Category Archives: Cancer

Plutopia: Bombmaking cities of the U.S., U.S.S.R.


A stunning talk by University of Maryland historian Kate Brown, author of Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, about the deadly consequences for the plutonium-making high security cities in the two principal Cold War adversaries.

From the wonderful collection of videos at TalkingStickTV:

Kate Brown — The Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters

From an account by the Kennan Institute’s Mattison Brady about a talk Brown presented there:

Brown observed that Chernobyl and Fukushima were disasters that “involved big meltdowns and occurred while the cameras were running.” That is, they were accidents that involved total failure of the plants and could not be hidden or covered up. The disasters at Hanford [Washington] and Maiak, however, were catastrophes “in slow motion” and, more importantly, were not truly accidents. They were, Brown contended, “intentional – part of the normal working order.” Brown did not, however, paint a picture of simple recrimination for the plant managers. Rather, she illustrated the dangerous combination of misinformation, miscommunication, hopefulness, and, above all, pressure that contributed to many of the recurring mistakes made at each plant.

The two plutonium plants and, by extension, their constituent populations “orbited each other and were produced in each other’s image.” Each time the project in one country was in danger of having its budget cut, the other would make some significant breakthrough, which would in turn spur production at the other. The rivalry fueled the growing arms race and ensured their continued existence and funding. The constant atmosphere of fear and pressure led each of the plants to taking dangerous short cuts to meet the mushrooming production goals.

One such shortcut was the length of time used uranium fuel was allowed to cool before being processed. This fuel, pulled from the cooling ponds long before the recommended 90-day period, was called “green” and, when processed, would release vastly more radioactive iodine than fuel left to cool longer. War-time pressure in 1944 called for this cooling period to be minimized, but the post-war arms race meant that the Soviet Maiak plant ran green fuel for many years and that in 1949 the Hanford plant ran a dangerous experiment with green fuel (called the “Green Run”) to see how they could trace the hot radioactive isotopes as they scattered across eastern Washington State.

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Fuku/Fuelishness


Today’s headlines being at home, starting with hints of a bubble brewing from CNBC:

A new wave of US mortgage trouble threatens

U.S. borrowers are increasingly missing payments on home equity lines of credit they took out during the housing bubble, a trend that could deal another blow to the country’s biggest banks.

And from Al Jazeera America, stuffing turkeys:

Hundreds of protests planned to mark Black Friday

Labor groups hope to capitalize on a year of controversy surrounding Wal-Mart and other big retailers

Bloomberg Businessweek covers harsh realities:

McDonald’s Worker Says She Can’t Afford to Eat at McDonald’s

For a piece on the potential economic and social consequences of raising the federal minimum wage in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, I interviewed several low-wage workers about how they manage. As we’ve learned from recent studies, they often rely on public assistance; sometimes they turn to their extended family and friends or charity. One told me she donates plasma when she needs a little cash; a second sleeps in her car. One, Shawndraka Mack, works full-time at McDonald’s, but noted she can’t afford to eat there.

From ThinkProgress, uncharitable politics:

Los Angeles Considering Proposal To Ban Feeding Homeless People In Public

The proposal will need to pick up more support among the 15-member Council in order to become law. If passed, though, Los Angeles would join a growing number of other cities that have banned or passed significant restrictions on charities attempting to feed the homeless, including Raleigh and Orlando.

From South China Morning Post, more allegations of banksters behaving badly — in this case, hiring the progeny of Chinese leaders as a wedge to opening doors for deals:

US expands China hiring probe to Morgan Stanley and Citigroup

US authorities are expanding their probe into the hiring practices of American financial institutions, with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) now looking into whether Morgan Stanley and Citigroup hired children of well-connected mainland officials with an intent to win business.

Meanwhile, mouth farts from blowviator via Salon:

Rush Limbaugh: The pope sounds like a Marxist

“This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope”

Meanwhile, Rush might ponder this from the New York Times:

Breadlines Return

The Great Recession was the worst downturn since the Great Depression.  And yet, throughout the recent decline and today’s sluggish recovery, conditions have never seemed as bad as they were in the 1930s. Breadlines, for example, have not been commonplace.

That may be about to change.

An encouraging sign, via Salon:

Breaking: Whole Foods strike wins Thanksgiving day off, workers say

“I think it will be disruptive, but that’s kind of the point,” says one of Chicago workers striking today

Canada next, with the Toronto Globe and Mail, and cross-border ties:

Canadian growth to accelerate but U.S. well-being still key: IMF

The IMF pegs Canadian growth at 2.25 per cent next year following modest growth of 1.6 per cent this year as exports and business investment “disappointed.”

Next, feet enter oral orifices, via Techdirt:

TPP Defenders Take To The Internet To Deliver Official Talking Points; Inadvertently Confirm Opponents’ Worst Fears

from the TPP-doesn’t-do-anything-opponents-claim-it-does,-except-for-all-this dept

Seeking friends in need, via EUbusiness:

France, Spain seek European push for jobs, growth

France and Spain’s leaders, both suffering in the polls as they grapple with feeble economies, united Wednesday in pressuring the European Union to do more to help boost activity and create desperately needed jobs.

BBC News takes us to Britain and austerian arrogance:

David Cameron defiant over tougher EU benefit plans

David Cameron has defended plans to toughen welfare rules for EU migrants, saying he was sending a “clear message” to people that the UK was not a “soft touch” for claiming benefits.

He said he shared public concerns about the end of work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians next month.

More Cameron Tory neoliberalism from The Independent:

David Cameron to lobby for support on migration restrictions at EU summit in Lithuania

From the London Telegraph, Mariano Rajoy scotches hopes:

Spanish PM: Independent Scotland would be kicked out of the EU

Scotland would be kicked out of the European Union if it voted for independence, the Spanish Prime Minister has said in a devastating blow to Alex Salmond’s claims membership would be seamless.

Sweden next, with a burgeoning bubble from TheLocal.se:

Swedes’ mortgage debt continues to swell

Swedes are borrowing money more than ever, data from Statistics Sweden revealed on Wednesday, as household indebtedness reached new heights.

The annual growth rate of household indebtedness was calculated to be 4.9 percent in October this year, a 0.1 percentage-point increase in one month. Statisticians at the state agency predicted that the increase will continue, and cited the upswing from 4.5 percent in January 2013.

TheLocal.se, planning ahead and raising hopes for Sweden’s braceros:

Swedish opposition to scrap migrant-worker law

The left-wing opposition stands ready to tear up the controversial Laval Law, which differentiates between domestic and foreign workers, if the Social Democrat party wrests power from the government in next year’s elections.

“Swedish collective bargaining agreements should apply in Sweden,” said party leader Stefan Lövfen on Wednesday at a press conference. “It does not matter from which country the employee comes from nor where the employer is registered.”

TheLocal.no covers a seminal embargo:

China blocks semen of hardy Norwegian Red

China has cancelled a project to import semen from the hardy Norwegian Red diary cow, in a move put down to continuing poor diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Holland next, and troubling news from DutchNews.nl:

Healthcare freedom of choice under threat, entire hospitals excluded

Health insurance companies are limiting patient access to some hospitals, and some policyholders will have to pay a contribution to be treated in hospitals with a better reputation, according to research by the AD and insurance comparison website Independer.

On to Germany and high hopes from Europe Online:

German consumer confidence hits six-year high

Consumer confidence in Germany hit a six-year high in December, a survey released Wednesday showed as retailers in Europe’s biggest economy are gearing up for the key Christmas shopping period.

The mood among German households rose to a bigger-than-forecast 7.4 in December from 7.1 in November, the Nuremberg-based market research group GfK said.

BBC News covers a done deal:

Deal reached on new government for Germany under Merkel

Angela Merkel will return as German chancellor for a third term under a coalition deal hammered out with her old Social Democrat (SPD) opponents.

Her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) signed a 185-page agreement with the SPD entitled “Shaping Germany’s Future”

From Spiegel, making virtue of necessity in the peculiar German miracle:

Living Large on a Little: Campgrounds Go Residential in Germany

An increasing number of people are moving to German campgrounds permanently to save money. The little communities of motorhomes and trailers offer a comfortable yet affordable lifestyle that residents say they couldn’t find elsewhere.

TheLocal.de notes banksters behaving badly:

Watchdog probes gold and silver price-fixing

The German financial watchdog, BaFin, said on Wednesday it was looking into allegations of possible manipulation by banks in gold and silver price-fixing.

“In addition to the Libor and Euribor interest rates, BaFin is looking at other bench-marking processes such as gold and silver price fixing at individual banks,” the watchdog said in a statement.

From TheLocal.fr, righteous anger:

Outrage over €21million pension for French CEO

Plans to award the CEO of struggling French car giant Peugeot Citroen with a €21 million pension ($28.5million) has provoked uproar among trade unions, who have spent the last year battling in vain against factory closures and mass job cuts at the firm.

A culinary invasion with TheLocal.fr:

Burger King set to open 400 outlets in France

US fast food giant Burger King looks set to take a big bite out of the French market, after they announced this week they would be opening up to 400 new restaurants throughout the country.

And on to the Alps with Channel NewsAsia Singapore and more BBB:

UBS Paris office raided in Swiss tax fraud probe

French investigators on Wednesday raided the Paris headquarters of the local arm of Swiss bank UBS, which has been placed under investigation for allegedly helping rich clients hide money in undeclared accounts.

