IRS Audits Decline, Domestic Spy Satellite Surveillance, Cheney and Rice Approved Torture
Revealing News Articles
April 17, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the decline in major corporate tax audits by the IRS, the impending onset of domestic surveillance by spy satellites, the revelation that US Vice President Dick Cheney and then-US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice approved the torture techniques used by the CIA ahead of time, 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.
Fewer Large Corporations Audited by IRS
April 14, 2008, Associated Press
The tax audit rates of the largest companies are less than half what they were 20 years ago while more small and mid-size businesses are coming under scrutiny, according to an organization that monitors the Internal Revenue Service. The Syracuse University-based Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse described what it said was a "historic collapse" in audits for corporations holding assets of $250 million or more. About 26 percent of them were audited in the 2007 budget year compared with 34 percent in 2006 and 43 percent in 2005. The IRS did not dispute the numbers, based on agency data. The TRAC report concluded that the IRS also was concentrating on regular small and mid-sized companies to boost audit numbers. "Moving the focus of the corporate auditors away from the large corporations and toward the smaller ones has been quite effective when it came to increasing the overall number of these kinds of audits but actually was counterproductive in financial terms," the researchers said. TRAC also questioned the financial benefits of the shift. The group said that last year the government uncovered $682 in additional recommended taxes for every revenue agent hour spent auditing the smallest corporations, compared with $7,498 in additional taxes for audits of the largest corporations. Dean Zerbe, national managing director for Houston-based alliantgroup, which provides tax services for medium-sized companies, said his fear was that "in the IRS' zeal to show Congress improved numbers in corporate audit, it is America's small and medium businesses that are taking it on the chin."
Note: For more revelations of government corruption from major media sources, click here.
Administration Set to Use New Spy Program in U.S.
April 12, 2008, Washington Post
The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible. Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. His statements marked a fresh determination to operate the department's new National Applications Office. But Congress delayed launch of the new office last October. Critics cited its potential to expand the role of military assets in domestic law enforcement, to turn new or as-yet-undeveloped technologies against Americans without adequate public debate, and to divert the existing civilian and scientific focus of some satellite work to security uses. Democrats say Chertoff has not spelled out what federal laws govern the NAO, whose funding and size are classified. Congress barred Homeland Security from funding the office until its investigators could review the office's operating procedures and safeguards. The department submitted answers on Thursday, but some lawmakers promptly said the response was inadequate. [Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee] said, "We still don't know whether the NAO will pass constitutional muster since no legal framework has been provided."
Note: For many more revealing stories on threats to civil liberties, click here.
Cheney, Rice Approved Use of Waterboarding, Other Tactics
April 11, 2008, FOX News/Associated Press
Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against [captives] after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned. The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, ... were discussed and ultimately approved. A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the meetings ... spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue. Between 2002 and 2003, the Justice Department issued several memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that justified using the interrogation tactics, including ones that critics call torture. "If you looked at the timing of the meetings and the memos you'd see a correlation," the former intelligence official said. The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were Cheney, then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. The American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to investigate. "With each new revelation, it is beginning to look like the torture operation was managed and directed out of the White House," ACLU legislative director Caroline Fredrickson said. "This is what we suspected all along." The former intelligence official described Cheney and the top national security officials as deeply immersed in developing the CIA's interrogation program during months of discussions over which methods should be used and when."
Permissible Assaults Cited in Graphic Detail
April 6, 2008, Washington Post
Thirty pages into a memorandum discussing the legal boundaries of military interrogations in 2003, senior Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo tackled a question not often asked by American policymakers: Could the president, if he desired, have a prisoner's eyes poked out? Or, for that matter, could he have "scalding water, corrosive acid or caustic substance" thrown on a prisoner? How about slitting an ear, nose or lip, or disabling a tongue or limb? What about biting? These assaults are all mentioned in a U.S. law prohibiting maiming, which Yoo parsed as he clarified the legal outer limits of what could be done to terrorism suspects as detained by U.S. authorities. The specific prohibitions, he said, depended on the circumstances or which "body part the statute specifies." But none of that matters in a time of war, Yoo also said, because federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes by military interrogators are trumped by the president's ultimate authority as commander in chief. In the sober language of footnotes, case citations and judicial rulings, the memo explores a wide range of unsavory topics, from the use of mind-altering drugs on captives to the legality of forcing prisoners to squat on their toes in a "frog crouch." It repeats an assertion in another controversial Yoo memo that an interrogation tactic cannot be considered torture unless it would result in "death, organ failure or serious impairment of bodily functions." Yoo, who is now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, also uses footnotes to effectively dismiss the Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution, arguing that protections against unreasonable search and seizure and guarantees of due process either do not apply or are irrelevant in a time of war. He frequently cites his previous legal opinions to bolster his case.
