Saturday, December 14, 2013

Insidious National Security Agency Surveillance

Edward Snowden's NSA/GCHQ spyware revelations have prompted the United Nations to question why American and British intelligence agencies have been universally data canvassing and caching world leaders'— legislative bodies'—corporate boards'— and citizens' private communications. 

Ben Emmerson, Q.C., the U.N.'s lead investigator, said that contrary to American and British government spinmeister accusations, publication of these top secret programs should not be considered treasonable offences because of the egregious nature of these total awareness enterprises.

American Commandment: Thy shall not disclose government business or safeguard whistleblowers

Mr. Snowden under U.S. warrant for violating the Espionage Act, has short-term Russian protection.  Other countries considering Snowden's sanctuary requests were promised U.S. economic sanctions. It is sobering to reflect on these actions and U.S. assurances that Mr. Snowden, if handed over, would not be tortured or executed. 

At the behest of U.S. officials, Japan will initiate prosecution and seek lengthy sentences for anyone who publicizes classified material. Sacrosanct topics under the 60 year nondisclosure time frame include: defense, diplomacy, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism. As The Economist muses, Japan's proscriptive legislation would also likely include updates on Fukushima Daiichi radiation issues.  Prime Minister Abe said that his divisive secrecy law was passed to protect the public.

Alan Rusbridger, Guardian editor and purveyor of NSA/GCHQ documents, is under pressure from some members of the House of Commons to cease and desist publication or face treason charges. One of Mr. Rusbridger's critics, Keith Vas, voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and against the proposed 2009 inquiry.

Snowden media liaisons, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, have experienced personal and family-related travel penalties for their reporting. Both Poitras and Greenwald have stated that they are wary of returning to the United States.

Americans should remember former-ambassador Joseph C. Wilson's July 2003 critique— What I Didn't Find in Africa —referencing his February 2002 fact-finding trip to Niger. According to Mr. Wilson there was no evidence to support British intelligence claims that Saddam Hussein had purchased yellowcake uranium. For his efforts, Mr. Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame were subjected to a government-sponsored  smear campaign.

U.S. and British rationales for the '03 Iraqi war—weapons of mass destruction—have been disproven. This confirmation leaves historians and others in a quandary. Do they blame the Bush administration, the intelligence apparatus or a combination of the two?

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems to provide the answer in his recent memoir "Known and Unknowns." Mr. Rumsfeld states that less than two weeks after 9/11 he convened with the president and thereafter wrote the following memorandum:
Interesting day— NSC mtg. with President— As [it] ended he asked to see me alone… After the meeting ended I went to Oval Office—He was alone He was at his desk— He talked about the meet Then he said I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?]
Mr. Rumsfeld's aggressive support for an illicit war should prompt condemnation and prosecution. Obeisance is not a reasonable defense. President Bush's Operation Iraqi Freedom has cost the lives of 4,486 U.S. personnel, several hundred thousand Iraqis and left the country and region in a maelstrom of violence.

It is unconscionable that many of the principals advocating for the 2003 Iraqi invasion, have the temerity to call Edward Snowden a traitor.

Looking Back to Prior Government Transgressions

Surveillance programs established by the Nixon administration were called a cancer on the body politic by Supreme Court Justices Marshall and Douglas in 1972. Their opinion was validated by the Church Committee in 1975.  From their dissent in the matter of Melvin Robert Laird, Secretary of Defense, et al. v. Tatum, et al. they said:
Those who already walk submissively will say there is no cause for alarm. But submissiveness is not our heritage. The First Amendment was designed to allow rebellion to remain as our heritage. The Constitution was designed to keep government off the backs of the people. The Bill of Rights was added to keep the precincts of belief and expression, of the press, of political and social activities free from surveillance. The Bill of Rights was designed to keep agents of government and official eavesdroppers away from assemblies of people. The aim was to allow men to be free and independent and to assert their rights against government. There can be no influence more paralyzing of that objective than Army surveillance.
These caveats were preceded by President Eisenhower who warned in 1961 that if unrestrained, the military industrial puppeteers would dictate government policy.

Much like Hansel and Gretel we now are forced to follow pebbles and crumbs to discover the truth.

Recent Snowden Side Effects

Some NSA officials are contemplating amnesty for Mr. Snowden if he promises to stop leaking documents.

President Obama's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology is expected to challenge the NSA's status quo in their coming report.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Enviva's North Carolina Forest Onslaught

 WSJ photo of Enviva's wilderness clear-cutting operations in an eighty-one acre tract along the Roanoke River in North Carolina
"European climate policy drives wood pellet boom in NC"
 Cut trees awaiting processing in the Enviva  Ahoskie, NC facility

"Renewable Energy Companies Flock to North Carolina's Northeast"
Enviva photo of processed wood fiber
 Enviva's finished product. These U.S. wood pellets fuel
European power plants

A cat crosses the road on a housing development in the shadow of Drax Power station, near Selby in north Yorkshire, UK
View of Drax Group's wood-burning power station in the U.K.

Enviva LP— a 2010 acquisition by the $20 billion private equity fund, Riverstone Holdings, LLC and the Carlyle Group— is in the business of harvesting and grinding trees for foreign wood pellet purchasers. It is a lucrative scheme because, as The Wall Street Journal reports, Enviva and its competitors have ample U.S. inventory and face minor if any regulatory constraints. In The Journal's words: "Europe's power plants are devouring wood from the U.S., where forests are bigger and restrictions fewer."

Enviva's response:
the only whole trees that Enviva uses are either young commercial softwood thinnings, which are cut to ensure healthy growth of high-value timber, or in some cases small, diseased or deformed trees that do not meet specifications for sawlogs. In many places, there is no other market for this wood. Often, what may appear to be a whole tree is actually the top of a trees [sic], which cannot be used to make the high-value wood products for which the trunks have been harvested.
The Wall Street Journal article, "Europe's Green-Fuel Search Turns to America's Forests," disputes Enviva's claims. The 24/7 Ahoskie  facility, one of two Enviva manufacturing sites in North Carolina, produces 1,000 tons of wood capsules per day. Forest to pellet [biomass] manufacturing advocates say wood is the new energy source for power generators and they expect exponential product growth in the coming years. Enviva says that it can produce 1.24 million tons of wood pellets annually. Otherwise stated,  Enviva has "shifted into high gear." Construction of Enviva's superdome wood pellet storage site may be viewed on youtube.

