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Wall Street Journal: Ivins Not the Anthrax Killer

January 26, 2010

I noted in August 2008:

According to the FBI, Ivins made the killer anthrax in his lab at Fort Detrick all by himself in something like 12 hours (pages 8-9).

Is that plausible?

Well, one of the handful of people who actually can produce the kind of high-tech weaponized anthrax used in the attacks said:

“In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I’m one of them,” said Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998. “And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good.”

In addition, scientists at Ft. Detrick say that no one there had the equipment or knowledge to make weaponized anthrax of the type used in the letters (more on this in a later esasy).

If it would take one of the handful of people who have the know-how and a good lab with staff a year, and if no one at Ivins’ lab knew how to do it, how could Ivins have made it all by himself in 12 hours without the proper equipment?

I wrote a couple of days later:

The chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998 – who describes himself as one of the “four or five people in the whole country” who could make the type of anthrax used in the 2001 attacks – noted in testimony to Congress:

“I have maintained from the first descriptions of the material contained in the Daschle letter that the quality appeared to be such that it could be produced only by some group that was involved with a current or former state program in recent years. The level of knowledge, expertise, and experience required and the types of special equipment required to make such quality product takes time and experimentation to develop. Further, the nature of the finished dried product is such that safety equipment and facilities must be used to protect the individuals involved and to shield their clandestine activity from discovery.”

Similarly, a manufacturer of specialized anthrax equipment said:

“You would need [a] chemist who is familiar with colloidal [fumed] silica, and a material science person to put it all together, and then some mechanical engineers to make this work . . . probably some containment people, if you don’t want to kill anybody. You need half a dozen, I think, really smart people.”

The U.N. biologist mentioned above also said that the equipment to make such high-tech anthrax does not exist at Fort Detrick, where Ivins worked. People who work at Fort Detrick have confirmed this. In other words, a lone scientist couldn’t have done it without the support of a whole government laboratory. And Fort Detrick was not one such potential laboratory.

The FBI now indirectly admits what I wrote.

Specifically, as Edward Epstein writes in a must-read article in the Wall Street Journal:

Silicon was used in the 1960s to weaponize anthrax. Through an elaborate process, anthrax spores were coated with the substance to prevent them from clinging together so as to create a lethal aerosol. But since weaponization was banned by international treaties, research anthrax no longer contains silicon, and the flask at Fort Detrick contained none.

***

Yet the anthrax grown from it had silicon, according to the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. This silicon explained why, when the letters to Sens. Leahy and Daschle were opened, the anthrax vaporized into an aerosol. If so, then somehow silicon was added to the anthrax. But Ivins, no matter how weird he may have been, had neither the set of skills nor the means to attach silicon to anthrax spores.

At a minimum, such a process would require highly specialized equipment that did not exist in Ivins’s lab—or, for that matter, anywhere at the Fort Detrick facility. As Richard Spertzel, a former biodefense scientist who worked with Ivins, explained in a private briefing on Jan. 7, 2009, the lab didn’t even deal with anthrax in powdered form, adding, “I don’t think there’s anyone there who would have the foggiest idea how to do it.” So while Ivins’s death provided a convenient fall guy, the silicon content still needed to be explained.

The FBI’s answer was that the anthrax contained only traces of silicon, and those, it theorized, could have been accidently absorbed by the spores from the water and nutrient in which they were grown. No such nutrients were ever found in Ivins’s lab, nor, for that matter, did anyone ever see Ivins attempt to produce any unauthorized anthrax (a process which would have involved him using scores of flasks.) But since no one knew what nutrients had been used to grow the attack anthrax, it was at least possible that they had traces of silicon in them that accidently contaminated the anthrax.

Natural contamination was an elegant theory that ran into problems after Congressman Jerry Nadler pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller in September 2008 to provide the House Judiciary Committee with a missing piece of data: the precise percentage of silicon contained in the anthrax used in the attacks.

The answer came seven months later on April 17, 2009. According to the FBI lab, 1.4% of the powder in the Leahy letter was silicon. “This is a shockingly high proportion,” explained Stuart Jacobson, an expert in small particle chemistry. “It is a number one would expect from the deliberate weaponization of anthrax, but not from any conceivable accidental contamination.”

