests, is the adroit device of evolution that allows us to function while avoiding the heavy psychological cost of knowing the inevitable consequence of being alive. The problem presented by self-awareness is solved simply by sidestepping the reality we do not want to confront.

As Dr. Varki outlines in his elaboration of Dr. Brower's theory, this is a useful strategy for the individual. And it has advantages for society, too. So people undertake enterprises they would never begin if they actually confronted the reality of the challenges. Denial forms a partnership with optimism to remove the obstacles preventing us from attempting the unpredictable, difficult or impossible. Travelling to the moon, rowing across the Pacific, or working faithfully for 45 years to reach a retirement pension all require an erasing of very credible risks and obstacles. Such ordinary activities as having a baby, driving on a freeway, flying in an airplane or buying a lottery ticket all require acts of denial. Even falling in love is an act that doesn't consider the possibility of heartbreak. So risk and failure are blindly overlooked for the prospect of benefit. Bravery could be one word to describe such behaviour — if we were fully aware. But a better word might be denial, a strategy which Dr. Varki refers to as “terror management”.

The shortcoming of denial, however, is that it tends to be indiscriminate — so we deny things we should confront. Denial is also a much better coping strategy for an individual than for a species. Indeed, the loss of a few individuals because of their refusal to confront reality is unlikely to endanger the viability of an entire society. But this constraint no longer applies in a globalized world. If denial is responsible for a nuclear holocaust, then this lurking Armageddon could obliterate much of civilization as we know it. What if denial results in the use of uncontrollable biological weapons, or the release of a virus which could initiate an unstoppable global pandemic? What if genetic tinkering inadvertently creates an organism which crashes the planet's biological systems? The denial mechanism which once affected only local people in local places could potentially affect life on the entire planet.

This is the context in which Dr. Varki raises the subject of climate change. The mechanisms we use to avoid confronting this threat are extraordinary. It is a silence that pervades many conversation. It is a subject that elections commonly avoid. It is a science that politicians suppress — at least in Canada where those who raise it are deemed pessimists, heretics, cynics, enemies, radicals.

Of course, reality is remarkably insistent. So the trauma of extreme weather events force climate change into public awareness where it is too often heard but denied. The required remedial action is invariably postponed. The necessary government regulations become promises that never materialize. Excuses and rationalizations abound as the carbon dioxide levels rise and the planet's weather becomes more unusual, threatening and destructive. Dr. Varki summarizes the stakes succinctly. “This is the one case,” he says of global warming, “where we cannot afford to get it wrong the first time.”

Dr. Varki concedes that his refinements to Dr. Brower's theory need more scientific study and evaluation. But, he contends, the theory seems to fit the evidence. More sobering, however, is the way the theory seems to fit our history.

Israel: Targeting Truth-Telling, Targeting Journalism

Army Attacks Journalists Near Jerusalem

by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Palestinian medical sources have reported that five journalists have been injured on Wednesday [July 14 2013] after being violently attacked by Israeli soldiers at the Qalandia terminal, north of occupied East Jerusalem.

The journalists were holding a protest at the terminal demanding to be allowed into Jerusalem, as part of their internationally guaranteed right to Freedom of Movement.

The activity is part of an international campaign launched in various capitals of the world in solidarity with Palestinian journalists.

Medical sources said that the five wounded journalists have been identified Nida’ Younis, Aseel Al-A’raj, Na’ela Khalil, Mofeed Abu Hasna, and Omar Abdul-Razeq.

Eyewitnesses said that, as soon as the army saw the journalists gathering in the area, the soldiers threw dozens of gas bombs at them, causing several reporters to suffocate due to the effects of teargas inhalation.

The reporters left the area shortly, and when they headed back to the terminal, the soldiers told them that they have clear orders not to allow them through, and to use force.

Head of the Palestinian Journalist's Syndicate, Abdel Nasser Najjar, stated that the nonviolent protest is part of an international activity demanding Freedom of Movement to Palestinian reporters, as a basic right guaranteed by International Law, a right denied by Israel for more than 50 years.
“Palestinian journalists have been denied their rights since before Israel occupied the East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967”, Najjar said, “We came here today to demand our rights, this is an Arab and International campaign”.

Twilight's Last Gleaming: America's Endangered Whistle Blower

Prometheus Among the Cannibals - A Letter to Edward Snowden

by Rebecca Solnit  - TomDispatch

Dear Edward Snowden,

Billions of us, from prime ministers to hackers, are watching a live espionage movie in which you are the protagonist and perhaps the sacrifice. Your way forward is clear to no one, least of all, I’m sure, you.

I fear for you; I think of you with a heavy heart. I imagine hiding you like Anne Frank. I imagine Hollywood movie magic in which a young lookalike would swap places with you and let you flee to safety -- if there is any safety in this world of extreme rendition and extrajudicial execution by the government that you and I were born under and that you, until recently, served. I fear you may pay, if not with your death, with your life -- with a life that can have no conventional outcome anytime soon, if ever. “Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” you told us, and they are trying to stop you instead.

