Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Best Congress the Banks’ Money Can Buy

Friday, April 6, 2012 by Common Dreams
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Here we go again. Another round of the game we call Congressional Creep. After months of haggling and debate, Congress finally passes reform legislation to fix a serious rupture in the body politic, and the President signs it into law. But the fight’s just begun, because the special interests immediately set out to win back what they lost when the reform became law.

They spread money like manure on the campaign trails of key members of Congress. They unleash hordes of lobbyists on Capitol Hill, cozy up to columnists and editorial writers, spend millions on lawyers who relentlessly pick at the law, trying to rewrite or water down the regulations required for enforcement. Before you know it, what once was an attempt at genuine reform creeps back toward business as usual.

It’s happening right now with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act -- passed two years ago in the wake of our disastrous financial meltdown. Just last week, for example, both parties in the House overwhelmingly approved two bills that already would change Dodd-Frank’s rules on derivatives -- those convoluted trading deals recently described by the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as "the largest dark pool in our financial markets."

Especially vulnerable is a key provision of Dodd-Frank known as the Volcker Rule, so named by President Obama after the former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. It’s an attempt to keep the banks in which you deposit your money from gambling your savings on the bank’s own, sometime risky investments.

It will come as no surprise that the financial sector hates the Volcker Rule and is fighting back hard.

On March 26, Robert Schmidt and Phil Mattingly at Bloomberg News published an extensive account on the coordinated campaign being waged by the banking industry to persuade regulators to scale back reform. Headlined, "Bank Lobby’s Onslaught Shifts Debate on Volcker Rule," their report chronicles the many ways in which banks are turning up the heat, enlisting the help of clients, customers, and other companies, among others.

"Some banks recommended consultants and law firms," they write, "... to help clients write letters arguing that the proposed language defines proprietary trading too broadly. Partnering with trade associations, the banks also commissioned studies, tested messages with focus groups, distributed talking points and set up a phone hotline for Capitol Hill staffers."

The banks found another ally in the US Chamber of Commerce, the biggest pro-business lobby in America, which helped put together a coalition of companies, including Boeing, DuPont, Caterpillar and Macy’s department stores.

In one instance, the banking behemoth Credit Suisse got an assist from a man named Robert Auwaerter, who oversees hundreds of billions as the fellow in charge of the fixed income group at Vanguard Group, a mutual fund company. He came to a briefing Credit Suisse held for three congressmen who belong to the New Democrats, a group of House members known "for their centrist and pro-business leanings."

Auwaerter led the 90-minute meeting and said the three Democrats "were really receptive to our comments." We’ll just bet. According to the Bloomberg News reporters, one of them, Joe Crowley of New York, "pushed back at one point, telling the group that he’d recently marched in a Lunar New Year parade in Queens with Thomas DiNapoli, the New York State Comptroller who oversees a state retirement fund of about $140 billion. Why wasn’t DiNapoli complaining about Volcker?

"The asset managers told Crowley they have a closer view of how the markets work than the pension funds that hire them. The proposed rule, they said, would slow bond trading, making it harder for them to execute their strategies. They predicted that would mean lower returns for funds like DiNapoli’s, as well as for 401(k) plans and individual investors.

"Less than two weeks after the Credit Suisse visit, 26 New Democrats signed a letter to regulators noting that 'millions of public school teachers, police officers and private employees depend on liquid markets and low transaction costs' to retire with ‘dignity and ease.'"

In other words, fellow members and regulators, lighten up on the Volcker Rule! A thick wallet helps, of course -- lobbyists for the financial sector spent nearly half a billion dollars last year. And the congressional newspaper The Hill reports, "Members of Congress pressuring regulators to go easy on the 'Volcker Rule' received roughly four times as much on average in contributions from the financial industry than lawmakers pushing for a stronger rule since the 2010 election cycle, according to Public Citizen, a left-leaning group advocating for strict implementation.

"When it is all added up, opponents of a tough Volcker Rule received over 35 times as much from the financial industry -- $66.7 million -- than advocates for a strong stance, who received $1.9 million."

All of which makes it darkly amusing to read in the April 4 edition of the financial newspaperThe American Banker that, in the words of Roger Beverage, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Bankers Association, "Congress isn’t afraid of bankers. They don’t think we’ll do anything to kick them out of office. We are trying to change that perception."

Which is why Beverage and his colleague are creating the industry’s first Super PAC. They’re calling it -- we’re not making this up -- "Friends of Traditional Banking," a smokescreen of a sobriquet if we ever heard one, vaguely reminiscent of the Chicago mobsters in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot who dub themselves "Friends of Italian Opera."

Matt Packard, the Super PAC’s chairman, told The American Banker, "If someone says I am going to give your opponent $5,000 or $10,000, you might say, 'Yea, okay.' But if you say the bankers are going to put in $100,000 or $500,000 or $1 million into your opponent's campaign, that starts to draw some attention." Don Childears, president and CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association chimed in, "It would be nice to sit on the sidelines or sit on our hands and say, 'Oh we don't get involved in that stuff,' but that just means you get run over. We need to get more deeply involved as an industry in supporting friends and trying to replace enemies."

All of which demonstrates, as per Bloomberg News, "that four years after Wall Street helped cause the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and prompted a $700 billion taxpayer bailout, its lobby is regaining its power to blunt or deflect efforts to rein in the banks."

Nonetheless, just last week, The Wall Street Journal reported on how a movement to challenge big banks at the local level has gained momentum around the country. Activists want to restructure Wall Street from the bottom up. As a result, the Los Angeles City Council is considering an ordinance that would gather foreclosure and other data on banks that do business with the city. Officials in Kansas, City, Missouri, passed a resolution directing the city manager to do business only with banks that are responsive to the community. And here in New York City, legislation is pending to require banks to reinvest in local neighborhoods if they want to hold city deposits. Similar actions are underway in other cities.

They’re turning up the heat. You can, too.

Obama Signs "Fraud-Friendly" JOBS Act into Law

Thursday, April 5, 2012 by Common Dreams

Economist: Bill will bring fraud, destroy jobs

President Obama has signed today the "fraud-friendly" JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act, which one leading economist has referred to as an "anti-jobs act" that will lead to more fraud.

Commenting on the “Jumpstart Our Business Startups” Act, economics and law professor William Black wrote in an open letter signed by other analysts:
"The JOBS Act is something only a financial scavenger could love. It will create a fraud-friendly and fraud-enhancing environment. It will add to the unprecedented level of financial fraud by our most elite CEOS that has devastated the U.S. and European economies and cost over 20 million people their jobs. "
Speaking on Up with Chris Hayes this past Sunday, Black added that "this is an anti-jobs bill." Reiterating that the act would create fraud, he said, "When you encourage fraud... you destroy jobs, you destroy millions of jobs."

SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar also noted in a March 16 speech:
"The bill would benefit Wall Street, at the expense of Main Street, by overriding protections that currently require a separation between research analysts and investment bankers who work in the same firm."

Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America, also sees fraud increasing the passing of the bill:
"This legislation will unleash a new wave of damaging investment fraud, undermine market transparency, and increase the cost of capital for the small companies it purports to benefit. Unfortunately, both the administration and a bipartisan majority in Congress have chosen to ignore those warnings."

* * *

The JOBS Act is so Criminogenic that it Guarantees Full-Time Jobs for Criminologists
The “Jumpstart Our Business Startups” Act, the comically forced effort to create a catchy acronym, is the most cynical bill to emerge from a cynical Congress and Administration. It is an exemplar of why Congressional approval ratings are well below those of used car dealers. The JOBS Act is something only a financial scavenger could love. It will create a fraud-friendly and fraud-enhancing environment. It will add to the unprecedented level of financial fraud by our most elite CEOS that has devastated the U.S. and European economies and cost over 20 million people their jobs. Financial fraud is a prime jobs killer.

Powerful regulatory regimes – strong accounting rules, strict corporate governance, tough securities laws, and vigorous civil and criminal enforcement of the regulations and laws is the greatest infrastructure for strong economic growth that a nation can provide. [...]

Among the many fraud-friendly policies that led to the deregulation that prompts our recurrent, intensifying financial crises, the undisputed most destructive aspect is the recurrent, intensifying embrace of the “regulatory race to the bottom.” The “logic” of the argument in the securities law context is that (1) dishonest issuers like bad regulation because it allows them to defraud with impunity, (2) our “competitor” nations (typically described as the City of London) offer weaker regulation to induce the fraudulent issuers to locate abroad, and (3) we must not allow this to happen; we must make sure that fraudulent issuers are based in America. Of course, they never phrase honestly their “logic” about dishonesty. Four national commissions investigated the causes of financial crises – the S&L debacle, the ongoing U.S. crisis, the Irish crisis, and the Icelandic crisis. Each of the commissions has decried the idiocy of the “race to the bottom” dynamic and warned that it must end. The arguments advanced by industry in support of the JOBS Act reflect and worship at the altar of “the race to the bottom.”

* * *

The Huffington Post: Obama JOBS Act Leaves Labor Fuming In Democratic Feud
[T]he White House and congressional Republicans tout the JOBS Act as a shot in the arm for small companies that have bright prospects. Fast-growing start-ups are engines of job growth and the bill is intended to make it easier for these companies to raise capital.

In practice, however, the bill will be a greater boon for venture capitalists, large tech companies and Wall Street banks. This cadre quickly got the president’s backing for the JOBS Act, despite vocal opposition from consumer advocates, federal regulators and the largest U.S. coalition of labor unions, who warned of increased risk of financial fraud. [...]

"The bill would benefit Wall Street, at the expense of Main Street, by overriding protections that currently require a separation between research analysts and investment bankers who work in the same firm," SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar said in a March 16 speech.

* * *

The Real News: Jobs Act 2012 a Recipe for Fraud
Bill Black: The "Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act" will create a race to the regulatory bottom

Jobs Report Tempers Hopes of Accelerating US Recovery

The reason job numbers were "disappointing based on the numbers from the past few months" is because the numbers from the last few months were bogus. They were cooked and artificially inflated with the inaccurate during a downturn "birth/death rate" which manufactures 57,000 new jobs every month based on the number of small businesses that start up during a healthy economy. This is not a healthy economy, those 57,000 jobs are bogus. There are other factors the govt uses to inflate the numbers that are exposed when you compare them to industry numbers, for example: construction jobs increased, but fewer construction projects are being started? Why are more construction workers being hired for fewer construction projects? And so forth...--jef


Friday, April 6, 2012 by Common Dreams
Only 120,000 new jobs this month; numbers were below expectations
The most recent jobs numbers were released today and the results indicate a slower recovery than many had predicted. The country's employers added ony 120,000 jobs in March, about half of the job gains for the previous months.

The report also indictes that between Janaury and February 2012, 584,000 public-sector jobs were lost, largely due to cuts in government services.
* * *

New York Times: Jobs Report Tempers Hopes of Accelerating U.S. Recovery
Although signs had pointed to a strengthening economy earlier this year, the jobs report on Friday came with a message: don’t get ahead of yourself. 
The country’s employers added a disappointing 120,000 jobs in March, about half the gains posted in each of the preceding three months. The unemployment rate, which comes from a separate survey of households rather than employers, slipped to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent, as a lower portion of the population were looking for work. 
The slowdown suggests that employers remain cautious about hiring as they digest the impact of rising gas prices and uncertainty about healthcare and pensions costs. 
Politicians seized on the slippage, with the Republican front-runner, Mitt Romney, characterizing the report as “weak and very troubling.” President Obama, for his part, acknowledged the “ups and downs” of the job market. 
While there have been some indications, like falling unemployment claims, that the job market was finding its footing, anxieties about whether a stronger pace of recovery could be sustained have been building in recent weeks. 
Global stock markets grew skittish this week as Spain’s ballooning debt level and weak bond offering raised the specter of a deepening economic slump in Europe. After a strong first quarter, the United States stock market has had several days of declines. Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, has tried to temper expectations and noted in a speech last month that the recent “better jobs numbers seem somewhat out of sync with the overall pace of economic expansion.” 
The March pullback eerily repeats a pattern set in the last two years, when job growth appeared to be picking up in the winter, only to slow down in the spring. The monthly snapshot of the job market from the Labor Department can reflect transitory factors, however, and are often revised. 
Economists suggested that the trend among employers to wring more work from fewer people continues to be a hallmark of the recession’s aftermath. 
“What we are seeing now is an agonizingly slow recovery in the job market,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “I believe what this reflects is this laser focus intensity that business leaders have nowadays to try to be able to increase production with less reliance on labor as a means to do so.” 
Private sector companies added 121,000 jobs in March as government shed 1,000 jobs, driven by layoffs in the postal system and at the local level. 
Among industries, manufacturing continued its run as the stalwart of job growth, adding 37,000 jobs in March. 
But economists cautioned that factories were unlikely to bring back a majority of the 2 million people who lost their jobs during the recession. 
Rather, manufacturers are recalibrating. “In the worst of a downturn like this, they probably kicked too many people out the door,” said Cliff Waldman, senior economist at MAPI/the Manufacturers Alliance. “And now even with modest growth they have to bring people back.” 
And despite recent improvements in retail sales, retailers shed nearly 34,000 jobs last month, a sign, some economists said, that the rapid incursion of e-commerce has hurt employment in the sector. 
“You simply need fewer workers when you’re selling from a distribution center,” said Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at J.H. Cohn and a deputy assistant secretary for employment and training in the Reagan administration.

