Friday, January 13, 2012

China Warns Obama on US Military Focus on Asia

Robert Dreyfuss on January 10, 2012 - The Nation

The Obama administration may want to build up its military presence in East Asia and the Pacific, but the Chinese have thoughts about it, too. The Washington Post carries an interview with Cui Tiankai, the deputy foreign minister in charge of relations with the United States.

Some quotes from Cui:
“Although different presidents have been in office, the China policy of the administrations has been fairly consistent. I see no reason we should disrupt or stop this trend.”

“The U.S. has the strongest military in the world and spends more than any other country,” Cui said. “But the U.S. always feels unsafe or insecure about other countries. I suggest the United States spend more time thinking about how to make other countries feel less worried about the United States.”

I couldn’t agree more. The Post added:
“Cui said that despite a few ‘hot-spot issues,’ the Asia-Pacific region was, on the whole, ‘stable and peaceful,’ and that Asian countries wanted to concentrate on their economic development. ‘I don’t think military alliances is what they need most.’"


Another Chinese official, Liu Weimin, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, also criticized the US strategic review:
“China’s strategic intent is clear, open and transparent. Our national defense modernization serves the objective requirements of national security and development and also plays an active role in maintaining regional peace and stability. It will not pose any threat to any country. The charges against China in this document are groundless and untrustworthy.”
And the defense ministry added, “The accusations leveled at China by the US side in this document are totally baseless.”

Not only that, but to underline its point, Beijing isn’t going along with plans to cut off Iran’s oil exports, either. Fact is, Obama needs China’s economic cooperation, above all, in partnership with the United States, to get the world economy back on track. And rather than bluster about “balancing” China in Asia, Washington should redouble efforts to work out a cooperation relationship with China that recognizes China’s real, and legitimate, national security interests.

The days of American hegemony are so twentieth century.

America Isn’t a Corporation

Published: January 12, 2012
“And greed — you mark my words — will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.”
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

That’s how the fictional Gordon Gekko finished his famous “Greed is good” speech in the 1987 film “Wall Street.” In the movie, Gekko got his comeuppance. But in real life, Gekkoism triumphed, and policy based on the notion that greed is good is a major reason why income has grown so much more rapidly for the richest 1 percent than for the middle class.

Today, however, let’s focus on the rest of that sentence, which compares America to a corporation. This, too, is an idea that has been widely accepted. And it’s the main plank of Mitt Romney’s case that he should be president: In effect, he is asserting that what we need to fix our ailing economy is someone who has been successful in business.

In so doing, he has, of course, invited close scrutiny of his business career. And it turns out that there is at least a whiff of Gordon Gekko in his time at Bain Capital, a private equity firm; he was a buyer and seller of businesses, often to the detriment of their employees, rather than someone who ran companies for the long haul. (Also, when will he release his tax returns?) Nor has he helped his credibility by making untenable claims about his role as a “job creator.”

But there’s a deeper problem in the whole notion that what this nation needs is a successful businessman as president: America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen — even great businessmen — do not, in general, have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery.

Why isn’t a national economy like a corporation? For one thing, there’s no simple bottom line. For another, the economy is vastly more complex than even the largest private company.

Most relevant for our current situation, however, is the point that even giant corporations sell the great bulk of what they produce to other people, not to their own employees — whereas even small countries sell most of what they produce to themselves, and big countries like America are overwhelmingly their own main customers.

Yes, there’s a global economy. But six out of seven employed American workers are employed in service industries, which are largely insulated from international competition, and even our manufacturers sell much of their production to the domestic market.

And the fact that we mostly sell to ourselves makes an enormous difference when you think about policy.

Consider what happens when a business engages in ruthless cost-cutting. From the point of view of the firm’s owners (though not its workers), the more costs that are cut, the better. Any dollars taken off the cost side of the balance sheet are added to the bottom line.

But the story is very different when a government slashes spending in the face of a depressed economy. Look at Greece, Spain, and Ireland, all of which have adopted harsh austerity policies. In each case, unemployment soared, because cuts in government spending mainly hit domestic producers. And, in each case, the reduction in budget deficits was much less than expected, because tax receipts fell as output and employment collapsed.

Now, to be fair, being a career politician isn’t necessarily a better preparation for managing economic policy than being a businessman. But Mr. Romney is the one claiming that his career makes him especially suited for the presidency. Did I mention that the last businessman to live in the White House was a guy named Herbert Hoover? (Unless you count former President George W. Bush.)

And there’s also the question of whether Mr. Romney understands the difference between running a business and managing an economy.

Like many observers, I was somewhat startled by his latest defense of his record at Bain — namely, that he did the same thing the Obama administration did when it bailed out the auto industry, laying off workers in the process. One might think that Mr. Romney would rather not talk about a highly successful policy that just about everyone in the Republican Party, including him, denounced at the time.

But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama’s actions: “He did it to try to save the business.” No, he didn’t; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America’s slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction?

America certainly needs better economic policies than it has right now — and while most of the blame for poor policies belongs to Republicans and their scorched-earth opposition to anything constructive, the president has made some important mistakes. But we’re not going to get better policies if the man sitting in the Oval Office next year sees his job as being that of engineering a leveraged buyout of America Inc.

Judge keeps Gingrich, Perry, Huntsman off Virginia ballot

By Reuters
Friday, January 13, 2012
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge in Virginia on Friday refused to order that candidates Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman be added to the ballot in the state’s March 6 Republican presidential primary election after they failed to qualify.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and congressman Ron Paul were the only two candidates to qualify for the primary in Virginia by submitting the 10,000 verifiable signatures by the deadline. Romney is the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Barack Obama on November 6.

Perry and the other candidates sued Virginia election officials to be added to the ballot, arguing that the state’s qualification process limited voter access to the candidates of their choosing.

But Judge John Gibney ruled the candidates filed their legal challenge too late, finding the harm they suffered began when they started collecting the necessary signatures because they were required to use Virginia residents to do so.

