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Judi Lynn

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Monsanto's Herbicide Linked to Fatal Kidney Disease Epidemic: Could It Topple Monsanto?

Monsanto's Herbicide Linked to Fatal Kidney Disease Epidemic: Could It Topple Monsanto?
Thursday, 10 July 2014 09:18
By Jeff Ritterman, M.D., Truthout | News Analysis

For years, scientists have been trying to unravel the mystery of a chronic kidney disease epidemic that has hit Central America, India and Sri Lanka. The disease occurs in poor peasant farmers who do hard physical work in hot climes. In each instance, the farmers have been exposed to herbicides and to heavy metals. The disease is known as CKDu, for Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown etiology. The "u" differentiates this illness from other chronic kidney diseases where the cause is known. Very few Western medical practitioners are even aware of CKDu, despite the terrible toll it has taken on poor farmers from El Salvador to South Asia.

Dr. Catharina Wesseling, the regional director for the Program on Work and Health (SALTRA) in Central America, which pioneered the initial studies of the region's unsolved outbreak, put it this way, "Nephrologists and public health professionals from wealthy countries are mostly either unfamiliar with the problem or skeptical whether it even exists."

Dr. Wesseling was being diplomatic. At a 2011 health summit in Mexico City, the United States beat back a proposal by Central American nations that would have listed CKDu as a top priority for the Americas.

David McQueen, a US delegate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who has since retired from the agency, explained the US position.

"The idea was to keep the focus on the key big risk factors that we could control and the major causes of death: heart disease, cancer and diabetes. And we felt, the position we were taking, that CKD was included."

The United States was wrong. The delegates from Central America were correct. CKDu is a new form of illness. This kidney ailment does not stem from diabetes, hypertension or other diet-related risk factors. Unlike the kidney disease found in diabetes or hypertension, the kidney tubules are a major site of injury in CKDu, suggesting a toxic etiology.


Washington’s Role in Triggering the Child Migrant Crisis

July 09, 2014
The Flood From the North

Washington’s Role in Triggering the Child Migrant Crisis


Rare is the occasion that power systems voluntarily expose the true character of their policies. Mountains of disinformation and distortion are critical to keep the prying eyes of the public at bay. President Obama recently broke with this norm on the White House lawn. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulous he angrily denounced Central American parents for sending their children to the US border. “Don’t send your children to the border … they’ll get sent back,” he inveighed. These words plausibly aroused memories throughout the region of a darker era when the US played a much deadlier role. In her illuminating study They Take Our Jobs: And 20 Other Myths About Immigration historian Aviva Chomsky documents the discrimination Central American migrants faced in the 1980s.

Devastated by Reagan’s terrorist war against the region, thousands of Central Americans traveled north to escape the violence of US-backed death squads. Of the 45,000 Salvadoran refugees that applied for asylum between 1984 and 1990 only 2.6% were approved. Further, of the 9,500 Guatemalan refugees in the same period a mere 1.8% were approved. Striking statistics of this kind, Chomsky observed, reflect the “much more political than humanitarian,” character of US refugee policy. Refugees from “enemy states” like the Soviet Union and Cuba were far more likely to be granted asylum than those migrating from US controlled domains. The hundreds of thousands of corpses generated by these policies serve as gruesome affirmation of this fact. Death toll estimates from the war in El Salvador, where the US backed the murderous Salvadoran military junta, place the number killed at 70,000. Meanwhile, in Guatemala casualties reached a staggering 200,000.

Incidentally, the barriers erected to impede entry of traumatized Guatemalans were significantly relaxed when it came to their torturers. Take the case of Hector Gramajo. As Defense Minister in the Guatemalan army, Gramajo played an integral role in the genocide against the country’s indigenous Mayan population. Not only was he given free entry, but Harvard University granted him a fellowship at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Such double standards were central to Reagan’s “war on terror” , which unleashed a plague of state-terrorism with effects that linger to this day. It’s worth contemplating whether Obama had this sordid history in mind when he emulated the crimes of Reagan, principally through what researcher Alexander Main has described as the “US Remilitarization of Central America and Mexico.” Military aid to Central America has sharply increased under the Obama administration. Under the pretext of the “war on drugs”, his administration has poured millions of dollars in US arms into the region. Chief among these militarization programs are the Merida Initiative and the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). In 2012 US arms sales to Guatemala totaled $21.3 million. Moreover, Guatemalan military officers have increasingly replaced the civilian leadership and neighboring Honduras has yet to recover from a US-backed military coup. A wide range of scholars and journalists now concede that the 2009 coup accelerated Honduras’ descent into chaos, triggering the mass migration Washington is working to reverse. Writing in the New York Times, historian Dana Frank harshly condemned the takeover for plunging the country into “a human rights and security abyss,” which was “in good part the State Department’s making.”

