Revolutionizing Awareness

helping humanity, make choices, more so through awareness, than ignorance

Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

How Companies Learn Your Secrets

Posted by Admin on April 22, 2012

http://vigilantcitizen.com/latestnews/how-companies-learn-your-secrets/

By  | February 22nd, 2012 | Category: Latest News | 100 comments

Here’s an interesting article from the New York Times on the intensive research and data mining companies conduct on their customers in order to learn about them and to predict their future needs. It also describes some of the psychological techniques used in marketing in order to modify behavior and to create new habits. As it was stated in the Mind Control Theories and Techniques used by Mass Media, marketing does not simply seek to sell a product, it taps into psychological reflexes and instincts to create needs and to modify habits. Powerful stuff.

How Companies Learn Your Secrets

Andrew Pole had just started working as a statistician for Target in 2002, when two colleagues from the marketing department stopped by his desk to ask an odd question: “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that? ”

Pole has a master’s degree in statistics and another in economics, and has been obsessed with the intersection of data and human behavior most of his life. His parents were teachers in North Dakota, and while other kids were going to 4-H, Pole was doing algebra and writing computer programs. “The stereotype of a math nerd is true,” he told me when I spoke with him last year. “I kind of like going out and evangelizing analytics.”

As the marketers explained to Pole – and as Pole later explained to me, back when we were still speaking and before Target told him to stop – new parents are a retailer’s holy grail. Most shoppers don’t buy everything they need at one store. Instead, they buy groceries at the grocery store and toys at the toy store, and they visit Target only when they need certain items they associate with Target – cleaning supplies, say, or new socks or a six-month supply of toilet paper. But Target sells everything from milk to stuffed animals to lawn furniture to electronics, so one of the company’s primary goals is convincing customers that the only store they need is Target. But it’s a tough message to get across, even with the most ingenious ad campaigns, because once consumers’ shopping habits are ingrained, it’s incredibly difficult to change them.

There are, however, some brief periods in a person’s life when old routines fall apart and buying habits are suddenly in flux. One of those moments – the moment, really – is right around the birth of a child, when parents are exhausted and overwhelmed and their shopping patterns and brand loyalties are up for grabs. But as Target’s marketers explained to Pole, timing is everything. Because birth records are usually public, the moment a couple have a new baby, they are almost instantaneously barraged with offers and incentives and advertisements from all sorts of companies. Which means that the key is to reach them earlier, before any other retailers know a baby is on the way. Specifically, the marketers said they wanted to send specially designed ads to women in their second trimester, which is when most expectant mothers begin buying all sorts of new things, like prenatal vitamins and maternity clothing. “Can you give us a list?” the marketers asked.

“We knew that if we could identify them in their second trimester, there’s a good chance we could capture them for years,” Pole told me. “As soon as we get them buying diapers from us, they’re going to start buying everything else too. If you’re rushing through the store, looking for bottles, and you pass orange juice, you’ll grab a carton. Oh, and there’s that new DVD I want. Soon, you’ll be buying cereal and paper towels from us, and keep coming back.”

The desire to collect information on customers is not new for Target or any other large retailer, of course. For decades, Target has collected vast amounts of data on every person who regularly walks into one of its stores. Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code – known internally as the Guest ID number – that keeps tabs on everything they buy. “If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,” Pole said. “We want to know everything we can.”

Also linked to your Guest ID is demographic information like your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you’ve moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own. (In a statement, Target declined to identify what demographic information it collects or purchases.) All that information is meaningless, however, without someone to analyze and make sense of it. That’s where Andrew Pole and the dozens of other members of Target’s Guest Marketing Analytics department come in.

Almost every major retailer, from grocery chains to investment banks to the U.S. Postal Service, has a “predictive analytics” department devoted to understanding not just consumers’ shopping habits but also their personal habits, so as to more efficiently market to them. “But Target has always been one of the smartest at this,” says Eric Siegel, a consultant and the chairman of a conference called Predictive Analytics World. “We’re living through a golden age of behavioral research. It’s amazing how much we can figure out about how people think now.”

The reason Target can snoop on our shopping habits is that, over the past two decades, the science of habit formation has become a major field of research in neurology and psychology departments at hundreds of major medical centers and universities, as well as inside extremely well financed corporate labs. “It’s like an arms race to hire statisticians nowadays,” said Andreas Weigend, the former chief scientist at Amazon.com. “Mathematicians are suddenly sexy.” As the ability to analyze data has grown more and more fine-grained, the push to understand how daily habits influence our decisions has become one of the most exciting topics in clinical research, even though most of us are hardly aware those patterns exist. One study from Duke University estimated that habits, rather than conscious decision-making, shape 45 percent of the choices we make every day, and recent discoveries have begun to change everything from the way we think about dieting to how doctors conceive treatments for anxiety, depression and addictions.

This research is also transforming our understanding of how habits function across organizations and societies. A football coach named Tony Dungy propelled one of the worst teams in the N.F.L. to the Super Bowl by focusing on how his players habitually reacted to on-field cues. Before he became Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill overhauled a stumbling conglomerate, Alcoa, and turned it into a top performer in the Dow Jones by relentlessly attacking one habit – a specific approach to worker safety – which in turn caused a companywide transformation. The Obama campaign has hired a habit specialist as its “chief scientist” to figure out how to trigger new voting patterns among different constituencies.

Researchers have figured out how to stop people from habitually overeating and biting their nails. They can explain why some of us automatically go for a jog every morning and are more productive at work, while others oversleep and procrastinate. There is a calculus, it turns out, for mastering our subconscious urges. For companies like Target, the exhaustive rendering of our conscious and unconscious patterns into data sets and algorithms has revolutionized what they know about us and, therefore, how precisely they can sell.

Inside the brain-and-cognitive-sciences department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are what, to the casual observer, look like dollhouse versions of surgical theaters. There are rooms with tiny scalpels, small drills and miniature saws. Even the operating tables are petite, as if prepared for 7-year-old surgeons. Inside those shrunken O.R.’s, neurologists cut into the skulls of anesthetized rats, implanting tiny sensors that record the smallest changes in the activity of their brains.

An M.I.T. neuroscientist named Ann Graybiel told me that she and her colleagues began exploring habits more than a decade ago by putting their wired rats into a T-shaped maze with chocolate at one end. The maze was structured so that each animal was positioned behind a barrier that opened after a loud click. The first time a rat was placed in the maze, it would usually wander slowly up and down the center aisle after the barrier slid away, sniffing in corners and scratching at walls. It appeared to smell the chocolate but couldn’t figure out how to find it. There was no discernible pattern in the rat’s meanderings and no indication it was working hard to find the treat.

The probes in the rats’ heads, however, told a different story. While each animal wandered through the maze, its brain was working furiously. Every time a rat sniffed the air or scratched a wall, the neurosensors inside the animal’s head exploded with activity. As the scientists repeated the experiment, again and again, the rats eventually stopped sniffing corners and making wrong turns and began to zip through the maze with more and more speed. And within their brains, something unexpected occurred: as each rat learned how to complete the maze more quickly, its mental activity decreased. As the path became more and more automatic – as it became a habit – the rats started thinking less and less.

This process, in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine, is called “chunking.” There are dozens, if not hundreds, of behavioral chunks we rely on every day. Some are simple: you automatically put toothpaste on your toothbrush before sticking it in your mouth. Some, like making the kids’ lunch, are a little more complex. Still others are so complicated that it’s remarkable to realize that a habit could have emerged at all.

Take backing your car out of the driveway. When you first learned to drive, that act required a major dose of concentration, and for good reason: it involves peering into the rearview and side mirrors and checking for obstacles, putting your foot on the brake, moving the gearshift into reverse, removing your foot from the brake, estimating the distance between the garage and the street while keeping the wheels aligned, calculating how images in the mirrors translate into actual distances, all while applying differing amounts of pressure to the gas pedal and brake.

Now, you perform that series of actions every time you pull into the street without thinking very much. Your brain has chunked large parts of it. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any repeated behavior into a habit, because habits allow our minds to conserve effort. But conserving mental energy is tricky, because if our brains power down at the wrong moment, we might fail to notice something important, like a child riding her bike down the sidewalk or a speeding car coming down the street. So we’ve devised a clever system to determine when to let a habit take over. It’s something that happens whenever a chunk of behavior starts or ends – and it helps to explain why habits are so difficult to change once they’re formed, despite our best intentions.

To understand this a little more clearly, consider again the chocolate-seeking rats. What Graybiel and her colleagues found was that, as the ability to navigate the maze became habitual, there were two spikes in the rats’ brain activity – once at the beginning of the maze, when the rat heard the click right before the barrier slid away, and once at the end, when the rat found the chocolate. Those spikes show when the rats’ brains were fully engaged, and the dip in neural activity between the spikes showed when the habit took over. From behind the partition, the rat wasn’t sure what waited on the other side, until it heard the click, which it had come to associate with the maze. Once it heard that sound, it knew to use the “maze habit,” and its brain activity decreased. Then at the end of the routine, when the reward appeared, the brain shook itself awake again and the chocolate signaled to the rat that this particular habit was worth remembering, and the neurological pathway was carved that much deeper.

The process within our brains that creates habits is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop – cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward – becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become neurologically intertwined until a sense of craving emerges. What’s unique about cues and rewards, however, is how subtle they can be. Neurological studies like the ones in Graybiel’s lab have revealed that some cues span just milliseconds. And rewards can range from the obvious (like the sugar rush that a morning doughnut habit provides) to the infinitesimal (like the barely noticeable – but measurable – sense of relief the brain experiences after successfully navigating the driveway). Most cues and rewards, in fact, happen so quickly and are so slight that we are hardly aware of them at all. But our neural systems notice and use them to build automatic behaviors.

Habits aren’t destiny – they can be ignored, changed or replaced. But it’s also true that once the loop is established and a habit emerges, your brain stops fully participating in decision-making. So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new cues and rewards – the old pattern will unfold automatically.

“We’ve done experiments where we trained rats to run down a maze until it was a habit, and then we extinguished the habit by changing the placement of the reward,” Graybiel told me. “Then one day, we’ll put the reward in the old place and put in the rat and, by golly, the old habit will re-emerge right away. Habits never really disappear.”

Luckily, simply understanding how habits work makes them easier to control. Take, for instance, a series of studies conducted a few years ago at Columbia University and the University of Alberta. Researchers wanted to understand how exercise habits emerge. In one project, 256 members of a health-insurance plan were invited to classes stressing the importance of exercise. Half the participants received an extra lesson on the theories of habit formation (the structure of the habit loop) and were asked to identify cues and rewards that might help them develop exercise routines.

The results were dramatic. Over the next four months, those participants who deliberately identified cues and rewards spent twice as much time exercising as their peers. Other studies have yielded similar results. According to another recent paper, if you want to start running in the morning, it’s essential that you choose a simple cue (like always putting on your sneakers before breakfast or leaving your running clothes next to your bed) and a clear reward (like a midday treat or even the sense of accomplishment that comes from ritually recording your miles in a log book). After a while, your brain will start anticipating that reward – craving the treat or the feeling of accomplishment – and there will be a measurable neurological impulse to lace up your jogging shoes each morning.

Our relationship to e-mail operates on the same principle. When a computer chimes or a smartphone vibrates with a new message, the brain starts anticipating the neurological “pleasure” (even if we don’t recognize it as such) that clicking on the e-mail and reading it provides. That expectation, if unsatisfied, can build until you find yourself moved to distraction by the thought of an e-mail sitting there unread – even if you know, rationally, it’s most likely not important. On the other hand, once you remove the cue by disabling the buzzing of your phone or the chiming of your computer, the craving is never triggered, and you’ll find, over time, that you’re able to work productively for long stretches without checking your in-box.

Some of the most ambitious habit experiments have been conducted by corporate America. To understand why executives are so entranced by this science, consider how one of the world’s largest companies, Procter & Gamble, used habit insights to turn a failing product into one of its biggest sellers. P.& G. is the corporate behemoth behind a whole range of products, from Downy fabric softener to Bounty paper towels to Duracell batteries and dozens of other household brands. In the mid-1990s, P.& G.’s executives began a secret project to create a new product that could eradicate bad smells. P.& G. spent millions developing a colorless, cheap-to-manufacture liquid that could be sprayed on a smoky blouse, stinky couch, old jacket or stained car interior and make it odorless. In order to market the product – Febreze – the company formed a team that included a former Wall Street mathematician named Drake Stimson and habit specialists, whose job was to make sure the television commercials, which they tested in Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho, accentuated the product’s cues and rewards just right.

The first ad showed a woman complaining about the smoking section of a restaurant. Whenever she eats there, she says, her jacket smells like smoke. A friend tells her that if she uses Febreze, it will eliminate the odor. The cue in the ad is clear: the harsh smell of cigarette smoke. The reward: odor eliminated from clothes. The second ad featured a woman worrying about her dog, Sophie, who always sits on the couch. “Sophie will always smell like Sophie,” she says, but with Febreze, “now my furniture doesn’t have to.” The ads were put in heavy rotation. Then the marketers sat back, anticipating how they would spend their bonuses. A week passed. Then two. A month. Two months. Sales started small and got smaller. Febreze was a dud.