I am moved by your choice of our future over yours, the world over yourself. You know what few do nowadays: that the self is not the same as self-interest. You are someone who is smart enough, idealistic enough, bold enough to know that living with yourself in a system of utter corruption would destroy that self as an ideal, as something worth being. Doing what you’ve done, on the other hand, would give you a self you could live with, even if it gave you nowhere to live or no life. Which is to say, you have become a hero.
Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, Emerging From Darkness, the Edward Snowden Story

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Signed, personalized copies of Rebecca Solnit’s new book, The Faraway Nearby, have been available at this site for several weeks in return for a contribution of $100 (or more). It's getting rave reviews and I can testify that it’s a remarkable work. Our thanks go to all of you who have already contributed for your copies. Your donations really do help keep TomDispatch rolling along. For anyone who meant to get a signed copy of The Faraway Nearby but hasn’t acted, you should know that the offer will remain open only through next Monday (though signed books by Nick Turse and me will always be available). So check out our donation page soon! The next TomDispatch post will be on Tuesday, July 23rd. Tom]

It’s true that, as Glenn Greenwald and others have written, the American media has focused attention on the supposed peccadillos of Edward Snowden so as not to have to spend too much time on the sweeping system of government surveillance he revealed. At least for now, the Obama administration has cornered the document-less whistleblower at Moscow’s international airport, leaving him nowhere on the planet to go, or at least no way to get there. As a result, the media can have a field day writing negative pieces about his relationship to Putin’s Russia.

So Greenwald certainly has a point, and yet it would be a mistake to ignore Snowden’s personal story. After all, the unending spectacle of a superpower implacably tracking down a single man across the planet has its own educational value. It’s been a little like watching one of thoseTransformers movies in which Megatron, the leader of the evil Decepticons, stomps around the globe smashing things, but somehow, time and again, misses his tiny human target. In this strange drama, in a world in which few eyeball-gluing stories outlast the week in which they were born, almost alone and by a kind of miracle Snowden has managed to keep his story andthe story of the building of the first full-scale global surveillance state going and going. He seems a little like the Energizer Bunny of whistleblowers.

No matter what’s written about him here in the mainstream, the spectacle of a single remarkably articulate and self-confident individual outwitting the last superpower has been, in its own way, uplifting. Although the first global polls haven’t come in, I think it’s safe to assume that from Bolivia to Hong Kong, Germany to Japan, Washington is taking a remarkable licking in the global opinion wars. Even at home, we know that, among the young in particular, opinion seems to be shifting on both Snowden’s acts and the surveillance state whose architecture he revealed.

Given its utter tone-deafness and its flurry of threats against various foreign governments, the downing of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane, and ever more ham-handed moves against Snowden himself, Washington is clearly building up a store of global anger and resentment, including over the way it’s scooping up private communications worldwide. In the end, this twenty-first-century spectacle may truly make a difference. As Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch regular and author of the new book The Faraway Nearby, writes today, it’s been a moving show so far. One man against the machine: if you’ve ever been to the local multiplex, given such a scenario you can’t for a second doubt where global sympathies lie. Tom

Prometheus Among the Cannibals - 

A Letter to Edward Snowden

by Rebecca Solnit

Pity the country that requires a hero, Bertolt Brecht once remarked, but pity the heroes too. They are the other homeless, the people who don’t fit in. They are the ones who see the hardest work and do it, and pay the price we charge those who do what we can’t or won’t. If the old stories were about heroes who saved us from others, modern heroes -- Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Rachel Carson, Ella Baker, Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi -- endeavored to save us from ourselves, from our own governments and systems of power.

The rest of us so often sacrifice that self and those ideals to fit in, to be part of a cannibal system, a system that eats souls and defiles truths and serves only power. Or we negotiate quietly to maintain an uneasy distance from it and then go about our own business. Though in my world quite a few of us strike our small blows against empire, you, young man, you were situated where you could run a dagger through the dragon’s eye, and that dragon is writhing in agony now; in that agony it has lost its magic: an arrangement whereby it remains invisible while making the rest of us ever more naked to its glaring eye.

Private Eyes and Public Rights

Privacy is a kind of power as well as a right, one that public librarians fought to protect against the Bush administration and the PATRIOT Act and that online companies violate in every way that’s profitable and expedient. Our lack of privacy, their monstrous privacy -- even their invasion of our privacy must, by law, remain classified -- is what you made visible. The agony of a monster with nowhere to stand -- you are accused of spying on the spies, of invading the privacy of their invasion of privacy -- is a truly curious thing. And it is changing the world. Europe and South America are in an uproar, and attempts to contain you and your damage are putting out fire with gasoline.

You yourself said it so well on July 12th:

“A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone's communications at any time. That is the power to change people's fates. It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the U.S. Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice -- that it must be seen to be done.”

They say you, like Bradley Manning, gave secrets to their enemies. It’s clear who those enemies are: you, me, us. It was clear on September 12, 2001, that the Bush administration feared the American people more than al-Qaeda. Not much has changed on that front since, and this almost infinitely broad information harvest criminalizes all of us. This metadata -- the patterns and connections of communications rather than their content -- is particularly useful, as my friend Chris Carlsson pointed out, at mapping the clusters of communications behind popular movements, uprisings, political organizing: in other words, those moments when civil society rises to shape history, to make a better future in the open world of the streets and squares.

The goal of gathering all this metadata, Chris speculates, "is to be able to identify where the ‘hubs’ are, who the people are who sit at key points in networks, helping pass news and messages along, but especially, who the people are who spread ideas and information from one network of people to the next, who help connect small networks into larger ones, and thus facilitate the unpredictable and rapid spread of dissent when it appears.”

