Archive for October, 2014
American Meat Production Uses More Antibiotics Than Ever, Despite Growing Threat of Antibiotic-Resistant Disease in Consumers
October 29, 2014
The featured Frontline News documentary investigates the roots and ramifications of the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance. The US uses nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics each year to raise food animals.1, 2 This accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US.3
The ramifications of this routine practice can be seen in hospital wards across the nation, as it is one, if not the primary driver of antibiotic-resistant disease in humans.
According to CDC statistics,4 two million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a result of those infections.
In my view, this is a very compelling reason to switch to organic, grass-fed (pastured) varieties, as growth promoting drugs such as antibiotics are not permitted in organic farming.
Large-Scale Agriculture and Hospitals Breed Drug-Resistant Superbugs
One organism alone—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—now kills more Americans each year than the combined total of emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and homicide.5
The victims include young, otherwise healthy people, raising suspicions that the MRSA infections originate from the food they eat. Drug-resistant tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, and gonorrhea are also on the rise.
As reported by Frontline, researchers have found that people living close to confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) also suffer drug-resistant infections at much higher rates than others, again suggesting that antibiotic-resistant bacteria originate from large-scale agriculture.
Hospitals have traditionally been the primary source of dangerous infections. At present, one in 25 patients end up with a hospital-acquired infection, and many of these infections are drug resistant.
But it’s the use of antibiotics in agriculture that breeds these hardy bacteria most efficiently. And by allowing this practice to continue, simple infections will become increasingly lethal, and even minor routine surgeries become exceedingly risky.
One of the most prestigious research hospitals in the US recently struggled with an outbreak of a highly lethal antibiotic-resistant superbug, Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC), which spread from one patient to another in a highly complex and in some cases untraceable pattern.6 What’s worse, many of these bacteria, including KPC, have developed resistance to multiple drugs.
A 2013 paper by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) titled “Antibiotic Resistance in Foodborne Pathogens,”7 report that between 1973 and 2011, there were 55 antibiotic-resistant foodborne outbreaks in the US. More than half of these outbreaks involved pathogens resistant to five or more antibiotics!
By: Nomi Prins
October 28, 2014
The recent spike in global political-financial volatility that was temporarily soothed by ECB covered bond buying reveals another crack in the six-year-old throw-money-at-the-banks strategies of politicians and central bankers. The premise of using banks as credit portals to transport public funds from the government to citizens is as inefficient as it is not happening. The power elite may exude belabored moans about slow growth and rising inequality in speeches and press releases, but they continue to find ways to provide liquidity, sustenance and comfort to financial institutions, not to populations.
The very fact – that without excessive artificial stimulation or the promise of it – more hell breaks loose – is one that government heads neither admit, nor appear to discuss. But the truth is that the global financial system has already failed. Big banks have been propped up, and their capital bases rejuvenated, by various means of external intervention, not their own business models.
Last week, the Federal Reserve released its latest 2015 stress test scenarios. They don’t even exceed the parameters of what actually took place during the 2008-2009-crisis period. This makes them, though statistically viable, completely irrelevant in an inevitable full-scale meltdown of greater magnitude. This Sunday, the ECB announced that 25 banks failed their tests, none of which were the biggest banks (that received the most help). These tests are the equivalent of SAT exams for which students provide the questions and answers, and a few get thrown under the bus for cheating to make it all look legit.
Regardless of the outcome of the next set of tests, it’s the very need for them that should be examined. If we had a more controllable, stable, accountable and transparent system (let alone one not in constant litigation and crime-committing mode) neither the pretense of well-thought-out stress tests making a difference in crisis preparation, nor the administering of them, would be necessary as a soothing tool. But we don’t. We have an unreformed (legally and morally) international banking system still laden with risk and losses, whose major players control more assets than ever before, with our help.
The biggest banks, and the US and European markets, are now floating on more than $7 trillion of Fed and ECB intervention with little to show for it on the ground and more to come. To put that into perspective – consider that the top 100 global hedge funds manage about $1.5 trillion in assets. The Fed’s book has ballooned to $4.5 trillion and the ECB’s book stands at $2.7 trillion – a figure ECB President, Mario Draghi considers too low. Thus, to sustain the illusion of international systemic health, the Fed and the ECB are each, as well as collectively, larger than the top 100 global hedge funds combined.