Spain next, with El País and a central bankster’s assurance:

Recovery continued at start of fourth quarter, Bank of Spain says

Spanish export sector remains buoyant with some signs of an improvement in domestic demand while salaries flatline

The London Telegraph reports a con:

Spanish government accused of pushing illegal homes to Britons

A register with details of Spain’s three million empty homes fails to flag all of those earmarked for demolition

From El País a singular act of resistance to the reigning neoliberal Popular Party:

Madrid Socialist leader resigns Senate seat over PP-linked judge

Gómez stages “act of rebellion” against privatization of public healthcare and carve-up of legal watchdog’s membership

The leader of the Socialist Party in Madrid (PSM), Tomás Gómez, on Wednesday announced he is resigning his seat in the Senate to “be consistent with” his principles. Gómez’s decision came in response to the national party’s pact with the Popular Party (PP) over the reshuffling of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), by which Judge Francisco Gerardo Martínez Tristán will be elevated to the legal watchdog’s panel. Martínez sits on the 50-magistrate panel of the Madrid regional High Court that has been charged with deciding the fate of six of the region’s public hospitals, which the PP wants to privatize.

El País again, with neoliberalism in action:

More than 1.1 million students lose textbook grants

Families were receiving between 70-180 euros, depending on the schooling period and the region

Public subsidies for school book purchases have nosedived during the economic crisis. But according to a report from the Ombudsman’s Office, which notes a 45-percent drop in financing in the last four years, the crisis “explains but does not justify this reduction.”

The Portugal News takes across the border to yet another postal privatization, that essential plank in the neoliberal destruction of the commons:

CTT postal privatisation sees demand outstrip supply six times over

The demand for shares in the Portuguese post office CTT – Correios de Portugal outstripped supply 6.5 times according to information supplied by CMVM, the stock market authorities, to state holding company Parpública.

Italy next, with a Bunga Bunga booting from the New York Times:

Berlusconi Expelled from Senate in Italy

Having spent months manufacturing procedural delays or conjuring political melodrama in hopes of saving himself, Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday could no longer stave off the inevitable: Italy’s Senate resoundingly stripped him of his parliamentary seat, a dramatic and humiliating expulsion, even as other potential troubles await him.

And TheLocal.it pledges allegiance:

‘Berlusconi will always be our leader’

Supporters of Silvio Berlusconi mourned his expulsion from parliament on Wednesday, with one declaring: “This is not finished!”

Thousands of Berlusconi’s fans travelled to Rome from all over Italy in a show of support, with waving Forza Italia flags and holding candle-lit vigils behind held outside his Rome residence.

From TheLocal.it again, more austerian reality:

Italy’s crisis leaves middle class struggling

With unemployment at record levels and some of the highest poverty levels anywhere in the EU, Italy’s economic crisis has left many formerly well-off Italians barely able to put food on the table.

Italy’s unemployment rate hit an all-time high of 12.5 percent in October, while thousands of those who are clinging onto jobs are on short-term contracts and often go unpaid for months.

An EU report in September said that Italy is the only large country in core Europe that suffers from “material hardships”, with one in ten Italians cutting back on basics such as heating and eating meat.

After the jump, ongoing Grecomeltdown, Russian baggage, Indian anxieties and opportunities, Southeast Asian land grabs and protests, environmental mayhem, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Enviro/NoFuku


For the first time in months, no stories from Fukushima! But there’s plenty of other news, including the latest from Greece, China’s embrace of Reaganomics, and a lot more. . .except for Fukushimapocalypse Now! because, for the first time in months, there’s no breaking news from the reactor complex.

We begin at home with CNBC and a legalization landmark:

First recreational marijuana seller in US expects sky-high revenue boost

A medical marijuana dispensary in Central City, Colo.—a small gambling town nestled in the mountains near Denver—just became the first business in the United States licensed to sell marijuana to patrons without a note from their doctors.

Erin Phillips, the co-founder of medical marijuana chain Strainwise, announced this week that the Colorado Department of Revenue’s marijuana enforcement division accepted the company’s application for a recreational marijuana license on Nov. 15. She told CNBC on Friday that industry insiders estimate business can triple with the new license.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, badly behaving bankster gets the slams. Finally:

Ex-Credit Suisse trader gets 30 months’ jail

A former top Credit Suisse trader has been sentenced to two and a half years’ jail in New York for inflating subprime mortgage-related bond prices during the housing market collapse.

Reuters scents danger:

Investors wary of U.S. stock surge, even as money piles in

Many prominent managers at the Reuters 2014 Global Investment Outlook Summit believe the record-setting run-up in U.S. stocks is due for a reckoning but acknowledge that ample liquidity could push equities higher regardless of fears.

From International Business Times, it should come ass now surprise:

Who Has Really Benefited From Five Years Of The Fed’s Quantitative Easing?

Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the Federal Reserve’s launch of its quantitative easing program to bail out the financial system and stimulate growth. Naturally, people are asking who has really benefited from the bond-buying binge.  The answer, according to an analysis by Credit Writedowns, is those who had the resources to hold on to stock investments. No one else was nearly as fortunate.

From BBC News, metastasis:

Online gambling in New Jersey signals US expansion

Online gambling has been launched in the state of New Jersey, a sign that the US may slowly be opening up to the multibillion-dollar industry.

And then there’s California’s surplus problem, covered by Jezebel:

California Wants to Unload Its Abandoned Chihuahuas on New York

Abandoned chihuahuas are apparently a problem in California, the land of second-guessing dog owners. So many people abandon Chihuahuas that California shelters are shipping the small, emotionally manipulative dogs to New York, claiming that Chihuahuas are an in-demand breed in New York because prospective pet owners are jammed into tiny apartments and don’t have the space for a quadruped companion any bigger than a coffee mug.

Canada next, with an OPEC application from CBC News:

Canadian oil production to rise 75% by 2035, NEB says

Demand forecast to increase by 28 per cent over the same period

Canadian oil production will increase by 75 per cent and gas production by 25 per cent by 2035, according to a report by the National Energy Board.

Its energy supply and demand projections report, released Friday, projects Canadian crude oil production of 5.8 million barrels a day by 2035.

And from EurActiv, justification for the abominable:

EU-US trade deal offers hope on reporting convergence

EU trade negotiators are optimistic that they can secure a place for financial services regulation within key trade talks next week (27 November), offering some hope that this will help spur the US towards more convergence in international corporate reporting.

And to Europe, first with flexibility from EUobserver:

Spain and Italy get leeway on budget targets

Just two euro states – Estonia and Germany – were given the budgetary all clear when the bloc’s economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn published the EU executive’s budget recommendations for the seventeen countries last week.

Britain next, with a noxious austerian prescription from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions via The Guardian:

Iain Duncan Smith ‘targeting seriously ill claimants’ in benefits overhaul

Nearly 550,000 people currently considered too sick to work face losing financial support if radical changes go ahead

The fate of nearly 550,000 benefit claimants currently deemed unfit for work due to serious illnesses such as cancer is in the balance as it emerged that Iain Duncan Smith is planning a radical change to the welfare system.

Meanwhile, hang out the “Help Wanted” sign, from The Independent:

NHS hospitals send overseas for nurses before winter crisis

Spanish and Portuguese professionals invited to fill 20,000 vacancies as Health Secretary is tackled on staffing levels

Sky News covers another privatization with far-reaching consequences:

Ministers To Unveil £900m Student Loan Sale

The Government is set to announce the privatisation of the 1990s loan book on Monday, Sky News understands.

Nearly £1bn of student loans will be offloaded by the Government to a private debt collection agency on Monday in a move likely to stoke renewed controversy over coalition sell-offs.

From BBC News, yet more banksters behaving badly:

Vince Cable refers report into RBS treatment of business to watchdogs

Business Secretary Vince Cable has referred a report about how RBS dealt with small business to City regulators.

RBS put some “good and viable” businesses into default so it could make more profit, it is claimed in a report by government adviser Lawrence Tomlinson to be released on Monday.

Strike up a chorus of Scotland the Brave, with Firstpost:

Scotland names independence day for first time: March 24, 2016

Scotland will become independent of the United Kingdom on March 24, 2016 if a majority of Scots vote to end their 306-year-old union next year, the Scottish government said on Sunday, naming its “date with destiny” for the first time.

And the appropriate music [bagpipe alert] from The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Tank Regiment:

To Ireland next with New Europe:

Ireland’s GDP to grow by 0.1% this year

Ireland’s GDP will only grow by 0.1% this year and 1.9% next year, according to the latest forecast of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Paris-based think tank said Ireland’s unemployment will remain high at 13.2% in 2014.

And one of the many dark sides of the Irish miracle from EUobserver:

Debunking the Troika’s ‘success’ in Ireland

Statistics released Thursday by Eurostat show that Ireland tops the European list of countries where the number of people leaving the country is higher than the ones coming in – by 35,000.

Ireland also saw a dramatic shift over a relatively short period of time. It went from the highest net immigration levels in Europe to the highest emigration in just six years, overtaking the Baltic states and Kosovo.

France next, with the not-so-Magic Kingdom with The Independent:

Exclusive: Trouble in the Magic Kingdom? With union marches replacing the parade, the fairytale is over for Disneyland Paris

Travails of the park stand in stark contrast to the ‘service with a smile’ the staff at Disney’s US parks are renowned for

At the end of October, the National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions (Unsa), a French confederation of trade unions, wrote to the chief executive of Disneyland Paris demanding an improvement in working conditions following the attempted suicide of a staff member, The Independent can disclose.