The panicked marketing team canvassed consumers and conducted in-depth interviews to figure out what was going wrong, Stimson recalled. Their first inkling came when they visited a woman’s home outside Phoenix. The house was clean and organized. She was something of a neat freak, the woman explained. But when P.& G.’s scientists walked into her living room, where her nine cats spent most of their time, the scent was so overpowering that one of them gagged.

According to Stimson, who led the Febreze team, a researcher asked the woman, “What do you do about the cat smell?”

“It’s usually not a problem,” she said.

“Do you smell it now?”

“No,” she said. “Isn’t it wonderful? They hardly smell at all!”

A similar scene played out in dozens of other smelly homes. The reason Febreze wasn’t selling, the marketers realized, was that people couldn’t detect most of the bad smells in their lives. If you live with nine cats, you become desensitized to their scents. If you smoke cigarettes, eventually you don’t smell smoke anymore. Even the strongest odors fade with constant exposure. That’s why Febreze was a failure. The product’s cue – the bad smells that were supposed to trigger daily use – was hidden from the people who needed it the most. And Febreze’s reward (an odorless home) was meaningless to someone who couldn’t smell offensive scents in the first place.

P.& G. employed a Harvard Business School professor to analyze Febreze’s ad campaigns. They collected hours of footage of people cleaning their homes and watched tape after tape, looking for clues that might help them connect Febreze to people’s daily habits. When that didn’t reveal anything, they went into the field and conducted more interviews. A breakthrough came when they visited a woman in a suburb near Scottsdale, Ariz., who was in her 40s with four children. Her house was clean, though not compulsively tidy, and didn’t appear to have any odor problems; there were no pets or smokers. To the surprise of everyone, she loved Febreze.

“I use it every day,” she said.

“What smells are you trying to get rid of?” a researcher asked.

“I don’t really use it for specific smells,” the woman said. “I use it for normal cleaning – a couple of sprays when I’m done in a room.”

The researchers followed her around as she tidied the house. In the bedroom, she made her bed, tightened the sheet’s corners, then sprayed the comforter with Febreze. In the living room, she vacuumed, picked up the children’s shoes, straightened the coffee table, then sprayed Febreze on the freshly cleaned carpet.

“It’s nice, you know?” she said. “Spraying feels like a little minicelebration when I’m done with a room.” At the rate she was going, the team estimated, she would empty a bottle of Febreze every two weeks.

When they got back to P.& G.’s headquarters, the researchers watched their videotapes again. Now they knew what to look for and saw their mistake in scene after scene. Cleaning has its own habit loops that already exist. In one video, when a woman walked into a dirty room (cue), she started sweeping and picking up toys (routine), then she examined the room and smiled when she was done (reward). In another, a woman scowled at her unmade bed (cue), proceeded to straighten the blankets and comforter (routine) and then sighed as she ran her hands over the freshly plumped pillows (reward). P.& G. had been trying to create a whole new habit with Febreze, but what they really needed to do was piggyback on habit loops that were already in place. The marketers needed to position Febreze as something that came at the end of the cleaning ritual, the reward, rather than as a whole new cleaning routine.

The company printed new ads showing open windows and gusts of fresh air. More perfume was added to the Febreze formula, so that instead of merely neutralizing odors, the spray had its own distinct scent. Television commercials were filmed of women, having finished their cleaning routine, using Febreze to spritz freshly made beds and just-laundered clothing. Each ad was designed to appeal to the habit loop: when you see a freshly cleaned room (cue), pull out Febreze (routine) and enjoy a smell that says you’ve done a great job (reward). When you finish making a bed (cue), spritz Febreze (routine) and breathe a sweet, contented sigh (reward). Febreze, the ads implied, was a pleasant treat, not a reminder that your home stinks.

And so Febreze, a product originally conceived as a revolutionary way to destroy odors, became an air freshener used once things are already clean. The Febreze revamp occurred in the summer of 1998. Within two months, sales doubled. A year later, the product brought in $230 million. Since then Febreze has spawned dozens of spinoffs – air fresheners, candles and laundry detergents – that now account for sales of more than $1 billion a year. Eventually, P.& G. began mentioning to customers that, in addition to smelling sweet, Febreze can actually kill bad odors. Today it’s one of the top-selling products in the world.

Andrew Pole was hired by Target to use the same kinds of insights into consumers’ habits to expand Target’s sales. His assignment was to analyze all the cue-routine-reward loops among shoppers and help the company figure out how to exploit them. Much of his department’s work was straightforward: find the customers who have children and send them catalogs that feature toys before Christmas. Look for shoppers who habitually purchase swimsuits in April and send them coupons for sunscreen in July and diet books in December. But Pole’s most important assignment was to identify those unique moments in consumers’ lives when their shopping habits become particularly flexible and the right advertisement or coupon would cause them to begin spending in new ways.

In the 1980s, a team of researchers led by a U.C.L.A. professor named Alan Andreasen undertook a study of peoples’ most mundane purchases, like soap, toothpaste, trash bags and toilet paper. They learned that most shoppers paid almost no attention to how they bought these products, that the purchases occurred habitually, without any complex decision-making. Which meant it was hard for marketers, despite their displays and coupons and product promotions, to persuade shoppers to change.

But when some customers were going through a major life event, like graduating from college or getting a new job or moving to a new town, their shopping habits became flexible in ways that were both predictable and potential gold mines for retailers. The study found that when someone marries, he or she is more likely to start buying a new type of coffee. When a couple move into a new house, they’re more apt to purchase a different kind of cereal. When they divorce, there’s an increased chance they’ll start buying different brands of beer.

Consumers going through major life events often don’t notice, or care, that their shopping habits have shifted, but retailers notice, and they care quite a bit. At those unique moments, Andreasen wrote, customers are “vulnerable to intervention by marketers.” In other words, a precisely timed advertisement, sent to a recent divorcee or new homebuyer, can change someone’s shopping patterns for years.

And among life events, none are more important than the arrival of a baby. At that moment, new parents’ habits are more flexible than at almost any other time in their adult lives. If companies can identify pregnant shoppers, they can earn millions.

The only problem is that identifying pregnant customers is harder than it sounds. Target has a baby-shower registry, and Pole started there, observing how shopping habits changed as a woman approached her due date, which women on the registry had willingly disclosed. He ran test after test, analyzing the data, and before long some useful patterns emerged. Lotions, for example. Lots of people buy lotion, but one of Pole’s colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.

As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What’s more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny’s habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store. And they know that if they reward her with a printed receipt that entitles her to a free cup of Starbucks coffee, she’ll use it when she comes back again.

In the past, that knowledge had limited value. After all, Jenny purchased only cleaning supplies at Target, and there were only so many psychological buttons the company could push. But now that she is pregnant, everything is up for grabs. In addition to triggering Jenny’s habits to buy more cleaning products, they can also start including offers for an array of products, some more obvious than others, that a woman at her stage of pregnancy might need.

Pole applied his program to every regular female shopper in Target’s national database and soon had a list of tens of thousands of women who were most likely pregnant. If they could entice those women or their husbands to visit Target and buy baby-related products, the company’s cue-routine-reward calculators could kick in and start pushing them to buy groceries, bathing suits, toys and clothing, as well. When Pole shared his list with the marketers, he said, they were ecstatic. Soon, Pole was getting invited to meetings above his paygrade. Eventually his paygrade went up.

At which point someone asked an important question: How are women going to react when they figure out how much Target knows?

“If we send someone a catalog and say, ‘Congratulations on your first child!’ and they’ve never told us they’re pregnant, that’s going to make some people uncomfortable,” Pole told me. “We are very conservative about compliance with all privacy laws. But even if you’re following the law, you can do things where people get queasy.”

About a year after Pole created his pregnancy-prediction model, a man walked into a Target outside Minneapolis and demanded to see the manager. He was clutching coupons that had been sent to his daughter, and he was angry, according to an employee who participated in the conversation.

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

When I approached Target to discuss Pole’s work, its representatives declined to speak with me. “Our mission is to make Target the preferred shopping destination for our guests by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and exceptional guest experience,” the company wrote in a statement. “We’ve developed a number of research tools that allow us to gain insights into trends and preferences within different demographic segments of our guest population.” When I sent Target a complete summary of my reporting, the reply was more terse: “Almost all of your statements contain inaccurate information and publishing them would be misleading to the public. We do not intend to address each statement point by point.” The company declined to identify what was inaccurate. They did add, however, that Target “is in compliance with all federal and state laws, including those related to protected health information.”

When I offered to fly to Target’s headquarters to discuss its concerns, a spokeswoman e-mailed that no one would meet me. When I flew out anyway, I was told I was on a list of prohibited visitors. “I’ve been instructed not to give you access and to ask you to leave,” said a very nice security guard named Alex.

Using data to predict a woman’s pregnancy, Target realized soon after Pole perfected his model, could be a public-relations disaster. So the question became: how could they get their advertisements into expectant mothers’ hands without making it appear they were spying on them? How do you take advantage of someone’s habits without letting them know you’re studying their lives?

Before I met Andrew Pole, before I even decided to write a book about the science of habit formation, I had another goal: I wanted to lose weight.

I had got into a bad habit of going to the cafeteria every afternoon and eating a chocolate-chip cookie, which contributed to my gaining a few pounds. Eight, to be precise. I put a Post-it note on my computer reading “NO MORE COOKIES.” But every afternoon, I managed to ignore that note, wander to the cafeteria, buy a cookie and eat it while chatting with colleagues. Tomorrow, I always promised myself, I’ll muster the willpower to resist.

Tomorrow, I ate another cookie.

When I started interviewing experts in habit formation, I concluded each interview by asking what I should do. The first step, they said, was to figure out my habit loop. The routine was simple: every afternoon, I walked to the cafeteria, bought a cookie and ate it while chatting with friends.

Next came some less obvious questions: What was the cue? Hunger? Boredom? Low blood sugar? And what was the reward? The taste of the cookie itself? The temporary distraction from my work? The chance to socialize with colleagues?

Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings, but we’re often not conscious of the urges driving our habits in the first place. So one day, when I felt a cookie impulse, I went outside and took a walk instead. The next day, I went to the cafeteria and bought a coffee. The next, I bought an apple and ate it while chatting with friends. You get the idea. I wanted to test different theories regarding what reward I was really craving. Was it hunger? (In which case the apple should have worked.) Was it the desire for a quick burst of energy? (If so, the coffee should suffice.) Or, as turned out to be the answer, was it that after several hours spent focused on work, I wanted to socialize, to make sure I was up to speed on office gossip, and the cookie was just a convenient excuse? When I walked to a colleague’s desk and chatted for a few minutes, it turned out, my cookie urge was gone.

All that was left was identifying the cue.

Deciphering cues is hard, however. Our lives often contain too much information to figure out what is triggering a particular behavior. Do you eat breakfast at a certain time because you’re hungry? Or because the morning news is on? Or because your kids have started eating? Experiments have shown that most cues fit into one of five categories: location, time, emotional state, other people or the immediately preceding action. So to figure out the cue for my cookie habit, I wrote down five things the moment the urge hit:

Where are you? (Sitting at my desk.)

What time is it? (3:36 p.m.)

What’s your emotional state? (Bored.)

Who else is around? (No one.)

What action preceded the urge? (Answered an e-mail.)

The next day I did the same thing. And the next. Pretty soon, the cue was clear: I always felt an urge to snack around 3:30.

Once I figured out all the parts of the loop, it seemed fairly easy to change my habit. But the psychologists and neuroscientists warned me that, for my new behavior to stick, I needed to abide by the same principle that guided Procter & Gamble in selling Febreze: To shift the routine – to socialize, rather than eat a cookie – I needed to piggyback on an existing habit. So now, every day around 3:30, I stand up, look around the newsroom for someone to talk to, spend 10 minutes gossiping, then go back to my desk. The cue and reward have stayed the same. Only the routine has shifted. It doesn’t feel like a decision, any more than the M.I.T. rats made a decision to run through the maze. It’s now a habit. I’ve lost 21 pounds since then (12 of them from changing my cookie ritual).

After Andrew Pole built his pregnancy-prediction model, after he identified thousands of female shoppers who were most likely pregnant, after someone pointed out that some of those women might be a little upset if they received an advertisement making it obvious Target was studying their reproductive status, everyone decided to slow things down.

The marketing department conducted a few tests by choosing a small, random sample of women from Pole’s list and mailing them combinations of advertisements to see how they reacted.

“We have the capacity to send every customer an ad booklet, specifically designed for them, that says, ‘Here’s everything you bought last week and a coupon for it,’ ” one Target executive told me. “We do that for grocery products all the time.” But for pregnant women, Target’s goal was selling them baby items they didn’t even know they needed yet.

“With the pregnancy products, though, we learned that some women react badly,” the executive said. “Then we started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random. We’d put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We’d put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance.

“And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.”

In other words, if Target piggybacked on existing habits – the same cues and rewards they already knew got customers to buy cleaning supplies or socks – then they could insert a new routine: buying baby products, as well. There’s a cue (“Oh, a coupon for something I need!”) a routine (“Buy! Buy! Buy!”) and a reward (“I can take that off my list”). And once the shopper is inside the store, Target will hit her with cues and rewards to entice her to purchase everything she normally buys somewhere else. As long as Target camouflaged how much it knew, as long as the habit felt familiar, the new behavior took hold.

Soon after the new ad campaign began, Target’s Mom and Baby sales exploded. The company doesn’t break out figures for specific divisions, but between 2002 – when Pole was hired – and 2010, Target’s revenues grew from $44 billion to $67 billion. In 2005, the company’s president, Gregg Steinhafel, boasted to a room of investors about the company’s “heightened focus on items and categories that appeal to specific guest segments such as mom and baby.”