Metadata can map the circulatory system of civil society, toward what ends you can certainly imagine. When governments fear their people you can be sure they are not serving their people. This has always been the minefield of patriotism: loyalty to our government often means hostility to our country and vice-versa. Edward Snowden, loyalist to country, you have made this clear as day.

Those who demonize you show, as David Bromwich pointed out in a fine essay in the London Review of Books, their submission to the power you exposed. Who stood where, he writes,

“was an infallible marker of the anti-authoritarian instinct against the authoritarian. What was distressing and impossible to predict was the evidence of the way the last few years have worn deep channels of authoritarian acceptance in the mind of the liberal establishment. Every public figure who is psychologically identified with the ways of power in America has condemned Snowden as a traitor, or deplored his actions as merely those of a criminal, someone about whom the judgment ‘he must be prosecuted’ obviates any further judgment and any need for thought.”

You said, "I know the media likes to personalize political debates, and I know the government will demonize me." Who you are is fascinating, but what you’ve exposed is what matters. It is upending the world. It is damaging Washington’s relations with many Latin American and some European countries, with Russia and China as well as with its own people -- those, at least, who bother to read or listen to the news and care about what they find there. “Edward Snowden Single-Handedly Forces Tech Companies To Come Forward With Government Data Request Stats,” said a headline in Forbes. Your act is rearranging our world. How much no one yet knows.

What You Love

What’s striking about your words on video, Edward Snowden, the ones I hear as your young, pale, thoughtful face speaks with clarity and incisiveness in response to Glenn Greenwald’s questions, is that you’re not talking much about what you hate, though it’s clear that you hate the secret network you were part of. You hate it because it poisons what you love. You told us, "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions... [but] I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon, and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant." You love our world, our country -- not its government, clearly, but its old ideals and living idealists, its possibilities, its dreamers, and its dreams (not the stale, stuffed American dream of individual affluence, but the other dreams of a better world for all of us, a world of principle).

You told us where we now live and that you refuse to live there anymore:

"I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. And that's not something I'm willing to support, it's not something I'm willing to build, and it's not something I'm willing to live under. America is a fundamentally good country. We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing. But the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics."

Which is to say you acted from love, from all the things the new surveillance state imperils: privacy, democracy, accountability, decency, honor. The rest of us, what would we do for love?

What is terrifying to the politicians at the top is that you may be our truest patriot at the moment. Which makes all of them, with their marble buildings and illustrious titles, their security details and all the pomp, the flags, the saluting soldiers, so many traitors. The government is the enemy of the people; the state is the enemy of the country. I love that country, too. I fear that state and this new information age as they spread and twine like a poison vine around everything and everyone. You held up a mirror and fools hate the mirror for it; they shoot the messenger, but the message has been delivered.

“This country is worth dying for,” you said in explanation of your great risks. You were trained as a soldier, but a soldier’s courage with a thinker’s independence of mind is a dangerous thing; a hero is a dangerous thing. That’s why the U.S. military has made the Guardian, the British newspaper that has done the key reporting on your leaks, off limits to our soldiers overseas. Whoever made that cynical censorship decision understands that those soldiers may be defending a set of interests at odds with this country and its Constitution, and they need to be kept in the dark about that. The dark from which you emerged.

When the United States forced the airplane of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s democratically elected head of state, to land in Austria, after compliant France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy denied him the right to travel through their airspace, all South America took it as an insult and a violation of Bolivia’s sovereignty and international law. The allied president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, tracked the incident in a series of tweets that demonstrated an openness, a principledness, and a strong friendship between Morales, Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa, and her. It was a little window onto a really foreign continent: one in which countries are sometimes headed by genuinely popular leaders who are genuinely transparent and governed by rule of law. It’s a reminder that things in our own blighted, corrupted, corporate-dominated country could be different.

Building a Bridge to the Nineteenth Century

How did we get here? In 1996, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore pushed the dreadful slogan “building a bridge to the twenty-first century.” It was a celebration of Silicon Valley-style technological innovation and corporate globalization, among other things. At the time, I put “building a bridge to the nineteenth century” on my letterhead. It turned out that we were doing both at once: erecting a massive electronic infrastructure that outpaces our ability to democratically manage it and shifting our economy backward to recreate the chasms of class divide that marked the nineteenth century. The two goals intertwined like serpents making love.

The new technologies made a surveillance state that much more powerful and far-reaching; the new technologies replaced many jobs with few; the new technologies created new billionaires without principles; the new technologies made us all into commodities to be sold to advertisers; the new technologies turned our every move into something that could be tracked; the new technologies kept us distracted and busy. Meanwhile, almost everyone got poorer.

What the neoliberals amassing mountains of wealth for the already super-wealthy forgot, what the tax-cutters and child-starvers never learned in school, is that desperate people do not necessary simply lie down and obey. Often enough, they rebel. There is no one as dangerous as he or she who has nothing to lose. The twentieth century’s welfare states, their pumped-up, plumped-up middle classes, their relative egalitarianism and graduated tax plans pacified the once-insurrectionary classes by meeting, at least in part, their needs and demands. The comfortable don’t revolt much. Out of sheer greed, however, the wealthiest and most powerful decided to make so many of the rest of us at least increasingly uncomfortable and often far worse.