* * *

ABC News: Jobs Report: Little Progress, Much Interpretation
Today’s jobs report: Good news or bad news? Depends on whom you talk to. 
While the report from the Department of Labor shows that 120,000 jobs were added in March, those jobs were far below the number added in January and February and missed the target number of additional jobs that forecasters expected. In addition, the U3 unemployment rate dropped slightly to 8.2%. (U6 is 14.5%)
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed worry over the jobs report and said the decreased unemployment rate reflected discouraged workers exiting the job search. 
Romney released a statement today saying the jobs report is “weak and very troubling” and “shows the employment market remains stagnant. Millions of Americans are paying a high price for President Obama’s economic policies, and more and more people are growing so discouraged that they are dropping out of the labor force altogether. It is increasingly clear the Obama economy is not working and that after three years in office the President’s excuses have run out.” 
Obama “welcomed” today’s news from the jobs report and said, “Right now, no issue is more important than restoring economic security for all our families in the wake of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” at today’s White House Forum on Women and the Economy. The White House said the report provides “further evidence that the economy is continuing to recover.” (spin spin spin!)
But the White House was was cautious in taking too much stock in the report’s indicators. ”Monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile,” the White House said in the statement. “It is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” During the forum, the president qualified the good news again, saying, “it’s clear to every American that there will still be ups and downs along the way, and that we’ve got a lot more work to do.”

How the US Uses Sexual Humiliation as a Political Tool to Control the Masses

Friday, April 6, 2012 by The Guardian
by Naomi Wolf

In a five-four ruling this week, the supreme court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time. This horror show ruling joins two recent horror show laws: the NDAA, which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the "trespass bill", which gives you a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near someone with secret service protection. These criminalizations of being human follow, of course, the mini-uprising of the Occupy movement.

Is American strip-searching benign? The man who had brought the initial suit, Albert Florence, described having been told to "turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks." He said he felt humiliated: "It made me feel like less of a man."

In surreal reasoning, justice Anthony Kennedy explained that this ruling is necessary because the 9/11 bomber could have been stopped for speeding. How would strip searching him have prevented the attack? Did justice Kennedy imagine that plans to blow up the twin towers had been concealed in a body cavity? In still more bizarre non-logic, his and the other justices' decision rests on concerns about weapons and contraband in prison systems. But people under arrest – that is, who are not yet convicted – haven't been introduced into a prison population.

Our surveillance state shown considerable determination to intrude on citizens sexually. There's the sexual abuse of prisoners at Bagram – der Spiegel reports that "former inmates report incidents of … various forms of sexual humiliation. In some cases, an interrogator would place his penis along the face of the detainee while he was being questioned. Other inmates were raped with sticks or threatened with anal sex". There was the stripping of Bradley Manning is solitary confinement. And there's the policy set up after the story of the "underwear bomber" to grope US travelers genitally or else force them to go through a machine – made by a company, Rapiscan, owned by terror profiteer and former DHA czar Michael Chertoff – with images so vivid that it has been called the "pornoscanner".

Believe me: you don't want the state having the power to strip your clothes off. History shows that the use of forced nudity by a state that is descending into fascism is powerfully effective in controlling and subduing populations.

The political use of forced nudity by anti-democratic regimes is long established. Forcing people to undress is the first step in breaking down their sense of individuality and dignity and reinforcing their powerlessness. Enslaved women were sold naked on the blocks in the American south, and adolescent male slaves served young white ladies at table in the south, while they themselves were naked: their invisible humiliation was a trope for their emasculation. Jewish prisoners herded into concentration camps were stripped of clothing and photographed naked, as iconic images of that Holocaust reiterated.

One of the most terrifying moments for me when I visited Guantanamo prison in 2009 was seeing the way the architecture of the building positioned glass-fronted shower cubicles facing intentionally right into the central atrium – where young female guards stood watch over the forced nakedness of Muslim prisoners, who had no way to conceal themselves. Laws and rulings such as this are clearly designed to bring the conditions of Guantanamo, and abusive detention, home.

I have watched male police and TSA members standing by side by side salaciously observing women as they have been "patted down" in airports. I have experienced the weirdly phrased, sexually perverse intrusiveness of the state during an airport "pat-down", which is always phrased in the words of a steamy paperback ("do you have any sensitive areas? … I will use the back of my hands under your breasts …"). One of my Facebook commentators suggested, I think plausibly, that more women are about to be found liable for arrest for petty reasons (scarily enough, the TSA is advertising for more female officers).

I interviewed the equivalent of TSA workers in Britain and found that the genital groping that is obligatory in the US is illegal in Britain. I believe that the genital groping policy in America, too, is designed to psychologically habituate US citizens to a condition in which they are demeaned and sexually intruded upon by the state – at any moment.

The most terrifying phrase of all in the decision is justice Kennedy's striking use of the term "detainees" for "United States citizens under arrest". Some members of Occupy who were arrested in Los Angeles also reported having been referred to by police as such. Justice Kennedy's new use of what looks like a deliberate activation of that phrase is illuminating.

Ten years of association have given "detainee" the synonymous meaning in America as those to whom no rights apply – especially in prison. It has been long in use in America, habituating us to link it with a condition in which random Muslims far away may be stripped by the American state of any rights. Now the term – with its associations of "those to whom anything may be done" – is being deployed systematically in the direction of … any old American citizen.

Where are we headed? Why? These recent laws criminalizing protest, and giving local police – who, recall, are now infused with DHS money, military hardware and personnel – powers to terrify and traumatise people who have not gone through due process or trial, are being set up to work in concert with a see-all-all-the-time surveillance state. A facility is being set up in Utah by the NSA to monitor everything all the time: James Bamford wrote in Wired magazine that the new facility in Bluffdale, Utah, is being built, where the NSA will look at billions of emails, texts and phone calls. Similar legislation is being pushed forward in the UK.

With that Big Brother eye in place, working alongside these strip-search laws, – between the all-seeing data-mining technology and the terrifying police powers to sexually abuse and humiliate you at will – no one will need a formal coup to have a cowed and compliant citizenry. If you say anything controversial online or on the phone, will you face arrest and sexual humiliation?

Remember, you don't need to have done anything wrong to be arrested in America any longer. You can be arrested for walking your dog without a leash. The man who was forced to spread his buttocks was stopped for a driving infraction. I was told by an NYPD sergeant that "safety" issues allow the NYPD to make arrests at will. So nothing prevents thousands of Occupy protesters – if there will be any left after these laws start to bite – from being rounded up and stripped naked under intimidating conditions.

Why is this happening? I used to think the push was just led by those who profited from endless war and surveillance – but now I see the struggle as larger. As one internet advocate said to me: "There is a race against time: they realise the internet is a tool of empowerment that will work against their interests, and they need to race to turn it into a tool of control."

As Chris Hedges wrote in his riveting account of the NDAA: "There are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, the Washington Post reported in a 2010 series by Dana Priest and William M Arken. There are 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, the reporters wrote, and in Washington, DC, and the surrounding area 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2011."

