Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Will The New Housing Bubble That Bernanke Is Creating End As Badly As The Last One Did?

Will The New Housing Bubble That Bernanke Is Creating End As Badly As The Last One Did?
Apr 30, 2013 | Economic Collapse Blog | Michael Synder

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has done it.  He has succeeded in creating a new housing bubble.  By driving mortgage rates down to the lowest level in 100 years and recklessly printing money with wild abandon, Bernanke has been able to get housing prices to rebound a bit.  In fact, in some of the more prosperous areas of the country you would be tempted to think that it is 2005 all over again.  If you can believe it, in some areas of the country builders are actually holding lotteries to see who will get the chance to buy their homes.  Wow - that sounds great, right?  Unfortunately, this "housing recovery" is not based on solid economic fundamentals.  As you will see below, this is a recovery that is being led by investors.  They are paying cash for cheap properties that they believe will appreciate rapidly in the coming years. 

Meanwhile, the homeownership rate in the United States continues to decline.  It is now the lowest that it has been since 1995.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  Number one, there has not been a jobs recovery in the United States.  The percentage of working age Americans with a job has not rebounded at all and is still about the exact same place where it was at the end of the last recession.  Secondly, crippling levels of student loan debt continue to drive down the percentage of young people that are buying homes.  So no, this is not a real housing recovery.  It is an investor-led recovery that is mostly limited to the more prosperous areas of the country.  For example, the median sale price of a home in Washington D.C. just hit a new all-time record high.  But this bubble will not last, and when this new housing bubble does burst, will it end as badly as the last one did?

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has stated over and over that one of his main goals is to "support the housing market" (i.e. get housing prices to go up).  It took a while, but it looks like he is finally getting his wish.  According to USA Today, U.S. home prices have been rising at the fastest rate in nearly seven years...
U.S. home prices in the USA's 20 biggest cities rose 9.3% in the 12 months ending in February. It was the biggest annual growth rates in almost seven years, a closely watched housing index out Tuesday said.
In particular, home prices have been rising most rapidly in cities that experienced a boom during the last housing bubble...
Year over year, Phoenix continued to stand out with a gain of 23%, followed by San Francisco at almost 19% and Las Vegas at nearly 18%, the S&P/Case-Shiller index showed. Most of the cities seeing the biggest gains also fell hardest during the crash.
But is this really a reason for celebration?  Instead of addressing the fundamental problems in our economy that caused the last housing crash, Bernanke has been seemingly obsessed with reinflating the housing bubble.  As a recent article by Edward Pinto explained, the housing market is being greatly manipulated by the government and by the Fed...
While a housing recovery of sorts has developed, it is by no means a normal one. The government continues to go to extraordinary lengths to prop up sales by guaranteeing nearly 90% of new mortgage debt, financing half of all home purchase mortgages to buyers with zero equity at closing, driving mortgage interest rates to the lowest level in 100 years, and turning the Fed into the world's largest buyer of new mortgage debt.

Thus, with real incomes essentially stagnant, this is a market recovery largely driven by low interest rates and plentiful government financing. This is eerily familiar to the previous government policy-induced boom that went bust in 2006, and from which the country is still struggling to recover. Creating over a trillion dollars in additional home value out of thin air does sound like a variant of dropping money out of helicopters.
And the Obama administration has been pushing very hard to get lenders to give mortgages to those with "weaker credit".  In other words, the government is once again trying to get the banks to give home loans to people that cannot afford them.  The following is from the Washington Post...
The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.

President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.
We are repeating so many of the same mistakes that we made the last time.

But surely things will turn out differently this time, right?

I wouldn't count on it.

Right now, an increasingly large percentage of homes are being purchased as investments.  The following is from a recent Washington Times article...
Much of the pickup in sales and prices has been powered by investors who, convinced that the market is bottoming, are scooping up bountiful supplies of distressed and foreclosed properties at bargain prices and often paying with cash.
With investors targeting lower-priced homes that they intend to purchase and rent out, they have been crowding out many first-time buyers who are having difficulty getting mortgage loans and are at a disadvantage when competing with well-heeled buyers. Cash sales to investors now account for about one-third of all home sales, according to the National Association of Realtors.
And as we have seen in the past, an investor-led boom can turn into an investor-led bust very rapidly.

If this truly was a real housing recovery, the percentage of Americans that own a home would be going up.

Instead, it is going down.

As I mentioned above, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting that the homeownership rate in the United States is now the lowest that it has been since 1995.

In particular, homeownership among college-educated young people is way down.  They can't afford to buy homes due to crippling levels of student loan debt...
For the average homeowner, the worst news is that these overleveraged and defaulting young borrowers no longer qualify for other kinds of loans — particularly home loans. In 2005, nearly nine percent of 25- to 30-year-olds with student debt were granted a mortgage. By late last year, that percentage, as an annual rate, was down to just above four percent.

The most precipitous drop was among those who owe $100,000 or more. New mortgages among these more deeply indebted borrowers have declined 10 percentage points, from above 16 percent in 2005 to a little more than 6 percent today.
"These are the people you'd expect to buy big houses," said student loan expert Heather Jarvis. "They owe a lot because they have a lot of education. They have been through professional and graduate schools, but their payments are so significant, they have trouble getting a mortgage. They have mortgage-sized loans already."
And the truth is that there simply are not enough good jobs in this country to support a housing recovery.  In a previous article, I used the government's own statistics to prove that there has not been a jobs recovery.  If we were having a jobs recovery, the percentage of working age Americans with a job would be going up.  Sadly, that is not happening...

And as I mentioned above, the "housing recovery" is mostly happening in the prosperous areas of the country.

In other areas of the United States, the devastating results of the last housing crash are still clearly apparent.
For example, the city of Dayton, Ohio is dealing with an estimated 7,000 abandoned properties.

As I wrote about the other day, there are approximately 70,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit, Michigan.
And all over the nation there are still "ghost towns" that were created when builders abruptly abandoned housing developments during the last recession.  You can see some pictures of some of these ghost towns right here.

So the truth is that this is an isolated housing recovery that is being led by investors and that is being fueled by very reckless behavior by the Federal Reserve.  It is not based on economic reality whatsoever.

In the end, will the collapse of this new housing bubble be as bad as the collapse of the last one was?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below...

Study finds 'soup of toxic chemicals' in the air near Arkansas ExxonMobil spill site

Emergency crews work to clean up an oil spill
in front of evacuated homes on Starlite Road in
Mayflower, Arkansas March 31, 2013.

(Reuters / Jacob Slaton)
Study finds 'soup of toxic chemicals' in the air near Arkansas ExxonMobil spill site
Apr 30, 2013 | RT

While many questions remain following ExxonMobil’s March 29 tar sands oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, a new independent study has revealed the existence of high levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the area.

The new research, co-published by the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group and Global Community Monitor, indicates that the 500,000 gallons of heavy bitumen oil released by a gash in ExxonMobil’s aging Pegasus pipeline has released hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) as defined by the 1990 US Clean Air Act.

