News ArticlesExcerpts of Key News Articles in Major Media
Investors are pouring into farmland in the U.S. and parts of Europe, Latin America and Africa as global food prices soar. A fund controlled by George Soros, the billionaire hedge-fund manager, owns 23.4 percent of South American farmland venture Adecoagro SA. Hedge funds Ospraie Management LLC and Passport Capital LLC as well as Harvard University's endowment are also betting on farming. TIAA-CREF, the $466 billion financial services giant, has $2 billion invested in some 600,000 acres (240,000 hectares) of farmland in Australia, Brazil and North America and wants to double the size of its investment. The growth in demand for food, spurred by the rising middle classes in China, India and other emerging markets, shows no signs of abating. Food prices in June, as measured by a United Nations index of 55 food commodities, were just slightly below their peak in February. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said in a June report that it expects food costs to remain high through 2012. So many investors have rushed to capitalize on food prices in the past three years that they may be creating a farmland bubble. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which covers Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and other agricultural states, said in May that farmland prices had surged 20 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier.
Note: This news is further clear evidence that the rapid increases in food prices is another ploy to funnel money from the pockets of the public into the uber wealthy.
In 2008, voters approved a $10 billion bond to begin construction of a bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco that would make that trip in less than three hours. So who knew that by 2011 the general consensus would be that the project is an ill-conceived, mismanaged boondoggle? Former Amtrak spokesman and Reason Foundation writer Joseph Vranich knew. In 2008, before the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, he called the project "science fiction." He said the train won't travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours because that exceeds the speed of all existing high-speed rail. But on French railway schedules, a TGV (Train Ŕ Grande Vitesse) takes two hours, 38 minutes to go from Paris to Avignon. That's 430 miles. The route for the L.A.-to-San Francisco line is 432. So what's going on here? It's simple. Vranich makes stuff up. The Reason Foundation is funded by Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, the American Petroleum Institute, Delta Airlines, the National Air Transportation Association and, of course, the Koch Family Foundation. They know what will happen once Americans, furious about gas prices and the way airlines treat them, experience electrically powered 200-mph trains.
Note: For lots more evidence that progress in the transportation sector is stymied by big money interests, click here.
The Air Force has suspended a training course for nuclear missile launch officers that used Bible passages and religious imagery to teach them about the ethics of war. The course had apparently been taught by chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for more than 20 years, but officials pulled the plug after an article from the liberal Web site Truthout.org appeared online last week. The group obtained a PowerPoint presentation used in the course that referenced religious figures including Abraham, John the Baptist and Saint Augustine. The presentation also said that there are “many examples of believers engaged in wars in the Old Testament” and “no pacifistic sentiment in mainstream Jewish history.” The reversal marks a victory for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group that provided the documents to Truthout and that has waged a series of battles, legal and otherwise, to preserve the separation of church and state in the services. Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of the foundation, said his group was approached late last month by about 30 officers, most of them Protestant or Roman Catholic, who said they objected to the presentation. He said he saw the PowerPoint and was astonished by documents that appeared to be using a religious justification for missile launches.
Note: Why was this important news only reported in a blog and not on the front page of the newspaper?
It was the om heard ’round the world. Yesterday in 108 cities—from London to Los Angeles, Hong Kong to Houston, Barcelona to Birmingham, and more—“MedMob” groups participated in large-scale displays of meditation. Playing off of the flash mob concept, in which strangers organize online, arrange to meet at a specific time and place, and then perform an unexpected public act, MedMob members delight in presenting meditation in a surprising, inclusive way, says Shambhala Sun. MedMob’s goals: 1. To create an environment for people from all walks of life to come together in meditation. 2. To expose the world to meditation through public display of meditation. 3. To come together as a global community to send positive intentions out into the world. 4. To show that leading by example is the best way to lead. Simple acts can stimulate major paradigm shifts in thinking. The MedMob movement, which began in Austin early this year, is for everyone, reports David Telfer McConaghay for elephant journal. Telfer assures us that passers-by do not need to believe in “hippy-dippy feel-goodery” to participate in meditation, whether in a group or alone. “The goal is not to attain some state of illusory bliss, then wander around all day in a disconnected daze with a silly grin,” he writes. “The goal (if meditation can be said to have a goal) is to allow the naturally arising chaos and distractions of the mind to settle and fade so that we can act and make choices with greater intention and clarity.”
