The World According to Monsanto (FULL LENGTH)
Uploaded by eboyuk on May 18, 2011
There’s nothing they are leaving untouched: the mustard, the okra, the bringe oil, the rice, the cauliflower. Once they have established the norm: that seed can be owned as their property, royalties can be collected. We will depend on them for every seed we grow of every crop we grow. If they control seed, they control food, they know it — it’s strategic. It’s more powerful than bombs. It’s more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world. The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers via the “revolving door”. One example is Michael Taylor, who worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the company’s vice president for public policy.
Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government agencies, the US adopted GE foods and crops without proper testing, without consumer labeling and in spite of serious questions hanging over their safety. Not coincidentally, Monsanto supplies 90 percent of the GE seeds used by the US market. Monsanto’s long arm stretched so far that, in the early nineties, the US Food and Drugs Agency even ignored warnings of their own scientists, who were cautioning that GE crops could cause negative health effects. Other tactics the company uses to stifle concerns about their products include misleading advertising, bribery and concealing scientific evidence.
Single strain of killer virus wiping out global bee population
Bee populations have been falling rapidly in many countries, fuelled by a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. Its cause is unclear but the Varroa mite is a prime suspect, since it spreads viruses while feeding on hemolymph, or bee’s “blood”.
To clarify the link between mites and viruses, a team led by Stephen Martin of Britain’s University of Sheffield studied the impact of Varroa in Hawaii, which the mites have only recently invaded.
They found the arrival of Varroa increased the prevalence of a single type of virus, deformed wing virus (DWV), in honey bees from around 10 percent to 100 percent.
At the same time the amount of DWV virus in the bees’ bodies rocketed by a millionfold and there was a huge reduction in virus diversity, with a single strain of DWV crowding out others.
“It is that strain that is now dominant around the world and seems to be killing bees,” Martin said in a telephone interview. “My money would be on this virus as being key.”
* * *
The Guardian: Honeybee decline linked to killer virus
Martin noted that the weakening of colonies through lack of food or the presence of damaging pesticides would make them more vulnerable to infestation.
The varroa mite’s role means the virus is now one of the “most widely distributed and contagious insect viruses on the planet”, the researchers warned. Furthermore, the new dominance of the killer virus poses an ongoing threat to colonies even after beekeepers have eradicated the mites from hives.
Varroa destructor has spread from Asia across the entire world over the past 50 years. It arrived in the UK in 1990 and has been implicated in the halving of bee numbers since then, alongside other factors including the destruction of flowery habitats in which bees feed and the widespread use of pesticides on crops. Bees and other pollinators are vital in the production in up to a third of all the food we eat, but the role the mites played was unclear, as bacteria and fungi are also found in colonies along with the viruses.
But the mite’s arrival in Hawaii in 2007 gave scientists a unique opportunity to track its deadly spread. “We were able to watch the emergence of the disease for the first time ever,” said Stephen Martin, at the University of Sheffield, who led the new research published in the journal Science. Within a year of varroa arrival, 274 of 419 colonies on Oahu island (65%) were wiped out, with the mites going on to wreak destruction across Big Island the following year.
A particular virus, called deformed wing virus (DWV), was present in low and apparently harmless levels in colonies before the mites arrived, the scientists found. Even when the mites first invaded hives, the virus levels remained low. “But the following year the virus levels had gone through the roof.” said Martin. “It was a millionfold increase – it was staggering.”
The other key finding was that one DWV strain had gone from making up 10% of the virus population to making up 100%. “The viral landscape had changed and to one that happened to be deadly to bees,” Martin said, noting the DWV strain was the same one found around the world. “There is a very strong correlation between where you get this DWV strain and where you get huge amounts of colony losses. We are almost certain this study seals the link between the two.” [...]
Martin noted that the weakening of colonies through lack of food or the presence of damaging pesticides would make them more vulnerable to infestation.
Forest lands in the East attract oil and gas bidders, but some question rush
By Juliet Eilperin, Published: June 8
Private land overlying shale deposits can sell for thousands of dollars an acre; land in the most recent BLM forest leases averaged $47 per acre.