According to a press release in conjunction with the new study, the total of 30 toxic chemicals include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, n-hexane and xylenes. Consequences of exposure to these chemicals include damage to the human nervous system, muscular weakness and blurred vision, while breathing ethylbenzene and benzene in particular can cause cancer and reproductive issues.

According to April Lane of the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group, health reports collected from residents in the four weeks following the spill show they are demonstrating symptoms consistent with exposure to hazardous chemicals and independent air testing.

Even four weeks later, residents are still feeling symptoms from the chemical exposure. People have consistently talked about gastrointestinal problems, headaches, respiratory problems, skin irritation including chemical burns, and extreme fatigue,” says Lane.

According to Dr. Neil Carman, a member of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and a former member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, analysis of these HAPs could present any number of public health concerns.

Thirty toxic hydrocarbons were measured above the detection limits. Each of the thirty hydrocarbons measured in the Mayflower release is a toxic chemical on its own and may pose a threat to human health depending on various exposure and individual factors,” said Carman, who described the ambient air in the affected spill region as a “soup of toxic chemicals.”

The study comes only a week after another independent test performed by Opflex Solutions on nearby Lake Conway disputed ExxonMobil’s claims that bitumen heavy crude oil had not reached the lake.

Containment boom is installed in Lake Conway
following oil spill from Exxon pipeline rupture
in Mayflower, Arkansas in this April 2, 2013 photo
released to Reuters on April 11, 2013. (Reuters)
While the oil giant’s official statement read that “the main body of Lake Conway and Palarm Creek remain oil free,” the CEO of Opflex, a company specializing in oil spill cleanups, confirmed a different truth.

"Yes, there's oil in Lake Conway and there's oil downstream flowing into the Arkansas River," said Smith. "I have found methylene chloride and barium in concentrations indicative of tar sands oil," he added.

According to Inside Climate News, which has been closely following ExxonMobil’s response during the Mayflower spill’s cleanup, a number of discrepancies in its statements make it unclear when the Pegasus pipeline began leaking, how the company found out about the initial spill, or how quickly the company moved to contain the breach.

As of yet, a definitive answer on how much oil spilled from the 22-foot-long pipeline gash remains in dispute. Three groups are currently looking into the spill: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), US Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. McDaniel recently received over 12,500 pages of documents from ExxonMobil following a subpoena.

Last week, local news channel THV11 reported on a Mayflower town hall meeting hosted by the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group. At that meeting John Hammons, a local resident near a smaller body of water adjacent to Lake Conway, reported his concern of consequences from oil spill contamination:

"We can smell it. So I know it's there," Hammons said, who is concerned for his wife, who is seven months pregnant.

"She's broken out in hives, had nose bleeds, (and) respiratory problems," added Hammons.

Monday, April 29, 2013

What Is the World's Largest Tree?

The General Sherman tree is found in
Sequoia National Park and is believed
to be the world's largest tree by volume.
CREDIT: Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher
What Is the World's Largest Tree?
Apr 29, 2013 | Elizabeth Howell | LiveScience

The largest tree in the world is a giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in California's Sequoia National Park. Called General Sherman, the tree is about 52,500 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters) in volume.

That's the equivalent of more than half the volume of an Olympic-size swimming pool, commonly considered to be 88,500 cubic feet (2,506 cubic meters).

General Sherman is estimated to be about 2,000 years old. That makes it only a middle-age giant sequoia, as other trees are believed to be more than 3,220 years old, based on tree ring counts.

The tree lost a huge branch in 2006, which shattered a new walkway and fence below. It didn't affect General Sherman's ranking as the largest tree, however, as that was calculated using trunk volume and not branches.

General Sherman is also tall, standing 274.9 feet (83.8 meters) high, but that doesn't put it anywhere close to the record of tallest tree. The honor of tallest tree in the world is bestowed upon Hyperion, a 379.7-foot-tall (115.7 m) redwood also located in California.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Terrorists R Us: The Boston Mass Casualty Attack, Lockdown and High Profile Manhunt

Terrorists R Us: The Boston Mass Casualty Attack, Lockdown and High Profile Manhunt
Apr 28, 2013 | Global Research | Michael Welch and Stephen Lendman

Global Research News Hour Episode 24

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  – Benjamin Franklin, 1759

The mass casualty causing attack during the Boston Marathon, together with the high profile arrest of two men in Canada charged with plotting a terrorist attack on a commuter train have captivated the attention of regular citizens.

Fears have been ramped up to the point where Americans are tolerating if not welcoming martial law and erosions of civil liberties in the name of protection from the terrorist hordes.

Witness the high-profile man-hunt for bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev.

On April 19, the entire city of Boston was on lockdown. Residents told to lock themselves indoors while schools and businesses were closed while the entire transit system was shut down and SWAT teams took control of the streets.

The home of one of the most famous and iconic popular resistance actions in history, the Boston Tea Party, unquestioningly complied with authorities this time around – all in the name of capturing one wounded man.
Speaking of authorities, rigorous scrutiny of the authorities themselves may be in order.

Speaking to the Global Research News Hour in December, Andy Lee Roth, the Associate Director of Project Censored spoke of the fourth story in PC’s list of most censored stories of 2011-2012….

…The FBI has a network of nearly 15,000 spies, moles and informants …whose job it is to infiltrate various communities within the United States, ostensibly to uncover terrorist plots …in many cases, those 15,000 spies, moles and informants are actually encouraging and then assisting the people in those communities in committing the very crimes that people are then busted for. So It’s a kind of set-up operation and it appears to be motivated by a desire on the FBI’s part to show that they are playing an effective role in the battle against terrorism on the home front.

He further pointed out…

This only works as a kind of PR strategy if the corporate media cooperate and basically take the government officials who speak on behalf of the program as the sole sources on the program’s efficacy.
What’s not covered in the corporate media but what can be documented in independent media coverage is that most of these cases when they go to court the judge throws them out for lack of merit.”

Without this context, the citizenry’s grasp of reality is imperiled. The common man and woman is left ripe for manipulation by powerful interests with another agenda entirely.

This, the twenty-fourth installment of the Global Research News Hour, sees independent broadcaster Stephen Lendman try to provide some of this context as the War On Terrorism gets its biggest PR boost in years and as tensions with Syria, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela are on the rise.

Stephen Lendman is the host of the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network, author of BANKER OCCUPATION: Waging Financial War on Humanity and a frequent contributor to globalresearch.ca.


Click here

Length (59:06)

Click to download the audio (MP3 format)

The Global Research News Hour, hosted by Michael Welch, airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.


1) Global Research News Hour Episode 9;  http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-in-the-congo-project-censored-and-doomsday-2012/5315792

While Wronged Homeowners Got $300 Apiece in Foreclosure Settlement, Consultants Who Helped Protect Banks Got $2 Billion

© Rolling Stone
While Wronged Homeowners Got $300 Apiece in Foreclosure Settlement, Consultants Who Helped Protect Banks Got $2 Billion
Apr 26, 2013 | Rolling Stone | Matt Taibbi

The obscene greed-and-arrogance stories emanating from Wall Street are piling up so fast, it's getting hard to keep up. This one is from last week, but I missed it – it's about the foreclosure/robo-signing settlement that was concluded earlier this year.