Such a requirement was likely unconstitutional and had the candidates sued earlier, the judge said he could have granted permission to use people from outside Virginia to collect signatures.
“It is too late for the court to allow them to gather more signatures – the absentee ballots must go out now,” Gibney wrote in a 22-page opinion issued after a hearing in Richmond.

The state argued those ballots must be mailed to absentee voters by January 21 to comply with election laws.

Gibney did rule the requirement of 10,000 verifiable signatures legal, saying it was “a minimal number” and that six candidates made the primary ballot four years ago under the same rules.

The candidates could appeal his ruling.

Break In Case Of Censorship

As I’m writing this, Congress is getting ready to vote on the single most destructive piece of legislation that the internet has ever faced. SOPA, penned by a team of corporate shills who now have swell lobbyist jobs to show for it, is a bill aimed at combating online piracy in the worst conceivable way possible: By giving copyright holders and the government overreaching, due process-circumventing powers to shut down entire websites based on the mere suspicion that they might contain infringing material.

Worst of all, it’s already happening. Even before the bill has come to vote, censorship shenanigans have already been demonstrated by Universal, who fraudulently removed a music video by that voiced opposition to SOPA. Now, imagine what will happen when SOPA is in full-swing and all of YouTube is held liable for bogus copyright claims … or Etsy, or Flickr.

Of course that says nothing of the countless technologists who have warned SOPA’s China-style DNS blocking will seriously fuck up the internet in general, so it’s really not hyperbolic to say that this is the worst nightmare of a democratic and stable internet.

So the question on everyone’s mind right now is what kind of free speech fail-safes exist if and when SOPA (and its twin in the Senate, PROTECT-IP) passes? Although we can’t guarantee that they will be 100 percent legal, here are a couple of them:


The first is an extremely simple and dirty hack: Because SOPA’s provisions call for the re-routing of DNS (the web’s addressing system that links browsers with the computer hosting a site), the websites will still be there — you just won’t be able to get to them via the usual “www dot com” method. If a site gets blocked, typing the IP address of the host directly (eg: would connect you to that site. The downside: This creates a lot of security risks for the site in question. The fact that DNS exists in part to mask these addresses from the average user should tell you something.


Tor is what some would call a “darknet,” a network that runs under the radar of the normal internet and can only be accessed using special client software. By connecting to the Tor network, you are anonymizing and encrypting your browsing activity by making your IP address appear as that of a random node somewhere else on the network. And since that random node will typically be outside of the United States, you won’t be getting routed away from sites the copyright elite have deemed “infringing.”

It’s scary to think that Tor might become an option for some Americans, seeing as how it’s been previously used to subvert censorship in places like China and Syria. But even with web traffic fully anonymized and virtually untraceable, it’s not merely a “censorship off” button and there are risks involved if you don’t know what you’re doing. Additionally, securing the means of connecting to (and obtaining information about) the Tor network could become a lot more difficult for newcomers if Tor’s website gets blocked. And moreover, doing so would likely be illegal under SOPA on grounds that it is exists to subvert the filtering system being put in place.

The Bitcoin “Dimnet”

Dot.Bit is another hidden network similar to Tor but operating off a system of encrypted “tokens,” acquired in a way very much like Bitcoins, the decentralized digital currency system . Potentially a boon for sites that want to run outside the reach of the censor, Dot.Bit allows these tokens to be used in order to anonymously register domains under its network, which are accessed under the Top-level Domain (TLD) .bit

This seems like a great idea, but even .bit domains run the risk of being targeted under SOPA. If the law requires ISPs to block access, it would be a simple matter of cutting off the ports that those domains run on. And if those domains are involved in shady black market dealings like the rest of the Bitcoin network, they’ll have ample reason to do so.

All in all, the options are either incredibly obtuse, risky or likely to become illegal anyway. But one thing is for certain: SOPA and PROTECT-IP’s ‘killing spiders with a sledgehammer’ strategy isn’t going to smash piracy — it’s just going to make the internet a lot messier.

The Author of SOPA Is a Copyright Violator

By Jamie Lee Curtis Taete,
US Congressman and poor-toupee-color-chooser Lamar Smith is the guy who authored the Stop Online Piracy Act. SOPA, as I'm sure you know, is the shady bill that will introduce way harsher penalties for companies and individuals caught violating copyright laws online (including making the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime which you could actually go to jail for). If the bill passes, it will destroy the internet (for more info, go here).

I decided to check that everything on Lamar's official campaign website was copyright-cleared and on the level. Lamar is using several stock images on his site, two of which I tracked back to the same photographic agency. I contacted the agency to make sure he was paying to use them, but was told that it's very difficult for them to actually check to see if someone has permission to use their images. (Great news, copyright violators!) However, seeing as they're both from the same agency and are unwatermarked, it seems fairly likely that he is the only person on the entire internet who is actually paying to use a stock image (and he'd be an idiot not to).

So I took a look back at an archived, pre-SOPA version of his site.

This is a screenshot of his site as it appeared on the 24th of July, 2011.

And this is the background image Lamar was using. I managed to track that picture back to DJ Schulte, the photographer who took it.

And whaddya know? Looks like someone forgot to credit him.

I contacted DJ, to find out if Lamar had asked permission to use the image and he told me that he had no record of Lamar, or anyone from his organization, requesting permission to use it: "I switched my images from traditional copyright protection to be protected under the Creative Commons license a few years ago, which simply states that they can use my images as long as they attribute the image to me and do not use it for commercial purposes.

"I do not see anywhere on the screen capture that you have provided that the image was attributed to the source (me). So my conclusion would be that Lamar Smith's organization did improperly use my image. So according to the SOPA bill, should it pass, maybe I could petition the court to take action against"

Internet revolution dawns with .yournamehere domains

ICANN to expand top level Internet domains despite critics
By Georgina Prodhan
LONDON | Thu Jan 12, 2012

(Reuters) - A quiet Internet revolution begins on Thursday. Organizations can begin applying to name and run their own domains instead of entrusting them to the operators of .com, .org, .gov and others.