Nevertheless, in an attempt to back up its theory, the FBI contracted scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs in California to conduct experiments in which anthrax is accidently absorbed from a media heavily laced with silicon. When the results were revealed to the National Academy Of Science in September 2009, they effectively blew the FBI’s theory out of the water.

The Livermore scientists had tried 56 times to replicate the high silicon content without any success. Even though they added increasingly high amounts of silicon to the media, they never even came close to the 1.4% in the attack anthrax. Most results were an order of magnitude lower, with some as low as .001%.

What these tests inadvertently demonstrated is that the anthrax spores could not have been accidently contaminated by the nutrients in the media. “If there is that much silicon, it had to have been added,” Jeffrey Adamovicz, who supervised Ivins’s work at Fort Detrick, wrote to me last month. He added that the silicon in the attack anthrax could have been added via a large fermentor—which Battelle and other labs use” but “we did not use a fermentor to grow anthrax at USAMRIID . . . [and] We did not have the capability to add silicon compounds to anthrax spores”…

When I asked a FBI spokesman this month about the Livermore findings, he said the FBI was not commenting on any specifics of the case, other than those discussed in the 2008 briefing (which was about a year before Livermore disclosed its results). He stated: “The Justice Department and the FBI continue working
to conclude the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks. We anticipate closing the case in the near future.”

So, even though the public may be under the impression that the anthrax case had been closed in 2008, the FBI investigation is still open—and, unless it can refute the Livermore findings on the silicon, it is back to square one.


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What Should We Make of Obama's "Spending Freeze"

January 26, 2010

The big news today is Obama’s proposed “spending freeze”.

Fiscal liberals say this cuts spending at the exact time that we most need to increase it. See this and this.

Fiscal conservatives say this doesn’t go nearly far enough. See this, this and this.

But I think there’s a bigger issue that deserves some inquiry: is America being turned into a third world country?

As I wrote last June:

When the International Monetary Fund or World Bank offer to lend money to a struggling third-world country (or “emerging market”), they demand “austerity measures“.

As Wikipedia describes it:

In economics, austerity is when a national government reduces its spending in order to pay back creditors. Austerity is usually required when a government’s fiscal deficit spending is felt to be unsustainable.

Development projects, welfare programs and other social spending are common areas of spending for cuts. In many countries, austerity measures have been associated with short-term standard of living declines until economic conditions improved once fiscal balance was achieved (such as in the United Kingdom under Margaret Thatcher, Canada under Jean Chrétien, and Spain under González).

Private banks, or institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), may require that a country pursues an ‘austerity policy’ if it wants to re-finance loans that are about to come due. The government may be asked to stop issuing subsidies or to otherwise reduce public spending. When the IMF requires such a policy, the terms are known as ‘IMF conditionalities’.

Wikipedia goes on to point out :

Austerity programs are frequently controversial, as they impact the poorest segments of the population and often lead to a wider separation between the rich and poor. In many situations, austerity programs are imposed on countries that were previously under dictatorial regimes, leading to criticism that populations are forced to repay the debts of their oppressors.

What Does This Have to Do With the First World?

Since the IMF and World Bank lend to third world countries, you may reasonably assume that this has nothing to do with “first world” countries like the US and UK.

But England’s economy is in dire straight, and rumors have abounded that the UK might have to rely on a loan from the IMF.

And as former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker said :

People seem to think the [American] government has money. The government doesn’t have any money.

Indeed, the IMF has already performed a complete audit of the whole US financial system, something which they have only previously done to broke third world nations.

Al Martin – former contributor to the Presidential Council of Economic Advisors and retired naval intelligence officer – observed in an April 2005 newsletter that the ratio of total U.S. debt to gross domestic product (GDP) rose from 78 percent in 2000 to 308 percent in April 2005. The International Monetary Fund considers a nation-state with a total debt-to-GDP ratio of 200 percent or more to be a “de-constructed Third World nation-state.”