The upshot of this story is that in advance of that notorious settlement, the government ordered banks to hire "independent" consultants to examine their loan files to see just exactly how corrupt they were.

Now it comes out that not only were these consultants not so independent, not only did they very likely skew the numbers seriously in favor of the banks, and not only were these few consultants paid over $2 billion (over 20 percent of the entire settlement amount) while the average homeowner only received $300 in the deal – in addition to all of that, it appears that federal regulators will not turn over the evidence of impropriety they discovered during these reviews to homeowners who may want to sue the banks.

In other words, the government not only ordered the banks to hire consultants who may have gamed the foreclosure settlement in favor of the banks, but the regulators themselves are hiding the information from the public in order to shield the banks from further lawsuits.

Secrets and Lies of the Bailout

To recap: in the foreclosure deal, 13 banks agreed to pay a total of $9.3 billion to settle their liability in a number of areas, including robo-signing, which is just a euphemism for mass-perjury – robo-signing is the practice of having low-level bank employees sign documents attesting to full knowledge of case files in court foreclosure actions, when in fact they were signing hundreds of files per day, often having no idea whether the paperwork was correct or not.

It was done across the industry and turned housing cases across America into nightmares of jumbled and/or forged paperwork, in which even people who did not deserve to be thrown out of their homes were uprooted thanks to systematic errors by faceless bureaucrats who cut legal corners purely to save money.

All the major banks were guilty on a mass scale, but they worked with federal regulators like the Fed and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to secure this wide-ranging, industry-saving settlement, which not only covered the robosigning epidemic but a host of other bad or illegal practices, like the wrongful denial of modifications and the improper levying of (often hidden) fees.

Minus this crucial settlement, banks would have faced enormous uncertainty about their legal liability going forward, and getting a deal that not only gave these companies some legal closure but allowed them to pay pennies on the dollar for their illegal activity was a massive coup for the whole finance sector.

Only $3.6 billion was earmarked for cash payments to the nearly 4 million homeowners covered in the settlement. Most of the remainder of the deal was in other forms of non-cash relief, i.e. modifications or principal reductions.

Now, at the time of the deal, press releases by the Fed and the OCC stated that part of the reason they'd fixed on that particular settlement amount was that regulators had uncovered that banks had made errors or committed illegal acts in about 6.5 percent of the mortgage files reviewed. In other words, the error rate was an important component of this calculation.

But it turned out that this error rate had been calculated with the help of several consultant firms regulators had ordered the banks to hire. Regulators had mandated the hiring of these "independent" consultants back in 2011, and the list of companies included Promontory Financial Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte & Touche. These private firms were hired to review the banks' loan files in search of errors, and collectively were paid by the banks over $2 billion, a staggering sum which ultimately worked out to over $20,000 per file.

With such highly-paid help, it would seem impossible that these consultants could screw up so simple a task as figuring out how many of these mortgage files were corrupt. Regulators came up with the 6.5 percent number this past January, then shortly afterward revised the number downward, saying that only 4.2 percent of some 100,000 mortgage files reviewed were compromised.

But that low number stank so badly that even the Wall Street Journal was moved to check it out, and in late February, in a story called "Foreclosure Files Detail Error Gap," the paper discovered that the error numbers were almost certainly very much higher. From that piece:

A breakdown of the information provided to the regulator shows that more than 11% of files examined for Wells Fargo WFC +0.39% & Co. and 9% of those for Bank of America Corp. had errors that would have required compensation for homeowners, said people who have reviewed the figures. A narrower sample of files – representing cases selected by outside consultants – showed error ratios of 21% for Wells Fargo and 16% for Bank of America, the people said.

The OCC findings appear skewed by the outsize contribution of one bank, J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -0.39% & Co., which reported an error rate far below rivals that oversaw a much larger universe of loans.

J.P Morgan was responsible for more than half of the completed files counted in the OCC review and reported compensation-worthy errors in just 0.6% of cases, according to people familiar with the figures.

So you have numbers from all of these other banks coming in at 9 percent, 11 percent, even 21 percent, and yet somehow J.P. Morgan Chase came in at 0.6 percent. The OCC just took the Chase numbers and averaged them together with the rest and ultimately came up with the 4.2 percent number.

So how did Chase come out so squeaky clean? Well, it seems they developed quite a rapport with the government-mandated consultants who were hired to review their loan files. This is from that WSJ report:

Two Deloitte employees who performed the review for J.P. Morgan in a Brooklyn office building said workers were encouraged by supervisors to examine pools of loans they knew would be less time-consuming or error-prone as they tried to hit loan quotas.

One of these employees said that at an event last year known in the Brooklyn office as "March Madness," Deloitte officials encouraged reviewers to avoid problematic loans originated by EMC Mortgage, a troubled mortgage lender J.P. Morgan acquired in 2008.

So basically Chase allegedly warned the consultants off their problem loans and incentivized the consultants to examine the less-fucked-up loans. Employees of another of Chase's auditors, Promontory, were reportedly given gift cards of up to $500 for "completing a certain number of files quickly."

The whole thing was a joke. Government orders banks to hire auditors to investigate robosigning, then banks induce said auditors to robosign the investigation! Because that's exactly what that would mean, if there were financial incentives to finish masses of files quickly. It's horrible, obviously, but on another level, it's so ingeniously corrupt, one almost has to tip a cap to whoever thought of it.

Incidentally, what were Chase's real numbers? I mean, if it hadn't been a consulting firm hired by Chase for buttloads of cash to do the study, what might an auditor have concluded? Well, as reported by (among others) David Dayen at Naked Capitalism, we got a glimpse into one possible truth when the HUD Inspector General released a report that included an ad-hoc survey of Chase loans:

For Chase, we also reviewed 36 affidavits for foreclosures in judicial States to determine whether the amounts of borrowers' indebtedness were supported. Chase was unable to provide documentation to support the amounts of borrowers' indebtedness listed on the affidavits for all except four. When we reviewed the four affidavits, three were inaccurate. Specifically, the amounts of the borrowers' late charges and accumulated interest did not reconcile with the information in Chase's mortgage servicing system.

As Dayen jokingly pointed out, that means the gap in the stats was relatively small – Chase's loans were either 97.2 percent fucked (as HUD found), or 0.6 percent (as Chase/OCC found). Somewhere in between there.

Anyway: In March, a Washington law firm called Williams and Connolly sued the OCC for failing to properly ensure that the auditors would be truly "independent." The firm declined to say on whose behalf it was suing. Around the same time, members of congress like the House's Elijah Cummings and new Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren started to become interested in these consulting arrangements, expressing concern that perhaps the settlement number had been reached in error.

Fast forward a few weeks. It's April 11th, and Warren, along with Sherrod Brown and Jack Reed, held hearings on this whole issue, bringing in officials from the OCC along with some of these consultants to get to the bottom of a number of issues, including, most importantly, how the settlement was calculated, and who decided who would receive how much compensation.

