Saturday, April 30, 2011

Marie Beyon Ray, "This Moment"

"We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand...
and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late."
- Marie Beyon Ray

The Poet: Robert Frost, “Desert Places”

“Desert Places”
by Robert Frost
    “Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it - it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less -
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
WIth no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars - on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.”

"A Look to the Heavens;" Chet Raymo, "Desert Places"

"Why are these people shooting a powerful laser into the center of our Galaxy? Fortunately, this is not meant to be the first step in a Galactic war. Rather, astronomers at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) site in Chile are trying to measure the distortions of Earth's ever changing atmosphere. Constant imaging of high-altitude atoms excited by the laser - which appear like an artificial star - allow astronomers to instantly measure atmospheric blurring.

Click image for very large size.

This information is fed back to a VLT telescope mirror which is then slightly deformed to minimize this blurring. In this case, a VLT was observing our Galaxy's center, and so Earth's atmospheric blurring in that direction was needed. As for inter-galaxy warfare, when viewed from our Galaxy's center, no casualties are expected. In fact, the light from this powerful laser would combine with light from our Sun to together appear only as bright as a faint and distant star."
“Desert Places”
by Chet Raymo

“If there is a cognitive disconnect in contemporary culture it is between cosmic space and time and human space and time. Those folks who can seriously grasp the scale and age of the universe, with its tens of billions of observable galaxies and billions of years of evolutionary time, and still believe the universe (or its Maker) attends to them personally - well, they are more daring thinkers than me. Or more credulous. Which is why, I suppose that nearly half of Americans believe the universe is less than ten thousand years old - which is to say, that cosmic history and human history are the same. As for the physical scale of the universe, most people simply put it out of their minds. Conceptually, they choose to live in the cozy cosmic egg of Dante, as if half a millennium of science never happened.

And why not? The vast empty, silent spaces can be frightening. And it's not just that. It's also being cut adrift from our historical moorings, thousands of years of animistic and anthropomorphic tradition, thousands of years of living cheek-by-jowl with the gods. As the Roman Catholic priest Thomas Berry said, the older stories have become dysfunctional, but we have not yet contrived an equally satisfying new story to take their place. Berry tried, valiantly and well. Teilhard de Chardin tried. But they were fighting an uphill battle against the light-years and the eons, against Robert Frost's exterior and interior "desert places."

But maybe the story we are looking for has been here all along, in the mystical tradition of the absconded god, the god who is not this and is not that, who hides in a cloud of unknowing, who eludes even the personal pronoun "who." "What makes the desert beautiful," said Antoine se Saint-Exupery's Little Prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well."

Abdul Baha, "The Orchard"

“The world of existence is like unto an orchard and humanity is like unto the trees. All these trees are planted in the same orchard, reared through the heat of one sun, watered with one rain. We must be the cause of the adornment of this orchard. The world of humanity is like unto a rose garden and the various races, tongues and people are like unto contrasting flowers. The diversity of colors in a rose-garden adds to the charm and beauty of the scene as variety enhances unity. Why should we not look upon the human world with rose-colored vision?”

- Abdul Baha

Ginny Ditzler, "One Giant Step Toward Greater Self-Confidence"

"One Giant Step Toward Greater Self-Confidence"
by Ginny Ditzler

“Stop picking on yourself! We do this over and over, determined to be different, better, more enlightened, wiser, or whatever we're criticizing ourselves for at the moment. It's the old uphill battle. When are you ever going to be good enough? It's time to say goodbye to your lack of confidence once and for all.

I'll tell you how in a minute, but first, answer this question honestly: How long have you been trying to be good enough? My guess is that it's been since you were about 8 years old. Of course, it's not your fault; parents, teachers, friends, family and bosses have been doing their best to "set you straight" and help you to "make the most of your potential." But these good folks have long since stopped being to blame for how much you pick on yourself. As my dear friend Lew Epstein used to say, "That's their way of loving you." It's you that translated their well-meaning remarks into a lifetime of trying to prove yourself.

The problem is your underlying assumption that there's something wrong with you. Of course we all make mistakes, but that's not the point. It's not about being perfect or blameless. The answer is to forget about trying to be good enough. That's a complete waste of your time!

Just think about it for a second. Imagine a drop-dead gorgeous car, recently off the assembly line, now sitting on the dealer's lot - and picking on itself! I wish I were more like that Lexus over there. I ought to be red instead of black. What's wrong with me? I'm just not good enough.

Ridiculous, isn't it? But your spending so much energy trying to be good enough is just as stupid! Recently, long-time friend Morty Lefkoe blogged about how we came to be this way, and the huge cost to our relationships with others.

So, back to the question: are you ever going to be good enough? The answer is yes - you already are!

What can you do? Take responsibility for your greatness (yes, you!) so that your life isn't about becoming good enough; it's about finding ways to use your special gifts to make a difference. Appreciating yourself is the first step toward giving yourself permission to be who you are and making the contribution you're here to make.

Way beneath your habitual self-doubt, you want to make a difference with your life by making things better for your family, your friends, your community, your workplace - and beyond. In the past 30 years I've coached thousands of people, from high-powered CEOs to independent professionals to mothers ready to return to work, and I have yet to meet one single person who doesn't want their life to count. Although you may not be conscious of this basic motivation as you live day to day, these hidden drives are the strongest in your life.

The more conscious we are of this deep desire, the more we empower ourselves to make the necessary changes in our lives. That's why it means so much for you to stop picking on yourself; you're wasting at least half your energy, energy that could be much better used by doing what really matters to you. You are already more than good enough to make your contribution!

I've seen CEOs and top executives in large companies who think and act as if they were still waiting to be given permission to take the ball and run with it. Instead of making the changes they've been longing to make once they rose to a position of leadership and influence, they still hold back, afraid to take the lead they've earned.

Which is your life pursuit?

   1. What can I do to prove myself? To be good enough?

   2. What can I do with the gifts I have?

Use the model above to consider your own life pursuit. Does Life Pursuit 1 or Life Pursuit 2 best describe your current focus? How are you investing your heart, intelligence and life force? If you see that you're engaged in Life Pursuit 1, your awareness and your commitment to shift to Life Pursuit 2 are sufficient to make a fundamental transformation in your life.

Sometimes it takes a bit of time to wake up to what we're doing and which pursuit we're engaged in. When Tim and I were first married, we would sit at the dinner table in the evening having our meal and talking over how the day went. He was starting a company and found himself in a position of leadership and total corporate responsibility for the first time in his life. Although it was what he'd always wanted, it was frightening and scary now that the time had come to make it happen.

Every time he faced another new challenge - making his first cash flow, getting in more sales, training new staff - he'd have another attack of self-doubt. He was open with me and let me know how he was feeling. Night after night I reassured him, reminding him of his strengths and his greatness.

After months I noticed something about our conversations: they didn't seem to be making him feel any better. I realized that I'd become part of the problem and was feeding into his paradigm of Life Pursuit 1. We had to stop playing this game in order to help him empower himself. One night, when he was sharing his doubts about himself, I said, "You know, maybe you're right. You just might not have what it takes." That was the end of that game for both of us!