Current statistics on unaccompanied youth from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras support Frank’s assessment in more concrete terms. Between October 2008 and September 2009 the total number of child migrants apprehended by US border authorities stood at 19,418. Five years later, this figure skyrocketed to a stunning 46,188. Describing the region as a “corridor of violence”, the International Crisis Group observed “the most dangerous areas in Central America is located along the border of Guatemala with Honduras.” And this imperial assault is not without economic analogues. Converting Latin America into a workshop for US industry has been a long-standing goal of US policy makers. Justifying US ambitions to dominate Cuba, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams described the island’s people as little more than children. Cubans, “forcibly disjoined” from Spanish control, he argued, were “incapable of self-support,” therefore they had to submit to US demands. Contemporary forms of this doctrine can be found in the expanding array of “free trade agreements”, all of which are designed to enrich US-based corporations at the great expense of the poor. Citing a provision in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the Obama administration turned to naked coercion by withholding $277 million in economic aid from El Salvador unless they abolished a government-run seed program designed to empower small farmers. Fortunately, Congressional pressure, spurred by a grassroots struggle to overturn the policy, forced the Obama administration to abandon this goal. Nevertheless, the mere attempt is a dramatic indication of where US strategic interests lay.


Debunking 8 Myths About Why Central American Children Are Migrating

July 8, 2014

Debunking 8 Myths About Why Central American Children Are Migrating

‘Lax enforcement’ is not the culprit—U.S. trade and immigration policies are.

BY David Bacon

The mass migration of children from Central America has been at the center of a political firestorm over the past few weeks. The mainstream media has run dozens of stories blaming families, especially mothers, for sending or bringing their children north. The president himself has lectured them, as though they were simply bad parents. “Do not send your children to the borders,” he said in a June 27 interview with George Stephanopoulos. “If they do make it, they'll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

Meanwhile, the story is being manipulated by the Tea Party and conservative Republicans to attack Obama's executive action deferring the deportation of young people, along with any possibility that he might expand it—the demand of many immigrant rights advocates. More broadly, the far Right wants to shut down any immigration reform that includes legalization, and instead is gunning for harsher enforcement measures. Even Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, has sought to frame migration as a national security threat, calling it a “crime-terror convergence,” and describing it as “an incredibly efficient network along which anything hundreds of tons of drugs, people, terrorists, potentially weapons of mass destruction or children—can travel, so long as they can pay the fare.”

All of this ignores the real reasons families take the desperate measure of leaving home and trying to cross the border. Media coverage focuses on gang violence in Central America, as though it was spontaneous and unrelated to a history of U.S.-promoted wars and a policy of mass deportations.

In truth, the United States’ meddling foreign policy and a history of the U.S.’s own harsh immigration measures are responsible for much of the pressure causing this flow of people from Central America. These eight facts, ignored by the mainstream press and the president, document that culpability and point out the need for change:


Colombia police capture alleged ‘chief’ of Buenaventura dismemberment ‘chop-houses’

Colombia police capture alleged ‘chief’ of Buenaventura dismemberment ‘chop-houses’
Jul 9, 2014 posted by Tim Hinchliffe

Authorities claim to have captured the head of a local criminal offshoot responsible for the notorious “chop houses” in Buenaventura, Colombia’s largest Pacific port city, reported national media Wednesday.

National Police General Rodolfo Palomino confirmed the capture of Orlando Cuervo Martinez, alias “Oreja,” in the western state of Tolima, several hours away from the coastal city of Buenaventura, where authorities have recently uncovered a series of abandoned houses in which Martinez allegedly ordered his enemies be dismembered, according to Colombia’s RCN Radio.

Martinez is believed to be the head of the criminal group, “La Empresa,” a drug-trafficking offshoot of the national neo-paramilitary group, “Los Rastrojos.” For years, La Empresa has been engaged in a gruesome gang war for control of Buenaventura that has produced thousands of forced displacements and casualties and plunged the city into one of the deepest human rights crises in the country.

According to Palomino, Martinez will be transferred to the capital, Bogota, to be charged with drug trafficking, murder, and extortion. The police chief claimed that Martinez’s capture would leave La Empresa leaderless and cripple the gang’s 200-person operation in Buenaventura, reported RCN.


Episcopalian Church denounces humanitarian crisis in northwest Colombia

Episcopalian Church denounces humanitarian crisis in northwest Colombia
Jul 9, 2014 posted by Emily Dugdale

Episcopalian Church officials in northwest Colombia are making public calls to draw attention to the deepening human rights crisis facing residents in the region, reported local media Wednesday.