Robert Bonnie, senior adviser to the secretary of agriculture for environment and climate, said Friday that the government decided to delay the auction of 42,965 acres in Alabama’s Talladega National Forest because “both the Forest Service and the BLM recognize the need to solicit public input on this.” But he said the government would press ahead with energy exploration elsewhere on national forests.
“What we balance is conservation and resource extraction,” Bonnie said.
“Forest Service areas are multiple-use lands,” said Dan Naatz, vice president for federal resources at the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “Our concern is Forest Service areas are being more and more managed like national parks, rather than for multiple use.”
But environmentalists, as well as some officials in regions that have experienced an uptick in lease applications, said the small BLM office in Springfield overseeing forests in 31 Eastern states is ill-equipped to evaluate the requests it is receiving from prospective land buyers.
The deal clears spectrum for public safety agencies to use along the border
IDG News Service – The U.S. and Mexican governments have reached agreements on the sharing of wireless spectrum on the border of the two countries, opening up spectrum in the 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz bands to commercial services and public safety agencies, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said Friday.
The signing of two agreements Friday allows the FCC to move forward with longtime efforts to reband, or reconfigure, the 800 MHz spectrum across the U.S. and give public safety agencies contiguous spectrum to operate wireless emergency response services, the FCC said.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski participated in discussions between the two countries Friday at the U.S. Department of State, the FCC said.
“These agreements with Mexico will unleash investment and benefit consumers near the borders by enabling the rollout of advanced wireless broadband service and advanced systems for critical public safety and emergency response communications,” he said in a statement.
The 800 MHz agreement, replacing an earlier agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, allots band segments between the two countries and sets the technical parameters for operating in those segments within 68 miles of the border.
The agreement for the 1.9 GHz band allows Sprint Nextel to deploy mobile service along the border with Mexico.A Sprint obtained access to the 1.9 GHz band in 2004 as compensation for vacating its spectrum holding in the lower segment of the 800 MHz band as part of the rebanding project.
Public safety and commercial mobile services were originally “mixed together” on the same spectrum in the 800 MHz block, according to the RadioReference.com wiki. In the late 1990s,
RFID CHIP UNLEASHED ON USA UTAH NEWS!!!!!
Published on May 29, 2012 by Hawkkey davis
On May 29 2012 the news in Utah aired this segment on the RFID chip. The government wants chip kids to get them to go to school. They say that it’s to bring revenue to the school district. People in Mexico are already using it on their kids beause of kidnappers. Meny people think that the tchnology is not a good idea. Proof that kids that are in school means more money for district.
MICROCHIPS FOR THE WORLD COMING SOON.
the FCC found significant interference with public safety communications, leading the agency to work on rebanding the 800 MHz block.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cost of online spying: Your privacy and your wallet
Published on May 23, 2012 by TheOpenmedia
Take action: http://OpenMedia.ca/stand
- Would you want up to three billion dollars of your country’s tax dollars spent on Vic Toews’ online spying plan? How would you feel if Public Safety Minister Vic Toews had already quietly set aside your tax dollars for the scheme?
This isn’t a hypothetical question. Despite media stories saying the bill will die, just last week Vic Toews arrogantly proclaimed that the government is still “intent on proceeding” with his unpopular warrantless online spying bill. And he just set aside millions of your tax dollars to pay for it.
To push back, we’re launching a viral video—a new tool to help you educate as many Canadians as possible about this costly online spying scheme. We know from experience that when people get informed and get vocal en masse, we win.
Directed by Jeremy Brown
Survival / Sustainability
Zeer Pot Fridge. Cool your food or drinks with no electric needed!
Uploaded by mixcatcom on Aug 1, 2011
Zeer Pot Fridge. Cool your food or drinks with no electric needed!
This DIY project uses a red clay pot and sand to cool the contents inside from evaporation. Evaporator coolers work great and they are very easy to make. This Zeer pot might have been what the ancients used to keep their produce fresh in the summer seasons to last longer. I think this could be very handy if we were to loose power.. Please comment rate and subscribe.