This enormous new sector of the economy has a multi-billion-dollar vested interest in setting up a system to surveil, physically intimidate and prey upon the rest of American society.

Now they can do so by threatening to demean you sexually – a potent tool in the hands of any bully.

US Attack on Transparency Continues: CIA Whistleblower Indicted

Among others, Obama campaigned on the issues of increased government transparency and protection for whistleblowers, whom he claimed were heroes. Once in office, Obama's administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any president in US history, and more than all the presidents since Truman, combined. He has also blocked every effort to make government transparent while unconstitutionally increasing executive powers. An argument can be made that Obama is worse than Bush because we knew what we were getting with Bush. He sucked, but we knew he would suck. He didn't make and break campaign promises even close to the number Obama has. Obama lied during his campaign about many things (11 distinct campaign promises I tallied in a blog post here within the past couple of years). He has not even come close to being the president he claimed he would be during his campaign, but in fact he's almost the polar opposite of his campaign image. He ran as a progressive, and rules as a fascist authoritarian, taking away as many, or more, of our constitutional rights than Bush did. Obviously, Romney is not any better. The 2012 election may feature the two worst presidential candidates--definitely the two biggest "say anything to get elected" liars-- in US history.--jef


Friday, April 6, 2012 by Common Dreams
Former CIA officer, Kiriakou, faces years in prison

Washington continues its attack on whistle-blowers today as CIA whistle-blower, John Kiriakou, has been indicted in court for charges of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and three counts of violating the Espionage Act.

Former CIA officer, Kiriakou, allegedly leaked information to journalists about classified CIA operations and included classified information in his 2010 book, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror.

Kiriakou had become a well know whistle-blower after he became the first US official to reveal the use of waterboarding, a torture technique used by the US.

Kiriakou's indictment allows the case to proceed to trial without an evidentiary hearing.

* * *

'Reluctant Spy' indicted for leaking US secrets (Agence France-Presse):
A CIA intelligence officer between 1990 and 2004, Kiriakou was accused in the indictment of leaking information to reporters anonymously identified as "Journalist A" and "Journalist B." 
The charges stem from an investigation into classified information, including photographs of a CIA official, that found its way into classified filings by defense lawyers representing detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, the US naval base in southern Cuba. 
The indictment claims Kiriakou was a source of information for a June 2008 New York Times article that identified a CIA operative and revealed other classified information. 
Kiriakou also was alleged to have lied to a CIA review board while he was seeking permission to publish a book about his experience. 
In the book, Kiriakou sought to include information about a "magic box," which was said to be a CIA scanning device allowing the agency to track Al-Qaeda suspects in Pakistan through their mobile phones.

Videos Show Blackwater in Iraq Running Over Woman, Firing into Traffic

It continues to become clearer and clearer that crucial endeavors traditionally operated by the government--i.e. prisons, military engagements, schools, water utilities--should not be privatized. Privatization unleashed Blackwater murder sprees on innocent civilians, crams prisons with non-violent offenders, and graduates corporately programmed student consumers who accept the fate that the corrupt corporate control mechanism imposes upon them. Blackwater is the sucking chestwound of democracy's ultimate fail--allowing corporate personhood, and thus corporate special interests control all 3 branches of the federal govt. --jef


Thursday, April 5, 2012 by Common Dreams

Videos posted by Harper's Magazine show the private contractor formerly known as Blackwater in Iraq running over a woman with a car, smashing into Iraqis' cars to move them out of the way and firing a rifle into traffic.

The behavior by Blackwater seen in the videos adds even more fuel to evidence that the company "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

The videos are included in a piece by Charles Glass entitled “The Warrior Class” that looks at the rise of private security contractors. Glass had been shown the videos by a former Blackwater employee.

Describing the video dated April 2006 that shows the woman being hit by a Blackwater vehicle, Glass writes:

"A woman in a black full-length burka began to cross the street. The vehicle struck the woman and knocked her unconscious body into the gutter. The cars slowed for a moment, but did not stop, nor did they even determine whether the victim was dead or alive. A voice in the car taking the video said, 'Oh, my God!' Yet no one was heard on the radio requesting help for her. Most sickeningly, the sequence had been set to an AC/DC song, whose pounding, metallic chorus declared: 'You’ve been… thunderstruck!'"

Glass writes that the tape he was shown ended with the inscription, "In support of security, peace, freedom and democracy everywhere."

* * *

US Continues to TRAIN Terrorists on its OWN Terror List

Friday, April 6, 2012 by Common Dreams
New report reveals evidence that the US trains, funds Iranian insurgents

Seymour Hersh, writing for the New Yorker, has released a report today showing that the US has trained and funded a 'terrorist' organization in a bid to weaken the Iranian regime. The report uses an array of sources showing that the US has trained and funded members of the group know as Mujahideen-e-Khalq (M.E.K), who has become a prominent insurgent force in Iran.

The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for M.E.K., in Nevada.

The group's brutal tactics had landed it on the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations; however, the report shows that the US continued to actively support them, and most likely still maintains close ties.

As Glenn Greenwald points out today:

"Worse, this reportedly happened at the very same time that the U.S. aggressively prosecuted and imprisoned numerous Muslims for providing material support for groups on that list even though many of those prosecuted provided support that was far, far less than what the U.S. Government itself was providing to MEK."

* * *

Our Men in Iran? (Seymour Hersh/New Yorker):
The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location. [...] 
The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants. 
Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. [...] 
Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror. Gerson said he would not comment on the alleged training in Nevada. But such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?” [...] 
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. [...]

An adviser to the special-operations community told me that the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. “Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates,” he said.

* * *

Report: U.S. trained terror group (Salon):
When the U.S. wants to fund, train, arm or otherwise align itself with a Terrorist group or state sponsor of Terror — as it often does — it at least usually has the tact to first remove them from its formal terrorist list (as the U.S. did when it wanted to support Saddam in 1982 and work with Libya in 2006), or it just keeps them off the list altogether despite what former Council on Foreign Relations writer Lionel Beehner described as “mounds of evidence that [they] at one time or another abetted terrorists” (as it has done with close U.S. allies in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, along with the El Salvadoran death squads and Nicaraguan contras armed and funded in the 1980s by the Reagan administration). But according to a new, multi-sourced report from The New Yorker‘s Seymour Hersh, the U.S. did not even bother going through those motions when, during the Bush years, it trained the Iranian dissident group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) at a secretive Department of Energy site in Nevada [...] 
In February, NBC News‘ Richard Engel and Robert Windrem reported, based on two anonymous “senior U.S. officials,” that MEK was the group perpetrating a series of “sophisticated” assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists (using bombs and rifles). NBC also reported that Israel — specifically its Mossad intelligence service — is “ financing, training and arming” MEK: in other words, that Israel is a state sponsor of this designated Terrorist group. Various reports have also indicated that the MEK, with Israeli support, was responsible for a string of explosions on Iranian soil. Hersh obtained independent confirmation of all these claims. [...] 
That alone compels serious DOJ and Congressional investigations into these claims. Worse, this reportedly happened at the very same time that the U.S. aggressively prosecuted and imprisoned numerous Muslims for providing material support for groups on that list even though many of those prosecuted provided support that was far, far less than what the U.S. Government itself was providing to MEK.

