Hell Hath No Fury Like a Teflon Sultan

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Teflon Sultan

By Pepe Escobar
Sputnik International
July 17, 2017

When Turkish President/aspiring Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport early Saturday morning, he declared the attempted coup against his government a failure, and a “gift from God.”

God apparently uses Face Time. It was via that iconic iPhone footage from an undisclosed location shown live on CNN Turk by a bewildered female anchor that Erdogan managed to call his legion of followers to hit the streets, unleash People Power and defeat the military faction that had taken over state TV and proclaimed to be in charge.

So God does work in mysterious mobile ways. Erdogan’s call was heeded even by young Turks who had fiercely protested against him in Gezi Park; were tear-gassed or water-cannoned by his police; think the AKP governing party is disgusting; but would support them against a “fascist military coup.” Not to mention that virtually every mosque across Turkey relayed Erdogan’s call.

Ankara’s official version is that the coup was perpetrated by a small military faction remote-controlled by exiled-in-Pennsylvania cleric Fethullah Gulen, himself a CIA asset. As much as responsibility remains debatable, what’s clear is the coup was a Turk remix of The Three Stooges; the actual stooges in fact may have been the already detained 2nd Army Commander Gen. Adem Huduti; 3rd Army Commander Erdal Ozturk; and former Chief of Air Staff Akin Ozturk.

As over-excited former CIA ops were blaring on US networks – and they do know a thing or two about regime change — rule number one in a coup is to aim at, and isolate, the head of the snake. Yet the wily Turkish snake, in this case, was nowhere to be seen. Not to mention that no top generals sounding convincingly patriotic went on the TRT state network to fully explain the reasons for the coup.

(Erdogan) love is in the air

The coup plotters did aim at the intel services – whose top positions are at Istanbul’s airport, the presidential palace in Ankara and near the ministries. They used Cobra helicopters – with pilots trained in the US – against these targets. They also aimed at the army’s high command – which for the past 8 years is designated by Erdogan and is not trusted by many a mid-ranking officer.

As they occupied the Bosphorus bridges in Istanbul they seemed to be in touch with military police – which is spread out all over Turkey and have a solid esprit de corps. But in the end they did not have the numbers – and the necessary preparation. All key ministries seemed to be communicating among themselves as the plot developed, as well as the intel services. And as far as Turkish police as a whole is concerned, they are now a sort of AKP pretorian guard.

Meanwhile, Erdogan’s Gulfstream 4, flight number TK8456, took off from Bodrum’s airport at 1:43 A.M. and flew for hours over Turkey’s northwest with its transponder on, undisturbed. It was from the presidential plane, while still landed, that Erdogan had gone on Face Time, and then, on the air, managed to control the countercoup. The plane never left Turkish airspace – and was totally visible to civil and military radars. The coup plotters’ F-16s could have easily tracked and/or incinerated it. Instead they sent military choppers to bomb the presidential abode in Bodrum a long time after he had left the building.

The head of the snake must have been 100% sure that to board his plane and stay on Turkish airspace was as safe as eating a baklava. What’s even more startling is that the Gulfstream managed to land in Istanbul in absolute safety in the early hours of Saturday morning – despite the prevailing notion that the airport was occupied by the “rebels”.

In Ankara, the “rebels” used a mechanized division and two commandos. Around Istanbul there was a whole army; the 3rd command is actually integrated with NATO’s rapid reaction forces. They supplied the Leopards positioned in Istanbul’s key spots – which by the way did not open fire.

And yet the two key armies positioned in the Syrian and Iranian borders remained on “wait and see” mode. And then, at 2 A.M., the command of the also key 7th army based in Diyarbakir – in charge of fighting the PKK guerrillas – proclaimed his loyalty to Erdogan. That was the exact, crucial moment when Prime Minister Binali Yildırım announced a no-fly zone over Ankara.

That meant Erdogan controlled the skies. And the game was over. History does move in mysterious ways; the no-fly zone dreamed by Erdogan for so long over Aleppo or the Syrian-Turkish border in the end materialized over his own capital.

Round up the usual suspects

The US position was extremely ambiguous from the start. As the coup took over, the American embassy in Turkey called it “Turkish uprising”. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Moscow to discuss Syria, also hedged his bets. NATO was royally mute. Only when it became clear the coup was in fact smashed President Obama and the “NATO allies” officially proclaimed their “support for the democratically elected government”.

The Sultan went back to the game with a vengeance. He immediately went live on CNN Turk demanding Washington hands over Gulen even without any evidence he masterminded the coup. And that came with an inbuilt threat; “If you want to keep access to Incirlik air base you will have to give me Gulen”. It’s hard not to be reminded of recent history – when the Cheney regime in 2001 demanded the Taliban hand Osama bin Laden over to the US without offering proof he was responsible for 9/11.

So the number one eyebrow-raising possibility is a go; Erdogan’s intel services knew a coup was brewing; and the wily Sultan let it happen knowing it would fail as the plotters had very limited support. He also arguably knew – in advance — even the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose members Erdogan is trying to expel from parliament, would support the government in the name of democracy.

Two extra facts add to the credibility of this hypothesis. Earlier last week Erdogan signed a bill giving soldiers immunity from prosecution while taking part in domestic security ops – as in anti-PKK; that spells out improved relations between the AKP government and the army. And then Turkey’s top judicial body HSYK laid off no less than 2,745 judges after an extraordinary meeting post-coup. This can only mean the list was more than ready in advance.

The major, immediate post-coup geopolitical consequence is that Erdogan now seems to have miraculously reconquered his “strategic depth” – as former, sidelined Prime Minister Davutoglu would have it. Not only externally – after the miserable collapse of both his Middle East and Kurdish “policies” – but also internally. For all practical purposes Erdogan now controls the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary – and is taking no prisoners to purge the military for good. Ladies and gentlemen, the Sultan is in da house.

This means the neo-Ottoman project is still on – but now under massive tactical reorientation. The real “enemy” now is Syrian Kurds – not Russia and Israel (and not ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; but they never were in the first place). Erdogan is going after the YPG, which for him is a mere extension of the PKK. His order of the day is to prevent by all means an autonomous state entity in northeast Syria – a “Kurdistan” set up like a second Israel supported by the US. For that he needs some sort of entente cordiale with Damascus – as in insisting that Syria must preserve its territorial integrity. And that also means, of course, renewed dialogue with Russia.

