Eliot Spitzer Resignation, Iraq War Coverage,
Disparities in US Life Expectancy
Revealing News Articles
March 27, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the reasons underlying the resignation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, the marked reduction in major media coverage of the Iraq war, growing disparities in US life expectancy, 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.
Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime (by then N.Y. Governor Eliot Spitzer)
February 13, 2008, Washington Post
Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers' ability to repay, making loans with deceptive "teaser" rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets. Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers. Predatory lending was widely understood to present a looming national crisis. Individually, and together, state attorneys general of both parties brought litigation or entered into settlements with many subprime lenders that were engaged in predatory lending practices. Several state legislatures, including New York's, enacted laws aimed at curbing such practices. When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners, the Bush administration will not be judged favorably. The tale is still unfolding, but when the dust settles, it will be judged as a willing accomplice to the lenders who went to any lengths in their quest for profits. So willing, in fact, that it used the power of the federal government in an unprecedented assault on state legislatures, as well as on state attorneys general and anyone else on the side of consumers.
Note: Isn't it interesting that just weeks after former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer wrote this highly revealing article his sexual affairs were exposed, leading to his resignation!
U.S. Defends Tough Tactics on Spitzer
March 21, 2008, New York Times
The Justice Department used some of its most intrusive tactics against Eliot Spitzer, examining his financial records, eavesdropping on his phone calls and tailing him during its criminal investigation of the Emperor's Club prostitution ring. The scale and intensity of the investigation of Mr. Spitzer, then the governor of New York, seemed ... to be a departure for the Justice Department, which aggressively investigates allegations of wrongdoing by public officials, but almost never investigates people who pay prostitutes for sex. A review of recent federal cases shows that federal prosecutors go sparingly after owners and operators of prostitution enterprises, and usually only when millions of dollars are involved or there are aggravating circumstances, like human trafficking or child exploitation. The focus on Mr. Spitzer was so intense that the F.B.I. used surveillance teams to follow both him and the prostitute in Washington in February. Stakeouts and surveillance are labor-intensive and often involve teams of a dozen or more agents and non-agent specialists. An affidavit filed in the prostitution case did not identify Mr. Spitzer by name, only as Client 9, but it provided far more detail, some of it unusually explicit, about Client 9's encounter with the prostitute than about any of the nine other clients identified by number in the document. Several current and former federal prosecutors and prominent defense lawyers who reviewed the document said the inclusion of such salacious details about Mr. Spitzer's encounter with the prostitute went far beyond what was necessary to provide probable cause for the arrests and for searches, the purpose of the affidavit. The government has not accused Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, of any wrongdoing.
Note: A point left out by this report in the New York Times, which so prominently broke the Spitzer revelations, is that the names of the other "Clients" were never released. Could this be because the investigation and leaks to the media were politically motivated?
Letter to FBI asserts Spitzer also hired prostitutes while in Florida
March 22, 2008, Kansas City Star/McClatchy News
Months before New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned, a lawyer for a GOP political operative contacted the FBI, alleging that Spitzer had hired prostitutes while in Florida. A letter, dated Nov. 19, said Roger Stone, who lives in Miami Beach, learned the information from "a social contact in an adult-themed club." Stone, known for shutting down the 2000 presidential election re-count in Miami-Dade County, is a longtime nemesis of Spitzer. His lawyer wrote the letter after FBI agents had asked to speak to Stone, though he said the FBI did not specify why he was contacted. "Mr. Stone respectfully declines to meet with you at this time," the letter stated, before going on to offer "certain information" about Spitzer. "The governor has paid literally tens of thousands of dollars for these services. It is Mr. Stone's understanding that the governor paid not with credit cards or cash but through some pre-arranged transfer," it said. "It is also my client's understanding from the same source that Gov. Spitzer did not remove his mid-calf-length black socks during the sex act. Perhaps you can use this detail to corroborate Mr. Stone's information," the letter said. It was signed by attorney Paul Rolf Jensen. Another of Stone's lawyers, Robert Buschel, said the letter's release is an attempt to set the record straight. "The conspiracy enthusiasts on the Internet are going wild over Roger Stone's role in the fall of Eliot Spitzer. We felt it was important to lay out for the public exactly what Mr. Stone did tell the government," Buschel said.
