Saturday, November 26, 2011


The other day one of those Fox News brainy commentators "pointed out" that pepper spray was just another food product.  I felt like I just wanted to spray her a mouthful to "chew on."  Maybe, though, she sprayed a little on her Thanksgiving dinner before serving it up to her family...but do people like that even have families?

Cops, secret police, security agents and military headbangers just love their pepper spray...don't leave home without it.  I mean, come on, what could be more fun then pulling out the old can of food products and spraying it in someone's face.  

You know something to keep in mind is that you can purchase some for yourself just in case you are heading out to a protest of some kind and are concerned about "muggers"...hmmm.

The following comes from Scientific American ( a known commie mouthpiece).

About Pepper Spray

One hundred years ago, an American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville developed a scale to measure the intensity of a pepper’s burn. The scale – as you can see on the widely used chart to the left – puts sweet bell peppers at the zero mark and the blistering habanero at up to 350,000 Scoville Units.
I checked the Scoville Scale for something else yesterday. I was looking for a way to measure the intensity of pepper spray, the kind that police have been using on Occupy protestors including this week’s shocking incident involving peacefully protesting students at the University of California-Davis.
As the chart makes clear, commercial grade pepper spray leaves even the most painful of natural peppers (the Himalayan ghost pepper) far behind. It’s listed at between 2 million and 5.3 million Scoville units. The lower number refers to the kind of pepper spray that you and I might be able to purchase for self-protective uses. And the higher number? It’s the kind of spray that police use, the super-high dose given in the orange-colored spray used at UC-Davis.
The reason pepper-spray ends up on the Scoville chart is that – you probably guessed this -  it’s literally derived from pepper chemistry, the compounds that make habaneros so much more formidable than the comparatively wimpy bells. Those compounds are called capsaicins and – in fact – pepper spray is more formally called Oleoresin Capsicum or OC Spray.
Photo courtesy: California Aggie
But we’ve taken to calling it pepper spray, I think, because that makes it sound so much more benign than it really is, like something just a grade or so above what we might mix up in a home kitchen. The description hints maybe at that eye-stinging effect that the cook occasionally experiences when making something like a jalapeno-based salsa, a little burn, nothing too serious.
Until you look it up on the Scoville scale and remember, as toxicologists love to point out, that the dose makes the poison.  That we’re not talking about cookery but a potent blast of chemistry.  So that if OC spray is the U.S. police response of choice  – and certainly, it’s been used with dismaying enthusiasm during the Occupy protests nationwide, as documented in this excellent Atlantic roundup -  it may be time to demand a more serious look at the risks involved.
My own purpose here is to focus on the dangers of a high level of capsaicin exposure. But as pointed out in the 2004 paper, Health Hazards of Pepper Spray, written by health researchers at the University of North Carolina and Duke University, the sprays contain other risky materials:
Depending on brand, an OC spray may contain water, alcohols, or organic solvents as liquid carriers; and nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or halogenated hydrocarbons (such as Freon, tetrachloroethylene, and methylene chloride) as propellants to discharge the canister contents.(3) Inhalation of high doses of some of these chemicals can produce adverse cardiac, respiratory, and neurologic effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death.
Their paper focuses mostly, though, on the dangerous associated with pepper-based compounds. In 1997, for instance, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco discovered that the “hot” sensation of habaneros and their ilk was caused by capsaicin binding directly to proteins in the membranes of pain and heat sensing neurons.  Capsaicins can activate these neurons at below body temperature, leading to a startling sensation of heat. Repeated exposure can wear the system down, depleting neurotransmitters, reducing the sensation of the pain. This knowledge has led to a number of medical treatments using capsaicins to manage pain.
Its very mechanism, though, should remind us to be wary. As the North Carolina researchers point out, any compound that can influence nerve function is, by definition, risky. Research tells us that pepper spray acts as a potent inflammatory agent. It amplifies allergic sensitivities, it irritates and damages eyes, membranes, bronchial airways, the stomach lining – basically what it touches. It works by causing pain – and, as we know, pain is the body warning us of an injury.
In general, these are short term effects. Pepper spray, for instance, induces a burning sensation in the eyes in part by damaging cells in the outer layer of the cornea.  Usually, the body repairs this kind of injury fairly neatly. But with repeated exposures, studies find, there can be permanent damage to the cornea.
The more worrisome effects have to do with inhalation – and by some reports, California university police officers deliberately put OC spray down protestors throats.  Capsaicins inflame the airways, causing swelling and restriction. And this means that pepper sprays pose a genuine risk  to people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
And by genuine risk, I mean a known risk, a no-surprise any police department should know this risk,  easy enough to find in the scientific literature. To cite just three examples here:
1) Pepper Spray Induced Respiratory Failure Treated with Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
2) Assessing the incapacitative effects of pepper spray during resistive encounters with the police.
3) The Human Health Effects of Pepper Spray.
That second paper is from a law enforcement journal. And the summary for that last paper notes: Studies of the effects of capsaicin on human physiology, anecdotal experience with field use of pepper spray, and controlled exposure of correctional officers in training have shown adverse effects on the lungs, larynx, middle airway, protective reflexes, and skin. Behavioral and mental health effects also may occur if pepper spray is used abusively.
Pepper spray use has been suspected of contributing to a number of deaths that occurred in police custody. In mid-1990s, the U.S. Department of Justice cited nearly 70 fatalities linked to pepper-spray use, following on a 1995 report compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union of California. The ACLU report cited 26 suspicious deaths; it’s important to note that most involved pre-existing conditions such as asthma. But it’s also important to note a troubling pattern.
In fact, in 1999, the ACLU  asked the California appeals court to declare the use of pepper spray to be dangerous and cruel. That request followed an action by northern California police officers against environmental protestors – the police were accused of dipping Q-tips into OC spray and applying them directly to the eyes of men and women engaged in an anti-logging protest.
“The ACLU believes that the use of pepper spray as a kind of chemical cattle prod on nonviolent demonstrators resisting arrest constitutes excessive force and violates the Constitution,” wrote association attorneys some 13 years ago.
Yesterday, the University of California-Davis announced that it was suspending two of the police officers who pepper-sprayed protesting students. Eleven of those students were treated by paramedics on scene and two were sent to a hospital in Sacramento for more intensive treatment.
Undoubtedly, these injuries will factor into another scientific study of pepper spray, another acknowledgement that top of the Scoville scale is dangerous territory. But my own preference is that we start learning from these mistakes without waiting another 13 years or more, without engaging in yet another cycle of abuse and injury.
Now would be good.
Cross-posted from Speakeasy Science.