From RFI, saddled up for action:

French Horse-riders gallop through Paris against tax hike

In a country famous for strikes, a protester can come in many forms. On Sunday, it was horses. Thousands of horse-riders from across France marched in the streets of Paris, with horses and ponies in tow, to say “nay” to a proposed tax hike from seven per cent to 20 slated to start on 1 January.

Holland next, and putting the bite on with DutchNews.nl:

Dentist takes patient’s false teeth in lieu of payment

A Dutch dentist who confiscated a patient’s false teeth after he failed to pay his bills is in trouble with the national dentists’ association for his unusual approach.

The dentist called the patient in for his six-monthly check-up, then removed the teeth and demanded payment within a week, local paper De Gelderlander said. The patient made a formal complaint.

From Deutsche Welle, a Swiss miss, by a factor of two to one:

Swiss TV: Voters reject salary cap for nation’s top earners

Voters in Switzerland have rejected a move to limit the salary of companies’ top executives, provisional results suggest. The referendum asked whether it should be capped at 12 times the salary of their lowest earners.

Spain next with the Associated Press, cleaning up:

Trash strike in Spain’s capital ends after 13 days

A trash collectors’ strike that left Madrid’s streets piled high with garbage has ended after 13 days, with workers voting to accept a deal hammered out by trade unions and employers.

Unions called the strike when Madrid’s municipal cleaning companies announced plans to lay off more than 1,000 workers and pay cuts for some 5,000 street cleaners, park workers and garbage collectors.

El País covers a gap:

Spain seeks Eurogroup support for draft 2014 budget

Brussels has warned government of need for further cuts worth 35 billion euros

And El País again, this time takin’ it to the streets:

Citizens take to city streets to object to Brussels’ call for more cutbacks

Thousands of people in more than 50 cities across Spain took to the streets on Saturday to protest against the European Commission’s latest call for further austerity measures. At the same time, campaigning organization Greenpeace took advantage of the fresh demonstrations to draw attention to the Popular Party (PP) government’s plans to tighten measures covering public protests, including issuing steep fines and other sanctions for certain types of conduct by citizens at such rallies.

Here’s a video report from Press TV:

55 Spanish cities engulfed in protests against public service cutback policies

Program notes:

Trade unions and anti-austerity groups angry at the effects of the financial crisis have held protest marches in 55 Spanish cities. They’re calling on the government to re-think its policy of cutbacks in public services, education and health care.

Thousands of Spaniards marched across the country carrying banners opposing health care policies. They also oppose a proposed law which would see citizens fined for unauthorized demonstrations. Many claim that the bill violates the principles of democracy. Spain has been the scene of protests in recent months. Spaniards argue the new laws along with anti-austerity measures have led to job losses, with the younger generation among the hardest hit.

And more to come, via thinkSPAIN:

Nationwide demonstration over education reforms next Saturday and three-day strike in the pipeline

A THREE-DAY strike and mass protests over schools reforms are set to take place this coming week in an attempted social coup to oust education minister José Ignacio Wert.

Italy next, with protest to come from Europe Online:

Berlusconi party plans street rally on day of Senate ejection vote

Forza Italia, the newly-renamed conservative party of Silvio Berlusconi, is preparing a street protest for Wednesday, the day Italy’s former prime minister is expected to be kicked out of parliament over a tax fraud conviction.

And another action, via Europe Online:

Italy’s sixth-largest city paralyzed by “Greek-style” bus strike

Italy’s sixth-largest city, Genoa, was facing Saturday the fifth straight day of a wildcat public transport strike that has paralyzed traffic and evoked comparisons with “Greek-style” labour unrest.

Europe Online, this time with hard times intolerance in Eastern Europe:

Shock in Slovakia: right-wing extremist wins regional vote

In an surprise outcome Saturday, a right-wing extremist was elected president of one of Slovakia’s self-governing regions, election officials said.

Marian Kotleba, known for his agitation against the Roma minority as well as for appearing in uniforms modeled upon fascist styles, defeated the Social Democrat incumbent in the Banka Bystrica region. The vote count was 55.53 per cent to 44.46 per cent.

After the jump, Greek meltdown, soaring Israeli stocks, labor questions in Qatar, Putin’s crackdown, a factory for Mexico, Chinese Reaganomics, gangster/bankster woes in Japan, and environmental crises. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Greco/Fukufails


Whole lot of economic news goin’ on, especially in Greece, and notable environmental stories after the jump, along with the latest episode of Fukushimapocalypse Now!

We begin in the U.S. with three cheers to the activists who purged fellow citizens of $14,734,569.87 in personal, mainly medical, debt. Via The Guardian:

Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15m of Americans’ personal debt

  • Rolling Jubilee spent $400,000 to purchase debt cheaply from banks before ‘abolishing’ it, freeing individuals from their bills

  • Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy’s Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before “abolishing” it, freeing individuals from their bills.

Salon casts a pall:

Scalia’s chance to smash unions: The huge under-the-radar case

A Supreme Court case being argued Wednesday could take away a tactic that’s kept unions alive

The case, Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, involves the constitutionality of “card check neutrality agreements” between unions and companies they’re trying to organize.

And Wonkette takes a well-deserved shot at California’s contemptible plutocratic senator:

Dianne Feinstein Joins Colleagues In Undermining Affordable Care Act, Thanks Obama!

The Guardian poses what shouldn’t be a choice at all:

Detroit’s decision to fend off bankruptcy: pay pensions or banks?

Fears grow that fight to stave off city bankruptcy may hit the poorest hardest

From the Washington Post, a simple conclusion:

The Great Recession may have crushed America’s economic potential

And a parallel headline from GlobalPost:

America is losing its allure

Analysis: A disturbing new trend suggests foreign investors may be falling out of love with the US economy.

But there’s one aspect of the U.S. other countries still cherish, reports the Los Angeles Times:

Foreign students continue to flock to U.S. colleges

A record number of international students were in the U.S. in 2012, a new study reports, with USC attracting the largest number of them.

From the Oakland Tribune, a call for the former Homeland Security boss who now runs the University of California:

Napolitano: Freeze UC tuition, seek low-fee policy

New UC President Janet Napolitano marked her first regents meeting Wednesday with a vow to make the university more affordable and calling for an undergraduate tuition freeze in 2014-15.

Yahoo! Finance makes a point we’re always proclaiming:

United States of Underemployment: Dead-End Jobs Prop Up Employment Growth

And from Women Rock Science, a sordid tale about our brasve new media:

Female Science writer gets called a Whore for saying NO to working for free

This is Biologist Dr Danielle N. Lee also known as the Urban Scientist at Scientific American, she “draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups.” Biology-Online liked her work so much they wanted her to write for them……for free. Danielle Lee politely declined so Biology-Online did what everyone does when women say no – they called her a “Whore”.

But the Contributor notes that some are winning big:

For First Time Since 1995, US Produced More Oil Domestically Than It Imported

For the first month in nearly two decades, the U.S. in October extracted more oil from the ground than it imported from abroad, marking an important milestone for a nation seeking to wean itself off foreign oil.

From Reuters, a prime market:

EU duty-free jet fuel sets new battle for world refiners

U.S. refiners are expected to ship large volumes of jet fuel across the Atlantic starting in 2014 after the European Union scrapped an import duty on the product, opening a new battleground for the world’s largest refineries, traders said.

The Guardian takes us to the dark side:

Over 3,000 US prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent crimes

ACLU report chronicles thousands of lives ruined by life sentences for crimes such as shoplifting or possession of a crack pipe

From the Verge, Obama’s latest sellout:

US patent moves are ‘profoundly bad’ in leaked TPP treaty

In new agreement, Obama sides with locked phones and Big Pharma

But the Contributor raises limited hope:

Not-So-Fast-Track: House Opposition to Secret International Trade Deal ‘Could Be the End of TPP’

From RT, a major investor:

Mormon Church purchases 2% of the state of Florida for half a billion dollars

A sect of the Mormon Church is poised to become the largest private landowner in the state of Florida after spending more than half a billion dollars to purchase hundreds of thousands of acres across three counties.

From the New Republic, a warning about the status of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission:

Congress Is Starving the Agency That’s Supposed to Prevent Another Meltdown

The chief regulator for over $300 trillion worth of derivatives trades has seen its operations squeezed by drastic underfunding, right at the time the Dodd-Frank financial reform law dropped a whole new set of responsibilities in its lap.

North of the border for the latest mayoral misbehavin’ from BBC News:

Toronto’s Rob Ford says he bought drugs in last two years

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has admitted buying illegal drugs in the past two years, at a raucous meeting at which city councillors asked him to take a leave of absence.

More from USA TODAY:

Santa parade officials ask Toronto mayor not to march

The mayor initially agreed to watch from the sidelines, but now wants to lead the march.

Our final Fordian frolic from National Post:

New Ford files: documents reveal staff suspicions over prostitutes, cocaine and OxyContin

Rob Ford court documents reveal staffers thought prostitute was in his office, mayor was driving drunk

Next, a global story from Bloomberg:

Emerging-Market Banks Threatened by End of Credit Boom

The world’s largest emerging markets recovered quickly from the 2008 financial crisis because consumers and companies went on a borrowing binge. Now that credit spree is coming back to haunt banks in those countries.

Another one, from the Mainichi:

World economy being sustained by extraordinary aid

  • Five years after a global financial crisis erupted, the world’s biggest economies still need to be propped up.

  • They’re growing and hiring a little faster and creating more jobs, but only with extraordinary aid from central banks or government spending. And economists say major countries may need help for years more.

Across the Atlantic, first with Europe Online:

Eurozone industrial production down 0.5 per cent in September

Industrial production in the eurozone fell by 0.5 per cent in September, performing worse than expected after spiking in the previous month, data released Wednesday showed.