Edward Snowden, you rebelled because you were outraged; so many others are rebelling because their lives are impossible now. These days when we revolt, the new technologies become our friends as well as our enemies. If you imagine those technologies as the fire Prometheus stole from the gods, then it works both ways, for us and for them, to create and to destroy.

Those new technologies are key to the latest rounds of global organizing, from the World Trade Organization actions of 1999, put together by email and epochal in their impact, to the Arab Spring, which used email, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, and other means, to Occupy Wall Street. The technologies are double-edged: populist networks for creating global resistance are vulnerable to surveillance; classified reams of data are breachable by information saved to thumb drives or burned onto CDs by whistleblowers and hackers. They can spy in private; we can organize in public, and maybe the two actions are true opposites.

Meanwhile there is massive upheaval in Egypt and in Brazil, and in recent years there have been popular rebellions in many parts of the Arab world, Turkey, Iceland, Greece, Spain, Britain, Chile, and the U.S. itself with Occupy. The globe is on fire with popular outrage, with fury over economic injustice and, among other things, climate change spurred by the profits a few are piling up to the detriment of the rest of us, generations to come, other species, and the planet itself. It seems that, surveillance or not, people are not about to go quietly into the nineteenth century or accept the devil’s bargains of the twenty-first either.

Prometheus and Being Burned

I think of a man even younger than you, Edward Snowden, who unlike you acted without knowing what he did: 26-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi, whose December 2010 self-immolation to protest his humiliation and hopelessness triggered what became the still-blooming, still-burning Arab Spring. Sometimes one person changes the world. This should make most of us hopeful and some of them fearful, because what I am also saying is that we now live in a world of us and them, a binary world. It’s not the old world of capitalism versus communism, but of the big versus the little, of oligarchy versus democracy, of hierarchies versus swarms, of corporations versus public interest and civil society.

It seems nearly worldwide now, which is why revolts all over the planet have so much in common these days, why Occupy activists last month held up signs in New York’s Liberty Plaza in solidarity with the uprising in Taksim Square in Turkey; why Arab Spring activists phoned in pizza orders to the uprising in Wisconsin in early 2011; why Occupy spread around the world, and Greek insurrectionaries learned from the successes of Argentina in the face of austerity and economic collapse. We know our fate is common and that we live it out together and change it together, only together.

There were rumblings that you had defected, or would defect, to China or Russia, but you had already defected when we became aware of your existence: you had defected from them to us, using the power you had gained deep within the bowels of their infernal machines to empower us. What will we do with what you’ve taught us? That’s up to us, but for anyone who thinks what you did was not threatening to those in power, just look at how furious, how upset, how naked our emperors now are.

And you, Prometheus, you stole their fire, and you know it. You said, "Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, [Senator Dianne] Feinstein, and [Congressman Peter] King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school."

Someday you may be regarded as a Mandela of sorts for the information age, or perhaps a John Brown, someone who refused to fit in, to bow down, to make a system work that shouldn’t work, that should explode. And perhaps we’re watching it explode.

The match is sacrificed to start the fire. So maybe, Edward Snowden, you’re a sacrifice. In the process, you’ve lit a bonfire out of their secrecy and spying, a call to action.

I fear for you, but your gift gives us hope and your courage, an example. Our loyalty should be to our ideals, because they are a threat to the secret system you’ve exposed, because we have to choose between the two. Right now you embody that threat, just as you embody those ideals. For which I am grateful, for which everyone who is not embedded in that system should be grateful.



Like Edward Snowden, Rebecca Solnit has a GED, not a high-school diploma. She lives in Silicon Valley’s shadow, in a city where billionaires race $10 million yachts and austerity is closing the community college. Her newest book is The Faraway Nearby.

Copyright 2013 Rebecca Solnit

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Back to Clayoquot: 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the 'War in the Woods'

Celebrating ’93: Clayoquot Wild Weekend August 8th to 11th 


Twenty years ago thousands rushed to join Friends of Clayoquot Sound to peacefully protest and blockade the bridge that allowed MacMillan Bloedel to devastate Clayoquot's forests. Their action turned into the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience in Canadian history and continues to influence the Canadian environmental movement today.

To honour and celebrate the courage of the blockaders FOCS is holding a “Clayoquot Wild Weekend” from August 8th to 11th. The Clayoquot Wild Weekend will also be a time of reflection and planning as we gear up to confront the ongoing threats to the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve.

Thursday August 8th Clayoquot Café/Social

Join a panel of key figures, locals and arrestees from the 1993 logging protests as they discuss the events of the 1993 Clayoquot blockades, weaving a colourful tapestry of history!

On the Panel and their roles in 1993:

  • Valerie Langer: FOCS Forests Campaigner
  • Tzeporah Berman: FOCS Blockade Coordinator
  • Elizabeth May: organized Sierra Club Canada’s coast to coast Clayoquot Express rail caravan in 1993
  • Chris Hatch: key FOCS volunteer
  • Karen Mahon: Greenpeace organizer, key ally
  • John Cashore: NDP Minister of Environment and later Aboriginal Affairs
  • Terry Brown: arrestee
  • Maureen Fraser: Tofino local, FOCS supporter
  • Joe Martin: key ally and Tla-o-qui-aht cultural leader

August 9th: Outdoor Concert and Evening Market in Tofino

Join FOCS on the Village Green in Tofino for a fine evening of music, dancing, a night market, and guests speaking about the future of Clayoquot Sound! Our headline artist is Bob Bossin, writer of the song Sulphur Passage! Check out the song here:

August 10th: Day at Kennedy Lake’s Rainbow Beach

Join FOCS out at Kennedy Lake for a photo op on the Kennedy River bridge, for some rainforest walks, frank discussion about the future of the Sound, and bring your instruments for jamming! Self sufficient camping will be available at Rainbow Beach from the 8th to the 11th of August, please contact to reserve a campsite!