Spending time in Life Pursuit 1 is not only a time-waster; it's a comfort zone that you must leave in order to be the person you're meant to be. What motivates most of us far more than material success or recognition is our desire to be true to ourselves and live our lives in ways that demonstrate our personal values and beliefs.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Auburn, Alabama, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

“Geologists Solve Mystery of the Colorado Plateau”

“Geologists Solve Mystery of the Colorado Plateau”
 by ScienceDaily”

"A team of scientists led by Rice University has figured out why the Colorado Plateau - a 130,000-square-mile region that straddles Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico - is rising even while parts of its lower crust appear to be falling. The massive, tectonically stable region of the western United States has long puzzled geologists.

A paper published April 27 in the journal "Nature" shows how magmatic material from the depths slowly rises to invade the lithosphere - Earth's crust and strong uppermost mantle. This movement forces layers to peel away and sink, said lead author Alan Levander, professor and the Carey Croneis Chair in Geology at Rice University.

The invading asthenosphere is two-faced. Deep in the upper mantle, between about 60 and 185 miles down, it's usually slightly less dense and much less viscous than the overlying mantle lithosphere of the tectonic plates; the plates there can move over its malleable surface.

But when the asthenosphere finds a means to, it can invade the lithosphere and erode it from the bottom up. The partially molten material expands and cools as it flows upward. It infiltrates the stronger lithosphere, where it solidifies and makes the brittle crust and uppermost mantle heavy enough to break away and sink. The buoyant asthenosphere then fills the space left above, where it expands and thus lifts the plateau.

Levander and his fellow researchers know this because they've seen evidence of the process from data gathered by the massive USArray seismic observatory, hundreds of observatory-quality seismographs deployed 45 miles apart in a mobile array that covers a north/south strip of the United States. The seismographs were first deployed in the West in 2004 and are heading eastward in a 10-year process, with each seismograph station in place for a year and a half. Seismic images made by Rice that are analogous to medical ultrasounds were combined with images like CAT scans made by seismologists at the University of Oregon; the resulting images revealed a pronounced anomaly extending from the crust well into the mantle.

Levander said the combined Colorado Plateau images show the convective "drip" of the lithosphere just north of the Grand Canyon; the lithosphere is slowly sinking several hundred kilometers into the Earth. That process may have helped create the canyon itself, as lifting of the plateau over the last 6 million years defined the Colorado River's route.

Levander said USArray has found similar downwellings in two other locations in the American West; this suggests the forces deforming the lower crust and uppermost mantle are widespread. In both other locations, the downwellings happened within the past 10 million years. "But under the Colorado Plateau, we have caught it in the act," he said.

"We had to find a trigger to cause the lithosphere to become dense enough to fall off," Levander said. The partially molten asthenosphere is "hot and somewhat buoyant, and if there's a topographic gradient along the asthenosphere's upper surface, as there is under the Colorado Plateau, the asthenosphere will flow with it and undergo a small amount of decompression melting as it rises."

It melts enough, he said, to infiltrate the base of the lithosphere and solidify, "and it's at such a depth that it freezes as a dense phase. The heat from the invading melts also reduces the viscosity of the mantle lithosphere, making it flow more readily. At some point, the base of the lithosphere exceeds the density of the asthenosphere underneath and starts to drip."

Levander said the National Science Foundation-funded USArray is already providing a wealth of geologic data. "I have quite a few seismologist friends in Europe attempting to develop a EuroArray, one of whom said, 'Well, it looks like you have a machine producing Nature and Science papers.' Well, yes, we do," he said. "We can now see things we never saw before."

Co-authors of the paper are Cin-Ty Lee, associate professor of Earth science, and graduate student Kaijian Liu, both of Rice; Eugene Humphreys, professor of geophysics, and graduate student Brandon Schmandt of the University of Oregon; former Rice postdoctoral researcher Meghan Miller, now an assistant professor of Earth sciences at the University of Southern California; and Professor Karl Karlstrom and graduate student Ryan Crow of the University of New Mexico."

FREE Download: Andrew M. Lobaczewski, "Political Ponerology"

"Political Ponerology:
A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes"
by Andrew M. Lobaczewski

"Imagine - if you can - not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.

Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your coldbloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.

In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world. You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences will most likely remain undiscovered. How will you live your life? What will you do with your huge and secret advantage, and with the corresponding handicap of other people (conscience)?

The answer will depend largely on just what your desires happen to be, because people are not all the same. Even the profoundly unscrupulous are not all the same. Some people - whether they have a conscience or not - favor the ease of inertia, while others are filled with dreams and wild ambitions. Some human beings are brilliant and talented, some are dullwitted, and most, conscience or not, are somewhere in between. There are violent people and nonviolent ones, individuals who are motivated by blood lust and those who have no such appetites.

Provided you are not forcibly stopped, you can do anything at all. If you are born at the right time, with some access to family fortune, and you have a special talent for whipping up other people's hatred and sense of deprivation, you can arrange to kill large numbers of unsuspecting people. With enough money, you can accomplish this from far away, and you can sit back safely and watch in satisfaction.

Crazy and frightening - and real, in about 4-6 percent of the population..." - Martha Stout

"Political Ponerology" is a great book that should be read by everybody as it provides valuable information in understanding why our society has seen a disappearance of human values and an increase in hedonistic behaviours with little care for others. Lobaczewski's great contribution is in showing the process by which people with psychopathic personality disorders congregate and slowly take over organizations, political parties, businesses to finally stifle the whole of society.

It goes to great length in explaining the phenomenon of psychopathy on a macro scale. It deals in a non-judgmental way with the subject of evil. The author clearly lays out the various types of psychopathy and what happens when they combine their various talents and manage to take over a society from the inside and start to rule over normal people in the form of a pathocracy. Though the author primarily deals with examples from his own life experiences under the rule in the former Soviet Union, the parallels to today's world are chilling and very spot on. The book has many footnotes from the editor Laura Knight Jadczyk which clarifies and brings added information to some of the issues dealt with.

The book not only describes the process by which evil takes over but also how it progresses and how normal people can stand up to it. In order to do that, knowledge of the system is needed and that is what this book gives. As the author says at the end of the book then more research is needed, but it is a very profound seminal work that should inspire many to take up this important subject and continue the research. After reading this book I read 'The Sociopath Next Door' by Martha Stout, 'In Sheeps Clothing' by George Simon, 'The Mask of Sanity' by Hervey Checkley and 'Without Conscience' by Robert Hare, all of whom deal with different aspects of the phenomenon of psychopaths but on a micro scale. Very complimentary!"

Psychology: "The Rewards of Doing 'Something'"

"The Rewards of Doing 'Something'"
by Divya Menon, Association for Psychological Science
“People don't really care what they're doing - just as long as they are doing something. That's one of the findings summarized in a new review article published in “Current Directions in Psychological Science”, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

When psychologists think about why people do what they do, they tend to look for specific goals, attitudes, and motivations. But they may be missing something more general - people like to be doing something. These broader goals, to be active or inactive, may have a big impact on how they spend their time.