From Reuters, cause for anxiety:

Analysis: Deflation threat in Europe may prompt investment rethink

The threat of deflation in the euro zone could reverse a major investment trend of 2013, drawing funds out of stocks and into government bonds and cash.

From Bloomberg, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi hosts a come-to-Jesus meeting:

Draghi Goes Face-to-Face With Bank Chiefs on Asset Health

Chief executive officers from banks from five countries — Germany, Belgium, Cyprus, Malta and Luxembourg — met today with Draghi and other board members at ECB headquarters, a spokeswoman for the central bank said by telephone. The list included Europe’s largest investment bank by revenue, Deutsche Bank AG, and lenders such as Malta’s Bank of Valletta Plc.

And BBC News covers an exodus:

Escape to Oz: Young Europeans head to Australia in search of work

Migration from countries such as Ireland is at levels not seen since the 1980s as Australia’s seemingly bulletproof economy, insulated from the global slowdown by a roaring mining industry, offers the chance of a fresh beginning.

While Spiegel covers eurofoes:

Euroskeptic Union: Right-Wing Populists Forge EU Alliance

Right-wing populists are trying to create a powerful faction in the European Parliament. Leading the efforts are Geert Wilders from the Netherlands and Marine le Pen of France — and their initiative has big implications for Europe.

More from DutchNews.nl:

Wilders commissions report into cost of Holland leaving the EU

PVV leader Geert Wilders has commissioned a British bureau to carry out new research into how much it would cost the Netherlands to leave the EU, the NRC reports on Tuesday.

To Britain with Channel NewsAsia Singapore and an uptick:

British official unemployment rate hits four-year low

Britain’s unemployment rate has fallen to a four-year low point, official data showed on Wednesday, putting pressure on the Bank of England to raise its record-low interest rate sooner than expected.

But RT takes another angle:

Cheese thieves: UK middle classes turn to stealing food they can’t afford

Gourmet cheese and beef joints are among the top stolen items in the UK, a new report has shown. Middle class shoppers have turned to stealing out of need for food, due to the weak economy, with the total cost of retail theft hitting £3.4bn last year.

But BBC News offers the declaration of victory:

Bank of England says the UK recovery has taken hold

Bank of England governor Mark Carney says the UK recovery has “taken hold” and unemployment will fall sooner than it had forecast.

Germany next, with a sharper focus from the Associated Press:

EU launches review of Germany’s export strength

  • The European Union is launching a review of Germany’s hard-charging export economy and whether its burgeoning trade surplus hampers the recovery of weaker countries.

  • The question is whether Germany should encourage wage growth and more spending at home to help growth in its European trade partners and the 17-country euro currency union as a whole.

But Europe Online spots shaky ground:

Germany Social Democrats: Coalition talks with Merkel could fail

Negotiations between German conservatives headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD) on forming a coalition government could fail, a senior SPD member warned Wednesday.

While Spiegel proclaims a gerontocracy:

Punishing the Young: German Pension Reforms a Gift for the Elderly

Berlin’s incoming government is expected to institute a wave of pension reform that could exacerbate inequality, burden workers and create huge budget headaches. So why are the parties so intent on pushing it through?

Deutsche Welle invokes the technocrats:

Germany’s economic ‘wise men’ slam Merkel for costly coalition plans

Germany’s ‘wise men’ panel of economic advisers has warned Chancellor Merkel against striking costly deals in current coalition talks with the Social Democrats. They fear Germany’s nascent recovery might be slowed.

From DutchNews.nl, as on Wall Street, so in Amsterdam:

The Dutch rich are getting richer says Quote magazine

The 500 richest Dutch people have together become €7bn richer over the past year, according to the latest edition of the Quote 500 rich list.

And another DutchNews.nl headline sets the context:

Rabobank economists see no growth in 2014

The Dutch economy will not grow in 2014 and unemployment will continue to rise, according to economists from Rabobank in their latest forecast.

To France with RFI and the latest outburst of hard times intolerance:

Far-right paper causes storm with racist insult to French justice minister Taubira

A far-right paper in France has caused uproar with a headline comparing Guyanese-born Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey. The Minute front page is the latest of several racist insults that Taubira has faced since she guided the government’s gay marriage law through parliament.

RFI has more grief for the government:

Schools strike, mayors threaten non-compliance over French school reform

Schools in Paris were disrupted by strikes Wednesday morning on the second day of strikes against change to school hours. Mayors of 55 towns have declared that they will not implement the change when it comes into force across the whole of France in 2014.

And from RFI again, the pressure mounts:

Hollande under pressure to make changes amid mounting social discontent

The sight of protestors jeering at President François Hollande during the solemn Armistice Day Commemorations has stirred talk in France that the activities of various groups with different grievances are coalescing to form a more generalised revolt against the current government.

And the pressure intensifies again. From CNBC:

The euro could disappear in 10 years: BlackRock CEO

The euro could be in danger of disappearing within the next decade if France does not continue pushing economic reforms, BlackRock Capital boss Larry Fink said Tuesday.

Spain next, and a deflation alert from Europe Online:

Spain posts negative inflation for first time since 2009

  • Spain’s consumer price index dropped by 0.1 per cent in October, its first year-on-year fall since 2009, statistics body INE said Wednesday.

  • In September, inflation had registered an increase of 0.3 per cent.

While ANSAmed chronicles another deflationary alert:

Spanish real estate market down for 5th month

From El País, a mixed report card:

Spain fails Brussels’ economic imbalances probe in five areas

  • Germany cited for excess current account surplus.

  • Eurogroup to give thumbs up to Madrid on bank bailout conditions.

thinkSPAIN covers another austerian consequence:

Crisis causes fewer plane passengers and local travellers take the bus rather than the train

AIR passenger numbers are continuing to fall with a decrease of 14.5 per cent in the past year, reports the National Institute of Statistics (INE).

And El País reports a notable failure, a leading electrical appliance maker that is part of the world’s heretofore most successful co-op, Mondragon:

Fagor files for receivership

Other units of loss-making Basque electrical appliance manufacturer to follow suit in next few days

Portugal and a country where 100,o000 have already fled in search of work, via ANSAmed:

Portuguese unemployment falls from 17.7% to 16.4%

A total of 838,600 people out of a job

The Portugal News notices a debt shift:

Mortgage defaults up while personal credit defaults drop

The number of Portuguese families who are not managing to pay their loans fell in September to a total of 658,900, but the number who are finding it tough to pay their mortgages is increasing, according to data compiled by Lusa News Agency from Bank of Portugal data.

Italy next, and a declaration from Corriere della Sera:

Berlusconi to Withdraw from Government if Expelled from Senate

Former PM reflects bitterly: “For twenty years, I’ve been doing all I can to keep moderates united. Someone always turns up to split them”

And Reuters foresees a bite at the Apple:

Italy investigates Apple for alleged tax fraud: sources

U.S. tech giant Apple is under investigation in Italy for allegedly hiding 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) from the local tax authority, two judicial sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Bulgaria next, with GlobalPost:

It’s getting ugly in Sofia: Bulgarian students barricade university

After months of street demonstrations, the young take the vanguard of a popular protest movement.

Another take from EUobserver:

Bulgaria leaders condemn attacks on immigrants

Bulgaria’s president and prime minister on Tuesday jointly condemned the rise in racist attacks against immigrants and asylum seekers from Syria, reporters Reuters.

After the jump, Greek meltdown continues, mixed Latin American signals, Worries in India, China’s neoliberal surge, environmental alerts, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now! . . . Continue reading

Fukushima: An angry, sorrowful, toxic legacy


AT 27:49, this ABC Australia documentary via Journeyman Pictures provides a penetrating look at the impacts of the 3/11 disaster and its radioactive legacy.

Reporter Mark Willacy asks many of the right questions, and the answers he receives reveal the dual realty in which survivors live each day, haunted by a profound sense of loss mirrored against an deep and justifiable anxiety about the future ahead.

Radiating the People: Fukushima’s Cancer Legacy

Program notes:

It’s what post-Fukushima Japan fears the most; cancer. Amid allegations of government secrecy, worrying new claims say a cancer cluster has developed around the radiation zone and that the victims are children.

In a private children’s hospital well away from the no-go zone, parents are holding on tight to their little sons and daughters hoping doctors won’t find what they’re looking for. Thyroid cancer. Tests commissioned by the local authorities have discerned an alarming spike here. Experts are reluctant to draw a definitive link with Fukushima, but they’re concerned. “I care because I went to Chernobyl and I saw each child there, so I know the pain they went through”, says Dr Akira Sugenoya, a former thyroid surgeon. What terrifies parents most is a government they feel they can’t trust. It’s created a culture of fear; one which has led a number of women post-Fukushima to have abortions because they were worried about birth defects. “The doctors in Fukushima say that it shouldn’t be coming out so soon, so it can’t be related to the nuclear accident. But that’s very unscientific, and it’s not a reason we can accept”, Dr Sugenoya insists. “It was disclosed that the Fukushima health investigation committee was having several secret meetings. I feel the response has been unthinkable for a democratic nation”, Dr Minoru Kamata from the Japan Chernobyl Foundation says.

ABC Australia

Dystopian video: Canada’s Toxic Chemical Valley


Patrick McGuire of Vice reports on the reality of Sarnia, Ontario, where forty percent of Canada’s petrochemical industry concentrates in a 25-square-kilometer hotspot.