North Carolina's governor, Pat McCrory, favors Enviva's timbering operations and supports additional processing locations. Other state forests under logging assault by pellet manufacturers are AL, FL, GA, LA and VA.

Wood is a cheaper energy source than coal thus the principal reason for the crossover.

There are no cleaner air benefits: Organic matter be it wood or coal releases harmful to breathe particulates when burned.

Wood is touted as green fuel—trees grow back—but Enviva will not be able to restore the vast wetland ecosystems irrevocably damaged by its timber extraction practices.

Think about Enviva's bottom line: it makes sense to topple heavy tonnage trees.

Logs if purchased by timber mills fetch $20-40 a ton; those being pelletized return $2-8. Enviva wins either way because the company never has unsaleable inventory. Depending on tree weight, there are approximately 50 to 75 tons of chips per acre. Enviva advises that under optimum conditions it takes 30 years to produce an industry-usable pine tree crop.

Rules protect European forests from pillagers but there are none in North Carolina. Wall Street's faith in the wood pellet industry was demonstrated last year when financiers arranged a $120 million senior secured credit facility for Enviva.

Natural forests deserve protection but safeguards will not be forthcoming from Governor McCrory or state lawmakers.


When Britons learned that their homes were being heated by way of U.S. forest stock they told policy makers to think again. As result of public opprobrium the government will soon cease subsidizing wood-powered generators.

Ed Davey, U.K.'s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, confirmed this summer that wood resources are not reasonable solutions to the country's energy issues.

What effect U.K. policy changes will have on Enviva's viability is unknown, but it is worth noting that the United Kingdom is the company's primary marketplace.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Edward Snowden's Legacy: Privacy Matters

Absence of Privacy

It is troubling that the FISA court has affirmed that Americans have no protected right to privacy via third party vendors e.g. telecommunication companies. Following this reasoning process the National Security Agency and other sleuths may extract and store not only email communication but financial, medical, education, and employment records on all of us. For further information please see U. S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Public Filings.

Some Americans say "they have nothing to hide" and thus no complaint with ever present NSA surveillance, but they have not pondered the possibility of self-incrimination. A case in point: the David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell tryst. As The New York Times recently explained, privacy and confidentiality are nonexistent because "No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming N.S.A."

The breaking and entering digital technology developed by the NSA and its Wall Street coterie has been employed by other parties for advantageous reasons. Rupert Murdoch's News of the World editor apologized in its final issue for hacking cell phones and computers to enhance readership. Leveson Report investigators found that News of the World was not the only newspaper trafficking in stolen communications.

The National Security Agency, a prominent decision-maker in government affairs, is endowed annually with $10.8 billion. It is confirmed that the 35,000 NSA workforce, tasked with preventing terrorist attacks, has been roaming outside its purview by banking phone call data and communication fingerprinting U.S allies.

Angela Merkel's cell phone, for instance, was monitored from 2002 to 2013. It is not known whether the NSA was acting independently or with permission from Presidents Bush and Obama but either way these actions have impaired foreign relationships.

The world's discontent with NSA's intrusive electronic snooping is so acute that Senator John McCain has called for Keith Alexander the NSA director [2005-present] to resign or be fired. In September Mr. Alexander told Senate Intelligence Committee members that “I believe that it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox.” The $2 billion lockbox referenced by Mr. Alexander, the NSA Utah Data Center, has experienced multiple systems' failures [explosions] since going operational.

NSA's Reconnaissance for Good or Naught?

Tailored Access Operations: NSA's ability to enter electronic systems e.g. personal/business/government computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones affix spyware, and then watch and listen. The New York Times reports that:
But as the [Snowden/NSA] documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.
The NYT's "No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming N.S.A" article raises the question of advance knowledge of planned murderous forays and cites the following examples.

During the assault on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel in June 2011, the NSA was listening to the Taliban teams' cell phone conversations while they searched the facility for targets.

The NSA was cognizant that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons in the past, yet this information did not stop the August sarin gas massacre.

Intelligence agencies are critical to security but when they abuse their spyware capabilities they reveal ulterior motives. William Binney, a former NSA whistleblower believes that unless the NSA and its partners are constrained, the United States will become a totalitarian state. The truth is we are already NSA's captive audience.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Race to the Common Core Goal Post

Excerpt from Secretary of Education Rod Paige's letter explaining the No Child Left Behind Act.

Dear Parent:
On January 8, 2002, when the No Child Left Behind Act became the law of the land, we began a new era of education in our nation’s history. Democrats and Republicans in Congress joined together with President Bush in an historic agreement to improve the educational opportunities for every American child.
Accountability, local control and flexibility, new options for parents, and record funding for what works are now the cornerstones of our education system. If your child isn’t learning, you’ll know why. If your school isn’t performing, you’ll have new options and the school will receive additional help. Our commitment to you, and to all Americans, is to see every child in America—regardless of ethnicity, income, or background—achieve high standards.
No Child Left Behind puts the focus on instruction and methods that have been proven to work. It makes a billion-dollar annual investment to ensure every child learns to read by third grade. And it provides the resources for reform and unprecedented flexibility so states and local communities can get the job done.
As affirmed by Congress and the president, providing fundamental math and reading skills to the nation's children were reasonable and achievable goals, but numerous states chose not to meet these  obligations. The reasons for states' waywardness are complex but mostly they emanate from Wall Street machinations. The orchestrated denigration of No Child Left Behind was the springboard for Common Core State Standards.

Critics of No Child Left Behind faulted standardized testing yet these assessment measurements are significantly present in the Common Core format. Some complained that the employment of highly qualified teachers, special tutors and failed-school options were unnecessary state burdens, others blamed unions. The millions of children who have been deprived of their educational rights should know that state governments and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are responsible.