Pole was promoted. He has been invited to speak at conferences. “I never expected this would become such a big deal,” he told me the last time we spoke.

A few weeks before this article went to press, I flew to Minneapolis to try and speak to Andrew Pole one last time. I hadn’t talked to him in more than a year. Back when we were still friendly, I mentioned that my wife was seven months pregnant. We shop at Target, I told him, and had given the company our address so we could start receiving coupons in the mail. As my wife’s pregnancy progressed, I noticed a subtle upswing in the number of advertisements for diapers and baby clothes arriving at our house.

Pole didn’t answer my e-mails or phone calls when I visited Minneapolis. I drove to his large home in a nice suburb, but no one answered the door. On my way back to the hotel, I stopped at a Target to pick up some deodorant, then also bought some T-shirts and a fancy hair gel. On a whim, I threw in some pacifiers, to see how the computers would react. Besides, our baby is now 9 months old. You can’t have too many pacifiers.

When I paid, I didn’t receive any sudden deals on diapers or formula, to my slight disappointment. It made sense, though: I was shopping in a city I never previously visited, at 9:45 p.m. on a weeknight, buying a random assortment of items. I was using a corporate credit card, and besides the pacifiers, hadn’t purchased any of the things that a parent needs. It was clear to Target’s computers that I was on a business trip. Pole’s prediction calculator took one look at me, ran the numbers and decided to bide its time. Back home, the offers would eventually come. As Pole told me the last time we spoke: “Just wait. We’ll be sending you coupons for things you want before you even know you want them.”
– Source: New York Times

Advertisements

Posted in Vigilant Citizen | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How Companies Learn Your Secrets

Why We All Need to Experience Occupy Wall Street

Posted by Admin on December 20, 2011

http://www.truth-out.org/why-we-all-need-experience-occupy-wall-street/1323445491

Friday 9 December 2011
by: Preston Elrod, Truthout | Op-Ed

Occupy Wall Street protesters, along with union workers, stage a demonstration on the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York, Nov. 17, 2011. (Photo: Marcus Yam / The New York Times)

One of the most remarkable things about the United States is how rarely its citizens experience democracy. We do have a right to vote, and, within limits, assemble with others and speak freely. We have other rights as well, but in our daily lives – in our families, jobs, schools and other institutions – there is often a lack of democratic participation. For much of our lives, decisions are made by others. We are rarely consulted, and we are expected to do what we are told.

Question the prevailing way of thinking at home, work, school, even in church, and there can be serious consequences. Over time, we become accustomed to believing in the authorities, of following, of allowing others to make decisions for us. Having been deprived of democracy, over time, we begin to forget what it looks and sounds like. However, the idea that each of us should have a voice in the decisions that affect our lives is a powerful concept. That concept gave birth to this country, and it has been the central idea that encouraged struggles to create social, political and economic institutions that are responsive to human needs. Moreover, participatory democracy is alive and well in the Occupy movement.

Over the past month, I’ve had an opportunity to visit the occupations in New York (with my youngest son), in Washington DC, and in Lexington, Kentucky, where I live. In addition, I’ve spent considerable time reading about the occupation movement and discussing it with students and others. What is so encouraging about the occupations is how sharply they contrast with the dominant institutions and practices that have brought so much pain to so many of our fellow citizens.

It is not surprising that what is happening seems so foreign to many of us. Accustomed as we are to rely on “leaders” and media pundits to explain current events, the Occupy movement is difficult to comprehend. Who are the leaders? What is the platform? What is the solution? What is so important about the Occupy movement is that it is asking fundamental questions – questions about the kind of country we want for ourselves and for our children and the opportunities that should exist for all Americans. What the Occupy movement makes evident, as most of us are painfully aware, is that the current political economy does not work for most Americans, nor does it work for our brothers and sisters around the world. Yet, it does not tell us what to think. Instead, it encourages us to think and to learn through the countless discussions that take place each day at occupation sites around the country and abroad.

It also does not tell us to follow, but to learn and lead; that our voices are valuable and deserve to be heard. It does not promise solutions, but it reminds us that, together, we can do better, much better, not only in meeting the needs of our fellow citizens, but also in being a real leader in the world – one that is respected because of its ability to live up to its ideals, rather than feared for its ability to terrorize and destroy our enemies. Moreover, it reminds us that it is we, the people, who are capable of standing up to the power and corruption of those at the top. And it connects us in a very human way to all of those who came before us who struggled to achieve a better world and unites us with all of those who struggle now around the world. It joins us with those who believe, as Ghandi said, that “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

It short, the Occupy movement is a process by which we are able to develop knowledge, teach one another and take action to transform our world. If you were politically active during the 60s and 70s, you know the feeling. If you have been involved in actions designed, in some way, to help others, not because of the material reward, but because you understood it to be the right thing to do, you know the feeling. Indeed, what is so exhilarating about the Occupy movement is that it allows us to experience something that so many of us rarely experience: the right to practice democratic decisionmaking.

I encourage you to visit a nearby occupation or go to New York. And if you are a parent or educator, take your children or your students. Know in advance, however, that real democracy takes time and practice. Be patient, but be willing to engage with others, be open to differing ideas and perspectives, and consider getting involved.

Creative Commons License
This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
—————————————————————————————————————————————————
PRESTON ELROD

Preston Elrod received his PhD at Western Michigan University. He is currently a professor and coordinator of the undergraduate program in criminal justice at Eastern Kentucky University. He has published articles on a variety of criminal and juvenile justice topics, and he is the co-author of “Juvenile Justice: A Social, Historical and Legal Perspective,” Third Edition. Dr. Elrod has worked as the site director of a model school-based delinquency reduction program, and he has worked as a juvenile court intake officer and as the supervisor of a juvenile probation department. He is involved in a variety of community activities and is the co-founder of the Madison County Delinquency Prevention Council, a child advocacy organization in Madison County, Kentucky. He is presently involved in writing projects focusing on social control and the threat to democratic decisionmaking, developing a more humane juvenile justice process, and critical pedagogy.

Posted in Truthout Articles | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why We All Need to Experience Occupy Wall Street

Titanic Battle or Insider Trading? The S&P Downgrade and the Bilderbergers: All Part of the Plan?

Posted by Admin on August 31, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=26054

by Ellen Brown
Global Research, August 18, 2011

What just happened in the stock market?

Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose or fell by at least 400 points for four straight days, a stock market first.

The worst drop was on Monday, 8-8-11, when the Dow plunged 624 points. Monday was the first day of trading after US Treasury bonds were downgraded from AAA to AA+ by Standard and Poor’s.

But the roller coaster actually began on Tuesday, 8-2-11, the day after the last-minute deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling — a deal that was supposed to avoid the downgrade that happened anyway five days later.  The Dow changed directions for eight consecutive trading sessions after that, another first.  

The volatility was unprecedented, leaving analysts at a loss to explain it. High frequency program trading no doubt added to the wild swings, but why the daily reversals?  Why didn’t the market head down and just keep going, as it did in September 2008?

The plunge on 8-8-11 was the worst since 2008 and the sixth largest stock market crash ever. According to Der Spiegel, one of the most widely read periodicals in Europe:

Many economists have been pointing out that last week’s panic resembled the fear that swept financial markets after the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

Then as now, banks stopped lending each other money. Then as now, banks’ cash deposits at the central bank doubled within days.

But on Tuesday, August 9, the market gained more points from its low than it lost on Monday. Why? A tug of war seemed to be going on between two titanic forces, one bent on crashing the market, the other on propping it up.


The Dubious S&P Downgrade

Many commentators questioned the validity of the downgrade that threatened to be another Lehman Brothers. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said in a statement:

“The Treasury Department revealed that S&P’s decision was initially based on a $2 trillion error in accounting. However, even after this enormous error was corrected, S&P went ahead with the downgrade. This suggests that S&P had made the decision to downgrade independent of the evidence.  [Emphasis added.]

Paul Krugmanwriting in the New York Times, was also skeptical, stating:

[E]verything I’ve heard about S&P’s demands suggests that it’s talking nonsense about the US fiscal situation. The agency has suggested that the downgrade depended on the size of agreed deficit reduction over the next decade, with $4 trillion apparently the magic number. Yet US solvency depends hardly at all on what happens in the near or even medium term: an extra trillion in debt adds only a fraction of a percent of GDP to future interest costs . . . .

In short, S&P is just making stuff up — and after the mortgage debacle, they really don’t have that right.

In an illuminating expose posted on Firedoglake on August 5, Jane Hamsher concluded:

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Standard and Poor’s has a political agenda riding on the notion that the US is at risk of default on its debt based on some arbitrary limit to the debt-to-GDP ratio. There is no sound basis for that limit, or for S&P’s insistence on at least a $4 trillion down payment on debt reduction, any more than there is for the crackpot notion that a non-crazy US can be forced to default on its debt. . . .

It’s time the media and Congress started asking Standard and Poors what their political agenda is and whom it serves.


Who Drove the S&P Agenda?

Jason Schwarz shed light on this question in an article on Seeking Alpha titled “The Rise of Financial Terrorism”. He wrote:

[A]fter the market close on Friday August 5th, we received word that S&P CEO Deven Sharma had taken control of the ratings agency and personally led the push for a U.S. downgrade. There is a lot of evidence that he has deliberately tried to trash the U.S. economy. Even after discovering that the S&P debt calculations were off by $2 trillion, Sharma made the decision to go ahead with the unethical downgrade. This is a guy who was a key contributor at the 2009 Bilderberg Summit that organized 120 of the world’s richest men and women to push for an end to the dollar as the global reserve currency.

[T]hrough his writings on “competitive strategy” S&P CEO Sharma considers the United States the PROBLEM in today’s world, operating with what he implies is an unfair and reckless advantage. The brutal reality is that for “globalization” to succeed the United States must be torn asunder . . .

Also named by Schwarz as a suspect in the market manipulations was Michel Barnier, head of European Regulation.  Barnier triggered an alarming 513-point drop in the Dow on August 4, when he blocked the plan of Hans Hoogervorst, newly appointed Chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board, to save Europe by adopting a new rule called IFRS 9. The rule would have eliminated mark-to-market accounting of sovereign debt from European bank balance sheets. Schwarz writes:

We all should be experts on the dangers of mark-to-market accounting after observing the U.S. banking crisis of 2008/2009 and the Great Depression in the 1930s. Mark-to-market was repealed at 8:45 a.m on April 2, 2009, which finally put a stop to the short term liquidity crisis and at the same time ushered in a stock market recovery. Banks no longer had to raise capital as long term stability was brought back to the system. The exact same scenario would have happened in 2011 Europe under Hoogervorst’s plan. Without the threat of failure by those banks who hold high amounts of euro sovereign debt, investors would be free to move on from the European crisis and the stock market could resume its fundamental course.

Schwarz notes that Barnier, like Sharma, was a confirmed attendee at past Bilderberger conferences. What, then, is the agenda of the Bilderbergers?


The One World Company

Daniel Estulin, noted expert on the Bilderbergers, describes that secretive globalist group as “a medium of bringing together financial institutions which are the world’s most powerful and most predatory financial interests.” Writing in June 2011, he said:

Bilderberg isn’t a secret society. . . . It’s a meeting of people who represent a certain ideology. . . . Not OWG [One World Government] or NWO [New World Order] as too many people mistakenly believe. Rather, the ideology is of a ONE WORLD COMPANY LIMITED.

It seems the Bilderbergers are less interested in governing the world than in owning the world. The “world company” was a term first used at a Bilderberger meeting in Canada in 1968 by George Ball, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs and a managing director of banking giants Lehman Brothers and Kuhn Loeb. The world company was to be a new form of colonialism, in which global assets would be acquired by economic rather than military coercion. The company would extend across national boundaries, aggressively engaging in mergers and acquisitions until the assets of the world were subsumed under one privately-owned corporation, with nation-states subservient to a private international central banking system.

Estulin continues:

The idea behind each and every Bilderberg meeting is to create what they themselves call THE ARISTOCRACY OF PURPOSE between European and North American elites on the best way to manage the planet. In other words, the creation of a global network of giant cartels, more powerful than any nation on Earth, destined to control the necessities of life of the rest of humanity.

. . . This explains what George Ball . . . said back in 1968, at a Bilderberg meeting in Canada: “Where does one find a legitimate base for the power of corporate management to make decisions that can profoundly affect the economic life of nations to whose governments they have only limited responsibility?”

That base of power was found in the private global banking system. Estulin goes on:

The problem with today’s system is that the world is run by monetary systems, not by national credit systems. . . . [Y]ou don’t want a monetary system to run the world. You want sovereign nation-states to have their own credit systems, which is the system of their currency. . . . [T]he possibility of productive, non-inflationary credit creation by the state, which is firmly stated in the US Constitution, was excluded by Maastricht [the Treaty of the European Union] as a method of determining economic and financial policy.

The world company acquires assets by preventing governments from issuing their own currencies and credit. Money is created instead by banks as loans at interest. The debts inexorably grow, since more is always owed back than was created in the original loans.  (For more on this, see here.) If currencies are not allowed to expand to meet increased costs and growth, the inevitable result is a wave of bankruptcies, foreclosures, and sales of assets at firesale prices. Sales to whom?  To the “world company.”