Thank you to organizers of the 1993 blockades 

There have been several articles published this year about the 1993 Clayoquot protests and blockades. Articles lauding the strength of numbers and the visibility of the event, and articles about the beauty of Clayoquot Sound that inspired the protesters. We believe it is important not only to acknowledge the events of 1993 but also to honour the people who engaged with the movement. Here is a list of key organizers, contributors and actors; if there are any errors or omissions please inform us and we will be happy to make corrections for future publications. We would also like to take this opportunity to invite anybody who has stories or pictures from 1993 to share them with us and the 1993 community by email: or on the facebook group:

Wilderness in Clayoquot

A couple of weeks ago I went on a solo hike along the coast of Flores Island. Flores Island is one of two large islands found in Clayoquot Sound and remains one of the few big islands off the west coast of Vancouver Island that has yet to be logged. The Wild Side Wilderness Trail runs along 11km of Flores Island beaches and ancient rainforest. The lucky hiker may encounter bears, wolves and in my case, humpback whales feeding along the beaches! The islands pristine coastline is an awe inspiring reminder of how special Clayoquot Sound truly is.

Walk through a clearcut however, or read about the devastating effects of mining, and we are rapidly reminded of how precariously Clayoquot Sound perches on the edge of these wholesale industrial activities. Friends of Clayoquot Sound fights to protect the ecological integrity of Clayoquot Sound and is indebted to our ongoing supporters whose contributions allow us to keep eyes on the sound and boots on the ground. If you have not already done so, please consider becoming a monthly donor and supporting the work we do.

-Emery Hartley, FOCS campaigner, tree hugger and nature lover.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Norwegian Piscine Reovirus Migrates to Canadian Fish Farms

Norwegian virus devastating to farmed salmon spreads to Canada and Chile: paper published

by Alexandra Morton

Piscine reovirus previously reported only in the Atlantic Ocean

Sointula, BC - The first scientific publication on the occurrence of piscine reovirus outside of Norway was published on July 11 in Virology Journal. The report, Whole-genome analysis of piscine reovirus (PRV) shows PRV represents a new genus in family Reoviridae and its genome segment S1 sequences group it into two separate sub-genotypes, was co-published by researchers from the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas Aplicadas in Chile, and the Raincoast Research Society in British Columbia.

Piscine reovirus (PRV) was identified in 2010 as the causative agent of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) in Norway. This disease, first recognized in Atlantic salmon farms in Norway in 1999, is a condition that weakens salmon, making it difficult for their hearts to pump blood. HSMI is spreading rapidly in Norway. Marine Harvest, who grows one-fifth of the world's farm-raised salmon, lists HSMI as the second largest cause of death of their fish in their 2012 Annual General Report.

In this paper, the co-authors show that piscine reovirus is in British Columbia and it came from Norway. The process of tracing viruses is similar to matching fingerprints. Scientists around the world enter viral sequence data into GenBank so matches can be run. The piscine reovirus found in British Columbia is most similar to a Norwegian PRV sequence from Atlantic farmed salmon suffering from HSMI in the Lofoten Archipelago in northern Norway. The paper also reports PRV is now in Chile and it most closely matched a Norwegian PRV sequence from the Trondheim region.

The newly published paper reports piscine reovirus entered British Columbia from Norway in 2007 ± 1 year and Chile in 2008 ± 1 year. The piscine reovirus sequences included in the paper were from farmed Atlantic salmon bought in Vancouver supermarkets, wild cutthroat trout from Cultus Lake, chum salmon from near Campbell River, farmed steelhead from Lois Lake and farmed Atlantic salmon morts from the central coast of British Columbia. The Chilean samples were all Atlantic farmed salmon.

Experts in Norway continue to publish papers on the relationship between PRV and the disease HSMI. With over 400 Norwegian salmon farms now infected with PRV there are warnings in their papers:

“measures must be taken to control PRV not only because it threatens domestic salmon production but also due to the potential for transmission to wild salmon populations.” (

In ongoing work, Morton and Kibenge have found PRV in nearly 97% of the farmed salmon tested from B.C. supermarkets.

The Province of British Columbia does not accept that PRV causes HSMI. There is no published research supporting the province's theory.

"The evidence suggests PRV recently arrived from Norway, which means we have not experienced its full potential to kill B.C. wild salmon yet," says co-author Alexandra Morton, "but when the experts warn us that PRV should not be allowed to spread because of its threat to wild salmon, I don’t know why we would ignore them. This research has shown most farmed Atlantic salmon in B.C. supermarkets are infected with PRV. This suggests the millions of farm salmon still out in the net pens are also infected, which means the wild salmon swimming home this summer will be exposed to this Norwegian virus. It is extremely poor management to allow a Norwegian salmon virus to infect our wild salmon."