All the best,
prehistoric refrigerator called a zeer pot
Backyard aquaponics: DIY system to farm fish with vegetables
Uploaded by kirstendirksen on Aug 22, 2011
Rob Torcellini bought a $700 greenhouse kit to grow more vegetables in his backyard. Then he added fish to get rid of a mosquito problem and before long he was a committed aquaponic gardener. Now his 10 by 12 foot greenhouse is filled with not only vegetables, but fish. And the best part is: the poo from that fish is what fertilizes his garden. Aquaponics combines fish farming (aquaculture) with the practice of raising plants in water (hydroponics). It’s organic by definition: instead of using chemical fertilizers, plants are fertilized by the fish poo (and pesticides/herbicides can’t be introduced to kill pests because they could harm the fish). Since the plants don’t need dirt, aquaponics allows gardeners to produce more food in less space. And in addition to the vegetables they can grow, most aquaponics gardeners cultivate edible fish as well. In this video, Rob shows us the aquaponics greenhouse in his Connecticut backyard, that he built mostly from scavenged parts, as well as his DIY indoor system where he’s growing lettuce under a grow light.
Bigelow Brook Farm: http://www.bigelowbrook.com
Original story on faircompanies:
Let’s start by laying down the baseline premise: inequality in America has been widening for decades. We’re all aware of the fact. Yes, there are some on the right who deny this reality, but serious analysts across the political spectrum take it for granted. I won’t run through all the evidence here, except to say that the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent is vast when looked at in terms of annual income, and even vaster when looked at in terms of wealth – that is, in terms of accumulated capital and other assets. Consider the Walton family: the six heirs to the Walmart empire possess a combined wealth of some $90 billion, which is equivalent to the wealth of the entire bottom 30 percent of U.S. society. (Many at the bottom have zero or negative net worth, especially after the housing debacle.) Warren Buffett put the matter correctly when he said, “There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class has won.”
So, no: there’s little debate over the basic fact of widening inequality. The debate is over its meaning. From the right, you sometimes hear the argument made that inequality is basically a good thing: as the rich increasingly benefit, so does everyone else. This argument is false: while the rich have been growing richer, most Americans (and not just those at the bottom) have been unable to maintain their standard of living, let alone to keep pace. A typical full-time male worker receives the same income today he did a third of a century ago.
From the left, meanwhile, the widening inequality often elicits an appeal for simple justice: why should so few have so much when so many have so little? It’s not hard to see why, in a market-driven age where justice itself is a commodity to be bought and sold, some would dismiss that argument as the stuff of pious sentiment.
Put sentiment aside. There are good reasons why plutocrats should care about inequality anyway – even if they’re thinking only about themselves. The rich do not exist in a vacuum. They need a functioning society around them to sustain their position. Widely unequal societies do not function efficiently and their economies are neither stable nor sustainable. The evidence from history and from around the modern world is unequivocal: there comes a point when inequality spirals into economic dysfunction for the whole society, and when it does, even the rich pay a steep price.
Let me run through a few reasons why.
The Consumption Problem
When one interest group holds too much power, it succeeds in getting policies that help itself in the short term rather than help society as a whole over the long term. This is what has happened in America when it comes to tax policy, regulatory policy, and public investment. The consequence of channeling gains in income and wealth in one direction only is easy to see when it comes to ordinary household spending, which is one of the engines of the American economy.
It is no accident that the periods in which the broadest cross sections of Americans have reported higher net incomes – when inequality has been reduced, partly as a result of progressive taxation – have been the periods in which the U.S. economy has grown the fastest. It is likewise no accident that the current recession, like the Great Depression, was preceded by large increases in inequality. When too much money is concentrated at the top of society, spending by the average American is necessarily reduced – or at least it will be in the absence of some artificial prop. Moving money from the bottom to the top lowers consumption because higher-income individuals consume, as a fraction of their income, less than lower-income individuals do.
In our imaginations, it doesn’t always seem as if this is the case, because spending by the wealthy is so conspicuous. Just look at the color photographs in the back pages of the weekend Wall Street Journal of houses for sale. But the phenomenon makes sense when you do the math. Consider someone like Mitt Romney, whose income in 2010 was $21.7 million. Even if Romney chose to live a much more indulgent lifestyle, he would spend only a fraction of that sum in a typical year to support himself and his wife in their several homes. But take the same amount of money and divide it among 500 people – say, in the form of jobs paying $43,400 apiece – and you’ll find that almost all of the money gets spent.