So what’s the CIA been up to?

Needless to add Ankara and Washington are now on a certified collision course. If there is an Empire of Chaos hidden hand in the coup – no smoking gun yet — that certainly comes from the Beltway neocon/CIA axis, not the lame duck Obama administration. For the moment Erdogan’s leverage only amounts to access to Incirlik. But his paranoia is ballooning; for him Washington is doubly suspicious because they harbor Gulen and support the YPG.

Hell hath no fury as an underestimated Sultan as well. For all his recent geopolitical follies, Erdogan’s simultaneous ballet of reconnecting with Israel and Russia is eminently pragmatic. He knows he needs Russia for the Turkish Stream and to build nuclear plants;  and he needs Israeli gas to consolidate Turkey’s role as a key East-West energy crossroads.

When we learn, crucially, that Iran supported Turkey’s “brave defense of democracy”, as tweeted by Foreign Minister Zarif, it’s clear how Erdogan, in a mater of only a few weeks, reconfigured the whole regional picture. And that spells out Eurasia integration and Turkey deeply connected to the New Silk Roads – not NATO. No wonder the Beltway – for whom, overwhelmingly, Erdogan is the proverbial “erratic and unreliable ally” — is freaking out. That dream of Turkish colonels under direct CIA orders is over – at least for the foreseeable future.

So what about Europe? Yildirim already said that Turkey might reinstate the death penalty – to be applied to the coup plotters. This means, in essence, bye bye EU. And bye bye to the European Parliament approving visa-free travel for Turks visiting Europe. Erdogan after all already got what he wanted from chancellor Merkel; those 6 billion euros to contain the refugee crisis that he essentially unleashed. Merkel bet the farm on Erdogan. Now she’s talking to herself – while the Sultan is able to dial God on Face Time.


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The Hague People’s Tribunal: US, Britain and Australia Complicit in 1965 Indonesia Massacre.

The Hague People’s Tribunal:  US, Britain and Australia Complicit in 1965 Indonesia Massacre

Sputnik International
July 21, 2016

A non-binding international tribunal at The Hague has ruled that Australia, the UK and the United States were complicit in 1965 mass killings and human rights atrocities in Indonesia.

During that period, some 500,000 to one million people died in one of the bloodiest massacres of the 20th century. What began as a purge of communists after a failed coup attempt, went on to encompass ethnic Chinese and alleged leftists, which led to the massacre being referred to as “politicide.”

According to the ruling by the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) at The Hague, the 1965 government of Indonesia committed crimes against humanity, but the finding, similar to that ruled against China by the Philippines last week regarding disputed territories in the South China Sea, is non-binding and carries no punitive consequences.

The judges found that allegations of “cruel and unspeakable murders” and the “unjustifiable imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people without trial” were well founded.

The Tribunal demanded an apology from the present-day Indonesian government and demanded investigations and prosecutions into those perpetrators still alive. The Tribunal also demanded a public opening of archives and an unveiling of truth about the events.

Moreover, three countries — the UK, the US and Australia — were found complicit in facilitating the massacre by using propaganda to manipulate international opinion in favor of the Indonesian army.

According to the report, Australia and the UK, “… shared the US aim of seeking to bring about the overthrow of President Sukarno.”

The details of the crimes committed by the Indonesian army, which include brutal murder, imprisonment under inhumane conditions, enslavement, torture, forced disappearance, and sexual violence, can be found in the full text of the report.

The Indonesian government recently refused to apologize, and reaffirmed its stance regarding the victims and survivors of the 1965 atrocities.

“Our country is a great nation. We acknowledge and we will resolve this problem [the 1965 massacre] in our way and through universal values,” Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister of Indonesia Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.


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Brexit Throws a Monkey Wrench into EU-US Trade Talks

Brexit Throws a Monkey Wrench into EU-US Trade Talks

By Celia Wexler
July 11, 2016

For three years, negotiators from the United States and the European Union have been working on a massive trade deal.

Known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the deal would have profound implications for more than 800 million people on both sides of the Atlantic, affecting the quality of the food they eat, the safety of consumer products, their efforts to address climate change, the soundness of their financial institutions, and the power of agencies to protect them from unsafe drugs and devices.

The pending pact has faced fierce criticism from labor, environmental, public health, food safety, consumer and other activists, who charge it would lower safety standards, weaken protective regulations, and make it far easier for multinationals to influence government policies.

But now, with round 14 of negotiations set to start July 11, everything has changed — and neither backers nor opponents of TTIP quite know what to do.

Because at this point, the second biggest economy in the European Union is on the way out of the EU — and out of any agreement the EU might reach with the United States.That’s because of Brexit — the June 23 decision by voters in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

Many experts had predicted that US efforts to push TTIP and warn against a Brexit could actually stir up more British anger against both the trade deal, and remaining within the EU.They appear to have been right.

For the EU’s negotiating team, it’s a bit like finding out your spouse is divorcing you while you’re in the middle of building a new house.

You have to reassure the children that everything is going to be okay, but the future is murky. For the time being, Dad and Mom will both be meeting with the architect and choosing contractors. But that will change soon, when Dad moves out. Who knows if Dad will stop by after that, leave town for a new life, or maybe even reunite with Mom down the road?

Meanwhile some TTIP critics are wondering whether Brexit might give them an opportunity to reframe the talks and perhaps the EU’s entire position on whether to continue them.

And in the US Congress, some Republicans see Brexit as an opportunity to cut a deal between the UK and US, since the UK takes a more laissez-faire approach to regulation than other major European powers.

No wonder that a few days after the vote, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström proclaimed: “Optimism is a virtue.”

Malmström spoke in Washington on June 27 at a forum hosted by the pro-trade think tank the Atlantic Council.

She put a brave face on TTIP’s prospects. “TTIP remains as strong today as it was last Thursday (June 23),” she said, adding the negotiators still hoped to conclude the deal before President Obama leaves office.

While conceding that she regretted the UK vote and the complications it will cause, she stressed that in the short term, it will be business as usual.

“The UK will participate as one of the 28-member states on whose behalf we are negotiating until they no longer are a member,” she said.

But it is clear that Brexit has muddied the waters for talks moving forward.There is no precedent for a country leaving the EU, so it will take time for all the trade relationships between the UK and EU to be unraveled, she said. And Brexit means that all the UK’s nearly 40 existing trade agreements with the EU must be renegotiated.