For a greater appreciation of Wall Street's involvement in states' affairs please refer to the American Legislative Exchange Council's 18th edition, "Report Card on American Education."  This report measures states on academic standards, homeschooling regulatory burdens, private school choice options, charter laws, teacher quality policies and digital instruction. North Carolina, for example, receives a C for its efforts. Based on National Assessment of Educational Progress data North Carolina's graduation rate is 66.1%— 4th grade reading comprehension 32%, 8th grade reading comprehension 29%.

The Common Core State Standards digital strategy as foretold by Rupert Murdoch in 2011:
Our schools remain the last holdout from the digital revolution. When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.
In 2014 Mr. Murdoch will begin selling educational video games via his company Amplify.

The Worth of Common Core State Standards According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Education Secretary Duncan said that he was "convinced that this new [Common Core] generation of state assessments will be an absolute game-changer in public education” because they would be able to tell millions of school children, parents and teachers — “for the first time” whether students are “on-track for colleges and careers.”

In preparation for Common Core State Standards, the Tucson Sunnyside Unified School District ceased textbook purchases for grades 4-12 four years ago and is converting all schools to  digital. This experimental education delivery system should be employed by all schools remarked Secretary Duncan:
What you’re doing has national implications. We’re trying to move from print to digital. As a nation, we spend $7 to $9 billion a year on textbooks that by the time you receive them, are out of date. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Disinformation on the part of Secretary Duncan: The copyrighted CCSSO-NGA Common Core text/test school merchandise is not complimentary, is subject to design change and will likely cost the contracting parties the same billions per year.  The approximate expense of switching schools to the Common Core course of study is $16 billion.

Secretary Duncan's thoughts on the Race to the Top Common Core State Standards Initiative.  Common Core is:
Tight on goals, but loose on means—that's our theory of change. It's the exact opposite of how No Child Left Behind was structured.
Race to Wall Street's Goal Post

As illustrated, Race to the Top multi-billion dollar grants and legal relief were linked to states' compliance with the Common Core agenda and other profitable-to-industry pursuits.
  • Developing and adopting common standards—Participating in consortium developing high-quality standards—Developing and implementing common, high-quality assessments by Supporting the transition to enhanced standards and high-quality assessments.
Postscript: The Common Core State Standards test product, fabricated by industry-favoring trade groups, is suspect because The National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers profit from the enterprise.

To preview the costs of Common Core's copyrighted 2008-2013 digital teaching modules click here. New York has published Common Core English Language Arts and Mathematical questions from the spring 2013 testing session. Results may be reviewed on the Engageny website.
  • Supporting Instruction Data Collection Systems by fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system—Accessing and using State data—Using data to improve instruction.
Postscript: The Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with the State Higher Education Executive Officers is fine-tuning and expanding the current longitudinal student profiling system. This soon to be universal storage construct includes students' Personal Identifiable Information.

Reuters reports that Boards of Education in North Carolina and other states have and are providing confidential student data to inBloom, Inc. The inBloom infrastructure designed by Amplify (Rupert Murdoch) and sponsored by the Gates Foundation is planning on selling student data to education technology concerns in 2015. The stated reasons for combing students' electronic records is to merchandise educational games and to assist teachers and principals.

Profiling children from kindergarten to the employment office is a breach of privacy and those who support it have another mission

An anecdote: my 1950s report cards stated that I did not work and play well with others. Future employers appreciate this type of information.
  • Providing high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and principals—Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance by measuring student growth—measuring student growth—developing evaluation systems—conducting annual evaluations.
Postscript: The creation of digital degree pathway programs have been lucrative business ventures. Kaplan University and the University of Phoenix  are just a few of the companies offering online certification. It has been evidenced that these financially-focused entities have abused education funds and are often not graduating qualified professionals.
  • Make education funding a priority—Ensure successful conditions for high-performing charters and other innovative schools or as stated by Secretary Duncan in 2009:
    States that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top Fund.
Postscript: Charters and other alternative education facilities such as K12, Inc.. have critical deficiencies. Forbes recent article, "Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City," provides reasons why these publicly-funded quasi-private schools are still flourishing.

North Carolina is an example of one of many states under Wall Street's influence. For the period 1997-2011 North Carolina paid more than a billion and a half dollars [$1,558,404,984] to corporate boards holding school charters. Studies conducted by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research found that North Carolina's charter schools had four shortfalls: "low academic performance, lack of racial balance as required by state law, lack of transfers of innovation to public schools, and sometimes questionable management and financial compliance."

There is growing awareness that the Common Core Initiative, student data collection/dissemination, fast-tracked degree programs and charter schools have little to do with education enhancement and much to do with gaming the public.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Common Core State Standards: The Devil is in the Details

Evidence supports the allegation that the Common Core K-12 experiment is a Wall Street inspired venture.

The Common Core State Standards Temptation: Four Billion Dollars

In 2010 President Obama and his education counselor, Arne Duncan, prompted K-12 reform via Race to the Top financial inducements.

Education Secretary Duncan said that he was "convinced that this new [Common Core] generation of state assessments will be an absolute game-changer in public education” because they would be able to tell millions of school children, parents and teachers — “for the first time” whether students are “on-track for colleges and careers.”

Mr. Duncan should perhaps temper his enthusiasm for the Common Core State Standards initiative and reflect on the No Child Left Behind Act. This 2001 federal law provided all of the above but without a for-profit venue.

Realizing that an unknown but significant number of students would be unable to meet 2013/2014 basic math and reading standards required by the No Child Left Behind Act, most states and some school districts have received permission to opt out of the law and pursue the Common Core avenue.

In Ohio, for instance, the department of education estimated that 90% of schools would fail the No Child Left Behind mandate. By instituting Common Core, Massachusetts hopes to reduce proficiency breaches by 50% in the 2016/2017 school term. Texas, a Common Core holdout, capitulated in September 2012 and received its waiver last month. No Child Left Behind 2012 measurement data showed that  55.8 % of Texas schools did not provide an adequate education platform for its student population. Texas chose not to release its 2013 performance reports.

Federal funding [four billion plus dollars] was predicated on states' acceptance of Common Core State Standards. Presently most states, various territories, the Department of Education Activity and the District of Columbia  have committed to Common Core State Standards .

Common Core sales' representatives, selected by the  American Legislative Exchange Council, were the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers.