Up to 2,000 applications are expected to be made to ICANN, the body that oversees the Internet's naming system for so-called "top-level" international domains. The window to grab some virtual real estate will close in three months' time, probably for years.

The most radical move in U.S.-based ICANN's 13-year history is designed to foster competition and innovation, allowing the new domain owners to build new communities, strengthen ties with customers and give consumers more power.

"It's a fascinating new chapter in the Internet's history," says Jonathan Robinson, non-executive director of Afilias, which is helping with applications and already provides key infrastructure for .org, .info and .mobi.

"It's opening up new fronts of Internet real estate and that brings opportunity and threat."

Most of the first wave of applications is expected to come from leading brand owners who see an opportunity to boost their visibility online, or simply fear that others will grab "their" space if they do not do so themselves.

At $185,000 per application, estimated start-up costs of $500,000 and annual running costs of about $100,000, a .yournamehere domain will be out of reach of the smallest companies and Organizations.

But applications are expected from cities or regions with strong identities, such as .london and .mumbai, from companies aiming to build a business based on new domains, and from community identifiers like .eco or .gay.

Melbourne IT, a leading consultancy firm that is preparing about 100 applications for customers, says most interest has come from the financial services and consumer goods sectors.

"They're looking at it as something they can use as an additional weapon." says the firm's European sales director Stuart Durham.

"Banks are looking at it for online authentication, to prevent fraud and build trust, while consumer goods makers believe they can use this to become more effective in their online marketing and consumer engagement," he says.

For example, a customer on a site ending .hsbc could be certain it was genuinely operated by the bank, or a consumer goods maker like Canon might give each customer their own .canon domain to keep details of their purchases and for communication.

Camera maker Canon is one of just a handful of companies to have acknowledged they are applying to operate their own brand domains -- Deloitte and Hitachi are others. Others are more secretive, fearing unwanted competition, and ICANN will publish details of applicants only after the window closes in April.

In cases where more than one applicant has a legitimate claim to operate a domain - for example, .apple could be contested by the iPod maker and the record label -- ICANN will hold an auction.

The trademark lobby in the United States has some issues with this process. It argues that brand owners will be forced to mount expensive and unnecessary bids to protect their brands online, and has mounted a last-minute offensive to change the rules.

But ICANN says strict criteria are already in place to protect interests.

Applicants have to demonstrate that they have relevant intellectual property rights, and detail how they will operate the domain. The aim here is to prevent cybersquatters from buying up valuable ones and then leaving them inactive while they negotiate a profitable sale to a more legitimate claimant.

The $185,000 application fee is a far cry from the $10 or so needed to register a .com site. Applicants have to fill in a lengthy and complex application form, around which a whole consultancy industry has sprung up.

"It's not something you can just complete in five minutes online using a credit card, like you can for a .com domain name today," says Melbourne IT's Durham.

Jeff Ernst, principal analyst at technology analysis firm Forrester, says he is advising customers against a knee-jerk application.

"I'm not an evangelist for the program myself. I've talked to about 50 companies now in the last six months. There were only about five or six that we found had reason to apply," he says. I'm advising against just doing a defensive registration."

Beyond the big brands, the revolution in Internet naming could give smaller businesses the chance to increase their visibility online.

With the introduction of geographical top-level domains, a bicycles firm, for example, might boost its profile by winning or bicycles.mumbai, whereas could be prohibitively expensive to acquire from the owner.

"There's tremendous artificial scarcity that's been caused by the delay in the development of these new domains," says Jacob Malthouse, co-founder of Big Room, a Canadian company which is applying to run the new top-level domain .eco.

Malthouse believes the changes mean global communities such as the environmental movement will be better able to unite and work together in future. His organization is backed by some of the world's biggest environmental groups, including Greenpeace, WWF International and the Green Cross.

Malthouse argues that with such backers, .eco would have the authority to certify genuine environmental Organizations and individuals, allowing only them to register a .eco address, and screening out much of the "greenwash" that exists.

"The environmental community has never had a home on the Internet before," he says.

"We see .eco as an opportunity for smaller Organizations or smaller businesses. Maybe a .org doesn't really communicate what they do, or .com doesn't communicate it."

Malthouse says he has been open about his bid to gather the most broad-based and authoritative support possible, to prevent commercial interests from grabbing the domain.

"I think there's a real risk that private groups will try to force .eco to auction. The way we manage that is by demonstrating environmental community support. That's why we've been so public about the bid," he says.


A handful of potential new domains such as .eco seem likely to succeed but many may turn out to be little used, as was the experience for .jobs, .museum .travel and others in previous, experimental rounds of liberalization.

The .com domain remains dominant for companies, Tim Freeborn, technology and media analyst at London-based brokerage Xcap points out.

"The .mobis were a bit of a washout even though people made money selling addresses," he said. "There may be lots of addresses but they just may not catch anyone's imagination."

Freeborn follows Top Level Domain Holdings, a London-listed company set up to exploit the possibilities of the program, and which is applying for 20 domains on behalf of customers and 30-50 for itself.

Peter Dengate Thrush, TLDH's executive chairman and a former chairman of ICANN, says the process has been protracted -- six years in the planning -- and skepticism widespread, but interest is belatedly gathering momentum.

"A lot of people are waking up to domain names in general. The availability of .xxx (for pornographic sites) has alerted a lot of people," says Thrush.

Some investors are buying TLDH shares as a pure-play bet on the value of the new domains. Its share price has risen 41 percent since the end of November, as fears that the U.S. trademark lobby might derail ICANN's plans have faded.

Still, the model has yet to be proven. ICANN is likely to take until the end of 2012 to award the first new top-level domains, and in the case of hotly contested ones it may be years before they come online.

"The main risk is that people and companies will still gravitate towards .com, and the second risk is that the process of sorting out some of the major generics will be protracted," says Mike Jeremy, analyst at London brokerage Daniel Stewart, who also covers TLDH.

Xcap's Freeborn says: "It feels like candy floss. It's very hard to get a grip on it at the moment. A year from now it should be a lot clearer."