One thing you can always say about the good old USA, it never learns.  Remember the Maine and send the troops to Australia.  Australia?  Well, we have to watch out for China...gotta be prudent, oops wrong President.  Perhaps, Obama was worried that we would run out of wars or something, but if I were him I would think twice about picking a fight with the People's Republic of China...a country, I might add, that actually seems to go out of its way not to get involved in military confrontations.  

Then again maybe this is the "change" he was always talking about.

The following is from OpEd News.

Imp of the Perverse: Obama's Bellicose China Syndrome

By  William Pfaff casts a cold eye on the Peace Laureate's latest tinpot strutting in Australia:

"One might think that a bitter Central Asian war in Afghanistan, spilling into Pakistan, with no sign of ending, and an as yet ambiguous military commitment to a defeated and incompletely reconstituted Iraq, now overshadowed by Iran and the Arab Awakening across the Middle East, would be enough for President Barack Obama to cope with. 

"Why then does he now want a war with China? No one seems to have made much of this in American press reports and comment, but others have noticed, most of all in China. His journey to Asia this month proclaimed a Pax Americana for Asia -- which as such is absurd. The effort is likely to become just the opposite: a steadily deepening and costly engagement in suppressing China's attempt to reclaim the Asian preeminence it held for more than a thousand years.

"This is the sort of thing that starts world wars. Think of Hohenzollern, Germany, challenging British sea power before 1914. Think of Japan's long and bloody effort to make itself Asia's imperial power. Think of what it took for Napoleon to conquer Europe and much of the Mediterranean, and then what it took Britain, Russia, Spanish guerrilla-peasants, and assorted others to wear down and defeat Napoleon. The lesson is: Don't start wars with powers being driven by revolutionary enthusiasm or nationalism to claim -- or reclaim -- a place in the sun.

"What is at stake between China and the United States? We are on the opposite sides of the world with next to nothing to fight about, except raw materials -- of which there still is a good deal available for all. Industrial domination of the world? What does that actually mean, and what is it worth? Bragging rights about who is top nation? That's what Washington seems to care about. If American leaders push that too far, they could end in a war that eliminates both from the competition ....

"The president then went on to Canberra and signed an agreement with Australia to station 2,500 U.S. Marines in Australia's Northern Territory (closest to mainland Asia). He said to the Australian Parliament that the United States is shifting its military weight from the Middle East to the Pacific, declaring in one of those "Let there be no doubt" phrases habitual to American presidents that 'in the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in.'

"Are we Americans really sure that we want to be 'all in'? All in what? A war over China's claims on Taiwan and the South China Sea? Or over access to 'rare earths'? Or over -- as just might happen -- a China reduced to ruins by revolutionary upheaval? Or, are Mr. Obama and the Washington elite looking for distraction from our own revolutionary unrest?"

Pfaff's question is apt indeed: What is at stake between China and the United States? This could be asked about any aspect of America's aggressive and -- in Pfaff's apt phrase -- absurd foreign policy. And the answer would be the same: bragging rights and an utterly meaningless sense of "domination" -- a frantic, compulsive gnawing on tattered, blood-soaked rags.