There were two major revelations from these hearings, in addition to the ongoing revelation that the suits who people the country's financial regulators are sniveling, obfuscatory weasels who clearly view the banks they're supposed to be regulating as a bunch of stand-up dudes while the taxpayers who are always demanding this or that (and the politicians who represent them) are humorless pains in the ass.

In terms of new revelations, the first was this one, a real shocker: that apparently, it was not even the obscenely overpaid, lapdog consultants who made the final decisions about which homeowners fell into which boxes in terms of settlement compensation. Incredibly, it appears that the banks themselves were allowed to do that sorting process!

This came out when Warren was interviewing private consultants from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Promontory, and Deloitte and Touche:

Senator Warren: I just want to take a look at the Independent Foreclosure Review Payment Agreement details. I think you've probably all seen this one page agreement that lists all of the things that the banks did wrong and then boxes for how many people fall into each category and how much money they're going to be paid. Is that right? You've all seen this? [Panel indicates they have seen it.] And this was put out – who put this out? I think this is put out by the OCC and Federal Reserve. Is that right? As part of the settlement details.

In the settlement there is a one-page document that lists all the various misdeeds the banks engaged in during the foreclosure process, then goes on to list how many homeowners were victimized by each activity. Warren is showing this document to these consultants and she's asking them, did you prepare these statistics? She goes on – listen to the answers from the auditors:

Senator Warren: So I just want to ask you about this. It has some pretty amazing categories here. The first category is about service members who were protected by Federal law whose homes were unlawfully foreclosed. It's got people who were current on their payments whose homes were foreclosed. It's got people who were performing all of the requirements under a modification who lost their homes to foreclosure. And it tells how many people fall into each category and how much money the people in that category will receive. And, it ultimately resolves what will happen to 3,949,896 families. So the question I have is having resolved this for nearly 4 million families, who put the people, the families, into each of these boxes. Is that what your firms did, Mr. Ryan?

Owen Ryan, Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP: No, Senator, we did not.

Senator Warren: So who put them in?

Ryan: I'm not sure how that schedule is prepared. I saw it for the first time yesterday.

Senator Warren: Mr. Flanagan?

James Flanagan, Leader, U.S. Financial Services Practice, Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP: Same response. We were not involved in the accumulation of that information.

Senator Warren: Mr. Alt?

Konrad Alt, Managing Director, Promontory Financial Group: Senator, I've seen the schedule but I'm not familiar with the basis for its preparation.

Having established that the consulting firms did not do this sorting, Warren presses toward the obvious conclusion:

Senator Warren: So that leaves us with the banks that broke the law, were then the banks that decided how many people lost their homes because of their lawbreaking. And, as a result, how many people would collect money in each of these categories. Is that right,Mr. Alt?

Alt: Senator, I'm not familiar with the basis for the scheduling.

Senator Warren: So far as you know, there's no independent review of the banks' analysis . . . You looked at 100,000 cases, and the banks have now put 4 million people into categories and resolved finally how much they will get from this review by the OCC and the Federal Reserve.

So that's bombshell Number One – it wasn't the auditors who decided which homeowners fell into which categories, it appears to have been the banks themselves. Bombshell Number Two? The representatives of the OCC and the Fed – remember, federal regulators whose job it is supposedly to protect ordinary people – flatly refused to give any information about the real results of their surveys, i.e. their inquiries into what the real error rates were.

Even worse, when pressed on the question of whether they would deliver any evidence of wrongdoing they uncovered to private parties who might want to sue, they hedged.

In these exchanges, Warren questions Daniel Stipano, deputy chief counsel from the OCC, and Richard Ashton, Associate General Counsel for the Board of Governors at the Fed. There are two key sequences.

In the first, Warren asks both men if they will make public what they know about the extent of the illegality and errors – whether the real error rate was, as she put it, 1 percent or 90 percent. But the two officials respond in gibberish legalese (if you watch the video, Ashton in particular seems to take pleasure in dicking the Senate around with his verbose non-answers), repeatedly forcing Warren to pin him down to their actual concrete position, which turns out to be, "Fuck you." For example:

Senator Warren. So let me just make sure I understand this completely. I want to know on a bank-by-bank basis the number of families that were illegally foreclosed on. Will you give me that information?

Mr. Stipano. Eventually, we are going to issue a statement to the public where we provide additional information, but if we go through the processes that I described previously, we can share it to Congress in its oversight capacity.

Huh? I have no idea what that means, but it sounds positive – it did to Warren, too:

Senator Warren. So you are saying you will make that information publicly available?

Mr. Stipano. I did not say that. I said that we are planning on issuing a public statement that wraps up the IFR that provides additional information . . .

Ultimately, both the Fed and the OCC turned out to be united on the issue. They'll release something, but it won't be the real numbers. Frustrated, Warren asked them where the public is supposed to get the numbers, if not from them. Their answer is, well, they can maybe pull it out of their butts, if they get lucky – not our problem:

Mr. Stipano. Well, sometimes you get information through third parties, through outside sources. But in this case, that is not the case.

Senator Warren. So unless someone throws a rock through the window with this information tied to it, you will not release it, is that what you are saying?

Stipano here replies with more gibberish:

Mr. Stipano. To the extent that the information is confidential supervisory information derived from the exam process, it is subject to privilege.

From there, Warren asks a more specific question. What if someone wants to sue a bank for illegally tossing them out of their home? And what if you have evidence in such a case? Wouldn't such evidence be, you know, helpful to those people? Stipano helpfully agrees, yes, it would be helpful:

Senator Warren. All right. So let me ask it from the other point of view. You now have evidence in your files of illegal activity, I take it, for some of these banks. I get that from the evidence you have released about the charts, who is going to get paid what. So if someone believes that they have been illegally foreclosed against, will they still have a right under this settlement to bring a lawsuit against the bank?

Mr. Stipano. Yes.

Senator Warren. All right. Now, if a family wants to bring a lawsuit--you are both lawyers--would it be helpful, if you are going against one of these big banks, would it be helpful for these families to have the information about their case that is in your files? Mr. Ashton?

Mr. Ashton. It would be helpful, obviously, to have information related to the injury. Yes, it would.
Which leads to the next question – having acknowledged that it would be helpful, will you help?
This seems like it should be an easy answer, but it isn't:

Senator Warren. Okay. So do you plan to give the families this information? That is, those families that have been victims of illegal foreclosures, will you be giving them the information that is in your possession about how the banks illegally foreclosed against them? Mr. Ashton?

Mr. Ashton. I think that is a decision that we are still considering. We have not made a final decision yet.
Senator Warren. So you have made a decision to protect the banks but not a decision to tell the families who were illegally foreclosed against?

Mr. Ashton. We have not made a decision about what information we would provide to individuals, that is true. Yes.

Senator Warren. Mr. Stipano?

Mr. Stipano. We are in the same position.