Feds crack down on Colorado medical pot dispensaries

(Ah, a multiple state broken campaign promise from Obama.--jef)

DENVER (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors in Colorado launched a crackdown on Thursday against nearly two dozen medical marijuana dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools, giving the proprietors 45 days to cease operations or face civil and criminal penalties.

U.S. Attorney John Walsh issued the ultimatum in letters to 23 dispensaries and landlords he said were in violation of federal and state law, a statement from the U.S. Justice Department said.

The move makes Colorado the latest battleground pitting federal prosecutors against storefront distributors of pot in states that have decriminalized marijuana for medical purposes.

“When the voters of Colorado passed the limited medical marijuana amendment in 2000, they could not have anticipated that their vote would be used to justify large marijuana stores located within blocks of our schools,” Walsh said.

He cited a 2011 memo from U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole that allows individual federal prosecutors to “exercise their discretion to handle marijuana trafficking matters.”

The Colorado move followed an announcement in October by federal prosecutors in California that they were mounting a crackdown against medical pot dispensaries they said were fronts for large-scale, for-profit drug trafficking.

Last March, federal agents also raided greenhouses and dispensaries in 13 cities in Montana cited by authorities as operating illegally under the guise of that state’s medical marijuana law.

A month later, U.S. attorneys in Washington state issued a legal opinion threatening to prosecute not only dispensary owners and growers but state officials who would have enforced a proposed state licensing system for medical marijuana.

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire cited that warning in her decision to veto a bill to establish a new regulatory system for state-sanctioned suppliers of medicinal cannabis.

A total of 16 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some sort of legalized medical-marijuana statutes, according to the National Drug Policy Alliance. But cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law, a point Walsh underscored in his letter to Colorado dispensary operators.

“The dispensary is operating in violation of federal law, and the Department of Justice has the authority to enforce the federal law … even when such activities may be permitted under state law,” the letter said.

Walsh did not identify any of the letter’s recipients, except to say the businesses were located throughout the state.

Denver lawyer Robert Corry, who represents clients charged with marijuana offenses, said in recent testimony before the Denver City Council that “there should be no arbitrary distance limits” for legal marijuana businesses.

“There is no documented case of any child ever purchasing or obtaining medical marijuana from a dispensary,” he said.

Nevertheless, Walsh said law enforcement will be on the lookout for other violators, and offenders could be subject to asset seizure and property forfeitures.

“Those who do not comply will be subject to potential criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions,” Walsh said. “Because the stores are operating within 1,000 feet of a school, enhanced penalties apply under federal law.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Creepy Ways Big Pharma Peddles its Drugs

By Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet
Posted on January 9, 2012
(Editor's Note: You can view the ads throughout the story and can click on the ad to enlarge it.)

It's no secret that advertising works. Big Pharma wouldn't spend over $4 billion a year on direct-to-consumer advertising if it didn't mean massive profits.

What is more unknown is why drug ads that sow hypochondria, raise health fears and "sell" diseases are often the most common--and effective--even when the drugs themselves are of questionable safety.

The nation's fourth most frequent drug ads in 2009 for were Cymbalta, making Eli Lilly $3.1 billion in one year, despite the antidepressant's links to liver problems and suicide. Pfizer spent $157 million advertising Lyrica for fibromyalgia in 2009, despite the seizure pill's links to life-threatening allergic reactions. The same year, it spent $107 million advertising the antidepressant Pristiq, even though it also had links to liver problems.

So, how does Pharma dupe us into using unsafe drugs? Today's drug ads, targeted directly to consumers since 1999, seem like they sell diseases and often cast women, children, the elderly and mentally ill in a bad light. But a quick look at ads before direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC) in medical journals shows that drug ads have always done so. It's just that patients didn't used to see them.

Here are some of Pharma's most offensive ad campaigns, then and now.

1. You're Sicker Than You Think
When psychiatric drugs first became popular for use in the general population, in the late 1960s, everyday personality problems became imbued with psychiatric labels. "Lady, your anxiety is showing (over a coexisting depression)," says a 1970 ad, showing an older, wrinkly woman in a bouffant wig with gigantic sunglasses and garish jewelry. "On the visible level, this middle-aged patient dresses to look too young, exhibits a tense, continuous smile and may have bitten nails or overplucked eyebrows," says the ad copy. "What doesn't show as clearly is the coexisting depression."

The ad, both sexist and ageist, suggests the woman needs the antidepressant and tranquillizer Triavil.

Another ad from 1968 shows a bored, upper-middle-class couple whose hauteur is also said to really be depression. "Do you have patients who try to hide frustration behind conformity?" says the ad for the antidepressant Aventyl HCl.

You'd think such demeaning ads would vanish with DTC advertising because people would be offended. But You're Sicker-Than-You-Think ads are alive and well since DTC advertising and even flowering.

A three-page consumer ad in the late 2000s similarly conveys that everyday psychological traits could actually be dire mental problems that require medication. If you are "talking too fast," "spending out of control," "sleeping less," "flying off the handle" and "buying things you don't need," you could be suffering from bipolar disorder said the ads, which appeared in magazines like People. And here you thought it was the coffee. Accompanying photos of a woman screaming into a phone and contorting her face are so extreme they could come out of the movie Halloween Part II, if the woman were holding a knife.

Psychiatric drugs are not just advertised for everyday personality problems. Pharma is pushing them for everyday pain conditions. Eli Lilly's original depression campaign for the antidepressant Cymbalta, "Depression Hurts," seems to anticipate its subsequent approval for pain conditions including back problems. Now ads tout Cymbalta as a "non-narcotic, once daily analgesic FDA approved for three indications across four different chronic pain conditions," as if it does not have severe controversial psychiatric risks including the suicide of volunteers who tested it.

And seizure and epilepsy drugs, known for major allergic and psychiatric reactions, are also becoming pain franchises. "What's causing your chronic widespread muscle pain?" asks an ad for the seizure and epilepsy drug Lyrica. "The answer may be overactive nerves," says the ad, even though "widespread muscle pain" and "over-active nerves," are not mentioned in the approved labeling for Lyrica, says pharmaceutical reporter John Mack. The military spent $35 million on seizure and epilepsy drugs in 2009 alone, including for migraines, headaches and pain.

