Saturday, January 02, 2016

Pennsylvania Prisons' Denial of Inmate Medical Treatment a "Stunning Barbarity"

PA Prison System Admits Secret 'Protocol' Denies Hep-C Treatment to All But Prisoners Near Death: Judge to rule next month on Mumia challenge to non-treatment policy

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

January 1, 2016

Following three days of contentious testimony in a courtroom in Scranton, PA late last month, a federal district judge is considering a legal petition by Pennsylvania's most well-known prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal for a finding that the state's long-running refusal to treat his active case of Hepatitis-C, a potentially fatal disease, violates his Eighth Amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Abolitionist Law Center Legal
Director, Bret Grote

Over the past 16 months Abu-Jamal has suffered an array of symptoms and ailments, from a serious skin condition to diabetes that witnesses at trial testified were symptomatic of and likely caused by an active case of Hep-C. It's an infection the state has known him to have in his body since a blood screening test taken in 2012 when he was first transferred off of death row and placed into a general population prison following the overturning of his 1982 death sentence.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) tried initially to prevent the hearing, claiming that Abu-Jamal had not "exhausted" the department's grievance procedures, and that his complaint about non-treatment was defective, for example because he had not explicitly named all of the doctors who had seen him. but Judge Robert Mariani was dismissive of those dilatory arguments and after rejecting them, ordered that the hearing on the injunction go forward.

During subsequent testimony by several DOC witnesses, including executives from Corizon, the controversial private Tennessee-based contracting firm that is supposed to provide medical services to the state's prisons, and from the DOC itself, it was revealed that for 22 months until last November, the state DOC had no guidelines for treating the raging Hep-C epidemic that afflicts as many as a quarter of the state's prison inmates. It was also disclosed that the DOC attorney, Laura Neal, had in her possession at the defense table a copy of a new treatment "protocol" drawn up in November, which the state had not even informed the court or Mumia's attorneys existed. She said she had planned to use the document in questioning her witness, but had not intended to enter it into evidence.

When Mumia's attorneys Bret Grote and Robert Boyle, and the judge, asked for a copy of that document, Neal sought to keep it sealed, ultimately explaining that the DOC didn't want it to be disclosed publicly for fear that it would be used by another legal team that is currently pursuing a class action suit in a court in Pittsburgh against the DOC on behalf of all inmates in the state with Hep-C.

Again the judge was unsympathetic and ordered the document released immediately. (See illustration).

Sceen shot of portion of the DOC's secret Hep-C (non-)treatment 
protocol, ordered made public by a federal court in Scranton

That document proved to be stunning in its callous barbarity. As Mumia's attorney Grote explained in an interview last Wednesday on's weekly "This Can't Be Happening!" radio program [1], the DOC's new Hep-C treatment protocol states that the department "won't consider treatment until there is evidence of advanced cirrhosis...permanent irreversable organ damage that carries with it the risk of death." He went on to say the protocol then adds a second hurdle before treatment: "They require an endoscopy looking for something called esophageal varices...a condition where the blood vessels of the esophagus are literally about to burst. If there's no esophageal varicies, they continue to refuse Hep-C treatment and just say to test for esophageal varices again in another three years."

Asked how many of the state's reported 6-7,000 prison inmates with active Hep-C cases were currently receiving treatment with new medications that are known to be almost 95% effective at curing the life-threatening disease, a state's witness testified that there were just "four or five" inmates receiving treatment.

It was a stunning admission that the state is simply unwilling to provide a medically necessary treatment to cure what is a raging epidemic among its prison population, because of the estimated $85,000 per inmate cost of treatment.

Yet as Grote points out, each prisoner like Abu-Jamal who has an active Hep-C infection will end up costing the state far more than the $85-$100.,000 cost of the medicine for the 12-week cure. Abu-Jamal, alone, with his tests and hospitalizations over the past few months has cost the state well in excess of $100,000, according to Grote, and meanwhile, nothing has been done to treat his underlying Hepatitis infection.

Abolitionist Law Center Legal Director Bret Grote, one of the attorneys handling Mumia Abu-Jamal' federal petition demanding treatment for his Hep-C case.

"I'm not easily shocked by the Pennsylvania DOC," says Grote, whose Abolitionist Law Center focuses on challenging prison abuses in the state, "but this is a return to the colonizers and imperialists who viewed their colonial subjects as so subhuman that such sick treatment is considered okay. Their protocol is not a treatment protocol, it's a protocol not to treat the sickest, with four or five exceptions, and these are left unexplained."

Grote says that the state is operating "a death panel like conservatives were saying was in Obamacare, only this is a real death panel (called the Hepatitis C Treatment Committee), composoed of a few DOC executives and a few people from Corizon."

During cross examination Dr. Jay Cowan, head of the Corizon subsidiary which provides physicians and nurses at the state's prison clinics, who testified at the hearing as a witness for the DOC, was asked by Abu-Jamal attorney Boyle what he would prescribe to a private patient who came to him with a case of Hep-C. "I would advise him to take the new medication," he said, "assuming he could pay for it."

That, in effect, is the state of Pennsylvania's position on treatment of the prison's Hepatitis-C epidemic: effective treatment that could effectively eliminate this destructive disease (which just killed singer Natalie Cole earlier this week), but Pennsylvania doesn't want to spend the estimated $100 million it might cost to treat infected inmates -- even though treating them for advanced cirrhosis and other complications certain to afflict many of them over time will end up costing the state and the taxpayer even more, not to mention all the unnecessary suffering caused to those affected. (Nor will the state allow outside family or supporters to provide for the treatment by offering to raise the funds to pay for it.)

Grote notes that this is not a position adopted by all states. Some, such as the state of Washington, are providing current advanced Hep-C medication to prisoners who have active infections, and in some European countries, prisoners are treated with the new medications even when they show inactive infection with the virus.

Grote says Judge Mariana advised at the conclusion of the three-day hearing that he was putting Abu-Jamal's injunction petition at the top of his list of cases to act on, which means a decision is likely next month. He says depending upon how the judge rules, it could have a major impact not just on Abu-Jamal's own treatment, but also on other prisoners in the system with Hepatitis-C. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, one of several restrictive court procedure laws passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, federal judges are required in prisoner lawsuits over their conditions of confinement to keep their rulings as narrow as possible. But even so, clearly a finding that non-treatment of an active Hep-C infection violates the US Constitution's Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment, even if just issued at a district court level, would offer a strong argument for treatment in cases filed on behalf of other prisoners.

It would certainly provide strong support for the current class action case being brought in a court in Pittsburgh, as well as in other such class action cases being brought in other states.

Link: [1]

Friday, January 01, 2016

Voices from Kabul's Duvet Project

Notes from Kabul

by Carolyn Coe - VCNV

They have descended from homes built on the mountainside. Women sit together in the cemetery not to mourn but to wait for the duvet distribution to begin.

When I approach them, each woman extends a hand in greeting. Some have the needed small stamped pieces of paper to receive two duvets but most don’t.

One of the women tells me about the pain in her chest, her legs. She talks about the war. I listen to all the manifestations of her suffering. I understand only a handful of words but as she clasps my hand, I know she wants my help in receiving a pair of duvets, too.

I tell her I don’t make any decisions here. It is the elder representative of the neighborhood who determines who receives the quilted bed covers. Standing with the women, I say I’m sorry I’m sorry. All other words fail me.

Someone calls me over to the truck as the distribution will soon begin. In the Afghan gesture of greeting and leave-taking, I place my right hand over my heart and say goodbye.

A balloon seller approaches. A boy wheels a cart of apples nearby. Where a crowd gathers, there’s a potential sale, but no one buys. So the sellers observe the scene as I do. Colorful duvets, like clouds enveloping the bearers, seem to float by. I take a photo of a pair of girls. They become my shadow, following me and requesting more pictures.

The truck piled high with duvets is in a narrow gated car park. Perhaps two times as many people arrive as have the needed pieces of paper. The crowd presses towards the open gate, hoping. I observe one of the volunteers at work.

Abdulhai has just finished 12th grade and is one of the founding members of the Afghan Peace Volunteers with a gift for crowd control. Instead of pushing the crowd back with outward facing palms, he smiles and snaps his fingers so the children laugh. He speaks kindly and softly. Both children and adults stop trying to edge forward, at least while he’s there. Their shoulders visibly relax. Some return smiles.

It isn’t that they want to be there, Abdulhai says a couple nights later about those who show up without a ticket. The people are desperate. Understanding without judgment seems the key to Abdulhai’s gentle effectiveness.


Safeh is one of 60 women sewing for this winter’s duvet project of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

Safeh Zakira says she wants to continue sewing. Before this work, she would sometimes break the shells of almonds, using the shells as fuel. I wonder how much heat such shells can generate, then learn her family also heats with coal. She lifts her hands. They are covered in coal dust.