The relationship is straightforward and ironclad: as more money becomes concentrated at the top, aggregate demand goes into a decline. Unless something else happens by way of intervention, total demand in the economy will be less than what the economy is capable of supplying – and that means that there will be growing unemployment, which will dampen demand even further. In the 1990s that “something else” was the tech bubble. In the first decade of the 21st century, it was the housing bubble. Today, the only recourse, amid deep recession, is government spending – which is exactly what those at the top are now hoping to curb.
The “Rent Seeking” Problem
Here I need to resort to a bit of economic jargon. The word “rent” was originally used, and still is, to describe what someone received for the use of a piece of his land – it’s the return obtained by virtue of ownership, and not because of anything one actually does or produces. This stands in contrast to “wages,” for example, which connotes compensation for the labor that workers provide. The term “rent” was eventually extended to include monopoly profits – the income that one receives simply from the control of a monopoly. In time, the meaning was expanded still further to include the returns on other kinds of ownership claims. If the government gave a company the exclusive right to import a certain amount of a certain good, such as sugar, then the extra return was called a “quota rent.” The acquisition of rights to mine or drill produces a form of rent. So does preferential tax treatment for special interests. In a broad sense, “rent seeking” defines many of the ways by which our current political process helps the rich at the expense of everyone else, including transfers and subsidies from the government, laws that make the marketplace less competitive, laws that allow C.E.O.’s to take a disproportionate share of corporate revenue (though Dodd-Frank has made matters better by requiring a non-binding shareholder vote on compensation at least once every three years), and laws that permit corporations to make profits as they degrade the environment.
The magnitude of “rent seeking” in our economy, while hard to quantify, is clearly enormous. Individuals and corporations that excel at rent seeking are handsomely rewarded. The financial industry, which now largely functions as a market in speculation rather than a tool for promoting true economic productivity, is the rent-seeking sector par excellence. Rent seeking goes beyond speculation. The financial sector also gets rents out of its domination of the means of payment – the exorbitant credit- and debit-card fees and also the less well-known fees charged to merchants and passed on, eventually, to consumers. The money it siphons from poor and middle-class Americans through predatory lending practices can be thought of as rents. In recent years, the financial sector has accounted for some 40 percent of all corporate profits. This does not mean that its social contribution sneaks into the plus column, or comes even close. The crisis showed how it could wreak havoc on the economy. In a rent-seeking economy such as ours has become, private returns and social returns are badly out of whack.
In their simplest form, rents are nothing more than re-distributions from one part of society to the rent seekers. Much of the inequality in our economy has been the result of rent seeking, because, to a significant degree, rent seeking re-distributes money from those at the bottom to those at the top.
But there is a broader economic consequence: the fight to acquire rents is at best a zero-sum activity. Rent seeking makes nothing grow. Efforts are directed toward getting a larger share of the pie rather than increasing the size of the pie. But it’s worse than that: rent seeking distorts resource allocations and makes the economy weaker. It is a centripetal force: the rewards of rent seeking become so outsized that more and more energy is directed toward it, at the expense of everything else. Countries rich in natural resources are infamous for rent-seeking activities. It’s far easier to get rich in these places by getting access to resources at favorable terms than by producing goods or services that benefit people and increase productivity. That’s why these economies have done so badly, in spite of their seeming wealth. It’s easy to scoff and say: We’re not Nigeria, we’re not Congo. But the rent-seeking dynamic is the same.
The Fairness Problem
People are not machines. They have to be motivated to work hard. If they feel that they are being treated unfairly, it can be difficult to motivate them. This is one of the central tenets of modern labor economics, encapsulated in the so-called efficiency-wage theory, which argues that how firms treat their workers – including how much they pay them – affects productivity. It was, in fact, a theory elaborated nearly a century ago by the great economist Alfred Marshall, who observed that “highly paid labour is generally efficient and therefore not dear labour.” In truth, it’s wrong to think of this proposition as just a theory: it has been borne out by countless economic experiments.