And speaking of overkill, ads for genetically engineered injected drugs like Humira, approved to treat serious diseases like Crohn's disease, psoriatic arthritis and chronic plaque psoriasis look like they are designed to sell beer or beauty treatments, not immune suppressing drugs that invite cancers and lethal infections.

DTC ads don't just escalate everyday problems into psychiatric problems, they also escalate real psychiatric problems into irresponsible, sensationalistic stereotypes. Ads for the best-selling antipsychotic Risperdal, widely used in children, and in soldiers with PTSD, suggest that people with mental illness have hallucinatory fears about "boiling rain" and "dog women." The "dog woman" ad, showing a half-dog, half-woman crouched on her elbows, her eyes blackened, furthers the sensationalizing of mental illness with the tagline, "Because relapses are a living nightmare."

2. Your Kid Is Sick 
DTC ads don't just convince people they're in need of new drugs, but also that their kids may be, too. And it's been going on for decades.

Long before Pharma convinced parents, teachers and clinicians that millions of US kids had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), kids were said to suffer from "minimal brain dysfunction" (MBD) and "hyperkinesis," two conditions that were essentially the same as ADHD. In fact, so many kids had MBD by 1976 that an ad for the drug Cylert hailed the "Importance of single daily dose to the child, the parents and the teacher," because kids wouldn't have to be singled out anymore at pill time at school. (ADHD has been so huckstered, a YMCA ad spoofs it with the headline, "Before video games, before Facebook, before Ritalin, there was basketball.")

Yet neither Cylert--whose approval the FDA withdrew in 2005 because of liver failure and deaths--or the current ADHD drugs are safe. In 2009, researchers reported that kids are more likely to die sudden deaths while taking them and the American Heart Association recommends electrocardiograms (ECGs) before kids take them. And yet, combined sales of ADHD drugs continue to grow from $4.05 billion to $7.42 billion in 2010.

Thirty years ago, it certainly looked like kids were being overmedicated. They were given the antipsychotic Thorazine for their "hyperactivity," "hostility," sleep problems and even for vomiting. Picky eaters and kids who wet the bed were given tranquillizers. Kids with tics, stuttering and school phobia were given the tranquillizer Miltown.  

But today, ads promoting drugs for kids continue, and now they are aimed at parents. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference between ads for drugs or ads for sugary cereals! Pharma tells moms to give their kids the bubble gum-flavored ADHD med, LiquADD and the grape-flavored ADHD med, Methylin. The latter campaign, to parents, is "Give 'em the GRAPE!"

DTC advertising has also convinced parents their kids suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) otherwise known as acid reflux disease, which was barely a disease in adults much less kids, before consumer advertising. "GERD Can Be a Big Problem for Little Kids," say award-winning ads for Prevacid, which won a "RX Club" Silver award in 2004. In Europe, kids are treated for another "adult disease" and given chewable Liptitor to lower their cholesterol.

Some of Pharma's most aggressive advertising has been designed to convince parents their children's minor sniffles or wheezing are imminent asthma and require immediate and expensive drugs. To make the asthma drug Singulair (which also comes in a yummy chewable), the seventh most popular drug in 2010, Merck inked partnerships with the American Academy of Pediatrics and Scholastic, both of which parents consider neutral organizations and not Pharma mouthpieces. Merck also partnered with Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Peter Vanderkaay and NBA kid clubs to sell the asthma drug.

"A kid who's got what your kid's got is out doing what your kid's not," says one Singulair ad campaign. "Find out how you can help your child breathe a little easier."

If Singulair were not harmful, the huckstering would simply be a case of wasting money and overmedicating kids. But Singulair has been linked to both pediatric suicide and to emotional, behavioral and ADHD-like symptoms in kids, the latter likely inspiring parents to give their kids "the grape."

Of course, another kid-targeted campaign is for the vaccine against the sexually transmitted Papillomavirus or HPV, immortalized by Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann in hot exchanges this fall. Many object to the sexualizing of 9-year-olds, to government lining Pharma's pockets by promoting the vaccine (including overseas) and to the risks of the vaccines themselves. But the ads for Gardasil and Cervarix are also offensive.

Last spring, poster-sized ads for Gardasil on Chicago's commuter trains pretended to sell real estate in sought-after neighborhoods. A closer look revealed descriptions of women in those neighborhoods who thought they didn't need the HPV vaccine but did, positioning HPV not only as a general risk to the population, like flu, rather than an STD but as "hip."

HPV vaccine ads got even cooler when GSK rolled out Cervarix extravaganza TV ads and its "armed against cervical cancer" campaign with an Angelina Jolie-like model displaying a skinny arm with a Cervarix tattoo.

3. Be Like Me, and Can Your Beer Do This?
Prescription drugs may affect health, but they are still consumer products sold with the same marketing principles as toothpaste or beer. In fact, the wacky, "Can Your Beer Do This?" Miller Lite campaign of the 1990s, came back to life to sell the antidepressant Wellbutrin XR. In a glossy, color magazine ad, a young man rows his girlfriend on a scenic lake and lists the benefits of his Wellbutrin XR. "Can your medicine do all that?" he asks.
What does it say about the success of DTC advertising that people are assumed to have an antidepressant?

Experiential ads also sell prescription drugs like vintage ads for the "Kodak Moment," "Maalox Moment" and the old cigarette ads for the "L&M Moment" did. "Lunesta Sleep. Have You Tried it?" asks a 2007 ad in Parade magazine, elevating the experience to something akin to "designer sleep."
And just as celebrities move other consumer products, they have been deployed to sell prescription drugs. TV personality Joan Lunden and former baseball star Mike Piazza stumped for the allergy pill Claritin, ice skater Dorothy Hamill and track star Bruce Jenner for the pain pill Vioxx, and Sen. Bob Dole for Viagra. NASCAR figure Bobby Labonte also endorsed the antidepressant Wellbutrin XL in 2004. Yes, his medicine could "do all that."