Note: Roger Stone, the "longtime nemesis of Spitzer", is also a notorious Republican "dirty trickster" since the Nixon era.
Veterans recall horrors of war in live broadcast
March 16, 2008, Boston Globe
Jeffery Smith recalled how his Army unit beat and humiliated Iraqi prisoners. Former Marine Bryan Casler recounted how fellow Marines urinated and defecated into food and gave it to Iraqi children. Former Marine Matthew Childers talked about how he used to humiliate Iraqi civilians during predawn raids on their homes. When he described turning away an Iraqi father who was asking American troops to help the badly burned baby he carried in his arms, Jackson began to weep silently. "These soldiers are saying: 'I'm complicit,' " said [Liz] Jackson, 29, a community organizer from Cambridge. "But every American citizen who saw this happen and isn't out there protesting is complicit. I include myself." Hundreds of soldiers and Marines from across the country are testifying this weekend in the "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" hearings, a four-day event held at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md. The event is named after the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings in which Vietnam War veterans testified in a Detroit hotel about war crimes they had participated in or witnessed. The hearings, which began Thursday and end today, were organized by the Iraq Veterans Against War, a national antiwar organization, and broadcast live in locations across the country. The veterans who testified called for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. On Friday, more than a dozen Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from Massachusetts drove to Silver Spring to observe and participate in the hearings. One of them, Ian J. Lavallee, an Iraq war veteran from Jamaica Plain, said in a phone interview, "We dehumanized people. The way we spoke about them, the way we destroyed their livelihoods, their families, doing raids, manhandling them, throwing the men on the ground while their family was crying. I became a person I never thought I would become," he said.
Note: To listen to audio archives of the live Winter Soldier broadcasts, click here. For a powerful essay by a former highly decorated U.S. general on how war is meant to dehumanize both soldiers and civilians, click here.
The War Endures, but Where's the Media?
March 24, 2008, New York Times
Five years later, the United States remains at war in Iraq, but there are days when it would be hard to tell from a quick look at television news, newspapers and the Internet. Media attention on Iraq began to wane after the first months of fighting, but as recently as the middle of last year, it was still the most-covered topic. Since then, Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The drop in coverage parallels ... a decline in public interest. Surveys by the Pew Research Center show that more than 50 percent of Americans said they followed events in Iraq "very closely" in the months just before and after the war began, but that slid to an average of 40 percent in 2006, and has been running below 30 percent since last fall. The three broadcast networks' nightly newscasts devoted more than 4,100 minutes to Iraq in 2003 and 3,000 in 2004, before leveling off at about 2,000 a year, according to Andrew Tyndall, who monitors the broadcasts and posts detailed breakdowns at tyndallreport.com. And by the last months of 2007, he said, the broadcasts were spending half as much time on Iraq as earlier in the year. Since the start of last year, the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a part of the nonprofit Pew Research Center, has tracked reporting by several dozen major newspapers, cable stations, broadcast television networks, Web sites and radio programs. Iraq accounted for 18 percent of their prominent news coverage in the first nine months of 2007, but only 9 percent in the following three months, and 3 percent so far this year. And reporting on events in Iraq has fallen by more than two-thirds from a year ago.
Note: For a powerful summary of major media censorship, click here.
Gap in Life Expectancy Widens for the Nation
March 23, 2008, New York Times
New government research has found "large and growing" disparities in life expectancy for richer and poorer Americans, paralleling the growth of income inequality in the last two decades. Life expectancy for the nation as a whole has increased, the researchers said, but affluent people have experienced greater gains, and this, in turn, has caused a widening gap. One of the researchers, Gopal K. Singh, a demographer at the Department of Health and Human Services, said "the growing inequalities in life expectancy" mirrored trends in infant mortality and in death from heart disease and certain cancers [and] that federal officials had found "widening socioeconomic inequalities in life expectancy" at birth and at every age level. He and another researcher, Mohammad Siahpush, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, developed an index to measure social and economic conditions in every county, using census data on education, income, poverty, housing and other factors. In 1980-82, Dr. Singh said, people in the most affluent group could expect to live 2.8 years longer than people in the most deprived group (75.8 versus 73 years). By 1998-2000, the difference in life expectancy had increased to 4.5 years (79.2 versus 74.7 years), and it continues to grow, he said. After 20 years, the lowest socioeconomic group lagged further behind the most affluent, Dr. Singh said, noting that "life expectancy was higher for the most affluent in 1980 than for the most deprived group in 2000. If you look at the extremes in 2000," Dr. Singh said, "men in the most deprived counties had 10 years' shorter life expectancy than women in the most affluent counties (71.5 years versus 81.3 years)." The difference between poor black men and affluent white women was more than 14 years (66.9 years vs. 81.1 years).
Note: For a powerful summary of corruption in the government regulation of the health care industry, click here.
March 23, 2008, New York Times
Todd Small was stuck in quicksand again. His brain was sending an electrical pulse saying "walk," but as the signal streaked from his cerebellum and down his spinal cord, it snagged on scar tissue where the myelin layer insulating his nerve fibers had broken down. The message wasn't getting to his hip flexors or his hamstrings or his left foot. That connection had been severed by his multiple sclerosis. And once again, Small was left with the feeling that, as he described it, "I'm up to my waist in quicksand." Small would have continued just as he was had he not logged on last June to a Web site called PatientsLikeMe. He expected the sort of online community he'd tried and abandoned several times before – one abundant in sympathy and stories but thin on practical information. But he found something altogether different: data. There are a little more than 7,000 Todd Smalls at PatientsLikeMe, congregating around diseases like Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis (M.S.) and AIDS, all of them contributing their experiences and tweaking their treatments. The members of PatientsLikeMe don't just share their experiences anecdotally; they quantify them, breaking down their symptoms and treatments into hard data. They note what hurts, where and for how long. They list their drugs and dosages and score how well they alleviate their symptoms. All this gets compiled over time, aggregated and crunched into tidy bar graphs and progress curves by the software behind the site. And it's all open for comparison and analysis. By telling so much, the members of PatientsLikeMe are creating a rich database of disease treatment and patient experience.
Note: For a treasure trove of revealing reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
Clinton, Obama are Wall Street darlings
March 21, 2008, Los Angeles Times
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, who are running for president as economic populists, are benefiting handsomely from Wall Street donations, easily surpassing Republican John McCain in campaign contributions from the troubled financial services sector. It is part of a broader fundraising shift toward Democrats, compared to past campaigns when Republicans were the favorites of Wall Street. The flow of campaign cash is a measure of how open-fisted banks and other financial institutions have been to politicians of both parties. Concern is rising that "no matter who the Democratic nominee is and who wins in November, Wall Street will have a friend in the White House," said Massie Ritsch of the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations. "The door will be open to these big banks." Sen. Clinton of New York is leading the way, bringing in at least $6.29 million from the securities and investment industry, compared with $6.03 million for Sen. Obama of Illinois and $2.59 million for McCain. Those figures include donations from the investment companies' employees and political action committees. The candidates' receipts reflect a broader trend that demonstrates how money follows power in Washington. It suggests that the nation's money managers are betting heavily that either Clinton or Obama will capture the White House and that Democrats will retain control of Congress. "What that Wall Street money means is that few people in Washington, including the leading presidential candidates, say a thing when the government moves to bail out Wall Street before it helps homeowners," said David Sirota, a liberal activist and former congressional aide.
Note: For more insight into the relationship between big finance and big government, click here.
Money buys happiness -- if you spend on someone else
March 20, 2008, Reuters News
Money can buy happiness, but only if you spend it on someone else. Spending as little as $5 a day on someone else could significantly boost happiness, [a] team at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School found. Their experiments on more than 630 Americans showed they were measurably happier when they spent money on others -- even if they thought spending the money on themselves would make them happier. "We wanted to test our theory that how people spend their money is at least as important as how much money they earn," said Elizabeth Dunn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. They asked their 600 volunteers first to rate their general happiness, report their annual income and detail their monthly spending including bills, gifts for themselves, gifts for others and donations to charity. "Regardless of how much income each person made, those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not," Dunn said. Dunn's team also surveyed 16 employees at a company in Boston before and after they received an annual profit-sharing bonus of between $3,000 and $8,000. "Employees who devoted more of their bonus to pro-social spending experienced greater happiness after receiving the bonus, and the manner in which they spent that bonus was a more important predictor of their happiness than the size of the bonus itself," they wrote in their report, published in the journal Science. "Finally, participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves," they said. "These findings suggest that very minor alterations in spending allocations -- as little as $5 -- may be enough to produce real gains in happiness on a given day."