While people will always disagree over the precise meaning of what constitutes “fair,” there is a growing sense in America that the current disparity in income, and the way wealth is allocated in general, is profoundly unfair. There’s no begrudging the wealth accrued by those who have transformed our economy – the inventors of the computer, the pioneers of biotechnology. But, for the most part, these are not the people at the top of our economic pyramid. Rather, to a too large extent, it’s people who have excelled at rent seeking in one form or another. And, to most Americans, that seems unfair.
People were surprised when the financial firm MF Global, headed by Jon Corzine, suddenly collapsed into bankruptcy last year, leaving victims by the thousands as a result of actions that may prove to have been criminal; but given Wall Street’s recent history, I’m not sure people were all that surprised to learn that several MF Global executives would still be getting their bonuses. When corporate C.E.O.’s argue that wages have to be reduced or that there must be layoffs in order for companies to compete – and simultaneously increase their own compensation – workers rightly consider what is happening to be unfair. This in turn affects their efforts on the job, their loyalty to the firm, and their willingness to invest in its future. The widespread sense by workers in the Soviet Union that they were being mistreated in exactly this way – exploited by managers who lived high on the hog – played a major role in the hollowing out of the Soviet economy, and in its ultimate collapse. As the old Soviet joke had it, “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”
In a society in which inequality is widening, fairness is not just about wages and income, or wealth. It’s a far more generalized perception. Do I seem to have a stake in the direction society is going, or not? Do I share in the benefits of collective action, or not? If the answer is a loud “no,” then brace for a decline in motivation whose repercussions will be felt economically and in all aspects of civic life.
For Americans, one key aspect of fairness is opportunity: everyone should have a fair shot at living the American Dream. Horatio Alger stories remain the mythic ideal, but the statistics paint a very different picture: in America, the chances of someone’s making it to the top, or even to the middle, from a place near the bottom are lower than in the countries of old Europe or in any other advanced industrial country. Those at the top can take comfort from knowing that their chances of becoming downwardly mobile are lower in America than they are elsewhere.
There are many costs to this lack of opportunity. A large number of Americans are not living up to their potential; we’re wasting our most valuable asset, our talent. As we slowly grasp what’s been happening, there will be an erosion of our sense of identity, in which America is seen as a fair country. This will have direct economic effects – but also indirect ones, fraying the bonds that hold us together as a nation.
The Mistrust Problem
One of the puzzles in modern political economy is why anyone bothers to vote. Very few elections actually turn on the ballot of a single individual. There is a cost to voting – no state has an explicit penalty for staying home, but it takes time and effort to get to the polls – and there is seemingly almost never a benefit. Modern political and economic theory assumes the existence of rational, self-interested actors. On that basis, why anyone would vote is a mystery.
The answer is that we’ve been inculcated with notions of “civic virtue.” It is our responsibility to vote. But civic virtue is fragile. If the belief takes hold that the political and economic systems are stacked, individuals will feel released from their civic obligations. When that social contract is abrogated – when trust between a government and its citizens fails – disillusionment, disengagement, or worse is sure to follow. In the United States today, and in many other democracies around the world, mistrust is on the ascendant.
It’s even built in. The head of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, made it perfectly clear: sophisticated investors don’t, or at least shouldn’t, rely on trust. Those who bought the products his bank sold were consenting adults who should have known better. They should have known that Goldman Sachs had the means, and the incentive, to design products that would fail; that they had the means and the incentive to create asymmetries of information – where they knew more about the products than the buyers did – and the means and the incentive to take advantage of those asymmetries. The people who fell victim to the investment banks were, for the most part, well-off investors. But deceptive credit-card practices and predatory lending have left Americans more broadly with a sense that banks are not to be trusted.
Economists often underestimate the role of trust in making our economy work. If every contract had to be enforced by one party taking the other to court, our economy would be in gridlock. Throughout history, the economies that have flourished are those where a handshake is a deal. Without trust, business arrangements based on an understanding that complex details will be worked out later are no longer feasible. Without trust, each participant looks around to see how and when those with whom he is dealing will betray him.
Widening inequality is corrosive of trust: in its economic impact, think of it as the universal solvent. It creates an economic world in which even the winners are wary. But the losers! In every transaction – in every encounter with a boss or business or bureaucrat – they see the hand of someone out to take advantage of them.