Economists Debate Link Between War, Credit Crisis
April 15, 2008, Washington Post
For House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the connection between the Iraq conflict and the U.S. economic downturn is simple: "The president has taken us into a failed war," [she] said recently. "He's taken us deeply into debt, and that debt is taking us into recession." Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who wrote the new book The Three Trillion Dollar War, contends that the connection is real. Even with a growing energy demand from China, the United States and elsewhere, oil traders anticipated before the war that the price of oil would remain about $25 a barrel. Instead, it has soared to more than $100 a barrel. Iraqi oil production has not risen with demand, in part because investment in the Middle East has been stunted by war-related unrest. Those price increases are self-perpetuating, Stiglitz argues. Oil-rich Persian Gulf states are so awash in money that they are not sure what to do with it all. That cash, through state-owned sovereign wealth funds, has flowed into stocks, bonds and other investments, creating incentives for lenders to offer low-interest loans, many of which have now gone sour. But that is only one factor, by Stiglitz's accounting. The federal government has sunk deeply into debt, first with tax cuts, then with accelerating war expenditures that have easily topped half a trillion dollars. So the Federal Reserve Board used low interest rates and the free flow of money to keep the economy growing. Cheap credit sparked rash loans, a housing bubble and the current crisis. "The war played a very important role," Stiglitz said. The analysis is politically powerful because people believe it. A CNN poll last month found that 71 percent of Americans say government spending in Iraq is a factor in the economic downturn.
Note: For a powerful personal account of the economic underpinnings of modern war by a US Marine Corps general, click here.
In Rwanda, visionary doctor is moving mountains again
April 13, 2008, Boston Globe
It was November 2004, and Dr. Paul Farmer had agreed to bring his world-renowned Partners in Health model to Rwanda, which was still reeling from the aftershocks of the genocide a decade earlier. Now here he was, with Rwandan health officials, to scout out a location for a hospital to serve the poorest of the poor. Farmer, who teaches at Harvard, was taken to Ruhengeri, in the country's northwest corner. But there was already a clean hospital there, with employees and even an X-ray machine. "No, no, no. You don't understand," Farmer recalls saying. "Find me the worst possible place in the country." So they took him to Rwinkwavu, a remote area two hours east of Kigali. Even Farmer - who works in the world's worst regions - was taken aback. There were no beds, no patients, no staff, no medical equipment. "It was abandoned, dirty and scary," Farmer says. There were 200,000 people in the district and not a single doctor. It was the perfect place for Farmer. In the summer of 2005, the doors opened at Rwinkwavu Hospital, which now sees 250 patients a day, some of them walking hours to get there. Farmer, [Dr. Michael Rich, who is Rwanda country director for Partners in Health], and their Rwandan counterparts have built a second hospital in an equally remote area of 200,000 - also without a single doctor - and built or renovated 19 health centers that feed patients to them. A third hospital is on the drawing board, designed by Harvard architecture students. Ultimately, they plan to expand rural medical services to the entire country. Now 20 years old, Partners in Health, with its emphasis on treating poverty as well as disease, has expanded to nine countries.
Note: Five years ago, Farmer became reluctantly famous with the publication of Tracy Kidder's best-selling book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, which told the story of the brash Harvard Medical School graduate who changed the face of healthcare in rural Haiti.