She added that if TTIP does not get concluded and signed by the trading partners by January 20 of next year, the goal would be to reach a “point of no return” in the negotiations so that it would be difficult for a new US administration to reverse course.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström Photo credit: EU2016 NL / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) 

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström Photo credit:  EU2016 NL / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) 

Malmström is singing the same song as US Trade Representative Michael Froman. Since the Brexit vote, he’s stressed the Administration’s ongoing commitment to moving forward with TTIP. The US also has reassured the UK that its “special relationship” with Britain will continue, but has not walked back the President’s pre-Brexit warning that the UK would be at the “back of the queue” when the US is looking to do trade deals.

The White House has resisted calls from some Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI) to do a bilateral agreement with the UK. Such a deal would be difficult in light of the US restraints on the financial services industry. But Ryan’s plan to deregulate the US economy might smooth the way. Ryan would weaken the Dodd-Frank law, which gives consumers an independent agency to defend them from predatory practices, and imposes more federal scrutiny of financial institutions, to ensure they are financially sound.

The prospect of a US-UK deal prompted fear of a “TTIP on steroids” among some public interest groups in Britain. They worried that the UK would have far less leverage in such a deal and be more willing to compromise UK consumer safety and labor regulations.

However, while some activists expressed fear of the post-Brexit future, others saw it as a chance to reframe the entire trade discussion. On June 27, ten major environmental groups, representing more than 20 million advocates in both the UK and rest of Europe, wrote to EU parliamentary and commission leaders calling the Brexit vote an opportunity for “transformational change” concerning the EU’s future, a chance for the EU to stand up for an agenda that “puts the interests of people and planet first.” The groups wrote that Brexit showed that UK citizens did not fully appreciate the benefits of EU environmental and public health protections. They urged EU leaders to communicate those benefits “loud and clear and all the time.”

Another post-Brexit letter organized by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), ClientEarth, and the Health and Environment Alliance, and signed by 65 nonprofits, urged the head of the European Parliament to block TTIP negotiators from agreeing to terms that would compromise the EU’s strong rules on chemicals, including pesticides and cosmetics.

In the US, response from the progressive movement to the Brexit vote has been more muted. Speaking at the same Atlantic Council event, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said that unlike in Europe, where trade texts and proposals are released to the public, the US Trade Representative (USTR) forbids disclosure of US trade texts. “They get to debate things over there, and we do all this in secrecy.”

However, he warned, if it turns out the TTIP creates a process “to intentionally or unintentionally lower standards and do away with regulations to undermine the ability” of state and local governments “to control their own economies, you then will see a backlash here as well.”

The opposition will come not only from the labor community, he said, but also from the seven out of ten Americans who don’t believe past trade deals have been good for them.

Trumka predicted that there was “zero” chance that TTIP could be concluded and voted on by Congress during the Obama administration. A new president, he added, would want to put his or her “imprimatur” on a deal before moving forward.

However, other US activists are less sanguine. Sharon Treat, who was a longtime state legislator in Maine and now advises the nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), worries that politics may work in the TTIP’s favor.

TTIP has not been getting the same level of attention as another controversial proposed trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Treat says. “There hasn’t been the same level of overriding concern about jobs and income in the TTIP” because it’s not a deal with low-wage countries like Vietnam and Malaysia. She speculates that political pressures, could actually intensify the talks between the US and the EU.

“Let’s say the TPP goes down,” she says. Then Obama may want to “salvage” the administration’s trade legacy by having something to show for his efforts, she says. Likewise, there is pressure in the EU for negotiations to conclude this year, before next year’s German and French elections.

There are other signs that reports of TTIP’s imminent demise may be exaggerated, and that a deal may eventually even include the UK.

Both Froman and Malmström consider the trade deal to be not only a model for the world, but also one other countries can join, once the US and the EU sign off on it.

Malmström smiled broadly when discussing this aspect of the deal, one of the few times she brightened during her appearance. “We think it’s a good idea to have an open platform,” she said. “When we talked about it, the US and EU were imagining maybe Mexico and Canada and from our side there has been some interest, or at least some discussion, of countries like Norway or Turkey.”

She added: “Maybe the UK could be one of these as well.”


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Unsafe at Any Level? Dangerous Chemicals Everywhere, Part 2

Unsafe at Any Level?  Dangerous Chemicals Everywhere, Part 2

By Jonathan Latham
July 7, 2016

Part 1 of this series focused on the technical difficulties involved in assessing the potential harm from exposure to a substance being tested. This part (2) concerns a different kind of contamination: endemic conflicts of interest in which money and political power  undermine scientific risk assessments, placing in jeopardy the public’s health and well-being.

Scientists often have financial and other conflicts of interest which, in turn, lead to biases that impact on conclusions. A fascinating recent example of apparent unconscious bias comes from a survey of scientific publications commissioned by the Dutch government on the effects of pesticidal GMO (Bt) crops on non-target organisms in outdoor experiments. The survey revealed that researchers who found negative consequences of GMO (Bt) crops were disregarding their own findings, even when these were statistically significant.

Even more interesting to the Dutch authors was that the rationales offered for doing so were oftentimes illogical. Typically, researchers used experimental methods designed to detect ecotoxicological effects that were “transient or local”, but when such effects were found, the researchers dismissed the significance of their own results — as being either “transient or local”.

This Dutch report represented prima facie evidence that researchers across a whole academic discipline were avoiding conclusions that would throw doubt on the wisdom of using GMO Bt crops. Apparently, the researchers had a prior commitment to finding no harm — the kind of commitment that scientists are not supposed to have.

Institutional Dysfunctionality


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a variety of institutional and procedural defects that prevent it from being an effective regulator.

One of the better known ones is to allow self-interested corporations to conduct their own experiments, and to provide the data for risk assessment. This lets them summarize — or even lie about — the results.

It is extraordinarily easy for an “independent” commercial testing operation to bias or fix the result of a typical toxicology study for the benefit of a client, as pointed out by Melvin Reuber, former EPA consultant.

How the EPA first allowed corporations to generate and submit their own regulatory data is a story well worth knowing.