Her husband is a day laborer, laying mud on walls. Most days he can’t find work. When he does work, his average pay is 300 Afghanis a day, but in the winter he earns less, 200 Afghanis. So many are seeking work that employers take advantage of the situation. Officially, Afghanistan has 40% unemployment. The unofficial estimate is higher: more than 80%.

Safeh Zakira’s family lives in a rented home that costs 2,500 Afghanis a month. They also pay for water, 500-1,000 a month. I think about her coal-covered hands, the cost of water.

Along with the finished duvets, she arrived today with a bag of the remainder material. (The cover fabric, polyester stuffing and thread were all issued about a week earlier.) I remark on this act of returning the extra stuffing. Honesty is important, she says.

Safeh Zakira learned about the duvet project from her neighbor. She asked where this place was and took the initiative to come and ask to be involved. A team of Afghan Peace Volunteers visited her home to survey her home situation and gave her employment.

Another woman, standing nearby, explains she was hoping to sew, too, but when she got here, she learned the project is already full. Ali, a student volunteer, took her name so that the volunteers can help her in some other way. She will receive a duvet. I worry about the investment in taxi fare as she traveled for an hour. Fortunately, the fare is by trip, not by the number of passengers, so she didn’t lose money. Safeh Zakira is given money for transportation as well as for the sewing, and the women traveled together.

Safeh Zakira tells me she hopes there will always be work for her, not just with this winter’s duvet project. What the people need, she says, is work so that they can provide for their family.


Aaron Hughes, of Iraq Veterans against the War, leads a pair of art workshops.

The workshop has two rules.

  • First, if you get paint on your fingers, you can’t touch your clothes.
  • Second, there is no mixing of colors, so a potato dipped into the red paint shouldn’t later be dipped in the green or orange paint.
Rule two is blissfully ignored.

Not following the rules is how they have survived, Hakim says.

Twenty-some child laborers have joined the afternoon workshop. One boy shows me the design he has printed from potatoes cut into the shape a leaf and a star. The boy names his flower design in English and asks me how it is.

Maqbool, I answer. Beautiful.

Later, he approaches me holding a relief print in each hand, eager for more praise.

Listen for the chuh-chuh-chuh, Aaron says, imitating the sound the roller makes when it is sucking up blue paint. He directs Imam, another boy at the street kids school, to make sure the roller catches the corners of the linoleum. Imam’s eyes brighten as he lifts the paper to reveal his self portrait.

In less than an hour, the children have gone through one hundred sheets of paper, which they’ve spread out on the grass to dry. A few girls and boys walk between the designs, leaning over to pick some up for a closer look before turning their gaze to others. It is as if they are smelling flowers.

Carolyn Coe is part of a Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( delegation to visit the Afghan Peace Volunteers ( in Kabul. She lives in Maine.

photo caption 1: Bearing quilted bed covers, Afghans walk through the cemetery to their mountainside homes.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Richard Cohen: Maintaining a Perfectly Perverse Punditry Record at the Wash. Post

Dangerous Punditry on Syria

by Paul R. Pillar - Consortium News

December 30, 2015

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has built a long record of getting nearly every major issue wrong...but still eagerly dispenses the latest conventional wisdom emerging from Official Washington’s misguided “group thinks,” as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar noticed regarding Syria. 

Ill-fated U.S. military adventures abroad have had various fathers, even though some of those fathers have tried to disavow paternity once the problems became apparent.

Neoconservatives figure prominently in this story, especially given that one of the most costly misadventures in recent times, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was a distinctly neocon project.

But even with that project, the neocon promoters of the war had to manufacture a rationale that tapped into another strain of sentiment that has helped to lead to such misadventures: the fear of terrorist or other attacks against the United States itself.

Yet another paternal line is liberal interventionism, which distinguishes itself from both the terrorism-related fears and the neocon objective of spreading democracy and free market values by focusing on the humanitarian objective of saving foreign lives overseas.

All three of these dimensions — democratization, counterterrorism and humanitarianism — are figuring prominently in current rhetoric about use of U.S. military force in the Middle East and especially Syria. Collectively all three dimensions have been creating substantial political pressure in favor of use of more such force than the Obama administration has used to date.

A representative of the liberal interventionist school — and of some of the worst errors of that school — is Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. Although questions certainly can be raised about whether Cohen merits the label of liberal and whether the Post is justified in considering him a “left-leaning” columnist, Cohen himself endeavors to distinguish himself from schools of thought more associated with the political right, whether such distinctions are justified or not.

Lately Cohen has been lashing out at President Obama regarding the use, or non-use, of military force in Syria. Cohen repeatedly insists that the United States needs “to do more” there militarily. He seems to have less concern about exactly what form more military action should take or how such action would work, except to try to dispel any perception that whatever he has in mind is anything like the previous administration’s costly misadventure in Iraq.

In a column earlier this month, Cohen wrote, “George W. Bush’s war was a lesson to us all. But from the start of the Syrian crisis, no one sane was proposing to do it all over again. Instead, the proposal was to intervene early and attempt to avoid the bloodbath and humanitarian calamity that have resulted.”

The column refers again later to “the proposal,” but the reader is left to guess what “the proposal” consists of, other than that it somehow means “to do more” than what the United States is doing militarily now.

In a column three weeks later, Cohen said “nobody of consequence ever publicly proposed putting substantial numbers of U.S. service members in the Middle East.” In doing so he had to exclude explicitly former Republican presidential nominee and current Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, as well as Senator Lindsey Graham (and Cohen really should have mentioned others as well) from his assertions about what sane and consequential people have or have not been proposing.

Finally in the same column we learn what “the proposal” is: according to Cohen, it consists of “establishing a no-fly zone to ground Assad’s gunships and maybe taking a shot or two at a key government installation.”

The concept of a no-fly zone — or rather, just the term “no-fly zone” — has become a popular way to call for more use of military force while not arguing in favor of a new ground war and also making it sound as if the caller has a specific and well-conceived proposal even if he doesn’t. Like many others who have flown the term “no fly-zone,” Cohen offers no details about what such an operation would entail, and he gives no indication that he has ever bothered to think about such details.

Despite the salience of barrel bombs that Syrian regime forces have dropped from helicopters, most of the bloodshed the regime has caused has come from ground operations, including the pummeling of urban neighborhoods with ground-based artillery. A no-fly zone can be a useful way to help protect a well-established and friendly force on the ground from attacks by a hostile air force, as has been true in the past in Iraqi Kurdistan, but that is not the situation in Syria at all.

Who would control the ground below a no-fly zone in Syria? If it isn’t the Syrian regime’s army, or a substantial Western ground force, who is it? One of those ghost-like forces of armed Syrian “moderates”? Or maybe the Al-Nusra Front? Or worst of all, maybe ISIS — which does not have an air force and which Cohen, astoundingly, does not even mention in his column, apart from a passing reference to past activity in Iraq. Such an omission represents an incredibly myopic way for anyone to address any question of security policy in Syria today.

Cohen indulges in another favorite tactic of those who want to fulminate about current policy toward Syria without having to offer any effective alternative: to assert that if only a different policy had been pursued earlier, vast problems would have been avoided. Cohen writes that if his “proposal” had been adopted “early on,” then “upward of 300,000 Syrian deaths” and the displacement of millions of refugees might have been avoided.

But like many others who have pushed this counterfactual hypothesis, he offers no reason to believe that the factors that have made the Syrian war a bloody mess would have been any less relevant and less consequential a couple of years ago than they are now. There would have been the same differences and distrust between the Syria regime and the majority of the Syrian population, the same sectarian divisions, the same weaknesses and disadvantages of “moderates” in an environment of civil warfare, the same multiple and intersecting lines of conflict, and the same political culture that underlies the entire mess.

The counterfactual has become a screen that hides a lack of analysis. And it is comically absurd to suggest that “maybe taking a shot or two at a government installation” would have helped to save lives numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

For liberal interventionists, a big black mark that somehow needs to be explained away is the Western intervention in Libya, a case where the liberal/humanitarian interventionist viewpoint did, at least for a moment, drive policy of the Obama administration. Post-intervention Libya has been sustained chaos in which many lives have been lost and threatened not only directly in a continued civil war but also through spillover effects of the chaos.

Men and materiel from post-Gaddafi Libya have been factors in terrorism and violence across much of North Africa and the Middle East, and Libya is the place outside Iraq and Syria where ISIS today can most plausibly claim an organizational presence and not just an inspirational one. And all this is in addition to the awful message that was sent to other rogue regimes when Western governments seized an opportunity to overthrow a leader who, through a peaceful negotiated agreement, had given up his unconventional weapons programs and his involvement in international terrorism.

Cohen repeats the oft-voiced claim that the intervention precluded what would have been certain genocide in eastern Libya. No matter how often this claim gets repeated, there still is not reason to believe it. Muammar Gaddafi certainly made clear he wanted to deal harshly with those who had taken up arms against his regime, but there is nothing else in what he said, and more importantly in what he did, to suggest that a broader genocide was imminent.

