EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal

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Chief EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia-Bercero (R) and chief US negotiator Dan Mullaney hold a press conference in Washington, DC after a new round of talks on creating a transatlantic free trade zone, 19 May. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Courtesy of Arthur Neslen @ The Guardian:

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On 26 June 2013, a high-level delegation from the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.

The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and US to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The US trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasised the need for an impact assessment” instead.

On 2 July 2013, officials from the US Mission to Europe visited the EU to reinforce the message. Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.

“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.” Continue reading

UK-US Surveillance Regime was Unlawful ‘For Seven Years’

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The legal challenge was the first of dozens of GCHQ-related claims to be examined in detail by the IPT. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

 Courtesy of Owen Boycott @ The Guardian:

The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared on Friday that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

Advocacy groups said the decision raised questions about the legality of intelligence-sharing operations between the UK and the US. The ruling appears to suggest that aspects of the operations were illegal for at least seven years – between 2007, when the Prism intercept programme was introduced, and 2014.

The critical judgment marks the first time since the IPT was established in 2000 that it has upheld a complaint relating to any of the UK’s intelligence agencies. It said that the government’s regulations were illegal because the public were unaware of safeguards that were in place. Details of those safeguards were only revealed during the legal challenge at the IPT.

An “order” posted on the IPT’s website early on Friday declared: “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights.

Article 8 relates to the right to private and family life; article 10 refers to freedom of expression.

The decision, in effect, refines an earlier judgment issued by the tribunal in December, when it ruled that Britain’s current legal regime governing data collection through the internet by intelligence agencies – which has been recently updated to ensure compliance – did not violate the human rights of people in the UK. Continue reading

2014: The Year Propaganda Came Of Age

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Courtesy of Raúl Ilargi Meijer @ The Automatic Earth Blog:

From just about as early in my life as I can remember, growing up as a child in Holland, there were stories about World War II, and not just about Anne Frank and the huge amounts of people who, like her, had been dragged off to camps in eastern Europe never to come back, but also about the thousands who had risked their lives to hide Jewish and other refugees, and the scores who had been executed for doing so, often betrayed by their own neighbors.

And then there were those who had risked their lives in equally courageous ways to get news out to people, putting out newspapers and radio broadcasts just so there would be a version of events out there that was real, and not just what the Germans wanted one to believe. This happened in all Nazi – and Nazi friendly – occupied European nations. The courage of these people is hard to gauge for us today, and I’m convinced there’s no way to say whom amongst us would show that kind of bravery if we were put to the test; I certainly wouldn’t be sure about myself.

Still, without wanting to put myself anywhere near the level of those very very real heroes, please don’t get me wrong about that, that’s not what I mean, I was thinking about them with regards to what is happening in our media today. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think Joseph Goebbels had anything on US and European media today.

That propaganda as a strategic and political instrument has been refined to a huge extent over the past 70-odd years since Goebbels first picked up on Freud’s lessons on how to influence the unconscious mind, and the ‘mass-mind’, as a way to ‘steer’ an entire people, not just as a means to make them buy detergent. These days, the media can make people believe just about anything, and they have the added benefit that they can pose as friends of the people, not the enemy. Continue reading

Only the Rich Can Afford to Keep Their Homes

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Courtesy of Martin Armstrong @ Armstrong Economics:

Philadelphia prosecutors agreed last Thursday to halt efforts to seize the homes of two of the lead plaintiffs in a widely publicized federal suit challenging the city’s use of civil forfeiture laws in drug cases.

Philadelphia drops a Civil Asset Forfeiture case to prevent any court from ruling just seizing people’s property is unconstitutional. Phily.COM has reported the case of Christos Sourovelis and Doila Welch,who were both caught up in having their homes seized to pay police pensions when the police arrested a relative they claimed was dealing drugs on their properties. Today, you basically have to shun relatives and never pick up a hick-hiker in trouble for if they have any drugs, even marijuana, there goes your assets.

The prosecutors, only after these people has money for lawyers and the press got involved, moved for dismissal in Common Pleas Court. The prosecutor agreed to drop the cases against properties as long as both owners took “reasonable measures” to ensure no further drug crimes occurred there.