But there has been a problem with celebrity drug endorsements, unlike product endorsements in which a celebrity like Tiger Woods or Martha Stewart could taint a product, a prescription drug can taint a celebrity! Did Dorothy Hamill know that Vioxx doubled the risk of heart attacks in users when she stumped for it? Did the model Lauren Hutton know that hormone replacement therapy causes a 26 percent higher incidence of breast cancer, a 29 percent increase in heart attacks, a 41 percent increase in strokes, and a doubling of the rate of blood clots when she shilled for it? Does actress Sally Field know that bone drugs like Boniva are linked to esophageal cancer, jaw bone death and the very fractures they are supposed to prevent as she pushes them?

Of course, good product marketing includes public relations. When Pharma sells a disease with no mention of the drug it is really selling, it's called "unbranded" advertising. Since DTC advertising, Pharma has invaded public service announcements (PSAs) that TV and radio stations confer for free, pretending their take-a-drug messages serve the public good, like messages to change smoke detector batteries or put kids in car seats.

One such "educational" "awareness" campaign called "Depression Is Real" saturated the radio air waves in 2011, funded by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which was investigated by Congress for its Pharma funding from Wyeth, part of Pfizer, and other groups. The high-budget ads, running for free, compare depression to diabetes because it doesn't go away and to cancer because it can be fatal.

4. One Kind of Ad You Won't See Anymore
Animal research at drug companies and the National Institutes of Health is a great scientific iceberg of which people only see a tip. In drug development, millions of animals die to prove a drug's "safety." At academic and medical centers, animal study grants from NIH provide millions to researchers and labs.

As sentiment grows against animal experiments and the government's gigantic National Primate Research Centers (new rules will limit the use of chimpanzees), the research is downplayed and even hidden. But there was a time when Pharma actually flaunted animal research.

"More than a decade of animal research on various animal species has suggested that Librium (chlordiazepozxide HCI) exerts its principal effects on certain key areas of the limbic system," says an ad from the 1970s, showing three monkeys crouching and dangling in cages as assorted experiments are conducted.
An ad for the diet pill Pre-Sate is even worse. It says, "one of the most sophisticated comparative animal studies ever conducted demonstrates direct action on the satiety centers," and shows five photos of cats in experiments. One shows a life-size white cat looking at the camera with a chain around its neck and invasive instrumentation embedded in its skull.

Today's consumers, it seems, wouldn't tolerate ads like these. (Or the experiments behind them.) Why do they tolerate derisive ads about "dog women" and ploys to market pharmaceuticals to kids as if it were candy?

Revolving Door: From Top Futures Regulator to Top Futures Lobbyist

January 11, 2012
While America focused on New Hampshire, a classic example of revolving-door politics took place in Washington, going almost completely unnoticed. It’s a move that ranks up there with the hire of Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin to head the pharmaceutical lobbying conglomerate PhRMA -- at a salary of over $2 million a year -- immediately after Tauzin helped ram through the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, a huge handout to the pharmaceutical industry.

In this case, the hire involves Walter Lukken, who toward the end of the Bush years was the acting head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. As the chief regulator of the commodities markets, it was Lukken’s job to spot and combat speculative abuses and manipulations that might have led to artificial price hikes and other disruptions.

In 2008, the last full year of his tenure, Lukken presided over some of the worst chaos in the commodities markets in recent history, with major disruptions in the markets for food products like wheat, cotton, soybeans, and rice, and energy commodities like oil.

Most notoriously, 2008 saw a historic spike in the price of oil futures, an enormously destructive speculative bubble that peaked in July of that year at the lunatic high price of $146 per barrel (Goldman, Sachs at the height of the mania was telling investors oil might go to $200 a barrel).

It was Lukken’s job to spot the speculative abuses leading to disruptions like that bubble, but he didn’t do it. Instead, he repeatedly insisted that there was nothing untoward going on, most notoriously through testimony before the House and the Senate at the height of the oil boom.

In testimony that summer, Lukken continually insisted that the price surge was due to normal supply-and-demand forces, ignoring the far more obvious explanation of a massive inflow of cash from commodity index speculators.

Despite data showing that the amount of commodity index speculation had grown from $13 billion in 2003 to more than $260 billion as of March 2008 -- in other words, the amount of money betting on a rise in commodity prices had risen by a factor of twenty during that time -- Lukken on May 7, 2008 told the Senate that a more likely explanation for the surge could be found in the growth of industrial demand from places like China, and also, get this, in changes in the weather:
These are extraordinary times for our markets with commodity futures prices at unprecedented levels. In the last three months, the agricultural staples of wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and oats have hit all-time highs. We have also witnessed record prices in crude oil, gasoline and other related energy products. Broadly speaking, the falling dollar, strong demand from the emerging world economies, global political unrest, detrimental weather and ethanol mandates have driven up commodity futures prices across-the-board.
On top of these trends, the emergence of the sub-prime crisis last summer led investors to increasingly seek portfolio exposure in commodity futures. As the federal regulator of these products, the CFTC is closely monitoring these growing markets to ensure they are working properly for farmers, investors, and consumers. To date, CFTC staff analysis indicates that the current higher futures prices generally are not a result of manipulative forces.
By insisting that the spike was “not a result of manipulative forces,” Lukken helped Wall Street in its efforts to avoid reforms that might have prevented such abuses, like the closing of a series of loopholes and exemptions that allowed a handful of major speculators to play a lopsided role in the setting of commodity prices.

So what was Lukken’s reward for helping the financial services industry avoid such reforms? Well, Lukken has just been named to head the Futures Industry Association, or FIA, the chief lobbying arm of futures investors.

This follows the Tauzin pattern of revolving-door hires: a government official carries water for a powerful industry, then moves on to take the cushy job with the industry’s lobbying arm once he leaves office.

Among people who follow these markets for a living, the Lukken hire had an embarrassingly over-the-top quality, like a CEO who goes the appearances-be-damned route and puts his 23 year-old secretary/mistress on the board of directors.