Author Dolores Albarracin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says she started paying attention to people's different levels of activity in various countries and saw how much busier people are in the US relative to other areas. "People have this inclination to do more, even if what they do is trivial," she says. In recent years, she has been doing research on how people feel about activity, including how easily she could change the level of activity that people aimed for. In one set of experiments, for example, she found that getting people to think about physical activity made them more interested in political activity. Albarracin co-wrote the review article with Justin Hepler and Melanie Tannenbaum, also of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Experiments have shown that the desire for activity is quite strong; people will go to a lot of trouble to maintain their desired level of activity, which can include unhealthy behaviors. Many psychologists have "the idea that people have these highly specific goals," Albarracin says. "But quite often some significant proportion of our time is engaged in this global level - we want to do something, but what we do ends up not mattering much. You could end up with productive behavior, like work, or impulsive behavior, like drug use."

The main obstacle to progress, according to Gurdjieff, was the mechanical nature of contemporary man, and his inability to carry anything through. From “In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching” by P. D. Ouspensky: Everything happens. All that befalls a man, all that is done by him, all that comes from him - all this happens... "Man is a machine. All his deeds, actions, words, thoughts, feelings, convictions, opinions, and habits are the results of external influences, external impressions. Out of himself a man cannot produce a single thought, a single action. Everything he says, does, thinks, feels - all this happens. Man cannot discover anything, invent anything. It all happens...

Everything happens - popular movements, wars, revolutions, changes of government, all this happens. And it happens in exactly the same way as everything happens in the life of individual man. Man is born, lives, dies, builds houses, writes books, not as he wants to, but as it happens. Everything happens. Man does not love, hate, desire - all this happens...  
There is another kind of mechanization which is much more dangerous: being a machine oneself. Have you ever thought about the fact that all peoples themselves are machines?" "Yes," I said, "from the strictly scientific point of view all people are machines governed by external influences. But the question is, can the scientific point of view be wholly accepted?"

"Scientific or not scientific is all the same to me," said G. "I want you to understand what I am saying. Look, all those people you see," he pointed along the street, "are simply machines - nothing more." "I think I understand what you mean," I said. "And I have often thought how little there is in the world that can stand against this form of mechanization and choose its own path." "This is just where you make your greatest mistake," said G. "You think there is something that chooses its own path, something that can stand against mechanization; you think that not everything is equally mechanical."

"Why, of course not!" I said. "Art, poetry, thought, are phenomena of quite a different order." "Of exactly the same order," said G. "These activities are just as mechanical as everything else. Men are machines and nothing but mechanical actions can be expected of machines." "Very well," I said. "But are there no people who are not machines? "It may be that there are," said G., "only not those people you see. And you do not know them. That is what I want you to understand."...

"People are so unlike one another," I said. "I do not think it would be possible to bring them all under the same heading. There are savages, there are mechanized people, there are intellectual people, there are geniuses."

"Quite right," said G., "people are very unlike one another, but the real difference between people you do not know and cannot see. The difference of which you speak simply does not exist. This must be understood. All the people you see, all the people you know, all the people you may get to know, are machines, actual machines working solely under the power of external influences, as you yourself said. Machines they are born and machines they die. How do savages and intellectuals come into this? Even now, at this very moment, while we are talking, several millions of machines are trying to annihilate one another. What is the difference between them? Where are the savages and where are the intellectuals? They are all alike . . . But there is a possibility of ceasing to be a machine."

"How It Really Is"

Kurt Vonnegut, "Why Bother?"

"Still and all, why bother? Here’s my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.” - Kurt Vonnegut

Greg Hunter, "Everything’s OK with Economy, Go Back to Sleep"

"Everything’s OK with Economy, Go Back to Sleep" 
By Greg Hunter’s

"It appears economist Paul Krugman thinks the budget and the economy are not in that bad of shape because he thinks the dire warnings are overdone.  In his latest Op-Ed piece this week, he said, “When I listen to current discussions of the federal budget, the message I hear sounds like this: We’re in crisis! We must take drastic action immediately! And we must keep taxes low, if not actually cut them further!  You have to wonder: If things are that serious, shouldn’t we be raising taxes, not cutting them?”   (Click here for the complete Op-Ed post from the New York Times.) 

Yes, that’s right, Mr. Krugman wants to raise taxes just as inflation in food and gasoline are heating up.  It is hard to understand why a Nobel Prize winner in economics wants to raise taxes in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression.  He doesn’t just want to raise taxes on the wealthy, but on the middle class as well.  He goes on to say the plan he backs, “. . . also calls for a rise in the Social Security cap, significantly raising taxes on around 6 percent of workers. And, by rescinding many of the Bush tax cuts, not just those affecting top incomes, it would modestly raise taxes even on middle-income families. . . .And the proposal achieves this without dismantling the legacy of the New Deal, which gave us Social Security, and the Great Society, which gave us Medicare and Medicaid.”  So, in Krugman’s eyes, we should continue going broke over the funding of Medicare and Medicaid?

Mr. Krugman also points out that taxes in the U.S., “. . . are much lower as a percentage of national income than taxes in most other wealthy nations.”  Who are those “other wealthy nations?”  Japan, France, Spain, the UK?  What Krugman conveniently leaves out is there is a sovereign debt crisis going on with many “wealthy” western countries.  Many are broke and are in severe budget crisis because of their cradle to grave nanny states.  Right now, the economy is in such bad shape that a record number of people require government handouts to survive.  A USA Today article said yesterday, “A record 18.3% of the nation’s total personal income was a payment from the government for Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits and other programs in 2010. Wages accounted for the lowest share of income — 51.0% — since the government began keeping track in 1929.”  (Click here to read the complete USA Today article.)  I don’t see how we can be in a recovery if record numbers of people require government handouts.  The last thing these people need are tax increases, on top of crushing inflation that will only get worse.

Inflation goes hand in hand with money printing, and America is printing dollars at an alarming pace.  Recently on his website, Congressman Ron Paul said, “Even the most conservative budget that has been proposed by Republican leadership requires raising the debt ceiling by an additional $9 trillion by 2021.  This demonstrates absolutely that no one in power right now has any real intention of addressing our spending problems or paying down the debt.  They simply expect to continue to borrow and run up more debt forever, without limit.  Yet they always imagine our dollar will have value no matter how many we print.    This expectation is foolish and naïve.  I guarantee that those buying our debt are not foolish and naïve enough to go along with this charade forever.”  (Click here for the complete Ron Paul post.) 

Other countries are not happy with the money printing by the U.S. which is currently the world’s reserve currency.  BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) held a summit recently, and according to financial writer JR Nyquist, the BRIC countries would like nothing better than to crush the U.S. dollar and change the balance of power.  Nyquist writes, “The sequence of unraveling is easy to follow. If you dump U.S. Treasuries, how will the U.S. dollar remain the global reserve currency? In that event, how will the United States finance its deficit spending? Interest rates would skyrocket, with predictable consequences.”  (Click here for the complete Nyquist post.)  The U.S. would be forced to print even more money to finance its debt, and the dollar would hyper-inflate.  This is not some farfetched scenario, but a definite possibility.  Nyquist goes on to say, “The BRIC summit testifies to the desire of Russia and China to undermine the dollar. However crazy you think such a scheme, they are nonetheless pursuing it. You might say it makes no sense, but you are not a “former” KGB officer or a member of the Chinese Communist Party. Do you really imagine that KGB officers and Communists are bourgeois, like you? No, they are not. They are the declared enemies of the bourgeoisie.” 