From Vice:

Canada’s Toxic Chemical Valley

The program notes:

The first thing you notice about Sarnia, Ontario, is the smell: a potent mix of gasoline, melting asphalt, and the occasional trace of rotten egg. Shortly after my arrival I already felt unpleasantly high and dizzy, like I wasn’t getting enough air. Maybe this had something to do with the bouquet of smokestacks in the southern part of town that, all day every day, belch fumes and orange flares like something out of a Blade Runner-esque dystopia.

Sarnia is home to more than 60 refineries and chemical plants that produce gasoline, synthetic rubbers, and other materials that the world’s industries require to create the commercial products we know and love. The city’s most prominent and profitable attraction is an area about the size of 100 city blocks known as the Chemical Valley, where 40 percent of Canada’s chemical industry can be found packed together like a noxious megalopolis. According to a 2011 report by the World Health Organization, Sarnia’s air is the most polluted air in Canada. There are more toxic air pollutants billowing out of smokestacks here than in all of the provinces of New Brunswick or Manitoba.

Read the full article on VICE here.

Headlines of the day II: Economy, environs, pols


From the Oakland Tribune, a headline we can verify from personal experience:

Many older workers are still struggling despite the ‘recovery’ around them.

From the London Daily Mail, a Silicon Valley magnate and her home:

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer and husband ‘buy San Francisco’s most expensive home as they splash out $35 million on mansion’

From Reuters, a sobering reminder of things past:

Why a medieval peasant got more vacation time than you

And from Science, a stark fact:

Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function

On to Europe, starting with this from Deutsche Welle:

Factories gather steam across eurozone

A survey among purchasing managers has shown manufacturing activity in the eurozone rising at its fastest pace in two years. The growth in output is likely to continue this month, adding steam to Europe’s recovery.

From EUobserver, a sign that fear still lurks in the halls and eurobankster hearts of Frankfurt:

ECB still ‘prepared to use’ bond programme to guard euro

From EUbusiness, Troikarchs crack the whip:

EU-IMF auditors head for Portugal amid new hurdles

From El País, when hard times intolerance meets the sick:

“The government paid for my transplant and turned its back”

One year on, exclusion law for immigrant treatment has left 150,000 people without access to the public healthcare system

And from thinkSPAIN, the latest plutocrat-pleasing gambit by neoliberal Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy:

Rajoy says taxes will go down within the year

From El País, a move to stick it to seniors a little bit down the road:

Minister opts to soften blows for pensioners, guaranteeing annual hike

Changes involving life expectancy will come not into play until 2019, according to government’s latest proposal

One to Greece, starting with this from EnetEnglish.gr:

Twenty years needed to re-create million jobs lost to crisis

  • Labour Institute says employees’ earnings have fallen €41bn since 2009

  • Report finds that since 2009, employees have lost about one quarter of the purchasing power they have from their incomes, adding that if high unemployment continues to place pressure on wages, then they will lose half of their purchasing power in 2014

From Keep Talking Greece, a refusal to ease up on the poorest as winter draws nearer:

Greek gov’t: reduction of special tax on heating oil out of question

And from Europe Online, more musings of a bailout to come:

Greece needs up to 4.5 billion euros, Germany’s Schaeuble says

But the Iron Chancellor begs to differ, according to Capital.gr:

Germany’s Merkel: Nobody Knows Size of a Third Greek Program

And despite all the upbeat hoopla, another ominous sign from Europe, via EUbusiness:

Austrian unemployment rate, EU’s lowest, up to 6.9%

On to Latin America, starting with an Al Jazeera America headline about backlash to new moves to suppress Mexico’s teachers union:

Clashes break out during teachers protest in Mexico City

Police fire tear gas into crowd during demonstration over proposed educational reforms

And from the BBC, an admission from Caracas:

Venezuela admits its economy has ‘structural problems’

Venezuela’s finance minister has acknowledged that the economic policies of late President Hugo Chavez and his successor are yet to be successful.

The Buenos Aires Herald reports a warning from eurocrats:

EU warns of trade protectionism in Argentina, other emerging economies

On to India, with this from The Hindu:

Crisis drives India to turn to Iran for oil

And on to China, first with a SINA English headline:

Most opposed to increasing retirement age

From the South China Morning Post, an odd turn:

TV confessions: The unsettling new trend for Chinese executives

From Bloomberg Businessweek, another sort of confession:

China’s Rich Want Their Say on Policy Reform

And from Xinhua, mixed news:

Interview: Chinese economy slowing down, but very strong in long term: CEPS director

Next, to Japan for on ongoing Fukushimapocalypse headline fest, first from NHK WORLD:

TEPCO steps up monitoring of toxic water leaks

Next, the Asahi Shimbun offers this:

Leaking pipe connecting tanks adds more woes at Fukushima plant

And from The Guardian:

Fukushima: Japan promises swift action on nuclear cleanup

Prime minister Shinzo Abe makes pledge amid growing concern at scale and complexity of operation

Finally, from ENENews:

Governor: Who instructed Tepco to lie for months and say Fukushima didn’t melt down? “It should have been explained there were reasons why lies had to be told”

Our last headline, from Environment News Service, strikes closer to home:

Carcinogen Outlawed in California Found in 98 Shampoos, Soaps

Headlines of the day II: Econ, class, environment


We begin with an offering from our “Gee, They’re Finally Catching On” Department, via Grist:

Rich people are more likely to drive like assholes

And speaking of rich assholes, consider this from Reuters, writing about why three of every four new jobs in the U.S. is part-time and not covered by benefits:

Analysis: Obamacare, tepid U.S. growth fuel part-time hiring

More assholery, from the Washington Post:

How a secretive trade deal could help American tobacco companies hook new smokers

But the White House backing for smoking only goes so far, as BuzzFeed notes:

White House Dodges Question About Marijuana

White House press secretary Josh Earnest wouldn’t comment on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s evolving views on weed at today’s press briefing.

From My Budget 360, more hints of woes to come:

The epic crisis in retirement savings: Vast majority of Americans unprepared for retirement. Median retirement savings for those 25 to 34? Zero dollars.

From CNBC, banksters ensuring their profits:

Wells Fargo eliminates 2,300 mortgage jobs

And from Sky News, our first Banks Behaving Badly entry:

Banks Hit By £1.5bn ID Theft Mis-Selling Bill

The UK’s biggest banks will be hit by a £1.5bn bill for mis-selling identity theft cover on Thursday, Sky News learns.

More Stupid Bankster Tricks from The Independent:

Slavery in the City: Interns at investment banks are suffering ‘inhumane treatment’, warns doctor

Merrill Lynch intern Moritz Erhardt may have worked until 6am for three consecutive days before collapse and death at home as doctor says staff are suffering ‘inhumane treatment’

From El País, bad news for banksters in Spain:

Bad loan rate hits levels seen before Spanish bank bailout

Non-performing loans rose to a record 11.6 percent in the month of June

And one response, also from El País:

Nationalized Catalunya Banc to shed third of staff

Former savings bank planning to shut down commercial network outside of home region

And on to Greece, starting with ominous rumblings from the London Telegraph:

Jens Weidmann slams ‘reckless’ talk of euro break-up as Greece bail-out talk intensifies

A break-up of the eurozone would have “grave consequences” and should not be taken lightly, the head of Germany’s central bank has warned.

And from Spiegel, yet more signs of yet another Greek bailout in the works:

More Aid? Greece Funding May Come from EU Budget

Greece needs more aid, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said on Tuesday, putting the euro crisis at the forefront of an otherwise languid election campaign. A news report on Wednesday indicates the aid might come from the EU budget.

More from EurActiv:

Greece’s third bailout rocks German election campaign

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said on Tuesday (20 August) for the first time that Greece will need another bailout, triggering a storm of protest from opposition parties five weeks before an election in Europe’s biggest economy.

And from ANSAmed, one of the reasons a bailout may be in the works:

Greece: turnover and new orders keep falling for industry

From Capital.gr, the beginnings of a timeline:

Commission: Troika to review Greece bailout situation end Autumn

But there’s one amazingly delightful bit of Hellenic news, via Greek Reporter:

Tomb of Alexander the Great Unearthed?

From The World, a major hit for Egypt’s largest single economic driver:

Egypt’s Tourism Industry Grinds to a Halt

And back across the Atlantic, for this from Bloomberg:

Brazil Mid-August Inflation Accelerates More Than Forecast

More details from MercoPress:

The sliding Brazilian currency has depreciated 18% in the last twelve months

The Brazilian currency Real, which is the region’s reference, is undergoing one of its major depreciations against the US dollar in the last four years because of the poor performance of its economy and the tendency is to continue, at least in the short term, given the uncertainty about US monetary policy.

And woeful portents for Mexico, from the London Telegraph:

Mexico slashes growth forecasts amid first contraction in four years

The Mexican economy contracted for the first time in four years in the second quarter, prompting the government to dramatically slash its growth forecasts amid a wider Latin American slowdown.

And on to Asia, starting with a rare candid admission that the Chinese economy is sailing into rough waters via China Daily:

Economic slowdown raises top corporates’ credit risk

And from MercoPress, another sign of Chinese malaise and its oimpact on the Latin American export economy:

Slow Chinese demand hits mining giants’ profits; not much change expected in short term

Newly-formed mining giant Glencore Xstrata has written down the value of Xstrata’s assets by 7.7bn dollars and reported a drop in revenues. The firm, which was created in May, said the write-down reflected tougher conditions in the mining sector.