The extraordinary access that Cabinet ministers granted Rupert Murdoch and his children was revealed for the first time yesterday, with more than two dozen private meetings between the family and senior members of the Government in the 15 months since David Cameron entered Downing Street. In total, Cabinet ministers have had private meetings with Murdoch executives more than 60 times and, if social events such as receptions at party conferences are included, the figure is at least 107. On two occasions, James Murdoch and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were given confidential defence briefings on Afghanistan and Britain's strategic defence review by the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox. A further briefing was held with Ms Brooks, Rupert Murdoch and the Sunday Times editor John Witherow. The Chancellor, George Osborne, has had 16 separate meetings since May 2010 with News International editors and executives, including two with the Murdochs within just a month of taking office. He also invited Elisabeth Murdoch as a guest to his 40th birthday party last month. The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, dined with Rupert Murdoch within days of the Government coming to power and, after being given quasi-judicial oversight for the Murdochs' Ł8bn attempted takeover of BSkyB, had two meetings with James Murdoch in which they discussed the takeover.
Scientists are in danger of turning animals into monsters unless an ethical watchdog is appointed to prevent Frankenstein-like experiments, the Academy of Medical Sciences has warned. A new report into experiments which transplant human cells into animals for medical purposes said scientists may not be far from giving apes the ability to think and talk like humans. Concerns about the creation of talking apes should be taken seriously along with "what one might call the 'Frankenstein fear' that the medical research which creates 'humanised' animals is going to generate monsters", it was claimed. A regulatory body is needed to closely monitor any experiments that risk creating animals with human-like consciousness, spawning hybrid human-animal embryos, or giving animals any appearance or behavioural traits that too closely resemble humans, the report said. Scientists would, for example, be prevented from replacing a large number of an ape's brain [cells] with human cells – as has already been done in simpler animals like mice – until much more is known about the potential results.
Note: For more on this in another media article, click here.
Sean Hoare, the former News of the World showbusiness reporter who was the first named journalist to allege that Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, has been found dead. Hertfordshire police would not confirm his identity, but said in a statement: "The death is currently being treated as unexplained but not thought to be suspicious." There was an unexplained delay in the arrival of forensics officers at the scene. There was no police presence at the scene at all for several hours. Hoare was in his mid-40s. He first made his claims in a New York Times investigation into the phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World. He told the newspaper that not only did Coulson know of the hacking, but he also actively encouraged his staff to intercept the calls of celebrities in the pursuit of exclusives. In a subsequent interview with the BBC he alleged he was personally asked by his editor at the time, Coulson, to tap into phones. Hoare returned to the spotlight last week, after he told the New York Times that reporters at the NoW were able to use police technology to locate people using their mobile phone signals, in exchange for payments to police officers. He said journalists were able to use "pinging", which measured the distance between a mobile handset and a number of phone masts to pinpoint its location.
For nearly four years they lay piled in a Scotland Yard evidence room, six overstuffed plastic bags gathering dust and little else. Inside was a treasure-trove of evidence: 11,000 pages of handwritten notes listing nearly 4,000 celebrities, politicians, sports stars, police officials and crime victims whose phones may have been hacked by The News of the World, a now defunct British tabloid newspaper. Yet from August 2006, when the items were seized, until the autumn of 2010, no one at the Metropolitan Police Service, commonly referred to as Scotland Yard, bothered to sort through all the material and catalog every page. During that same time, senior Scotland Yard officials assured Parliament, judges, lawyers, potential hacking victims, the news media and the public that there was no evidence of widespread hacking by the tabloid. After the past week, that assertion has been reduced to tatters, torn apart by a spectacular avalanche of contradictory evidence. The testimony and evidence that emerged last week, as well as interviews with current and former officials, indicate that the police agency and News International, the British subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the publisher of The News of the World, became so intertwined that they wound up sharing the goal of containing the investigation. Members of Parliament said in interviews that they were troubled by a “revolving door” between the police and News International.