The U.S. is in a very serious economic and budget quagmire with no easy road out.  The Paul Krugmans of the world would like you to think that everything is okay with the economy–go back to sleep.  But if you do that, you will surely wake up in a nightmare.”

“Why the Feds are Powerless Against an Economic Downturn”

“Why the Feds are Powerless Against an Economic Downturn”
by Bill Bonner

“Okay, President Obama is a real, native-born citizen. Whew! That’s cleared up. But we never could figure out what the fuss was about. It didn’t make any difference to us where he was born. After all, you don’t have to be born in the USA to mess up an economy. Plenty of foreigners have done it. Plenty of Americans too. Yes, dear reader, Mr. Market is an equal-opportunity disaster-maker. Men, women, Black, White…Jew or Gentile…it doesn’t matter. As you sow, so shall ye reap – no matter who you are.

Here’s the AP report on the latest US “growth” figures:

WASHINGTON (AP) – “The economy slowed sharply in the first three months of the year. High gas prices cut into consumer spending, bad weather delayed construction projects and the federal government slashed defense spending by the most in six years. The 1.8 percent annual growth rate in the January-March quarter was weaker than the 3.1 percent growth in the previous quarter, the Commerce Department reported. And it was the worst showing since last spring when the European debt crisis slowed growth to a 1.7 percent pace.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other economists say the slowdown is a temporary setback. They generally agree that gas prices will stabilize and the economy will grow at a 3 percent pace in each of the next three quarters. But gas prices are still going up. The housing market has shown little signs of recovering. And lawmakers are proposing some of the steepest cuts in federal spending in a generation. Those cuts would filter down to state and local governments, which are already wrestling with their own budget crises.

“The economy has lost its modest upward momentum, and headwinds such as rising gasoline prices and further budget cuts suggest the recovery will continue at only a moderate pace going forward,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

The stock market went up anyway. The Dow rose 72 points. Gold rose too – up $16. The dollar is still going down. At this rate, gold will hit $1,600 in just a few weeks. And stocks? They’re above the high set on January 14, 2000, when the Dow hit 11,723. But adjust for inflation…and they’re still way down. The big downturn began in January 2000, not in 2007. Since January 2001, neither America’s real GDP, nor its stock market, has registered any real gains. Oh…and neither has its workforce; there are no more people working today than there were 10 years ago; and they take home no more disposable income.

You already know about the stock market. As for the lack of growth in GDP, our old friend Jim Davidson points out that while the total GDP has grown…the portion that is attributable to private sector activity has not; it was almost stagnant. And this was while the population grew by nearly 10%. In other words, per capita private sector output has gone down almost 10% since the stock market cracked in January, 2000.

Which is a damned shame. Because it shows that the feds are powerless. Their “stimulus” tricks don’t work. The Bush administration responded to the little downturn of 2001 with the greatest counter-cyclical stimulus program since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. If we recall the figures right, it went from a federal surplus of $200 billion to a deficit of $300 billion in one year’s time. Little good it did. The real economy did not grow. It just added debt; US federal government debt more than tripled over the 10 years. The private sector was adding debt at a ferocious pace too. Together with public sector debt, total debt crested at over 4 times GDP.

Then, to meet the challenge of debt liquidation in ’07-’09, the feds added more cash, more credit, and more funny money. Even today, 11 years after the beginning of the downturn…and 4 years after the beginning of the insolvency crisis, they’re still pumping $36 billion per week in fiscal (deficits) stimulus and $25 billion per week in QE money-printing. And this doesn’t include their zero interest rate lending. And what did all that accomplish? The last time the Fed reported, it said growth in the US economy was on a “firmer footing.” Now, according to Ben Bernanke’s press conference talk-up, it’s just “moderate.”

What is he talking about? The economy is going nowhere. After 10 years of slipping backward at a slow rate, it’s now beginning to slide faster. The latest figures show the economy in the first quarter “growing” at barely half the rate of the previous quarter. And you have to adjust this growth – 1.8%, according to the official estimates – to population growth and to a real measure of inflation. The population is growing at about a 1% rate…leaving about 0.8% “growth.” But over the last 3 months, the same quarter we’re talking about, according to the Billion Prices Project real-time Internet tracking, prices rose at a 7.4% annualized pace. That means the Labor Department’s inflation adjustment – 2.1% – is only a third of what it should be. And it means the real economy is actually shrinking, per capita, at about 5.3% per year.

And keep in mind. It would be much worse were it not for mind-blowing inputs from the feds. “That’s a confusing point,” Elizabeth noted yesterday. “You say the feds are doing the wrong thing. But you also say that it would be a lot worse if they didn’t do it.”

“Yes…it’s a paradox. But it’s true,” we explained. “If they’re willing to pump trillions more dollars into the economy, as Paul Krugman wants them to do, they can make it look like the economy is recovering. More people will have more money in their pockets. More people will have jobs. In the very short run, it will look better. Like a wartime economy. Or the Soviet economy. But the growth will be phony – built on government spending and unsustainable credit. Eventually, inflation rates will go up – making everyone poorer. Or the whole system will collapse into a much worse depression.”

The feds were able to create a huge bubble in ’03-’07. Now, they’re causing prices to bubble up again. But there is very little real growth. People are not earning more money. They are only barely increasing real output, not enough to keep up with population growth or with inflation. There is no recovery. Instead, the Great Correction continues.”

John B. Sheerin

"Happiness is not in our circumstances, but in ourselves. It is not something we see, like a rainbow, or feel, like the heat of a fire. Happiness is something we are.”
     - John B. Sheerin      

Dr. Andrew Weil, “Are You Depressed, Or Just Human?”

“Are You Depressed, Or Just Human?”
by Dr. Andrew Weil

"Depression can be devastating. Its worst form, major depressive disorder, is marked by all-encompassing low mood, thoughts of worthlessness, isolation, and loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities. But this clinical description misses the deep, experiential horror of the condition; the suffocating sense of despair that can make life seem too arduous to bear.

Here's something else we can say confidently about depression: it is complex. The cause is often a mix of factors including genetic brain abnormalities, sunlight deprivation, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and social issues including homelessness and poverty. Also, cause and effect can be hard to tease apart - is social isolation a cause or an effect of depression?

Unfortunately, we can make one more unassailable observation about depression: the disorder - or, more precisely, the diagnosis - has gone stratospheric. An astonishing 10 percent of the U.S. population was prescribed an antidepressant in 2005; up from 6 percent in 1996.

Why has the diagnosis become so popular? There are likely several reasons. It's possible that more people today are truly depressed than they were a decade ago. Urbanized, sedentary lifestyles; nutrient-poor processed food; synthetic but unsatisfying entertainments and other negative trends, all of which are accelerating, may be driving up the rate of true depression. But I doubt the impact of these trends has nearly doubled in just ten years.

So here's another possibility. The pharmaceutical industry is cashing in. In 1996, the industry spent $32 million on direct-to-consumer (DTC) antidepressant advertising. By 2005, that nearly quadrupled, to $122 million. It seems to have worked. More than 164 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in 2008, totaling $9.6 billion in U.S. sales. Today, the television commercial is ubiquitous:

* A morose person stares out of a darkened room through a rain-streaked window.