And now for environmental headlines, starting with this from The Guardian:

Fukushima warning: danger level at nuclear plant jumps to ‘serious’

Japan’s nuclear agency dramatically raises status after saying a day earlier that radioactive water leak was only an ‘anomaly’

More from Deutsche Welle:

Japan nuclear watchdog to upgrade Fukushima leak status

Japan’s nuclear watchdog has said it plans to upgrade the status of a radioactive water leakage from the crippled Fukushima plant, saying it is “extremely concerned.” The exact source of the leak has yet to be found.

And here’s more bad news from Fukushima, this time from the Asahi Shimbun:

6 who were minors at time of nuclear disaster newly found to have thyroid cancer

Another environmental worry in two headlines, starting with this from InvestmentWatch:

Trans-Pacific Partnership Breaks Down Sovereignty and GMO Protections

Followed by this from Nature News, yet another recognition of a problem we’ve covered repeatedly:

Genetically modified crops pass benefits to weeds

Herbicide resistance could confer an advantage on plants in the wild.

Finally, from our “Is it the end of the world yet?” Department, via The Independent:

‘The pecking dead’: Panicked Russians contact authorities to report eerie behaviour of ‘zombie pigeons’

Birds seem extremely lethargic and seemingly fearless

Interviewing Mark McGowan, the Artist Taxi Driver


McGowan has become a British Internet phenomenon, the outraged vox populi tackling the issues of the day from a decidedly working class stance.

His epic rants, posted frequently to his website, provide a refreshingly outspoken view of the daily life impacts of the neoliberal regime launched by Margaret Thatcher and continued in an unbroken chain into the present.

In this post, McGowan’s passenger is a journalist, Sarah Morrison of The Independent, who finds herself part of the story.

interview with the Independent newspaper reporter Sarah Morrison

UPDATE: Morrison’s story is now online, headlined “Mark McGowan: The taxi driver fuelled by rage at the corruption of modern life.” Here’s the opener:

“I’m the Artist Taxi Driver and this, my friends, is Sarah Morrison,” Mark McGowan says directly into the iPhone camera that is hanging from his taxi’s windshield. I should have guessed this was going to happen. The provocative performance artist – perhaps best known for pushing a monkey nut for seven miles right up to the door of No 10 Downing Street, using only his nose – has undergone a  YouTube-shaped reincarnation.

Equipped with only black sunglasses, a 12-year-old car and a mobile phone, the “Artist Taxi Driver” can now be found powerfully ranting about pretty much everything: from Egypt and the privatisation of the NHS to the evils of fracking and the absurdity of the Royal Family. He downloads videos three times a day, all for public consumption. This interview, he insists, will also be available online.

He has interviewed the likes of the comedian Frankie Boyle, politicians Caroline Lucas, Paul Flynn and George Galloway, as well as the rapper Akala and the paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson, all from inside his car.

Read the rest.

Celebrity doc does cannabis turnaround


Following up on our previous post, here’s a stunning turnaround by television’s most famous celebrity doctor, Sanjay Gupta, on medical marijuana. Talking with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Gupta apologizes for his previous opposition.

We also learn that both Gupta and Morgan have smoked the stuff, with Gupta apparently experiencing the typical first-time user paranoia.

From CNN via Mox News:

But the Obama administration continues the war on medical pot, even though the Prez toked like blast furnace during his teen and college years with no apparent impairment to his ability to function in society.

His Justice Department is busy raiding cannabis clinics and seizing the buildings that house them, a practice first launched by his predecessor, a former alcoholic. But, heck, they’ve got to fill those increasingly privatized prisons to keep their donors happy and keep those cops armed with the latest gadgets, the creations of other contibutors.

As for the gravely ill who benefit so much from the ancient herb, fuck ‘em, right?

As a personal note we should add that cannabis was the only thing that kept our nausea to manageable levels during our recent cancer chemo regimen, and it’s the only thing that has kept our rheumatoid arthritis and the attendant symptoms within tolerable limits.

And, yes, we do enjoy the buzz.

BLOG 14 September Obama

America’s legacy of cancer, birth defects in Iraq


The neocons who led America into war with Iraq lied to the nation, claiming that the regime of Saddam Hussein had developed massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was well on its way to making nuclear weapons.

It was all lies, of course, and the reall weapons of mass destruction were those of the invaders, and they are continuing to maim and kill, as documented in this report from RT:

Toxic US weapons blamed for Iraq’s birth-defect ‘Hiroshima’

The program notes:

More than a decade after US led forces invaded Iraq – there is a legacy of horrific birth defects. Scientists blame the weapons used by the US military. Fallujah is the best known example, the number affected there is 14 times higher than in Hiroshima after an atomic bomb was dropped on it in the Second World War. But RT’s Lucy Kafanov was the first to take an in-depth look at the lesser-known extent of the human suffering in Najaf.

And here’s an excerpt from the accompanying text:

Cancer is more common than flu in the Iraqi city of Najaf, a local medics told RT. While doctors say the government discourages them from talking openly to the press on the disease, local families are scared of having more kids with birth defects.

Rates of leukemia and birth defects “rose dramatically” due to use of depleted uranium by the US military since 2003 invasion.

“After the start of the Iraq war, rates of cancer, leukemia and birth defects rose dramatically in Najaf. The areas affected by American attacks saw the biggest increases. We believe it’s because of the ‘illegal’ weapons like depleted uranium that were used by the Americans. When you visit the hospital here you see that cancer is more common than the flu,” Dr. Sundus Nsaif tells RT’s Lucy Kafanov while talking on the rooftop of her house in Najaf, instead of her laboratory. Why the secrecy? As she reveals, there’s an active push by the government perhaps not to embarrass the coalition forces, not to really talk about this issue.

Read the rest.

Former Mexican President: Legalize marijuana


UPDATED: At the end. . .

From High Times magazine, an interview with former Mexican President Vicente Fox, in which calls for not only legalization of cannabis but for an extensive research program to focus on developing cannabis as a treatment for cancer.

From the High Times vlog:

The HIGH TIMES Interview: President Vicente Fox

The program notes:

Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox sits down with HIGH TIMES for an exclusive interview regarding his global initiative to legalize marijuana. Alarmed by the Drug War that has been ravaging his country since he left office in 2006, President Fox has created a broad coalition that includes American pot activists to focus on a singular goal that will help curb cartel violence: legalizing pot.

Another High Times video documents a San Francisco Bay Area even last month:

Bay Area Medical Cannabis Cup 2013 – Overview

The program notes:

Check out comprehensive highlights and interviews from the 2013 HIGH TIMES Bay Area Medical Cannabis Cup – June 22-23, Richmond, CA.

UPDATE: A third story, this time from ABC News on the ganja-tokin’ moms of 90210:

Marijuana Mommies: Calif. Women Say Pot Makes Better Parents, Start Beverly Hills Cannabis Club

The program notes:

With purchase of drug legal at licensed dispensaries, Beverly Hills women start Cannabis Club.

For more, see the accompanying story, “Pot Luck: Inside a Beverly Hills Cannabis Club Dinner Party,” by Shana Druckerman.

Chemo Chronicles: The latest neuro news


One of the most frustrating side effects of chemo has been the loss of sensation in the bottom of the feet, an instance of the peripheral neuropathy often accompanying the heavy duty poisons used to burn out malignancies.

In addition to the neuropathy, we’ve also contracted a case of edma in the lower right leg, with the foot appended thereto sometimes swelling to the point our battered old sandal doesn’t fit.

So it was with interest we read this in a piece at science 2.0:

Some of the most disturbing findings of recent studies of cancer survivors is the apparent prevalence of chemotherapy-associated adverse neurological effects, including vascular complications, seizures, mood disorders, cognitive dysfunctions, and peripheral neuropathies.

In addition, chemotherapy triggers changes in ion channels on dorsal root ganglia and dorsal horn neurons that generate secondary changes resulting in neuropathic pains.

Although a number of protective agents have been developed, their effects are not quite  satisfactory. Chemotherapy drugs are also implicated in changes in hippocampal neurogenesis and plasticity.

Read the rest.

Our neuropathy isn’t the painful sort, beyond that peculiar tingling characteristic of that transitional phase when a limb fallen asleep is tingling back to life. But feeling in the soles is critical to balance, so we’re moving a bit more carefully and awkwardly of late.

The research shows one potential benefit of chemo beyond cancer treatment. Patients who’ve been chemoed for some forms of cancer have significantly lower rates of Alzheimer’s. Sadly, micropapillary carcinoma of the bladder and adenoma of the prostate weren’t on the list. On the other hand, no ancestors were afflicted with the devastating ailment.

But the CT scan and chest Xrays were clear, and so we’ll cruise along until we lie down for the next scam and thrust our chest against the plate of the Xray machine down the hall, undergoing burst of carcinogenic to see if any tumors have sprouted up since the last round.

We do harbor questions: Does chemo affect other parts of the brain than the hippocampus? And, if so, what are the effects?

The hippocampus itself plays a central role in long-term memory, which also raises questions about the reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s. We’ve noticed a somewhat diminished ability to concentrate, which is the main reason we’ve not done the longer posts we did prior to chemo.

Acutely aware of our mortality — being reminded of it every time we have to drain the rine from the bag adhered to our thorax — we stumble along.

Hamlet had the choices right: 2B or 2B. We’ve chosen the former, knowing full well the latter looms larger by the day.

Chemo Chronicles: With a bonus chart, too


We begin with this chart, created with data from the 1998 Johns Hopkins Precursors Study and reprinted from Montclair Socioblog, where it was posted as part of an item headlined “How Do Physicians and Non-Physicians Want to Die?” from Lisa Wade, professor of sociology at Occidental College:

BLOG CHemo chronicles

First, note that of doctors surveyed 15 years ago about what they’d do if “on the cusp of death and already living a low-quality of life,” about 85 percent would’ve said no to chemo, while gobbling down pain pills. And the same for many of the other heroic treatments regularly featured in big- and small-screen drama.