Note: Media and government corruption could hardly get worse than seen in this case of the Murdoch phone hacking scandal. Scotland Yard's primary responsibility is to protect the UK public from criminal activity; instead it enabled the activity to continue and shared high-level information and personnel with News Corporation. For lots more on media and government corruption click here and here.
The Obama administration is facing criticism for prosecutions brought under the US Espionage Act against government employees accused of leaking sensitive information. Mark Feldstein, professor of media at the University of Maryland, sees a worrying trend of espionage prosecutions since President Obama took office. "To everyone's surprise, the Obama administration has escalated the war against whistleblowers and the attacks on information that journalists and the public were depending on to get evidence of wrongdoing by powerful institutions and individuals," Prof Feldstein says. On Friday, Thomas Drake, a former senior official at the National Security Agency, a highly secretive US spy agency, was sentenced to one year's probation, after the Department of Justice's case against him collapsed. He had been accused of passing on information to a journalist about a government computer programme he considered wasteful. Outside court, Mr Drake said the government's prosecution had been "vindictive and malicious". According his lawyer Jesselyn Radack, the charge that he passed on secret information was a ''bald-faced lie''. Critics say the US classification system is often arbitrary, with documents often stamped ''classified'' when the content is not secret or that sensitive.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on government threats to civil liberties, click here.
U.S. officials ... defended a tactic used by the CIA to attempt to verify the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden — the covert creation of a vaccine program in Abbottabad, the town in Pakistan where he was later killed in a U.S. raid. The vaccine drive was conducted shortly before the raid in early May ... and was overseen by a Pakistani doctor who traveled to Abbottabad. A senior U.S. official said the campaign involved actual hepatitis vaccine and should not be construed as a “fake public health effort. The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world’s top terrorist, and nothing else.” The doctor who oversaw the effort has since been arrested by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency for cooperating with the CIA. U.S. officials have said they are seeking to have him released. The senior U.S. official declined to say whether DNA from bin Laden’s relatives was collected as part of the vaccine program. Officials have previously said, however, that they used DNA analysis to confirm bin Laden’s identify after he was killed. In doing so, they used samples taken from known relatives.
Note: For information about a disturbing Pentagon program using vaccinations to combat religious fundamentalism, click here.
An international study which debunks research linking cellphones to cancer risks received major funding from wireless manufacturers. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified [the] radio frequency emitted by wireless devices as possibly carcinogenic, but a panel of international scientists recently published a study challenging these findings. But in the study's conflict of interest disclaimer, the panel acknowledged it received support from the wireless industry to conduct the research. A number of organizations, including the Mobile Manufacturers' Forum, were cited as sources of funding. Dr. Devra Davis, an American scientist who runs the non-profit education group [Environmental Health Trust] says the new study is "misleading" and "wrong." "It is propaganda," said Davis, who also founded the world's first Center for Environmental Oncology. Davis says cellphone safety is a major public health issue and governments need to move away from the idea of taking action after there are "enough sick people or dead bodies." "The fact that we don't have an epidemic right now is of course what we expect," she said. "It is actually preposterous to imply or they really say that because don't have any increase now, there's no problem. It's really very sad."
Note: For more on the health threats posed by cell phones, click here.