Collateral Damage in the Marcellus Shale

Fracking is destruction. I've posted many articles and read countless more, and the only time I find positive stories about fracking are when they are written by right wing oriented, pro-corporate  organizations or are propaganda pieces by PR firms hired by the energy companies. There is nothing good about fracking. It is an environmental disaster, a fresh water destroyer, cancer and earthquake causer, climate change accelerator, and the biggest lie? That natural gas is the "clean burning fuel." Since fracking became widespread, greenhouse gasses have increased at a higher rate than before fracking became widespread. We have reached the crisis moment of climate change. In all probability, we are doomed and can't come back from it because there are no plans to deal with the issue; meanwhile, fracking operations keep increasing with little to no regulation, contaminating more and more underground water sources, and killing families, their pets and livestock. Oh, and causing earthquakes. End it. If we allow fracking to continue, we are good and truly fucking extinct.--jef


Fracking Low-Income Residents

There’s nothing to suggest that in his 51 years Kevin June should be a leader.

Not from his high school where he dropped out after his freshman year.

Not from his job, where he worked as an auto body technician for more than 35 years.

Both of his marriages ended in divorce, but did produce two children, a 31-year-old son and a 28-year-old daughter.

June readily admits that for most of his life, beginning about 14 when he began drinking heavily, he was a drunk. Always beer. Almost always to excess. But, he will quickly tell you how many weeks he has been sober. It’s now 56, he says proudly.

In October 2008 he was in an auto accident, when he swerved to miss a deer and hit an oak tree head on. That’s when he learned MRIs showed he had been suffering from degenerative arthritis. Between the accident and the arthritis, he was off work for three months. Then, in May 2009, he was laid off when the company moved.

The pain is now so severe that after about 10 minutes, he has to sit.

Unable to work, surviving on disability income that brings him $1,300 a month, just $392.50 above the poverty line, he lives in the 12-acre Riverdale Mobile Home Village, along the Susquehanna River near Jersey Shore north-central Pennsylvania. The village has a large green area where families can picnic, relax, or play games, sharing the space with geese and all kinds of animals.

For most of the six years June lived in the village, he kept to himself—chatting with neighbors now and then, but nothing that would ever suggest he’d be a leader. The last time he led anything was almost two decades earlier when he was president of a 4-wheel club.

On Feb. 18, the residents found out their landlord had sold the park, only after reading a story in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. The landlord, who the residents say did what he could to make their village safe and attractive, later came to each of the 37 families. He told the families he sold the park and they would have two months to leave. It was abrupt. Business-like. “We knew he was planning to sell,” says June, “but we all thought it would be to someone who would allow us to stay.”

Four days after the residents were ordered to move, certified letters made it official. The owner sold the park to Aqua PVR, a division of Aqua America, headquartered in Bryn Mawr. Sale price was $550,000. It may have been a bargain—land and industrial parks that have been vacant for years are going for premium sales prices as the natural gas boom in the Marcellus Shale consumes a large part of Pennsylvania and four surrounding states.

Aqua had received permission from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) to withdraw three million gallons of water a day from the Susquehanna; the 37 families of the mobile home village would just be in the way. The company intends to build a pump station and create a pipe system to provide water to natural gas companies that use hydraulic fracturing, the preferred method to extract natural gas from as deep as 10,000 feet beneath the earth. The process, known as fracking, requires a mixture of sand, chemicals, many of them toxins, and anywhere from one to nine million gallons of water per well, injected into the earth at high pressure. Jersey Shore sits in a northeastern part of the Marcellus Shale, which is believed to hold about 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Aqua isn’t the only company planning to take water in the area. Anadarko E & P Co. and Range Resources-Appalachia have each applied to withdraw up to three million gallons a day from the Susquehanna. While the Delaware River Basic Commission, and the states of New York and Maryland, have imposed moratoriums upon the use of fracking until full health and environmental impacts can be assessed, Pennsylvania and the SRBC have been handing out permits by the gross.

Most residents had only a vague knowledge of fracking and what it is doing to the earth. “They have a lot more knowledge now,” says June, as politically aware as any environmentalist.

Aqua had originally ordered the residents to leave by May 1, but then extended it to the end of the month. It dangled a $2,500 relocation allowance in its eviction.

However, the cost to move a trailer to another park is $6,000–$11,000, plus extra for skirting, sheds, and any handicap-accessible external ramps. But, most trailers can’t be moved. “These are older trailers,” says June. His is a 12-by-70, built in 1974, with a tin roof and tin siding (“tin-on-tin”); like others, it isn’t sturdy enough to survive a move. But even if it did, there would be no place to put it. The parks want the newer trailers, but most parks are full.

So, the residents began looking in the classified ads for rentals. Because the natural gas companies are bringing in thousands of employees to frack the land, there is a shortage of apartments, most with inflated prices to take advantage of the well-paid roustabouts, drivers, and technicians who moved into the area, and spend their money on local businesses eager to improve their own profits. During the past two years, rents have doubled and tripled. “None of us can pay a thousand or more a month,” says June. The current mobile home owners paid $200 a month for their lot.

Not long after he was served his own eviction notice, June had a dream. Some might call it a nightmare; some might see it as he did, a religious experience. “It was Jesus coming to me, telling me I had to do something,” he says.

June is constantly on the move, going from trailer to trailer to help the families who were abruptly evicted. Whatever their needs, Kevin June tries to provide it, constantly on the phone, running up phone bills he knows he can’t afford but does so anyhow because the lives of his neighbors matter.

There’s Betty and William Whyne. Betty, 82, began working as a waitress at the age of 13 and now, in retirement, makes artificial Christmas trees. She has a cancerous tumor in the same place where a breast was removed in 1991. William, 72, who was an electrician, carpenter, and plumber before he retired after a heart attack, goes to a dialysis center three times a week, four hours each time. They brought their 12-wide 1965 Fleetwoood trailer to the village shortly after the 1972 flood. Like the other residents, they can’t afford to move; they can’t find adequate housing. “We’ve looked at everything in about a 30 mile radius,” they say. They earn $1,478 a month from retirement, only $252.17 above the federal poverty line. One son is in New Jersey; one is in Texas, and the Whynes don’t want to leave the area; they shouldn’t have to.