This is the squalid little madness that sits -- like a lonely, naked, fear-crazed imp -- at the hollow center of the vast machinery of empire. And the same imp squats in the souls of all our blustering, strutting elites. See through them; see through the bristling machinery, see through the self-regarding bluster, and see the crippled imp inside them, cringing and stupid, gnawing on rags.

The machinery is indeed formidable, murderous, and will yet inflict untold harm in many directions. But keep looking at the weak, curdled, blinded wretchedness in its center: that's the only thing holding the machinery together. That's the thing we have to overcome -- in the machine, in others, and in ourselves.

NOTE: How are these curdled wretches created? Arthur Silber has some insights: see this recent piece -- and follow the links! You might learn something.

Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many (more...)

Friday, November 25, 2011


What can I say about Leonard Peltier that hasn't been said.  

The following is from The  Toronto Sun.

Peltier movie seeks justice

A new film has been made about the controversial Leonard Peltier case. (Toronto Sun files)
To some, it is the most controversial American court case in the last 50 years that, until recently, seemed hopelessly mired in prejudice, perjury and bureaucratic vindictiveness.
That’s a view expressed by researcher Dan Battaglia and filmmaker Preston Randolph inWind Chases the Sun a new documentary being made about Leonard Peltier, now in his 36th year in prison.
Peltier is serving two life sentences for the 1975 death of two FBI agents in a range war on the Pine Ridge Oglala-Sioux Indian reserve in South Dakota, after the troubles at Wounded Knee.
Battaglia and Randolph have turned up new evidence that points to Peltier being railroaded — something that anyone who investigates the case has long discovered.
I visited Peltier three times in the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan. before he was transferred to Terre Haute, Ind. then to Lewisburg, Penn. and now is in the maximum security prison at Coleman, Fla.
Over the years various individuals and “defence committees” have protested Peltier’s continuing incarceration. The likes of Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama, the European Parliament, 50 Canadian MPs are among those who’ve urged his release.
Twenty years ago, Robert Redford made Incident at Oglala(itls) about Peltier’s case, and now Preston Randolph of Cactus Productions has broken new ground with Wind Chases the Sun.
When FBI agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams were killed in a firefight, Peltier and two other Indians of the American Indian Movement were charged. Peltier fled to Canada. Had he gone on trial with the other two, he’d have been found not guilty as they were — acting in self-defence.
Peltier was extradited from Canada on the false and perjured testimony of Myrtle Poor Bear who claimed to be his girlfriend and had witnessed the shooting when, in fact, she didn’t know Peltier and was nowhere near the shooting. The FBI had coerced her testimony.
Battaglia and Randolph turned up evidence of more coerced testimony when they found a hand-written letter by a prosecution witness, Angie Long Visitor, refuting her testimony that she’d witnessed the shooting. She insisted she didn’t see anything and simply wanted the FBI to leave her alone.
Three other witnesses — Norman Brown, Wish Draper and Mike Anderson — have insisted they were coerced into falsely testifying against Peltier.
In fact, the FBI and police were determined to have someone found guilty of killing the agents — and it didn’t matter who, so long as it was someone.
And Peltier has been treated abominably in prison.
Battaglia notes that when a Scottish woman mailed him a 20-pound note for his defence fund, Peltier tried to mail it to a supporter outside. His letter was apprehended and Peltier sentenced to three-months in solitary confinement for mailing currency. How the original letter with the currency got through to him in the first place is unexplained.
Peltier received another three months in the “hole” when an electrical wire was found in the upper bunk of his cell — when he slept in the lower bunk, because his arthritic knees prevented him from climbing.
The film is for the first time publicly exposing the harassment toward Peltier through the prison system. Testimony by former prison guards deploring the “harsh,” unwarranted treatment of him in these two cases, as well as his 36 years of imprisonment are revealing of governmental misconduct throughout his incarceration.
When I used to visit him, he couldn’t get treatment for his jaw which seemed to be atrophying and he could barely open his mouth. Also he has diabetes and now early signs of prostate cancer.
Throughout Peltier’s trial, key evidence was withheld from his jury, including ballistics evidence debunking the prosecution’s theory. Over 135,000 pages of information were withheld from Peltier’s defence, and still thousands of pages are not being released.
Forgotten in the ongoing vendetta against Peltier is the mood in America at the time of Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee — a time of political unease, with the American Indian Movement deemed a terrorist group, when it was simply for Indian rights.
Peltier is not a criminal. He was an Indian rights activist, and even if he was guilty, he should have long ago been freed or granted amnesty. He’s paid the price.
That is why this film is important. Wind Chases the Sun(itls) may be Peltier’s last chance for freedom. Even though his spirit remains strong, his health, at age 67, is deteriorating.
Information about the film can be found at