In the 1980s Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories (IBT) was the largest independent commercial testing laboratory in the United States. Food and Drug Administration scientist Adrian Gross discovered that IBT (and other testing companies) were deliberately, consistently, and illegally misleading both the EPA and the FDA about their results. Aided by practices — such as the hiring of a chemist from Monsanto, a company that manufactured PCBs, to test PCBs —  IBT created an illusion of chemical safety for numerous pesticides and other chemicals. Many are still in use. They include Roundup, atrazine and 2,4-D, all commonly used in US agriculture.

Senior IBT managers were eventually jailed, but what the scandal revealed was that whenever results showed evidence of harm — which was often — a concerted effort to mislead regulators was standard practice.

Even more remarkable than the scandal was EPA’s response to it. Instead of bringing testing in-house, which would seem the logical response to a system-wide failure of independent commercial testing, EPA created a Byzantine system of external reporting and corporate summarizing.

The resulting bureaucratic maze ensures that no EPA employee ever sets eyes on the original experiments or the primary data — and only a handful can access even the summarized results.

This system has a further consequence: excluding any possibility that whistleblowing on the part of Federal employees or even FOIA requests (from outsiders) might reveal fraudulent or otherwise problematic tests.

Thus the EPA has calculatedly turned a blind eye to any future wrongdoing in the full knowledge that the chemical regulatory system it oversees was systemically corrupt.

Probably more familiar to readers is what is called “regulatory capture.” This takes many forms, from the offering to public servants of immediate favors and future jobs, to the impact of top-down political interference on regulatory agencies.

The culminating effect is to ensure that political will within agencies to protect the public is diluted or lost.

Regulatory capture can become a permanent feature of an institution. For example, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries have an agreement called the Mutual Acceptance of Data (MAD).

MAD is appropriately named. It has the effect of explicitly excluding from regulatory consideration most of the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

The purported goal of MAD was to elevate experimental practices by requiring certification via Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), a procedure introduced, ironically, after the IBT scandal (Wagner and Michaels, 2004).

GLP is a mix of management and reliability protocols that are standard in industrial laboratories but rare in universities and elsewhere. Therefore, the consequence of adopting MAD has been to specifically exclude from regulatory consideration evidence and data not produced by industry.

The MAD agreement explains much of the regulatory inaction over the plastic bisphenol A (BPA), for example. Because of MAD, FDA and also its European equivalent, the European Food Safety Authority, have ignored the hundreds of peer-reviewed BPA studies—since they are not GLP— in favor of just two by industry. These two industry studies, whose credibility and conclusions have been publicly disputed by independent scientists, showed no ill effects of BPA.

Whistleblowing on the EPA


Various EPA whistleblowers have described in detail the lamentable specifics of their former organization’s capture by branches of the chemical industry.

Whistleblower William Sanjour has described how regulatory failure was ensured by the basic organizational structure imposed on the EPA at its Nixon-era inception. The structure of EPA is inherently conflicted since it has the dual functions of both writing and enforcing regulations. The Agency’s unwillingness to enforce high standards led his superiors to order Sanjour to write deliberate loopholes into those regulations.

More recently, the EU’s EFSA was similarly caught proposing loopholes for new regulations on endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Inserting loopholes seems standard practice in the writing of chemical safety regulations.

In the same article, Sanjour proposed that since the overwhelming influence of companies on public institutions renders them useless, the public would be better off with no regulatory agencies. In a similar vein, former EPA pesticide scientist Evaggelos Vallianatos called his former employer, at book length, the “polluter’s protection agency.”

Fudging Reports on Toxic Sewage Sludge

Another EPA whistleblower, David Lewis, this time at EPA’s Office of Water, has shown in court-obtained documents that, in the 1980s and early 1990s, EPA scientists buried evidence and even covered up deaths so as to formulate new regulations (which came to be called the 503 sludge rule) that would permit land application of sewage sludge.

As EPA knew, this sludge was routinely contaminated with pathogens, heavy metals, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, flame retardants, and other known hazardous substances.

David Lewis eventually obtained a legal judgement that the City of Augusta, Ga, had “fudged” the toxicity testing of its own sewage sludge in order to meet EPA guidelines. The city had done so at the request of the EPA which wished to facilitate final adoption of the 503 sludge rule in 1993.

The corruption necessary to enact these sewage sludge regulations extended well beyond the EPA. Other federal agencies, several universities, the National Academy of Science, and municipalities, were also party to fraud, data manipulation and coverups.

Coverups on Fracking

In another recent case, again at EPA, DeSmogBlog obtained, through a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA), internal documents showing how EPA offered access to its fracking study plans:

“[Y]ou guys are part of the team here,” one EPA representative wrote to Chesapeake Energy as they together edited study planning documents in October 2013, “please write things in as you see fit.”

Toxic Effects on 9/11 First Responders

Even more recently, EPA whistleblower and chemist Dr. Cate Jenkins and the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) successfully sued EPA for suppressing information about toxic effects on 9/11 first responders.

The case ended with a judgment showing that EPA had, among numerous egregious acts, created fake email accounts (including for EPA head Lisa Jackson) to evade accountability. According to Judge Chambers, EPA:

“Failed, and failed miserably, over an extended course of time in complying with its discovery obligations and…Court discovery orders”

Judge Chambers also found that EPA worked a “fraud on the Court” through numerous “false claims” and inaccurate claims of privilege, which upon examination applied to “none of the documents provided.”The judge also found that EPA deliberately and illegally destroyed an unknown number of documents which should have been under a litigation hold.

Risk Assessment Dominated by Commerce


The ultimate effect of these institutional defects is that chemical risk assessments in the US and the EU have a safety bar for approval that is so low that regulators virtually never decline to approve a chemical.

In contrast, the same institutions use standards for taking any chemical off the market that are so high that such an event nearly never happens.

Of course, if both standards were based purely on science, as they always claim to be, both bars would be the same height.

This double standard represents an accurate measure of the overwhelming bias in the chemical regulatory system. At every stage — from the funding of research to the ultimate decision to approve a chemical — the process is dominated by commercial concerns and not by science (as was recently shown yet again).

Chemical regulatory systems are not just broken, they are unfixable.

To come: Unsafe at Any Level, Part 3: What To Do?

