EPA Scientist Fired for "Bias", US Imprisonment
World's Highest, Government Secrecy
Revealing News Articles
March 3, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the scientist fired by the EPA after chemical corporations accused her of bias, a new study revealing that the US has the world's highest rate of imprisonment, government secrecy, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
EPA toxicologist was dismissed after industry complained
February 29, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle/Los Angeles Times
Under pressure from the chemical industry, the Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed an outspoken scientist who chaired a federal panel responsible for helping the agency determine the dangers of a flame retardant widely used in electronic equipment. Toxicologist Deborah Rice was appointed chair of an EPA scientific panel reviewing the chemical a year ago. Federal records show that she was removed from the panel in August after the American Chemistry Council, the lobbying group for chemical manufacturers, complained to a top-ranking EPA official that she was biased. The chemical, a brominated compound known as deca, is [commonly] used in the plastic housings of television sets. Rice, an award-winning former EPA scientist ... has studied low doses of deca and reported neurological effects in lab animals. The EPA is in the process of deciding how much daily exposure to deca is safe - a decision, expected next month, that could determine whether it can still be used in consumer products. The role of the expert panel was to review and comment on the scientific evidence. Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group in Washington, said it was unprecedented for the EPA to remove an expert for expressing concerns about the potential dangers of a chemical. "It's a scary world if we create a precedent that says scientists involved in decision-making are perceived to be too biased," she said. In 2004, the EPA gave Rice and four colleagues an award for what it called "exceptionally high-quality research" for a study that linked lead exposure to premature puberty in girls.
Note: For many revealing articles on government corruption, click here.
U.S. tops world in prison inmates
February 29, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle/Washington Post
More than 1 percent of adult Americans are in jail or prison, an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year, in addition to more than $5 billion spent by the federal government, according to a report released Thursday. With more than 2.3 million people behind bars at the start of 2008, the United States leads the world in both the number and the percentage of residents it incarcerates, leaving even far more populous China a distant second, noted the report by the nonpartisan Pew Center on the States. The ballooning prison population is largely the result of tougher state and federal sentencing laws enacted since the mid-1980s. Minorities have been hit particularly hard: One in 9 black men age 20 to 34 is behind bars. For black women age 35 to 39, the figure is 1 in 100, compared with 1 in 355 white women in the same age group. When it comes to preventing repeat offenses by nonviolent criminals - who make up about half of the incarcerated population - alternative punishments such as community supervision and mandatory drug counseling that are far less expensive may prove just as or more effective than jail time. About 91 percent of incarcerated adults are under state or local jurisdiction, and the report documents the trade-offs state governments have faced as they have devoted ever larger shares of their budgets to house them. For instance, over the past two decades, state spending on corrections (adjusted for inflation) increased by 127 percent, while spending on higher education rose by 21 percent.
Rick Karr on Government Secrecy
February 28, 2008, PBS Bill Moyers Journal
You may not know James Risen's name, but you probably know his work: He's one of the New York Times reporters who broke the story of the Bush administration listening in to phone calls and reading email, without search warrants. A federal prosecutor has asked a grand jury to look into a book that Risen wrote. It details not only warrantless wiretapping but also how, when it came to covert operations in the Middle East, the Administration made "mistake piled on mistake", caused an "espionage disaster" and was "operating in the blind" when it came to Iran. Risen was subpoenaed to tell a grand jury who he talked to about Iran – in other words, to reveal his anonymous sources. So far, the reporter has refused to talk. If Risen is forced to testify, the public will be the real loser. Here's why: Anonymous sources have a lot to lose if their identities are revealed because a lot of them are powerful or prominent. So, if the Federal government can force a reporter like Risen to reveal their identities, those sources will clam up. For muckrakers and whistleblowers, it's getting harder and harder to expose corruption and wrongdoing. Take the case of former FBI agent Sibel Edmonds: She blew the whistle on massive incompetence at the Bureau – sloppy translations, missed messages from terror suspects. She even alleged that insiders were leaking secrets to foreign agents. She lost her job for it. Just after Congress got interested in her story – and a bipartisan group of Senators said they found her claims credible enough to warrant an investigation – the administration retroactively classified everything that she knew, pretty much shutting down any chance of an investigation. U.S. journalists have found it nearly impossible to look into her claims.