Nowhere is trust more important than in politics and the public sphere. There, we have to act together. It’s easier to act together when most individuals are in similar situations – when most of us are, if not in the same boat, at least in boats within a range of like sizes. But growing inequality makes it clear that our fleet looks different – it’s a few mega-yachts surrounded by masses of people in dugout canoes, or clinging to flotsam – which helps explain our vastly differing views of what the government should do.
Today’s widening inequality extends to almost everything – police protection, the condition of local roads and utilities, access to decent health care, access to good public schools. As higher education becomes more important – not just for individuals but for the future of the whole U.S. economy – those at the top push for university budget cuts and tuition hikes, on the one hand, and cutbacks in guaranteed student loans, on the other. To the extent that they advocate student loans at all, it’s as another opportunity for rent seeking: loans to for-profit schools, without standards; loans that are non-dischargeable even in bankruptcy; loans designed as another way for those at the top to exploit those aspiring to get out of the bottom.
The “Be Selfish” Solution
Many, if not most, Americans possess a limited understanding of the nature of the inequality in our society. They know that something has gone wrong, but they underestimate the harm that inequality does even as they overestimate the cost of taking action. These mistaken beliefs, which have been reinforced by ideological rhetoric, are having a catastrophic effect on politics and economic policy.
There is no good reason why the 1 percent, with their good educations, their ranks of advisers, and their much-vaunted business acumen, should be so misinformed. The 1 percent in generations past often knew better. They knew that there would be no top of the pyramid if there wasn’t a solid base – that their own position was precarious if society itself was unsound. Henry Ford, not remembered as one of history’s softies, understood that the best thing he could do for himself and his company was to pay his workers a decent wage, because he wanted them to work hard and he wanted them to be able to buy his cars. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a purebred patrician, understood that the only way to save an essentially capitalist America was not only to spread the wealth, through taxation and social programs, but to put restraints on capitalism itself, through regulation. Roosevelt and the economist John Maynard Keynes, while reviled by the capitalists, succeeded in saving capitalism from the capitalists. Richard Nixon, known to this day as a manipulative cynic, concluded that social peace and economic stability could best be secured by investment – and invest he did, heavily, in Medicare, Head Start, Social Security, and efforts to clean up the environment. Nixon even floated the idea of a guaranteed annual income.
So, the advice I’d give to the 1 percent today is: Harden your hearts. When invited to consider proposals to reduce inequality – by raising taxes and investing in education, public works, health care, and science – put any latent notions of altruism aside and reduce the idea to one of unadulterated self-interest. Don’t embrace it because it helps other people. Just do it for yourself.
Articles of Interest
Suicides are surging among America’s troops, averaging nearly one a day this year – the fastest pace in the nation’s decade of war.
The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan – about 50 percent more – according to Pentagon statistics obtained by The Associated Press.
The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago. The military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other misbehavior.
Because suicides had leveled off in 2010 and 2011, this year’s upswing has caught some officials by surprise.
The reasons for the increase are not fully understood. Among explanations, studies have pointed to combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems. Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide, although a substantial proportion of Army suicides are committed by soldiers who never deployed.
The unpopular war in Afghanistan is winding down with the last combat troops scheduled to leave at the end of 2014. But this year has seen record numbers of soldiers being killed by Afghan troops, and there also have been several scandals involving U.S. troop misconduct.
The 2012 active-duty suicide total of 154 through June 3 compares to 130 in the same period last year, an 18 percent increase. And it’s more than the 136.2 suicides that the Pentagon had projected for this period based on the trend from 2001-2011. This year’s January-May total is up 25 percent from two years ago, and it is 16 percent ahead of the pace for 2009, which ended with the highest yearly total thus far.
Suicide totals have exceeded U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan in earlier periods, including for the full years 2008 and 2009.
The suicide pattern varies over the course of a year, but in each of the past five years the trend through May was a reliable predictor for the full year, according to a chart based on figures provided by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.
The numbers are rising among the 1.4 million active-duty military personnel despite years of effort to encourage troops to seek help with mental health problems. Many in the military believe that going for help is seen as a sign of weakness and thus a potential threat to advancement.
Kim Ruocco, widow of Marine Maj. John Ruocco, a helicopter pilot who hanged himself in 2005 between Iraq deployments, said he was unable to bring himself to go for help.