Wade turns for clues to USC professor and family medicine doctor Ken Murray, writing:

First, few non-physicians actually understand how terrible undergoing these interventions can be.  He discusses ventilation.  When a patient is put on a breathing machine, he explains, their own breathing rhythm will clash with the forced rhythm of the machine, creating the feeling that they can’t breath.  So they will uncontrollably fight the machine.  The only way to keep someone on a ventilator is to paralyze them. Literally.  They are fully conscious, but cannot move or communicate.  This is the kind of torture, Murray suggests, that we wouldn’t impose on a terrorist.  But that’s what it means to be put on a ventilator.

A second reason why physicians and non-physicians may offer such different answers has to do with the perceived effectiveness of these interventions.  Murray cites a study of medical dramas from the 1990s (E.R., Chicago Hope, etc.) that showed that 75% of the time, when CPR was initiated, it worked.  It’d be reasonable for the TV watching public to think that CPR brought people back from death to healthy lives a majority of the time.

In fact, CPR doesn’t work 75% of the time.  It works 8% of the time.  That’s the percentage of people who are subjected to CPR and are revived and live at least one month.  And those 8% don’t necessarily go back to healthy lives: 3% have good outcomes, 3% return but are in a near-vegetative state, and the other 2% are somewhere in between.  With those kinds of odds, you can see why physicians, who don’t have to rely on medical dramas for their information, might say “no.”

Now before we were diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of bladder cancer, along with a more mundane prostate cancer, our quality of life hadn’t changed appreciably, and the only reason we’d gone to the doctor was puss and occasional blood in the urine, without any physical discomfort.

Within weeks we were bladderless and prostate-free, and getting used to the presence of an often-leaky bag self-adhered to the edge of the small circle of pink, puckering intestine that now served as a conduit for the elimination of urine.

Then, just as we’d gotten used to the care and treatment of the ostomy bag and curbed the frequent leakages that were just so damn inconvenient, we started chemo.

So it’s quite accurate to say that it was the chemo itself which brought about that approach to “the cusp of death” along with “a low-quality of life.”

A friend who’s a biology prof noted that the chemo brought us onto the edge of life, and spending most of our days bed-bound and wracked by fatigue, adrift upon waves of nausea. The prescribed drugs that brought the nausea under control brought constipation — once for nine days — ended only by an ER enema. It was cannabis that made life tolerable, keeping the nausea under control without the misery of frozen bowels.

We’re two-and-a-half months off chemo now, and the nausea’s long gone and energy’s coming back. What’s left of our hair has, after the debilitating and depilitating chemo, turned white, and we find new lines on our face, chemically etched.

Oh, and we’ve lost a fair amount of our hearing, and we’ve sustained about a fifty percent loss in feeling on the soles of our feet — which feel instead the tingling numbness that you notice when you start to recover feeling in limbs “fallen asleep.”

Call if [semi] deaf and numb.

You confront your mortality when you’re on chemo, sitting hooked to IVs in comfortable reclining chairs in small pleasantly sun-lit wards staffed by compassionate nurses in the company of a half-dozen other fellow travelers on a pharmacological excursion to the margins of life itself.

Confronting mortality as an unemployed journalist subsisting [barely] on Social Security in a ravaged economy makes for something of an adventure.

We’re told the chemo meant the difference between fifty/fifty and one-in-five odds of a metastasis of that nasty micropapillary cancer that gobbled up a bladder and at least one lymph node. To catch any recurrence at an early stage, regular CT scans and chest Xrays — using carcinogenic radiation — are to be regular features of our existence.

What then if some future imaging session catches a sign of spread, then confirmation by biopsy? Would we do it again?

We don’t know.

Headlines of the day II: Wonder drug edition


From CNN:

Marijuana: The next diabetes drug?

From Collective Evolution:

New Study Shows Cannabinoids Improve Efficiency Of Mitochondria And Remove Damaged Brain Cells

From MSN:

Choosing pot over pills may be the way to go for Crohn’s sufferers

From Medical Daily:

Marijuana’s Active Ingredient May Weaken HIV

In a new study, researchers suggest THC-like compounds may have a weakening effect on HIV infection.

From the scientific journal Oncology’s Cancer Network:

Cannabis Linked to Decreased Bladder Cancer Risk

And there’s an important negative finding, too, as noted in this headline from The Oncology Report:

Marijuana habit not linked to lung cancer

And then there’s this from Business Insider, disproving that old canard about the effects of “The Munchies” and providing a surefire incentive for the headline to follow:

Pot Smokers Are Skinnier

From Waking Times, clear evidence that Big Medicine is eager to move:

Who Is Trying To Patent Marijuana?

Finally, from Deutsche Welle, a headline about an idea whose time has obviously come:

OAS calls for drugs rethink, proposes legalization

Chemo Chronicles: We’re halfway through it


The one singular feature of our course of chemotherapy is mental fatigue.

Simply put, the one-two punch of cisplatin and gemcitabine hydrochloride deployed again the metatstatic and highly aggressive micropapillary carcinoma that’s cost us our bladder [and the prostate as well, along with its own breed of slower-growing adenoma] leaves with the our giddy-up-go got up and gone.

Our hemoglobin levels have been declining, which is typical for the Double Whammy regime we’re following, and may require blood transfusions down the line.

We’re also getting two days of IV hydration following our next two [final two] Double Whammy sessions, each followed by two gemcitabine-only sessions.

The regime is experimental in the sense that the rareness of the micropaillary breed is such that there’s no standard treatment. Both our surgeon and our oncologist say that the chemo can cut our chance of another malignant siege from fifty percent to twenty percent.

Sometimes we find ourself wondering if the misery is worth the effort, but we persevere. Besides, we’ve got a a grandchild, currently known as Shrimpy, due in July and a daughter hoping for a grampa who’ll indulge said Shrimpy — a role that seems to come naturally to us [infants and cats seem to find us okay].

With family and friends to cherish and that damn sense of obligation we can’t seem to shake, we’ll hang on, miserable though we may be.

The worst may be yet to come [including the possibility of transfusions if steadily declining hemoglobin levels pass a numerical Rubicon], but we’ve been learning how to handle the worst of it.

That damn problem with writing

One significant impact of the chemo has been that inability to bring ourselves into heretofore normal writing mode, and that peculiar frisson accompanying the exposition of insights in coherent and meaningful patterns and insights drawn from experiences dictated in part by curiosity and compulsion to understand the embodied encounter with the grist of a life as it evolves under a unique constellation of forces and environments.

When we’re up to par, we live to write and we write to live.

Journalism’s been our way of exploring the world and asking the questions we’re impelled to ask on behalf of anyone who’s curious to understand forces at play in the world around them.

With a passion to understand and a bone-deep sense of obligation, journalism was just the ticket. Talk about your professional student — and getting paid for it, too!

All of which is to say that stringing together words is at the core of our identity.

But as the chemo strikes at our basic energy level, we find we have little problem with reading [which comes easier than screen-watching] or with conversation [which, when done right, is itself energizing], when it comes to writing out thoughts, we’ve been stumped.

Hence the light blog postings, and the end of those comprehensive EuroWatch and GreeceWatch reports.

Cannabis seems to help, abating both the nausea and allowing a greater-than-chemo-typical ability to sling words.

One thing I never would’ve imagined back in the 1960’s: My first legal cannabis purchase came with a senior discount. . .

Chemo Chronicles: Round Two begins


Today marked the start of the second of our four four-session rounds of chemotherapy designed to head off the spread of a very aggressive “high grade” micropapillary carcinoma spawned in our bladder and escaped to one of the twenty lift nodes they took along with the bladder and prostate.

Because the cancer is relatively rare, there’s no body of comparative studies on the impact of various chemo regimes on our particular little serial killer, so we opted for the one picked by all but one of the Kaiser oncologists who met to discuss our case [the dissenter argued for no treatment, and because of the lack of documentation].

An optional treatment discussed but not selected was a chemo regime that would’ve left us feeling miserable after every session, as opposed to the regime we agreed on, which confines the real misery to the wake of the first of three weekly IV sessions, followed by a one-week break, with the whole cycle repeated four times.

Today [Tuesday] was the five-hour epic initial session, and featured a whole pharmacopeia: Oral doses of a pair of anti-nausea drugs dexamethasone [a steroid] and ondansetron [anti-nausea], plus IV doses of fosaprepitant [anti-barfing] and the two heavy-hitting chemo drugs, gemcitabine and cisplatin. Preceding the chemo IV bags [the CISplatin comes in a full liter bag] were other saline-only bags to keep the system hydrated during the chemical assault.

In our initial experience of the Dread Double Whammy, the real misery didn’t come Wednesday [when we took two steroid and two ondansetron tablets] but on Thursday and Friday, when we doubled up — as prescribed — on the steroids.

There was one problem.

We were listening but not hearing during a pre-therapy class a nurse told us we should routinely take milk of magnesia after IV sessions because chemo constipates [and, we later learned, ondansetron is a another culprit]. We neglected her advice, and nine days of misery followed [including our second dose of chemo, the first of two two-hour gembatacine-only sessions], and ended only thanks to a cork-popping trip to the emergency room.

With all those ominous Round One misery memories looming, we were deeply grateful that a dear friend drove us to the Double Whammy opening Round two, stayed with us for the whole five hours, then drove us home — just as another friend had sat with us during our first session.