Gaddafi had been in power four decades, and he had plenty of opportunity to perpetrate genocide if he had wanted to, including in earlier stages of the revolt that was in progress at the time of the intervention.

Regarding Libya, Cohen takes pains to explain that we should not confuse his point of view with that of regime-changing neocons. Regime change and democratization were not the purpose of the intervention in Libya, he says. Well, that’s right in terms of what the Obama administration and other Western governments publicly declared as their purpose, but what else besides regime change, practically and logically, could have been the end game of this operation?

If Gaddafi really was, in Cohen’s words, a “psychopath” and “madman” who was bent on genocide, how could things end just by stopping a regime advance on one battle front west of Benghazi? How could the story end and the West even begin to claim success for its operation unless it meant, thanks to the Western air attacks on regime forces, the collapsing of the regime’s position until someone shot the dictator in a ditch?

On the Libya issue, Cohen endeavors to defend Hillary Clinton against criticisms from her primary opponent Bernie Sanders. The defense is centered on the notion of how the intervention was supposedly about preventing genocide and not about regime change, but Cohen also strangely likens Sanders to, of all people, Ted Cruz.

In the Cohen version, the positions of Sanders and Cruz on Libya, and of both of them as well as Barack Obama on Syria, consist of a “do nothing” approach that pays insufficient attention to the lives of non-Americans. One wonders on what planet Cohen has been residing while all the rhetoric about Syria has been filling American airwaves in recent months, given that Cruz’s most distinctive proposal about military force in Syria has been to call for “carpet bombing.” That certainly doesn’t sound like Bernie Sanders, or like Barack Obama for that matter, even if Cruz was talking about targeting ISIS rather than the Assad regime.

Cohen has an inconsistent way of weighing the lives of Americans and non-Americans, depending on what argument he is trying to make. In some places he takes off his international humanitarian hat and seems to place a much higher value on American lives, as when he notes that “no Americans died in the Libyan bombing campaign” while saying nothing about the deadly post-intervention chaos. Or when he writes, with Syria particularly and unrealistically in mind, of the need to intervene to “at little or no cost to us in American lives.”

But elsewhere in the same columns he seems to put that hat back on and not give any preferred consideration to American lives. He knocks Mr. Obama for the estimates the President gave in a recent meeting with journalists about likely American casualties that would result from expanded ground operations in the Middle East. He even knocks the President for talking about his visits at Walter Reed Hospital with maimed veterans who have lost limbs and of how the prospect of ordering troops into battle and leading to more such casualties has to weigh heavily on the decisions of any incumbent president.

Cohen’s comment about this is, “Life presents mean choices. Limbs were lost in Paris, too.”

That last comment suggests a comparison between casualties from international terrorism and those from military operations that have been conducted in the name of combating terrorism, although if Cohen did the math he might not like the result. (Then again, maybe he wouldn’t care, given how his recent writing on Syria has been as narrowly focused on combating the Assad regime, to the exclusion of any concern with ISIS or terrorism, as the most narrow-minded Sunni Gulf Arab.)

Even the death toll of the granddaddy of all international terrorist incidents, 9/11, was surpassed by American deaths in the Iraq War, which post-9/11 public alarm about terrorism had made politically possible.

One last observation about the Iraq War and Cohen. Despite his striving to distinguish himself from neocons, and despite his distancing-himself reference to “George W. Bush’s Iraq war,” Cohen clearly has not learned lessons from that war.

Cohen supported the invasion of Iraq. Later after the war went sour, he like many others who had supported the invasion used an “if only I had known” excuse to try to explain away that support. But like many of those others, including many Congressional Democrats who had voted in favor of the war resolution, getting bamboozled by the Bush administration’s public rationale for the war was not the reason they supported it.

In Cohen’s case, he explicitly recognized before the war how flimsy that rationale was, but nonetheless still supported launching the war. His pre-war position directly contradicted his later effort to make excuses.

In a column shortly before the invasion in March 2003, Cohen wrote, “I grant you that in the run-up to this war, the Bush administration has slipped, stumbled and fallen on its face. It has advanced untenable, unproven arguments. It has oscillated from disarmament to regime change to bringing democracy to the Arab world. It has linked Hussein with al Qaeda when no such link has been established. It has warned of an imminent Iraqi nuclear program when, it seems, that’s not the case.” And yet, said Cohen, war was necessary because “sometimes peace is no better.”

Underlying this position was one of the worst attributes of liberal interventionism, which is a compulsion to make big gestures, including very costly and destructive gestures, basically because while seeing bad things going on in the world it gives one a warm feeling in the tummy to make such gestures against the bad things, regardless of how sound or unsound is the logical case for doing so and regardless of how costly or ineffective the results may be.

To the extent Barack Obama is receiving brickbats from the likes of Richard Cohen for not falling into this line of thinking, or rather of emoting, he is serving the country well.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

Zombie US Oil Drillers: Keeping At It, Despite Bankruptcy

Deepwater Looks Shaky In 2016


Is it over yet? 2015 will certainly go down as the worst year for energy stocks since 2008 – that is unless 2016 beats it for misery. Looking at certain sub-sectors, like off-shore drilling, 2016 could unbelievably make 2015 look tame.

We always knew that the bust cycle in oil prices was going to bring a lot of bad times for energy stocks – but no one imagined such carnage, even among the strongest names. I have been focusing on what I have called 'the survivors' and trying to find value in the shares of names like EOG Resources (EOG), Cimarex (XEC) and Hess (HES). With off-shore drillers, I've imagined even more awful times ahead, but took a speculative shot with Seadrill (SDRL), looking down the road two years at the inevitable rebound in deepwater drilling.

But the resilience of many of the unconventional drillers has unexpectedly extended the timeline in this oil bust cycle, catching me by surprise. We're operating inside this insane Catch-22: Oil prices can't get constructive until the U.S. and other non-OPEC producers start to trim their outputs, yet oil companies continue to use efficiency gains and top line spending cuts to stay in the game and maintain production. Oil prices stay low, and drift lower. 2016 will not be happy, at least for the first several quarters.

It gets worse: Oil companies have pushed their debt deftly down the curve, with only a tiny number of high-yielding issues coming due and requiring refinancing this coming year, promising an even more extended period of financial life support. We've seen the wild outcome of a few of the 'early' bankruptcies in U.S. independents: Both Quicksilver Resources and Magnum Hunter have seen their common shares go to zero and been forced to declare Chapter 11, but have also been ordered to continue operations pending break-up or other restructuring.

Even bankruptcy, it seems, can't slow U.S. production much.

Look, with spending cut to the bone and core wells being run dry with few wells being drilled to take their place, the “Red Queen” of shale production (running as fast as you can to stay in the same place) will most certainly hit a very firm wall, and it will hit it sometime in 2016, of that I'm sure.

But that initial, massive drop in production from unconventional shale may not come in time to save off-shore players – including possibly Seadrill. We've seen this week, for example, the cancellation from Shell (RDS.A) of the remaining time of Transocean's (RIG) Polar Pioneer contract. There was little surprise in this move as the first exploratory Arctic well came up disappointedly empty, and Shell had already withstood a massive environmental pushback in the Arctic. With several other timing missteps from Shell with regards to the oil and gas market (think BG Group merger), it’s no surprise that Polar Pioneer was given back.

And while RIG will be made whole for the contract time, it does go to a point about offshore in general: Almost all of the time options on current deepwater rigs contracts are being refused by the E+P's. More and more rigs are going idle, and remain uncontracted further into the future.

As the timeline of destruction gets longer, so do the chances of full-scale default in the deepwater sector. While I had been hoping for a resurgence of offshore contracts in late 2017, it now is possible that the cycle won't find a turnaround until perhaps 2019 or 2020.

Wow – that makes the risk of holding Transocean (RIG), Noble (NE) or my beloved Seadrill positively depressing.

At current prices, I cannot recommend a sale of Seadrill – it was always a speculative play that I budgeted for possibly going to zero, and I'm willing to let that play out. And I am definitely not looking for any double-up or averaging of basis prices, either. In fact, it seems certain that both RIG and Noble will see single digit prices in 2016 and Seadrill will sink below 3, if not flirt with the same chapter 11 fate of both Quicksilver and Magnum Hunter.

And in that, if it's any consolation, they certainly won't be alone in the coming year.

Orwell Speaks from the Grave (Well Down Under Anyway)

A Message from George Orwell: your digital rights

by TheJuice 

Hello Juicers. Unlike you, George Orwell became highly impatient with the hiatus on the channel and so he made me upload this special announcement about the Internet and your online rights… which he wants you all to heed very, very carefully.

  NB. Despite being a ‘spin-off’, this is not a RAP NEWS video! Apologies in advance to anyone who may feel bitterly, even mortally disappointed by that. Despite this, I hope you find the video promising of things to come on the channel. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If enough peeps don’t hate on this, I might make more of these in 2016…

Speaking of 2016, my best wishes to all you fellow Juicers for a healthy and fulfilling new year.