Mike Masters is head of the Masters Capital Management hedge fund and also chairman of Better Markets, a new non-profit advocacy group that promotes the public interest in the labyrinthine vagaries of the financial markets, and especially the commodities markets. He describes the hiring of Lukken as an extreme example of revolving-door politics.

“It’s not the revolving door. It’s the express elevator,” he says.

Masters remembers Lukken because the two men both testified before the Senate in that summer of 2008; he recalls watching the CFTC chief, aghast, when the latter continued to insist that there was nothing abnormal going on in the commodities world, despite a historic series of disruptions.

“And it wasn’t just oil,” Masters says. “There was the debacle in the wheat markets, with cotton, with soybeans and corn, there were riots in the Phillipines over the rice markets. And Lukken was saying everything’s okay. It was crazy.”

It was a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach to government oversight, which had far-reaching consequences in that crisis year. The CFTC, remember, also has purview over derivatives, meaning the failure to prevent the disastrous swap positions accumulated by the likes of AIG also falls, in part anyway, at the CFTC's doorstep.

A Dow Jones news story contained a hilarious summary of Lukken’s blase administrative style, in which he was described as having downplayed the whole being-a-stickler-for-rules aspect of regulation:
When Lukken headed the CFTC, he backed a more flexible, "principles-based" approach to regulation, different from what was seen as the prescriptive and "rule-based" methods employed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which polices stock markets.
Obviously this kind of thing has been going on forever in Washington, but some revolving-door hires feel worse and more shameless than others, and this is one of those.  But really it's the same old story: regulators keep falling down on the job, and keep getting rewarded for it by Wall Street, and nothing gets done about it.

Russia Warns of US Strike on Iran

Agence France-Presse reports: 
Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev warned that military escalation is likely in Iran, with “real danger” of a US strike, in an interview published on Thursday.

He added that Syria, which has refused to break its ties with Tehran, could also be a target for Western intervention.

“There is a likelihood of military escalation of the conflict, and Israel is pushing the Americans towards it,” Mr Patrushev said in an interview published on the website of the daily Kommersant.

"There is a real danger of a US military strike on Iran,” the senior Russian security official said.

“At present, the US sees Iran as its main problem. They are trying to turn Tehran from an enemy into a supportive partner, and to achieve this, to change the current regime by whatever means,” he added.

“They use both economic embargo and massive help to the opposition forces.”

Mr Patrushev said that “for years we have been hearing that the Iranians are going to create an atomic bomb, (but) still nobody has proved the existence of a military component of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Iran said on Wednesday it had firm evidence that “foreign quarters” were behind the killing of four Iranian nuclear experts and demanded UN Security Council condemnation of the deaths.
Meanwhile, a second US aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, has arrived in the Gulf region, the Pentagon has said, calling the move "routine" and denying any link to mounting tensions with Iran.

Backed by a cruiser, destroyer and with almost 80 planes and helicopters on board, the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group "arrived in the US 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR)" on January 9," a Fifth Fleet statement said.

Cannabis Treatment Threatens Deadly Painkiller Industry

Anthony Gucciardi - 01.10.12

Pharmaceutical painkillers are now responsible for more deaths in the United States than heroin and cocaine combined.

These pharmaceuticals are responsible for more than 15,000 deaths conservatively in 2008 alone. With no sign of slowing down, the painkiller industry is becoming wildly popular among Americans — as a result, so is the high rate of painkiller abuse.

Classified as dangerous by the U.S. government, cannabis (even in THC-free form, or free of psychoactive effects) has been identified as a powerful pain reliever in more than 80 peer-reviewed studies.

You may be aware of the fact that marijuana is usually quite high in THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the compound responsible for the psychoactive effect of cannabis.

In contrast, it is also low in CBD (cannabidiol) content. Both THC and CBD are known as cannabinoids, however, which interacts with your body in a very unique way.

In fact, cannabinoids are key when it comes to pain relief. While this information alone is enough to shatter the traditional beliefs on government marijuana regulation, the relationship between CBD and THC is even more revealing.

What you may not be familiar with is how CBD has been shown to block the effect of THC in the nervous system. This allows for marijuana to be used with little or no psychoactive effects. Hemp, on the other hand, is high in CBD and low in THC. This is due to the fact that it is bred to maximize its fiber, seeds, and oil. Of course these key properties are what it is most commonly used for.

Trials Indicate Cannabis as an Effective Treatment for Chronic Pain

In a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers examined the effects of cannabinoids on chronic pain and proper sleep. What they found in their trials challenges federal government claims that cannabis has ‘no accepted medical use’. The researchers conducted 18 trials using cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic pain, and found that cannabinoids demonstrated a significant painkilling effect as well as noticeable improvements in sleep in 15 of trials. Compared, to placebo, the cannabinoids were extremely effective.

Most importantly, there were no adverse effects.

Another study, performed in 2002, reached similar conclusions. Finding cannabis to aid in pain relief as well as quality of sleep, researchers from the McGill University Health Centre stated in summary that cannabis can be used as an effective way of improving pain, mood, and sleep in some patients with chronic pain.

There are many forms of the cannabis plant, many without mind-altering properties, many of which can be utilized without adverse reactions, as detailed in the peer-reviewed research. It is also quite clear that the painkiller industry simply cannot continue to wreak havoc on the lives of many, and a natural alternative must soon emerge to prevent another 15,000 plus deaths this year.

Why is the federal government refusing to admit the medicinal properties of cannabis and the unique ability of this substance to curb pain, insomnia, and impaired mood? This is only one example of how the government decides what is and what is not good for your health.

Exposing Monsanto’s Financial Interest in Government (2 articles)

Mike Barrett 01.09.12

Monsanto the devil is not simply a company who sells genetically modified products to those seeking them.

This massive corporation is actually very much involved with the passing and proposals of regulations concerning the very GM ingredients they are responsible for.