'Doomsday' Vault Opens to Protect Seeds
February 26, 2008, Associated Press
It's been dubbed a Noah's Ark for plant life and built to withstand an earthquake or a nuclear attack. Dug deep into the permafrost of a remote Arctic mountain, the "doomsday" vault is designed by Norway to protect the world's seeds from global catastrophe. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a backup to the world's 1,400 other seed banks, was to be officially inaugurated in a ceremony Tuesday on the northern rim of civilization attended by about 150 guests from 33 countries. The frozen vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million seed samples from around the globe, shielding them from climate change, war, natural disasters and other threats. Norway's government owns the vault in Svalbard, a frigid archipelago 620 miles from the North Pole. The Nordic country paid $9.1 million for construction, which took less than a year. Other countries can deposit seeds for free and reserve the right to withdraw them upon need. Giant air conditioning units have chilled the vault to just below zero, a temperature at which experts say many seeds could survive for 1,000 years. Inside the concrete entrance ... a roughly 400-foot-long tunnel of steel and concrete leads to three separate 32-by-88-foot chambers where the seeds will be stored. The first 600 boxes with 12 tons of seeds already have arrived from 20 seed banks around the world, Norwegian Agriculture Minister Terje Riis-Johansen said. Each chamber can hold 1.5 million packets holding all types of crop seeds, from carrots to wheat.
The three trillion dollar war
February 23, 2008, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers [forecast] a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined. The cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War. And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion. Most Americans have yet to feel these costs. The price in blood has been paid by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation. From the unhealthy brew of emergency funding, multiple sets of books, and chronic underestimates of the resources required to prosecute the war, we have attempted to identify how much we have been spending - and how much we will, in the end, likely have to spend. The figure we arrive at is more than $3 trillion. Our calculations are based on conservative assumptions.
Note: For many reports from major media sources which reveal massive war profiteering, click here.
Pioneering midwife crusades for natural birth
February 23, 2008, USA Today/Associated Press
Despite living on a commune in rural Tennessee, Ina May Gaskin has had the kind of career success most people only dream about. Gaskin has helped to bring home birth and lay midwifery back from the brink of extinction in the United States. An obstetrical maneuver she learned from the indigenous Mayans of Guatemala has made it into scientific journals and medical textbooks, and her insistence on the rights of a birthing mother empowered a generation of women to demand changes from doctors and hospitals. In 1975, Gaskin published Spiritual Midwifery, which included birth stories and a primer on delivering babies. Her book has sold around 750,000 copies, has been translated into four languages and has inspired a generation of women to become midwives. She promoted the idea that a woman's state of mind will influence how easy her birth is and encouraged unorthodox ways to improve the woman's experience, like encouraging her to make out with her husband during labor. She has tried to widen the reach of her message by airing natural birth videos ... on television. "The women are so beautiful giving birth," she said. TV stations rarely have run them, calling them too graphic. "I started to think I should put them on YouTube," Gaskin said. Now, Gaskin has a film in the works that is in keeping with her anti-establishment, freewheeling nature. "We're doing a movie called The Orgasmic Birth," she said. That's not a metaphor. Gaskin says that under the right circumstances women experience a sort of birth ecstasy. "I mean, it's not a guarantee," she said, shrugging her shoulders and smiling, "but it's a possibility. It's the only way I can think to market it to (this) generation."
Note: For many empowering reports on health, click here.
Army Blocks Public's Access to Documents in Web-Based Library
February 21, 2008, Washington Post
The Army has shut down public access to the largest online collection of its doctrinal publications, a move criticized by open-government advocates as unnecessary secrecy by a runaway bureaucracy. Army officials moved the Reimer Digital Library behind a password-protected firewall on Feb. 6, restricting access to an electronic trove that is popular with researchers for its wealth of field and technical manuals and documents on military operations, education, training and technology. All are unclassified, and most already are approved for public release. "Almost everything connected to the Army is reflected in some way in the Reimer collection," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the nonprofit Federation of American Scientists. "It provides the public with an unparalleled window into Army policy. It provides unclassified resources on military planning and doctrine." Aftergood ... said the collection offers specialized military manuscripts that do not appear on the shelves of local libraries. These include documents on the Army's use of unmanned aircraft [and] tactics and techniques for the use of nonlethal weapons. "All of this stuff had been specifically approved for public release," Aftergood said. "I think it's a case of bureaucracy run amok. And it's a familiar impulse to secrecy that needs to be challenged at every turn." In 2006, the National Archives acknowledged that the CIA and other agencies had withdrawn thousands of records from the public shelves ... and inappropriately reclassified many of them. Early in 2002, then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft issued a memo urging federal agencies to use whatever legal means necessary to reject Freedom of Information Act requests for public documents.
Note: For reliable reports on escalating government secrecy from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.
U.S. Payments To Pakistan Face New Scrutiny
February 21, 2008, Washington Post
Once a month, Pakistan's Defense Ministry delivers 15 to 20 pages of spreadsheets to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. They list costs for feeding, clothing, billeting and maintaining 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistani troops in the volatile tribal area along the Afghan border. No receipts are attached. In response, the Defense Department has disbursed about $80 million monthly, or roughly $1 billion a year for the past six years, in one of the most generous U.S. military support programs worldwide. But vague accounting, disputed expenses and suspicions about overbilling have recently made these payments to Pakistan highly controversial -- even within the U.S. government. Questions have already been raised about where the money went and what the Bush administration got in return. In perhaps the most disputed series of payments, Pakistan received about $80 million a month in 2006 and 2007 for military operations during cease-fires with pro-Taliban tribal elders along the border, including a 10-month truce in which troops returned to their barracks. U.S. officials say the payments to Pakistan -- which over the past six years have totaled $5.7 billion -- were cheap compared with expenditures on Iraq, where the United States now spends at least $1 billion a week on military operations alone. Congressional officials and others are concerned that the administration has been so eager to prop up Musharraf that it overlooked U.S. foreign aid and accounting standards. A congressional oversight subcommittee is also set to begin an investigation next month, while the Government Accountability Office plans to finish its own inquiry in April.