Jonathan R. Latham, PhD is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project; Editor of the Independent Science News website. He holds a Masters degree in Crop Genetics and a PhD in Virology, and was a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has published papers in disciplines as diverse as plant ecology, plant virology and genetics. “The Twin Research Debate in American Criminology” (2015); “Transcomplementation and Synergism in Plants: Implications for Viral Transgenes?” (2008); “Transformation-induced Mutations in Transgenic Plants: Analysis and Biosafety Implications” (2006).


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Unsafe at any Level? Dangerous Chemicals Everywhere

Unsafe at any Level?  Dangerous Chemicals Everywhere

By Jonathan Latham
June 27, 2016

Though the chemical industry gets wide praise for eliminating the hazardous chemical BPA from our water bottles and other daily use products, the replacement material may turn out to be even worse.

Before we consider the new danger, let’s look at the old one.

BPA (bisphenol-A) — is a chemical found  in plastic bottles, in the lining of food cans, in bottle tops, and in water supply lines.  It can seep into whatever it contains.

BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastic, said to be “a lightweight, high-performance plastic that possesses a unique balance of toughness, optical clarity, high heat resistance, and excellent electrical resistance.”

As well as being a primary ingredient of plastics, BPA also interferes with hormones — the powerful chemical messengers that control nearly every major function of the body. For this reason, it is called an “endocrine disruptor.”

Exposure to BPA in adulthood has numerous effects, including stem cell and sperm cell defects, the risk of prostate and breast cancers, liver tumors, rising blood pressure, and obesity (Bhan et al., 2014; Prins 2014). Fetuses exposed to BPA can develop food intolerance. Early BPA exposure can lead to delayed effects, including those indicative of altered brain function.

These are just a representative handful of harms, drawn from a much larger body of at least 200 publications (some have estimated a thousand publications). The sheer quantity of results represent a massive accumulation of scientific evidence that BPA is harmful.

Chemical manufacturers have begun removing BPA from their products. Sunoco no longer sells BPA for products that might be used by children under three. France has a national ban on BPA food packaging. The EU has banned BPA from baby bottles. These bans and associated product withdrawals are the result of epic scientific research and some intensive environmental campaigning.

But these restrictions are not victories for human health. Nor are they even losses for the chemical industry.

For one thing, the industry now profits from selling premium-priced BPA-free products. These are usually made with the chemical substitute BPS — which current research suggests is even more of a health hazard than BPA.

But since BPS is far less studied, it will likely take many years to build a sufficient case for a new ban.

From BPA to BPS — Bad to Worse?

The chemical most frequently used to make BPA-free products is called BPS. As its name implies, BPS is very similar in chemical structure to BPA.

However, BPS appears to be absorbed by the human body more readily than BPA and is already detectable in 81% of Americans.

BPS is now looking likely to be even more toxic than BPA. Like BPA, BPS has been found to interfere with mammalian hormonal activity.

In addition, to a greater extent than BPA, BPS, alters nerve cell creation in the zebrafish brain and causes behavioral hyperactivity in zebrafish larvae. These  results were observed at extremely low chemical concentrations, 1,000-fold lower than the official US levels of acceptable human exposure.

Time and again, synthetic chemicals have been banned or withdrawn only to be replaced by others that are equally harmful, and sometimes are worse.

Neonicotinoids — which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) credits with creating a global ecological catastrophe — are modern replacements for long-targeted organophosphate pesticides. And organophosphates had previously supplanted DDT and the other organochlorine pesticides from whose effects many bird species are only now recovering.

What can be done about this?  First, we need to understand the full extent of the problem. That means stripping away the mythologies surrounding risk assessment. When we do this, we see why chemical regulations don’t work.

“Risk Assessment” Is an Illusion

The experiments currently being performed by toxicologists are incapable of generating predictions of safety that can be applied to other species, or even to the same species when it exists in other environments, or eats other diets.

Since numerous experiments have shown that this most basic element of chemical risk assessment is invalid, the protection chemical risk assessments claim to offer is a complex illusion.

What is known about the technical limitations of toxicology and the overall scientific rigor of chemical risk assessment? And are these assessments being performed by competent and well-intentioned institutions?

The standard assays of toxicology involve the administration (usually oral feeding) of chemicals in short term tests of up to 90 days to defined strains of organisms (most often rats or mice). These test organisms are of a specified age and are fed standardised diets.

The results are then extrapolated to other doses, other age groups and other environments. Such experiments are used to create estimates of harm. Together with estimates of exposure they form the essence of chemical risk assessment.

To say that both estimates are prone to error, however, is an understatement.

Limits to Estimating Exposures and Harms

Until 2013, no one appreciated that the main route of exposure to BPA in mammals is absorption through the mouth — and not the gut.

The mouth is an exposure route whose veinous blood supply bypasses the liver, and this allows BPA to circulate unmetabolized in the bloodstream. Before this was known, many toxicologists dismissed as implausible reports of high BPA concentrations in human blood. They had assumed that BPA was absorbed via the gut and rapidly degraded in the liver.

Fifty years ago no one knew that many synthetic chemicals would evaporate at the equator, and condense at the poles, from where they would enter polar ecosystems.

Neither did scientists appreciate that all synthetic fat-soluble compounds that were sufficiently long-lived would bio-accumulate as they rose up the food chain — and thus reach concentrations inside organisms sometimes many millions of times above background levels.

Nor until recently was it understood that sea creatures such as fish and corals would become major consumers of the plastic particles flushed into rivers. These misunderstandings are all examples of historic errors in estimating real world exposures to toxic substances.

Until it was too late, scientists were not aware that a human with an eighty-year lifespan could have a window of vulnerability to a specific chemical as short as four days.

Neither was it known that the effects of chemicals could be strongly influenced by the time of day they are ingested.

Real world exposures are very complex. Thus it is impossible for risk assessment experiments to be “realistic”. The reason is that actual exposures are always unique to individual organisms and vary enormously in their magnitude, duration, variability, and speed of onset — all of which influence the harm they cause.

Additionally, many regulatory decisions do not recognise that exposures to individual chemicals typically come from multiple sources. This failing is often revealed following major accidents or contamination events.

Regulatory agencies will assert that actual accident-related doses do not exceed safe limits. However, such statements usually ignore that, because regulations function in effect as permits to pollute, many affected people may already be receiving significant exposures for that chemical prior to the accident.