Note: For an abundance of inspiring stories from major media sources, click here.
Papers Detail Complaints of Links to Treasury List
March 19, 2008, New York Times
A sheaf of documents that a federal court forced the Treasury Department to release indicate there have been repeated complaints from American consumers who have been falsely linked to terrorism or drug trafficking during routine credit checks, the organization that sought the documents in a lawsuit said Tuesday. The more than 100 pages of documents released Monday to the organization, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco, include a variety of complaints about the list maintained by the Office of Foreign Asset Control in the Treasury Department, said Philip Hwang, a lawyer for the group. The released documents include e-mail messages and letters from consumers who have been denied cars or home loans or faced difficulties with other financial transactions because their names allegedly appear on the list. Financial institutions are supposed to check clients' names against the list, which is known officially as the Specially Designated Nationals List. A Federal District Court judge in San Francisco last month ordered the Treasury Department to release all the complaints after a Freedom of Information Act request, Mr. Hwang said. He said his organization believed that what they received was only a small fraction of the complaints filed. Among other indications, he said, was that Henry Paulson Jr., the Treasury secretary, said in Congressional testimony last year that his department fielded up to 90,000 telephone complaints about the list over one year. Mr. Hwang said most consumers discovered the problem only when they asked for a credit report and were shocked to find a notation on it associating them with terrorists or drug traffickers.
Note: For many disturbing reports of increasing threats to civil liberties, click here.
Why Hospitals Want Your Credit Report
March 18, 2008, Wall Street Journal
In a development that consumer groups say raises privacy issues, a growing number of hospitals are mining patients' personal financial information to figure out how likely they are to pay their bills. Some hospitals are peering into patients' credit reports, which contain information on people's lines of credit, debts and payment histories. Other hospitals are contracting with outside services that predict a patient's income and whether he or she is likely to walk away from a medical bill. Hospitals often use these services when patients are uninsured or have big out-of-pocket costs despite having health insurance. Consumer advocates say the practice creates the potential for hospitals to misuse the information by denying or cutting back on patients' care if they can't pay. What's more, hospitals could scour a patient's financial records for credit lines and encourage the patient to tap them, despite high interest rates or other costs. "It has the potential to put people at risk financially," says Mark Rukavina, executive director of the Access Project, a research and advocacy group that focuses on medical debt. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Hipaa, a federal law that has patient-privacy provisions, doesn't bar hospitals from providing patient payment histories to consumer reporting agencies. It's unclear how much latitude hospitals have to legally check a patient's financial information. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, hospitals are allowed to obtain patients' credit reports if they get their permission, says Rebecca Kuehn, an assistant director in the Federal Trade Commission's division of privacy and identity protection.
Note: For many other revelations of privacy abuses from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.
Key Articles From Years Past
Life In a Jar?
March 7, 2007, MSNBC
Ninety-seven-year-old Irena Sendler, just four foot eleven, saved twenty-five hundred children from Nazi death camps. Few knew. Mrs. Sendler seldom spoke of what she did. Considering all the remarkable stories from the Holocaust that have surfaced over the years, it's hard to believe this one lay mostly unnoticed for sixty years, until four high school girls from Uniontown, Kansas, uncovered it. Thanks to those teenagers, Mrs. Sendler has just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. That tiny Catholic nurse not only saved all those children, she managed to sneak a Jewish man out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Right past the Nazi guards. She later married him and had two children of her own. Television is at its best when it shows the incredible things of which we are capable. People who see things that need to be done and do them without regrets or apologies; without sending out a press release. I like to reflect on such unassuming people like ... Irena Sendler. Perhaps they are put in a reporter's path to remind us never to get so caught up in the "Big Stories" that we overlook everyday people working in the woods. Their lives mattered and did make a difference.
Special note: For a wonderfully inspiring song reminding us that all U.S. citizen's are a part of America's heart, click here. And for a powerfully inspiring talk by the Nobel-prize-winning founder of the first bank designed specifically to end poverty, click here.
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Spitzer Resignation, Iraq War Coverage, Disparities in US Life Expectancy