* Written by Giordano Nanni.
* Savvy script consultants: D-bot Rawlinson, Adso Ferguson, Jacob Appelbaum.
* George Torwell performed by Giordano; voice performed by Adso Ferguson.
* Music composed by Adrian Sergovich and The Goat Beats (edited version of the RN15 soundtrack).
* Lucy Cahill wielded the camera, directed and assisted with production in her awesome way.
* Special thanks to peeps at the Tor Project for instigating and supporting the production of this video
* English captions created by Koolfy from http://nurpa.beSUPPORT THEJUICEMEDIA: This is an independent, crowd-funded channel – meaning, it relies on your support. Please consider supporting future content in the following ways:
* You can become a patron of the Juice on Patreon
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ICYMI: George Torwell first appeared via the Juice Channeling Portal in 2012, 

Penultima: Day of Lamentation

December 30th: Day of Lamentation

by Gideon Polya - MWC News

MWC News' senior editor and humanitarian American scholar Professor William Cook has proposed 30 December as a Day of Lamentation to record the 21st century’s ongoing evils of which the worst are existentially threatening nuclear weapons, poverty that kills 17 million people annually, and man-made climate change that threatens to kill all but 0.5 billion of Humanity.

However 31 December is New Year’s Eve on which we make New Year’s Resolutions, and we can resolve to help stop the evils of Apartheid, state crime, state terrorism, non-state terrorism, nuclear terrorism, corporate terrorism, carbon terrorism, and climate terrorism by Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all disproportionately complicit politicians, corporations and countries.

In his book “Age of Fools”, American professor of English, Professor William Cook, has passionately exposed and condemned the state crimes of Neocon- and Zionist-dominated Apartheid America and of US-backed Apartheid Israel that are continuing unabated in the 21st century, a century that all decent people had hoped might finally be a century of peace, justice and respect for Humanity and the Biosphere. William Cook proposes that the penultimate day of the year – 30 December – be a Day of Lamentation to record these evils.

In 2007 Professor John Holdren , then President of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and subsequently the senior advisor to President Barack Obama on science and technology issues, identified nuclear weapons, poverty and climate change as 3 key threats to humanity. As reported by AAAS: “Challenges such as poverty, climate change and nuclear proliferation pose global risks that require scientists and engineers to join with political and business leaders in a concerted search for solutions, AAAS President John P. Holdren said Thursday. In his Presidential Address at the AAAS Annual Meeting, Holdren described a world poised at an unprecedented moment of decision: Without swift and urgent action, he said, the problems could spiral toward disastrous, permanent changes for all of life on Earth”.

Unfortunately the “swift and urgent action” recommended by Professor John Holdren is simply not happening, leaving the world at acute risk from state terrorism via nuclear terrorism, corporate terrorism, carbon terrorism and climate terrorism as outlined below.

a. Nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism. A nuclear exchange would wipe out most of Humanity (current population about 7 billion), successively through the initial instantaneous destruction of cities, subsequent deaths from burns and radiation sickness from radioactive fallout, and finally through a “Nuclear Winter” decimating agriculture, photosynthesis and photosynthate-based life in general. This is state terrorism and nuclear terrorism threatening extinction of Humanity and most of the Biosphere. While imposing deadly Sanctions on Iran (that has zero nuclear weapons and repeatedly states that it does not want nuclear weapons and wants a nuclear weapons-free Middle East), the US (7,315 nuclear weapons) is boosting its nuclear and conventional forces in Asia and Australia and continues to pour billions of dollars of military aid into the war criminal, genocidal racist, ethnic cleansing and nuclear terrorist rogue state of Apartheid Israel that reportedly has up to 400 nuclear weapons.

The upper estimates of stored nuclear weapons are as follows: US (7,315), Russia (8,000), Apartheid Israel (400), France (300), UK (250), China (250), Pakistan (120), India (100), and North Korea (less than 10). India, Pakistan and North Korea have not ratified the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Nuclear exchanges have almost occurred accidentally several times in the last half century and in several instances have only been averted by the sane actions of particular courageous and humane individuals who declined to press the button for global destruction e.g. Commander Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov (in 1962) and Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (in 1983).

b. Poverty and neoliberalism-driven corporate terrorism. UN Population Division data indicate that about 17 million people already die avoidably each year from deprivation in Developing Countries (minus China) on a Spaceship Earth with neoliberal One Percenters in charge of the flight deck. 12 years ago global avoidable deaths totalled 16 million per year. This is racist, state terrorism-backed corporate terrorism. In Iran alone about 100,000 Iranians have been dying avoidably each year under cruel, Zionist-demanded, US-imposed Sanctions. The Sanctions applied to Iraq from 1990 to 2003 killed an estimated 1.7 million people, 1.1 million being under-5 year old infants. 1950-2005 avoidable deaths from deprivation have totalled 1.3 million for the world, 1.2 billion for the Developing Word and 0.6 billion for the Muslim world, these estimates being consonant with 1950-2005 under-5 infant deaths totalling 0.88 billion for the world, 0.85 billion for the Developing World and 0.4 billion for the Muslim World.

The post-1950 avoidable deaths of about 600 million Muslims constitutes a Muslim Holocaust about 100 times bigger than the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million killed by violence or imposed deprivation) or the “forgotten” WW2 Bengali Holocaust in which the British with Australian complicity deliberately starved 6-7 million Indians to death for strategic reasons. The US-backed Apartheid Israeli oppression of the Indigenous Palestinians and ongoing Palestinian Genocide illustrate state terrorism and the Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust in microcosm - of 12 million Palestinians, 6 million are forbidden to step foot in their own country, 4.3 million exist without human rights as prisoners without charge or trial in the blockaded Gaza Concentration Camp (1.8 million) or in West Bank Bantustan ghettoes (2.5 million), and only 1.7 million Palestinians Israelis (14% of Palestinians and 28% of Palestinian subjects of Apartheid Israel) are permitted to vote for the government ruling all of Palestine, albeit as Third Class citizens under Nazi-style Apartheid laws; and the annual per capita GDP is $2,900 for Palestine, 13 times lower than for Apartheid Israel ($38,000) that continues to steal land, steal water and impose a Nazi-style Apartheid regime on Occupied Palestinians of whom it kills 1,000 violently each year and kills 4,000 non-violently each year through imposed deprivation.

c. Climate change and state-sanctioned corporate terrorism, carbon terrorism and climate terrorism. In 2009 the WBGU, which advises the German Government on climate change, estimated that for a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise, the world must emit no more than 600 billion tonnes carbon dioxide (CO2) before zero emissions in 2050. Unfortunately the global greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is so high that the World will exceed this terminal budget in 3 years relative to 2015. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CH4 (methane) on a 20 year time frame and with aerosol impacts considered is 105 times that of CO2. The 50 Gt (50 billion tonnes) of CH4 predicted to be released from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf in coming decades is equivalent to 50 billion tonnes CH4 x 105 tonnes CO2-equivalent/tonne CH4 = 5,250 tonnes CO2-e or about nine (9) times more than the world’s terminal greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution budget.

The world faces catastrophe unless global warming and this Arctic CH4 release can be stopped. Unaddressed man-made climate change is set to exacerbate an already worsening climate genocide and cause 10 billion avoidable deaths this century leaving a predicted only 0.5 billion of Humanity alive. Presently about 7 million people die annually from the effects of pollutants from carbon fuel burning and 0.4 million people die annually from the effects of climate change. 17 million people die avoidably each year from deprivation but if climate change is not requisitely addressed an average of 100 million people will die avoidably each year this century. This is state terrorism-sanctioned corporate terrorism, carbon terrorism and climate terrorism.

Specialist scientists have solutions to all of these 3 major threats facing humanity but politicians – notably those representing the One Percenters who own about half of the world’s wealth – are preventing the required actions in all 3 areas that can save the world and which are summarized below.

1. Nuclear Weapons. 

Complete nuclear disarmament in accordance with a Nuclear Weapons Ban is technically possible. About 117 countries now support a complete Nuclear Weapons ban and this is also supported by the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the World Council of Churches and the International Trade Union Confederation. However a Nuclear Weapons Ban is opposed by nuclear-armed countries and their compliant lackeys. Thus, for example, while Australia has no actual nuclear weapons of its own, it has hosted nuclear tests and testing of nuclear weapons delivery systems, hosts nuclear-armed warships, plays a key role in US nuclear terrorism through its Pine Gap joint US-Australian communications facility, and under the present pro-war, pro-Zionist, pro- Israel, US lackey Coalition Government slavishly supports US and Israeli war policies and is doing its best to oppose a Nuclear Weapons Ban. Thus the Sydney Morning Herald reported (2014): “In October 2013, according to the documents released under freedom-of-information law, Australia refused a request by New Zealand to endorse a 125-nation joint statement at the United Nations highlighting the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.''