Battle of the Titans

If that was the plan behind the market assaults on August 4 and August 8, however, it evidently failed. What turned the market around, according to Der Spiegel, was the European Central Bank, which saved the day by embarking on a program of buying Spanish and Italian bonds. Sidestepping the Maastricht Treaty, the ECB said it would engage in the equivalent of “quantitative easing,” purchasing bonds with money created with accounting entries on its books.  It had done this earlier with Greek and Irish sovereign debt but had resisted doing it with Spanish and Italian bonds, which were much larger obligations. On Tuesday, August 16, the ECB announced that it was engaging in a record $32 billion bond-buying spree in an attempt to appease the markets and save the Eurozone from collapse.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was also expected to come through with another round of quantitative easing, but his speech on August 9 made no mention of QE3. As blogger Jesse Livermore summarized the market’s response:

.
. . [T]he markets sold off rather rapidly as no announcement was made about  QE3. . . . It wasn’t until . . . the last 75 min of market activity [that] the DJIA gained 639 pts to close at a day high of 11,242. That begs the question, where did that injection of capital come from? The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets? Or did the “policy tools” to promote price stability by any chance include the next round of Quantitative Easing unannounced?

Was that QE3 Incognito, Ben?

Titanic Battle or Insider Trading?

 

That leaves the question, why the suspicious downgrade on August 5, AFTER the government had made major concessions just to avoid default, and despite the embarrassing revelation that S&P’s figures were off by $2 trillion? Suspicious bloggers have pointed out that Lehman Brothers was brought down by a massive bear raid on 9-11-08, echoing the disaster of 9-11-01; that the S&P downgrade hit the market on 8-8-11; and that the S&P fell exactly 6.66% and the Dow fell exactly 5.55% on that date.  In Illuminati lore, these are power numbers, of the sort chosen for power moves.

But we don’t need to turn to numerology to find a motive for proceeding with the downgrade. On August 12, MSN.Money reported that it “wasn’t much of a surprise”:

Wall Street had heard a rumor early on that the downgrade was coming. News sites reported the rumor all day.

Unless it was all a huge coincidence, it’s likely that someone in the know leaked the information. The questions are who and whether the leak led to early insider trading.

The Daily Mail had the story of someone placing an $850 million bet in the futures market on the prospects of a US debt downgrade:

The latest bet was made on July 21 on trades of 5,370 ten-year Treasury futures and 3,100 Treasury bond futures, reported ETF Daily News.

Now the investor’s gamble seems to have paid off after Standard and Poor’s issued a credit rating downgrade from AAA to AA+ last Friday.

Whoever it is stands to earn a 1,000 per cent return on their money, with the expectation that interest rates will be going up after the downgrade.

The Securities Exchange Commission announced on August 8 that it is investigating the downgradeAccording to the Financial Times, the move is part of a preliminary examination into potential insider trading.

Whatever can be said about the first two weeks of August, their market action was unprecedented, unnatural, and bears close observation.

Ellen Brown is president of the Public Banking Institute and the author of eleven books. She developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles.  In Web of Debt, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” Her websites are http://WebofDebt.com  and http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.

Ellen Brown is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Posted in Economic Upheavals | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Titanic Battle or Insider Trading? The S&P Downgrade and the Bilderbergers: All Part of the Plan?

Nonviolent Revolution Clarified: Five Myths and Realities Behind Egypt’s Uprising

Posted by Admin on July 10, 2011

http://www.truth-out.org/nonviolent-revolution-clarified-five-myths-and-realities-behind-egypts-uprising/1310067482

by: Dr. Cynthia Boaz, Truthout | News Analysis
 

An Egyptian flag flies as thousands of protesters attend a mass demonstration in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the Egyptian uprising, in Cairo on July 8, 2011. (Photo: Moises Saman / The New York Times)

The fall of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt has produced prolific analysis by media commentators across the spectrum. Some of this analysis has been excellent, but much of the conventional media interpretation of the why, how and what behind these events leaves much to be desired. There are a handful of misconceptions that have been parroted repeatedly in media coverage of the “Arab Spring.” These are important to recognize because the dynamics of how power is shifted matters enormously. In Gandhian language, means and ends are inseparable. That which is won through violence must be sustained through violence. That which is won through mass civil nonviolent action is more legitimate and more likely to be sustainable over the long term.

Additionally, how we understand and interpret the source of the power that emerged in Tunisia and Egypt last spring can go on to shape our long-term views about what is possible. If we consciously or unconsciously reinforce misconceptions or negative stereotypes about nonviolent action, we potentially undermine the morale of people engaged in ongoing struggles and, in the worst-case scenario, we can give credibility to the perspectives of the oppressors. What follows are the five most prevalent ways in which mainstream media has gotten the story wrong on the Egyptian uprising and the corresponding correction to each.

Misconception 1: It was spontaneous. Reality:  Although commentators still tend to talk about the Egyptian revolution as though no one could have predicted it, the key variable in the victory was planning. As we saw during the height of Mubarak‘s crackdown, the movement was able to keep the people of Egypt unified and, for the most part, nonviolently disciplined. Considering the lengths to which the regime went to try and provoke violence, it was quite remarkable how focused, creative and disciplined the activists remained. None of that would have been possible without several years of laying the groundwork. Egyptian activists worked for years to identify and neutralize the sources of power in the nation of 83 million. Their effort extended to making personal connections with the military forces and the commanders in particular. It’s a nuanced divide-and-conquer strategy. After building relationships with members of the regime’s pillars of support, the movement then helped them question the legitimacy of the ruler and the system they were upholding. When media analysts talk about an uprising like the one in Egypt as spontaneous, they are revealing their lack of understanding of the dynamics of nonviolent action and, simultaneously, are taking credit away from activists, who in many cases, have worked hard for years – often at great personal risk and sacrifice – to make this kind of victory possible. Regimes like Mubarak’s don’t fall when people just spontaneously show up in the city square. They only fall when movements are capable of exerting sustained pressure on them over a length of time. And that for that to happen, there must be unity, strategy, vision and, most importantly, planning, planning and more planning.

Misconception 2: It was a military coup. Reality: It was a people-power revolution. This misconception stems partly from the fact that, at the end of the day, much hinged on whose side the military took in the struggle. But instead of giving the people credit for winning the military to their side through effective campaigning and salient messaging, many media commentators erroneously regard the military’s defense of the people as a sign that it was they who were actually leading the uprising. But the loyalty demonstrated by the military to the people’s revolution should be interpreted as a sign of how well the movement did its job, not just of how powerful the military is in Egypt. The strategy was about unifying around a shared vision of Egyptian society. This misconception also is partly attributable to the fact that many of us cannot conceptualize power as taking any form other than a militaristic one. That perspective reflects adherence to outdated assumptions and frames about violence and power, namely the notion that those two concepts are interchangeable. Fortunately, the people of Egypt know better and they’ve given the rest of the world an example from which to build.

Stay informed with Truthout updates delivered straight to your email inbox. Click here to sign up.

Misconception 3: It was orchestrated by the United States, either by backroom deals or “training and support” of activists. Reality: This unfortunate misconception shows a gross lack of knowledge of how nonviolent action works. There is really only one condition essential for the success of nonviolent struggle and that without which a struggle can never succeed: it must be indigenous. To claim nonviolent protests of the scale we saw in Egypt last spring can be manufactured abroad is to grossly overestimate the influence of US agents and agencies. How could US agencies organize broad-based protests and manage to get hundreds of thousands of people to maintain nonviolent discipline while under violent assault from half a world away, while these same agencies were, for more than five decades, unable to remove octogenarian Fidel Castro from his perch only 90 miles from the US border and with a population eight times smaller than Egypt’s? To say that it was the United States that somehow orchestrated the events in Egypt is also to show contempt for what the people did, which is to take control of their own destiny. To question the Egyptian people’s authorship of their own struggle serves the interests of a brutal dictator and others like him, and it risks undermining global support for what was, both at its heart and its implementation, an indigenous people’s movement. This, by the way, is not to say that US agencies have taken no interest in or have made no attempts at influencing democracy struggles around the world. It is just to argue that, in the case of Egypt and other successful people-power revolutions, that offer of help was declined.

Misconception 4It was an Islamist uprising. Reality: Not only is this incorrect, but it flies directly in the face of claims made by the same analysts who say they’re interested in promoting genuine democracy. There were Muslims in the movement, yes. But there were also Christians, Jews, atheists, and many others. In order to test the credibility of this assertion, it is important to look at the proclaimed objectives of the movement: it was about more rights, more freedoms and more democracy. Contrast those objectives to the common stereotypes about Islam held in the West: that it is undemocratic, violent and oppressive. There is no way to reconcile those two things. Either Western analysts must concede that the Egyptian revolution was not Islamist or they must concede that Islam is not a violent, undemocratic religion. The ideal course of action would be to concede the former completely and the latter mostly. But short of that, it must be one or the other. A related argument is that we should be wary about the Egyptian victory because it will create space for the Muslim Brotherhood to assert more control in that society. There are several things to note about this claim, however: first, it has never been an acceptable argument against democracy to say that it should be limited because of the outcomes it might produce. Secondly, those who make this assertion might do well to ask themselves if they would accept Egyptians picking their leaders for them. If the answer is no, then they owe the same courtesy to the Egyptian people. And lastly, the Muslim Brotherhood (a group which itself is widely misunderstood in that it formally renounced violence as a means of change of decades ago) seems to have begun evolving along with the Egyptian people. As of last week, it formed a coalition with one of Egypt’s most liberal political parties in an attempt to broaden – and moderate – its base.

Misconception 5: It wasn’t nonviolent. Reality: It is unrealistic to imagine that a revolution of this scale and with a target as brutal as this regime can be totally nonviolent. But there is a distinction between saying there were a few violent outbursts by undisciplined individuals and that there was violence by the movement. This movement itself was strictly nonviolent and that is what is most relevant. In a country as large as Egypt, it is impossible to train every person individually in nonviolent strategy. And so, not understanding the necessity of nonviolent discipline, there were some incidents of rock throwing, clashes with police, vandalism and a few outbursts of individual rage. There was a militant flank in many historical nonviolent struggles – South Africa, Chile and the US civil rights movement, to name a few. In each case, as in Egypt, the presence of that contingent undoubtedly made the work of the movement both more difficult and more essential. Because of the potential for possible outbursts, the movement had to: a) distinguish itself from undisciplined radicals, b) make it clear that no violence would be tolerated and c) train new activists on the ground. Consider the lengths to which the regime went to provoke violence by the people in order to create the perceptions that what the movement was doing was not nonviolent and, therefore, not legitimate. It was critical that the movement girded against vulnerability to these kind of agents provocateurs and they did that extraordinarily well, especially considering the movement’s enormous size. At the end of the day, the Egyptian uprising was one of history’s most significant nonviolent struggles and that is how history will remember it.

It is important that events like the ones in Egypt are conveyed as accurately as possible by media for many reasons, but one of the most significant is that the victory of mass nonviolent action in Egypt has implications for terrorist organizations and the perceived efficacy of terrorism itself. As nonviolent methods to push grievances succeed, they de-legitimize violence as a means of promoting change. Nonviolent action offers a realistic alternative to both violence and the status quo and it is, simultaneously, a very powerful form of struggle. If we consider that terrorist organizations and members of movements tend to share the same recruitment bases – disaffected people demanding significant change – then the victory in Egypt has likely done serious damage to the PR campaigns of terrorist networks. Because of that, the people of Egypt should not only be lauded for taking back their freedom through almost entirely democratic means, but for making the world a little bit safer for everyone.

Creative Commons License
This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
0digg
DR. CYNTHIA BOAZ

Dr. Cynthia Boaz is assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University, where her areas of expertise include quality of democracy, nonviolent struggle, civil resistance and political communication and media. She is also an affiliated scholar at the UNESCO Chair of Philosophy for Peace International Master in Peace, Conflict, and Development Studies at Universitat Jaume I in Castellon, Spain. Additionally, she is an analyst and consultant on nonviolent action, with special emphasis on the Iran and Burma cases. She is vice president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and on the board of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation. Dr. Boaz is also a contributing writer and adviser to Truthout.org and associate editor of Peace and Change Journal.

Posted in Truthout Articles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Nonviolent Revolution Clarified: Five Myths and Realities Behind Egypt’s Uprising

BREAKING NEWS: Mounting Evidence that Dominique Strauss Kahn was Framed

Posted by Admin on July 10, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25533

Global Research, July 7, 2011
While the media has gone to arms length to obfuscate the matter, there is mounting evidence that Dominique Strauss Kahnwas framed.

According to media reports, the 32-year-old Guinean Sofitel housemaid received the modest sum of 100,000 dollars paid into her bank account. The New York Times acknowledges the payment but fails to analyze the source of these payments. In an utterly confused statement, the NYT suggests that the money was deposited in the housemaid’s account by her Guinean boy friend who is serving time in a high security prison:

According to the two officials, the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded.

That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania.

The investigators also learned that she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five companies. The woman had insisted she had only one phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends. (NYT, July 1, 2011, emphasis added)

The bank records of the housemaid, not to mention the record of her telephone calls, are known to police investigators, yet both the media and the prosecutors have failed to reveal the identity of the persons who instigated these money transfers.