Providing ‘liquidity crack’ to the financial system has required heightened international government and central bank coordination to maintain an illusion of stability, but not true stability. The definition of instability is this epic support network. It is more dangerous than in past financial crises precisely because of its size and level of political backing.
During the Panic of 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary, Cortelyou announced the first US bank bailout in the country’s history. Though not a member of the government, financier J.P. Morgan was chosen by Roosevelt to deploy $25 million from the Treasury. He and a team of associates decided which banks would live or die with this federal money and some private (or customers’) capital thrown in.
The Federal Reserve was established in 1913 to back the private banking system in advance from requiring future such government injections of capital. After World War I, a Laissez Faire policy toward finance and speculation, but not alcohol, marked the 1920s. before the financial system crumbled under the weight of its own recklessness again. So on October 24, 1929, the Big Six bankers convened at the Morgan Bank at noon (for 20 minutes) to form a plan to ‘save’ the ailing markets by injecting their own (well, their customer’s) capital. It didn’t work. What transpired instead was the Great Depression.
After the Crash of 1929, markets rallied, and then lost 90% of their value. Liquidity froze. Credit for the masses was as unavailable, as was real money. The combined will of President FDR and the key bankers of the day worked to bolster people’s confidence in the system that had crushed them – by reforming it, by making the biggest banks smaller, by separating bet-taking arms from those in which people could store, and borrow money from, safely. Political and financial leaderships collaboratively ushered in the reform measures of the Glass-Steagall Act. As I note in my most recent book, All the Presidents’ Bankers, this Act was not merely a piece of legislation passed in spirited bi-partisan fashion, but it was also a means to stabilize a system for participants at the top, middle and bottom of it. Stability itself was the political and financial goal.
Through World War II, the Cold War, and Vietnam, and until the dissolution of the gold standard, the financial system remained fairly stable, with banks handling their own risks, which were separate from the funds of citizens. No capital injections or bailouts were required until the mid-1970s Penn Central debacle. But with the bailout floodgates reopened, big banks launched a frenzied drive for Middle East petro-dollar profits to use as capital for a hot new area of speculation, Third World loans.
By the 1980s, the Latin American Debt crisis resulted, and with it, the magnitude of federally backed bank bailouts based on Washington alliances, ballooned. When the 1994 Mexican Peso Crisis hit, bank losses were ‘handled’ by President Clinton’s Treasury Secretary (and former Goldman Sachs co-CEO) Robert Rubin and his Asst. Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers via congressionally approved aid.
Afterwards, the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act, the mega-merging of financial players, the explosion of the derivatives market, and the rise of global ‘competition’ amongst government supported gambling firms, lead to increased speculative complexity and instability, and the recent and ongoing 2008 financial crisis.
Ethan A. Huff
October 29, 2014
The same drug manufacturers that stand to profit immensely from the sale of Ebola vaccines say they require full legal immunity from any potential lawsuits that might arise when people are harmed by various adverse effects from these “emergency” drugs.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) CEO Andrew Witty told World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan that his corporation, which is currently leading the way in producing Ebola vaccines, shouldn’t have to shoulder any of the burden of responsibility for their safety.
Witty maintains, in other words, that GSK should be allowed full access to the financial benefits associated with selling Ebola vaccines to the public, but with absolutely none of the risk. And his company and others will likely get what they want, since they hold remarkable sway in the political realm.
“I think it is reasonable that there should be some level of indemnification because the vaccine is essentially being used in an emergency situation before we’ve all had the chance to confirm its absolute profile,” Witty told BBC.
“That’s a situation where we would look for some kind of indemnification, either from governments or from multilateral agencies.”
Taxpayers funding development of high-profit drugs for which drug companies will not be held liable
There are currently no approved drugs or vaccines for Ebola, which is why GSK and others have been racing to pump new ones through the pipeline. This process, which normally takes five or six years to complete, is being done in about five or six months, hence concerns over the safety of the final products.
But the shady reality is that governments, not vaccine companies, are actually the ones financing the development of experimental Ebola drugs and vaccines. And they are doing so on the taxpayer dime, which means vaccine companies are not only developing their vaccines for free but also gaining access to unlimited profit potential driven by fear.
October 30, 2014