You may think those helping to pass the GMO bills truly believe that genetically engineering the food supply is beneficial to public health, but the scary truth is that many of said individuals couldn’t care less about humankind or the future of the planet. As far as many government regulators are concerned, Monsanto the devil can spread its wings far and wide – so as long as those in power are living large.

Exposing Monsanto’s Financial Interest in Government

During the 3rd quarter of 2011, biotech giant Monsanto the devil spent a whopping $2 million lobbying the federal government. The lobbying focused on issues like regulations for genetically modified crops and patent reforms, a previous report says. The recent lobbying was aimed at the US congress as well as the USDA to weaken regulatory requirements for the production of GM sugarbeets and alfalfa. This kind of lobbying from Monsanto the devil has been going on for years, with over $8 million spent annually over the last few years.

It is this kind of government lobbying that ignites so much backing from government agencies like the USDA. In 2011 the USDA was going to let Monsanto the devil conduct its own environmental studies as part of a two-year USDA experiment. But there is no good that can possibly come of an experiment where the company behind nearly every genetically modified crop in our daily diets is allowed to decide whether its products are causing any environmental harm. Allowing a company with such incredible negative influence to police itself will only result in individual and environmental harm.

More recently, the United States Department of Agriculture has decided to deregulate two of Monsanto the devil’s genetically modified seed varieties, giving the company a further grasp on the already dominated food supply of the nation.

Amazingly, it gets even worse.

What may be most shocking is the latest  leaked information regarding Monsanto the devil and its future expansion. The United States is threatening nations who oppose Monsanto the devil’s genetically modified (GM) crops with military-style trade wars, according to information obtained and released by the organization WikiLeaks.

The WikiLeaks cable reveals that in late 2007, the United States ambassador to France and business partner to George W. Bush, Craig Stapleton, requested that the European Union along with particular nations that did not support GMO crops be penalized. Perhaps the most shocking piece of information exposed by the cables is the fact that these U.S. diplomats are actually working directly for biotech corporations like Monsanto.

Amazingly, this is not the only case of corruption revealed. In similar newly released cables, United States diplomats are found to have pushed GMO crops as a strategic government and commercial imperative. Furthermore, advisers to the pope were specifically targeted by the United States. This may very well have to do with the fact that many Catholic bishops and figureheads have openly denounced GMO crops.

Given the evidence revealing Monsanto the devil’s ability to ‘legally’ persuade government officials, it seems the company is obviously pulling every move they can possible make in order to push their health-endangering agenda.


Leaked documents reveal US diplomats actually work for Monsanto the devil
Wednesday, January 11, 2012 by: Anthony Gucciardi

(NaturalNews) Biotech giant Monsanto the devil has been genetically modifying the world's food supply and subsequently breeding environmental devastation for years, but leaked documents now reveal that Monsanto the devil has also deeply infiltrated the United States government. With leaked reports revealing how U.S. diplomats are actually working for Monsanto the devil to push their agenda along with other key government officials, Monsanto the devil's grasp on international politics has never been clearer.

Amazingly, the information reveals that the massive corporation is also intensely involved in the passing and regulations concerning the very GM ingredients they are responsible for. In fact, the information released by WikiLeaks reveals just how much power Monsanto the devil has thanks to key positions within the United States government and elsewhere. Not only was it exposed that the U.S. is threatening nations who oppose Monsanto the devil with military-style trade wars, but that many U.S. diplomats actually work directly for Monsanto.

What the leaked documents reveal -- Military style trade wars, government corruption
In 2007 it was requested that specific nations inside the European Union be punished for not supporting the expansion of Monsanto the devil's GMO crops. The request for such measures to be taken was made by Craig Stapleton, the United States ambassador to France and partner to George W. Bush. Despite mounting evidence linking Monsanto the devil's GM corn to organ damage and environmental devastation, the ambassador plainly calls for 'target retaliation' against those not supporting the GM crop. In the leaked documents, Stapleton states:

"Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices."

The undying support of key players within the U.S. towards Monsanto the devil is undeniably made clear not only in this release, but in the legislative decisions taken by organizations such as the FDA and USDA. Legislative decisions such as allowing Monsanto the devil's synthetic hormone Posilac (rBGH) to be injected into U.S. cows despite being banned in 27 countries. How did Monsanto the devil pull this off?

The biotech juggernaut managed to infiltrate the FDA positions responsible for the approval of rBGH, going as far as instating the company's own Margaret Miller as Deputy Director of Human Safety and Consultative Services. After assuming this position, Miller reviewed her own report on the safety and effectiveness of rBGH.

Many US diplomats pawns of Monsanto the devil 's GM agenda
While it may be shocking to you if you are not familiar with the corrupt influence of Monsanto the devil, the cables also show that many US diplomats are pushing GMO crops as a strategic government and commercial imperative. Interestingly enough, the U.S. focused their efforts toward advisers to the pope specifically, due to the fact that many Catholic figureheads have openly voiced their opposition to GM foods. With this kind of political influence, is it any wonder that many food staples are now predominantly GM? Nearly 93% of U.S. soybeans are heavily modified conservatively, with many other staple crops coming in at similar numbers.

U.S. diplomats have unique opportunities to spread honest and intellectual campagins that can serve to better mankind and end suffering, however they are instead spreading the roots of Monsanto the devil deeper and deeper into international territory. As a substitute for the betterment of mankind, these paid-off diplomats are now spreading environment desecration and health destruction.

As if there wasn't already enough information to reveal Monsanto's corruption, the biotech giant also spends enormous amount of money lobbying government each year. Monsanto the devil spent an astonishing $2 million lobbying the federal government in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone, according to mainstream sources. Why so much cash? The government lobbying focuses on issues like regulations for GM crops and patent reforms. This 'legal' form of persuasion is the reason government agencies like the USDA and FDA let Monsanto the devil roam freely.

Satisfying government officials' financial vested interest is all that matters when dealing with corrupt mega-corporations like Monsanto the devil. As long as these financial ties continue to exist, Monsanto the devil will continue to reign over the food supply and continue to wreak devastation to the environment, ecosystem, and humankind.

Sources for this article include: