News ArticlesExcerpts of Key News Articles in Major Media
The Royal Family is to be granted absolute protection from public scrutiny in a controversial legal reform designed to draw a veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William. Letters, emails and documents relating to the monarch, her heir and the second in line to the throne will no longer be [publicly] disclosed. Sweeping changes to the Freedom of Information Act will reverse advances which had briefly shone a light on the royal finances – including an attempt by the Queen to use a state poverty fund to heat Buckingham Palace – and which had threatened to force the disclosure of the Prince of Wales's prolific correspondence with ministers. Lobbying and correspondence from junior staff working for the Royal Household and Prince Charles will now be held back from disclosure. The Government buried the plan for "added protection" for the Royal Family in the small print of plans called "opening up public bodies to public scrutiny". A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said that the change to the law was necessary because the Freedom of Information Act had failed to protect the constitutional position of the monarch and the heir to the throne. He explained that the sovereign has the right and duty to be consulted, [and that] "This constitutional position relies on confidentiality."
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Two of the US's biggest mortgage lenders have had mortgage foreclosures cancelled in a case that could affect other banks. The Supreme Court in Massachusetts ruled against US Bancorp and Wells Fargo in a widely watched case. Backing a lower court ruling made in 2009, it said two foreclosure sales were invalid because the banks did not prove that they owned them at the time. The decision is among the earliest to address the validity of foreclosures done without proper documentation - so-called robo-loans because they were carried out by people who were unqualified and who often did not check a single line in the paperwork. Marty Mosby, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities said: "A ruling like this will slow down the foreclosure process. They're going to have to be really precise and get everything in order. It doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room." The case also applies retrospectively to people who have already been foreclosed. Glenn Russell, a lawyer for one of the couples in the case said: "I'm ecstatic. The fact the decision applies retroactively could mean thousands of homeowners can seek recovery for homes wrongfully foreclosed upon." Analysts said the decision may also threaten banks' ability to package mortgages into securities, and may raise the spectre that loans transferred improperly will need to be bought back.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on the criminal profiteering by the largest banks and Wall Street financial firms, click here.
More than 20% of patients who received an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator -- a high-tech device that produces electrical impulses to regulate heartbeats and prevent life-threatening arrhythmias -- in recent years were not good candidates to receive the device, a new study suggests. Researchers at Duke University looked at more than 111,000 patients who received ICD implants between 2006 and 2009. More than 25,000 of those patients did not meet evidence-based criteria for receiving the device, according to the study. The risk of dying in the hospital was significantly higher for patients who received the ICD but did not meet the criteria, and 1 out of 121 patients in this category experienced complications following the implant, the study found. Dr. Robert Michler, chairman of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at Montefiore-Einstein Heart Center, said the data should act as a "wake-up call" for physicians, surgeons and patients. "Doctors are well-intentioned, but not all doctors should be determining the use of what is a very sophisticated therapy," Michler says. He says that in this case electophysiologists should be making the final determination if the patient needs the device.
Note: For powerful information from a top MD on how the profit motive corrupts the medical industry and endangers our health, click here.
Some 500 dead and dying birds fell onto a Louisiana highway on Monday, just three days after a similar incident in Arkansas. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries [said] that necropsies on some birds indicated many "exhibited traumatic injuries." Two dozen of them had head, neck, beak or back injuries. In Arkansas, preliminary tests showed the blackbirds there, as many as 5,000, died after massive trauma. "The birds suffered from acute physical trauma leading to internal hemorrhage and death," the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said in a statement. "There was no sign of chronic or infectious disease." The injuries were primarily in the breast tissue, with blood clotting and bleeding in the body cavities. Dr. George Badley, the state's top veterinarian, told NBC News that the birds died in midair, not on impact with the ground. That evidence, and the fact that the blackbirds fly in close flocks, suggests they suffered some massive midair collision, he added. That lends weight to conclusion that they were startled by something. The commission noted that "loud noises were reported shortly before the birds began to fall from the sky," adding that blackbirds seldom fly at night. The commission also is trying to determine what caused the deaths of up to 100,000 fish over a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River near a dam in Ozark , 125 miles west of Beebe. The fish were discovered on Dec. 30.
Note: Startling does not cause internal hemorrhage and massive trauma. The birds "suffered from acute physical trauma" and "died in midair." This sounds like a secret experiment from the government's HAARP program might be involved. For reliable information on the disturbing HAARP program, click here.
Chris Liu is an Army veteran and a helicopter pilot who rose to the rank of captain before leaving the military to pursue a career in commercial aviation - first as an instructor, ultimately as a pilot for a major airline. He volunteered for the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, begun after 9/11, that trains and deputizes select pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit. After psychological and background checks, he was accepted. Now Liu is in trouble with the government that only a few weeks ago entrusted him with the lives of airline passengers. On Dec. 2, six federal agents and sheriff's deputies arrived at his home outside Sacramento to confiscate his FFDO credentials and his government-issued handgun. Days later, the Transportation Security Administration sent Liu a letter stating that he had violated the FFDO's rules for nondisclosure and standards of conduct. How? In November, Liu anonymously posted videos on YouTube, since removed, showing security weaknesses at San Francisco International Airport. While passengers and even flight crews endure body scans and pat-downs, ground crews face limited screening. "The doors, gates and other access points where they can access the tarmac are not being manned by TSA and certainly do not have the same metal detectors, body scanners, x-ray equipment, dogs or other security measures that the rest of us are all too painfully forced to undergo," Liu writes on his website.
Note: The government is happy to spend billions on invasive body scans (think big profits), yet fails to even consider huge holes in airport security. Could this be about money?
A genetically engineered fish infused with genes from other species, including an eel-like creature, could soon be on dinner plates in the Bay Area and around the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering an application by AquaBounty Technologies Inc. of Massachusetts to bioengineer a sterile salmon that would grow extremely fast and, if all goes as planned, never set so much as a fin in a natural body of water. It would be the first genetically engineered animal to be approved for human consumption. The proposal, which is awaiting an environmental assessment and a preliminary decision by the FDA, has created a furor among environmentalists, who have dubbed the species "Frankenfish." They claim the doctored salmon could spread disease in humans or circulate mutant genes in the wild if an accident or sabotage ever set them loose. "The effect of what happens if these genetically engineered fish escape is largely unknown and has been largely unquestioned by the FDA," said Colin O'Neil, the regulatory policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, an environmental nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. "These fish have been demonstrated to be less healthy. Consumers clearly do not want to eat genetically engineered salmon."
Note: For a superb summary of the dangers posed by genetically-modified foods, click here.
William Swing, head of the Episcopal Church in California for 27 years - he retired in 2006 - is hardly letting up. His latest endeavor is nothing less than uniting the religions of the world. "For this, I have been called the Antichrist, New Age, nuts and an apostate," Swing said with a smile in his office in the Presidio of San Francisco. United Religions Initiative, marking its 10th anniversary this year, is in 78 countries, bringing together Christians and Jews, Hindus and Muslims, missionaries and animists, and Mormons and Mennonites. The organization has taken orphans off the streets of Pakistan, brokered peace talks in northern Uganda and integrated child soldiers back into their villages, and drawn Palestinian and Jewish women together in the Middle East. The idea for United Religions Initiative came about in 1993, when Swing was asked to host at Grace Cathedral the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. "I said, 'Sure,' and went to bed that night thinking the nations of the world have met every day for 50 years, yet the religions of the world have not spoken. So I figured if there is a United Nations, there has to be a United Religions." He and his wife set out in 1996 on a global tour to meet religious leaders of the world, including the Dalai Lama at his palace in India. It took an additional four years of planning, debating and writing the organization's charter for United Religions to be founded.
America's big businesses are less and less American. They're going abroad for sales and employees. That's one reason they've showed record-breaking profits in 2010 while creating almost no American jobs. Consider one of the most popular products for Christmas gifts of all time - Apple's iPhone. Researchers from the Asian Development Bank Institute have dissected an iPhone, whose wholesale price is around $179, to determine where the money actually goes. Only about $11 of that iPhone goes to American workers, mostly researchers and designers. Even old-tech American companies made big money abroad in 2010 - and created scads of jobs there. General Motors, for example, is now turning a nice profit, and American investors are bullish about its future. That doesn't mean GM will be creating lots more blue-collar jobs in America, though. 2010 was a banner year for GM's foreign sales - already two-thirds of its total sales, and rising. In October, GM became the first automaker to sell more than 2 million cars a year in China. The company is now making more cars in China than in the United States. Meanwhile, back home in the United States, GM has slashed its labor costs. New hires are brought in at roughly half the wages and benefits of former GM employees, under a two-tier wage structure accepted by the United Auto Workers. Almost all of GM's U.S. suppliers have also cut their payrolls.
Note: Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and the author of the new book Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.
About eight of every 10 registered lobbyists who work for scanner-technology companies previously held positions in the government or Congress, most commonly in the homeland security, aviation or intelligence fields, a Washington Post review of lobbying-disclosure forms and other data shows. Industries routinely employ well-connected lobbyists to seek favorable legislation and regulations in the nation's capital. But the extent of the connections to the federal government is particularly notable given the relatively small size of the scanner industry, which is dominated by half a dozen specialized businesses with heavy investments in airport and border security technology. The roster of lobbyists for L-3 Communications includes former U.S. senator Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) and Linda Daschle, a former federal aviation official who is married to Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), a former Senate majority leader. L-3 has won nearly $900 million worth of TSA business, including for its "millimeter-wave" machines used for airport body scans. Former homeland security chief Michael Chertoff, a longtime advocate for increased use of passenger scanners, worked until recently as a consultant for Rapiscan, which provides "backscatter" X-ray scanners to the TSA. Privacy and civil liberties advocates and other critics argue that the industry's lobbying ties have encouraged a frenzy of TSA spending on technologies that are often untested or ineffective.
Excerpts from complaint by New York State Attorney General (and Governor-Elect) Andrew Cuomo: E&Y [Ernst and Young] substantially assisted Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., now bankrupt, to engage in a massive accounting fraud, involving the surreptitious removal of tens of billions of dollars of securities from Lehman’s balance sheet in order to create a false impression of Lehman’s liquidity, thereby defrauding the investing public. As the financial crisis deepened in 2007 and 2008 and Lehman’s liquidity problems intensified, E&Y ... assisted Lehman in defrauding the public about the Company’s deteriorating financial condition, particularly its leverage. As the public auditor for Lehman, E&Y had the absolute obligation to ensure that Lehman’s financial statements ... did not mislead the public. Instead of fulfilling this obligation ... E&Y sat by silently while Lehman deceived the public by concealing [fraulent] transactions and misrepresenting the Company’s leverage. By doing so, E&Y directly facilitated a major accounting fraud, and helped Lehman mislead the public as to its true financial condition. E&Y, which reaped over $150 million in fees from Lehman, must be held accountable for its role in this fraud.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources detailing the fraud that led to the financial crisis and bailout of Wall Street by taxpayers, click here.
More than 100 American cities could go bust next year as the debt crisis that has taken down banks and countries threatens next to spark a municipal meltdown, a leading analyst has warned. Meredith Whitney, the US research analyst who correctly predicted the global credit crunch, described local and state debt as the biggest problem facing the US economy, and one that could derail its recovery. "Next to housing this is the single most important issue in the US and certainly the biggest threat to the US economy," Whitney [said]. "There's not a doubt on my mind that you will see a spate of municipal bond defaults. You can see fifty to a hundred sizeable defaults – more. This will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of defaults." American cities and states have debts in total of as much as $2tn. US states have spent nearly half a trillion dollars more than they have collected in taxes, and face a $1tn hole in their pension funds, said the CBS programme, apocalyptically titled The Day of Reckoning.
Note: For a treasure trove of reports from major media sources on the dire impacts of the financial crisis and government bailout of financial capitalists at taxpayers' expense, click here.
Nigeria announced today that in exchange for $250 million, the African nation has dropped bribery charges against Dick Cheney, eight others and Halliburton, the oil-services company he headed before becoming vice president. African and U.S. media say Halliburton and Cheney have not commented on the deal, which the head of Nigeria's anti-corruption agency said was offered by Texas-based Halliburton. As The Wall Street Journal points out, "U.S. regulators collected $1.28 billion in penalties and criminal fines in the Bonny Island case after settling charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1977 law that bans the bribery of foreign officials to obtain business." Femi Babafemi, a spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said that the $250 million would include roughly $130 million frozen in a Swiss bank, and that remainder would be paid as fines, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday. But a source told AFP $100 million was in Switzerland and $30 million was in Monaco, saying the money was paid to an intermediary but never passed on as part of the bribery scheme.
Note: It sounds like Cheney and Halliburton basically bribed their way out of a potentially very damaging court case. For lots more from major media sources on corporate and government corruption, click here and here.
The incoming Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee is facing fire for recently saying that Washington and banking regulators should "serve" the banks. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who recently beat back a challenge from Ed Royce of Fullerton to win the chairmanship of the powerful committee, made the comments in an interview with the Birmingham News. "In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks," Bachus said. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quickly dubbed him "Big Bank Bachus" and highlighted the more than $1 million in campaign contributions he has received from Wall Street over the years. Outgoing Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) jumped into the fray. He slammed Bachus' intentions to scale back the recently enacted financial reform law, including trying to limit the powers of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, saying the comments showed "a seriously flawed view of the relationship that should exist between financial institutions and those who set the rules governing safety and soundness. His view of the role of regulation, expressed before he ‘clarified’ his genuine belief, explains why he is so opposed to an independent consumer financial protection bureau, and why he wants to weaken restraints on speculation by banks with depositors’ money,” Frank said.
Note: For more along these lines, see these concise summaries of deeply revealing articles about widespread corruption in government and banking and finance. For additional information, see the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Banking Corruption Information Center.
A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee said ... that the agency should look at updated data on mercury amalgam dental fillings that may indicate possible medical problems for patients. The panel -- after hearing two days of testimony from experts, members of the public and dental professionals -- recommended the FDA look at information updated since the agency ruled in 2009 that the mercury in dental fillings is not harmful. Public pressure prompted the panel's review, initiated less than 18 months after the agency's decision. Committee members listened to testimony by consumer and dental groups claiming the FDA used flawed science when it set the current guidelines for mercury safety levels. Some experts say mercury from these fillings penetrates into the body and damages human cells, especially in the brain, bones and kidneys. How much damage it is unknown, which is why the advisory committee is revisiting the issue. Some dentists did say they would avoid using amalgam fillings because of numerous public reports of mercury poisoning. "I always wondered why we were told by the (American Dental Association) to be careful when disposing of mercury. If it's so dangerous to the environment, why not my patients?" asked Dr. Stephen Markus, a dentist in the Philadelphia area.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on health issues, click here.
An Italian appeals court on [December 15] increased the sentences against 23 Americans convicted in the kidnapping of an Egyptian terror suspect who was part of the CIA's extraordinary renditions program. In upholding the convictions, the court added one year to the eight-year term handed down to former Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady and two years to the five-year terms given to 22 other Americans convicted along with him, defense lawyers said. They were never in Italian custody and were tried and convicted in absentia but risk arrest if they travel to Europe. The Americans and two Italians were convicted last year of involvement in the kidnapping of ... Abu Omar from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003 — the first convictions anywhere in the world against people involved in the CIA's practice of abducting terror suspects and transferring them to third countries where torture was permitted. The cleric was transferred to U.S. military bases in Italy and Germany before being moved to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. He has since been released. Amnesty International praised [the] decision as a step toward demanding greater accountability in Europe for the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. Julia Hall, an Amnesty counter-terrorism expert, said in a statement, "The Italian courts have acknowledged that the chain of events leading to such serious abuses cannot go unanswered. Kidnapping is a crime, not a 'state secret.' "
Note: This is amazing news which shows that the CIA is losing its former status as immune in courts of law.
Newly released U.S. diplomatic cables indicate that the Vatican felt "offended" that Ireland failed to respect Holy See "sovereignty" by asking high-ranking churchmen to answer questions from an Irish commission probing decades of sex abuse of minors by clergy. That the Holy See used its diplomatic-immunity status as a tiny city-state to try to thwart the Irish fact-finding probe has long been known. But the WikiLeaks cables, published by Britain's The Guardian newspaper ... contain delicate, behind-the-scenes diplomatic assessments of the highly charged situation. One leaked document ... authored in February 2010 by Rome-based diplomat Julieta Valls Noyes, cited her conversations with Irish Ambassador Noel Fahey and his deputy, Helena Keleher. Ireland wanted to be seen as fully supportive of the independent probe into child-abuse cover-ups ... but its Rome officials also didn't want to intervene in the probe's efforts to get information from the Vatican. Noyes, citing a conversation with a Holy See official, wrote that the investigators' letters "offended many in the Vatican" because they were viewed as "an affront to Vatican sovereignty." "In the end the Irish government decided not to press the Vatican to reply."
Note: For key reports from media sources on the secrecy of the Vatican and other institutions, click here.
Bank of America will pay $137.3 million to settle allegations that it defrauded schools, hospitals and dozens of other state and local government organizations, federal officials said [on December 7]. The settlement stems from a long-running investigation into misconduct in the municipal bond business that raises money for localities to pay for public services. Bank of America is accused of depriving local organizations of millions of dollars by engaging in illegal behavior when investing the proceeds of municipal bond sales. The bank is paying $107.8 million to these organizations in restitution, $25 million to the Internal Revenue Service for abuses related to the tax-free status of municipal bonds and $4.5 million to state attorneys general for costs related to their investigations. A number of bankers and other professionals from a variety of financial firms have pleaded guilty in the probe, which centered on companies conspiring to win municipal securities business in violation of statutes requiring fair competition. The banking giant is accused of taking part in a conspiracy in which it and other banks paid kickbacks to win the business of municipalities seeking to invest the proceeds of bond sales before the money is ready to be spent.
Note: For key reports on financial fraud from reliable sources, click here.
Is [General David Petraeus] confident that the Afghan army can take the lead from U.S. forces by NATO's 2014 deadline? After nine years of war fewer Afghans support a U.S. presence in the country and fewer believe that the United States makes their country any safer, according to a new ABC News/ Washington Post poll – something that the U.S. “clearly” needs to continue to work on, Petraeus said. Petraeus said he is “not sure” why support for the U.S. presence has slipped over the last year. Petraeus said it is “hard to say” how much of Afghanistan the Taliban control. He also acknowledged a “resilient” enemy that regenerates, which is why he said this war will take a “sustained, substantial commitment.” So what does the end of our “substantial commitment” in Afghanistan look like? Victory will not come with the U.S. planting a flag on a hill and going home to a victory parade, Petraeus said. “It looks like an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself. And it's one that incrementally demonstrates the ability to do that, not suddenly. Between the summer of 2011 and the end of 2014 there will be, again, a series of transitions, starting most likely at districts, not in overall provinces,” he said.
Note: What does victory mean here? Could it be that Petraeus is revealing his support of the war profiteers and power elite of our world? For more on this critical topic by a very different, yet highly decorated US general, click here.
Hidden behind the save-the-world rhetoric of the global climate change negotiations lies the mucky realpolitik: money and threats buy political support; spying and cyberwarfare are used to seek out leverage. The [WikiLeaks] US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial "Copenhagen accord", the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009. Negotiating a climate treaty is a high-stakes game, not just because of the danger warming poses to civilisation but also because re-engineering the global economy to a low-carbon model will see the flow of billions of dollars redirected. Seeking negotiating chips, the US state department sent a secret cable on 31 July 2009 seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change. The request originated with the CIA. As well as countries' negotiating positions for Copenhagen, diplomats were asked to provide evidence of UN environmental "treaty circumvention" and deals between nations.
Congress gave final approval ... to a child nutrition bill that expands the school lunch program and sets new standards to improve the quality of school meals, with more fruits and vegetables. School meal programs have a major impact on the nation’s health, and supporters of the bill said it could reduce the prevalence of obesity among children. The lunch program feeds more than 31 million children a day. The bill gives the secretary of agriculture authority to establish nutrition standards for foods sold in schools during the school day, including items in vending machines. The standards would require schools to serve more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. And for the first time in more than three decades, the bill would increase federal reimbursement for school lunches beyond inflation — to help cover the cost of higher-quality meals. It would also allow more than 100,000 children on Medicaid to qualify automatically for free school meals.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.