Obviously these guys can't come out and say, "We're not giving anybody anything. Blow us." That would cause too much of an uproar. So they just say they haven't decided, and we all know what that means. Warren tries to frame the issue in the most embarrassing way possible, but the witnesses prove immune to such embarrassment:

Senator Warren. So I want to just make sure I get this straight. Families get pennies on the dollar in this settlement for having been the victims of illegal activities or mistakes in the banks' activities. You let the banks, and you now know individual cases where the banks violated the law and you are not going to tell the homeowners, or at least it is not clear yet whether or not you are going to do that?

Mr. Stipano. We have not made a decision on what we are going to tell the homeowners.

All of this just confirms what we already suspected about the foreclosure settlement. This whole enterprise was conceived by the government solely as a means of dealing with the explosive problem of containing the private liability of these "systemically important" companies. Not only are we not prosecuting these firms anymore, we're also actively in the business of protecting them from litigation.

No other conclusion is possible from this testimony, which shows that our two primary regulators not only withheld information about bank illegality and errors prior to the settlement, but plan on continuing to do so going forward. There can be only one reason for concealing that information from the people affected by those "errors."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Robert Redford Calls for Horse Slaughter Ban

© Food Safety News
Robert Redford Calls for Horse Slaughter Ban
Apr 25, 2013 | Food Safety News

Just as the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended a grant of inspection for what could become the first U.S. horse slaughterhouse following a five-year federal ban, actor Robert Redford has made a public call for banning horse slaughter, via a letter written to horse welfare organization Equine Advocates.

“Horses have always been very important in my life and I feel strongly that they need our protection from any kind of abuse, especially slaughter,” Redford begins. He goes on to compare the treatment of horses in the U.S. to the treatment of dogs and cats, and laments the desire of a “small group of special interests” who want to breed horses to profit from their meat.

“The entire slaughter process is cruel and inhumane and perpetuates abuse and neglect without consequences, in addition to condoning a violation of our nation’s cruelty laws,” he continues. He also highlights the concern that horse slaughter allows for a “swift cover-up” of horse theft.

For now, the future of U.S. horse slaughter remains up in the air, as the Obama Administration has suggested excluding money for inspectors at horse slaughterhouses from the 2014 budget. Beyond that, Congress may choose to extend the five-year ban.

Food Safety News published a report on the potential for horse slaughter to begin in New Mexico yesterday.

© Food Safety News

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fracking debris considered too radioactive even for waste site

Protestors hold signs against fracking during
a demonstration. (AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan)
Fracking debris considered too radioactive even for waste site
Apr 26, 2013 | RT

A truck carrying drill cuttings from a fracking site set off a radiation alarm at a landfill in Pennsylvania. Emitting gamma radiation ten times higher than the permitted level, the waste was rejected by the landfill.

After the alarm went off, the MAX Environmental Technologies truck was immediately quarantined and sent back to the Marcellus Shale fracking site it had come from in Greene County, Va. The 159-acre Pennsylvania landfill site accepts residual and hazardous waste, but the cuttings were too radioactive for the site to safely dispose.

The Pennsylvania landfill, located in South Huntingdon, rejects waste that emits more than 10 microerm per hour of radiation. The fracking materials were found to emit 96 microerm per hour of Radium 226 – a rate that is 84 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s air-pollution standard and ten times higher than the landfill’s permitted level, Forbes reports.

Exposure to the materials taken from the fracking site can have serious health consequences, including the risk of developing cancer. The high level of radiation emitted by the materials serves as alarming news for environmentalists and residents located near hydraulic fracturing sites across the US.

“Long-term exposure to radium increases the risk of developing several diseases,” the EPA writes. “Inhaled or ingested radium increases the risk of developing such diseases as lymphoma, bone cancer and diseases that affect the formation of blood, such as leukemia and aplastic anemia… External exposure to radium’s gamma radiation increases the risk of cancer to varying degrees in all tissues and organs.”

The drill cuttings have been sent back to the well pad where they were extracted. The production company, Rice Energy, must now apply to have the waste discarded at other landfill sites that accept materials with higher levels of radiation.

DEP spokesperson Jon Poister told The Tribune-Review that the cuttings emitted “low-level radiation, but we don’t want any radiation in South Huntingdon.” He said it was not typical for the landfill to reject waste based on radiation levels, but this case provides reassurance that the radiation detection system functions properly.

“It’s not too frequent that this occurs, but it’s not totally infrequent either,” he told the local newspaper. “There are all kinds of sources for that type of material, including medical materials, and this is a huge safeguard we have in place.”

But environmentalists remain concerned about the effects of the radiation produced by hydraulic fracturing sites. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) this year began analyzing wastewater from fracking sites and testing waste products for radioactivity. The investigation is ongoing.

“We are sampling the wastewater and wastes, the treatment equipment used to treat it, the trucks used to transport it, the tanks and pits used to store it and the landfills or treatment plants used to dispose of it,” DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday told shalereporter.com.

The consequences of long-term exposure to Radium 226 are known, but the effects of specially formulated chemicals used at US fracking sites still remain widely unknown. With the Obama administration overlooking environmental concerns and distributing oil drilling rights without a comprehensive review of fracking, it is difficult to know just how much radiation the sites produce.

But with landfill sites rejecting drill cuttings based on high levels of radiation, the waste produced is not an insignificant matter.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Electrical "Volcanoes" of Jupiter's Moon Io

The Electrical "Volcanoes" of Jupiter's Moon Io
Apr 25, 2013 | ThunderboltsProject

The so-called "volcanoes" on Jupiter's moon Io have long been conventionally interpreted as the effect of tidal forces acting on the moon. more..

Bizarre whirlpool appears in Latvian river sucking everything in its path into watery vortex

Bizarre phenomenon: The monstrous whirlpool
that has appeared in the Baltic state of Latvia
Bizarre whirlpool appears in Latvian river sucking everything in its path into watery vortex
Apr 24, 2013 | Leon Watson | The Daily Mail UK

Seven-minute clip apparently captured after a river burst its banks

It captures huge blocks of ice and mud heading towards whirlpool

A monstrous whirlpool has appeared in the Baltic state of Latvia swallowing everything dragged towards it.

The bizarre phenomenon looks as if a plug has been pulled from the ground beneath as it sucks water down.

A seven-minute clip of what looks like a vortex in action was apparently captured after a river burst its banks in the south-east of the country.

It captures huge blocks of ice and mud heading towards the whirlpool before disappearing underneath the water's surface.

More than 220,000 people have already watched the video in less than 48 hours on YouTube.

Does anyone else wanna throw on a scuba suit and see where this goes?' asked one user.

Another added: 'How does this work and where does all that stuff go?? Madness man. Go there again and upload next video! We must know if we will survive,' joked another.