Bishops from the diosceses of the Quibdo, Pretoria, Apartado, and Istmina-Tado municipalities in Choco have united in denouncing the the unchecked violence and lack of public services in the northwestern state.

“In Choco lives a crucial and worrisome situation owing to the frequent violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law,” said Julio Hernando Garcia, bishop of Istmina.

Following a trip to the western part of the state, the bishops expressed that basic human rights such as access to education, decent housing, health, and mobility are severely lacking in the region, one of the most impoverished in the country, according to a statement released by the General Assembly of Colombian Bishops.

A document signed by bishops around the country states that Choco classifies as an abandoned state in Colombia, where criminal organizations, narcotrafficking, drug addiction, and sexual assault exert a constant presence, Bogota’s Caracol Radio reports.


Peru: The Dark Future Of La Oroya

Peru: The Dark Future Of La Oroya
June 19, 2014 Latinamerica Press 
By Latinamerica Press
By Maija Susarina

Considered one of the most contaminated cities in the world, La Oroya depends on mining which has left serious consequences on the health of the population.

It all started nearly a hundred years ago in 1922 when the mines in La Oroya began to be exploited to a larger extent. Ever since, this city has written a long history of contamination, fraud, disregard and manipulation. Last year Doe Run Peru (DRP), a US-based company that runs the mine since 1997, reopened its doors after three years of silence and started to run the zinc-circuit with over 500 employees again. However, the future of these workers, the city and the mining plant itself remains unclear.

In the beginning, the mine was only extracting lead but soon also zinc, gold and silver, which comes with the side effect of blowing all kinds of poisonous metals and acids into the air of the city. It was also Peru´s only polymetallic smelter which means that it processed all kinds of metals, also from abroad. Some countries are believed to have processed their highly poisonous metals in La Oroya because it was illegal in their own countries due to environmental policies.

The metal circuits, first in the hands of a US-based company and later nationalized, were sold to Doe Run Peru in 1997 under the government of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) who sold it under value in order to attract foreign investment to Peru. The company continued to exploit the mine under the condition of agreeing to the Environmental Adaptation and Management Plan (PAMA) that forced DRP to clean up the contamination and switch to newer and sustainable extraction machines. Nevertheless, PAMA never got implemented. DRP asked the Peruvian Government to postpone the program three times and went officially bankrupt in 2009, leaving the industry the whole city depends on shattered. DRP went even one step further and sued the Peruvian government for US$800 million because of the Free Trade Agreement Peru signed with the United States effective since 2009. This contract puts the well-being of economy above all other policies making it thus possible to sue Peru as US-based companies should be allowed to operate freely without any restrictions. PAMA was a restriction and according to the company itself, was one of the reasons DRP went bankrupt. Experts affirm that it is very likely that DRP will win this case.


Bolivian President Isn’t Radical Enough for Corporate Media

Bolivian President Isn’t Radical Enough for Corporate Media
By Jordana Jarrett
Jul 09 2014

[font size=1]
Bolivian President Evo Morales[/font]

Vilifying left-leaning Latin American and Caribbean leaders is nothing new from the US media–from Chile's Salvador Allende to Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, from Venezuela's Hugo Chavez to Mauricio Funes of El Salvador. Bolivian President Evo Morales is no exception, as he caught the attention of the website Vox (6/26/14), a new outlet that sets out to "explain the news" with an emphasis on data analysis.

Vox took Morales' reversing the direction of a clock on the Congress building in La Paz as an opportunity to insult his presidential policies. The reversed clock represents a sundial, which turns clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere while counterclockwise in the Southern–symbolizing a shift away from Northern assumptions. The congressional president, Marcelo Elio, called Morales’ action "a clear expression of the decolonization of the people" (AP, 6/25/14).

However, Vox's Max Fisher said it was a "self-caricature" that fits with Morales' record of "radically leftist but ultimately inconsequential government policy." Fisher compared this gesture to a previous "stunt" by Morales:

Earlier this month, he called for the abolition of the United Nations Security Council, to help bring "the destruction of world hierarchies" and begin healing "mother Earth." He frequently defies and denounces Western governments, for example in July, when his plane was grounded in Austria and searched for NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

It is hard to see how the US grounding the Bolivian plane qualifies as an action by Morales, rather than as a dubiously legal exercise of force by a superpower. Fisher’s using this as an example of how Morales "defies…Western governments" suggests that countries like Bolivia should submit meekly to such abuses.