In 2010 Bill Gates applauded the Council for Chief State School Officers for its Common Core implementation successes. The Council for Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association are largely taxpayer-funded organizations but meetings are private.

The National Governors Association [NGA] and the Council for Chief State School Officers [CCSSO] are business oriented entities and by copyrighting Common Core educational texts and tests, the consortium has precluded contracting parties from diverging from its prescribed merchandise.

Common Core false advertising: Unable to substantiate the long-cited claim that Common Core education standards were internationally benchmarked, the marketers now state that their academic models "Are informed by other top performing countries." 

Because Common Core educational techniques are being embedded in PSAT, SAT, ACT and GED exams, private schools are, by necessity, adopting Common Core methodology.

Corporate fingerprints are identifiable on every aspect of the Common Core State Standards agenda.  Wall Street's pursuit of and access to state and federal education funds has been tracked by Mercedes Schneider. In her six-part Common Core State Standards exposé, Ms. Schneider provides relevant details and includes discreet minutes from the American Legislative Exchange Council's Education Task Force meetings.

Sponsoring the Governors Explore Strategies to Make the United States a Global Leader in Education symposium, the James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute set the stage for national Common Core State Standards in June 2008. For its Common Core advocacy, the Hunt Institute has received $6,049,352 from the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation has expended  $173.5 million to groups in favor of Common Core State Standards.

Common Core State Standards are fait accompli because the public was not dutifully informed or asked to participate in the decision-making process.  The recent August 2013 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll found that more than 60% of respondents had no knowledge of the Common Core enterprise.

The expense of the Common Core State Standards proposition is in the $16 billion dollar range in spite of states' claims of budget constraints.  Common Core exams administered via computer, graded by outside sources, are expected to be $29.50 per student. These unproven academic metrics were designed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium [SBAC] and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers [PARCC].  Results of the SBAC practice tests, scheduled spring 2014, will not be available to students or teachers.

Common Core text books and self-help guides price list:

Algebra 1 Common Core $88.10
Common Core Mathematics in a PLC at Work TM, High School $17.99 Holt McDougal Mathematics Common Core 2012 (Grade 7) $67.80

Go Math! is a "focused program designed to meet the objectives and intent of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics."
* Go Math! Differentiated Instruction Resource Accelerated 7 $74.90
* Go Math! Solutions Key Accelerated 7 $54.20
* Go Math! Teacher Edition Accelerated 7 $111.60
* Go Math! Assessment Resource with Answers Accelerated 7 $59.90
*Go Math! Student Interactive Worktext Accelerated 7 $25.00

Common Core State Standards criticisms reiterated by Diane Ravitch:
I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.
They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.

Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?
Ms. Ravitch, in her recent "It's Not a School Problem" interview, provides additional insights on the state of academic affairs.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, one of the twenty-five member Common Core vetting committee, believes that the Common Core academic plan is not an improvement over the discarded standard course of study and is in fact a "set of empty skill sets."

Prof. R. James Milgram's [member of the Common Core review team] 2011 testimony:
There are a number of extremely serious failings in Core Standards that make it premature for any state with serious hopes for improving the quality of the mathematical education of their children to adopt them.
Recitation of the Common Core mantra: Transforming Teaching & Learning so All Students Graduate College and Are Career Ready is a nonsensical exercise and does not reflect reality.

Evidence seems to confirm that the elaborately orchestrated Common Core State Standards Initiative is nothing more than a bait and switch scheme.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wall Street Dictates Common Core State Education Standards

Positioning Wall Street's Common Core State Standards Initiative

"When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching,"  Rupert Murdoch November 2010

Common Core State Standards Rule

Without any ado, Mr. Murdoch and his brethren, the American Legislative Executive Council, have captured the prize. It's called the Common Core State Standards curriculum. This lightening bolt educational enterprise is under review in North Carolina and other states.

As of 2013 most (forty-five) state K-12 education policies re English language arts/mathematics texts, testing, and student data retrieval are under the corporate-designed Common Core regimen. The National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) facilitated the marketing of the Common Core educational product for its behind-the-scene beneficiaries. A list of business entities partnering with CCSSO can be found on the Council's website.

June Atkinson, Superintendent of Public Instruction, is North Carolina's Chief State School Officer and an advocate of the Common Core agenda.

The rationale for choosing Common Core (NC 2010) over the standard course of study (2004) is illustrated on the state's Department of Education website. After analyzing the comparative examples, it is debatable whether Common Core is an improvement over the standard course of study.

Questions as to whether the novel Common Core instructional technique will satisfactorily serve students and the state were posed by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in July 2013. The areas of concern presented to June Atkinson are: the standards, cost and implementation. A copy of Mr. Forest's questionnaire letter may be viewed here.

Common Core State Standards sponsors posit that their technology-based education plan is superior to other concepts and critical to the country's future.  Americans and world citizens have
been educated absent computers and Common Core so that CCSSO hypothesis can be put aside.

Computers, like books, are only instructional tools. Those who trust corporate claims re education reform should perhaps reflect on Mr. Murdoch's comments.

America's public educational system is dysfunctional because state governments and their corporate enablers regard educators and their pupils as costly burdens. State legislators have violated the No Child Left Behind Act with impunity while enacting measures toward privatizing education. Should these Wall Street schemes prevail, students will be deprived of President Bush's promise.

Contrary to Mr. Murdoch and the American Legislative Executive Council's point of view, public education is not a salable commodity.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Proposed US Air Strikes on Syria May be Crossing the Rubicon

The Obama administration has determined through (non-United Nation) sources that Syria's President Assad is responsible for the sarin gassing deaths of four thousand citizens since March.

President Obama is trying to persuade the members of Congress and world leaders that the use of toxic weapons is a strike point. American citizens, according to the latest poll, oppose the Obama plan; the global community also disapproves. Perhaps those in disagreement have read: "To some, US case for Syrian gas attack, strike has too many holes."

Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011, The article: "Syrian Oil... and what caused the war?", may help clarify the issue. This internecine battle has caused more than 100,000 fatalities and a two million refugee crisis.

The government in exile, the Syrian National Coalition, is favored by the U.S.