Others commented it could be a sinkhole hidden underneath the river


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Scientists detect dark lightning linked to visible lightning

 Three images, left to right, of the same thundercloud
depict a less-than-10-milliseconds-long sequence
of events: (left) formation within the cloud of a small
channel, or ‘leader,’ of electrical conductivity (yellow line)
with weak emission of radio signals (ripples), to (middle)
a burst of both dark lightning (pink) and radio waves
(larger ripples), to (right) a discharge of bright
lightning and more radio waves. Credit: Studio Gohde

Scientists detect dark lightning linked to visible lightning
Apr 24, 2013 | Phys.org

(Phys.org)—Researchers have identified a burst of high-energy radiation known as 'dark lightning" immediately preceding a flash of ordinary lightning. The new finding provides observational evidence that the two phenomena are connected, although the exact nature of the relationship between ordinary bright lightning and the dark variety is still unclear, the scientists said.

"Our results indicate that both these phenomena, dark and bright , are intrinsic processes in the discharge of lightning," said Nikolai Østgaard, who is a space scientist at the University of Bergen in Norway and led the research team.

He and his collaborators describe their findings in an article recently accepted in Geophysical Research Letters—a journal of the .

Dark lightning is a burst of produced during thunderstorms by extremely fast moving colliding with . Researchers refer to such a burst as a terrestrial gamma ray flash.

Dark lightning is the most energetic radiation produced naturally on Earth, but was unknown before 1991. While scientists now know that dark lightning naturally occurs in thunderstorms, they do not know how frequently these flashes take place or whether visible lightning always accompanies them.

In 2006, two independent satellites—one equipped with an optical detector and the other carrying a gamma ray detector—coincidentally flew within 300 kilometers (186 miles) of a Venezuelan storm as a powerful exploded within a thundercloud. Scientists were unaware then that a weak flash of dark lightning had preceded the bright lightning.

But last year, Østgaard and his colleagues discovered the previously unknown gamma ray burst while reprocessing the . "We developed a new, improved …and identified more than twice as many terrestrial gamma flashes than originally reported," said Østgaard. He and his team detected the gamma ray flash and a discharge of radio waves immediately preceding the visible lightning.

"This observation was really lucky," Østgaard said. "It was fortuitous that two independent satellites—which are traveling at 7 kilometers per second (4.3 miles per second)—passed right above the same thunderstorm right as the pulse occurred." A radio receiver located 3,000 kilometers (1864 miles) away at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina detected the radio discharge.

The satellites' observations combined with radio-wave data provided the information that Østgaard and his team used to reconstruct this ethereal electrical event, which lasted 300 milliseconds.

Østgaard and his team suspect that the flash of dark lightning was triggered by the strong electric field that developed immediately before the visible lightning. This strong field created a cascade of electrons moving at close to the speed of light. When those relativistic electrons collided with air molecules, they generated gamma rays and lower energy electrons that were the main electric current carrier that produced the strong radio pulse before the visible lightning.

Dark and bright lightning may be intrinsic processes in the discharge of lightning, Østgaard said, but he stressed that more research needs to be done to elucidate the link.

The European Space Agency is planning on launching the Atmospheric Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) within the next three years, which will be able to better detect both dark and visible lightning from space, said Østgaard, who is part of the team that is building the ASIM gamma-ray detector.

Dark lightning has remained a perplexing phenomenon due to scientific limitations and a dearth of measurements, Østgaard explained.

"Dark lightning might be a natural process of lightning that we were completely unaware of before 1991," he noted. "But it is right above our heads, which makes it very fascinating."

More information: "Simultaneous observations of optical lightning and terrestrial gamma ray flash from space" onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50466/abstract

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Report: Deadly Human-Made 'Cocktail' Threatening World’s Pollinators

(Photo via Flickr / Wood Thrower
/ Creative Commons License)
Report: Deadly Human-Made 'Cocktail' Threatening World’s Pollinators
Apr 23, 2013 | Common Dreams | Jacob Chamberlain

A "cocktail" of human-made "pressures" are threatening insect pollinators across the world, whose decline will have "profound environmental, human health and economic consequences," according to a new report released Monday by the Insect Pollinators Initiative.

Insect pollinators such as bees provide pollination for up to 75% of crops and enable reproduction in up to 94% of wild flowering plants, meaning their current decline greatly "threatens human food supplies and ecosystem function" around the world, the group urges.

According to the study Threats to an Ecosystem Service: Pressures on Pollinators, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the steady disappearance of these essential creatures cannot be tied to one factor, but to a multitude of anthropogenic reasons such as "the loss of food resources in intensively-farmed landscapes," pesticides, climate change, and "the spread of alien species and diseases."

Dr. Adam Vanbergen from the UK’s Center for Ecology & Hydrology and science coordinator of the IPI led the review and stated:
There is no single smoking gun behind pollinator declines, instead there is a cocktail of multiple pressures that can combine to threaten these insects. For example, the loss of food resources in intensively-farmed landscapes, pesticides and diseases are individually important threats, but are also likely to combine and exacerbate the negative impacts on pollinators.
“Pollinators are the unsung heroes of the insect world and ensure our crops are properly pollinated so we have a secure supply of nutritious food in our shops," said co-author Professor Simon Potts from the University of Reading. "The costs of taking action now to tackle the multiple threats to pollinators is much smaller than the long-term costs to our food security and ecosystem stability. Failure by governments to take decisive steps now only sets us up for bigger problems in the future.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

Why Do Cicadas Sing?

Periodical cicadas, like these, remain underground
for years before emerging into the sunlight,
where they spend weeks calling for mates,
mating and laying eggs for the next generation.

CREDIT: National Pest
Management Association/Tom Myers
Why Do Cicadas Sing?
Apr 22, 2013 | Live Science | Elizabeth Palermo

What's black and red and heard all over? A cicada, of course.

The periodically appearing Magicicada, or 17-year locust, is due to rise up and break its silence along the East Coast of the United States this spring.

And as one of the world's loudest insects, cicadas are likely to make an entrance that will leave local ears ringing.

But why all the ruckus? After nearly two decades stuck underground, are these bugs making all that noise just for sheer joy? No: Cicadas, while mysterious, have clear-cut reasons for their unusual habits.

The chirping and clicking noises of the male cicada are actually a species-specific mating call that can be heard by females up to a mile (1.6 kilometers) away.

But with one estimate putting the number of cicadas at 1 billion per square mile, it's easy to understand why East Coasters might find this cicada serenade anything but romantic.

Male cicadas produce their calls by rapidly vibrating a white, drumlike plate, or tymbal, located on either side of their abdomens. A chorus of lovesick cicadas can reach volumes greater than 100 decibels, which is louder than a lawnmower at full bore.

Luckily for anyone needing a good night's sleep, these bugs usually cease their racket by sundown. The cicada's group chorus also repels birds that hunt by day, so when these insects stop singing, there's a good chance the birds have gone to bed.

And if you're on the East Coast, then you should get some rest as well, because this bug symphony is sure to last for several ear-splitting weeks.

Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chemtrails: An Obvious Overhead Pollutant Ignored and Denied

© Natural Society
Chemtrails: An Obvious Overhead Pollutant Ignored and Denied
Apr 21, 2013 | Paul Fassa / Natural Society

Have you ever seen those long smoke-lines in the sky and wondered what they are? Some may be jet vapor contrails, but others are known as chemtrails. Most of the population doesn’t know, but these trails, loaded with heavy metals that have been measured in the water and air at several different worldwide locations, are actually a threat to your health.