* Quick cut to a cheery logo of an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, the most common type of antidepressant pharmaceutical).

* Cross-fade to the same person, medicated and smiling, emerging into sunlight to pick flowers, ride a bicycle or serve birthday cake to laughing children.

* A voice over gently suggests, "Ask your doctor if [name of drug] is right for you."

The message - all sadness is depression, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, this pill will make you happy, your doctor will get it for you - could not be clearer. The fact that the ad appears on television, the ultimate mass medium, also implies that depression is extremely common.

Yet a study published in the April, 2007, issue of the “Archives of General Psychiatry,” based on a survey of more than 8,000 Americans, concluded that estimates of the number who suffer from depression at least once during their lifetimes are about 25 percent too high. The authors noted that the questions clinicians use to determine if a person is depressed don't account for the possibility that the person may be reacting normally to emotional upheavals such as a lost job or divorce (only bereavement due to death is accounted for in the clinical assessment). And a 15-year study by an Australian psychiatrist found that of 242 teachers, more than three-quarters met the criteria for depression. He wrote that depression has become a "catch-all diagnosis."

What's going on? It's clear that depression, a real disorder, is being exploited by consumer marketing and is over-diagnosed in our profit-driven medical system. Unlike hypertension or high cholesterol - which have specific, numerical diagnostic criteria - a diagnosis of depression is ultimately subjective. Almost any average citizen (particularly one who watches a lot of television) can persuade him or herself that transient, normal sadness is true depression. And far too many doctors are willing to go along.

The solution to this situation is, unsurprisingly, complex, cutting across social, medical, political and cultural bounds. But here are three major changes that are needed immediately:

* Medically, thousands of studies confirm that depression, particularly mild to moderate forms, can be alleviated by lifestyle changes. These include exercise, lowered caffeine intake, diets high in fruits and vegetables, and certain supplements, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Physicians need to be trained in these methods, as they are at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. See Natural Depression Treatment for more about these low-tech methods, or the "Depression" chapter in the excellent professional text, Integrative Medicine by David Rakel, M.D. (Saunders, 2007).

* Politically, if Congress - which seems hopelessly addicted to watering down all aspects of health care reform - can't manage to ban all DTC ads in one stroke, it should start by immediately ending those for antidepressants.

* Personally, be skeptical of all DTC ads for antidepressants. The drugs may turn out to be no more effective than placebos. Many of them have devastating side effects, and withdrawal, even if done gradually, can be excruciating. While they can be lifesavers for some people, in most cases they should be employed only after less risky and expensive lifestyle changes have been tried.

Finally, recognize that no one feels good all the time. An emotionally healthy person can, and probably should, stare sadly out of a window now and then. Many cultures find the American insistence on constant cheerfulness and pasted-on smiles disturbing and unnatural. Occasional, situational sadness is not pathology - it is part and parcel of the human condition, and may offer an impetus to explore a new, more fulfilling path. Beware of those who attempt to make money by convincing you otherwise.”
About the author: Andrew Weil, M.D., is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the editorial director of

Dr. Kevin Barrett, "Twilight of the Psychopaths"

"Twilight of the Psychopaths"
by Dr. Kevin Barrett

"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it." - John Lennon

When Gandhi was asked his opinion of Western civilization he said it would be a good idea. But that oft-cited quote is misleading, assuming as it does that civilization is an unmitigated blessing. Civilized people, we are told, live peacefully and cooperatively with their fellows, sharing the necessary labour in order to obtain the leisure to develop arts and sciences. And while that would be a good idea, it is not a good description of what has been going on in the so-called advanced cultures during the past 8,000 years. Civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths. All civilizations, our own included, have been based on slavery and "warfare." Incidentally, the latter term is a euphemism for mass murder.

Psychopaths have played a disproportionate role in the development of civilization, because they are hard-wired to lie, kill, injure, and generally inflict great suffering on other humans without feeling any remorse. The inventor of civilization - the first tribal chieftain who successfully brainwashed an army of controlled mass murderers- was almost certainly a genetic psychopath. Since that momentous discovery, psychopaths have enjoyed a significant advantage over non- psychopaths in the struggle for power in civilizational hierarchies - especially military hierarchies. Military institutions are tailor-made for psychopathic killers. The 5% or so of human males who feel no remorse about killing their fellow human beings make the best soldiers. And the 95% who are extremely reluctant to kill make terrible soldiers - unless they are brainwashed with highly sophisticated modern techniques that turn them (temporarily it is hoped) into functional psychopaths.

In "On Killing", Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has re-written military history, to highlight what other histories hide: The fact that military science is less about strategy and technology, than about overcoming the instinctive human reluctance to kill members of our own species. The true "Revolution in Military Affairs" was not Donald Rumsfeld's move to high-tech in 2001, but Brigadier Gen. S.L.A. Marshall's discovery in the 1940s that only 15-20% of World War II soldiers along the line of fire would use their weapons: "Those (80-85%) who did not fire did not run or hide (in many cases they were willing to risk great danger to rescue comrades, get ammunition, or run messages), but they simply would not fire their weapons at the enemy, even when faced with repeated waves of banzai charges."

Marshall's discovery and subsequent research, proved that in all previous wars, a tiny minority of soldiers - the 5% who are natural- born psychopaths, and perhaps a few temporarily-insane imitators- did almost all the killing. Normal men just went through the motions and, if at all possible, refused to take the life of an enemy soldier, even if that meant giving up their own. The implication: Wars are ritualized mass murders by psychopaths of non-psychopaths. (This cannot be good for humanity's genetic endowment!)

The implication, too frightening for even the likes of Marshall and Grossman to fully digest, was that the norms for soldiers' behavior in battle had been set by psychopaths. That meant that psychopaths were in control of the military as an institution. Worse, it meant that psychopaths were in control of society's perception of military affairs. Evidently, psychopaths exercised an enormous amount of power in seemingly sane, normal society.

How could that be? In "Political Ponerology," Andrzej Lobaczewski explains that clinical psychopaths enjoy advantages even in non-violent competitions to climb the ranks of social hierarchies. Because they can lie without remorse (and without the telltale physiological stress that is measured by lie detector tests) psychopaths can always say whatever is necessary to get what they want. In court, for example, psychopaths can tell extreme bald-faced lies in a plausible manner, while their sane opponents are handicapped by an emotional predisposition to remain within hailing distance of the truth. Too often, the judge or jury imagines that the truth must be somewhere in the middle, and then issues decisions that benefit the psychopath. As with judges and juries, so too with those charged with decisions concerning who to promote and who not to promote in corporate, military and governmental hierarchies. The result is that all hierarchies inevitably become top-heavy with psychopaths.

So-called conspiracy theorists, some of whom deserve the pejorative connotation of that much-abused term, often imagine that secret societies of Jews, Jesuits, bankers, communists, Bilderbergers, Muslim extremists, papists, and so on, are secretly controlling history, doing dastardly deeds, and/or threatening to take over the world. As a leading "conspiracy theorist" according to Wikipedia, I feel eminently qualified to offer an alternative conspiracy theory which, like the alternative conspiracy theory of 9/11, is both simpler and more accurate than the prevailing wisdom: The only conspiracy that matters is the conspiracy of the psychopaths against the rest of us.