Both the National Coalition and the Assad government deny responsibility for the gas attacks. National Coalition forces, i.e. the Free Syrian Army had access to chemical weapons depots so the guilty party is not yet proven.

Bloomberg reports that the National Coalition 's Free Syrian Army has recently been armed with missiles, tanks and other armaments for invasion post U. S. bombardment.  This news indicates a regime change initiative on the part of National Coalition supporters.

Excepting Israel—Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and Turkey are unstable and subject to spontaneous conflagration.


UN's Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels 'used sarin'—BBC News,  May 2013 Saudi Arabia's 'Chemical Bandar' behind the Syrian chemical attacks?— RT Question More, May 2013
Syria Chemical Attacks: What we know—BBC News September 2013
Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic— UN August 2011-June 2013
Egypt Military Cites Religion to Quell Ranks—NYT, August 2013
As Egyptians Ignore Curfew, Talk of U.S.- Brotherhood Conspiracy—NY, August 2013
Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma for West—NYT, September 2013
Dozens Killed in Attacks Across Iraq — NYT, August 2013
Al Qaeda in Iraq Scores Big—NYT, July 2013
Despite Gains, Leader of U. S. Forces in Afghanistan Says Troops Must Stay—NYT, July 2013
Militants Attack Prison in Northwest Pakistan—NYT, July 2013
U. S. Pushes for Global Eye on Obscure Conflict in South Sudan —NYT, July 2013
Libyans Fear Standoff Between Muslim Brotherhood and Opposition Forces—The Guardian, August 2013
Iran Plots Revenge, U. S. Says—Wall Street Journal, September 2013
A young Yemeni writer on the impact and morality of drone-bombing his country—The Guardian, May 2013
Politics of Oman—Wikipedia
Is Iran planning revenge strikes if US hits Syria? —Fox News, September 6, 2013
Everything you need to know about Syria's chemical weapons—Washington Post, September 2013

Discord in the form of revolution and civil war is often fostered for U. S. military-industrial purposes. When these efforts do not produce the desired results, claims of weapons of mass destruction may be raised. Case in point— Iraq. Contrary to U.S. intelligence assertions, toxic chemicals were not present in Iraq in 2003.

Disingenuous U.S. Policies

It is impossible for government officials to classify the pending Syrian missile attack as a humanitarian gesture because U.S. drones, in violation of international norms, have obliterated alleged combatants and an unknown number of others not on the kill list.

Without impunity and absent the rule of law, the CIA has kidnapped, then tortured suspects in facilities around the world. Some interrogations have been fatal.

The Reagan administration during the Iran-Iraq conflict supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction. These United States produced poisons were responsible for the death of many.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Is the Obama Administration under the Influence?

Perpetual War Schemes: Incalculable Costs

More than 50 years ago President Eisenhower warned that if unchecked, military-industrial interests would have an adverse influence on government decisions.— Military-Industrial Complex Speech 1961

Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning have been cited as purveyors of national security secrets, violators of the 1917 Espionage Act. The question is, why would two citizens risk freedom to publicize classified government documents?

The answer may be that Edward Snowden (under Russian protection) and Bradley Manning (military incarceration) are students of American history.

U. S. War on Terror Announced September 20, 2001

The President's post September 11, 2001 promise: "Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

Some War on Terror actions approved by President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld:

  • Operation Iraqi Freedom —Invasion and occupation (U.S. intelligence claims of weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda support were never evidenced.)
  • Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp— Prison and torture facility for suspected terrorists ( Details re prisoners and their treatment were provided by Wikileaks via Bradley Manning.)
  • Extraordinary Rendition—Kidnapping of alleged terrorists
  • Enhanced Interrogation—Torture
  • CIA Black Sites—World-wide, detention/enhanced-interrogation locations
  • Drone Weapons—Deadly aerial strikes targeting possible foreign/American enemy combatants  ( Removal of others not on the kill list are euphemistically known as collateral damage victims.)
  • Seek & Peek— Stealth home intrusion operations authorized by the U.S. Patriot Act of 2001

  • President Obama supports some of his predecessor's intelligence-gathering policies, one of which includes pervasive citizen electronic data capture by the National Security Agency.

    It is now verified, "New Details Show Broader NSA Surveillance Reach," that government-sponsored Total Awareness surveillance programs were in place prior to September 11, 2001. According to the 9/11 Commission Report the Intelligence Community failed to respond to credible evidence that an al-Qaeda attack was likely.

    The administration's reading of the National Defense Authorization Act (FY 2012) is that Americans can be imprisoned indefinitely if deemed security threats. Judge Forrest, reviewing a challenge to this interpretation, found against the government. Her ruling was overturned on the basis that the plaintiffs did not have standing.

    These indefinite incarceration schemes are almost identical to the repudiated FBI's Security Index (Custodial Detention) Program by which suspect Americans lose the right of judicial review. The Supreme Court in the Hamdi matter stated: "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the Rights of the Nation's citizens."

    Primary principals advising President Obama on national security issues are: James Clapper, Director National Intelligence (a former lieutenant general and defense industry employee) John Brennan, Director CIA (long-term government employee with short-term defense industry employment)  General Keith Alexander, Director National Security Agency (military career),  Robert Mueller, FBI Director (legal career). The seventeen agencies known as the Intelligence Community were created by Executive Order in 1981.

    Undue Military-Industrial Influence

    In 1971 Daniel Ellsberg, a Rand military analyst, provided The New York Times and The Washington Post with copies of a classified Department of Defense study titled "United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967." 

    Upon the NYT's release of Pentagon Paper installments, the Nixon administration enjoined the paper from future publication.

    Judge Gurfein, denying the government's petition, said:
    A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press, must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know. These are troubled times. There is no greater safety valve for discontent and cynicism about the affairs of government than freedom of expression in any form…. No cogent reasons were advanced as to why these documents except in the general framework of embarrassment… would vitally affect the security of the nation.
    Unclear —New York Times v. U.S—judicial decisions were evaluated by the Supreme Court in 1971. In its 6 to 3 ruling for First Amendment rights, Justices Black and Douglas were of the opinion that:
    Far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.
    In 1976 the Senate Church Committee in its— "Foreign and Military Intelligence to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities"— report confirmed Eisenhower's prescience.

