Sobering statistics on the appalling levels of poverty in the United States

Certain American politicians and media figures are fond of repeating the slogans of America as “the wealthiest country in the world” – and of course  if has “the most powerful military the world has ever seen.” Certainly we know the US spends more money on weaponry than all other countries combined.  Such patriotic boasting surely sounds hollow and and absurd to the millions living in abject poverty. Our own US Census figures give some corrective facts:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty than they have ever measured before.  In 2010, we were told that the economy was recovering, but the truth is that the number of the “very poor” soared to heights never seen previously.  Back in 1993 and back in 2009, the rate of extreme poverty was just over 6 percent, and that represented the worst numbers on record.  But in 2010, the rate of extreme poverty hit a whopping 6.7 percent.  That means that one out of every 15 Americans is now considered to be “very poor”.  For many people, this is all very confusing because their guts are telling them that things are getting worse and yet the mainstream media keeps telling them that everything is just fine.

According to an article in The Daily Mail

About 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7 percent of the U.S. population, make up the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 per cent or less of the official poverty level. That 6.7 percent share is the highest in the 35 years that the Census Bureau has maintained such records, surpassing previous highs in 2009 and 1993 of just over 6 percent.Those living in deep poverty represent nearly half of the 46.2 million people scraping by below the poverty line. In 2010, the poorest poor meant an income of $5,570 or less for an individual and $11,157 for a family of four.  One in 15 Americans now officially living in poverty as number receiving food stamps rises 8.1% in a year. Worst hit states are Mississippi, Tennessee, Oregon, New Mexico and Louisiana.

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Ayahuasca Documentary, featuring Jeremy Narby and actual ceremony

This over one hour long documentary features discussions by Jeremy Narby, a Canadian anthropologist living in Switzerland, who has made an extensive study of the indigenous use of ayahuasca in South American cultures. He has written one of the most interesting books about ayahuasca – The Cosmic Serpent – DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. In it, he compares the descriptions of the ayahuasqueros’s visions of intertwining serpents with molecular geneticists description of the DNA molecule, which has the structure of a double helix. Michael Harner, President of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and author of The Way of the Shaman,  wrote of The Cosmic Serpent that “it is a spellbinding, scholarly tour de force that may presage a major paradigm in the Western view of reality.”

Narby has also taken a small group of Western-trained scientists (geneticists, molecular biologists) to visit with ayahuasca shamans and found that they could indeed, with the help of the visionary vine, look directly into the deep subjective structure of the material world that they had previously studied intensively through their objective instruments and measures.

Provocative findings on the effects of ayahuasca in the brain

Under the somewhat misleading title Drug hallucinations look real in the brain, science writer Arran Frood  reported  in the New Scientist on a study using the functional MRI brain scanning technique  to look at the brains of users of ayahuasca.  The researchers compared the brain scans of volunteers under three conditions: (1) looking at pictures of people or animals; (2) imagining and remembering looking at those images; (3) imagining and remembering the image while on ayahuasca. Here’s what the report says of the comparison between conditions (1) and (2):

Draulio de Araujo of the Brain Institute at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, Brazil, and colleagues recruited 10 frequent users of the brew – called ayahuasca. They asked the volunteers to look at images of people or animals while their brains were scanned using functional MRI, then asked the volunteers to close their eyes and imagine they were still viewing the image. Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that neural activity in the primary visual cortex dropped off when volunteers imagined seeing the image rather than actually viewing it.

And here’s what the findings were comparing conditions (1) and (3) – the brain scans registered equally strong activity in the visual cortex, a finding that is indicative of the  amplifying effect of entheogens.

But when the team then gave the volunteers a dose of ayahuasca and repeated the experiment, they found that the level of activity in the primary visual cortex was virtually indistinguishable when the volunteers were really viewing an image and when they were imagining it.

According to the researchers – “This means visions seen have a real, neurological basis, says de Araujo – they are not made up or imagined.”   One may however question this interpretation of the findings – why should visions that have a measurable neural correlate be considered more “real” that those in the inner vision?  One might instead say that the power to image or imagine is amplified by the medicine, just as it amplifies other modes of perception and cognition.

Powerful statement on global corporate fascism and the media

The following passages are by Peter Phillips, the Sonoma State College professor of communications who founded, and for many years directed Project Censored. This is an annual compilation, by students in classes on media, of the most significant under- or unreported stories in the year, that has been a tremendous resource for anyone who really wants to know what’s going on. Ralph Nader said “the Censored books should be affixed to the bulletin boards in every newsroom in America.” The subtitle of the 20120 volume is: Sourcebook for the Media Revolution.