Obstacles to estimating harm originate from the fact that organisms and ecosystems are widely diverse. The solution adopted by chemical risk assessment is to extrapolate. Extrapolation allows the results of one or a few experiments to “cover” other species and other environmental conditions.

Most of the assumptions required for such extrapolations, however, have never been scientifically validated. Lack of validation is most obvious for species not yet discovered or those that are endangered. But in other cases they are known to be invalid .

Even more extreme extrapolations are employed in ecological toxicology. For example, data on adult honey bees is typically extrapolated to every stage of the bee life cycle, to all other bee species, and sometimes to all pollinators — without any evidence whatsoever.

Such assumptions may seem absurd, but they are the primary basis of the claim that chemical risk assessment is comprehensive.

Potential Harm Not Tested

Another crucially important limitation is that, for budgetary and practical reasons, toxicologists necessarily focus on a limited number of specific “endpoints”. An endpoint is whatever characteristic the experimenter chooses to measure. Typical endpoints are death (mortality), cancers, organism weight, and organ weights; but endpoints can be more subtle measures like neurotoxicity.

There is a whole politics associated with the choice of endpoints, which reflects their importance in toxicology, including allegations that endpoints are sometimes chosen for their insensitivity rather than their sensitivity; but the inescapable point is that no matter what endpoints are chosen, there is a much vaster universe of unmeasured endpoints.

These typically include: learning defects, immune dysfunction, reproductive dysfunction, multigenerational effects, and so on. Ultimately, most potential harms don’t get measured by toxicologists and so are missing from risk assessments.

Compounding the Problem

Another example of the difficulty of estimating real life harms is that organisms are exposed to mixtures of toxins. The question of toxin mixtures is extremely important..

All real life chemical exposures occur in combinations, either because of previous exposure to pollutants or because of the presence of natural toxins. Many commercial products moreover, such as pesticides, are only available as mixtures, whose principal purpose is to enhance the potency of the product.

Risk assessments, however, just test the “active ingredient” alone These estimates are based on the assumption of a linear dose-response relationship for the effect of a single chemical, at various doses.

But the question for any risk assessment should be whether the assumption is reliable for the novel compound under review.

False Assurance

To summarize, the process of chemical risk assessment relies on estimating real world exposures and their potential to cause harm by extrapolating from only a few simple laboratory experiments. The resulting estimates come with enormous uncertainty. For good reason, in many cases the results have been extensively critiqued and shown to be either dubious or actively improbable.

Yet extrapolation continues. The alternative is to actually measure these different species, using different mixtures, and under different circumstances. Given the challenges this would entail, the continued reliance on simplistic assumptions is understandable if not forgiveable.

Nevertheless, one might  have thought that such important limitations and unproven assumptions would be frequently noted as caveats to risk assessments. They should be, but they are not.

Following the UK’s traumatically disastrous outbreak of Mad Cow Disease (BSE) in the 1980s, during which most of the UK population was exposed to infectious prions following highly questionable scientific advice, this exact recommendation was made in the Phillips report.

Lord Phillips proposed that such caveats should be specifically explained to non-scientific recipients of scientific advice. In practice, nothing changed.

When an unusual scientific document does discuss the limitations of chemical risk assessment (such as this description of the failure of interactions between pesticides to extrapolate between closely related species), it rapidly becomes obvious just how much our knowledge is dwarfed by actual biological and system complexities. As any biologist ought to expect, in this study the errors multiplied and the standard assumptions of risk assessment were overwhelmed even by ordinary life situations.

For good reasons, therefore, many experts are concerned about the number and quantity of man-made chemicals in our bodies. Recently, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics linked the emergence of new diseases and disorders to chemical exposure. They specifically mentioned obesity, diabetes, hypospadias and reproductive dysfunction and noted:

“The global health and economic burden related to toxic environmental chemicals is in excess of millions of deaths”. The Federation acknowledged this to be an underestimate.

To come: Unsafe at Any Level, Part 2: Conflicts of Interest

Jonathan R. Latham, PhD is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project; Editor of the Independent Science News website. He holds a Masters degree in Crop Genetics and a PhD in Virology, and was a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has published papers in disciplines as diverse as plant ecology, plant virology and genetics. “The Twin Research Debate in American Criminology” (2015); “Transcomplementation and Synergism in Plants: Implications for Viral Transgenes?” (2008); “Transformation-induced Mutations in Transgenic Plants: Analysis and Biosafety Implications” (2006).

There is Part 2, go here.


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Chilcot’s blind spot: Iraq War report buries oil evidence, fails to address motive


Chilcot’s blind spot:  Iraq War report buries oil evidence, fails to address motive

When the UK invaded, Iraq had nearly a tenth of the world’s oil reserves — and government documents “explicitly state” oil was a consideration before the war. Why didn’t Chilcot explore it further?

By David Whyte and Greg Muttitt
Open Democracy UK
July 6, 2016

The long-awaited Chilcot Report was finally released today, examining the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War and occupation. Unfortunately, on the most important question, the report’s conclusions are all but silent: why did the UK go to war?

Chilcot takes at face value the Blair government’s claim that the motive was to address Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and limits its criticism to mistakes in the intelligence on WMD, and on insufficient administrative and military planning. He shows a remarkable lack of curiosity about the political factors behind the move to war, especially given the weakness (even at the time) of the WMD case.

Most important of these is oil. Buried in deep in volume 9 of the 2.6 million-word report, Chilcot refers to government documents that explicitly state the oil objective, and outlining how Britain pursued that objective throughout the occupation. But he does not consider this evidence in his analysis or conclusions. Oil considerations do not even appear in the report’s 150-page summary.

To many people around the world, it was obvious that oil was a central issue, as Iraq itself had nearly a tenth of the world’s oil reserves, and together with its neighbouring countries nearly two thirds. There was a clear public interest in understanding how that affected UK decisions. Chilcot failed to explore it.

Section 10.3 of the report, in volume 9, records that senior government officials met secretly with BP and Shell on at several occasions (denied at the time) to discuss their commercial interests in obtaining contracts. Chilcot did not release the minutes, but we had obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act: they are posted here. In unusually expressive terms for a civil service write-up, one of the meeting’s minutes began, “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP are desperate to get in there” (emphasis in original).