“He was so afraid of how people would view him once he went for help,” she said in an interview at her home in suburban Boston. “He thought that people would think he was weak, that people would think he was just trying to get out of redeploying or trying to get out of service, or that he just couldn’t hack it – when, in reality, he was sick. He had suffered injury in combat and he had also suffered from depression and let it go untreated for years. And because of that, he’s dead today.”
Ruocco is currently director of suicide prevention programs for the military support organization Tragedy Assistance Programs, or TAPS. She joined the group after her husband’s suicide, and she organized its first program focused on support for families of suicide victims.
Jackie Garrick, head of a newly established Defense Suicide Prevention Office at the Pentagon, said in an interview Thursday that the suicide numbers this year are troubling.
“We are very concerned at this point that we are seeing a high number of suicides at a point in time where we were expecting to see a lower number of suicides,” she said, adding that the weak U.S. economy may be confounding preventive efforts even as the pace of military deployments eases.
Garrick said experts are still struggling to understand suicidal behavior.
“What makes one person become suicidal and another not is truly an unknown,” she said.
Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, a retired Army brigadier general and a practicing psychiatrist, said the suicides reflect the level of tension as the U.S. eases out of Afghanistan though violence continues.
“It’s a sign in general of the stress the Army has been under over the 10 years of war,” he said in an interview. “We’ve seen before that these signs show up even more dramatically when the fighting seems to go down and the Army is returning to garrison.”
But Xenakis said he worries that many senior military officers do not grasp the nature of the suicide problem.
A glaring example of that became public when a senior Army general recently told soldiers considering suicide to “act like an adult.”
Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division, last month retracted – but did not apologize for – a statement in his Army blog in January. He had written, “I have now come to the conclusion that suicide is an absolutely selfish act.” He also wrote, “”I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us.” He did also counsel soldiers to seek help.
His remarks drew a public rebuke from the Army, which has the highest number of suicides and called his assertions “clearly wrong.” Last week the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, said he disagrees with Pittard “in the strongest possible terms.”
The military services have set up confidential telephone hotlines, placed more mental health specialists on the battlefield, added training in stress management, invested more in research on mental health risk and taken other measures.
The Marines established a counseling service dubbed “DStress line,” a toll-free number that troubled Marines can call anonymously. They also can use a Marine website to chat online anonymously with a counselor.
The Marines arguably have had the most success recently in lowering their suicide numbers, which are up slightly this year but are roughly in line with levels of the past four years. The Army’s numbers also are up slightly. The Air Force has seen a spike, to 32 through June 3 compared to 23 at the same point last year. The Navy is slightly above its 10-year trend line but down a bit from 2011.
As part of its prevention strategy, the Navy has published a list of “truths” about suicide.
“Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane,” it says. “They might be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing.”
In a report published in January the Army said the true impact of its prevention programs is unknown.
“What is known is that all Army populations … are under increased stress after a decade of war,” it said, adding that if not for prevention efforts the Army’s suicide totals might have been as much as four times as high.
Marine Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently issued a video message to all military members in which he noted that suicides “are sadly on the rise.”
“From private to general, we shoulder an obligation to look and listen for signs and we stand ready to intervene and assist our follow service member or battle buddy in time of need,” Battaglia said.
The suicide numbers began surging in 2006. They soared in 2009 and then leveled off before climbing again this year. The statistics include only active-duty troops, not veterans who returned to civilian life after fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nor does the Pentagon’s tally include non-mobilized National Guard or Reserve members.
The renewed surge in suicides has caught the attention of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Last month he sent an internal memo to the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders in which he called suicide “one of the most complex and urgent problems” facing the Defense Department, according to a copy provided to the AP.
Panetta touched on one of the most sensitive aspects of the problem: the stigma associated seeking help for mental distress. This is particularly acute in the military.
“We must continue to fight to eliminate the stigma from those with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues,” Panetta wrote, adding that commanders “cannot tolerate any actions that belittle, haze, humiliate or ostracize any individual, especially those who require or are responsibly seeking professional services.”
AP broadcast correspondent Sagar Meghani contributed to this report.
Source: Associated Press
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges.