Contrails are the result of jet engine vapors condensing into tiny ice particles at high altitude. They are usually not very dense and evaporate quickly. They never extend from one side of the sky to the other, not even close! These trails are dense and linger, often from horizon to horizon, sometimes widening to form streaky clouds.

As more have reported the chemtrail phenomena to government agencies, the usual cover story is that they’re being sprayed as part of a geoengineering effort to slow down global warming, or they’re conducting military drills with releasing streams of metallic particulates to confuse radar.

They are cover stories. So what are they covering? Mainstream media thoroughly ignores or debunks it. Congressman Dennis Kucinich seemed to have caught wind of the hazards of geoengineering for weather control.

He tried to into introduce a bill called the Space Preservation Act in 1997 and 2001, mostly intended to stop Star War projects. Within it the word chemtrails appeared as an item to be banned. The bill went nowhere. Most congressmen are ignorant of the issue or afraid to ask, just like the media.

The denial of something so apparent is outrageous. After looking into chemtrails for yourself, ask anyone to look up if you see them and watch them go into denial as well. Sometimes both contrails and chemtrails appear simultaneously, making it easier to differentiate.

So now that we know they exist, it’s important to recognize the dangers of chemtrails.

Consider the Hazards from Chemtrails 

Readings taken after chemtrail episodes from air traps, water traps, ground and snow samples vary slightly from location to location, but they usually contain small particulates or nanoparticles of aluminum, barium, strontium, and sometimes ethylene dibromide or EDB, often called dibromoethane, an EPA banned fuel additive.

Consider that these particulates fan out at high altitudes and fall onto the ground invisibly, affecting foliage, forests, crops, rivers and lakes, animals, and humans. Many aware conservationists and environmentalists are aware of the chemtrail damage to our biosphere.

Breathing nanoparticles of toxic metals into the lungs bypasses our primary immune system’s defenses. These substances make their way into the blood directly from the lung’s capillaries. And aluminum gets through the blood-brain barrier. But don’t worry; Monsanto has patented aluminum resistant seeds. How did they know that was needed? Strange.

Just a couple of years ago, an Arizona resident collected certified medical blood test documents from seriously ill Arizonians and sent them to various State and Federal elected officials demanding an investigation. The blood sample documents showed extremely high amounts of either barium or aluminum or both. None of those people worked or had worked with hazardous materials containing those items. Some were retired.

In the past couple of decades, death from respiratory disease in the US have been increasing. Asthma rates have more than doubled in the western world and Alzheimer’s’ disease and autism spectrum disorders have risen dramatically.

Barium can be linked to multiple diseases including respiratory diseases and aluminum to neurological afflictions.

Even if you’re not directly affected by these nanoparticles from chemtrails, your immune system is adversely affected and forced to work overtime with yet more environmental and food pollutants and toxins, leaving you more prone to infectious and autoimmune diseases. And in any case, if the soil is affected (which it is) you are affected.

There are many groups and individuals doing what they can to bring awareness to government agencies. But this operation’s lid is sealed.

If you’re new to this and curious, start checking out those jet trails and notice the difference between contrails and chemtrails. You can Google chemtrails, aerosol spraying, or geoengineering for more resources and sites with photos and videos. Try to sidestep the usual debunking shills and trolls, but without disregarding all the information. It’s important to look at everything from multiple angles to get a better understanding.

Protecting Yourself 

Despite all the efforts of individuals and small groups as well as documentaries, nothing gets done about this toxic elephant in the sky. So you have to protect yourself by detoxing often.

A mineral water product called Volvic, available at Whole Foods and online, has been used to remove aluminum from the brain. The recommended regimen is 1.5 liters daily for five days. And there are other ways to remove heavy metals from the body, including professional chelation and do-it-yourself solutions.

Consider consuming these 6 foods for heavy metal chelation or utilizing these 7 tips for detoxing and cleansing the body. Food grade activated charcoal is yet another detox agent that can be used.

Additional Sources:

YouTube - Documentary in seven parts

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Noble Lie: The Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995

A Noble Lie: The Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995
Apr 19, 2013 | SOTT | neo istheone

This is the first feature length documentary to examine the Oklahoma City bombing in the light of new and suppressed evidence that proves the official story to be false and that Timothy McVeigh was not the sole perpetrator on that terrible April 19th, 1995.

Documentary available for purchase here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

MEL ACHESON: "Show Me the Math!" | EU 2013

MEL ACHESON: "Show Me the Math!" | EU 2013
Apr 18, 2013 | ThunderboltsProject

Our resident epistemologist explains why the displacement of observational and experimental science with mathematics is a formula for disaster.

'People's History' of Gulf Oil Disaster Reveals Deadly Truth Behind Dispersant Corexit

A dispersant plane passed over an oil
skimmer in the Gulf of Mexico ten
days after Deepwater Horizon explosion

(Patrick Semansky / AP)
'People's History' of Gulf Oil Disaster Reveals Deadly Truth Behind Dispersant Corexit
Apr 19, 2013 | Jacob Chamberlain / Common Dreams

Report released on eve of Deepwater Horizon anniversary tells of BP lies and government collusion in oil 'clean-up'

Not only is the chemical dispersant that was used to "clean up" the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010 extremely dangerous, it was knowingly used to make the gushing oil merely "appear invisible" all the while exacerbating levels of toxicity in the Gulf waters, according to a report released Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, by the Government Accountability Project.

According to the report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?, Corexit—the dispersant chemical dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by oil giant BP and the U.S. government in the spill's aftermath—was widely applied "because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared."

 As GAP states: "In reality, the oil/Corexit mixture became less visible, yet much more toxic than the oil alone. Nonetheless, indications are that both BP and the government were pleased with what Corexit accomplished."

The Corexit/oil combination is highly toxic and will continue to cause "devastating long-term effects on human health and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem" for a long time into the future, the report warns.

GAP spent 20 months collecting evidence from "over two dozen employee and citizen whistleblowers who experienced the cleanup's effects firsthand," and from extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

"This report is a people's history to rebut a false advertising blitz by BP, enabled by government collusion," stated GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, co-author of the report.  "Gulf workers and residents who are still suffering deserve justice, and the public deserves the truth."

"The price for making the spill appear invisible has been deadly," he said. "It is time to stop covering up the truth about the deadly effects of the chemical cover-up Corexit."

"Taken together, the documents and the witnesses' testimony belie repeated corporate and government rhetoric that Corexit is not dangerous. Worse than this, evidence suggests that the cleanup effort has been more destructive to human health and the environment than the spill itself," the group stated Friday.

The report includes first hand accounts from cleanup workers, divers, local doctors, and residents.

The findings also include "higher than normal frequency of seafood mutations," and "pockets of 'dead' ocean areas where life was previously abundant."