There’s April and Eric Daniels. She’s a stay-at-home mom for their two children; he’s a truck driver whose hours have been reduced. Their 14-by-70 trailer is valued at $13,200; she and her husband were in the process of remodeling it, had already paid $5,000 for improvements, and were about to start building a second bathroom. April Daniels had grown up living in a series of foster houses, “so I know what it’s like to move around, but this was my first home, and it’s harder for me to leave.” Their trailer provides a good home, but can’t be moved. “We’re pretty much on the verge of just tearing down the trailer and living in a camper,” she says. They don’t know what will happen. They do know that because of what they see as Aqua’s insensitivity, they will lose a lot of money no matter what they do.

Doris Fravel, 82, a widow on a fixed income of $1,326 a month, has lived in the village 38 years. She’s proud of her 1974 12-wide trailer with the tin roof. “I painted it every year,” she says. In June, she paid $3,580 for a new air conditioner; she recently paid $3,000 for new insulated skirting. The trailer has new carpeting. Unlike most of the residents, she found housing—a $450 a month efficiency. But it’s far smaller than her current home. So she’s sold or given away most of what she owns. She may have a buyer for the trailer, and will take $2,500 for it, considerably less than it’s worth. “I can’t do anything else,” she says. “I just can’t move my furnishings into the new apartment,” she says. Like the other residents, she has family who are helping, but there’s only so much help any family can provide. “I never knew I would ever have to leave,” she says, but she does want to “see one of those gas men come to my door—and I’d like to punch him in the shoulder.”

Not only are there few lots available and apartments are too expensive, but most residents don’t qualify for a house mortgage; and there are waiting lists for senior citizen and low-income housing. The stories are the same.

No one from Aqua has been in touch with any resident. But, the company did hire a local real estate agency. The agency claims it has made extraordinary efforts to help the residents find other housing. The residents disagree. April Daniels says “some of the Realtors have gotten real nasty with the people in the park—they just don’t understand that we are all in a hardship, so we get mad and frustrated and take it out on them.” But there really isn’t much anyone can do. The natural gas boom has made affordable housing as obsolete as the anthracite coal that once drove the region’s energy economy.

The residents, with limited incomes, have lived good lives; they are good people. They paid their rents and fees on time; they kept up the appearances of their trailers and the land around it. They worked their jobs; they survived. Until they were evicted

And now it’s up to the residents to try to survive. They have become closer; they listen to each other; they hug each other; and, the tough men aren’t afraid to let others see them cry. “The pain in this park is almost too much at times,” says June.

If something goes wrong, the residents have to fix it; Kevin June is the one they call. If he can’t fix a problem, he finds someone who can. In this trailer park, as in most communities, there is a lot of talent—“we help each other,” says June. His job is to make sure the residents survive until they can move. I’ve had the Holy Spirit running through my veins a long time, but it’s running real deep right now,” he says.

A half-dozen families have already moved, but most say they will stay and fight what they see as a politically-based corporate takeover.

During the week Aqua PVR issued eviction notices, its parent company issued a news release, boasting that its revenue for 2011 was $712 million, a 4.2 percent increase from the year before; its net income was $143.1 million, up 15.4 percent from the previous year. But, for some reason, the company just couldn’t find enough money to give the residents a fair moving settlement. “They just expect us to throw our homes into the street and live in tents,” says June.

“I went to see a state representative to ask what he could do to help,” he says, “but his secretary just coldly told me there was nothing that could be done because whoever owns a property can do with it what he wants to do.” He never saw the state representative.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—armed with an industry-favorable law recently rammed through by the Republican-controlled legislature and eagerly signed by a first-term Republican governor who received more than $1,6 million in campaign contributions from the energy industry—has decided that fracking the earth, threatening health and the environment, is far better for business than taking care of the people.

Kevin June and 36 families are just collateral damage.

The Regulation Killers

Making the People Pay
The Republican Party has a sense of humor, however inadvertently. It’s ardent advocates regularly accuse the Obama Administration of heavy handed regulation of business.

Tell that to the hundred federal poultry inspectors who just picketed the Department of Agriculture in opposition to a proposal that would allow those crammed, bacterial poultry slaughterhouses to do their own inspections. The picketers fear that with this license, the poultry bosses will speed up the slaughter rate to 175 birds per minute from the present 70.

Tell that to the Securities Exchange Commission that will have to allow the return of the notorious boiler room practices where “start-ups” with up to $1 billion in annual revenues can sell stock to investors like the old Wild West days with little discourse or regulation. After the recent devastating Wall Street crash and bailout, here they go again—just throw the federal cop off the corporate crime beat.

Tell that to Donald Michaels, the superbly qualified head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration who can’t get the White House to approve issuance of long-overdue life-saving safeguards for worker health and safety. Fear of Republicans by the Obamaites in an election year super-cedes their oath to enforce laws that save lives in hazardous workplaces. Nearly 60,000 workers lose their lives to workplace-related diseases and trauma every year. That is equivalent to nineteen 9/11 casualty tolls every year.

Tell that to a strapped Environmental Protection Agency that at long last was trying to reduce the toxic materials in your air and water. President Obama personally intervened on two of their forthcoming regulations to stop them.

Tell that to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that was the subject of a front page New York Times article on April 3, 2012 titled “White House and the F.D.A. Often at Odds.” It seems that President Obama’s deputy chief of staff, Nancy-Ann DeParle, has been leaning on FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg to drop proposed rules requiring labeling of calories for foods served on airplanes and movie theaters, as well as regulation of sunscreen and asthma inhalers.

The Obamabush White House objected to what the Times said was “the enforcement of an agency decision on a drug to prevent premature births.”

The FDA believed that the Obama “hope and change” campaign in 2008 would start a new day from the years of George W. Bush who believed, for example, that the agency should not issue rules preventing contamination of eggs and other produce. Alas, said a top FDA official to the Times: “Employees here waited eight long years for deliverance that didn’t come.”

Mr. Obama, as with his other choices of White House staff, set himself up by choosing the “regulation czar,” Cass R. Sunstein who can give thumbs down on agency safety proposals. Professor Sunstein, who thinks harder than he feels the pain of victims of non-regulation (or law and order) has a philosophy known as “libertarian paternalism”. (Google it if you wish to discover its meaning.)

FDA scientists sadly recall Mr. Obama’s White House ceremony to sign a memorandum in 2009 to replace Mr. Bush’s politicization of science in government with scientific integrity and to listen to scientists “even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it is inconvenient.” Once again, words, words, words, succumb to the power of corporatism.

Obama’s regulatory agency officials receive constant pressure from Congressional corporatists on their meager enforcement budgets. They are made to behave as if they should fear the criminals and defrauders they are supposed to be catching to protect the American people.

All of them are envious of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) created by Congress to shield consumers of credit, mortgages, payday loans and other financial transactions from the Wall Street-driven crime wave. You see, the CFPB resides inside the Federal Reserve and receives its $500 billion budget from the Fed, which gets its budget from bank frees and is free of the Congressional hammers.

