Monsanto, America’s Monster


Last month, the University of San Francisco made an alarming discovery, that 93% of Americans tested had traces of a chemical called glyphosate in their urine. Last year, the World Health Organization deemed glyphosate a “possible carcinogen”.

Glyphosate is the main ingredient in biotech giant Monsanto’s flagship product: Roundup, an herbicide sprayed all over almost every acre of food grown. Not only has Roundup been dumped around the world more than any other weed killer in history, but the US is its largest customer. According to the US Geological Survey, a record 280 million pounds were used in 2010 alone, nearly a pound of poison for every American.

Monsanto has already proven it cannot be trusted to care about anything but money, especially when lives are at stake. In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin issues a scathing exposé on the corporate polluter, chronicling its rise to power, the collusion of its crimes with the US government, and the serious danger it poses today.


Monsanto, America’s Monster


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Used & Betrayed – 100 Years of US Troops as Lab Rats

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.49.07 AMOn Memorial Day, politicians will speak at ceremonies all over the country and repeat their favorite mantra: “Support the troops.”

This pledge is hammered into the American psyche at every turn. But there’s a hidden, dark history that shows that the politicians are in fact no friend to service members–but their greatest enemy.

An easy way to prove this is to look at how they so quickly betray and abandon their soldiers after purposely ruining their lives, and even after using them as literal lab rats. 

In this disturbing chapter of The Empire Files, Abby Martin documents decades of experimentation on unwitting US troops—from nuclear tests to psychotropic drugs—as well as knowingly exposing them to deadly poisons, from Agent Orange to sarin gas.

Most infuriating is that the hundreds of thousands of veterans seeking help from the government for the side-effects of these tests are always met with lies and denial. Be prepared to be armed with info and pissed off about how veterans are really treated in the US Empire.


Used & Betrayed: 100 Years of US Troops as Lab Rats


FOLLOW // @EmpireFiles & @AbbyMartin


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Untouchable Big Oil Threatens All Life On Earth

octopus-monopoly600In a system that puts profits over everything, small gangs of billionaires are given free rein to plunder the planet. One of the richest power cliques in the Empire’s inner circle is also imperiling all life on earth at an alarming rate, only to make their pockets fatter.

In the United States, the oil industry is a giant, cash-engorged beast with the loyal servitude of the state at its beck and call. It’s vast accumulation of wealth led to its vast accumulation of power and influence in today’s society.

All life on Earth is threatened by catastrophic climate change–the main culprit is so powerful that the US government is set up to serve it, rather than regulate it.

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin uncovers Big Oil’s strong-arm reach–its growth, its crimes, its power and its impunity.

Featuring interviews with two investigative journalists who have covered oil disasters on-the-ground, Antonia Juhasz, author of “Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill”, and Greg Palast, author of “Vulture’s Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores”.


Untouchable Big Oil Threatens All Life on Earth


FOLLOW // @EmpireFiles and @AbbyMartin


Drone Wars Can’t Exist Without Decades-Long Genocide in Congo

DronebyFLICKRAKROCKEFELLERIn January of 2014, a UN surveillance drone crashed in Eastern Congo.

According to the UN, the drone was part of a surveillance operation to keep tabs on warring militias that have been fighting in the country since 1996.

Ironic, considering the manufacture of drones is entirely dependent on the bloody conflict taking place on the ground below. That’s because the source of cobalt, a vital mineral in defense technologies like drones, is one of the many resources rebel groups in the Congo are fighting to control. In fact, every death by way of drone can be traced back to the embattled history of this region.

For several decades beginning in 1908, the Congo was a Belgian colony. In 1960,  a nationalist movement led by young postal clerk Patrice Lumumba was successful in gaining the country’s independence. Lumumba was then chosen as the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Congo that year.

However his popularity, driven by a commitment to the economic and political liberation of the country, dissatisfied former colonists in Belgium and their American allies. Only months after his election, Lumumba was deposed by Western-backed forces. Within a year, he was captured by those forces and subsequently executed by firing squad on January 17, 1961.

After several years of jockeying for power, in 1965 military strongman Mobutu Sese Seko came to power in a US/Belgium backed coup. A staunch anti communist, Mobutu used much of the Congo’s resources to his personal gain, amassing a multi-billion dollar personal fortune throughout his years of cooperation with western governments and corporations.

It was during Mobutu’s rule in 1982 that the Congressional Budget Office released a report entitled “Cobalt: Policy Options for a Strategic Mineral”. In it, the CBO outlines how cobalt is an essential mineral used in American aerospace and defense technologies. Because of its necessity, the CBO declares that if cobalt supplies were to shortfall, it would be of great concern for the US government and national security.