The only containment of PRV possible would be to cull infected farmed salmon and to end the practice of using net pens to raise Atlantic salmon on wild salmon migration routes. This would be a significant risk to the viability of the 98% Norwegian-owned industry operating in British Columbia.

The co-authors recommend that PRV-HSMI be treated as an emerging disease. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) do not test for PRV. Norwegian scientist, Dr. Are Nylund, University of Bergen, recommends measures to remove PRV-positive Atlantic salmon from net pens in the ocean to prevent spread of this Atlantic virus into the Pacific.

"The viability of wild salmon has been put at risk in favor of the viability of farmed salmon," notes Morton.

Last month the World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE) stripped the Kibenge Lab of its international authority as a reference lab for a different European virus, called ISAv. They have declined to give a reason.

Morton has taken the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Harvest to court with the assistance of Ecojustice. Morton seeks to have the Fisheries Act upheld and not allow transfer of salmon into net pens carrying known disease agents into B.C. marine waters.



Alexandra Morton,

The electronic version of this article can be found online at:

B-roll video clips for media & a short video on the story of PRV in BC can be downloaded here:

Martin Killing, Zimmerman Verdict: A Black and White Issue of Justice Denied

Ford: Zimmerman's Acquittal Exposes the American Psyches' Racist Reasoning


Glen Ford: Prosecution was unable to prove Zimmerman's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because it's thought to be "reasonable" to profile young black men as criminals.

Glen Ford is a distinguished radio-show host and commentator. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced and hosted America's Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. In 1987, Ford launched Rap It Up, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop music show, broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford co-founded the Black Commentator in 2002 and in 2006 he launched the Black Agenda Report. Ford is also the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion

Deterring Edward: Can Snowden be Stopped?

How to Be a Rogue Superpower - A Manual for the Twenty-First Century

by Tom Engelhardt  - TomDispatch

It’s hard even to know how to take it in. I mean, what’s really happening? An employee of a private contractor working for the National Security Agency makes off with unknown numbers of files about America’s developing global security state on a thumb drive and four laptop computers, and jumps the nearest plane to Hong Kong. His goal: to expose a vast surveillance structure built in the shadows in the post-9/11 years and significantly aimed at Americans. He leaks some of the documents to a columnist at the British Guardian and to the Washington Post. The response is unprecedented: an “international manhunt” (or more politely but less accurately, “a diplomatic full court press”) conducted not by Interpol or the United Nations but by the planet’s sole superpower, the very government whose practices the leaker was so intent on exposing.

And that’s just for starters. Let’s add another factor. The leaker, a young man with great techno-savvy, lets the world know that he’s picked and chosen among the NSA files in his possession. He’s releasing only those he thinks the American public needs in order to start a full-scale debate about the unprecedented secret world of surveillance that their taxpayer dollars have created. In other words, this is no “document dump.” He wants to spark change without doing harm.

But here’s the kicker: he couldn’t be more aware of previous whistleblower cases, the punitive reaction of his government to them, and the fate that might be his. As a result, we now know, he has encrypted the full set of files in his possession and left them in one or more safe places for unknown individuals -- that is, we don’t know who they are -- to access, should he be taken by the U.S.

In other words, from the time Edward Snowden’s first leaked documents came out, it was obvious that he was in control of how much of the NSA’s secret world would be seen. It would be hard then not to conclude that capturing him, imprisoning him, trying him, and throwing away the key is likely to increase, not decrease, the flow of those documents. Knowing that, the Obama administration and the representatives of our secret world went after him anyway -- after one man on a global scale and in a way that may not have a precedent. No thought of future embarrassment stopped them, nor, it seems, did they hesitate because of possible resentments engendered by their heavy-handed pressure on numerous foreign governments.

The result has been a global spectacle, as well as a worldwide debate about the spying practices of the U.S. (and its allies). In these weeks, Washington has proven determined, vengeful, implacable. It has strong-armed, threatened, and elbowed powers large and small. It has essentially pledged that the leaker, former Booz Allen employee Edward Snowden, will never be safe on this planet in his lifetime. And yet, to mention the obvious, the greatest power on Earth has, as yet, failed to get its man and is losing the public opinion battle globally.

An Asylum-less World

Highlighted in all this has been a curious fact of our twenty-first-century world. In the Cold War years, asylum was always potentially available. If you opposed one of the two superpowers or its allies, the other was usually ready to open its arms to you, as the U.S. famously did for what were once called “Soviet dissidents” in great numbers. The Soviets did the same for Americans, Brits, and others, often secret communists, sometimes actual spies, who opposed the leading capitalist power and its global order.

Today, if you are a twenty-first-century “dissident” and need asylum/protection from the only superpower left, there is essentially none to be had. Even after three Latin American countries, enraged at Washington's actions, extended offers of protection to Snowden, these should be treated as a new category of limited asylum. After all, the greatest power on the planet has, since 9/11, shown itself perfectly willing to do almost anything in pursuit of its definition of “security” or the security of its security system. Torture, abuse, the setting up of secret prisons or “black sites,” the kidnapping of terrorist suspects (including perfectly innocent people) off the streets of global cities and in the backlands of the planet, as well as their “rendition” to the torture chambers of complicit allied regimes, and the secret surveillance of anyone anywhere would only start a far longer list.