Also in that section, Chilcot includes references to several pre-war documents identifying a British objective of using Iraqi oil to boost Britain’s own energy supplies. For example, a February 2002 Cabinet Office paper stated that the UK’s Iraq policy falls “within our objectives of preserving peace and stability in the Gulf and ensuring energy security”. A Foreign Office strategy paper in May 2003, which Chilcot didn’t include, was even more explicit: “The future shape of the Iraqi oil industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of OPEC, in both of which we have a vital interest“.

So there was the motive; but how did the UK act on it? That same section 10.3 refers to numerous documents revealing the UK’s evolving actions to shape the structure of the Iraqi oil industry, throughout the occupation until 2009. The government did so in close coordination with BP and Shell. This full story – with its crucial context ­– was told in Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq.

As the UK’s strategy evolved with changing circumstances, two priority objectives remain consistently emphasised in the documents: to transfer Iraq’s oil industry from public ownership to the hands of multinational companies, and to make sure BP and Shell get a large piece of that.

During the direct occupation of 2003-4, the UK consistently pushed oil policy towards the longer-term issue of privatisation, rather than the immediate rebuilding of the war-damaged infrastructure. The government installed Terry Adams, a former senior manager of BP, in Baghdad to begin that work.

British officials knew their plans were not what Iraqis wanted. One document in 2004, seen but not released by Chilcot, noted that the oil issue was “politically sensitive, touching on issues of sovereignty”. Without recognising any conflict, it recommended that Britain “push the message on [foreign direct investment] to the Iraqis in private, but it will require careful handling to avoid the impression that we are trying to push the Iraqis down one particular path”.

British officials actively pressed the oil issue on the interim government in 2004-5, the provisional government in 2005-6, and the permanent government of from 2006. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wrote to Tony Blair in July 2005 setting out the progress on those activities. He wrote that Iraqi oil “remains important for the UK commercially and in terms of energy security. Foreign investment is badly needed and we need to continue to support Iraq to create the right framework for investment, while also supporting UK companies to engage”.

During the December 2005 election, British Ambassador William Patey sought to pressure candidates to accept passage of an oil privatization law as a top priority for the new government. During 2006 and 2007 this law became the key focus of British and US political efforts in Iraq. Forcing passage of this law became a major focus of UK and US political efforts over the subsequent two years, and was closely tied to the “surge” in troops that President Bush announced in January 2007.

Deep in volume 9, when Chilcot refers to these British efforts, he presents them under the veneer of normal diplomatic activity, neglecting the reality that the UK and USA still had 150,000 troops the country, and had directly appointed the interim government. The permanent government in 2006 was established through elections the UK and USA had designed, and contested by the politicians they had promoted. Terry Adams was even commissioned to draft the contracts that would be signed with the likes of his former company.

In the end, attempts by Britain and the US to force a law through that legalised oil privatisation failed. The law was not passed, largely because of a popular Iraqi campaign against it. It was then decided to sign long-term contracts even without any legal basis for doing so.  Iraq´s oil industry is largely now run – illegally – by companies like BP, Shell and ExxonMobil.

Chilcot has said he was not asked to judge whether the war was legal.  Yet in his failure to examine the real motive for war, he has side-lined crucial evidence that might tell us about the legality of the war and occupation, and the culpability of senior UK officials, including Tony Blair.


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The War on Weed Part II: Monsanto, Bayer, and the Push for Corporate Cannabis

The War on Weed Part II:  Monsanto, Bayer, and the Push for Corporate Cannabis

By Ellen Brown
The Web Of Debt
July 7, 2016

California’s “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA) is a voter initiative characterized as legalizing marijuana use. But critics warn that it will actually make access more difficult and expensive, squeeze home growers and small farmers out of the market, heighten criminal sanctions for violations, and open the door to patented, genetically modified (GMO) versions that must be purchased year after year. 

As detailed in Part I of this article, the health benefits of cannabis are now well established. It is a cheap, natural alternative effective for a broad range of conditions, and the non-psychoactive form known as hemp has thousands of industrial uses. At one time, cannabis was one of the world’s most important crops. There have been no recorded deaths from cannabis overdose in the US, compared to about 30,000 deaths annually from alcohol abuse (not counting auto accidents), and 100,000 deaths annually from prescription drugs taken as directed. Yet cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance (“a deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse”), illegal to be sold or grown in the US.

Powerful corporate interests no doubt had a hand in keeping cannabis off the market. The question now is why they have suddenly gotten on the bandwagon for its legalization. According to an April 2014 article in The Washington Times, the big money behind the recent push for legalization has come, not from a grassroots movement, but from a few very wealthy individuals with links to Big Ag and Big Pharma.

Leading the charge is George Soros, a major shareholder in Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and producer of genetically modified seeds. Monsanto is the biotech giant that brought you Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs, dioxin-based pesticides, aspartame, rBGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone), RoundUp (glyphosate) herbicides, and RoundUp Ready crops (seeds genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate).

Monsanto now appears to be developing genetically modified (GMO) forms of cannabis, with the intent of cornering the market with patented GMO seeds just as it did with GMO corn and GMO soybeans. For that, the plant would need to be legalized but still tightly enough controlled that it could be captured by big corporate interests. Competition could be suppressed by limiting access to homegrown marijuana; bringing production, sale and use within monitored and regulated industry guidelines; and legislating a definition of industrial hemp as a plant having such low psychoactivity that only GMO versions qualify. Those are the sorts of conditions that critics have found buried in the fine print of the latest initiatives for cannabis legalization.

Patients who use the cannabis plant in large quantities to heal serious diseases (e.g. by juicing it) find that the natural plant grown organically in sunlight is far more effective than hothouse plants or pharmaceutical cannabis derivatives. Letitia Pepper is a California attorney and activist who uses medical marijuana to control multiple sclerosis. As she puts it, if you don’t have an irrevocable right to grow a natural, therapeutic herb in your backyard that a corporation able to afford high license fees can grow and sell to you at premium prices, isn’t that still a war on people who use marijuana?