Australia objected to a sentence declaring that it is in the interest of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, ''under any circumstances''. A group of 16 nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand, have been working to highlight the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons. That diplomatic campaign is intended to lay the ground for negotiation of a convention that would prohibit nuclear weapons - putting them in the same category as chemical and biological weapons, which are already prohibited under international law… declassified documents have revealed that the government's primary concern is that a nuclear weapons ban would ''cut across'' Australia's reliance on US nuclear deterrence”.

2. Poverty. 

Notwithstanding the expansion of ostensible democracy and social welfare in the 20th century, the world's wealth is overwhelmingly concentrated the hands of the rich. Thus, according to Oxfam “[Its] report, Working for the Few, shows that the wealth of the world is divided in two: almost half going to the richest one per cent; the other half to the remaining 99 per cent”. French economist Professor Thomas Piketty argues in his important book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” that current wealth inequality endangers democracy and economic sustainability, and he proposes a progressive annual wealth tax to address the danger.

There is a largely ignored Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust in which currently 17 million people die avoidably each year from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease in the Developing World (minus China). This is happening on Spaceship Earth with the flight deck under the control of the 10% richest who have about 90% of the wealth of the World and who in turn are controlled by One Percenters who own about half the wealth of the World. An annual global wealth tax of about 4% would yield US$16 trillion annually and enable raising all countries to annual per capita incomes equivalent to the $6,000 per person per year of China and Cuba, countries for which annual avoidable mortality is zero (0).

3. Climate Change. 

Basically we know what the problem is (man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution that is warming the world and acidifying the ocean) and how to solve it (stop and reverse GHG pollution). Fundamentally, as enunciated by, we need to urgently reduce atmospheric CO2 concentration from the current dangerous and damaging 400 ppm CO2 to the pre-Industrial Revolution level of about 300 ppm CO2 for a safe planet for all peoples and all species. To achieve a safe atmosphere we must achieve the following:

(a) a change of societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management and biological sustainability with complete cessation of species extinctions and zero tolerance for lying;

(b) urgent reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm CO2 as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists; and

(c) a rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power and about 4 times cheaper if the environmental and human costs of GHG pollution are considered) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils or bicarbonate to oceans coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, population growth, and methanogenic livestock production.

Critically, as urged by scientists and by scientifically-trained Green Left Pope Francis, the environmental and human cost of pollution must be “fully borne” by the polluters. Dr. Chris Hope of 90-Nobel-Laureate Cambridge University has estimated a damage-related Carbon Price of about $200 per tonne CO2-e which indicates a Carbon Debt for the World of $360 trillion that is increasing at $13 trillion per year.

Summary and conclusions

On the penultimate day of the year, the Day of Lamentation, one can condemn the evils of the world from Israeli Apartheid to the more general US War on Muslims but poverty is the biggest killer at present, climate change may kill all but 0.5 billion of Humanity and a nuclear war may wipe out all of Humanity. However, while things look grim we must be resolutely optimistic and do everything we can to make the future “less bad” for our children and for future generations. Further, 31 December is New Year’s Eve, a day of positive reflection and “New Year’s Resolutions” on which we can resolve to do everything we can to stop the evils of Apartheid, state crime, state terrorism, corporate terrorism, non-state terrorism and nuclear terrorism, as well as of terracidal climate change from state terrorism-sanctioned corporate terrorism, carbon terrorism, and climate terrorism.

Unfortunately, the Western democracies have become Plutocracies, Murdochracies, Lobbyocracies, Corporatocracies and Dollarocracies in which the Big Money of the dominant One Percenters buys people, presstitutes, politicians, policies, parties, preferment, public perception of reality, votes and political power. The young must revolt (peacefully, of course) to secure their future and have 3 main avenues for action on all these major threats to Humanity, specifically:

  • massive peaceful demonstrations in the streets under the banner “Save our future”;
  • at the ballot box where they must vote reen and consign the corrupt politician lackeys of the One Percenters to the sewer of History; and 
  • through Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the terracidal One Percenters and all those people, politicians, parties, presstitutes, companies, corporations and countries whose actions are disproportionately threatening and destroying Humanity and the Biosphere.

Much of the world has just now at Christmas celebrated with family and friends the birth of that wonderful Palestinian humanitarian, Jesus. However, a nuclear holocaust and subsequent devastating nuclear winter could happen at any time (it has already almost happened several times). Poverty already kills 17 million people each year, half of them children - in vain one cries “Thou shalt not kill children” and notes by way of comparison that political non-state terrorists killed a total of 53 Americans in the US in the 14 years after the US Government’s 9-11 false flag atrocity (Google “Experts; US did 9-11”).

It is already too late to avoid a catastrophic 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise. Ninety-nine Percenters, and young people in particular, must be moved to implacable zero tolerance for the racists, Apartheiders, Mainstream media presstitutes, state criminals, climate criminals, war criminals, state terrorists, nuclear terrorists, corporate terrorists, carbon terrorists and climate terrorists existentially threatening Humanity and the Biosphere. Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity. Please tell everyone you can.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

To Young Muslims: "Find the Seeds of Triumph Within Adversity"

An Open Letter to Young Muslims Everywhere: The Seed of Triumph in Every Adversity

by Ramzy Baroud -

Dec. 30, 2015

When I was a little boy, I used to dream of being reborn outside the hardship of the Refugee Camp in Gaza, in some other time and place where there were no soldiers, no military occupation, no concentration camps and no daily grind - where my father fought for our very survival, and my mother toiled to balance out the humiliation of life with her enduring love.

When I grew older, and revisited my childhood fantasies, I came to quite a different conclusion: if I had to, I would do it all over again, I would not alter my past, however trying, in any way. I would embrace every moment, relive every tear, every loss, and cherish every triumph, however small.

When we are young, they often fail to tell us that we should not fear pain and dread hardship; that nothing can be as rewarding to the growth of one’s identity, sense of purpose in life and the liberation of the human spirit than the struggle against injustice. True, one should never internalize servitude or wear victimhood as if a badge; for the mere act of resisting poverty, war and injustice of any kind is the first and most essential criterion to prepare one for a more meaningful existence, and a better life.

I say this because I understand what many of you must be going through. My generation of refugee camp dwellers experienced this in the most violent manifestation you can ever imagine. These are difficult and challenging years for most of humanity, but all the more for you, young Muslims, in particular. Between the racism of American and European politicians and parties, the anti-Muslim sentiment sweeping much of the world, propagated by selfish individuals with sinister agendas, playing on people fears and ignorance, and the violence and counter-violence meted out by groups that refer to themselves as ‘Muslims’, you find yourself trapped, confined in a prison of stereotypes, media hate speech and violence; targeted, labeled and, undeservedly, feared.

Most of you were born into, or grew up in, that social and political confinement and remember no particular time in your past when life was relatively normal, when you were not the convenient scapegoat to much of what has gone wrong in the world. In fact, wittingly or otherwise, your characters were shaped by this prejudiced reality, where you subsist between bouts of anger at your mistreatment, and desperate attempts at defending yourself, fending for your family, and standing up for your community, for your culture and for your religion.

Most importantly, you continue to struggle, on a daily basis, to develop a sense of belonging, citizenship in societies where you often find yourself rejected and excluded. They demand your ‘assimilation’, yet push away whenever you draw nearer. It is seemingly an impossible task, I know.

And, it seems that, no matter what you do, you are yet to make a dent in the unfair misrepresentation of who you are and the noble values for which your religion stands. Their racism seems to be growing, and all the arrows of their hatred persistently point at Islam, despite your passionate attempts to convince them otherwise.

In fact, you hardly understand why Islam is, indeed, part of this discussion in the first place. Islam never invited the US to go to war in the Middle East, to tamper with your civilizations and to torment fellow Muslims in other parts of the globe.

Islam was never consulted when Guantanamo was erected to serve as a gulag outside the norms of human rights and international law.

Islam is hardly a topic of discussion as warring parties, with entirely self-interested political agendas, are fighting over the future of Syria or Iraq or Libya or Yemen or Afghanistan, and so on.

Islam was not the problem when Palestine was overrun by Zionist militias, with the help of the British and, later, the Americans, turning the Holy Land into a battlefield for most of the last century. The repercussions of that act has sealed the region’s fate from relative peace into a repugnant and perpetual war and conflict.

The same logic can be applied to everything else that went awry, and you have often wondered that yourself. Islam did not invent colonialism and imperialism, but inspired Asians, Africans and Arabs to fight this crushing evil. Islam did not usher in the age of mass slavery, although millions of American and European slaves were, themselves, Muslim.

You try to tell them all of this, and you insist that the likes of vicious groups like ISIS are not a product of Islam but a by-product of violence, greed and foreign interventions. But they do not listen, countering with selective verses from your Holy Book that were meant for specific historical contexts and circumstances. You even share such verses from the Quran with all of your social media followers: “…if any one killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind…” (Chapter 5; Verse 32), hoping to elicit some understanding of the sanctity of human life according to your religion, but a fundamental change in attitude is yet to come.