The CBO also points out that the greatest producer of cobalt is the Congo, at the time known as Zaire. The report determines that the greatest threat to cobalt production in the Congo would be political unrest and quote “guerrilla insurrection” against Mobutu’s hardline rule.

Fifteen years later, the threat of Mobutu’s overthrow became a reality.

When Mobutu was ousted in 1997, Congo fell into chaos from which it never recovered, culminating with the takeover of yet another pro-western dictator Joseph Kabila in 2001 – but the violence never stopped. Despite enjoying a cozy relationship with US leaders, it is estimated that somewhere between 5.4 to 6 million people have died under Kabila’s watch in the deadliest conflict since World War II. According to Friends of the Congo spokesperson Kambale Musavuli, the conflict can all be traced back to the “War on Terror”.

“The battle in the Congo has really been about who’s going to control Congo’s resources and for whose benefit,” he says. “Cobalt [is] a mineral very essential to modern technologies…found in aerospace, in drones, in airplanes, in nuclear reactors, and it is a strategic mineral to the so called war on terror.”

In 2011, Kabila gave approval for American Mining Company Freeport-McMoRan to expand its ownership of the Tenke Fungureme mine – the largest cobalt reserve in the world – to 56 percent, making him quite popular in Washington.

However, not everyone in the US government has turned a blind eye to the fact that minerals like cobalt come with a heavy human cost. That’s why a few members of Congress made an effort to classify some resources as “conflict minerals,” which would require companies to disclose the sources of their products.

In fact, hidden within the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill, “Section 1502” promises to “monitor and stop commercial activities involving the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo that contribute to the armed activities of armed groups and human rights violations”.

Yet cobalt was not named among the four “conflict minerals” classified in the report, despite the fact that it’s the most strategic and abundant resource in the Congo.

Perhaps that’s no surprise, considering that the VP of International Affairs at Freeport (formally VP of Africa), Melissa Sanderson, was a Political Counselor to the State Department for over two decades before joining the company. Specifically, she was the Charge d’Affairs at the US Embassy in the Congo.

With the conflict of interest so entrenched and drone strikes replacing conventional warfare, it’s hard to imagine how any top-down policy could foster real change. Ultimately, Musavuli says that rather than count on governments and corporations to put peace before profits, the solution lies in the people.

“They need the people in Pakistan [and] Afghanistan who are being bombed day and night by drones to know that those drones would be able to be sending those missiles [into their] community if the western powers did not have access to minerals in the Congo,” he says. “[Minerals] such as uranium, such as cobalt…creating those alliances with people who believe in peace and freedom and human dignity will be a change maker as we continue to support those who are fighting on the ground [in the Congo].”

Indeed, while the struggle begins with democratizing the source of cobalt in the Congo, it won’t prevail without global solidarity. Yet until people realize the interconnectedness of these conflicts, such unity may prove to be its greatest obstacle.

Written by Anya Parampil, Follow me @anyaparampil

Photo by flickr user AK ROCKEFELLER

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BP: Scandal, Lies and Another Massive Oil Spill Cover-Up

BP Thierry EhrmannForget Stephen King. If you want scary, read U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s 150-page Findings of Fact released recently in the Deepwater Horizon case.

Although the judge found BP liable for “gross negligence,” some U.S. media failed to mention that Barbier let BP off the hook on punitive damages. And that stuns me, given that the record seems to identify enough smoking guns to roast a sizable pig.

Every rig operator knows that, before a rig can unhook from a drill pipe, the operator has to run a “negative pressure test” to make sure the cement has properly sealed the drill pipe.

If the pipe is safely plugged, the pressure gauge will read zero. The amount of pressure BP measured at 5 p.m. on April 20, 2010, the day of the explosion? 1400 psi (see the findings, pages 62-65).

1400 psi is not zero. Stick a balloon in your mouth with zero pressure and nothing happens except that you look silly. Replace the balloon with a hose delivering a 1400 psi blast and it’ll blow your skull apart.

So, how could the company record zero? Answer: BP’s crew re-ran the test measuring the pressure in something called the “kill line,” which is definitely not the drill pipe.

By reporting that the pipe had no pressure and all was safe, BP could begin to unhook the Deepwater Horizon from the pipe—and sail away. Why would BP do that? In my view, there were three motives: money, money and money. It costs BP a good half million dollars each extra day the rig stays on top of the drill hole. It seems it wanted the rig gone, and quickly.