Behind the apparent insanity of contemporary history, is the actual insanity of psychopaths fighting to preserve their disproportionate power. And as that power grows ever-more-threatened, the psychopaths grow ever-more-desperate. We are witnessing the apotheosis of the overworld- the criminal syndicate or overlapping set of syndicates that lurks above ordinary society and law just as the underworld lurks below it. In 9/11 and the 9/11 wars, we are seeing the final desperate power-grab or "endgame" of brutal, cunning gangs of CIA drug-runners and President-killers; money-laundering international bankers and their hit-men, economic and otherwise; corrupt military contractors and gung-ho generals; corporate predators and their political enablers; brainwashers and mind-rapists euphemistically known as psy-ops experts and PR specialists-in short, the whole sick crew of certifiable psychopaths running our so- called civilization. And they are running scared. It was their terror of losing control that they projected onto the rest of us by blowing up the Twin Towers and inciting temporary psychopathic terror-rage in the American public.

Why does the pathocracy fear it is losing control? Because it is threatened by the spread of knowledge. The greatest fear of any psychopath is of being found out. As George H. W. Bush said to journalist Sarah McClendon, December 1992, "If the people knew what we had done, they would chase us down the street and lynch us." His statement to McClendon should be taken seriously.

Psychopaths go through life knowing that they are completely different from other people. They quickly learn to hide their lack of empathy, while carefully studying others' emotions so as to mimic normalcy while cold-bloodedly manipulating the normals.

This manipulation of shame has the added benefit of making psychopathic organizations effectively invisible to normal society. Despite easily available media reports, American voters in 2004 simply refused to see that the two major-party presidential candidates had lain naked in a coffin masturbating in front of older Bonesmen in order to gain admission to "Skull and Bones" and thus become members of the criminal overworld. Likewise, many Americans have long refused to see that hawkish elements of the overworld, operating through the CIA, had obviously been the murderers of JFK, MLK, RFK, JFK Jr., Malcolm X, ChÈ, AllendÈ, Wellstone, Lumumba, Aguilera, Diem, and countless other relatively non-psychopathic leaders. They refuse to see the continuing murders of millions of people around the world in what amounts to an American holocaust. They refuse to see the evidence that the psychopaths' guilds running America's most powerful institutions use the most horrific forms of sexualized abuse imaginable to induce multiple-personality-disorder in child victims, then use the resulting mind-control slaves as disposable drug-runners, prostitutes, Manchurian candidates, and even diplomatic envoys. And of course they refuse to see that 9/11 was a transparently obvious inside job, and that their own psychopath-dominated military-intelligence apparatus is behind almost every major terrorist outrage of recent decades.

All of this psychopathic behavior at the top of the social hierarchy is simply too shameful for ordinary people to see, so they avert their gaze, just as wives of husbands who are sexually abusing their children sometimes refuse to see what is happening in plain view. If deep, deep denial were a river in Egypt, American citizens' willful blindness would be more like the Marianas Trench.

Truly, we are witnessing the twilight of the psychopaths. Whether in their death throes they succeed in pulling down the curtain of eternal night on all of us, or whether we resist them and survive to see the dawn of a civilization worthy of the name, is the great decision in which all of us others, however humbly, are now participating.”

About the writer: Dr. Kevin Barrett, co-founder of the Muslim-Christian-Jewish Alliance for 9/11 Truth, LINK, has taught English, French, Arabic, American Civilization, Humanities, African Literature, Folklore, and Islam at colleges and universities in the San Francisco Bay area, Paris, and Madison, Wisconsin. Barrett became a 9/11 truth activist in 2004 after reading David Griffin's "The New Pearl Harbor" and conducting follow-up research that convinced him Griffin had accurately summarized evidence indicating 9/11 was an inside job.

Friday, April 29, 2011

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Far beyond the local group of galaxies lies NGC 3621, some 22 million light-years away. Found in the multi-headed southern constellation Hydra, the winding spiral arms of this gorgeous island universe are loaded with luminous young star clusters and dark dust lanes. Still, for earthbound astronomers NGC 3621 is not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy.

Click image for larger size.

Some of its brighter stars have been used as standard candles to establish important estimates of extragalactic distances and the scale of the Universe. This beautiful image of NGC 3621 traces the loose spiral arms far from the galaxy's brighter central regions that span some 100,000 light-years. Spiky foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy and even more distant background galaxies are scattered across the colorful skyscape."

"A Moment With the Sea: John Denver, 'Calypso'"

"Grandfather Oscar, Working On the Railroad?"

By all accounts my grandfather Oscar had a life long aversion to employment. The very idea of “working” for someone else was totally unacceptable. So it came as a shock when he announced one day that the railroad company, Norfolk-Southern, had offered him a job at the local depot. His responsibility was to fill the water tender of arriving trains, since most trains at that time were still steam driven. He’d sit in the tower above the locomotive’s tender (much like the one pictured), turn on the spigot, and wait for the tank to fill up, when he’d turn it back off, a process that took all of about 10 minutes to complete. During his 8 hour shift only 2 trains were scheduled, though he was paid for the entire 8 hours. Well, Oscar managed to endure nearly 2 weeks of this ordeal, finally quitting in disgust at how being there all those hours “just ruined” his day! There would be no further talk about another job...

"Official ET Disclosure? 'NSA Document Admits ET Contact'"

"Official ET Disclosure? 'NSA Document Admits ET Contact'"
 By Kevin W. Smith

"On October 21, 2004, the NSA approved for release to the public a portion of their "NSA Journal" Vol. XIV No. 1.  This is a report of a presentation given to the NSA by Dr. Howard Campaigne regarding the decoding of extraterrestrial messages that had been received “form outer space”.  Apparently, these messages had actually been received via the Sputnik satellite, but no one had any idea how to decode them at the time. At some time, unspecified in the document, Dr. Howard  Campaigne and some other NSA super mathematicians in the crypto department had been given the task of decoding the messages.  There were a total of 29 messages to be decoded—quite an undertaking.

It is curious, to say the least, that this document was cleared for release on October 21, 2004.  Why was that?  Because the NSA did not release it into public information until April 21, 2011.  Though cleared for release, the NSA had beenstonewalling it along with hundreds of other NSA documents about contact with UFOs and extraterrestrials until they lost the lawsuit brought by Peter Gersten, a lawyer from Arizona.  When they well and truly lost, the judge’s order had to be carried out, and the documents had to be released.

Dr. Howard  Campaigne's “ExtraterrestrialSignals”: The document, as I stated, is Dr. Campaigne’s presentation to the NSA on the decoding of those messages.  It was actually published by the NSA in their own internalNSA Journal.  Yet, they were also forced to publish a list of search terms from FOIA requests for which they had found no NSA documents.  In that list is “Extraterrestrial Signals”.  The title of this document, which they published themselves is “Key To Extraterrestrial Messages”.
Quite obviously, they conveniently split hairs here in reporting they had no information about “Extraterrestrial Signals”.  They knew for sure they had this document, and that it was about what was being requested in the FOIA request.  They knew it, flaunted the technicality of wording, and continued to stonewall.