Here is the entire problem. Only the rich can win for it is your burden to fork-over huge legal fees. If you do not have the money for lawyers, there goes your property. This is what is desperately wrong in America. Any law passed becomes your burden to prove it is unconstitutional. They can actually pass the ancient right of kings under the Common Law since there is precedent known as Prima Noctum – first night. The governor, mayor, county freeholder, whoever, could “legally” claim the right to spend the first night in bed with any women getting married in their district. It would then become your burden to say – NO. That is uncivilized. Continue reading

The Oil-Price-Shock Contagion-Transmission Pathway

Courtesy of Zerohedge:

As we noted previously, counterparty risk concerns (and thus financial system fragility) are starting to rear their ugly heads. In the mid 2000s, it was massive one-way levered bets on “house prices will never go down again.” When the cracks started to appear, the mark-to-market losses in derivatives led to forced liquidations and snowballed systemically. In the mid 2010s, it is massively levered one-way asymmetric bets on “commodity prices [oil] will never go down again.” Meet WTI-structured-notes… the transmission mechanism for oil-price-shocks blowing up the financial system.

Because nothing says exuberant ignorance like limited upside, unlimited downside OTC (illiquid) derivatives…

Here’s BNP Paribas’ 1-Yr WTI-linked notes that collapse if oil drops below $70…

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Presenting The $303 Trillion In Derivatives That US Taxpayers Are Now On The Hook For

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Courtesy of The Hedge:

Courtesy of the Cronybus(sic) last minute passage, government was provided a quid-pro-quo $1.1 trillion spending allowance with Wall Street’s blessing in exchange for assuring banks that taxpayers would be on the hook for yet another bailout, as a result of the swaps push-out provision, after incorporating explicit Citigroup language that allows financial institutions to trade certain financial derivatives from subsidiaries that are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, explicitly putting taxpayers on the hook for losses caused by these contracts. Recall:

Five years after the Wall Street coup of 2008, it appears the U.S. House of Representatives is as bought and paid for as ever. We heard about the Citigroup crafted legislation currently being pushed through Congress back in May when Mother Jones reported on it. Fortunately, they included the following image in their article:

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Heirs to Rockefeller Oil Fortune Divest from Fossil Fuels over Climate Change

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Courtesy of Suzanne Goldberg @ The Guardian:

The heirs to the fabled Rockefeller oil fortune withdrew their funds from fossil fuel investments on Monday, lending a symbolic boost to a $50bn divestment campaign ahead of a United Nations summit on climate change.

The former vice-president, Al Gore, will present the divestment commitments to world leaders, making the case that investments in oil and coal have an uncertain future.

With Monday’s announcement, more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, cities and universities – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuel investments over the next five years.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund controls about $860m in assets, said Beth Dorsey, the chief executive of the Wallace Global Fund and the Divest-Invest movement, which has led the divestment campaign. About 7% are invested in fossil fuels.

But the Rockefellers’ decision to cut their ties with oil lends the divestment campaign huge symbolic importance because of their family history. The divestment move also helps bring a campaign launched by scrappy activists on college campuses into the financial mainstream.

But for oil, there may not have been a Rockefeller fortune. John and William Rockefeller were the co-founders of the Standard Oil Company, which at the time operated the world’s biggest refineries, and overtime spawned Exxon, Amoco and Chevron.

Now, after a year of deliberations, the descendants of those original Rockefellers had decided the time had come to move away from oil. Continue reading

Big-Picture Study Of Fracking Operations Suggests Even Small Chemical Exposures Pose Risks

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Courtesy of Lynne Peeples @ Huffington Post:

April Lane’s work often brings her to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she monitors pollution from natural gas production sites around the area’s rich shale reserves. Exposure to toxins, she says, have left her with chronic headaches, nausea and a hesitancy to have more children.

“I’ve decided having another baby is probably not going to happen for me. I’m too scared of what the health effects might be,” said Lane, 28, of Little Rock, a mother of one and an environmental health advocate who has led citizen groups in tracking threats from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations.

A paper published Friday in Reviews on Environmental Health may give credence to her personal suspicions. The paper suggests that even tiny doses of benzene, toluene and other chemicals released during the various phases of oil and natural gas production, including fracking, could pose serious health risks — especially to developing fetuses, babies and young children.

“We hear a lot of anecdotal stories all the time,” said Dr. Sheila Bushkin-Bedient, of the Institute for Health and the Environment at University at Albany-SUNY and co-author on the paper, “but now that we’ve had a decade of opportunity to observe the ill effects from these chemicals on people and animals, the evidence is no longer just anecdotal.”

The boom in the extraction of oil and natural gas continues across large swaths of the U.S., but not without resistance. Many environmental groups oppose fracking — which uses a mix of pressurized water, sand and chemicals to unlock hydrocarbon reserves in shale rock — even as the industry maintains that processes like fracking are safe.

A small Texas town near the birthplace of the fracking boom is the latest case in point: In November voters approved a ban on the practice, due in part to concerns about air and water contamination.