    The committee found that post WW II Presidents: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon engaged in hidden CIA, FBI, NSA, INR, DIA and NSC national security agendas that "were inconsistent with declared policy and the law."—pp. 5 & 7

    It is clear that "The Constitution has been violated in secret and the power of the executive has gone unchecked, unbalanced."— p. 16

    Disclosure reiterations by the CIA Inspector General 1957:
    Precautions must be taken not only to protect operations from exposure to enemy operations but also to conceal these activities from the American public in general.  The knowledge that the Agency is engaging in unethical  and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles and would be detrimental to the accomplishment of its mission.— p. 395

    The Senate has the right of full inquiry but the White House-directed intelligence agencies frequently destroyed  and or favorably edited pertinent documents. To prove the extent of malfeasance, investigators had to rely on whistle blowers and subpoenas.—p. 8

    Considering covert action:
    the Committee was struck by the basic tension—incompatibility—of covert operations and the demands of a constitutional system. Secrecy is essential to covert operations; secrecy can, however, become a source of power, a barrier to serious policy debate within government, and a means of circumventing the established checks and procedures of government—p.156
    Neither Congress nor the courts have effectively weighed executive national security claims v. constitutional protections. The Supreme Court reflected in 1972 that warrantless electronic surveillance practices had been common White House pursuits for more than twenty-five years.— p. 11

    The executive branch in concert with its military industrial partners engaged in regime change, "war of liberation," policies. The Vietnam conflict (1955-1975) is the most often cited example of  U.S. intervention in another country. Other governments subjected to these CIA-contrived ploys included Mosaddegh (Iran '53),  Árbenz (Guatemala '54), Sukarno (Indonesia '50s-'60s) and Allende  (Chile '70) —p. 24

    Former Secretary of State Rusk described these deadly adventures as nasty wars "in the back alleys of the world."— p. 9

    CIA businesses— Proprietaries— were created to "offer cover, attribution for funding, administration assistance to agents and clandestine activities and provide services not available through normal commercial facilities."  Examples: Air America, Southern Air Transport, Intermountain Aviation, Insurance Complex, The Security Project— pp. 205-257

    Re Intelligence Analysts:
    In the world of bureaucracy, budgets, programs, procurement and managers, the needs of the analyst can be lost in the shuffle. There has been an explosion in the volume and quality of raw intelligence but no increase in the capacity of analytical capabilities. As a result, "raw" intelligence increasingly dominates "finished" intelligence; analysts find themselves on a treadmill where it is difficult to do more than summarize and put in context the intelligence flowing in. — p. 18
    The CIA's use of academia, the media and religious institutions should be halted.— pp. 180-203

    The clandestine ARMY, NSA, CIA, and FBI intelligence/research operations made public by the Church Committee are sobering in light of the Edward Snowden/Bradley Manning revelations.
    The following programs had the imprimatur of the Executive Office:
  • HTLINGUAL— intercept/read/copy citizen mail 
  • COINTELPROmalign/subdue political dissenters
  • CHAOS discredit/repress student anti-war protesters
  • Huston Plan— discovered during the Watergate Hearings was a White House, supported by the Intelligence Community, proposal to commit numerous illegal activities. The Church Committee found that the Huston Plan—enlistment of IRS for intelligence purposes, burglary, warrantless wiretapping and mail inspection
    was only an episode in the lawlessness which preceded and followed its brief existence. As these hearings will reveal the leaders of the CIA and individuals within the FBI continued to seek official blessings for the very wrongs envisaged in the Huston Plan. p.2

  • MKUltra — Torture and application of behavior-altering drugs to U.S. and Canadian citizens without their consent.

  • CIA Director Helms ordered the human experimentation records destroyed but it was later learned that over thirty universities and institutions had participated in the twenty-year MKUltra project.  The CIA's known drugs of choice were LSD, synthetic mescaline and scopolamine. Behavior-altering techniques, outside pharmaceuticals, included radiation, electroshock, harassment substances, paramilitary devices and materials.— pp. 391-392. The CIA also utilized American volunteers for drug research. A sample consent form may be viewed on p. 417. Participants were subject to confidentiality agreements—disclosure would lead to Uniform Code of Military Justice prosecution.

    The Church Committee found it disturbing that confined/incarcerated individuals were CIA experimentation subjects.
  • MKNAOMIBiological/chemical weapon research (Fort Detrick) to kill and or to destroy livestock and crops in perceived anti-American counties. p. 389
  • The Cuban Project aka Mongoose—post Bay of Pigs multilevel plan to topple the Castro government by whatever means.

  • Intelligence Community Immunity

    History repeats.  Past (Church Committee) and present (Manning/Snowden) documents prove that directors of  U. S. intelligence agencies have violated statutes and acted outside constitutional boundaries. Since no charges have been levied,  it would appear that officials acting under National Security authorization are immune from prosecution.

    Saturday, July 27, 2013

    Prosecuting Edward Snowden in Absentia

    Edward Snowden, provider of surreptitious government surveillance documents, has temporary safe lodging.

    In spite of assurances that Edward Snowden will receive a fair trial, not be tortured or executed, his Russian guardians have thus far refused extradition petitions.

    The Justice Department has charged Edward Snowden with the following criminal offences: Theft of Government Property—Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information—Willful Communication of Classified Communications to an Unauthorized Person.

    The Constitution requires defendants' presence during proceedings but Mr. Snowden could formally abrogate this right and request a trial in absentia .

    Mr. Snowden has acknowledged theft and publication of aberrant National Security Agency data mining programs.

    So the probing question is, does a citizen by whatever means have the responsibility and right to expose unlawful government activities?

    Friday, July 26, 2013

    Ractopamine in Smithfield Foods and other Animal Products Raises Import Barriers

    At Issue: Ractopamine Hydrochloride

    FDA Black Box Warning:
    Ractopamine hydrochloride, is a beta-adrenergic agonist. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Not for use in humans. Keep out of the reach of children.
    U. S. Livestock Ractopamine Feeding Practices Altered by Outside Influences

    Russia, China, the E.U. and various other countries prohibit the use of ractopamine, a weight-enhancing synthetic supplement in livestock production, because the drug has critically sickened animals—remains in product—and thus may expose consumers to similar health risks.