The reports suggest that they may be “drug related”, thereby casually dismissing the likelihood that the money could have been part of the framing of DSK. The reports also mention that the money deposits were made “over the last two years”, thereby conveying  the impression that they bear no relationship to the DSK affair.

The exact timing of these money transfers including the identity of  senders are known to police investigators. Why has this information not been released?

If the 100,000 dollars had indeed been deposited into her bank account in the course of the last two years, why on earth would she be working as a housemaid?

Regime change at the IMF

Why was the substance of the housemaid’s false accusations not released at an earlier stage?  Who was protecting her?

Why did the media wait to reveal information which confirms DSK’s innocence.

This information was known to the prosecutors at an early stage of the investigation, yet it was only released after the appointment of France’s Finance Minister Christine Lagarde as Managing Director of the IMF.

Lagarde’s candidacy was confirmed and accepted on June 26th. Her mandate was confirmed on June 28th following a decision of the IMF’s 24 member executive board.

Lagarde is an appointee of Wall Street and the US banking establishment. Her candidacy had been approved by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the 28th of June:

“I am pleased to announce our decision to support Christine Lagarde to head the IMF,” Geithner said in a statement hours before the 24-member IMF executive board was expected to select her as its managing director.

Careful timing. In a bitter irony, the report from the prosecutor proving DSK’s innocence was released on the day following the IMF’s executive board decision instating Lagarde as Managing Director of IMF for a five year term.

The frame-up has visibly succeeded. Who instructed prosecutors not to release this information until after the appointment of Lagarde as IMF Chief?

If this information had been revealed a few days earlier, Lagarde’s candidacy as IMF chief might have been questioned.

Regime change at the IMF has been speedily implemented, not to mention the implications of the DSK affair in relation to the French presidential elections.

Christine Lagarde commenced her five year term as IMF Managing Director on July 5th at the height of Greece’s debt crisis.

Sofar, the likely hypothesis of a frame-up directed against DSK is not being touched upon by the mainstream media.

Posted in Geo-Politics, Global Research | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on BREAKING NEWS: Mounting Evidence that Dominique Strauss Kahn was Framed

The World Today: Exposing the Lies of Mainstream Media The mainstream media is owned by bankers and corporate kingpins

Posted by Admin on May 24, 2011

“Truth has to be repeated constantly, because Error also is being preached all the time, and not just by a few, but by the multitude.  In the Press and Encyclopaedias, in Schools and Universities, everywhere Error holds sway, feeling happy and comfortable in the knowledge of having Majority on its side.”   —Goethe

Dear Readers,

Thank you for visiting Global Research! We are reassured to know that you have come to this site because you are looking to find the truth, the REAL truth behind the “news”, to understand the political, social and economic forces shaping the world you live in.

Though Goethe made his insightful observation two hundred years ago, his words hold more meaning today than ever in history. Error can indeed be found throughout stories in the mainstream press, in “official reports” and coming from the very mouths of world leaders, many “democratically” elected. But what even Goethe could not have predicted is the broad extent to which these errors are knowingly, deceptively and insidiously woven into our daily news, effectively subverting the masses and keeping them blind and apathetic to the empirically-driven motives of the world’s elite.

If you are visiting this site, it is because you have realized that things aren’t “adding up”, that what world leaders and influential figures are telling us, as conveyed by mainstream media, does not accurately reflect the picture of the world today. You have seen that the only way to find the “truth” is to go to independent sources that aren’t funded and manipulated by corporate and political interests.

The aims of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and Global Research are to battle the tidal waves of misinformation and propaganda washing our minds on a daily basis. We have separated ourselves from the corporate-controlled mainstream news, whose only objective is to serve their corporate masters. We take no assistance from the major foundations such as Rockefeller, Ford, and MacArthur, who act as patrons (and thus pacifiers) of the alternative and critical voices challenging the forces of globalization.

We do this in order to remain an independent voice, challenging all that needs to be challenged and exposing all that remains in the dark. Bringing light to a dimly lit world is no easy task, and though the aim and method is “independence,” we are, in fact, entirely dependent upon YOU, our readers.

Without your support, we cannot continue our operations nor expand our horizons and opportunities. Global Research is indebted to our readers, and we are here for you and because of you. If you would like Global Research to continue and to grow, we need your support now more than ever.

The mainstream media is owned by bankers and corporate kingpins. Not only that, but it has been historically and presently infiltrated by covert government agencies, seeking to deceive and propagandize their agendas. The CIA has long had associations with major mainstream news publications. By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc. The CIA even ran a training program “to teach its agents to be journalists,” who were “then placed in major news organizations with help from management.”

At Global Research, we seek to not only expose and criticize the larger picture, but to point the finger at the media, itself, and examine who is lying, why they lie, and how they get away with it. To continue in our endeavours, we need our readers to continue in their support.

One important and helpful thing that all of our readers can do is to help spread our name and information by “liking” our Facebook page here. We post articles daily that will appear in your news feed so that you don’t have to come to us, we can bring our information straight to you. “Like” our page and recommend us to your friends. Every bit helps!

You can also support us by continuing to send us your much needed donations which allow us to continue our day-to-day operations and help us expand our scope and content.

Supporting Global Research is supporting the cause of truth and the fight against media disinformation.

Thank you.

The Global Research Team

FOR ONLINE DONATIONS

For online donations, please click below:
VISIT THE DONATION PAGE


FOR DONATIONS BY MAIL

To send your donation by mail, kindly send your cheque or international money order, made out to CRG, to our postal address:

Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)
PO Box 55019
11, Notre-Dame Ouest,
Montreal, QC, H2Y 4A7
CANADA


FOR DONATIONS BY FAX
For payment by fax, please print the credit card fax authorization form and fax your order and credit card details to Global Research at             514 656 5294      

You can also support us by purchasing books from our store! Click to browse our titles.

Global Research, May 25, 2011

Posted in Global Research | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The World Today: Exposing the Lies of Mainstream Media The mainstream media is owned by bankers and corporate kingpins

Disclosure and Deceit: Secrecy as the Manipulation of History, not its Concealment

Posted by Admin on May 24, 2011

by Dr. T. P. Wilkinson

Global Research, May 21, 2011

The declassification of official secrets is often seen as either a challenge or a prerequisite for obtaining accurate data on the history of political and economic events. Yet at the same time high government intelligence officials have said that their policy is one of ‘plausible deniability‘. Official US government policy for example is never to acknowledge or deny the presence of nuclear weapons anywhere its forces are deployed, especially its naval forces. The British have their ‘Official Secrets’ Act. When the Wikileaks site was launched in 2007 and attained notoriety for publication of infamous actions by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, this platform was heralded and condemned for its disclosures and exposures.

Julian Assange is quoted as saying that when he receives documents classified under the UK Official Secrets Act he responds in accordance with the letter of the law – since it is forbidden to withhold or destroy, his only option is to publish. The question remains for historians, investigators, and educated citizens: what is the real value of disclosures or declassification? Given the practice of plausible deniablity, does disclosure or declassification constitute proof, and if so by what criteria? Both facts and non-facts can be concealed or disclosed.

Information is not self-defining Ultimately there remain two questions: does the secret document (now public) really constitute the ‘secret’? What is the ‘secret’ for which we use the document to actually refer? Is secrecy the difference between the known and unknown, or the known and untold?

Some benefit can be found by borrowing theological concepts. We can distinguish between a mystery revealed and a supernatural truth which, by its very nature, lies above the finite intelligence. But a secret is something unknowable either by accident or on account of accessibility. I believe that the popularised form of disclosure embodied in Wikileaks should force us to distinguish between those beliefs we have about the nature of official action and the conduct of people working within those institutions and the data produced. Wikileaks is clearly a platform for publishing data but much of the response to these documents is more based on mystery than on secrecy. That is to say that the disclosures are treated as revelation in the religious sense – and not as discovery in the sense of scientia – knowledge. Why is this so? Wikileaks is described as a continuation of the ethical and social responsibility of journalism as an instrument to educate and inform the public – based on the principle that an informed public is essential to a democracy and self-governance. By collecting, collating and disclosing documents ‘leaked’ to it, Wikileaks also attacks what Assange calls the invisible government, the people and institutions who rule by concealing their activities from the people – and brings to light their wrongdoing.

There are two traditions involved here that partially overlap. In the US the prime examples are the ‘muckraking journalism’ originating in the so-called Progressive Era, spanning from 1890s to 1920s, and more recently the publication of the Pentagon Papers through Daniel Ellsberg. While liberals treat both of these examples favourably, their histories, however, are far more ambivalent than sentimentally presented. To understand this ambivalence, itself a sort of plausible deniability, it is necessary to sketch the history of journalism in the US – the emergence of an unnamed but essential political actor – and some of the goals of US foreign policy since the end of the 19th century. This very brief sketch offers what I call the preponderance of facticity – as opposed to an unimpeachable explanation for the overt and covert actions of the US.

First of all it is necessary to acknowledge that in 1886 the US Supreme Court endowed the modern business corporation with all the properties of citizenship in the US – a ruling reiterated with more vehemence this year by another Supreme Court decision. As of 1886, business corporations in the US had more civil rights than freed slaves or women. By the end of the First World War, the business corporation had eclipsed the natural person as a political actor in the US. By 1924 US immigration law and the actions of the FBI had succeeded in damming the flow of European radicalism and suppressing domestic challenges to corporate supremacy. Thus by the time Franklin Roosevelt was elected, the US had been fully constituted as a corporatist state. US government policy was thereafter made mainly by and for business corporations and their representatives. Second, professional journalism emerged from the conflict between partisan media tied to social movements and those tied to business. The first journalism school was founded in 1908 at the University of Missouri with money from newspaper baron Joseph Pulitzer. As in all other emerging professions at that time, it was claimed that uniform training within an academic curriculum would produce writers who were neutral, objective, and dispassionate – that is to say somehow scientific in their writing.

A professional journalist would not allow his or her writing to be corrupted by bribery or political allegiances. These professional journalists would work for commercial enterprises but be trained to produce value-free texts for publication.. The US has always refused to call itself an empire or to acknowledge that its expansion from the very beginning was imperial. The dogma of manifest destiny sought to resolve this contradiction by stipulating that domestic conquest was not imperial. Control of the Western hemisphere has always been defined as national security, not of asserting US domination. Likewise, it is impossible to understand the actions of the US government in Asia since 1910 without acknowledging that the US is an empire and recognising its imperial interests in the Asia–Pacific region. It is also impossible to understand the period called the Cold War without knowing that the US invaded the Soviet Union in 1918 with 13,000 troops along with some 40,000 British troops and thousands of troops recruited by the ‘West’ to support the Tsarist armies and fascist Siberian Republic. It is essential to bear these over-arching contextual points in mind when considering the value of classified US documents and their disclosure, whether by Wikileaks or Bob Woodward. It is essential to bear these points in mind because the value or the ambivalence of ‘leaks’ or declassification depends entirely on whether the data is viewed as ‘revelation’ or as mere scientific data to be interpreted.

Revelation and heresy For the most part the disclosures by Wikileaks have been and continue to be treated as ‘revelation’ and the disclosure itself as heresy. This is particularly the case in the batches of State Department cables containing diplomatic jargon and liturgy. The ‘revelation’ comprises the emotional response to scripture generated by members of the US foreign service and the confirmation this scripture appears to give to opinions held about the US – whether justified or not. Just as reading books and even the bible was a capital offence for those without ecclesiastical license in the high Middle Ages, the response of the US government is comprehensible. It is bound to assert that Wikileaks is criminal activity and to compel punishment. Yet there is another reason why the US government reaction is so intense. As argued above, the primary political actor in the US polity is the business corporation. In Europe and North America at least it is understood: (1) that the ultimate values for state action are those which serve the interests of private property; and (2) that the business corporation is the representative form of private property.

This in turn means that information rights are in fact property rights manifest as patents, copyrights, and trade or industrial secrets. Since the state is the guardian of the corporation, it argues that the disclosure of government documents should only be allowed where the government itself has surrendered some of its privacy rights. This is quite different from the arguments for feudal diplomatic privilege, even though business corporations have superseded princely states. The argument for state secrecy now is that the democratic state constituted by business corporations is obliged to protect the rights and privileges of those citizens as embodied in their private property rights – rights deemed to be even more absolute than those historically attributed to natural persons, if for no other reason than that corporations enjoy limited liability and immortality, unlike natural persons. When the US government says it is necessary for other states to treat Assange as an outlaw and Wikileaks as a criminal activity, it is appealing on one hand to the global corporate citizenry and on the other, asserting its role – not unlike the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages – as the sole arbiter of those rights and privileges subsumed by Democracy in the world. Many of those who lack a religious commitment to the American way of life have still recognised the appeal to privacy and ultimately to private property which are now deemed the highest values in the world – so that trade, the commerce in private property, takes precedence over every other human activity and supersedes even human rights, not to mention civil rights.

Ellsberg In 1971 Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, which began their publication. This leak was treated as a landmark, although it would take several years before the US withdrew its forces from Vietnam and many more before hostilities were formally ended. What then was the significance of the ‘leak’? The documents generally point to the failures of the military, omitting the role of the CIA almost entirely. Today it is still largely unknown that Ellsberg was working with the CIA in counter-insurgency programs in Vietnam. Did the Pentagon Papers thus serve the interests of plausible deniability – a disclosure of secrets designed not to reveal truth, but to conceal a larger truth by revealing smaller ones? On the other hand, the collection of essays, Dirty Work, edited by Philip Agee and Lou Wolf, showed how the identity of CIA officers could be deciphered from their official biographies, especially as published in the Foreign Service List and other government registers. This type of disclosure allows the competent researcher to recognise ‘real’ Foreign Service officers as opposed to CIA officers operating under diplomatic cover. Agee and his colleague Lou Wolf maintained that disclosure of CIA activities was not a matter of lifting secrets but of recognising the context in which disparate information has to be viewed to allow its interpretation.