Martin explained:

What “de-constructed” actually means is that a political regime in that country, or series of political regimes, have, through a long period of fraud, abuse, graft, corruption and mismanagement, effectively collapsed the economy of that country.

What Does It Mean?

Some have asked questions like, “Is the goal to force the US into the same kinds of IMF austerity programs that have caused riots in so many other nations?” Some predicted years ago that the “international bankers” would bring down the American economy.

I used to think, frankly, that such kinds of talk were crazy-talk. I’m not so sure anymore.

Catherine Austin Fitts – former managing director of a Wall Street investment bank and Assistant Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under President George Bush Sr. – calls what is happening to the economy “a criminal leveraged buyout of America,” something she defines as “buying a country for cheap with its own money and then jacking up the rents and fees to steal the rest.” She also calls it the “American Tapeworm” model, explaining:

[T]he American Tapeworm model is to simply finance the federal deficit through warfare, currency exports, Treasury and federal credit borrowing and cutbacks in domestic “discretionary” spending …. This will then place local municipalities and local leadership in a highly vulnerable position – one that will allow them to be persuaded with bogus but high-minded sounding arguments to further cut resources. Then, to “preserve bond ratings and the rights of creditors,” our leaders can he persuaded to sell our water, natural resources and infrastructure assets at significant discounts of their true value to global investors …. This will be described as a plan to “save America” by recapitalizing it on a sound financial footing. In fact, this process will simply shift more capital continuously from America to other continents and from the lower and middle classes to elites.

Writer Mike Whitney wrote in CounterPunch in April 2005:

[T]he towering [U.S.] national debt coupled with the staggering trade deficits have put the nation on a precipice and a seismic shift in the fortunes of middle-class Americans is looking more likely all the time… The country has been intentionally plundered and will eventually wind up in the hands of its creditors This same Ponzi scheme has been carried out repeatedly by the IMF and World Bank throughout the world Bankruptcy is a fairly straightforward way of delivering valuable public assets and resources to collaborative industries, and of annihilating national sovereignty. After a nation is successfully driven to destitution, public policy decisions are made by creditors and not by representatives of the people …. The catastrophe that middle class Americans face is what these elites breezily refer to as “shock therapy”; a sudden jolt, followed by fundamental changes to the system. In the near future we can expect tax reform, fiscal discipline, deregulation, free capital flows, lowered tariffs, reduced public services, and privatization.

And given that experts on third world banana republics from the IMF and the Federal Reserve have said the U.S. has become a third world banana republic (and see this and this), maybe the process of turning first world into the third world is already complete.

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Is the U.S. Looking for More Wars?

January 26, 2010

As I have previously argued, the government might start additional wars to distract people from the economy. See this and this.

Since then, the U.S. has started a war in Pakistan and one in Yemen (Yemen has some oil; Haiti allegedly has oil also, and some argue that explains the military nature of America’s response).

Now, Congressman Ron Paul is saying that the “CIA is looking for more wars”.

That’s just terrific …

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Why is National Security Being Invoked to Keep Basic Financial Information Secret?

January 26, 2010

Reuters notes:

U.S. securities regulators originally treated the New York Federal Reserve’s bid to keep secret many of the details of the American International Group bailout like a request to protect matters of national security, according to emails obtained by Reuters.

The national security claim may seem outlandish, but it is nothing new.

As Business Week wrote on May 23, 2006:

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations.

In other words, national security has been discussed for years as a basis of keeping normal accounting and securities-related disclosures secret.

Why?

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I'll Believe It When I See It (In the Fine Print)

January 21, 2010

Obama has again pulled Volcker into his photo ops, and is talking tough about putting limits on the size of banks, restoring the “spirit” of Glass-Steagall, and curtailing the giant banks’ prop trading operations.

I’ll believe it when I see it (in the fine print).

As Yves Smith reminds us, Obama and Congress talked tough about reining in derivatives, but did nothing. See this.

They talked tough about reforming health care to make it better to the American people, but ended up crafting a bill which is a giveaway to the giant insurance companies.

I’ll only get interested if I see a bill that actually does something … and whose fine print doesn’t create more loopholes than it plugs and more gifts to the financial industry than it removes.