Instead of halting the disconnection process, BP appears to have lied and recorded the pressure reading as “zero.” The rig’s owner, Transocean of Switzerland, went along with BP’s actions.

So how did BP get away with mere “gross negligence” as opposed to the more serious claim of fraud? Because the court found that the blowout, explosion, fire and oil spill were caused by “misinterpretation of the negative pressure test.”

Misinterpretation? If a woman says “thanks” when you say she’s dressed nicely and you think she wants a kiss, that’s “misinterpretation.” But on the Deepwater Horizon, the drill pipe gauge read 1400 psi and BP picked a different pipe that gave the company the magic zero. That’s not, I contend, “misinterpretation.”

Maybe the judge thought he was pretty tough by calling out BP for “gross” negligence (rather than plain-vanilla negligence, the finding against Transocean and contractor Halliburton). But, in fact, it seems Barbier fell for the Three Stooges defense.

Throughout the 150-page decision, the judge cites one instance after another of bone-headed, buffoonish, slapstick decisions, and plenty of pratfalls and banana-peel slips by BP, Transocean and Halliburton. You have to wonder how these schmucks even found their drill hole. It was a corporate Larry-Moe-and-Curly-Joe routine that would provide a lot of belly laughs if 11 men hadn’t died as a result.

I’ve seen the Three Stooges defense before in federal court. In 1988, the corporate owner and the builder of the Shoreham nuclear plant were on trial on accusations they bilked their New York customers out of $1.8 billion. In court, they pleaded stupidity and incompetence as a defense against deliberate deception. As the government’s investigator, I didn’t buy it—billion-dollar corporations can’t be that stupid—and neither did the jury. (The racketeering charges were settled after trial for $400 million.)

And here is a new set of Stooges: BP plays Larry, Transocean puts on Moe’s wig and Halliburton makes “Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!” sounds like Curly Joe. Halliburton, the judge found, failed to test the final cement mix and BP bitched about it—“[Halliburton engineer Jesse Gagliano] isn’t cutting it any more,” reads an email between two BP managers on the rig—but BP went ahead and used the bad cement anyway (Findings, paragraphs 227-228)

When the pressure in the drill pipe read 1400 psi, BP and Transocean managers should have stopped the rig departure immediately. They didn’t. Nevertheless, other systems should have prevented a blowout. According to Barbier, other safety systems were jacked with to save a penny here, a penny there (or, a million here, a million there). Example: BP used leftover cement (Findings, paragraphs 209-211) that contained chemicals that destroyed the integrity of the new cement, because using the old stuff saved some serious cash.

Barbier had the power to levy a fine big enough to make BP plc, BP America’s London-based parent corporation—a company with revenue of a quarter of a trillion dollars a year—go “ouch.” But to slam BP with a fine that would hurt, the judge needed to hear from the Justice Department about corporate-wide perfidy. He pointed out that the case would have to be made against BP plc, the international parent, if he were to level a fine that would punish the corporation.

Against BP there is evidence aplenty. For years BP plc has played fast and loose with safety—from Asia to Alaska.

Chasing BP across five continents, I’ve found that “gross negligence” could be BP’s corporate motto. In 2010, I was arrested in Azerbaijan hunting down evidence of another BP/Transocean offshore blowout that occurred 17 months before the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The cause of the Caspian blowout was the same as in the Gulf disaster: mishandling of “foamed” cement. Had BP not covered up the prior blowout off the coast of Azerbaijan, the deaths and destruction in the Gulf, I’m certain, would have been avoided.

More on the Caspian Sea blowout and BP ruling on Breaking the Set with Abby Martin:


What?! Another Massive BP Oil Spill Coverup?


The ugly truth is that the U.S. State Department knew of the Caspian disaster and kept its lips sealed. Furthermore, the U.S. government can’t tag BP as an endemically rogue, dangerous operator without casting doubt on the administration’s recent grant to the corporation of new deep tracts to drill in the Gulf of Mexico.

So maybe it was not the judge but the public that was blinded by the government and media crowing about a possible $18 billion fine for gross negligence. Eighteen billion dollars may sound like a lot to us mere mortals, but to a trillion-dollar behemoth like BP, it is not a punishment, but a reasonably priced permit for plunder.

Greg Palast is award winning author and journalist.

This article was originally published in Truthdig. Photo by flickr user Thierry Ehrmann

Watch Breaking the Set’s exclusive follow-up on the 2010 BP Oil Spill from the Gulf.

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