So you despair, at least some of you do. Some of those who live in western countries cease to share with others the fact that they are Muslim, avoiding any discussion that may result in their being ostracized from increasingly intolerant societies. Some of those who live in Muslim majority countries, sadly, counter hate with hate of their own. Either way, they teeter between hate and self-hate, fear and self-pity, imposed apathy, rage and self-loathing. With time, a sense of belonging has been impossible to achieve and, like me when I was younger, perhaps you wonder what it would have been like if you lived in some other time, in some other place.

But, amid all of this, it is vital that we remember that the burdens of life can offer the best lessons in personal and collective growth.

You must understand that there is yet to exist a group of people that was spared the collective trials of history: that did not suffer persecution, racism, seemingly perpetual war, ethnic cleansing and all the evils that Muslims are contending with right now, from Syria to Palestine to Donald Trump’s America. This does not make it ‘okay’ but it is an important reminder that your hardship is not unique among nations. It just so happens that this could be the time for you to learn some of life’s most valuable lessons.

To surmount this hardship, you must first be decidedly clear on who you are; you must take pride in your values; in your identity; you must never cease to fight hate with love, to reach out, to educate, to belong. Because if you don’t, then racism wins, and you lose this unparalleled opportunity at individual and collective growth.

Sometimes I pity those who are born into privilege: although they have access to money and material opportunities, they can rarely appreciate the kind of experiences that only want and suffering can offer. Nothing even comes close to wisdom born out of pain.

And if you ever weaken, try to remember: God “does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” (Chapter 2; Verse 286).

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is:

BP Cleanup Funds Find Way to Alabama Governor's Mansion

Alabama Gov. Fixing Mansion with BP Fund Money

by Greg Palast

December 30, 2015

The Governor of Alabama has decided that instead of using BP's cleanup money for restoring the lives of those affected by one of the worst man-made disasters in history, he's using it to rebuild a mansion.

Owned by the State of Alabama the million dollar beach residence of the Governor has been closed for 18 years since Hurricane Danny damaged it.

The fix-up is "estimated at $1.5 million to $1.8 million" and will be done by May according to the Associated Press.

A million and a half bucks could pay for a lot of beach cleanup, something that's still needed in the Gulf. But as with everything associated with this deal the money goes to the top - and then trickles down to the bottom. Just like the oil in the Gulf.

The BP settlement has been a disaster since the beginning, as I reported back in 2012:

The lawyers for 120,000 victims of the Deepwater Horizon blow-out cut a deal with oil company BP PLC which will save the oil giant billions of dollars. It will also save the company the threat of a trial that could expose the true and very ugly story of the Gulf of Mexico oil platform blow-out.

I have been to the Gulf and seen the damage — and the oil that BP says is gone. Miles of it. As an economist who calculated damages for plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case, I can tell you right now that there is no way, no how, that the $7.8 billion BP says it will spend on this settlement will cover that damage, the lost incomes, homes, businesses and boats, let alone the lost lives — from cancers, fetal deformities, miscarriages, and lung and skin diseases.

In 2010, President Barack Obama forced BP to set aside at least $20 billion for the oil spill's victims. This week's settlement will add exactly ZERO to that fund. Indeed, BP is crowing that, adding in the sums already paid out, the company will still have spent less than the amount committed to the Obama fund.

There's so much corrosion, mendacity and evil covered up by this settlement deal that I hardly know where to begin.

Read the rest: BP Settlement Sells Out Victims - Deal buries evidence of oil company willful negligence

Download the investigation, Vulture's and Vote Rustlers here.

How Bail-Ins Can Hollow Out Your Life Savings

Bail-Ins Begin: a Crisis Worse than ISIS?

by Ellen Brown  - CounterPunch

December 30, 2015

At the end of November, an Italian pensioner hanged himself after his entire €100,000 savings were confiscated in a bank “rescue” scheme. He left a suicide note blaming the bank, where he had been a customer for 50 years and had invested in bank-issued bonds. But he might better have blamed the EU and the G20’s Financial Stability Board, which have imposed an “Orderly Resolution” regime that keeps insolvent banks afloat by confiscating the savings of investors and depositors. Some 130,000 shareholders and junior bond holders suffered losses in the “rescue.”

The pensioner’s bank was one of four small regional banks that had been put under special administration over the past two years. The €3.6 billion ($3.83 billion) rescue plan launched by the Italian government uses a newly-formed National Resolution Fund, which is fed by the country’s healthy banks. But before the fund can be tapped, losses must be imposed on investors; and in January, EU rules will require that they also be imposed on depositors. According to a December 10th article on

The rescue was a “bail-in” – meaning bondholders suffered losses – unlike the hugely unpopular bank bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis, which cost ordinary EU taxpayers tens of billions of euros.

Correspondents say [Italian Prime Minister] Renzi acted quickly because in January, the EU is tightening the rules on bank rescues – they will force losses on depositors holding more than €100,000, as well as bank shareholders and bondholders.

. . . [L]etting the four banks fail under those new EU rules next year would have meant “sacrificing the money of one million savers and the jobs of nearly 6,000 people”.

That is what is predicted for 2016: massive sacrifice of savings and jobs to prop up a “systemically risky” global banking scheme.

Bail-in Under Dodd-Frank

That is all happening in the EU. Is there reason for concern in the US?

According to former hedge fund manager Shah Gilani, writing for Money Morning, there is. In a November 30th article titled “Why I’m Closing My Bank Accounts While I Still Can,” he writes:

[It is] entirely possible in the next banking crisis that depositors in giant too-big-to-fail failing banks could have their money confiscated and turned into equity shares. . . .
If your too-big-to-fail (TBTF) bank is failing because they can’t pay off derivative bets they made, and the government refuses to bail them out, under a mandate titled “Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity of Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution,” approved on Nov. 16, 2014, by the G20’s Financial Stability Board, they can take your deposited money and turn it into shares of equity capital to try and keep your TBTF bank from failing.

Once your money is deposited in the bank, it legally becomes the property of the bank. Gilani explains:

Your deposited cash is an unsecured debt obligation of your bank. It owes you that money back.

If you bank with one of the country’s biggest banks, who collectively have trillions of dollars of derivatives they hold “off balance sheet” (meaning those debts aren’t recorded on banks’ GAAP balance sheets), those debt bets have a superior legal standing to your deposits and get paid back before you get any of your cash.

. . . Big banks got that language inserted into the 2010 Dodd-Frank law meant to rein in dangerous bank behavior.

The banks inserted the language and the legislators signed it, without necessarily understanding it or even reading it. At over 2,300 pages and still growing, the Dodd Frank Act is currently the longest and most complicated bill ever passed by the US legislature.

Propping Up the Derivatives Scheme

Dodd-Frank states in its preamble that it will “protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts.” But it does this under Title II by imposing the losses of insolvent financial companies on their common and preferred stockholders, debtholders, and other unsecured creditors. That includes depositors, the largest class of unsecured creditor of any bank.

Title II is aimed at “ensuring that payout to claimants is at least as much as the claimants would have received under bankruptcy liquidation.” But here’s the catch: under both the Dodd Frank Act and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, derivative claims have super-priority over all other claims, secured and unsecured, insured and uninsured.

The over-the-counter (OTC) derivative market (the largest market for derivatives) is made up of banks and other highly sophisticated players such as hedge funds. OTC derivatives are the bets of these financial players against each other. Derivative claims are considered “secured” because collateral is posted by the parties.

For some inexplicable reason, the hard-earned money you deposit in the bank is not considered “security” or “collateral.” It is just a loan to the bank, and you must stand in line along with the other creditors in hopes of getting it back. State and local governments must also stand in line, although their deposits are considered “secured,” since they remain junior to the derivative claims with “super-priority.”

Turning Bankruptcy on Its Head

Under the old liquidation rules, an insolvent bank was actually “liquidated” – its assets were sold off to repay depositors and creditors. Under an “orderly resolution,” the accounts of depositors and creditors are emptied to keep the insolvent bank in business. The point of an “orderly resolution” is not to make depositors and creditors whole but to prevent another system-wide “disorderly resolution” of the sort that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The concern is that pulling a few of the dominoes from the fragile edifice that is our derivatives-laden global banking system will collapse the entire scheme. The sufferings of depositors and investors are just the sacrifices to be borne to maintain this highly lucrative edifice.

In a May 2013 article in Forbes titled “The Cyprus Bank ‘Bail-In’ Is Another Crony Bankster Scam,” Nathan Lewis explained the scheme like this:

At first glance, the “bail-in” resembles the normal capitalist process of liabilities restructuring that should occur when a bank becomes insolvent. . .