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The Second Wave of Mortgage Defaults

January 21, 2010

Credit: T2 Partners, Agora Financial


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Supreme Court Ruling Guts Campaign Finance Law, "Threatens to Undermine the Integrity of Elected Institutions Around the Nation"

January 21, 2010

The long-awaited Supreme Court decision striking down most campaign finance laws – Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – happened today.

One of the dissenting Supreme Court Justices, John Paul Stevens, wrote:

The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.

Stevens also said that the court reached to expand beyond the scope of the case. In other words, the court acted for political reasons, not judicial reasons:

Essentially, five justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.

This is a gigantic change, and you will see mammoth corporations – including the giant banks who have received trillions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, guarantees and other perks – inundating the airwaves with campaign blitzes to make sure that “loyal” politicians are elected.

Just watch: money which was taken from our pockets to “bail out” the too big to fails will be used to make sure that tame corporate mouthpieces are put into office.

Note: The decision also allows unions to go wild with buying campaign ads. But given that the too big to fails have unlimited access to the spigot of funds at the public trough, they will be able to outspend unions by many orders of magnitude.

Yes, I know that the giant banks have already bought and paid for Congress and the White House. See this, this and this. The Citizens United decision will just make it cheaper and easier to buy elections.

For other horrible recent Supreme Court decisions, see this and this.


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U.S. Military Officially Endorses Crusade

January 20, 2010

I’ve written numerous posts showing that the war on terror is really a religious crusade, at least for troops on the ground (I’ve pointed out that the officials ordering the troops into battle may not be religious at all, but may be faking religious sentiment to rally the troops).

Now, an official Pentagon spokesman is making it clear that the U.S. military endorses the crusade. As Raw Story notes:

A Pentagon spokesman says there is nothing wrong or illegal with the armed forces using rifle sights inscribed with references to biblical passages.

Air Force Maj. John Redfield, a spokesman for US Central Command, said the sights from Michigan-based Trijicon — which are now the target of controversy following news reports earlier this week — “don’t violate the [military] ban on proselytizing because there’s no effort to distribute the equipment beyond the US troops who use them,” the Associated Press reports.

“This situation is not unlike the situation with US currency,” Maj. Redfield said. “Are we going to stop using money because the bills have ‘In God We Trust’ on them? As long as the sights meet the combat needs of troops, they’ll continue to be used.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer and former training officer for the US Army Reserves says that any attempt by the US government to cancel its contracts with an arms supplier that enscribes biblical references on its rifle sights would be “discrimination.”

Play any word games you like … the truth is that the military has just officially acknowledged that it endorses a crusade.

Nice work creating new terrorists, you morons.

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U.S. Miliatary Officially Endorses Crusade

January 19, 2010

I’ve written numerous posts showing that the war on terror is really a religious crusade, at least for troops on the ground (I’ve pointed out that the officials ordering the troops into battle may not be religious at all, but may be feigning religious sentiment to rally the troops).

Now, official Pentagon spokesman made clear that the U.S. military endorses the crusade. As Raw Story notes:

A Pentagon spokesman says there is nothing wrong or illegal with the armed forces using rifle sights inscribed with references to biblical passages.

Air Force Maj. John Redfield, a spokesman for US Central Command, said the sights from Michigan-based Trijicon — which are now the target of controversy following news reports earlier this week — “don’t violate the [military] ban on proselytizing because there’s no effort to distribute the equipment beyond the US troops who use them,” the Associated Press reports.

“This situation is not unlike the situation with US currency,” Maj. Redfield said. “Are we going to stop using money because the bills have ‘In God We Trust’ on them? As long as the sights meet the combat needs of troops, they’ll continue to be used.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer and former training officer for the US Army Reserves says that any attempt by the US government to cancel its contracts with an arms supplier that enscribes biblical references on its rifle sights would be “discrimination.”

Play any word games you like … the truth is that the military has just acknowledged that it officially endorses a crusade.

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The Crusade Continues in Iraq

January 18, 2010

ABC News is reporting that U.S. military weapons are inscribed with secret ‘Jesus’ Bible codes:

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army …

One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Other references include citations from the books of Revelation, Matthew and John dealing with Jesus as “the light of the world.” John 8:12, referred to on the gun sights as JN8:12, reads, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Trijicon confirmed to ABCNews.com that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions “have always been there” and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them. Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is “not Christian.”The company’s vision is described on its Web site: “Guided by our values, we endeavor to have our products used wherever precision aiming solutions are required to protect individual freedom.”

A photo on a Department of Defense Web site shows Iraqi soldiers being trained by U.S. troops with a rifle equipped with the bible-coded sights.

“It’s wrong, it violates the Constitution, it violates a number of federal laws,” said Michael “Mikey” Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group that seeks to preserve the separation of church and state in the military.

“It allows the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they’re being shot by Jesus rifles,” he said.

Weinstein, an attorney and former Air Force officer, said many members of his group who currently serve in the military have complained about the markings on the sights. He also claims they’ve told him that commanders have referred to weapons with the sights as “spiritually transformed firearm[s] of Jesus Christ.”

He said coded biblical inscriptions play into the hands of “those who are calling this a Crusade.”

This is an isolated incident, right?

Unfortunately not.

As I wrote on May 4th:

Conservative Christians were the biggest backers of the Iraq war …

One of the top Pentagon officials involved in the Iraq war – General William Boykin – literally:

Sees the “war on terror” as a religious war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Satan, with Islam of course cast in the latter role.

Jeremy Scahill describes Boykin as:

A Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under Bush. Boykin was part of Donald Rumsfeld’s inner circle at the Pentagon where he was placed in charge of hunting “high-value targets.” Boykin was one of the key U.S. officials in establishing what critics alleged was death-squad-type activity in Iraq.

Boykin’s crusade is also important because one of his assigned jobs was:

Speeding up the flow of intelligence on terrorist leaders to combat teams in the field so that they can attack top-ranking terrorist leaders. It can easily be speculated that it is this urgency to obtain intelligence, and an uncompromising religious outlook backed by a [crusader] mentality, that has led to the lower echelons in the US military to adopt Saddam Hussein-like brutalities.

Moreover, the U.S. military has just been busted trying to convert Afghanis to Christianity (the same thing happened in Iraq).

As Scahill notes:

What’s more, the center of this evangelical operation is at the huge US base at Bagram, one of the main sites used by the US military to torture and indefinitely detain prisoners.

The bottom line is that – while torture was ordered by the highest level Bush administration officials in order to create a false link between 9/11 and Iraq – it seems like many of those who enthusiastically rallied around torture looked at it, literally, as a religious crusade.

As I wrote on May 25th:

According to French President Chirac, Bush told him that the Iraq war was needed to bring on the apocalypse:

In Genesis and Ezekiel Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy:

“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”

Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac:

“This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins”…

There can be little doubt now that President Bush’s reason for launching the war in Iraq was, for him, fundamentally religious. He was driven by his belief that the attack on Saddam’s Iraq was the fulfilment of a Biblical prophesy in which he had been chosen to serve as the instrument of the Lord.

And British Prime Minister Tony Blair long-time mentor, advisor and confidante said:

“Tony’s Christian faith is part of him, down to his cotton socks. He believed strongly at the time, that intervention in Kosovo, Sierra Leone – Iraq too – was all part of the Christian battle; good should triumph over evil, making lives better.”

Mr Burton, who was often described as Mr Blair’s mentor, says that his religion gave him a “total belief in what’s right and what’s wrong”, leading him to see the so-called War on Terror as “a moral cause”…

Anti-war campaigners criticised remarks Mr Blair made in 2006, suggesting that the decision to go to war in Iraq would ultimately be judged by God.

Gi
ven that the Iraq war really was a crusade, the fact that the Pentagon is now saying that it may have to leave troops in Iraq for another decade shows that the crusade is still ongoing under Obama.

Indeed, churchgoers are more likely to back torture of suspected terrorists than atheists (and see this), and torture is apparently still continuing under the Obama administration.

Heck of a job winning hearts and minds, guys.


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