Nothing about the “international manhunt” for Snowden indicates that the Obama administration would be unwilling to send in the CIA or special operations types to “render” him from Venezuela, Bolivia, or Nicaragua, no matter the cost to hemispheric relations. Snowden himself brought up this possibility in his first interview with Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald. “I could,” he said bluntly, “be rendered by the CIA.” This assumes that he can even make it to a land of exile from somewhere in the bowels of the international terminal of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport without being intercepted by Washington.

It’s true that there remain some modest limits on the actions even of a rogue superpower. It’s hard to imagine Washington dropping its kidnappers into Russia or China to take Snowden, which is perhaps why it has put such pressure on both countries to turn him in or hustle him along. With smaller, weaker lands, however, non-nuclear allies or enemies or frenemies, don’t doubt the possibility for a second.

If Edward Snowden is proving one thing, it’s this: in 2013, Planet Earth isn’t big enough to protect the American version of “dissidents.” Instead, it looks ever more like a giant prison with a single implacable policeman, judge, jury, and jailer.

Deterrence Theory the Second Time Around

In the Cold War years, the two nuclear-armed superpowers practiced what was called “deterrence theory,” or more aptly MAD, short for “mutually assured destruction.” Think of it as the particularly grim underside of what might have been but wasn’t called MAA (mutually assured asylum). The knowledge that no nuclear first strike by one superpower could succeed in preventing the other from striking back with overwhelming force, destroying them both (and possibly the planet) seemed, however barely, to hold their enmity and weaponry at bay. It forced them to fight their wars, often by proxy, on the global frontiers of empire.

Now, with but one superpower left, another kind of deterrence theory has come into play. Crucial to our era is the ongoing creation of the first global surveillance state. In the Obama years, the sole superpower has put special effort into deterring anyone in its labyrinthine bureaucracy who shows a desire to let us know what “our” government is doing in our name.

The Obama administration’s efforts to stop whistleblowers are becoming legendary. It has launched an unprecedented program to specially train millions of employees and contractors to profile coworkers for “indicators of insider threat behavior.” They are being encouraged to inform on any “high-risk persons” they suspect might be planning to go public. Administration officials have also put much punitive energy into making examples out of whistleblowers who have tried to reveal anything of the inner workings of the national security complex.

In this way, the Obama administration has more than doubled the total whistleblower prosecutions of all previous administrations combined under the draconian World War I-era Espionage Act. It has also gone after Army Private Bradley Manning for releasing secret military and State Department files to WikiLeaks, not only attempting to put him away for life for “aiding the enemy,” but subjecting him to particularly vindictive and abusive treatment while in military prison. In addition, it has threatened journalists who have written on or published leaked material and gone on expeditions into the telephone and email records of major media organizations.

All of this adds up to a new version of deterrence thinking in which a potential whistleblower should know that he or she will experience a lifetime of suffering for leaking anything; in which those, even in the highest reaches of government, who consider speaking to journalists on classified subjects should know that their calls could be monitored and their whispers criminalized; and in which the media should know that reporting on such subjects is not a healthy activity.

This sort of deterrence already seemed increasingly extreme in nature; the response to Snowden's revelations took it to a new level. Though the U.S. government pursued WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange abroad (while reportedly preparing to indict him at home), the other whistleblower cases might all be considered national security ones. The manhunt against Snowden is something new. Through it, Washington is now punitively expanding twenty-first century deterrence theory to the world.

The message is this: nowhere will you be safe from us if you breach U.S. secrecy. Snowden’s will surely be a case study in how far the new global security state is willing to go. And the answer is already in: far indeed. We just don’t yet know exactly how far.

How to Down a Plane to (Not) Catch a Whistleblower

In this light, no incident has been more revealing than the downing of the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales, the democratically elected head of a sovereign Latin American nation, and not an official enemy of the United States. Angry Bolivian authorities termed it a "kidnapping" or "imperialist hijack." It was, at the least, an act for which it’s hard to imagine a precedent.

Evidently officials in Washington believed that the plane bringing the Bolivian president back from Moscow was also carrying Snowden. As a result, the U.S. seems to have put enough pressure on four European countries (France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy) to force that plane to land for refueling in a fifth country (Austria). There -- again, U.S. pressure seems to have been the crucial factor -- it was searched under disputed circumstances and Snowden not found.

So much is not known about what happened, in part because there has been no serious reporting from Washington on the subject. The U.S. media has largely ignored the American role in the downing of the plane, an incident regularly described here as if the obvious hadn’t happened. This may, at least in part, be the result of the Obama administration’s implacable pursuit of whistleblowers and leakers right into the phone records of reporters. The government has made such a point of its willingness to pursue whistleblowers via journalists that, as Associated Press President Gary Pruitt recently pointed out, national security sources are drying up. Key figures in Washington are scared to talk even off the record (now that “off” turns out to be potentially very “on”). And the Justice Department’s new "tighter" guildelines for accessing reporters’ records are clearly filled with loopholes and undoubtedly little more than window dressing.

Still, it’s reasonable to imagine that when Morales's plane took off from Moscow there were top U.S. officials gathered in a situation room (à la the bin Laden affair), that the president was in the loop, and that the intelligence people said something like: we have an 85% certainty that Snowden is on that plane. Obviously, the decision was made to bring it down and enough pressure was placed on key officials in those five countries to cause them to bow to Washington's will.