National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 478
Posted July 8, 2014

Edited by Peter Kornbluh

For more information contact:
Peter Kornbluh 202/374-7281 or peter.kornbluh@gmail.com

Washington, DC, July 8, 2014 – The Brazilian military regime employed a "sophisticated and elaborate psychophysical duress system" to "intimidate and terrify" suspected leftist militants in the early 1970s, according to a State Department report dated in April 1973 and made public last week. Among the torture techniques used during the military era, the report detailed "special effects" rooms at Brazilian military detention centers in which suspects would be "placed nude" on a metal floor "through which electric current is pulsated." Some suspects were "eliminated" but the press was told they died in "shoot outs" while trying to escape police custody. "The shoot-out technique is being used increasingly," the cable sent by the U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro noted, "in order to deal with the public relations aspect of eliminating subversives," and to "obviate 'death-by-torture' charges in the international press."

Peter Kornbluh who directs the National Security Archive's Brazil Documentation Project called the document "one of the most detailed reports on torture techniques ever declassified by the U.S. government."

Titled "Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives," the document was among 43 State Department cables and reports that Vice President Joseph Biden turned over on June 17 to President Dilma Rousseff during his trip to Brazil for the World Cup competition for use by the Brazilian Truth Commission. The Commission is in the final phase of a two-year investigation of human rights atrocities during the military dictatorship which lasted from 1964 to 1985. On July 2, the Commission posted all 43 documents on its website, accompanied by this statement: "The CNV greatly appreciates the initiative of the U.S. government to make these records available to Brazilian society and hopes that this collaboration will continue to progress."

The records range in date from 1967 to 1977. They report on a wide range of human rights-related issues, among them: secret torture detention centers in Sao Paulo, the military's counter-subversion operations, attitudes of the Church on human rights violations, and the regime's hostile reaction in 1977 to the first State Department human rights report on abuses. Some of the documents had been previously declassified under routine release procedures; others, including the April 1973 report on psychophysical torture, were reviewed for declassification as recently as June 5, 2014, in preparation for Biden's trip.

During his meeting with President Rousseff, Biden announced that the Obama administration would undertake a broader review of still highly classified U.S. records on Brazil, among them CIA and Defense Department documents, to assist the Commission in finalizing its report. "I hope that in taking steps to come to grips with our past we can find a way to focus on the immense promise of the future," he noted.


Peru: WikiLeaks cables shed light on US massacre role

Peru: WikiLeaks cables shed light on US massacre role
Saturday, June 14, 2014
By Christian Tym

WikiLeaks cables released on June 9 shed new light on the United States' role in the Bagua Massacre in Peru on June 5, 2009.

The cables suggest then-US ambassador Michael McKinley may have encouraged the Peruvian government to use force against protesters in an operation that cost 10 protesters and 24 police officers their lives.

Indigenous groups in the Amazon had been blockading highways for seven weeks. They were protesting against decrees passed by Peru’s then-president Alan Garcia.

The decrees were passed to fulfil the terms of the US-Peru free trade agreement (FTA). Garcia made use of sweeping executive powers to pass 101 decrees in three months.

In the embassy cable sent on June 1, four days before the massacre, McKinley criticised “the government’s reluctance to use force to clear roads and blockades”. He said it was “contributing to the impression that the communities have broader support than they actually do”.

The Lima-based ambassador wrote: “Should Congress and President Garcia give in to the pressure, there would be implications for the recently implemented Peru-US FTA.”


Sugar Plant Removed Safety Device 13 Days before Temp Worker’s Death

Sugar Plant Removed Safety Device 13 Days before Temp Worker’s Death

Janio Salinas was buried alive in sugar. A newly released accident report and an undercover investigation by Univision reveal the obstacles OSHA faces in its temp worker safety initiative.

by Michael Grabell
ProPublica, July 6, 2014, 7 p.m.

This story was done in collaboration with Univision.

Inside the sugar plant in Fairless Hills, Pa., nobody could find Janio Salinas, a 50-year-old temp worker from just over the New Jersey border.

Throughout the morning, Salinas and a handful of other workers had been bagging mounds of sugar for a company that supplies the makers of Snapple drinks and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. But sugar clumps kept clogging the massive hopper, forcing the workers to climb inside with shovels to help the granules flow out the funnel-like hole at the bottom.

Coming back from lunch that day in February 2013, one employee said he had seen Salinas digging in the sugar. But when he looked back, Salinas was gone. All that remained was a shovel buried up to its handle. Then, peering through a small gap in the bottom of the hopper, someone noticed what appeared to be blue jeans.

It was Salinas. He had been buried alive in sugar.

As harrowing as the accident was, federal safety investigators recently discovered something perhaps even more disturbing: A safety device that would have prevented Salinas' death had been removed just 13 days before the accident because a manager believed it was slowing down production.

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