Still, the CFPB and its sterling staff (with few exceptions) is an agency waiting to start producing long-needed rules of decent business behavior. It is not clear what is causing the delay, but it couldn’t be Congress now. It may be the high hurdles that the Bureau has to overcome vertically with its supervisory council—real or fancied.

Occupy Washington needs to mass in front of these agency buildings soon to highlight the truth about Obama’s weak-kneed regulatory agencies. In a perverse way, the Obamaites would probably welcome such protests as enhancing their corporate fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile the people pay!

The Bottomless Pit

The Housing Doldrums
“There are many good reasons to believe that the 5.5 million foreclosures we have seen are barely halfway through their full course. The United States may end up with a total of 8-10 million foreclosures before we are finished.Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture

It all gets down to supply and demand. The banks have been keeping millions of homes off the market until a settlement was reached in the $25 billion robosigning scandal. Now that the 49-state deal has been finalized, the banks are preparing to put more of their of distressed homes up for sale. That will lead to lower prices and the next leg down in the 6-year long housing crisis.

According to Reuters, new foreclosures “begun by Deutsche Bank were up 47 percent from 2011. Those of Wells Fargo’s rose 68 percent and Bank of America’s, including BAC Home Loans Servicing, jumped nearly seven-fold — 251 starts versus 37 in the same period in 2011.”

So BofA, which unwisely purchased Countryside following the Crash of ’08, is scrambling to get its house in order by removing the deadwood from its balance sheet. Good luck with that.

In order to avoid a sudden plunge in prices–which would be devastating for bank balance sheets–the banks will continue to control the number of homes that are released onto the market. In 2011, existing home inventory shrunk by 20 percent year over year while the shadow backlog of distressed homes continued to grow in leaps and bounds. This shows that the banks are managing inventory to minimize their losses.

But even though “visible” inventory has shrunk by as much as 30 percent in some markets, housing prices have continued their downward trek, dropping roughly 4 percent in 2011. This reflects the truly dismal condition of the underlying economy that is wracked by high unemployment, flat wages, and soaring personal debt. Absent another round of fiscal stimulus, there’s little chance that housing sales will rebound in 2012 despite historic low rates and myriad government loan modification programs.

The biggest problem facing housing now is that ordinary working people can’t make their monthly payments. An article in Reuters summed it up like this: “The subprime stuff is long gone,” said Michael Redman, founder of “Now the folks being affected are hardworking, everyday Americans struggling because of the economy.”

So what we’re seeing now is the knock-on effects from high unemployment, tight credit, shitty wages and deep protracted economic stagnation. This is a policy issue, but policymakers refuse to address it, so housing will bump along the bottom for years to come. Now take a look at this article in the Wall Street Journal:
“Delinquent mortgage borrowers, take note: Banks still aren’t moving very fast to kick you out of your homes. February’s foreclosure settlement between big U.S. banks and state attorneys general should have been bad news for mortgage deadbeats — and for house prices. Having resolved charges that they had filed bogus documents to speed up repossessions, the banks should have felt free to move ahead with millions of foreclosures. They should also have started selling more repossessed houses, an influx of cheap supply that would weigh on the market. 
So far, though, that’s not happening. …. as a result, the average number of days since the last mortgage payment had been made on homes in the foreclosure process rose to 667, up from 660 the previous month and 253 in February 2008. In other words, the average delinquent borrower could live rent-free for nearly two years without getting evicted, assuming the borrower chose to stay in the house.” (“The Foreclosure Deal Spares the Housing Market (So Far)”, Bloomberg)
Just to be clear, we do not agree with the author that the people who were victims in this vast criminal mortgage laundering scam– that destroyed the financial system and pushed the global economy into a Depression–can be fairly characterized as “mortgage deadbeats”. Even so, the point he makes is important, because it illustrates how the banks are fiddling with supply to avoid the losses on non performing loans. Screwball accounting regulations allow the banks to keep mortgages on their books at fictitious prices (artificially high) until the house is sold. Only then, are they required to write down the difference. Considering that they still have millions of distressed homes on their books, this is no small matter. An accurate accounting of bank real estate inventory would show that most of the biggest banks in the country are technically insolvent.

So what does this mean for people who are thinking about buying a house in the near future? Should they hang on to their money and wait for another year or so or jump at that $450,000 McMansion with the Gothic parapets and custom Swedish sauna that’s been marked-down to a mere $185,000?

That’s hard to say. It depends on one’s own priorities. But one thing is certain, housing prices won’t be going up for a very long time. Maybe never. Moody’s ratings agency forecasts that we’ll see ”an 8% to 10% decline in housing prices” due to a 25 percent uptick in repossessed properties from 1 million in 2011. Unfortunately, Moody’s calculations are far too optimistic. In fact, “top housing analyst Laurie Goodman estimates the amount of shadow inventory at between 8 and 10 million homes, and Michael Olenick, using a different methodology, comes in at just under 9 million homes.” (“Moody’s Foresees 10% Drop in US Housing Prices“, naked capitalism)

Even if Goodman-Olenick’s predictions are wrong by half–which is unlikely–prices have a long way to go before they hit bottom.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

NFL, Nike Unveil New Uniforms for All 32 Teams

2012 NFL Uniforms: [Photos]
The Inquisitr - April 3, 2012 

NFL 2012

Dallas Cowboys

Brooklyn, New York – After what seemed like months of waiting, the NFL and Nike has finally unveiled the next generation of uniforms for all 32 NFL teams.
 The league and Nike – who takes over the NFL’s uniform and gear design from Reebok – showed off the new look in grand style Tuesday with a gridiron-styled fashion show at a Brooklyn film studio.

Commissioner Roger Goodell was on hand, along with Super Bowl Champion New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz.
“I love them,” Goodell said at the unveiling.
Cruz chimed in that the new unis are sleeker and more form-fitting which should help him elude tacklers better.

The unis “conform and fit your body,” said Cruz.
“They’re tight. You can’t get pulled or snagged on. That’s the biggest thing for me: making sure that I’m sleek and I’m fast and I can’t be grabbed or held.”
While the majority of the teams’ new uniforms look nearly identical to last year’s models, the Seattle Seahawks got a sweet upgrade with darker-colored blue jerseys, a more aggressive-looking hawk on the helmet and neon-green trim around the players’ numbers.

According to USA Today, the new Nike NFL jerseys go on sale the weekend of the 2012 NFL Draft from April 26-28.

Check out more photos from Nike’s unveiling of the new NFL uniforms below:

(God, these new uniforms are so strange and different, it will be like watching space aliens vs. wizards out there now...--jef)

Worldwide Opposition to Monsanto the devil Growing

A report released today shows that worldwide opposition to the biotechnology giant Monsanto the devil and "the agro-industrial model that it represents" is growing.

La Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth International, and Combat Monsanto the devil, the groups who issued the report, show that small farmers, groups and communities in every continent are rising up to resist Monsanto the devil's products and environmental harm. While Monsanto the devil's -- and other giant agribusinesses' -- approach, including genetically modified crops, has been shown to hurt biodiversity, local food knowledge and the environment, the report shows that "food sovereignty is a real and feasible alternative."

“This new report documents the intense opposition to this powerful transnational company, which peddles its genetically modified products seemingly without regard for the associated social, economic and environmental costs,” said Martin Drago, Friends of the Earth International's Food Sovereignty programme coordinator.

“This report demonstrates that the increasingly vocal objections from social movements and civil society organisations are having an impact on the introduction of GMO crops.” said Josie Riffaud from La Via Campesina.

The report notes that an "unprecedented agribusiness offensive underway, under the banner of the new ‘green economy’" positioning giant agribusiness companies like Monsanto the devil to have even greater control. The report's highlighting the "offensive" echoes a report issued last month on global water security from the Defense Intelligence Agency that also pushed biotechnology and agricultural exports rather than agroecology and food sovereignty.

"Who will hold Monsanto the devil responsible for the global depletion of biodiversity, soil erosion, and violations of peasant rights wrought by the application of petroleum-based inputs required by industrial agriculture?” asked Dena Hoff of the National Family Farm Coalition / La Via Campesina North America. “Farmers worldwide are resisting for food sovereignty, but the rest of the world must join us," she added.

* * *
Selections from the report:

‘Les Faucheurs Volontaires’: tactical non-violent resistance against GMO

The Voluntary Reapers or ‘Faucheurs Volontaires’ are a group of self-organised non-violent French activists that have led several direct actions to ‘neutralise’ field tests set up by GM corporations and, to a lesser extent, unauthorised fields cultivated by pro-GM farmers. Jose Bové has been an important actor in the movement and a spokesman for the anti-GM activists, although this organisation does not recognise any leadership as such.
The Voluntary Reapers act openly and unmasked, and they claim responsibility for all their actions, sometimes turning themselves in to the police. They argue that civil disobedience is necessary in order to strengthen democracy and defend the common good against private interests backed by public authorities. They personally assume the civil and penal consequences of their actions in court, and use these trials to deliver their views against Monsanto the devil and GMOs to the public.
In August 2010, 60 faucheurs volontaires and 15 farmers were sentenced to two months suspended prison sentences, after they tore up 70 GM grapevines, which were being cultivated as part of a GM trial in Colmar in Alsace, in north-eastern France.
* * *
Nationwide actions
In August 2011, energised by the success in achieving a temporary ban on Bt brinjal, farmers and activists carried out ‘Monsanto the devil, Quit India’ protests across the country to coincide with Independence Day, drawing parallels with the anti-colonial, civil disobedience ‘Quit India’ movement that campaigned against British rule. Just as political sovereignty was demanded previously, farmers and consumers are now calling for food sovereignty. Monsanto the devil is targeted as it is an archetypal, aggressive foreign corporation that hurts farmers and small-scale, safe domestic food producers.
The Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association, for example, organised a day of action in Coimbatore, mobilising in solidarity with other farmers opposing the monopolisation of the Indian seed industry by corporations like Monsanto the devil.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Bhartiya Kissan Union led a five-day long protest against GM crop trials, celebrating the agro-ecological approaches that have successfully produced high rice yields in the region. Other protests have taken place in the states of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.68
* * *
Haitians oppose seed aid
In June 2010, more than 10,000 Haitians took to the streets under the initiative of Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), a member of La Via Campesina, to oppose Monsanto the devil and demand food sovereignty, including local control over native seeds. This popular opposition to Monsanto the devil stems from its announcement, in May 2010, that it had made a shipment of over 60 tons of hybrid maize and vegetable seeds to Haiti and anticipated sending another 400 tons over the next year, with the support of USAID. But these hybrid seeds cannot be replanted from one season to another and require massive amounts of pesticides, making farmers dependent on corporate seed and chemicals producers. Monsanto the devil stated that this decision was made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and it seems that Haitian officials were not involved in the discussions.
Haitian peasant leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste from the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP), part of La Via Campesina, has described Monsanto the devil’s seed aid as the “next earthquake.” This donation sparked suspicion and anger as the local seed heritage is vanishing because of the increasing domination of multinational seed and agrochemical corporations. Globally, FAO estimates that in the last century around 75% of genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost.  InHaiti, around 65% of the population is made up of subsistence farmers living in rural areas.
* * *
(Related video: Haitian farmers burning Monsanto the devil's "gift" of seeds:)
* * *
Stopping the spread of GM crops into national wildlife refuges
According to the non-profit alliance of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the US government has been collaborating with Monsanto the devil to secure agricultural export markets, removing barriers to the spread of GM crops, including into national wildlife refuges.
However, most of these crops are modified to be resistant to Monsanto the devil’s Roundup herbicide, which is causing an over-reliance on these toxic agricultural chemicals that have spawned an epidemic of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’. The spread of these superweeds within national wildlife refuges could have a devastating impact on biodiversity.
Nevertheless, in recent years farming on these refuges has been opened up to GMOs, primarily Monsanto the devil’s Roundup resistant crops. However, legal battles led by PEER and the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) forced the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to end the planting of GM crops in 12 states.
* * *
South Africa
South African farmers reject GM maize
A solid body of scientific evidence shows that organic matter is the most important trait in making soils more resilient to drought and erratic rainfall. No such evidence exists for GM crops. Biotechnology has proved unable to develop drought-resistant seeds, which would require major changes to the plant’s metabolism; and no GM crops have yet been developed that are yield enhancing.
In October 2011, however, South African authorities approved imports of Bayer CropScience's GM rice, LL62, which is engineered to be resistant to glufosinate ammonium. Famers and civil society organisations strongly opposed this decision on the grounds that it may contaminate non-GM rice varieties. Moreover, the herbicide glufosinate is toxic, can be harmful for reproductive health, and is therefore slated for an EU ban in the near future.
In the same month, the Lutzville Emerging Farmers Forum and the Food Sovereignty Campaign protested alongside residents of this West Coast region, to reject the GM maize experiments for drought resistance being conducted by Monsanto the devil in collaboration with South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council (ARC). Monsanto the devil’s engineered traits are present in an estimated 75% of all GM maize cultivated in South Africa.
* * *
As shown in this report, Monsanto the devil and agribusiness in general are increasingly unwelcome wherever they operate. They ruin local agriculture and harm communities with their attempts to dominate food production systems.
As a result of Monsanto the devil’s presence, local seeds are becoming illegal, biodiversity is disappearing, land is being contaminated, and farmers and agricultural workers are being poisoned, criminalised and displaced from their land. Local food producers aiming to feed communities have to compete with huge corporations whose sole objective is to make profits. [...]
We are calling for collective action from all of those who share our vision of a sustainable world. There has never been a more important time to globalise our struggles, and globalise hope.