To put it trivially: in order to find something you have to know the thing for which you are searching. In order to be meaningful, disclosures of intelligence information must explain that intelligence information seeks to deceive the US public. For example, the CIA and those in the multi-agency task forces under its control produced an enormous amount of reports and documentation to show what was being done to fulfil the official US policy objectives in Vietnam. One of these programs was called Rural Development. This CIA program was run ostensibly by the USAID and the State Department to support the economic and social development of the countryside. This policy was articulated in Washington to fit with the dominant ‘development’ paradigm – to package the US policy as aid and not military occupation. And yet, as Douglas Valentine shows in his book The Phoenix Program, Rural Development was a cover for counterinsurgency from the beginning. The Phoenix Program only became known in the US after 1971, and then only superficially. The information released to the US Congress and reported in the major media outlets lacked sufficient context to allow interpretation. There was so little context that the same people who worked in the Phoenix program in Vietnam as 20-year-olds have been able to continue careers operating the same kinds of programmes in other countries with almost no scrutiny.

Two people come to mind: John Negroponte, who is alleged to have provided support to death squads in Honduras during the US war against Nicaragua and later served as ambassador to occupied Iraq, began his foreign service career in Vietnam with one of the agencies instrumental in Phoenix. The other person died recently: Richard Holbrooke began his career with USAID in Vietnam, went on to advise the Indonesian dictatorship, went to manage the ‘diplomatic’ part of the US war in Yugoslavia and finally served as a kind of pro-consul for Central Asia with responsibility for the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. As the secret weapon in US imperial policy, the counterinsurgency or rural development or ‘surge’ policies of the US government never include an examination of the professionals who managed them. It used to be said among some critics that one could follow General Vernon Walters’ travel itinerary and predict military coups. But that was not something ‘leaked’ and it did not appear in the mainstream media analysis.

The illusion of objective neutrality So if much of what we see ‘leaked’ is gossip in the service of plausible deniability, what separates the important gossip from the trivial? I suggest it is a return to consciously interested, humanistic values in historical research. We have to abandon the idea that the perfect form of knowledge is embodied in the privilege of corporate ownership of ideas, and domination of the state. We also have to abandon the illusion of objective neutrality inherited from Positivism and Progressivism, with its exclusionary professionalism. Until such time as human beings can be restored to the centre of social, political and economic history we have to recognise the full consequences of the enfranchisement of the business corporation and the subordination of the individual to role of a mere consumer. If we take the business corporation, an irresponsible and immortal entity, endowed with absolute property rights and absolved of any liability for its actions or those of its officers and agents, as the subject of history it has become, then we have to disclose more than diplomatic cables. We have to analyse its actions just as historians have tried to understand the behaviour of princes and dynasties in the past. This is too rarely done and when often only in a superficial way. I would like to provide an example, a sketch if you will, of one such historical analysis, taking the business corporation and not the natural person as the focus of action.

In 1945, George Orwell referred to the threat of nuclear war between the West and the Soviet Union as a ‘cold war’. He made no reference to the 1918 invasion of the Soviet Union by British troops. In 1947, US Secretary of State Bernard Baruch gave a speech in South Carolina saying ‘Let us not be deceived: we are today in the midst of a cold war’. The speech had been written by a rich newspaperman named Herbert Swope. In 1947, George Kennan published his containment essay, ‘The Sources of Soviet Conduct’, in Foreign Affairs under the name ‘X’. In it he describes a supposed innate expansionist tendency of the Soviet Union – also no mention of the US invasion or the devastation of WWII, which virtually destroyed the Soviet Union’s manpower and industrial base. In April 1950, NSC 68 is published – classified top secret until 1975 – outlining the necessity for the US to massively rearm to assert and maintain its role as the world’s superpower. At the end of summer 1950, war breaks out in Korea. President Truman declared an emergency and gets UN Security Council approval for a war that lasts three years, killing at least 3 million Koreans – most of whom die as a result of US Air Force saturation bombing of Korea north of the 38th parallel. Truman proclaims that US intervention will be used to prevent the expansion of the Soviet Union or as Ronald Reagan put it then – Russian aggression. After being utterly routed by the army of North Korea, the US bombs its way to the Yalu only to be thrown back to the 38th parallel by China. In 1954, the US organises the overthrow of the Arbenz regime in Guatemala and begins its aid and covert intervention in Vietnam beginning a war that only ends in 1976. Meanwhile Britain suppresses the Malaysian independence movement. Between 1960 and 1968, nationalist governments have been overthrown in Indonesia, Congo, Ghana, Brazil. Cuba is the great surprise amidst the literally hundreds of nationalist, anti-colonial movements and governments suppressed by the US.

William Blum has catalogued the enormous number of overt and covert interventions by the US in his book Killing Hope. The amazing thing about much of what Blum compiled is that it was not ‘secret’. It was simply not reported or misreported. Blum makes clear – what should be obvious – that the Soviet Union was not a party to a single war or coup from 1945 to 1989 and that the US government knew this. Much of this early action took place when John Foster Dulles was US Secretary of State and his brother was head of the CIA. The Dulles brothers were intimately connected to corporations they represented in their capacity as ‘white shoe’ lawyers in New York. In fact the founder of the OSS, the CIA’s predecessor, William Donovan, was also a corporate lawyer both before and after his service in the OSS. In other words the people who have commanded these foreign policy instruments have almost without exception been the direct representatives of major US business corporations. In each case the public pretext has been the threat of communism or Soviet expansion. Yet the only consistent quality all of these actions had was the suppression of governments that restricted the activities of US or UK corporations. Of course, communism has long been merely a term for any opposition to the unrestricted rights of business corporations.

One could say people like Donovan or Dulles were seconded to government office. However, the direct financial benefit that someone like Dulles obtained when he succeeded in deposing Arbenz in Guatemala came from his shareholding in United Fruit, the instigator and financial backer of the CIA co-ordinated coup. Perhaps the more accurate interpretation of this secret activity is that the business corporation, which previously employed law firms and Pinkertons, had shifted the burden of implementing corporate foreign policy to the taxpayer and the state. Now the interest of the US in Latin America has been well researched and documented. But the persistence of the Vietnam War and the silence about the Korean War have only been matched by the virtual absence of debate about the overthrow of Sukarno and the Philippine insurgency. The Philippines became a footnote in the controversy about US torture methods in Iraq and elsewhere as it was shown that the ‘water cure’ was applied rigorously by American troops when suppressing the Philippine independence movement at the beginning of the 20th century.

Lack of context not knowledge The study of each of these Asian countries – and one can add the so-called Golden Triangle; and I would argue Afghanistan now – has been clouded not by lack of evidence or documentation but by lack of context. If the supposed threat posed by communism, especially Soviet communism is taken at face value – as also reiterated in innumerable official documents both originally public and originally confidential – then the US actions in Asia seem like mere religious fanaticism. The government officials and military and those who work with them are so indoctrinated that they will do anything to oppose communism in whatever form. Thus even respected scholars of these wars will focus on the delusions or information deficits or ideological blinders of the actors. This leads to a confused and incoherent perception of US relations in Asia and the Pacific. The virtual absence of any coherent criticism of the Afghanistan War, let alone the so-called War on Terror, is symptomatic not of inadequate information, leaked or otherwise. It is a result of failure to establish the context necessary for evaluating the data available. It should not surprise anyone that ‘counter-terror’ practices by US Forces are ‘discovered’ in Afghanistan or Iraq, if the professional careers of the theatre and field commanders (in and out of uniform) are seriously examined.

Virtually all those responsible for fighting the war in Central Asia come from Special Operations/CIA backgrounds. That is what they have been trained to do. If we shift our attention for a moment to the economic basis of this region, it has been said that the war against drugs is also being fought there. However, this is counterfactual. Since the 1840s the region from Afghanistan to Indochina has been part of what was originally the British opium industry. China tried to suppress the opium trade twice leading to war with Britain – wars China lost. The bulk of the Hong Kong banking sector developed out of the British opium trade protected by the British army and Royal Navy. Throughout World War II and especially the Vietnam War the opium trade expanded to become an important economic sector in Southern Asia – under the protection of the secret services of the US, primarily the CIA. Respected scholars have documented this history to the present day. However it does not appear to play any role in interpreting the policies of the US government whether publicly or confidentially documented. Is it because, as a senior UN official reported last year, major parts of the global financial sector – headquartered in New York and London – were saved by billions in drug money in 2008? Does the fact that Japan exploited both Korea and Vietnam to provide cheap food for its industrial labour force have any bearing on the US decision to invade those countries when its official Asia policy was to rebuild Japan as an Asian platform for US corporations – before China became re-accessible (deemed lost to the Communists in 1948)? Did the importance of Korean tungsten for the US steel industry contribute to the willingness of people like Preston Goodfellow, a CIA officer in Korea, to introduce a right-wing Korean to rule as a dictator of the US occupied zone? Is there continuity between Admiral Dewey’s refusal to recognise the Philippine Republic after Spain’s defeat – because the 1898 treaty with Spain ceded the archipelago to the US – and the refusal of General Hodge to recognise the Korean People’s Republic in Seoul when he led the occupation of Korea in 1945? As John Pilger suggests, were the million people massacred by Suharto with US and UK support a small price to pay for controlling the richest archipelago in the Pacific? Was the Pol Pot regime not itself a creation of the US war against Vietnam – by other means?

Is it an accident that while the US was firmly anchored in Subic Bay, armed and funded Jakarta, occupied Japan and half of Korea, that the US was prepared to bomb the Vietnamese nationalists ‘into the Stone Age’? It only makes sense if the US is understood as an empire and its corporate interests are taken seriously when researching the history of the US attempts to create and hold an Asian empire. The resistance to this perception can be explained and it is not because of an impenetrable veil of secrecy. It is not because of the accidentally or inaccessibly unknown. Rather it is because US policy and practice in the world remains a ‘mystery’, a supernatural truth, one that of its very nature lies above the finite intelligence. The quasi-divine status of the universal democracy for which the USA is supposed to stand is an obstacle of faith.

Engineering consent In the twentieth century two conflicting tendencies can be identified. The first was the emergence of mass democratic movements. The second was the emergence of the international business corporation. When the Great War ended in 1918, the struggle between these two forces crystallised in the mass audience or consumer on one hand and the mass production and communication on the other. As Edward Bernays put it: ‘This is an age of mass production. In the mass production of materials a broad technique has been developed and applied to their distribution. In this age too there must be a technique for the mass distribution of ideas.’ In his book, Propaganda, he wrote ‘The conscious and intelligent manipulation of organised habits and opinions of the masses…’ was necessary in a democracy, calling that ‘invisible government’.

Like his contemporary Walter Lippmann, a journalist, he believed that democracy was a technique for ‘engineering the consent’ of the masses to those policies and practices adopted by the country’s elite – the rulers of its great business corporations. By the 1980s the state throughout the West – and after 1989 in the former Soviet bloc – was being defined only by ‘business criteria’, e.g. efficiency, profitability, cost minimisation, shareholder value, consumer satisfaction, etc. Political and social criteria such as participatory rights or income equity or equality, provision of basic needs such as education, work, housing, nutrition, healthcare on a universal basis had been transformed from citizenship to consumerism. The individual lost status in return for means tested access to the ‘market’. In order for the state to function like a business it had to adopt both the organisational and ethical forms of the business corporation – a non-democratic system, usually dictatorial, at best operating as an expert system. As an extension of the property-holding entities upon which it was to be remodelled, the state converted its power into secretive, jealous, and rigid hierarchies driven by the highest ethical value of the corporation – profit.

Journalists and ‘corporate stenographers’ While historical research should not be merely deductive, it is dependent on documents. The veracity of those documents depends among other things on authenticity, judgements as to the status, knowledge or competence of the author, the preponderance of reported data corresponding to data reported elsewhere or in other media. A public document is tested against a private or confidential document – hence the great interest in memoirs, diaries and private correspondence. There is an assumption that the private document is more sincere or even reliable than public documents. This is merely axiomatic since there is no way to determine from a document itself whether its author lied, distorted or concealed in his private correspondence, too. Discrepancies can be explained in part by accepting that every author is a limited informant or interpreter. The assumptions about the integrity of the author shape the historical evaluation. In contemporary history – especially since the emergence of industrial-scale communications – the journalist has become the model and nexus of data collection, author, analyst, and investigator. Here the journalist is most like a scholar. The journalist is also a vicarious observer.

The journalist is supposed to share precisely those attributes of the people to whom or about whom he reports. This has given us the plethora of reality TV, talk shows, embedded reporters, and the revolving door between media journalists and corporate/state press officers. In the latter the journalist straddles the chasm between salesman and consumer. This is the role that the Creel Committee and the public relations industry learned to exploit. The journalist George Creel called his memoir of the Committee on Public Information he chaired – formed by Woodrow Wilson to sell US entry into World War I – How We Advertised America. The campaign was successful in gaining mass support for a policy designed to assure that Britain and France would be able to repay the billions borrowed from J. P. Morgan & Co. to finance their war against Germany and seize the Mesopotamian oilfields from the Ottoman Empire. Industrial communications techniques were applied to sell the political product of the dominant financial and industrial corporations of the day. The professional journalist, freed from any social movement or popular ideology, had already become a mercenary for corporate mass media.

The profession eased access to secure employment and to the rich and powerful. The journalists’ job was to produce ideas for mass distribution – either for the state or for the business corporation. Supporting private enterprise was at the very least a recognition that one’s job depended on the media owner. Editorial independence meant writers and editors could write whatever they pleased as long as it sold and did not challenge the economic or political foundation of the media enterprise itself. In sum the notion of the independent, truth-finding, investigative journalist is naïve at best. We must be careful to distinguish between journalists and what John Pilger has called ‘corporate stenographers’. This does not mean that no journalists supply us with useful information or provide us access to meaningful data. It means that journalism, as institution, as praxis, is flawed – because it too is subordinated to the business corporation and its immoral imperatives. Wikileaks takes as its frame of reference the journalism as it emerged in the Positivist – Progressive Era – a profession ripe with contradictions, as I have attempted to illustrate.

Were Wikileaks to fulfil that Positivist–Progressive model, it would still risk overwhelming us with the apparently objective and unbiased data – facts deemed to stand for themselves. Without a historical framework – and I believe such a framework must also be humanist – the mass of data produced or collated by such a platform as Wikileaks may sate but not nourish us. We have to be responsible for our interpretation. We can only be responsible however when we are aware of the foundations and framework for the data we analyse. The deliberate choice of framework forces us to be conscious of our own values and commitments. This stands in contrast to a hypothetically neutral, objective, or non-partisan foundation that risks decaying into opportunism – and a flood of deceit from which no mountain of disclosure can save us.

Global Research Articles by T. P. Wilkinson

Posted in Global Research | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Disclosure and Deceit: Secrecy as the Manipulation of History, not its Concealment

Blackwater founder builds foreign force in UAE: report

Posted by Admin on May 15, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110515/wl_nm/us_uae_troops

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The crown prince of Abu Dhabi has hired the founder of private security firm Blackwater Worldwide to set up an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the United Arab Emirates, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

The Times said it obtained documents that showed the unit being formed by Erik Prince‘s new company Reflex Responses with $529 million from the UAE would be used to thwart internal revolt, conduct special operations and defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from attack.

The newspaper said the decision to hire the contingent of foreign troops was taken before a wave of popular unrest spread across the Arab world in recent months, including to the UAE’s Gulf neighbors Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

The UAE itself has seen no serious unrest. Most of its population is made up of foreign workers.

Blackwater, which once had lucrative contracts to protect U.S. officials in Iraq, became notorious in the region in 2007 when its guards opened fire in Baghdad traffic, killing at least 14 people in what the Iraqi government called a “massacre.”

One former Blackwater guard pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in those killings, and a U.S. court reinstated charges against five others last month. Prince has since sold the firm, which changed its name to Xe. The firm denies wrongdoing.

The newspaper said the Emirates, a close ally of the United States, had some support in Washington for Prince’s new project, although it was not clear if it had official U.S. approval.

Two UAE government officials contacted by Reuters declined immediate comment on the New York Times report, and the U.S. embassy in the UAE also had no immediate comment. It was not possible to locate Prince for comment.

The Times quoted a U.S. official who was aware of the programme as saying: “The Gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told The Times the department was investigating to see if the project broke any U.S. laws. U.S. law requires a license for American citizens to train foreign troops.

Toner also pointed out that Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, had paid $42 million in fines in 2010 for training foreign forces in Jordan without a license, the Times said.

According to former employees of the project and U.S. officials cited by the Times, the troops were brought to a training camp in the UAE from Colombia, South Africa and other countries, starting in the summer of 2010.

They were being trained by retired U.S. military, and former members of German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, the Times said.

Prince had insisted the force hire no Muslims, because they “could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims,” the paper said.

Former employees also told the newspaper the Emirates hoped the force could be used to counter any threat from Iran, which the Arab states in the Gulf consider a foe.

Although The Times said the documents it obtained did not mention Erik Prince, former employees had told the newspaper he had negotiated the contract with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Emiriati officials had proposed expanding the force to a brigade of several thousand if the first battalion was successful, the newspaper said.

(Additional reporting is by Mahmoud Habboush)

Posted in War Quotient | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Blackwater founder builds foreign force in UAE: report

Tension and Grief in Syria After Protests and Deadly Reprisals as Emergency Law Lifted

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://www.truth-out.org/tension-and-grief-syria-after-protests-and-deadly-reprisals68789

Saturday 26 March 2011

by: Michael Slackman and Liam Stack, The New York Times News Service | Report

 

Tension and Grief in Syria After Protests and Deadly Reprisals as Emergency Law Lifted
President Bashar al-Assad called Sunday for the United States to use its influence to revive negotiations between his country and Israel. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

Cairo – Violence continued to plague Syria this weekend, as government forces killed more demonstrators in Latakia, protesters burned offices of the ruling party in the south and west, and mourners throughout the country buried the dozens of unarmed protesters killed a day earlier.

President Bashar al-Assad of the ruling Baath Party began the day in what appeared to be a gesture intended to ease the crisis, when he announced the release of as many as 200 political prisoners. But by sunset, Baath Party offices were burning in at least two cities, the military was deployed in Latakia and once again government forces opened fire with live rounds, witnesses said.

After more than a week of protests and human rights groups confirming that 61 people had been killed by government forces, there appeared to be no clear path forward for protesters, who had erupted in angry demonstrations around the country on Friday, or for the government, which has offered words of compromise at the same time that it has unleashed lethal force.

“People are afraid,” said a prominent religious leader from a community at the center of the conflicts, who was not identified to protect him from reprisal. “People are afraid that the events might get bigger. They are afraid there might be more protests.”

Exact numbers of the dead are hard to determine, as the official government news service denied the authorities’ culpability in new reports blaming criminal gangs. By nightfall, government officials were blaming a sectarian clash for the crisis, which was quickly dismissed by protest supporters, who said the goal was freedom for all Syrians and an end to authoritarian rule.

The protesters, according to the religious leader, want “freedom and their rights; they were making demands from the government for things to get better here and for an end to the state of emergency.”

The day broke over a landscape of grief as mourners set out for funerals in the southern towns of Sanamayn and Dara’a, in Latakia, in the central city of Homs and in the suburbs of Damascus. In each place, demonstrators had been killed hours earlier, shot by government forces in the most violent government oppression since 1982, when the leadership killed at least 10,000 people in the northern city of Hama.

But the mourning soon gave way to another surge of demonstrations, and then violence. At least two demonstrators in Latakia were killed after protesters set fire to the local headquarters of the Baath Party. Ammar Qurabi, the chairman of the National Association for Human Rights, said two witnesses reported seeing Syrian Special Forces open fire into a crowd.

One Latakia resident reached by telephone said 10,000 to 15,000 antigovernment protesters from the city and surrounding villages, some armed with knives, machetes and clubs, had taken to the streets. “The demonstrations have been peaceful, “ the resident said, “but after the violence yesterday protesters brought weapons.”

In the southern village of Tafas, near the protest movement’s epicenter in Dara’a, mourners also set fire to the local Baath headquarters.

Pro-government demonstrators were also out in Damascus, where about 200 people drove around the city on Saturday evening in a convoy of cars, trucks and minibuses. They carried portraits of President Assad and his father, former President Hafez al-Assad, and chanted, “We are national unity” and “With our soul and with our blood, we will redeem you, Bashar.”

A government spokeswoman, Buthaina Shaaban, denied to BBC Arabic that government forces had opened fire on protesters, blaming instead foreigners and an armed group of villagers. “We arrested outsiders in Syria charged with opening fire on the crowd,” she said. “They stole weapons. The authorities did not shoot protesters, but an armed group from Sanamayn” did.

Protests have taken place around Syria since the start of the tumultuous movement for change that has shaken the Arab world with peaceful protest and conflicts approaching civil war. But the political crisis blew wide open about a week ago when demonstrators took to the streets in Dara’a after the police arrested a group of young people for scrawling antigovernment graffiti, hauling them away without notifying their parents.

Syria is a resource-poor nation with great strategic influence in the region because of its alliances with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, and its location bordering Israel, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. But it also struggles with a fragile sense of national unity amid sectarian tensions between its rulers, all members of the minority Alawite religious sect, and a Sunni majority. It also clings to a pan-Arab Baathist ideology.

“The events are developing and succeeding each other rapidly all over Syria,” Abdel Majid Manjouni, assistant chairman of the Socialist Democratic Arab Union Party in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, said in a telephone interview. “They are going from city to city, and the ruling party is not being successful in its attempt to block the protests or the demands for democratic change in the country.”

The Syrian crisis has in many ways followed a course similar to those in Tunisia and Egypt, which ended with the resignation of each country’s president.

In Syria, there have been no widespread calls for President Assad’s departure, though as the anger mounts in the wake of protesters’ deaths, that view has started to gain voice.

“I am calling him to go to the television,” said Ayman Abdel Nour, a childhood friend of the president’s now living in the United Arab Emirates. “The people still respect him. First, he must deliver his condolences face to face to the people. No. 2, he must say there will be a multiple party system, a free parliamentary election in two months from now.”

Mr. Qurabi, the chairman of the human rights group, said that more than two dozen protesters were killed Friday, including 20 in the tiny southern village of Sanamayn, 4 in Latakia, 3 in Homs and 3 in the greater Damascus area. Mr. Qurabi blamed live ammunition for all those deaths on Friday.

“The protest in Sanamayn was very, very, very big,” Mr. Qurabi said in a phone call from Cairo, where he is attending a conference. “They killed them in the streets because there is not even really a square for the people to protest in.”

People in Syria were far more reluctant to speak, including one young man who said he had been detained by the police for three days after talking to the news media. “I was talking about the news of the protest with some reporters,” he said in a phone call to Damascus. “The police came for me at about 11:15 on Tuesday morning and took me off the street in front of my house. My phone calls are monitored, and I don’t want to say anything over the phone.”

An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Damascus, Syria.

This article “Tension and Grief in Syria After Protests and Deadly Reprisals” originally appeared at The New York Times.

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Truthout has licensed this content. It may not be reproduced by any other source and is not covered by our Creative Commons license.

All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.

Posted in Economic Upheavals, Truthout Articles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Tension and Grief in Syria After Protests and Deadly Reprisals as Emergency Law Lifted

Toxic Intervention: Are NATO Forces Poisoning Libya With Depleted Uranium as They “Protect” Civilians?

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://www.truth-out.org/toxic-intervention-are-nato-forces-poisoning-libya-with-depleted-uranium-they-protect-civilians68787

Wednesday 23 March 2011

by: Dave Lindorff  |  This Can’t Be Happening | News Analysis

Toxic Intervention: Are NATO Forces Poisoning Libya With Depleted Uranium as They "Protect" Civilians?
On a tour led by an official of the Libyan government, a girl is seen next to a house covered in shrapnel marks on the eastern outskirts of Tripoli that government officials said was targeted by western air strikes, March 25, 2011. (Photo: Moises Saman / The New York Times)

President Obama’s criminal launch of an undeclared and Congressionally unauthorized war against Libya may be compounded by the crime of spreading toxic uranium oxide in populated areas of that country.

This is latest concern of groups like the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, which monitor the military use of so-called depleted-uranium (DU) anti-tank and bunker-penetrating shells.

Images of Libyan civilians and rebels celebrating around the burning hulks of the Libyan army’s tanks and armored personnel carriers, which had been hit by US, French and British aircraft ordinance in the early hours of the US-led assault on the forces of Col. Muammar Gaddafy, could well have been unknowingly inhaling the deadly dust of the uranium weapons favored by Western military forces for anti-tank warfare.

Specifically, the British-built Harrier jets used by British naval air forces and also by US Marine pilots, are often equipped with pod-mounted cannons that fire 20 mm shells–shells that often have uranium projectiles designed to penetrate heavy armor.

So far, the US has not introduced its A-10 Thunderbolts, known also as Warthogs, into the Libyan campaign, probably because these sub-sonic, straight-wing craft, while heavily armored, are vulnerable to shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles which Libyan forces are known to possess in large numbers. Once the air-control situation is improved by continued bombardment, however, these specialized ground-attack aircraft will probably be added to the attacking forces. The A-10 has a particularly large automatic cannon which fires an unusually large 30 mm shell. These shells are often fitted with solid uranium projectiles for attacking tanks, APCs or groups of fighters holed up in concrete bunkers.

A-10s were heavily used in the Balkan conflict, and officials of Kosovo were dismayed to learn that some 11 tons of uranium weapons were fired there, leaving dangerous uranium dust fallout in their wake.

The US military is fond of DU weapons because the material, made from uranium from which the fissionable U-235 has been removed, because it is extremely heavy, and, in alloy form, also extremely hard. Because of its mass, such projectiles can penetrate even the heaviest armor. Then, in the heat caused by the collision with an object, the uranium bursts into flame at extreme heat, causing an explosive (and toxic) inferno inside a tank or other vehicle, which usually also ignites any ammunition being carried. Soldiers inside a target vehicle are incinerated. The problem is that the resulting uranium oxide produced by such explosions, besides being highly toxic chemically, is also a microscopic alpha-emitter, which if inhaled or ingested by human beings is extremely carcinogenic and mutagenic.

Cities in Iraq where DU weapons were heavily used, such as Basra, Samara, Baghdad, Mosul and probably especially Fallujah, which was virtually leveled in a November 2004 Marine assault, are showing high rates of birth defects, many of which, along with unusually high rates of leukemia, medical experts say are emblematic of fetal radiation damage.

A University of Michigan peer-reviewed study of births in Fallujahpublished in December 2010 found that of 547 births in Fallujah General Hospital in May of 2010, six years after the all-out US assault on that city of 300,000, in which DU weapons were reportedly used widely, 15% of babies had birth defects–a rate more than five times higher than the global average of 2-3%.

Do you like this? Click here to get Truthout stories sent to your inbox every day – free.

It would be a tragic irony if rebels in Libya, after calling for assistance from the US and other NATO countries, succeeded in overthrowing the country’s long-time tyrant Gaddafy, only to have their country contaminated by uranium dust–the fate already suffered by the peoples of Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.

Posted in Truthout Articles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Toxic Intervention: Are NATO Forces Poisoning Libya With Depleted Uranium as They “Protect” Civilians?

Fukushima Reactors Catastrophe: Radiation Exposure, Lies and Cover-up

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23973

by Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri

Global Research, March 26, 2011

Should the public discover the true health cost[s] of nuclear pollution, a cry would rise from all parts of the world and people would refuse to cooperate passively with their own death.” Dr. Rosalie Bertell. “No Immediate Danger,” xiii.

I write this article not just as a long-time environmental writer and author, but also as a survivor of the horrific 2003 1-million-acre Southern California FIRESTORM that took many lives (both human and millions of animals) during the three-and-a-half-weeks of out-of-control blazes and 400-foot-high walls of flames throughout San Diego and Orange counties. This nightmare blanketed a vast area from over the border into Tijuana up to just south of Los Angeles. Many “back county” areas and national and state parks were also destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of us could not evacuate because planes were grounded and the flames crossed over many freeways. Death and destruction continued for many years after. Many of my friends have died since then, due to fire-related illnesses, as the entire area was blanketed with a spew of toxins. As with the tragedy of September 11th, when Christy Todd Whitman said New York’s air was okay, our local “public” officials refused to monitor the air. Finally, unable to breathe, even with a high-tech respirator, I called the county with warnings. San Diego air “quality” samples were posted for only three days and then conveniently disappeared. Toxins were off the scale.

We had just 15 minutes to evacuate, when the helicopter flew overhead at 7 a.m. My entire neighborhood of 2,000 was destroyed, as well as 90 percent of all the wildlife! It was deliberately torched, and people and animals died. When we were finally allowed “home,” all that was left was burn, ash, skeletons of trees, and hot soil. I know what it means, day-to-day, to just barely survive a countywide catastrophe. I know what deep trauma is all about. I know how everyone in charge lies and deceives those of us in extremis. I know that when a place in the US is declared a “Federal Disaster” area, this quite literally means: “tough, you are on your own. There will be no help.” My heart aches for the people in Japan who are directly in harm’s way, while their government continues to make nuclear corporate profits the priority over the safety of millions of Japanese. It is criminal; and it happens all over.

During and for years after the FIRESTORM, public officials lied and deceived us. Insurance companies refused to honor thousands of policies, and many of us had to take them to court…but even the “justice” system is rigged. From the mayor and fire officials to the governor and a so-called “Blue Ribbon Commission,” the 14 arson fires and their causes were all covered-up. No one was held accountable. No one told us the truth. Further, we barely had any real help in clean-up or recovery –even if we had insurance. Knee-deep in warm ash, I shoveled it myself over seven-and-a-half months, with only 5 days of help. Thousands of us had to do it ourselves…even to getting our own Relief Center set up –again, because officials gave us the run-around.

A week-and-a-half into the Fukushima nuclear disaster, this is what is happening:

1. There are 4 reactors in various stages of collapse, releasing untold amount of dangerous radiation. Two more reactors may also be at risk.

2. The public generally has not been told that, in addition, there are 40 years of spent fuel rods on this already contaminated site. See:

www.infowars.com/alert-fukushima-coverup-40-years-of-spent-nuclear-rods-blown-sky-high

3. Other fuel rods are fully exposed (meaning, unknown amounts of release of radiation) because they are no longer covered with the necessary 45-feet of water.

4. Last week the US refused to post online whatever radiation levels they were monitoring as radiation hits the West Coast and comes East. Then there were several reports that their monitors [all of them?] went off line, or crashed. It is doubtful that any official will report the truth. See:

www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/03/you-can-view-official-epa-radiation.html

The lies, criminality, and cover-up continue. This is how a totally broken system “works.” See:

www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23676

and

http://www.infowars.com/pentagon-cover-up-of-data-on-fukushima-disaster

Here is some additional excellent information about reactors and the extreme dangers of nuclear power:

1. Keith Harmon Snow’s “Nuclear Apocalypse in Japan. Lifting the Veil of Nuclear Catastrophe and cover-up”:

www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23764

2. A report from the New York Academy of Science has been published on “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment”:

www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23745

3. List of US nuclear plants:

www.animatedsoftware.com/environm/no_nukes/nukelist1.htm#MidWest

Realistically, the Japanese catastrophe could last months or years, given the half-life of many radioactive particles. We don’t know, because no official or agency is reporting the truth, while we all are in danger of radiation exposure. How much? For how long? What kind (cesium, iodine, plutonium, strontium, uranium, all radioactive and each with different half life)? I think this catastrophe will turn out to be far worse than Chernobyl because again profits taken precedence over safety. See:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtriAolCyow&feature=player_embedded

and

www.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/world/asia/japan-fukushima-nuclear-reactor.html?ref=asia

I URGE EVERYONE who has access to a good Geiger counter or other monitoring technology to monitor radiation levels –most especially on the West Coast; and all other US states, as it comes East on the Jet Stream. Some radiation has already been reported in Washington state. One website is already monitoring the situation in real time in Santa Monica (near Los Angeles), CA:

www.enviroreporter.com/2011/03/enviroreporter-coms-radiation-station

But we need much more collecting and reporting of radiation data. This is extremely urgent! Remember, for the past 12-15 years, our weather and air have been altered and deliberately manipulated. All along the Pacific Coast, from San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, we need real-time radiation figures. This goes for Canada, too. We can post these results on this website and others, so we can have an accurate collective picture of the on-going radiation dangers we may be facing throughout North America. This is a highly dangerous, yet invisible and real threat to our safety and wellbeing –most especially for children who are most vulnerable! [I also remind readers that the ENTIRE Gulf of Mexico, and its nearby southern states, continues to be poisoned daily in an unmitigated crisis!]

From the very beginning, nuclear energy has been totally unsafe. Even early on in the 1950s, when there were nuclear tests in Nevada, citizens were never warned about the extreme toxicity and dangers to which they were exposed. For our entire lives, the nuclear industry has done decades-long media campaigns to give us misinformation and lies. It’s all about greed, but never about our safety or well-being. The US government has indemnified these companies, just as they have done with the pharmaceutical companies and their dangerous drugs. We are all expendable, except as uninformed consumers to buy their toxic products, and then for the next generation to repeat this insanity. With each new generation that is less well educated (dumbed-down, and often on prescription drugs from an early age), there is less information, no accountability, but millions more people who now are far more ill from an environment rife with thousands of poisons that surround our every move.

Some of the Nuclear Dangers include:

1. The reactors have design flaws, as does Fukushima’s Mark 1, built by GE. There are many of these same-designed reactors here in the US. On March 16, the NY Times reported some of these flaws. But, it is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg:

www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/asia/16contain.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2

2. For radioactive nuclear waste, there is no safe or secure storage anywhere on this planet. There are 1,623 hazardous Superfund sites all over the US (such as Hanford Nuclear Reservation, built in 1942, near Richland, WA, and the now highly polluted Columbia River) leaking radioactive poisons on a daily basis for decades. There is another working nuclear facility, San Onofre, located between San Diego and Los Angeles along the beach right on the Pacific Ocean. This facility was built on the San Andreas fault, an active earthquake zone. The nuclear contamination is enormous and, every day, this puts us all at risk. Dr. Rosalie Bertell, one of the world’s leading authorities who has written extensively about the spectacular flaws and true costs of nuclear energy, notes: “The problem of secure storage of nuclear waste…remains dangerous for millennia.” [See also her quote at the beginning of this article.]

3. The half-life of many radioactive elements is thousands of years. There is no safe level of exposure! It’s all Orwellian media hype and corporate lies. The plutonium fuel used at Fukushima Unit 3 reactor uses MOX [mixed oxide], a plutonium-uranium fuel mixture. A single milligram of MOX is 2-million times more deadly that enriched uranium. NOTE: Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years; and Uranium-235 has a half-life of 700-million years.

4. Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic bomb survivors are still being monitored. Birth defects, cancers, and miscarriages are high, just as these continue to be so at Chernobyl. This April 25, it will be 25 years since Chernobyl’s nuclear catastrophe. Sterility figures (for human and all other life) continue to increase. Nothing is healed. Nothing is fixed for millions of people. The children are most vulnerable, and suffer enormously.

5. The horrific on-going crisis in Iraq [an ancient culture was illegally invaded and destroyed!] is also greatly exacerbated due to US bombings of Depleted (Radioactive) Uranium, poisoning the entire population. Now, illness and birth defects are common throughout the entire Iraqi population. It is all for control of their oil. Afghanis were also illegally bombed with DU. Is Libya next with yet another illegal invasion and DU bombings? None of the real and tragic stories are ever reported by the mainstream corporate-controlled media. This is in violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. This is heinous! However, it all is irrelevant how much harm is perpetrated on innocent civilian populations when criminals are in charge. War is big business, while the rest of our economy is in a state of deliberately orchestrated collapse.

Connecting the Dots of Harm

The new report (#53) from GEAB [Global Europe Assessment Bulletin] published on March 17 from Brussels also is important news not generally reported. GEAB has been quite accurate in their evaluations, as the US economy (everything but military expenditures) continues to be intentionally destroyed:

www.leap2020.eu/Global-systemic-crisis-Second-half-of-2011-Get-ready-for-the-meltdown-of-the-US-Treasury-Bond-market_a6091.html

Last week world-renowned author Dr. Helen Caldicott, co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, gave a lecture in Montreal on the dangers of the nuclear age. Dr. Caldicott has spent almost 40 years educating the public about the serious medical dangers surrounding this topic and the now very urgently needed changes in human behavior to stop the extensive environmental devastation. Although the lecture has not been posted online, here is a recent interview (March 12):

www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23663

Finally, there are other enormous concerns regarding our safety and well-being, because there is absolutely NO PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE in place. That is the elite insider’s plan: grave harm! We MUST address these vital issues on a grassroots level, because those in charge are the ones causing us such extreme injury. We will need the help of independent scientists and health-care providers.  It is a given that we no longer have any real air “quality.” What we are breathing with every single breath is a hazardous, now plasma-state, spew.(1) This impacts our immune system at the celluar DNA level. How will the thousands of tons of aerosolized poisons in Chemtrails, sprayed around the world, interact with radioactive materials (especially those with a long half life)? What might be the detrimental synergistic interaction(s) among the nano-Morgellons-fibers (that Clifford Carnicom has been researching microscopically for a decade(2), found in human, animals, and environmental samples), the nano-particles of fiber-coated aluminum, and now-unknown quantities of various radioactive particles?

How might all of this also interact with possibly thousands of tons of deadly Corexit 9500 dispersant sprayed (on land and over water for many months) and the unconscionable release of “Synthia,” a genetically modified synthetic genome bacteria now replicating exponentially throughout the Gulf of Mexico.(3) Tragically, the Gulf is now a biological and chemical war zone. However, it is all happening on an invisible level. This hazardous Gulf spew is in addition to what is heading our way from Japan to North America and thence to Europe and Asia.  We must wake up. There is much we can do! Will YOU help?

NOTES:

1. Clifford Carnicom discusses the plasma state and other vital environmental issues in a recent web interview:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTVpsmBNvL8

2. “The Biggest Crime of All Time.” March 1, 2011:

www.carnicom.com/bio2011-2.htm

3. “Synthia”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NejKdYA05M;

“Permanent Biological Contamination of the Gulf”:

http://worldvisionportal.org/wvpforum/viewtopic.php?f=55&t=1354

and Michael Edwards. “It’s not wise to fool other Nature.” This is part 1 of 4: http://worldvisionportal.org/wvpforum/viewtopic.php?f=55&t=1031

Essential reading:

Dr. Rosalie Bertell. “No Immediate Danger” and “ Planet Earth: The Latest Weapon of War.”

Theo Colburn et al. “Our Stolen Future.”

Pierpaolo Mittica et al. “Chernobyl. The Hidden Legacy.” London: Trolley, Ltd., 2007. There is a section in this book written by Dr. Bertell.

Educator and environmental writer Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “The Uterine Crisis.” London’s “The Ecologist” calls this book “an inspiration.” She is an Associate of the Carnicom Institute.

Ilya Sandra Perlingieri is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Ilya Sandra Perlingieri

 

Posted in Global Research, Pollution | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fukushima Reactors Catastrophe: Radiation Exposure, Lies and Cover-up