Someone has to turn on the lights in life. Someone has to do the jobs we take for granted. But you’d think Tyrone Curry would kiss his trash sack goodbye. Five years ago, the Evergreen High School custodian won the Washington State Lottery’s Quinto game. “I was dumping garbage,” he says. “Just like today. This is where I was when I found out I won the jackpot and took off running." His wife, Michelle had his winning ticket — worth ... $3,410,000. To celebrate, Tyrone went bowling, like he’s done every Wednesday night for 25 years. At 4 in the morning, he could be sleeping instead of raising the American flag outside Evergreen High. But he ducks his head and smiles. “Nah. You need to be doing stuff: That’s my philosophy.” Five generations have grown up around him since he came home from war and started taking care of kids. Budget cuts eliminated Tyrone's teaching assistant's job 35 years ago, so he stayed on as a janitor. He never went looking for another classroom because he found a better one — and a second job — out back. Tyrone isn’t just the Evergreen High School custodian; he also coaches the track team. And that’s where he decided to splurge with his lottery winnings. “I’m getting excited!” he says, watching runners circling toward him on the school’s old cinder track. This summer he’s building them a new one. State-of-the-art. Cost him 40,000 bucks. “I’m not done,” he chuckles.
Note: For a great two-minute video on this inspiring man, click here.
The Obama administration approved the secret detention of a Somali terror suspect on board a US navy ship, where for two months he was subjected to military interrogation in the absence of a lawyer and without charge. The capture and treatment of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame has rekindled the debate within the US about the appropriate handling of terror suspects. Civil rights groups have objected to the secret questioning of Warsame on board a navy vessel, an innovation that they fear could see a new form of the CIA's widely discredited "black site" detention centres around the world. The US government is turning to detention at sea as a way of avoiding legal and political impediments in the treatment of terror suspects, both domestically and on the international stage. Last week Admiral William McRaven, soon to become head of US Special Operations Command, told his confirmation hearing that militants captured outside Afghanistan were often "put on a naval vessel" to be held until they could be sent to a third country or a case was compiled against them for prosecution in the US courts. Officials told the Washington Post that Warsame was interrogated on "all but a daily basis" on board the ship. The right to a lawyer was withheld along with other habeas corpus rights known in the US as Miranda rights. Civil rights groups have said the secret interrogation was a blatant violation of the Geneva conventions that prohibit prolonged detention of suspects at sea.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on the illegal actions taken by the US government in its "global war on terror", click here.
What causes autism? Scientists still don't have an answer, but two new studies suggest that conditions in a mom's womb may trigger the developmental disorder. Heredity is considered a major factor that triggers autism spectrum disorders, but scientists have long wondered what roles - if any - environmental factors play. Scientists used California health records to identify 192 pairs of twins - fraternal or identical - where at least one was affected by autism. Using diagnostic techniques that included directly observing the children, the scientists found 77 percent of male identical twins and 50 percent of female identical pairs both had autism. Those findings weren't too surprising, considering identical twins share the same genes. But what surprised researchers were the high rates of autism spectrum disorders they found in pairs of fraternal twins: 31 percent rate for males and 36 percent for females. Fraternal twins, from two fertilized eggs, share no more genetic material than any other siblings. But since they share the same womb, that could play a role, said Dr. John Constantino, professor of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who wasn't involved in the new research. Constantino calls the research a "key finding that puts a spotlight on pregnancy as a time when environmental factors might exert their effects."
Note: For major media articles presenting evidence of a link between autism and vaccines, click here.
When President Barack Obama cited cost as a reason to bring troops home from Afghanistan, he referred to a $1 trillion price tag for America's wars. Staggering as it is, that figure grossly underestimates the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury and ignores more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released on [June 29]. The final bill will run at least $3.7 trillion and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion, according to the research project "Costs of War" by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. In the 10 years since U.S. troops went into Afghanistan ... spending on the conflicts totaled $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion. Those numbers will continue to soar when considering often overlooked costs such as long-term obligations to wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 through 2020. The estimates do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments coming due. In human terms, 224,000 to 258,000 people have died directly from warfare, including 125,000 civilians in Iraq. Many more have died indirectly, from the loss of clean drinking water, healthcare, and nutrition. An additional 365,000 have been wounded and 7.8 million people -- equal to the combined population of Connecticut and Kentucky -- have been displaced. In one sense, the report measures the cost of 9/11. What followed were three wars in which $50 billion amounts to a rounding error. For every person killed on September 11, another 73 have been killed since.