The difference with the “bail-in” is that the order of creditor seniority is changed. In the end, it amounts to the cronies (other banks and government) and non-cronies. The cronies get 100% or more; the non-cronies, including non-interest-bearing depositors who should be super-senior, get a kick in the guts instead. . . .
In principle, depositors are the most senior creditors in a bank. However, that was changed in the 2005 bankruptcy law, which made derivatives liabilities most senior. Considering the extreme levels of derivatives liabilities that many large banks have, and the opportunity to stuff any bank with derivatives liabilities in the last moment, other creditors could easily find there is nothing left for them at all.

As of September 2014, US derivatives had a notional value of nearly $280 trillion. A study involving the cost to taxpayers of the Dodd-Frank rollback slipped by Citibank into the “cromnibus” spending bill last December found that the rule reversal allowed banks to keep $10 trillion in swaps trades on their books. This is money that taxpayers could be on the hook for in another bailout; and since Dodd-Frank replaces bailouts with bail-ins, it is money that creditors and depositors could now be on the hook for. Citibank is particularly vulnerable to swaps on the price of oil. Brent crude dropped from a high of $114 per barrel in June 2014 to a low of $36 in December 2015.

What about FDIC insurance? It covers deposits up to $250,000, but the FDIC fund had only $67.6 billion in it as of June 30, 2015, insuring about $6.35 trillion in deposits. The FDIC has a credit line with the Treasury, but even that only goes to $500 billion; and who would pay that massive loan back? The FDIC fund, too, must stand in line behind the bottomless black hole of derivatives liabilities. As Yves Smith observed in a March 2013 post:

In the US, depositors have actually been put in a worse position than Cyprus deposit-holders, at least if they are at the big banks that play in the derivatives casino. The regulators have turned a blind eye as banks use their depositors to fund derivatives exposures. . . . The deposits are now subject to being wiped out by a major derivatives loss.

Even in the worst of the Great Depression bank bankruptcies, noted Nathan Lewis, creditors eventually recovered nearly all of their money. He concluded:

When super-senior depositors have huge losses of 50% or more, after a “bail-in” restructuring, you know that a crime was committed.

Exiting While We Can

How can you avoid this criminal theft and keep your money safe? It may be too late to pull your savings out of the bank and stuff them under a mattress, as Shah Gilani found when he tried to withdraw a few thousand dollars from his bank. Large withdrawals are now criminally suspect.

You can move your money into one of the credit unions with their own deposit insurance protection; but credit unions and their insurance plans are also under attack. So writes Frances Coppola in a December 18th article titled “Co-operative Banking Under Attack in Europe,” discussing an insolvent Spanish credit union that was the subject of a bail-in in July 2015. When the member-investors were subsequently made whole by the credit union’s private insurance group, there were complaints that the rescue “undermined the principle of creditor bail-in” – this although the insurance fund was privately financed. Critics argued that “this still looks like a circuitous way to do what was initially planned, i.e. to avoid placing losses on private creditors.”

In short, the goal of the bail-in scheme is to place losses on private creditors. Alternatives that allow them to escape could soon be blocked.

We need to lean on our legislators to change the rules before it is too late. The Dodd Frank Act and the Bankruptcy Reform Act both need a radical overhaul, and the Glass-Steagall Act (which put a fire wall between risky investments and bank deposits) needs to be reinstated.

Meanwhile, local legislators would do well to set up some publicly-owned banks on the model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota – banks that do not gamble in derivatives and are safe places to store our public and private funds.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at
More articles by:Ellen Brown

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Two-Second Warning: Death Culture Walking

Two-Second Atrocity: A Sick Society Exudes Its Stench  

by Chris Floyd  - Empire Burlesque

30 December 2015

Tamir Rice, 12, carrying a toy gun, was shot two seconds after the officer arrived.

It's overwhelmingly obvious that the officer went on the call intending to kill the "suspect" immediately. No warning, no talk, just an instantaneous draw-and-fire.

But he faces no charges at all for what was obviously an intent to kill, regardless of the circumstances.

Contrast the treatment of Dylann Roof -- an adult mass murderer on the run, subject to an "armed and dangerous alert" (which means that officers should expect to face an immediate and deadly threat).

When Roof was found by police, he was politely asked to surrender his weapon -- then taken for a hamburger by the officers before being carried to jail. An armed cold-blooded killer on the run, approached with reasonable but nonviolent caution, treated with respect and compassion (as all suspects should be). But a 12-year-old boy, in a park, with a toy, suspected of nothing other than being "suspicious" by some random fearful caller, is killed in two seconds -- in two seconds -- a 12-year-old killed in two seconds.

The reason for the different treatment is obvious -- and a searing indictment of a nation that arrogantly preaches to others about values and morals and rights and democracy. Preachments accompanied, of course, by missiles, bombs, hospital raids, regime change, weapons sales to tyrants and extremists and other instances of high morality and universal values.

The killer of Tamir Rice bears his own individual guilt -- but in our sick society, the fish rots from the head.

Turkey: NATO's Rogue State

Turkey: A Criminal State, A NATO State

by Eric Draitser - CounterPunch

It is now openly discussed even in mainstream media the fact that Turkey has been intimately involved in fomenting and supporting the war on Syria, with its ultimate goal of the overthrow of the Syrian government and its replacement by a compliant proxy aligned with Turkish President Erdogan and the Muslim Brotherhood.

That this is no longer a ‘conspiracy theory’ but a conspiracy fact not only vindicates my analysis over the last four years, but it also brings to the fore the nefarious role of a NATO member in stoking a brutal and bloody war for its own ends.

Beyond just the war itself, Turkey has been implicated in a wide variety of crimes (some constituting war crimes) which cast Ankara in a very bad light: a supporter of terrorism, a criminal government engaging in acts of aggression against its neighbors and other world powers, the repression of journalists and others who have brought the truth to the light of day, among many others. Taken in total, it becomes clear that under President Erdogan Turkey has become a belligerent actor with delusions of hegemony and a complete disregard for human rights and sovereignty.

But how exactly has this transformation happened? What has been proven regarding Turkish government actions that make it so clear that the regime in Ankara is criminal in nature?

Cataloguing Turkish Crimes

The criminality of the Erdogan government can be roughly broken down into the following categories: aggression against sovereign states, material support for international terrorism, and systematic violation of human rights. Naturally, there are many other crimes that would also be included in a full and completing accounting of Ankara’s illegal actions including, but not limited to, corruption, promoting and tacitly supporting fascist gangs, and many others. But it is the support for international terrorism that rises above all others to thrust Turkey into the spotlight as one of the single most important supporters of the global scourge of terrorism.

Turkey’s central role in each and every aspect of terrorism in Syria must be the starting point of any analysis of Turkey’s grave crimes. President Erdogan has not been shy about calling for regime change in Syria, but his position has been far more than merely rhetorical; Erdogan’s government has played a very direct role in the sponsorship, arming, facilitation and military backing of everyone from the Free Syrian Army to Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh).

In 2012, the New York Times confirmed that the CIA was sending weapons and other military materiel into the hands of anti-Assad forces from the Turkish side of the border, using their connections with the Muslim Brotherhood to do so. However, it has also come to light that Turkish intelligence has been front and center in the ongoing campaign to arm and resupply the terror groups such as the al-Nusra Front and others. This fact was exposed by Can Dündar, the editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet, who now faces a potential life sentence at the behest of President Erdogan, who himself called for Dündar to receive multiple life sentences.

What is the reason for the attack on Dündar and other opposition journalists? The Cumhuriyet, one of the most widely read Turkish dailies, published video footage confirming the widespread allegations that Turkish trucks, ostensibly loaded with humanitarian supplies, were actually filled with arms bound for terror groups fighting against Assad, and that those trucks were operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT). But it goes much further than that.

Turkey has been directly involved on the ground in Syria both in active military and support roles. In fact, transcripts of wiretaps obtained by Cumhuriyet, and presented in Turkish courts, along with shocking video footage, have confirmed what numerous eyewitnesses have stated: Turkish security forces have been directly involved in shelling and support operations for Nusra front and other jihadi groups in and around Kassab, Syria, among other sites. This is a crucial piece of information because it explains just why those terror groups were able to successfully capture that region in 2014, and recapture it this year. Eyewitnesses in Kassab have confirmed what Syrian soldiers speaking on condition of anonymity had reported, namely that Turkish helicopters and heavy artillery were used in support of Nusra and the other terror groups during both the 2014 and the current campaign.

Of course this policy of alliance with anti-Assad terrorists has been part of Turkey’s modus operandi since the beginning of the conflict. In 2012, Reuters revealed that Turkey, “set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria’s rebels from a city near the border… ‘It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main coordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom,’ said a Doha-based source.”

This information was confirmed by Vice President Joe Biden in his spectacular foot-in-mouth speech at Harvard University where he stated:

Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends… [and] the Saudis, the Emirates, etcetera. What were they doing?…They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad — except that the people who were being supplied, [they] were al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis who were coming from other parts of the world.