"Through their testimony and emerging science, the truth about the spill response's toxic legacy is beginning to surface as the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion approaches," GAP stated.
Below is a small selection of some of the voices included in the report:
As an environmental scientist, I look at the way the government and BP are handling, describing and discussing the spill … [T]he government did not account for the increased toxicity of the combined oil and Corexit.
– Scott Porter, Diver, Marine Biologist

[W]hen a BP representative came up on the speedboat and asked if we need anything, I again explained my concerns about breathing in the Corexit and asked him for a respirator … He explained 'If you wear a respirator, it is bringing attention to yourself because no one else is wearing respirators, and you can get fired for that.'
– Jorey Danos, Cleanup Worker

What brought all of these individuals into the same pool was the fact that their symptoms were almost identical, and were different from anything that I had ever observed in my 40 plus years as a physician … However, until people are educated about the symptoms associated with exposure to toxic waste from the spill, we cannot assume they will make the connection. I continue to witness this disconnect and these symptoms on a daily basis.
– Dr. Michael Robichaux, Physician

They hired people from all over who didn't know about the conditions and real safety hazards, but you did what you had to do; you had to take the job and deal with it because you didn't have money to go home … There was a safety culture of, 'hush hush, it didn’t happen.'
– Anonymous Cleanup Worker

EPA and BP knew of the health impacts associated with [Corexit and oil] … The issue was responding to an oil spill of this magnitude, with unprecedented quantities of Corexit, including novel subsurface application. Gulf coastal communities, and individuals who consume gulf seafood or recreate in the gulf, are the guinea pigs left to deal with the consequences and will be feeling the full effect in years to come.
– Dr. Wilma Subra, Chemist, MacArthur Genius Award Recipient
Read the full report here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

No OSHA Inspections at Texas Plant in 5 Years: Are We Doing Enough to Protect Workplace Safety?

No OSHA Inspections at Texas Plant in 5 Years: Are We Doing Enough to Protect Workplace Safety?
Apr 17, 2013 | democracynow

http://www.democracynow.org - In the wake of the deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant, reporter Mike Elk of In These Times magazine joins us to discuss the plant's safety record and the troubling regulatory environment for workplaces in Texas and nationwide. more..

Texas explosion: Ruins, smoke, burning homes filmed shortly after blast (VIDEO)

screenshot from youtube video by user Paul Lannuier
Texas explosion: Ruins, smoke, burning homes filmed shortly after blast (VIDEO)
Apr 18, 2013 | RT

Residential houses ablaze, women and children crying, people running in panic, struggling through thick smoke blanketing the town. Taken by an accidental witness, a horrifying video reveals the chaos caused by the catastrophe in West, Texas.
Local resident Paul Lannuier was driving with a companion when they suddenly became witnesses to the devastation as many surrounding homes and buildings were destroyed in the blast at the West Fertilizer plant.

Follow LIVE UPDATES on Texas plant explosion

“Oh my God, Andrea lives in those apartments!” says the woman suddenly in the background as the car approaches the smoke and fire.

screenshot from youtube video by user Paul Lannuier
Many people were feared trapped in buildings.

n the video, the town is engulfed by fumes of toxic smoke, while residents try to reach through it to find out about their friends and relatives.

“Let’s see if anybody needs help,” the man who’s filming says, jumping out of the car and going towards a group of people gathered on the road.

Debris and shattered windows are seen thrown all across the neighborhood. A row of residential houses is partially or completely destroyed.

 As they park his car to observe the ruined community, he films children and women crying in despair as they stand watching the pluming smoke and flames in the distance. As he starts asking them, it becomes clear people just did not know what happened.

First guesses are that a plane crashed into the community.

“Everything blew up,” one of the witnesses tells him. “I thought something fell on my house!” one of the locals tells the man through tears.

West, Texas, is some 30km north of the town of Waco, and about 50km north of the small community of Crawford, where former President George W. Bush owns a ranch.

screenshot from youtube video by user Paul Lannuier


Caught on video: Fertilizer plant explosion near Waco, Texas

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima, Japan may be harming local infants

Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima, Japan may be harming local infants
Apr 17, 2013 | libertylover522

do it yourself solar power kits

Sea Lion Strandings Climb, Scientists Still Stumped

This year, an unusually high number of sea lion
pups have stranded on southern California's shores,
overwhelming marine mammal rehab centers
CREDIT: Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Sea Lion Strandings Climb, Scientists Still Stumped
Apr 17, 2013 | Live Science | Megan Gannon

Scientists still don't know why nearly 1,300 sickly sea lions have beached themselves on the shores of southern California since the beginning of the year. However, they think some weird oceanic phenomenon may be blocking off the sea lion pups' source of food, scientists reported today (April 17).

The stranded sea lions — mostly pups born last summer — are typically turning up alive, but severely emaciated, some weighing less than 20 pounds (9 kg) when they should be well over 50 pounds (22 kg), marine officials say.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared an "unusual mortality event" last month in light of the spike in strandings. Since the beginning of the year, 1,293 sea lions have washed ashore from San Diego County to Santa Barbara County. That's more than five times higher than the region's historical average of 236, averaged from the same period of time (January through April) from 2008 to 2012, said Sarah Wilkin, NOAA's marine mammal stranding coordinator for California. [Marine Marvels: Spectacular Photos of Sea Creatures]

The problem is most pronounced in Los Angeles County, where 459 strandings have been reported this year as of April 14. During the same period last year, 60 strandings were reported.

California hasn't seen a spike in starving sea lions on this scale since El Niño warmed up Pacific waters in 1998. El Niño conditions can diminish the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water needed to support large populations of fish that are eaten by other animals like sea lions.

"In the words of some of the other biologists, if this was an El Niño year, it would still be overwhelming but it wouldn't be all that surprising," Wilkin said. But this isn't an El Niño year, so the mystery remains.

Wilkin told reporters today (April 17) that biologists think an unseen oceanographic or environmental phenomenon is likely cutting the sea lion pups' supply of food, much like El Niño would. While adult sea lions and other marine mammals may be able to adapt their feeding habits in the face of a shortage, pups are more limited in how far they can travel for food and what they can eat.

A localized anomaly like that happened in 2009, causing an above-average number of strandings.

"The prevailing onshore winds did not blow as strongly as they usually do and it resulted in a lack of upwelling, which created a foraging difficulty for California sea lions," Wilkin explained.

Toxic algae blooms and infectious disease outbreaks also can trigger mass pup strandings. Researchers don't have evidence that either of those factors are contributing to the problem this year, but scientists are still waiting to see if tests on blood and tissue samples turn up bacterial, viral and other infectious agents or radioactive traces.

In a good sign, there has been a slowdown in the number of stranded, starving sea lion pups being admitted to rehab facilities, Wilkin said. At the same time, other animals are washing up. Northern elephant seals have just entered their stranding season and biologists have found a few adult female sea lions suffering from seizures, suggesting they may have been poisoned by the neurotoxin domoic acid, which is produced by multiple species of the genus Pseudo-nitzschia, a type of algae.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.