    The ractopamine feed additive provides notable returns, an expected 10-20% gain in marketable meat.

    Ractopamine, an over-the-counter status drug, does not require veterinary supervision. Government standards for ractopamine residue limits are set at 30 ppb for beef and 50 ppb for pork. These guidelines may be followed or not. The FDA rarely tests meat products for ractopamine.

    According to the FDA, Eli Lilly's Elanco Animal Health Division and other pharmaceutical providers, ractopamine presents no human health risk. Aside: FDA 2002 Elanco Animal Health Violation Letter

    Pigs have been consuming ractopamine (Paylean) since 1999, Cattle (Optaflexx '04) and Turkeys (Topmax '08).

    In contrast to other pharmaceutical animal-improvement schemes, i.e. hormones and antibiotics, ractopamine is added during the finishing (prior to slaughter) period. These accelerate-growth drugs are unnatural, medically unnecessary and not listed as product ingredients.

    Smithfield Foods Inc. (NYSE:SFD)  notified investors in February 2013 that the use of Ractopamine impaired global expansion plans and consequently would be removed from some swine feeding regimens. This announcement was followed by the news in May that Shuanghui International Holdings, intended to acquire Smithfield Foods.

    China and Russia are currently boycotting meat containing ractopamine and are mandating independent testing to verify the same. This zero ractopamine tolerance policy was made possible by the Neogen Corporation. Lateral Flow Device technology utilized by Neogen is able to detect minute amounts of ractopamine in meat samples.

    In their February 2013 letter to Trade Representative Ron Kirk, thirty-three Senators expressed concern that Russia is interfering in U.S. affairs. The Senators are of the opinion that the ractopamine ban "contradicts generally accepted scientific conclusions and Russia's obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)."

    The National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board would likely agree with the Senators' assessment. From the industry's point of view:
    Ractopamine is used as part of a healthy, balanced diet for growing pigs. Ractopamine helps pigs make the most of the food they eat by promoting the conversion of dietary nutrients into lean muscle, which helps produce a leaner meat product.

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    The National Security Agency's Captive Audience

    The 2002 U.S. Information Awareness Office—Knowledge is Power—Seal
    Rear Admiral John M. Poindexter—Information Awareness Office Director
    1972 Supreme Court Dissenting Opinion re Government Surveillance

    This case [ Laird v. Tatum] involves a cancer in our body politic. It is a measure of the disease which afflicts us. Army surveillance, like Army regimentation, is at war with the principles of the First Amendment. Those who already walk submissively will say there is no cause for alarm. But submissiveness is not our heritage. The First Amendment was designed to allow rebellion to remain as our heritage. The Constitution was designed to keep government off the backs of the people. The Bill of Rights was added to keep the precincts of belief and expression, of the press, of political and social activities free from surveillance. The Bill of Rights was designed to keep agents of government and official eavesdroppers away from assemblies of people. The aim was to allow men to be free and independent and to assert their rights against government. There can be no influence more paralyzing of that objective than Army surveillance. When an intelligence officer looks over every nonconformist's shoulder in the library, or walks invisibly by his side in a picket line, or infiltrates his club, the America once extolled as the voice of liberty heard around the world no longer is cast in the image which Jefferson and Madison designed, but more in the Russian image.

    Without judicial oversight or public knowledge, the U.S. government in 2002 was quietly compiling all-encompassing dossiers. Technology enabled, the Total Information Awareness—Department of Defense initiative—permitted infrastructure analysts to capture and store intimate data.

    Citizen and business composites included, but were not limited to, e-mail accounts, social network contacts, phone usage, financial worth and health history. These no-cause-to-create profiles were congressionally discredited in 2003 but as the Edward Snowden released National Security Agency documents reveal these watch programs have remained in place.

    Since his '05 appointment to National Security Agency Director, General Keith B. Alexander, has intensified Total Information Awareness surveillance policies.

    There are many firms assisting the U.S. Intelligence Community but Booz Allen Hamilton is a favored player.

    Electronic eyes, domestic and foreign, are able to roam the massive Booz Allen Hamilton-designed, government-financed repositories for mischief, profit and influence. A Utah desert facility, code-named Bumblehive, will soon house the captured data.

    The kinship between the contracting parties may be too close for comfort. James R. Clapper, Jr., Director of National Intelligence, was a former Booz Allen Hamilton V.P.   John M. McConnell, the Bush-appointed Director of National Intelligence, presently works for Booz Allen Hamilton.

    The Booz Allen Hamilton company, presently controlled by the Carlyle Group, has a history of chargeable improprieties and acknowledged in 2011 that the group Anonymous had breached its encryption firewalls. In its most recent financial statements, Booz Allen Hamilton reported that 98% of its billion dollar plus income was supplied by the government.

    Over the years, numerous National Security Agency surveillance violation complaints have been filed in federal courts and all have been dismissed. The reason: lack of evidence.

    Government intrusion issues are addressed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Judges currently serving were chosen by Chief Justice John Roberts.

    As punishment for publicizing embarrassing reality, Edward Snowden has been charged with: Theft of Government Property—Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information—Willful Communication of Classified Communications to an Unauthorized Person.

    From the point of the June 2013 U.S. universal spyware disclosure, the President and his representatives have issued Edward Snowden extradition requests and have promised economic sanctions for any country providing Edward Snowden safe haven. These actions raise ponderous questions.

    At the close of his presidency, Eisenhower warned of perpetual war and the consequences of being under the influence of the military-industrial complex.

    Eisenhower's words:
    Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations.
    Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence --economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

    Thursday, June 27, 2013

    The Xanthan Gum Enigma

    SimplyThick is Xanthan Gum

    SimplyThick, a previously-prescribed neonatal intensive care xanthan gum formula supplement, is the presumed cause of infant necrotizing enterocolitis deaths and injuries in North Carolina, Florida, New York, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana and Canada.  Nine infant deaths have been linked to SimplyThick. The number of intestinal-impairing injuries will likely never be known.

    There is no information as to whether FDA officials have queried health authorities in Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Panama, Barbados, Cayman Islands and Italy for SimplyThick adverse event reports.