Journalist Who Exposes U.N. Corruption Disappears From Google
February 18, 2008, FOX News
How big do you have to be to earn the wrath of the United Nations and Internet giant Google? If you're journalist Matthew Lee, all it takes are some critical articles and a scrappy little Web site. Lee is the editor-in-chief, Webmaster and pretty much the only reporter for Inner City Press, a pint-sized Internet news operation that's taken on Goliath-sized entities like Citigroup since 1987. Since 2005, he's been focusing almost entirely on stories that deal with internal corruption inside the U.N., posting several stories online almost daily. Many of Lee's stories were featured prominently whenever Web users looked for news about the U.N. using the powerful Google News search engine, a vital way for media outlets both large and small to get their articles read. But beginning Feb. 13, Google News users could no longer find new stories from the Inner City Press. "I think they said, 'If we can't get this guy out of the U.N., let's disappear him from the Internet,'" Lee said. It began with an innocuous-sounding yet chilling form letter from Google to Lee, e-mailed on Feb. 8: "We periodically review news sources, particularly following user complaints, to ensure Google News offers a high quality experience for our users," it said. "When we reviewed your site we've found that we can no longer include it in Google News." As soon as he read it, Lee immediately suspected one thing: That someone at the [UN] had pressured Google into "de-listing" him from Google News – essentially preventing Inner City Press from being classified on Google News as a legitimate news source and from having its stories pop up when someone conducts a Google News search.
Parents Concerned Over Potentially Toxic Baby Bottles
February 7, 2008, ABC News
Dozens of environmental health organizations in the United States and Canada are calling for an immediate moratorium on the use of a chemical, bisphenol A – or BPA – in food and beverage containers, including baby bottles. They say a new study found that, when exposed to heat, baby bottles release a chemical that, researchers say, has been linked to obesity, diabetes and developmental problems in lab animals. "When bottles are used extensively over time, and when they're heated, higher levels of this chemical leach out, exposing young infants to elevated levels of this unnecessary toxic chemical," says Mike Shaade at the Center for Health Environment and Justice. BPA is used to make plastic in 95 percent of baby bottles now on the market. But it is up for debate whether it is harmful or not. BPA is already in most of us: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of 95 percent of people it tested. Dr. Maida Galvez is a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who studies whether traces of BPA found in children's urine is harmful to them. "We know the animal studies raise concerns, but there aren't human studies showing effects yet ... so, when we don't have the evidence, what we recommend is that parents try to err on the side of caution," she says.
Note: For many highly informative reports on health, click here.
Onscene with the Stars at TED
February 29, 2008, Newsweek magazine
The 50 or so top-billed speakers at the annual [Technology, Entertainment and Design] conference are asked to hew to a strict set of rules: an 18-minute limit on presentations, no commercializing, and don't give the same spiel you've been delivering for years. It works pretty well and explains why some of the brightest physicists, artists, ocean explorers, linguists, tech wizards, historians, architects and futurists ... have been flocking to Monterey, Calif. The current "curator," Chris Anderson ... sees a mission for the event. He believes that the TED "community" can make a big social impact; the conference now reflects that idea. By now it's fair to say that the [concern] about global warming, human rights violations, the state of Africa, and other woes are part of TED's character. The activist goals culminate in three annual TED Prize awards, which involve committed people being granted a "wish"–along with $100,000 cash to improve the world in some way, whereupon TED-sters are welcomed to help make it happen. (Outsiders can help too; go to tedprize.org if you're interested.) This year's honorees included hip novelist Dave Eggers, who helps organize neighborhood tutoring centers and wants to get people involved in helping public schools; physicist Neil Turok, a founder of a mathematics institute in Africa who wants the next Einstein to come from that continent; and ... Karen Armstrong, whose goal is to gather "spiritual leaders and thinkers" to write a "Charter for Compassion" based on the traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Special note: For those interested in what happens when a highly respected professor speaks out on UFOs, click here. And for the hidden story behind the recent cutting of international communications cables, click here. To learn about the U.S. government's concession on the link between vaccines and autism in an important test case the major media failed to cover, click here. Please vote up: http://reddit.com/r/politics/info/6aje5/comments/
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EPA Scientist Fired for "Bias", US Imprisonment World's Highest, Government Secrecy