Perhaps surprisingly, the long sessions yielded rich conversations, punctuated by smiles, chuckles, and the occasional laughter. They were life-enhancing, affirming what’s best in our often-miserable species.

We can’t begin to express how deeply we’ve been touched by the expressions of friendship and compassion we’ve received since our diagnosis first came down. Our two daughters, their mother and her spouse, and our son all helped prepare our apartment whilst we lay in a hospital or nursing home bed, and dear friends we’ve met during our years in Berkeley [ten as of this coming July] have kept our spirits up by their companionship, calls, and emails. Then there are the old friends who stay in touch, and our Parisian muse, Moussequetaire.

We’re simply awed that we’ve blessed with riches we never even knew we possessed.

So as we write, we ponder the days ahead. We know, from last week’s visit to our oncologist, that it’s likely that we won’t get our usual energy back until July, the third month after the end of the fourth and final cycle.

But, he says, we’re doing better than most folks, so maybe June?

Who knows, right?

All we can say for sure right now is that we’re deeply grateful.

Chemo Chronicles: Status, and another drug


We made a trip to see our oncologist this week, and the word back is good.

Indeed, we’re told, we’re handling the chemotherapy better than the average patient. And while we received only half the scheduled dose at last week’s single-dose session because of some worrisome blood test results, that’s par for the course in this new and relatively experimental form of treatment.

Oh, and the hair is starting to go, as we discovered during a Monday brushing after noticing some silver threads amongst the white cotton of our pillow case.

All of which means that we’re on for our second of four dreaded double-whammy sessions Tuesday, hopefully without the more painful consequences of the first go-round. We get a total of twelve chemo sessions spread out over four months, of which four are the five-hour double-whammy mix of a gemcitabine hydrochloride and cisplatin. The next two sessions consist only of gemcitabine. Then comes a one week break, and the cycle begins anew for a total of four times.

Meanwhile, we indulge very modestly in the medical cannabis we’re allowed. Following Tuesday’s cookie, tincture, and smoke experience, we confined ourselves only to the nocturnal tincture Wednesday, perhaps helping us get a good night’s sleep.

Another banned drug treatment shows promise

This time, it’s another banned drug from the Sixties, psilocybin, and it’s being used not to treat terminal cancer itself but to alleviate patient anxiety.

Here’s one woman’s experience, via the New York University Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study:

From New York University vias Newswise:

Improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers in recent years have led to a marked increase in patients’ physical survival rates. While doctors can treat the physical disease, what is not well understood is how best to address the psychological needs of patients with cancer.

In addition to the physical pain associated with cancer, many patients also experience psychologically harmful symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, and denial. Social isolation, in addition to hopelessness, helplessness and loss of independence, has also been associated with significant psychological suffering in patients coping with advanced-stage cancer.

A recently published book chapter “Use of the Classic Hallucinogen Psilocybin for Treatment of Existential Distress Associated with Cancer,” reviews the potential of a novel psychoactive drug, psilocybin, in alleviating the psychological and spiritual distress that often accompanies a life-threatening cancer diagnosis.

The chapter, published in Psychological Aspects of Cancer: A Guide to Emotional and Psychological Consequences of Cancer, Their Causes, and Their Management, was co-written by Anthony P. Bossis, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology, and Medicine at the New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD) and Langone Medical Center.

The hallucinogen treatment model with psilocybin has been shown to induce a mystical or spiritual experience and is a unique therapeutic approach to reduce the anxiety of terminal cancer patients.

“Mystical or peak consciousness states in cancer patients have been Continue reading

Chemo Chronicles: From fug to fugue


Despite the nausea, constipation, and other sundry physical effects of the cancer chemotherapy we’re undergoing, we’d have to say the worst impact has been the creeping mental miasma.

Regular esnl readers have no doubt detected the results in the decline of frequency and depth of our posts, initially the result of the simple shock that comes from learning your body has turned on itself, followed by the physical shock of two surgeries.

Besides the loss of a cancerous bladder and prostate, we also find ourselves with a new means of draining our kidneys, thanks to the removal of a section of intestine and its reshaping into a conduct to carry urine from our surgically truncated uterers into a puckering pink urine-dripping extrusion [stoma] to the right of our navel.

There was pain after both surgeries [the first via catheter, the second by a large incision now commemorated in in a scar running betwixt navel to pubis, we stopped taking painkillers two days after leaving the hospital, leaving us an unwanted surplus of Percocets.

While the process of getting used to wearing what’s colorfully called an “urostomy bag” proved something of a trial, we managed to adapt to the stoma-drip-catching self-adhesive bags with the minimum of extra trips to the laundry.

But the biopsy showed the cancer, a rather rare micropapillary breed, had spread to at least one lymph node, and hence the four-month chemo regime, starting with our first double hit 8 January.

Of our three monthly sessions, the first is the real shit-kicker, a double dose of chemical cocktails administered over five hours. The nausea began on the second day, and lingered two more days, kept in relative check by another two-part chemical cocktail. Nine days of constipation began on the second day after the session, adding a whole new level of discomfort and ended only by a trip to the emergency room.

What still lingered was a peculiar sort of mental lethargy, a lingering mentational malady which allowed us to read a dozen hours a day but without the fuel to synthesize my responses into writing. Hence the decline in frequency of posting.

Our progeny and several friends had been urging us to get a medical marijuana letter, so we finally did, overcoming our natural inclination to add our name to yet another list.

So we became a member of a local medical marijuana club, and have now procured our first-ever California-legal weed. The only previous legal drugs we’d experienced had been our first dose of LSD in 1966, swallowed the night before it became illegal in Nevada, and hashish we bought at an Amsterdam coffee house in 2006 on the same trip where we bought a batch of just-plucked Psilocybin mushrooms procured from one of those now-closed Smart Shops legally offering both ’shrooms and live peyote cacti.

We mention this because we’re no strangers to cannabis, and we’ve done more than our share [1966-72] of psychedelics, with 2006 being our last experience of the latter.

We learned a lot about mind-altering drugs during our three-year service as scribe and block print carver for a Tantric Hindu artist and non-guru guru. The Tantrics and Shavites have developed a Prime Directive of cannabis use which we still follow: Never consume or ingest cannabis within three hours of eating. The reason is simple: Cannabis pulls blood into the brain, and when you consume while you’re digesting you create a conflict, with blood craved by the brain diverted to the digestive system, and leading to lethargy and sleepiness.

29 January 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 12.5 mm, 1/50 sec, f5

29 January 2013, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 400, 12.5 mm, 1/50 sec, f5

With a chemo-sensitized gut, we followed the rules today, and the result has been a distinct lifting of the mental lethargy, using the fruits of our visit to the Berkeley club a block from Casa esnl: A free Rhino Pellet [a cinnamon cookie made with cannabis-infused butter], an oral nocturnal cannabis and essential oil tincture [left], and a pinch of hash to brighten up our minor remnant of some seven-year-old Humboldt homegrown.

Our stomach is calm, our energy and mood increased to the point we tackled some serious house cleaning/organizing, and we’ve also done more posts than usual.

Intimations of other benefits

We also bear in mind that a growing body of research indicates that a non-psychoactive component of cannabis inhibits growth in cancer cells.

As San Francisco Chronicle reporter Victoria Colliver wrote last 18 September:

A growing body of early research shows a compound found in marijuana – one that does not produce the plant’s psychotropic high – seems to have the ability to “turn off” the activity of a gene responsible for metastasis in breast and other types of cancers.

Two scientists at San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute first released data five years ago that showed how this compound – called cannabidiol – reduced the aggressiveness of human breast cancer cells in the lab.

>snip<

“The preclinical trial data is very strong, and there’s no toxicity. There’s really a lot of research to move ahead with and to get people excited,” said Sean McAllister, who along with scientist Pierre Desprez, has been studying the active molecules in marijuana – called cannabinoids – as potent inhibitors of metastatic disease for the past decade.

Red the rest.

The National Cancer Institute website is less adulatory on its Cannabis and Cannabinoids web page, noting only this:

No clinical trials of Cannabis as a treatment for cancer in humans were identified in a PubMed search; however, a single small study of intratumoral injection of delta-9-THC in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme reported potential antitumoral activity.

Donald Abrams, chief of oncology at UCSF physician said this to NBC News:

“If this plant were discovered in the Amazon today, scientists would be falling all over each other to be the first to bring it to market.”

And consider this, from the Science Updates blog of Cancer Research UK:

Through many detailed experiments, handily summarised in this recent article in the journal Nature Reviews Cancer, scientists have discovered that various cannabinoids (both natural and synthetic) have a wide range of effects in the lab, including:

  • Triggering cell death, through a mechanism called apoptosis
  • Stopping cells from dividing
  • Preventing new blood vessels from growing into tumours
  • Reducing the chances of cancer cells spreading through the body, by stopping cells from moving or invading neighbouring tissue
  • Speeding up the cell’s internal ‘waste disposal machine’ – a process known as autophagy – which can lead to cell death

All these effects are thought to be caused by cannabinoids locking onto the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. It also looks like cannabinoids can exert effects on cancer cells that don’t involve cannabinoid receptors, although it isn’t yet clear exactly what’s going on there.

Read the rest.

And go here [PDF] for a 2010 metareview of medical studies, including Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, nausea, brain cancer, and more.

And another wrapup’s here.

The bottom line: Since we’re engaged in fighting cancer, we’ll take all the help we can get.

[Oh, and as for psilocybin, see here and here.]