    Research on the part of news organizations indicates that the SimplyThick xanthan gum product was inducing infant necrotizing enterocolitis as early as 2004.

    SimplyThick investigative articles:

    Huffington Post— June 2013—"FDA Links Baby Deaths to SimplyThick Infant Formula
    St. Louis Magazine—June 2013—"Simply Thick: A Tragedy No One Saw Coming
    Courthouse News Service— June 2013—"Babies' Deaths Blamed on 'Simply Thick'"
    The New York Times—February 2013—"Warning Too Late for Some Babies"
    St. Louis Business Journal— February 2013—"SimplyThick faces issues with product safety"

    provide additional information on the subject.

    If processed to the Code of Federal Regulation specifications, xanthan gum should be innocuous but as referenced by the FDA, "xanthan gum is the primary source of bacterial endotoxin."

    Because xanthan gum is ubiquitous in food and present in pharmaceutical/cosmetic supplies, tracing product usage to harmful medical events is quixotic.

    The St. Louis Magazine advises that in spite of manufacturer's and FDA online warnings, SimplyThick remains in the infant formula market.

    Xanthomonas campestris pathovar campestris

    Xanthomonas campestris pathovar campestris [Xcc], a gram-negative bacterium, is the source of xanthan gum and the cause of necrotic plant disease.

    Fermentation [lysis] of the Xcc organism in U.S., Chinese, French, and Austrian bacterial factories produce xanthan gum. Absent bacterial filtration, xanthan gum contains significant lipopolysaccharide impurities. Scientifically the term lipopolysaccharides is synonymous with endotoxins.

    Patent applications illustrate that xanthan gum endotoxin-reduction methods are demanding.

    KELTROL T [Kelco Biopolymers] xanthan gum, for instance, contains more than one million endotoxin units per gram.

    "Removing these exceedingly high loads of endotoxin from the biopolymer in a commercially efficient manner can be particularly challenging." state inventors: William S. Bousman, George T. Colegrove, Robert Raczkowski, Monica A. Garcia and John L. Holahan, III.

    As a consequence, xanthan gum comprised consumer products contain an undisclosed level of endotoxins. Whether these pathogens are responsible for the SimplyThick infant necrotizing enterocolitis incidents is yet to be determined.

    Xanthan Gum Cosmetic Applications

    In addition to food and pharmaceutical products, xanthan gum is present in 3,470 adult/infant cosmetic items.

    Injury reports are submitted to the FDA by way of the Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP). VCRP is utilized by the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel to address product safety.

    Cosmetic ingredients are not regulated by the FDA. Access to the VCRP adverse event reporting database is subject to Freedom of Information Act filings.

    Safety Assessment of Microbial Polysaccharide Gums as Used in Cosmetics

    Xanthan Gum Cosmetics Ingredient Review September 2012

    Some of the microbial polysaccharide gums under scrutiny:
    are reported to be used on baby skin, to be applied to the eye area or mucous membranes, or could possibly be ingested...or inhaled [dehydroxanthan gum].
    Twenty-nine infant products contain xanthan gum.

    Q&A: Matters before the Cosmetics Ingredient Review Panel

    Individuals quoted: Bart Heldreth, Ph.D. - Chemist (CIR Staff)
    Daniel C. Lieber, Ph.D., Ronald C. Shank, Ph.D., James G. Marks, Jr., M.D., Donald V. Belsito, M.D.-Expert CIR Panel Members

    Dr. Shank:
    The title might have an association with microbial lipopolysaccharides which are well known to be high biological activity in toxicity, so rather than make that association, change polysaccharides to gums.
    Dr. Lieber:
    I agree with your point on lipopolysaccharide. You don't want to get people thinking the wrong thing.
    Dr. Lieber:
    Any other comments? Okay, good. Next is the microbial polysaccharides. I actually really like the title, because I was wondering how the heck did you get that? It sounded like it could be something that I didn't want to put on my skin. But any rate, this is our first review.
    Dr. Shank:
    That's better -- well, at least toxicologically when you say microbial polysaccharides some of those -- the lipo polysaccharides are quite toxic. So, I'd like to avoid that association, if we can. Gum sounds pretty good to me.
    Mr. Heldreth:
    I mean, you never know what people [manufacturers] are doing to make their stuff.
    Dr. Marks:
    So, the only -- let's go on page 48. That should be Panel Book -- I looked in there, see if I have my thinking correct here. I said that the xanthan gum -- and that's the most commonly used -- 5 percent was irritating to the rabbit, and it's used up to 6 percent in cosmetics. So, let's see.
    So, I was a little bit concerned if it's irritating the rabbit at 5 percent, what would it do to a human if it were put on at a 6 percent? But where do I -- yeah, there it is. If you go up -- actually it's page 47 under Table 10. Xanthan gum rabbits, 5 percent aqueous, they had a localized irritation with bleeding and cracking. That was daily application.
    So, that was a bit of an alert for me that if we have it at 6 percent in leave-on products, what's the -- I'd like to see an RIPT not so much for sensitization but for irritation. And I wasn't able to find in the data something that would reassure me about this study on rabbits with 5 percent aqueous.
    Dr. Belsito:
    I'm sure there is probably some hard data, but there is certainly a good amount of soft data. How many complaints has the FDA received about cosmetic products containing xanthan gum, and if there are 3,400 out there, one would expect that if it was an issue they'd get a lot.

    Financial Considerations Versus Public Safety

    Post marketing adverse-usage complaints are often held in abeyance.

    The John L. Holahan, III patented, SimplyThick,  product may be a case in point.

    The SimplyThick®/necrotizing enterocolitis incidence link was raised in 2005 by a neonatal intensive care nurse who asked this online question:
    Does anyone else use Simply Thick in NICU? We have been using it for about a year and a half and coincidentally it seemd to be the year of NEC now.
    The FDA states that the agency did not learn until early 2011 that the SimplyThick product was substantively linked to infant NEC episodes.

    When informed of the potential SimplyThick/xanthan gum medical problem, Dr. Benson Silverman, the director of the F.D.A.’s infant formula section, responded “We can only do something with the information we are provided with. If information is not provided, how would we know?”