Who is Dr. Howard Campaigne? Dr. Campaigne is one of the top cryptologists on the planet with years and years of service to Naval Security Group, Army Security Agency, National Security Agency, and a couple of other such alphabet organizations. Howard H. Campaigne started his crypto career for the government  during World War II and has been a key and integral part of our U.S. security and intelligence ever since.  In other words, he is part of a very small, very select group who are considered the cream of the crop in Cryptology.

Dr. Campaigne’s presentation to the NSA on decoding the extraterrestrial messages was not a hypothetical exercise.  I contacted someone who is formerly associated with the NSA and still has TS clearance, and asked him to view the document.  I asked him to give me his take on it.  There was no question about its authenticity since it was published in the NSA Journal, and was released by the NSA on their web site.   What I wanted to know was whether this document had any particular impact or importance (other than its startling revelations) for someone familiar with the inner workings of the NSA.  It did.

My contact told me that he was blown away by the wording of the document.  He said that NSA communications are filled with words like “possibly” , “allegedly”, and “thought to be.” He said, “This document has none of the normal NSA disclaimer words in it.  They just come out and say ‘we received messages from outer space’ and this is the way to decode those messages.” I asked, “What does that mean to you?” His reply was instant. “Disclosure, pure and simple.  They aren’t making any fanfare about it, but there it is.  They have just made open disclosure.”

But what do the messages say? Dr. Campaigne focused on a set of information in a couple of the messages that turn out to be some mathematical equations.  They also contain the listing of all the elements in our Periodic Table.  I suppose those equations may make some sense to a physicist or engineer, but do not mean anything to me.  I clearly understand how Dr. Campaigne came to the translation since he explains it very well.  But, as to what the meaning of the equations are, I could not venture a guess.

It is curious, though, that during his presentation Dr. Campaigne mentions there are “words” that they have translated, and some “words” they have not yet begun to understand.  He gives an example of a connective word that he knows is connective (joining two or more statements) but does not yet understand the translation of that word.

Debunkers are scared as hell of the release of this information as it proves beyond any doubt that they are, and always have been, dead wrong.  Their careers as debunkers are finished in light of the revelation of this material.  They are already using the only possible “tool” left to them by saying, “That’s old information.  It’s been out there for years.”

As usual, they are either just uninformed, or outright lying.  It is true the document was cleared for release on October 21, 2004.  It is true that date is from “years”.  But it is also true that it WAS NOT released until April 21, 2011. "No, Virginia, that information has not been available for years."

Researching this development for my show,  I have found a great deal of other information that constitutes what most people would call open disclosure. This is truly blockbuster information.  No one from the government has stepped in front of the cameras and come clean about ET reality as yet.   But, here we have the most secret intelligence organization in the U.S.A. , theNational Security Agency, disclosing openly that there has been contact with intelligent extraterrestrials.   Not only that, we have decoded their messages.

Want to read the document for yourself?  Here it is. When you open the page, look at the address in your browser. You will see that it is the official NSA.GOV website: 

Want disclosure?  It appears to be here.”


The Daily "Near You?"

Sausalito, California, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

J. Krishnamurti, "A New Consciousness"

"A new consciousness and a totally new morality are necessary to bring about a radical change in the present culture and social structure. This is obvious, yet the Left and the Right and the revolutionary seem to disregard it. Any dogma, any formula, any ideology is part of the old consciousness; they are the fabrications of thought whose activity is fragmentation - the Left, the Right, the centre. This activity will inevitably lead to bloodshed of the Right or of the Left or to totalitarianism. This is what is going on around us. One sees the necessity of social, economic, and moral change but the response is from the old consciousness, thought being the principal actor. The mess, the confusion, and the misery that human beings have got into are within the area of the old consciousness, and without changing that profoundly,every human activity-political, economic or religious-will only bring us to the destruction of each other and of the earth."
- J. Krishnamurti,  "This Light in Oneself"
  • Hat tip to Sue Skidmore for this material. 

Nutrition: "Are You Enjoying Your Daily Chemical Cocktail?"

"Are You Enjoying Your Daily Chemical Cocktail?"
Kristin Wartman

"Chemicals and additives found in the food supply and other consumer products are making headlines regularly as more and more groups raise concern over the safety of these substances. In a statement released this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked for reform to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. The group is particularly concerned about the effects these substances have on children and babies.

Last month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) held hearings on the safety of food dyes but failed to make a definitive ruling. The most recent study on Bisphenol-A (BPA) added to growing doubts about its safety; but the FDA's stance on it remains ambiguous. Meanwhile, in 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported [PDF] that the FDA is not ensuring the safety of many chemicals. Yet while the FDA stalls and hedges on the safety of these substances, Americans are exposed to untested combinations of food additives, dyes, preservatives, and chemicals on a daily basis. Indeed, for the vast majority of Americans consuming industrial foods, a veritable chemical cocktail enters their bodies every day and according to the GAO report, "FDA is not systematically ensuring the continued safety of current GRAS substances."

The term GRAS refers to "generally regarded as safe," the moniker the FDA uses to regulate food additives, dyes, and preservatives. The trouble is, this system is not effective. Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union, said in an interview that many additives in our food supply are never even tested. That's because the GRAS designation is a voluntary process - instead of being required to register food additives, companies can notify the FDA about their product, but only if they so choose. Hansen added that even for those additives considered GRAS, he didn't have much faith in the designation.

So just how many of these largely untested and unregulated chemicals is the average American consuming every day? As of yet, no study has determined this number nor has looked at what the effects of the various combinations might be. But according to the Is It In Us? website, there are 80,000 chemicals in commerce and the site says that, "No one is ever exposed to a single chemical, but to a chemical soup, the ingredients of which may interact to cause unpredictable health effects."

There are only a few studies that evaluate the combined effects of food additives. One 2006 study published in Toxicology Science concludes that the combination of several common additives appears to have a neurotoxic effect:

    "Although the use of single food additives at their regulated concentrations is believed to be relatively safe in terms of neuronal development, their combined effects remain unclear."

Of the four additives looked at, only one is now banned in the U.S., while the rest remain in the foods on our grocery store shelves. In a 2000 study, researchers looked at the combination of four major food additives or a mixture of six typical artificial food colors and found indications of toxicity in both.

And perhaps the most alarming study dates back to 1976 from the Journal of Food Science. In this study, young rats were fed a low-fiber diet along with sodium cyclamate, FD&C Red No. 2, and polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate individually and in combination. While the study found that any one of the three food additives given individually had little negative effect, the combination of all three additives resulted in weight loss and the death of all test animals within 14 days. Sodium cyclamate is an artificial sweetener now banned in the U.S., but FD&C Red No. 2, a food dye, and polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate, an emulsifier, are still in regular use in the food supply, according to the FDA's website.

BPA, another regularly used chemical, has raised a number of concerns. The most recent study found that when participants switched to a diet with minimal amounts of canned foods or plastic food packaging, urinary levels of BPA decreased by more than 60 percent after just three days. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly all Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies, which has been linked to breast and prostrate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, obesity, and ADHD. This study indicates how quickly the body will excrete BPA if given the opportunity, but here's the key: The body must be given the opportunity to do so. Many Americans don't take three-day fresh food breaks from a diet based largely on packaged and processed foods. What's more, BPA is just one of the chemical compounds with potentially harmful effects entering into our systems.