But one must guard against the false notion that somehow Turkey’s role has been merely as auxiliary in Syria, as a supporter, but not leader, of the terrorist factions wreaking havoc on the Syrian battlefield. Instead, it is now an inescapable fact, even acknowledged by some high-ranking military and intelligence officials, that Turkey has been the principal financier and supporter of the Islamic State and the other jihadist groups.

According to the UK Independent, President Erdogan’s son Bilal Erdogan, along with a number of other close associates, have been directly benefitting from the illicit oil trade with the Islamic State. The paper noted that, “Bilal Erdogan…is one of three equal partners in the BMZ group, a major Turkish oil and marine shipping company, which both the Russian and Syrian governments have accused of purchasing oil from ISIS…Bilal Erdogan has been directly involved in the oil trade with ISIS… Turkey downed a Russian jet on 24 November specifically to protect his oil smuggling business.”

In fact, Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi explained that “All of the oil was delivered to a company that belongs to the son of Recep [Tayyip] Erdogan. This is why Turkey became anxious when Russia began delivering airstrikes against the IS infrastructure and destroyed more than 500 trucks with oil already. They’re importing not only oil, but wheat and historic artefacts [sic] as well.”

So it seems that Erdogan and his clique are involved not simply in fomenting war and terrorism in Syria, but also in its plunder, with complex smuggling networks being directly tied to the Turkish President himself. Indeed, just such smuggling networks have been uncovered throughout Asia, tying Turkey into the broader international architecture of terrorism trafficking.

In late 2014 and early 2015, a human trafficking ring was exposed by Chinese authorities. It was revealed that at least ten Turks were responsible for organizing and facilitating the border crossings of a number of Uighurs (Chinese Muslims from Xinjiang), at least one of whom was a wanted Uighur terrorist with others being “radicalized potential terrorists.” These individuals were likely part of a previously documented trend of Uighur extremists traveling to the Middle East to train and fight with the Islamic State and/or other terror groups.

In fact, precisely this trend was exposed two months earlier in September 2014 when Reuters reported that Beijing formally accused militant Uighurs from Xinjiang of having traveled to Islamic State-controlled territory to receive training. Further corroborating these accusations, the Jakarta Post of Indonesia reported that four Chinese Uighur jihadists had been arrested in Indonesia after having travelled from Xinjiang through Malaysia. Other, similar reports have also surfaced in recent months, painting a picture of a concerted campaign to help Uighur extremists travel throughout Asia, communicating and collaborating with transnational terror groups such as IS.

Now, with these latest revelations regarding Turkish nationals being involved in the trafficking of extremists, it seems an invaluable piece of the terrorist transit infrastructure has been exposed. Indeed my assertions above (initially made here in early February 2015) have been substantiated by Syria’s ambassador to China, quoted at length by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his piece Military to Military which notes the following:

[Syria’s ambassador to China Imad Moustapha explained that] ‘China regards the Syrian crisis from three perspectives,’ he said: international law and legitimacy; global strategic positioning; and the activities of jihadist Uighurs, from Xinjiang province in China’s far west. Xinjiang borders eight nations…and, in China’s view, serves as a funnel for terrorism around the world and within China. Many Uighur fighters now in Syria are known to be members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement – an often violent separatist organisation that seeks to establish an Islamist Uighur state in Xinjiang. ‘The fact that they have been aided by Turkish intelligence to move from China into Syria through Turkey has caused a tremendous amount of tension between the Chinese and Turkish intelligence,’ Moustapha said.
‘China is concerned that the Turkish role of supporting the Uighur fighters in Syria may be extended in the future to support Turkey’s agenda in Xinjiang. We are already providing the Chinese intelligence service with information regarding these terrorists and the routes they crossed from on travelling into Syria’ [emphasis added].

Moustapha’s concerns were echoed by a Washington foreign affairs analyst who has closely followed the passage of jihadists through Turkey and into Syria. The analyst, whose views are routinely sought by senior government officials, told me that ‘Erdoğan has been bringing Uighurs into Syria by special transport while his government has been agitating in favour of their struggle in China. Uighur and Burmese Muslim terrorists who escape into Thailand somehow get Turkish passports and are then flown to Turkey for transit into Syria.’ He added that there was also what amounted to another ‘rat line’ that was funnelling Uighurs – estimates range from a few hundred to many thousands over the years – from China into Kazakhstan for eventual relay to Turkey, and then to IS territory in Syria [emphasis added]. ‘US intelligence,’ he said, ‘is not getting good information about these activities because those insiders who are unhappy with the policy are not talking to them.’ He also said it was ‘not clear’ that the officials responsible for Syrian policy in the State Department and White House ‘get it’. IHS-Jane’s Defence Weekly estimated in October that as many as five thousand Uighur would-be fighters have arrived in Turkey since 2013, with perhaps two thousand moving on to Syria. Moustapha said he has information that ‘up to 860 Uighur fighters are currently in Syria.’

It has become clear that Turkey is now unmistakably a major supporter of international terrorism, with Syria being merely the proving ground for a stable of terror groups directly or indirectly working with Erdogan’s government. This is further evidenced by the now documented and verified fact that the Erdogan government was directly involved in the transfer of chemical weapons into the hands of ISIS.

As Turkish MP Eren Erdem explained before the Turkish parliament and to international media, “There is data in this indictment. Chemical weapon materials are being brought to Turkey and being put together in Syria in camps of ISIS which was known as Iraqi Al Qaeda during that time.” Erdem noted that according to an investigation launched (and abruptly closed) by the General Prosecutor’s Office in Adana, Turkish citizens with ties to the intelligence community took part in negotiations with ISIS-linked and Al-Qaeda-linked militants to sell sarin gas for use in Syria. The evidence of these allegations came in the form of wiretapped phone conversations similar to those published earlier this year by Cumhuriyet.

Taken in total, the case against Erdogan’s government is damning. At the same time, one must also note Erdogan’s grave crimes against his own people.

As noted already, Can Dündar and his colleagues at Cumhuriyet have been targeted by Erdogan’s state for their disclosure of Ankara’s dealings with the terrorists of Syria. Just a few weeks ago Dündar, along with Cumhuriyet’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, were charged in a Turkish court with “spying” and “divulging state secrets.” This should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Turkey’s track record when it comes to opposition journalism.

In fact, in December 2014, the Turkish police raided the offices of the Zaman newspaper, one of the most popular in the country, alleging that Zaman was responsible for “launching an armed terror organization.” The authorities detained the Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı , as well as the head of the Samanyolu Media Group, Hidayet Karaca, along with a producer, scriptwriter and director.

The Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) and the Turkey Journalists’ Labor Union (TGS) released a joint statement in condemnation of the raids and the ongoing repression of journalists by the Erdogan government, noting that “Almost 200 journalists were previously held in prison on charges of being a member of a terror organization, violating their right to a fair trial. Journalists are now being detained once again. These developments mean that freedom of the press and opinion is punished in Turkey, which takes its place in the class of countries where the press is not free.”

International organizations too expressed their outrage at this blatant violation of freedom of the press. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and its regional group the European Federation of Journalists (EFL), stated that, “We are appalled by this brazen assault on press freedom and Turkish democracy…One year after the exposure of corruption at the heart of government, the authorities appear to be exacting their revenge by targeting those who express opposing views…This latest act demonstrates that the authorities’ contempt for journalism has not diminished.”

Of course, Ankara’s war on freedom of speech, and the media generally, is not relegated to established media outlets such as Zaman and Cumhuriyet, but also to citizen media and social media as well. In response to the leaking of recordings on Twitter documenting corruption among Erdogan cronies and political elites within his Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdogan attacked the social media platform, and his government immediately moved to restrict access to Twitter.

Erdogan even went so far as to suggest a total ban on all social media sites, including Facebook and YouTube, saying that “The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is.” This sort of megalomaniacal rhetoric has become the norm for Erdogan, who sees himself as less a president and more a sultan or absolute monarch.

The famous words of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg succinctly and matter-of-factly state that the waging of aggressive war is “essentially an evil thing…to initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

This is undeniably true. But what happens when one is engaged in an international campaign to destroy a neighboring country through war? What happens when one country enables and participates in the destruction of another? What happens when one country will stop at nothing to come out victorious in a war it is not officially involved in, but covertly manages, and from which it directly benefits? Are these not simply different forms of the same crime, the supreme crime, as it were?

Let’s face it, Turkey is now a mafia state ruled by a criminal regime. It is also a NATO member state. Perhaps now the pernicious illusion of NATO as military alliance defending justice, human rights, and the rule of law can finally be put to rest. While the propagandists will continue the charade, Turkey has permanently exposed the US-NATO-GCC-Israel for the warmongers they are in Syria and around the world. Let’s just hope the world notices.

Eric Draitser is the founder of and host of CounterPunch Radio. He is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City. You can reach him at
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