Still, more than 15 million Americans now live within one mile of such oil and gas operations. Continue reading

Forget Orwell And Rand, We’ve Gone To Full On Plato

Courtesy of Thad Beversdorf @ First Rebuttal:

Lately, we hear a lot about Orwell’s “1984″ and Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” but perhaps the best crystal ball to our current state of affairs is Plato’s Republic. You see both Rand and Orwell were describing a world outside of themselves. A world they couldn’t understand or accept. And while those works are brilliant and incredibly prophetic, I expect that to understand a world borne of narcissistic sociopathy one must examine the construct of such a world by a narcissistic sociopath. Fortunately Plato, perhaps the world’s most (in)famous narcissistic sociopath, provided us a vivid illustration and explanation of his ideal state in “Plato’s Republic”. Plato provides us the why to Orwell’s and Rand’s ‘unideal’ states.

Plato provides the arguments for the philosopher kings. He also describes various levels of reality, arguing that each societal demographic must live within the reality level delegated to them. He argues each demographic has a limited intellectual capacity and thus can only handle the reality level provided to them. With the philosopher kings being the only societal demographic with the right to and capacity for absolute truth. Likewise, the philosophers kings in the world we find ourselves today control each and every aspect of life including our subsequent perception the world. There is no such thing as happenstance.

The market moves a certain direction not because of unexplained market forces but because the philosopher kings have made it so. Economic policies are creating incredible wealth for the already wealthy while destroying the middle class not because of honest misjudgements or the need for more time but because the philosopher kings make it so. The Fed dropped the U3 unemployment rate as a benchmark because it does not meet their standard of truth but expects the rest of us to consider that true unemployment. Declining GDP is ignored while adjusted indicators signalling GDP is healthy are paraded all over the street because the philosopher kings make it so. A Malaysian airliner is shot out of the sky not by things yet unknown but because the philosopher kings make it so. Continue reading

The Federal Reserve Is At The Heart Of The Debt Enslavement System That Dominates Our Lives

Courtesy of Michael Snyder @ The Economic Collapse blog:

From the dawn of history, elites have always attempted to enslave humanity. Yes, there have certainly been times when those in power have slaughtered vast numbers of people, but normally those in power find it much more beneficial to profit from the labor of those that they are able to subjugate. If you are forced to build a pyramid, or pay a third of your crops in tribute, or hand over nearly half of your paycheck in taxes, that enriches those in power at your expense. You become a “human resource” that is being exploited to serve the interests of others. Today, some forms of slavery have been outlawed, but one of the most insidious forms is more pervasive than ever. It is called debt, and virtually every major decision of our lives involves more of it. For example, at the very beginning of our adult lives we are pushed to go to college, and Americans have piled up more than 1.2 trillion dollars of student loan debt at this point. When we buy homes, most Americans get mortgages that they can barely afford, and when we buy vehicles most Americans now stretch their loans out over five or six years. When we get married, that often means even more debt. And of course no society on Earth has ever piled up more credit card debt than we have. Almost all of us are in bondage to debt at this point, and as we slowly pay off that debt over the years we will greatly enrich the elitists that tricked us into going into so much debt in the first place. At the apex of this debt enslavement system is the Federal Reserve. As you will see below, it is an institution that is designed to produce as much debt as possible.

There are many people out there that believe that the Federal Reserve is an “agency” of the federal government. But that is not true at all. The Federal Reserve is an unelected, unaccountable central banking cartel, and it has argued in federal court that it is “not an agency” of the federal government and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The 12 regional Federal Reserve banks are organized “much like private corporations“, and they actually issue shares of stock to the “member banks” that own them. 100 percent of the shareholders of the Federal Reserve are private banks. The U.S. government owns zero shares.

Many people also assume that the federal government “issues money”, but that is not true at all either. Under our current system, what the federal government actually does is borrow money that the Federal Reserve creates out of thin air. The big banks, the ultra-wealthy and other countries purchase the debt that is created, and we end up as debt servants to them. For a detailed explanation of how this works, please see my previous article entitled “Where Does Money Come From? The Giant Federal Reserve Scam That Most Americans Do Not Understand“. When it is all said and done, the elite end up holding the debt instruments and we end up being collectively responsible for the endlessly growing mountain of debt. Our politicians always promise to get the debt under control, but there is never enough money to both fund the government and pay the interest on the constantly expanding debt. So it always becomes necessary to borrow even more money. When it was created back in 1913, the Federal Reserve system was designed to create a perpetual government debt spiral from which it would never be possible to escape, and that is precisely what has happened.

Just look at the chart that I have posted below. Forty years ago, the U.S. national debt was less than half a trillion dollars. Today, it has exploded up to nearly 18 trillion dollars…

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