Follow the Money to Uruguay

Monsanto has denied that it is working on GMO strains. But William Engdahl, author of Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, presents compelling circumstantial evidence to the contrary. In a March 2014 article titled “The Connection Between the Legalization of Marijuana in Uruguay, Monsanto and George Soros”, Engdahl observes that in 2014, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana. Soros is a major player in Uruguay and was instrumental in getting the law passed. He sits on the board of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the world’s most influential organization for cannabis legalization. The DPA is active not only in the US but in Uruguay and other Latin American countries. Engdahl writes:

Studies show that Monsanto without much fanfare conducts research projects on the active ingredient in marijuana, namely THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), in order to genetically manipulate the plant. David Watson of the Dutch company Hortapharm has since 1990 created the world’s largest collection of Cannabis seed varieties. In 1998, the British firm GW Pharmaceuticals signed an agreement with Hortapharm that gives GW Pharma the rights to use the Hortapharm cannabis for their research.

In 2003 the German Bayer AG then signed an agreement with GW Pharmaceuticals for joint research on a cannabis-based extract. In 2007, Bayer AG agreed to an exchange of technology with . . . Monsanto . . . . Thus Monsanto has discreet access to the work of the cannabis plant and its genetic modification. In 2009 GW Pharmaceuticals announced that it had succeeded in genetically altering a cannabis plant and patented a new breed of cannabis.

Monsanto could have even greater access to the Bayer/GW research soon. In March 2016, Monsanto approached the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer AG with a joint venture proposal concerning its crop science unit. In May, Bayer then made an unsolicited takeover bid for Monsanto. On May 24th, the $62 billion bid was rejected as too low; but negotiations are continuing.

The prospective merger would create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and chemicals. Environmentalists worry that the entire farming industry could soon be looking at sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides. Monsanto has sued hundreds of farmers for simply saving seeds from year to year, something they have done for millennia. Organic farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to prevent contamination of their crops by Monsanto’s GMOs.

In Seeds of Destruction, Engdahl quotes Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State. Kissinger notoriously said, “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.” Engdahl asserts that the “Green Revolution” was part of the Rockefeller agenda to destroy seed diversity and push oil- and gas-based agricultural products in which Rockefeller had a major interest. Destruction of seed diversity and dependence on proprietary hybrids was the first step in food control. About 75% of the foodstuffs at the grocery store are now genetically manipulated, in what has been called the world’s largest biological experiment on humans.

Genetic engineering is now moving from foodstuffs to plant-based drugs and plant-based industrial fibers. Engdahl writes of Monsanto’s work in Uruguay:

Since the cultivation of cannabis plants in Uruguay is allowed, one can easily imagine that Monsanto sees a huge new market that the Group is able to control just with patented cannabis seeds such as today is happening on the market for soybeans. Uruguay’s President Mujica has made it clear he wants a unique genetic code for cannabis in his country in order to “keep the black market under control.”

Genetically modified cannabis seeds from Monsanto would grant such control. For decades Monsanto has been growing gene-soybean and GM maize in Uruguay too. George Soros is co-owner of agribusinesses Adecoagro, which planted genetically modified soybeans and sunflowers for biofuel.

Other commentators express similar concerns. Natural health writer Mike Adams warns:

[W]ith the cannabis industry predicted to generate over $13 billion by 2020, becoming one of the largest agricultural markets in the nation, there should be little doubt that companies like Monsanto are simply waiting for Uncle Sam to remove the herb from its current Schedule I classification before getting into the business.

In a 2010 article concerning Proposition 19, an earlier legalization initiative that was defeated by California voters, Conrad Justice Kiczenski noted that criminalization of cannabis as both industrial hemp and medical marijuana has served a multitude of industries, including the prison and military industry, the petroleum, timber, cotton, and pharmaceutical industries, and the banking industry. With the decriminalization of cannabis, he warned:

The next stage in continuing this control is in the regulation, licensing and taxation of Cannabis cultivation and use through the only practical means available to the corporate system, which is through genetic engineering and patenting of the Cannabis genome.

AUMA: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

Suspicions like these are helping to fuel opposition to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), a 2016 initiative that would rewrite the medical marijuana laws in California. While AUMA purports to legalize marijuana for recreational use, the bill comes with so many restrictions that it actually makes acquisition more difficult and expensive than under existing law, and makes it a criminal offense for anyone under 21. Critics contend that the Act will simply throw access to this medicinal wonder plant into the waiting arms of the Monsanto/Bayer/petrochemical/pharmaceutical complex. They say AUMA is a covert attempt to preempt California’s Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215, which was passed in 1996 by voter initiative.

Prop 215 did not legalize the sale of marijuana, but it did give ill or disabled people of any age the right to grow and share the plant and its derivatives on a not-for-profit basis. They could see a doctor of their choice, who could approve medical marijuana for a vast panoply of conditions; and they were assured of safe and affordable access to the plant at a nearby cooperative not-for-profit dispensary, or in their own backyards. As clarified by the 2008 Attorney General’s Guidelines, Prop 215 allowed reimbursement for the labor, costs and skill necessary to grow and distribute medical marijuana; and it allowed distribution through a “storefront dispensing collective.” However, the sale of marijuana for corporate profit remained illegal. Big Pharma and affiliates were thus blocked from entering the field.

At the end of 2015 (effective 2016), the California state legislature over-rode Prop 215 with MMRSA – the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act of 2015/16 – which effectively rewrites the Health Code pertaining to medical marijuana. Opponents contend that MMRSA is unconstitutional, since a voter initiative cannot be changed by legislative action unless it so provides. And that is why its backers need AUMA, a voter initiative that validates MMRSA in its fine print. In combination with stricter California Medical Association rules for enforcement, MMRSA effectively moves medical marijuana therapy from the wholistic plant to a pharmaceutical derivative, one that must follow an AUMA or American Pharmaceutical Association mode of delivery. MMRSA turns the right to cultivate into a revocable privilege to grow, contingent on local rules. The right to choose one’s own doctor is also eliminated.

Critics note that of the hundreds of millions in tax revenues that AUMA is expected to generate from marijuana and marijuana-related products, not a penny will go to the California general fund. That means no money for California’s public schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure. Instead, it will go into a giant slush fund controlled by AUMA’s “Marijuana Control Board,” to be spent first for its own administration, then for its own law enforcement, then for penal and judicial program expenditures.

Law enforcement and penalties will continue to be big business, since AUMA legalizes marijuana use only for people over 21 and makes access so difficult and expensive that even adults could be tempted to turn to the black market. “Legalization” through AUMA will chiefly serve a petrochemical/pharmaceutical complex bent on controlling all farming and plant life globally.


Ellen Brown is an attorney, Founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. She can be heard biweekly on “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on PRN.FM.


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