Based on the anecdotal information I see in my clients' food journals, people eating processed and packaged foods are taking in exorbitant amounts of artificial ingredients and additives. Typically, a client will say something like, "I eat a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk, have yogurt for a snack, and a Subway sandwich for lunch." While this sounds relatively harmless, here's what it might actually look like based on some popular "health food" items:

    * One serving of Kellogg's Fiber Plus Antioxidants Berry Yogurt Crunch contains more than 13 different additives, preservatives, and food dyes, including Red 40 and Blue 1, which are known to cause allergic reactions in some people and mutations leading to cancer in lab animals. It also contains BHT, monoglycerides, and cellulose gum. In addition, conventional milk often contains residues of artificial bovine growth hormones, known endocrine disruptors as well as antibiotics used in industrial milk production.

    * Dannon Light & Fit Peach yogurt contains more than 11 different additives including Red 40, aspartame, potassium sorbate, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium.

    * A Subway sandwich of turkey and cheese on nine-grain bread with fat-free honey mustard, peppers, and pickles contains more than 40 different additives, preservatives, and dyes. The pickles and peppers have Yellow 5 and polysorbate 80, the bread has 10 different additives including dough conditioners, DATEM, and sodium stearoyl lactylate, and the turkey contains 10 additives as well.

The person in this example has consumed more than 60 food additives eating breakfast, a small snack, and lunch alone, to say nothing of dinner, dessert, further snacking, and drinks. Consumers Union's Dr. Hansen told me, "I wouldn't be surprised if it were up to 100 additives or more that people are taking in on a daily basis."

And it's not just food. A number of additional toxins also enter our systems from other industrial sources and often come in the form of phthalate plasticizers and parabens - both of which are used in personal care products, some medications, and even foods and food preservation. Most Americans use some form of shampoo, soap, lotion, and antiperspirant every day, and these toxins, applied to the skin, are absorbed dermally.

According to a 2010 study, like BPA, parabens and phthalates can clear our bodies relatively quickly but only if we aren't exposed to them on a regular basis. The study states, "For serious health problems to arise, exposure to these rapidly-clearing compounds must occur on a daily basis." Phthalates are associated with infertility, obesity, asthma, and allergies, as well as breast cancer; parabens are a cause for concern regarding breast cancer.

So what if it's not the dyes alone, the preservatives alone, or the BPA alone, but some haphazard combination thereof that has yet to be studied or evaluated properly? Jason August, with the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety, admitted as much in his defense of food dyes in relation to ADHD recently when he said, "There were other factors in most of these studies that could have been the reason or could have gone hand in hand with the dyes to create these problems in these particular children, including preservatives." This is precisely why the FDA needs to be more rigorous with its testing of individual additives and start evaluating the combined effects or "other factors" that August so blithely refers to here.

Chemicals used in all of these industrial products are big business - food corporations own some of the largest personal care companies and they're profiting on multiple fronts with cheap, industrial ingredients. For example, Nestlé owns 30 percent of the world's largest cosmetic and beauty company L'Oreal - tightly regulating these substances and evaluating potential harm would be a financial hardship for these corporations.

But the real hardship is placed on the American people who trust that the foods they eat are properly regulated by the government and safe for themselves and their families. How long will the FDA continue to put the health of the American people at risk with its antiquated policy? Let's hope with pressure from groups like the AAP, changing consumer demand, and continued headlines, the FDA will finally do its job."

Kristin Wartman is a food writer living in Brooklyn. She has a Masters in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and is a Certified Nutrition Educator. She is interested in the intersections of food, health, politics, and culture. You can read more of her writing here.

Paulo Coelho, "The Art of Dancing"

"The Art of Dancing"
by Paulo Coelho

"When I was an adolescent I envied the great “ballerinos” among the kids on the block, and pretended I had other things to do at parties – like having a conversation. But in fact I was terrified of looking ridiculous, and because of that I would not risk a single step. Until one day a girl called Marcia called out to me in front of everybody: “Come on!” I said I did not like to dance, but she insisted.

Everyone in the group was looking, and because I was in love (love is capable of so many things!), I could refuse no further. I did not know how to follow the steps, but Marcia did not stop; she went on dancing as if I were a Rudolf Nureyev. “Forget the others and pay attention to the bass,” she whispered in my ear. “Try to follow its rhythm.”

At that moment I understood that we do not always have to learn the most important things; they are already part of our nature. When we become adults, and when we grow old, we need to go on dancing. The rhythm changes, but music is part of life, and dancing is the consequence of letting this rhythm come inside us.

I still dance whenever I can. With dancing, the spiritual world and the real world manage to co-exist without any conflicts. As somebody once said, the classic ballerinas are always on tiptoe because they are at the same time touching the earth and reaching the sky.”

"How It Really Is"

Addison Wiggin, "Another Benefit of Being Too Big to Fail"

"Another Benefit of Being Too Big to Fail"
by Addison Wiggin

"If nothing else, these WikiLeaks cables give you pause. Yesterday afternoon, we learned the government’s been up to no good in the “front that shall not be named” across the US’s southern border with Mexico. After the president claimed on April 16, 2009, that “more than 90% of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States,” we find out now how true that statement was. But rather than coming “from gun shops that line our border,” as the president had characterized the transactions, it turned out the Mexican government bought $177 million in US-made weapons in 2009 – more than was the total purchases made by Iraq or Afghanistan.

Mexican cops and soldiers then sold or gave the weapons to the drug gangs they are supposed to be used against. “US law enforcement has fair reason to worry a number of weapons simply ‘disappear,’” reads one of cables, dated November 2009. “The violence has been exported to Mexico,” was a common refrain we heard on last month’s exploratory mission to Colombia.

Some US weapons follow a more direct route from the US government to the drug gangs. In February, it emerged that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives was funneling weapons through US gun dealers to the drug gangs in Mexico – a sting operation. Roughly 2,500 weapons made their way into Mexico as part of “Project Gunrunner.” The sting backfired. Two of the guns were used in a shootout on the Arizona border last December, killing a US Border Patrol agent. Serial numbers reveal the guns used were from the Project Gunrunner crop.

Word comes too, that back when Wachovia was still an independent bank, it was laundering money for the Mexican drug gangs – $378 billion worth moved through Mexican currency exchanges. The transactions were made public last year when Wells Fargo – which ended up hitched to Wachovia in one of Hank Paulson’s shotgun marriages during the Panic of 2008 – was hauled into federal court. “Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws,” said federal prosecutor Jeffrey Sloman, “gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations.”

So the Feds threw the book at Wells and its directors went to jail like regular drug users… right? Not so much. The case was dismissed after Wachovia paid $160 million in fines and penalties. Must be nice to belong to the “too big to fail” club. Membership has its privileges. We suspect there’s much more to this story worth keeping an eye on. By the grace of WikiLeaks and other leveling technologies, the unraveling of the security apparatus of the empire…and the financial chicanery therein…will likely be a recurring theme of these pages in the near and distant future. Just a guess…”