Note: To watch a video of WantToKnow team member Dr. David Ray Griffin's explanation that the war in Afghanistan was not justified by the 9/11 attacks, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on the US/NATO wars of aggression, click here.
The New York Fed is refusing to tell investigators how many billions of dollars it shipped to Iraq during the early days of the US invasion there, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction told CNBC [on June 21]. The Fed's lack of disclosure is making it difficult for the inspector general to follow the paper trail of billions of dollars that went missing in the chaotic rush to finance the Iraq occupation, and to determine how much of that money was stolen. The New York Fed will not reveal details, the inspector general said, because the money initially came from an account at the Fed that was held on behalf of the people of Iraq and financed by cash from the Oil-for-Food program. Without authorization from the account holder, the Iraqi government itself, the inspector general's office was told it can't receive information about the account. The problem is that critics of the Iraqi government believe highly placed officials there are among the people who may have made off with the money in the first place. And some think that will make it highly unlikely the Iraqis will sign off on revealing the total dollar amount. It was one of the largest shipments of cash in history. And the inspector general says that if the money was stolen, that would represent the largest heist in history.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on government corruption, click here.
Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping. The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation. Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit. At three sites — two in Illinois and one in Minnesota — leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes. At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean. Any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how slight, boosts cancer risk, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Tritium moves through soil quickly, and when it is detected it often indicates the presence of more powerful radioactive isotopes that are often spilled at the same time.
Military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones ... to the size of insects and birds. The drones in development ... are designed to replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world. “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight,” said Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, as he held up a prototype of a mechanical hawk that in the future might carry out espionage or kill. An explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones ... are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less known is the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it. The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Within the next decade the Air Force anticipates a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of “multirole” aerial drones like the Reaper — the ones that spy as well as strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined. “It’s a growth market,” said Ashton B. Carter, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer. The Pentagon has asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for drones next year, and by 2030 envisions ever more stuff of science fiction: “spy flies” equipped with sensors and microcameras to detect enemies
Note: Ashton B. Carter, CIA director John Deutch, and executive director of the 9/11 Commission Philip Zelikow co-authored a 1998 article in the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs, titled "Catastrophic Terrorism". It predicted, years in advance, a massive attack on the World Trade Center that would result in loss of civil liberties, detention without charge, torture, and endless wars abroad. The Pentagon's weapons-buying spree, now including billions of dollars for drones to be used over US soil, and for which Carter is the "chief weapons buyer," would have been impossible without the 9/11 attacks.
Physician Janette Sherman, M.D. and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published a report Monday highlighting a 35% spike in northwest infant mortality after Japan's nuclear meltdown. The report spotlighted data from the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on infant mortality rates in eight northwest cities, including Seattle, in the 10 weeks after Fukushima's nuclear meltdown. The average number of infant deaths for the region moved from an average of 9.25 in the four weeks before Fukushima' nuclear meltdown, to an average of 12.5 per week in the 10 weeks after. The change represents a 35% increase in the northwest's infant mortality rates. In comparison, the average rates for the entire U.S. rose only 2.3%.
A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him. Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war. In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole. Since a series of Watergate-era abuses involving spying on White House political enemies, the C.I.A. and other spy agencies have been prohibited from collecting intelligence concerning the activities of American citizens inside the United States. “These allegations, if true, raise very troubling questions,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former C.I.A. general counsel. “The statute makes it very clear: you can’t spy on Americans.” Mr. Smith added that a 1981 executive order that prohibits the C.I.A. from spying on Americans places tight legal restrictions not only on the agency’s ability to collect information on United States citizens, but also on its retention or dissemination of that data.
Note: For important reports from major media sources on a wide array of threats to civil liberties by out-of-control government agencies and officials, click here.
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