MT. PLEASANT, MICHIGAN – Experts believe that one of the single most federal American Indian policies that impact lives of American Indians today was the policy that created the boarding schools. Dr. Suzanne Cross, Saginaw Chippewa, associate professor of social work at Michigan State University, is one such expert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on historical trauma associated with boarding schools. Dr. Cross was one of the speakers who spoke at yesterday’s event.
The Remembrance took place on the grounds of the former
Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School.
Wounds take time to heal. Even when wounds heal, scars remain.
Even though the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School closed decades ago in 1934, the scars remain.
Historical trauma is passed down from one generation to the next.
So, it was only appropriate for those gathered in this college town located in central Michigan at the grounds of the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School for the “Honoring, Healing & Remembering” to come with together as a means to heal from the scars of the boarding school experience.
The Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School was established in 1893 by an act of Congress, compelling Indian children to be removed from the care of their families to attend residential schools. The Mt. Pleasant Indian School operated until 1934, with an average enrollment of 300 students annually.
Wednesday’s events began with sunrise ceremony at the grounds of the tribal cemetery some 7 miles from the boarding school. Wearing red t shirts with the names of 154 dead students around their necks, walkers and runners traveled from the tribal headquarters to the boarding school grounds.
They were met there by 200 people from various Michigan Indian tribes, who were waiting there to participate in the day long healing ceremony, which began with the lighting of a ceremonial fire, followed by a pipe ceremony led by George Martin.
154 Students Died Here While Attending School.
Speaker after speaker spoke about their experiences of being impacted by boarding schools. Many of the speakers were overcome with emotion. Some openly cried as they spoke.
Several boarding school survivors attended the event. Other speakers spoke about the long lasting impact of boarding schools.
“I did not come with prepared notes, but I can speak about how boarding schools affected me through my parents who attended. I come from a family of alcoholics,”
stated Alan Shively, tribal chairman of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, based in Watersmeet, Michigan.
“I began to heal after I heard Warren Petoskey come to my reservation to talk about boarding schools. Because of what he taught us that day, I learned to forgive my elders. I thought differently. He taught us that it was not their fault. They were living with the effects of boarding schools.”
Several Christian pastors spoke about healing, citing scriptures on forgiveness as a means to heal.
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Editor’s Note: Yesterday, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan held an event called, “Honoring, Healing & Remembering” as a means of healing from the long-lasting effects of Indian boarding schools. The event was a day long event with several speakers. The Native News Network was there to cover the event.
Remembering the 154 Students Who Did Not Survive the Mt. Pleasant Boarding School
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges
Several speakers mentioned them.
Young and old wearing red t-shirts wore the names of those who died around their necks. The students who died at the boarding school had last names that are still recognizable and familiar within the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, such as Jackson, Pego and Pontiac.
Many who wore the red t-shirts walked or ran five miles from the tribal headquarters to the grounds of the closed down boarding school.
154 known names of those who died.
“Today, we must remember those who did not make it out of here,”said Alan Shively, tribal chairman of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, based in Watersmeet, Michigan.
“Part of healing involves acknowledging what happened in the boarding schools,”stated Hunter Genia, director of Behavioral Health at the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.
“I remember my sister saying that when she went to boarding school at Holy Child Boarding School in Harbor Springs, Michigan she heard screaming coming from the boys’ dormitory at night.”
“Let’s not make any mistake about it, boarding schools attempted to destroy our spirit – the Indian spirit,”Genia continued.
At the end of the day there was special dancing for those who died at the boarding school performed by a group of jingle dress women dancers. As a gesture of remembering the 154, there was an empty seat at the drum that represented those who never were able to drum because they died young.
While there are 154 known names of those who died, some think the number may be greater. The graves of the dead are on the west side of the property. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe was given the closed down buildings of the boarding schools and its property last year by the State of Michigan.
While the Tribe is still assessing what will ultimately be done with the buildings and property, they are in the process of surveying the land with sonic testing to determine where more human remains may possibly be buried.
Editor’s Note: Wednesday, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan held an event called, “Honoring, Healing & Remembering” as a means of healing from the long-lasting effects of Indian boarding schools. The event was a day long event with several speakers. The Native News Network was there to cover the event. This is the second of this series of articles about the special event.
posted June 9, 2012 7:10 am edt
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