The international concentration of wealth and military power is endangering not only the personal freedoms and life chances of billions of people, but the potentiality for life on earth to simply exist. The US-NATO military-industrial-media empire operates in support of transnational corporations and the central banks primarily as the enforcer of International Monetary Fund/World Bank’s fiscal policies and the protector of transnational capital flow. The combination of empire enforcers—both public and private military/police—in partnership with the private owners of production and capital’s need for constant growth and profits is resulting in a tragic decline of humanity into a freedomless state of global corporate fascism.

We are not going to reform the empire of destruction globally through corrupt capital protecting legislative bodies controlled by millionaires and corporate money. We are not going to change the propaganda messages of corporate media—as they are deeply embedded in the destructive empire of power. Corporate media (singular) is the information control wing of the global power structure inside the transnational corporate class of the one percent. The corporate media systematically censors news stories that challenge the propaganda of empire.

Specific mythologies of empire are: that we live in democratic societies with fair elections, that governments are primarily transparent and seek to protect the public, that evil lurks in the world waiting to challenge our freedoms, we fight fairly and morally while the others are evil terrorists, governments would never do anything to harm their own citizens, wealth trickles down, we are all trying to be green and capitalism will save us. Occupy challenges these myths of empire as lies and propaganda.

The time is for the Occupy democracy movement to build our own news, and our own systems of decision making from the bottom up. We no longer need a majority to make change inside the empire. We need only active informed populations in the 10-20% range of society to initiate change producing social movements of resistance and non-cooperation with empire.

Individually and collectively we can disconnect from employment that supports the empire of destruction, we can keep our work instead with community-based efforts at local sustainability, economic development, and caring. We can shop and bank locally and never enter the WalMart’s of empire. We can organize for resistance to counter the billions of dollars a year spent by the military to lie to our children into serving the empire of destruction. We can turn off the corporate media filled with its propaganda and lies, and seek our own sources of news from within democracy movements worldwide.

Power to the people!

The architect of Fukushima reactor warns of ‘China syndrome,’ and possible hydrovolcanic explosion

The molten core of several Fukushima Daiichi reactors is sinking through the Earth’s crust and appears to be in the early stages of a “China Syndrome,” according to Uehara Haruo, architect of Fukushima Daiichi’s Reactor No. 3 and former president of Saga University, in an interview on 11/17,2011.

He stated that considering 8 months have passed since 3/11 without any improvement, so it is inevitable that melted fuel went out of the container vessel and sank underground, which is called the “China syndrome”.

Haruo added “If fuel has reached an underground water vein, it will cause contamination of underground water, soil, and sea, he said. “Moreover, if the underground water vein keeps being heated for long time, a massive hydrovolcanic explosion will be caused.”

He also warned radioactive debris is spreading in the Pacific Ocean. Tons of the debris has reached the Marshall Islands as of 11/15/2011.

Source: Fukushima Diary,  Posted by Mochizuki on November 19th, 2011 · also many comments mostly by Japanese citizens. Fukushima Diary reports.

Contrary to appearances, social science statistics show a remarkable worldwide decline in violence

I am as appalled as most people by the astonishing amount of worldwide violence that is the daily staple of our news media. It seems as non-violent peacemaking efforts are few and far between and rarely seem to show dramatic successes. So I was surprised, impressed and heartened when I learned of statistical social science research that shows a historical decline in violence. An article by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, drawing on research by Harvard social psychologist Steven Pinker, as well as others, summarizes the evidence for the trend toward less violence. Below are some excerpts –

That’s the thesis of three new books, including one by prominent Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. Statistics reveal dramatic reductions in war deaths, family violence, racism, rape, murder and all sorts of mayhem. In his book, Pinker writes: “The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species.” And it runs counter to what the mass media is reporting and essentially what we feel in our guts.

Pinker and other experts say the reality is demonstrated in the black and white of spreadsheets and historical documents. They tell a story of a world moving away from violence.

His findings are based on peer-reviewed studies published by other academics using examinations of graveyards, surveys and historical records:

— The number of people killed in battle — calculated per 100,000 population — has dropped by 1,000-fold over the centuries as civilizations evolved. Before there were organized countries, battles killed on average more than 500 out of every 100,000 people. In 19th century France, it was 70. In the 20th century with two world wars and a few genocides, it was 60. Now battlefield deaths are down to three-tenths of a person per 100,000.

— The rate of genocide deaths per world population was 1,400 times higher in 1942 than in 2008.

— There were fewer than 20 democracies in 1946. Now there are close to 100. Meanwhile, the number of authoritarian countries has dropped from a high of almost 90 in 1976 to about 25 now.

Pinker argued his case in a commentary this past week in the scientific journal Nature. He has plenty of charts and graphs to back up his claims, including evidence …that our everyday lives are also less violent:

— Murder in European countries has steadily fallen from near 100 per 100,000 people in the 14th and 15th centuries to about 1 per 100,000 people now.

— Murder within families. The U.S. rate of husbands being killed by their wives has dropped from 1.2 per 100,000 in 1976 to just 0.2. For wives killed by their husbands, the rate has slipped from 1.4 to 0.8 over the same time period.

— Rape in the United States is down 80 percent since 1973. Lynchings, which used to occur at a rate of 150 a year, have disappeared.

— Discrimination against blacks and gays is down, as is capital punishment, the spanking of children, and child abuse.

Even when you add in terrorism, the world is still far less violent, Pinker says.

“Terrorism doesn’t account for many deaths. Sept. 11 was just off the scale. There was never a terrorist attack before or after that had as many deaths. What it does is generate fear,” he said.

It’s hard for many people to buy the decline in violence. ..In 1998, Andrew Mack, then head of strategic planning for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, said a look at the statistics showed the world was becoming less violent. The reaction from his professional peacekeeping colleagues?

“Pffft, it’s not true,” they told Mack, arguing that the 1990s had to be the worst decade in U.N. history. It wasn’t even close.

Joshua Goldstein, a professor of international relations at American University and author of “Winning the War on War,” has also been telling the same story as Pinker, but from a foreign policy point of view. At each speech he gives, people bring up America’s lengthy wars in the Middle East. “It’s been a hard message to get through,” he acknowledged.

“We see the atrocities and they are atrocious,” Goldstein said. “The blood is going to be just as red on the television screens.”

Mack, who’s now with Simon Fraser University in Canada, credits the messy, inefficient and heavily political peacekeeping process at the U.N., the World Bank and thousands of non-governmental organizations for helping curb violence.

The “Human Security Report 2009/2010,” a project led by Mack and funded by several governments, is a worldwide examination of war and violence and has been published as a book. It cites jarringly low numbers. While the number of wars has increased by 25 percent, they’ve been minor ones.

The average annual battle death toll has dropped from nearly 10,000 per conflict in the 1950s to less than 1,000 in the 21st century. And the number of deadliest wars — those that kill at least 1,000 people a year — has fallen by 78 percent since 1988.

Mack and Goldstein emphasize how hard society and peacekeepers have worked to reduce wars, focusing on action taken to tamp down violence, while Pinker focuses on cultural and thought changes that make violence less likely. But all three say those elements are interconnected. Even the academics who disagree with Pinker, Goldstein and Mack, say the declining violence numbers are real.

“The facts are not in dispute here; the question is what is going on,” John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.”

“It’s been 21 years since the Cold War ended and the United States has been at war for 14 out of those 21 years,” Mearsheimer said. “If war has been burned out of the system, why do we have NATO and why has NATO been pushed eastward…? Why are we spending more money on defense than all other countries in the world put together?”

What’s happening is that the U.S. is acting as a “pacifier” keeping the peace all over the world, Mearsheimer said.

The beauty of this research is that it is numbers and the numbers don’t lie. The interpretation of the findings is another matter. Mearsheimer’s view that the US is acting as a “pacifier” helping to reduce number of violent wars  concurs with the view of the American foreign policy establishment and the US mainstream media. It is of course quite at variance with the views of non-conforming critics of American foreign policy interventions like Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti, Michael Hudson, Canadians Michel Chossudovsky, Webster Tarpley and others who regard American policies as the consistent expression of a long-term goal of global military and financial dominance (dressed up of course in the rhetoric of humanitarian peacekeeper)

It’s interesting to speculate about whether the downward trends in violence revealed in  these statistics would be even greater if the political goals of the rulers were in accord with the apparent and evident wishes of the masses of the people. And this, synchronistically, is the central message of the Occupy movement.

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