One can certainly imagine that, but know it? At the moment, not a chance and, unlike in the raid that killed bin Laden, a triumphant situation-room photo hasn't been released, since there was, of course, no triumph. Many questions arise. Why, to mention just one, did Washington not allow Morales’s plane to land for refueling in Portugal, as originally planned, and simply strong-arm the Portuguese into searching it? As with so much else, we don’t know.

We only know that, to bring five countries into line that way, the pressure from Washington (or its local representatives) must have been intense. Put another way: key officials in those countries must have realized quickly that they stood in the way of a truly powerful urge by the planet's superpower to get one fugitive. It was an urge so strong that it overrode any other tactical considerations, and so opened the way for Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua to offer asylum to Snowden with the support of much of the rest of Latin America.

Imagine for a moment that an American president’s plane had been brought down in a similar fashion. Imagine that a consortium of nations pressured by, say, China or Russia, did it and that, with the president aboard, it was then searched for a Chinese or Soviet “dissident.” Imagine the reaction here. Imagine the shock. Imagine the accusations of “illegality,” of "skyjacking," of “international terrorism.” Imagine the 24/7 media coverage. Imagine the information pouring out of Washington about what would no doubt have been termed "an act of war."

Of course, such a scenario is inconceivable on this one-way planet. So instead, just think about the silence here over the Morales incident, the lack of coverage, the lack of reporting, the lack of outrage, the lack of shock, the lack of... well, just about anything at all.

Instead, the twenty-first-century version of deterrence theory ruled the day, even though Snowden is the proof that deterrence via manhunts, prosecution, imprisonment, and the like has proven ineffective when it comes to leaks. It’s worth pointing out that what may be the two largest leaks of official documents in history -- Bradley Manning’s and Snowden’s -- happened in a country increasingly under the sway of deterrence theory.

Slouching Toward Washington to Be Born

And yet don’t think that no one has been affected, no one intimidated. Consider, for instance, a superior piece of recent reporting by Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times. His front-page story, “In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of NSA,” might once have sent shock waves through Washington and perhaps the country as well. It did, after all, reveal how, in “more than a dozen classified rulings,” a secret FISA court, which oversees the American surveillance state, “has created a secret body of law” giving the NSA sweeping new powers.

Here’s the paragraph that should have had Americans jumping out of their skins (my italics added): “The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.”

At most moments in American history, the revelation that such a secret court, which never turns down government requests, is making law “almost” at the level of the Supreme Court would surely have caused an outcry in Congress and elsewhere. However, there was none, a sign either of how powerful and intimidating the secret world has become or of how much Congress and the rest of Washington have already been absorbed into it.

No less strikingly -- and again, we know so little that it’s necessary to read between the lines -- Lichtblau indicates that more than six “current and former national security officials,” perhaps disturbed by the expanding powers of the FISA court, discussed its classified rulings "on the condition of anonymity.” Assumedly, at least one of them (or someone else) leaked the classified information about that court to him.

Fittingly enough, Lichtblau wrote a remarkably anonymous piece. Given that sources no longer have any assurance that phone and email records aren’t being or won't be monitored, we have no idea how these shadowy figures got in touch with him or vice versa. All we know is that, even when shining a powerful light into the darkness of the surveillance universe, American journalism now finds itself plunging into the shadows as well.

What both the Morales incident and the Lichtblau article tell us, and what we’ve barely taken in, is how our American world is changing. In the Cold War years, faced with a MAD world, both superpowers ventured “into the shadows” to duke it out in their global struggle. As in so many wars, sooner or later the methods used in distant lands came home to haunt us. In the twenty-first century, without another major power in sight, the remaining superpower has made those “shadows” its own in a big way. Just beyond the view of the rest of us, it began recreating its famed tripartite, checks-and-balances government, now more than two centuries old, in a new form. There, in those shadows, the executive, judicial, and legislative branches began to meld into a unicameral shadow government, part of a new architecture of control that has nothing to do with “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Such a shadow government placing its trust in secret courts and the large-scale surveillance of populations, its own included, while pursuing its secret desires globally was just the sort of thing that the country’s founding fathers feared. In the end, it hardly matters under what label -- including American “safety” and “security” -- such a governing power is built; sooner or later, the architecture will determine the acts, and it will become more tyrannical at home and more extreme abroad. Welcome to the world of the single rogue superpower, and thank your lucky stars that Edward Snowden made the choices he did.

It’s eerie that some aspects of the totalitarian governments that went down for the count in the twentieth century are now being recreated in those shadows. There, an increasingly “totalistic” if not yet totalitarian beast, its hour come round at last, is slouching toward Washington to be born, while those who cared to shine a little light on the birth process are in jail or being hounded across this planet.

We have now experienced deterrence theory in two centuries. Once it was brought to bear to stop the wholesale destruction of the planet; once -- and they do say that if the first time is tragedy, the second is farce -- to deter a small number of whistleblowers from revealing the innards of our new global security state. We came close enough to total tragedy once. If only we could be assured that the second time around it would indeed be total farce, but at the moment, as far as I can tell, no one’s laughing.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture (just published in a Kindle edition), runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

[Note: Special thanks go to Irena Gross who sparked my thinking about American "dissidents" and this prison planet of ours.]

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Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt