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SIGNS OF AN EMERGING POLICE STATE
President George W. Bush is remembered largely for his role in curbing civil liberties in the name of his "war on terror." But it's Obama who signed the 2012 NDAA, including its clause allowing for indefinite detention without trial for terrorism suspects. Obama promised that "my administration will interpret them to avoid the constitutional conflict"--leaving us adrift if and when the next administration chooses to interpret them otherwise.
Another law of concern is the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order that Obama issued in March 2012. That order authorizes the president, "in the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States, to take actions necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements."
The president is to be advised on this course of action by "the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council, in conjunction with the National Economic Council." Journalist Chris Hedges, along with co-plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, won a case challenging the NDAA's indefinite detention clause Sept. 1, when a federal judge blocked its enforcement, but her ruling was overturned Oct. 3, so the clause is back.
OCEANS IN PERIL
Big banks aren't the only entities that our country has deemed "too big to fail." But our oceans won't be getting a bailout anytime soon, and their collapse could compromise life itself.
In a haunting article highlighted by Project Censored, Mother Jones reporter Julia Whitty paints a tenuous seascape--overfished, acidified, warming--and describes how the destruction of the ocean's complex ecosystems jeopardizes the entire planet, not just the 70 percent that is water. Whitty compares ocean acidification, caused by global warming, to acidification that was one of the causes of the "Great Dying," a mass extinction 252 million years ago. Life on Earth took 30 million years to recover.
In a more hopeful story, a study of 14 protected and 18 non-protected ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea showed dangerous levels of biomass depletion. But it also showed that the marine reserves were well-enforced, with five to 10 times larger fish populations than in unprotected areas. This encourages establishment and maintenance of more reserves.
U.S. DEATHS FROM FUKUSHIMA
A plume of toxic fallout floated to the United States after Japan's tragic Fukushima nuclear disaster March 11, 2011. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found radiation levels in air, water and milk that were hundreds of times higher than normal across the United States. One month later, the EPA announced that radiation levels had declined, and it would cease testing.
But after making a Freedom of Information Act request, journalist Lucas Hixson published emails revealing that on March 24, 2011, the task of collecting nuclear data had been handed off from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry lobbying group. And in one study that got little attention, scientists Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman found that in the period following the Fukushima meltdowns, 14,000 more deaths than average were reported in the United States, mostly among infants. Later, Mangano and Sherman updated the number to 22,000.
FBI AGENTS RESPONSIBLE FOR TERRORIST PLOTS
We know that FBI agents go into communities such as mosques both undercover and in the guise of building relationships, quietly gathering information about individuals. This is part of an approach to finding what the FBI now considers the most likely kind of terrorists, "lone wolves." Its strategy: "seeking to identify those disgruntled few who might participate in a plot given the means and the opportunity. And then, in case after case, the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity," writes Mother Jones journalist Trevor Aaronson.
The publication, along with the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley, examined the results of this strategy, 508 cases classified as terrorism-related that have come before the U.S. Department of Justice since the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. In 243 of these cases, an informant was involved; in 49 cases, an informant actually led the plot. And "with three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings."
FEDERAL RESERVE LOANED TRILLIONS TO MAJOR BANKS
The Federal Reserve, the United States' quasi-private central bank, was audited for the first time in its history this year. The audit report states, "From late 2007 through mid-2010, Reserve Banks provided more than $1 trillion ... in emergency loans to the financial sector to address strains in credit markets and to avert failures of individual institutions believed to be a threat to the stability of the financial system."
These loans had significantly less interest and fewer conditions than the high-profile TARP bailouts and were rife with conflicts of interest. Some examples: The CEO of JP Morgan Chase served as a board member of the New York Federal Reserve at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. William Dudley, who is now the New York Federal Reserve president, was granted a conflict of interest waiver to let him keep investments in AIG and General Electric at the same time the companies were given bailout funds. The audit was restricted to Federal Reserve lending during the financial crisis. On July 25, 2012, a bill to audit the Fed again, with fewer limitations, authored by Rep. Ron Paul, passed the House of Representatives. HR459 is expected to die in the Senate, but the movement behind Paul and his calls to hold the Fed accountable, or abolish it altogether, seem to be growing.
SMALL NETWORK OF CORPORATIONS RUN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
Reporting on a study by researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich didn't make the rounds nearly enough, according to Censored 2013. They found that of 43,060 transnational companies, 147 control 40 percent of total global wealth. The researchers also built a model visually demonstrating how the connections between companies--what it calls the "super entity"--works.
Some have criticized the study, saying control of assets doesn't equate to ownership. True, but as we clearly saw in the 2008 financial collapse, corporations are capable of mismanaging assets in their control to the detriment of their actual owners. And a largely unregulated super entity like this is vulnerable to global collapse.