In Justice Shift, Corporate Deals Replace Trials
April 9, 2008, New York Times
In a major shift of policy, the Justice Department, once known for taking down giant corporations, including the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, has put off prosecuting more than 50 companies suspected of wrongdoing over the last three years. Instead, many companies, from boutique outfits to immense corporations like American Express, have avoided the cost and stigma of defending themselves against criminal charges with a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, which allows the government to collect fines and appoint an outside monitor to impose internal reforms without going through a trial. In many cases, the name of the monitor and the details of the agreement are kept secret. Deferred prosecutions have become a favorite tool of the Bush administration. But some legal experts now wonder if the policy shift has led companies, in particular financial institutions now under investigation for their roles in the subprime mortgage debacle, to test the limits of corporate anti-fraud laws. Firms have readily agreed to the deferred prosecutions, said Vikramaditya S. Khanna, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has studied their use, because "clearly it avoids a bigger headache for them." Some lawyers suggest that companies may be willing to take more risks because they know that, if they are caught, the chances of getting a deferred prosecution are good. "Some companies may bear the risk" of legally questionable business practices if they believe they can cut a deal to defer their prosecution indefinitely, Mr. Khanna said. Legal experts say the tactic may have sent the wrong signal to corporations – the promise, in effect, of a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Note: For more revelations of government corruption from major media sources, click here.
Google has lots to do with intelligence
March 30, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
When the nation's intelligence agencies wanted a computer network to better share information ... they turned to a big name in the technology industry to supply some of the equipment: Google Inc. The Mountain View company sold the agencies servers for searching documents. Many of the contracts are for search appliances - servers for storing and searching internal documents. Agencies can use the devices to create their own mini-Googles on intranets made up entirely of government data. Additionally, Google has had success licensing a souped-up version of its aerial mapping service, Google Earth. Spy agencies are using Google equipment as the backbone of Intellipedia, a network aimed at helping agents share intelligence. [The system] is maintained by the director of national intelligence and is accessible only to the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency and an alphabet soup of other intelligence agencies and offices. Google supplies the computer servers that support the network, as well as the search software that allows users to sift through messages and data. Because of the complexities of doing business with the government, Google uses resellers to process orders on its behalf. Google takes care of the sales, marketing and management of the accounts. Google is one of many technology vendors vying for government contracts. On occasion, Google is the target of conspiracy theories from bloggers who say it is working with spy agencies more closely than simply selling search equipment.
A Victim Treats His Mugger Right
March 28, 2008, NPR
Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner. But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn. He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife. "He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, 'Here you go,'" Diaz says. As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, "Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you're going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm." The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, "like what's going on here?" Diaz says. "He asked me, 'Why are you doing this?'" Diaz replied: " ' If you're willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you ... want to join me ... hey, you're more than welcome.' You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help," Diaz says. Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth. Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. "He just had ... a sad face," Diaz says. The teen couldn't answer Diaz – or he didn't want to. When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, "Look, I guess you're going to have to pay for this bill 'cause you have my money and I can't pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I'll gladly treat you." The teen "didn't even think about it" and returned the wallet, Diaz says. "I gave him $20 ... I figure maybe it'll help him. I don't know." Diaz says he asked for something in return – the teen's knife – "and he gave it to me."
Note: For many powerful inspirational stories from major media sources, click here.
Key Articles From Years Past
Worm poo in plastic bottles: Get rich and save the world
January 26, 2007, CNN
Add heaps of red worms to mountains of raw, rotting garbage. Then collect the worms' feces, brew it into a liquid, and squeeze it into a used soda bottle. Sound like a twisted fourth-grade boy's concoction for messing with his sister? Not quite. Rather, it is TerraCycle's recipe for success -- as a booming, eco-friendly fertilizer business. "We're not doing this to help save the environment," said co-founder and CEO Tom Szaky. "We're doing this to show that you can make a lot of money while saving the environment." It does that not only by avoiding excess waste, but by embracing others' throwaways -- from the organic material fed to its hard-working worms, to its used plastic packaging, to the once discarded desks and computers in the firm's Trenton, New Jersey, headquarters. The nonprofit environmental group Zerofootprint recently recognized TerraCycle for having "net zero" negative impact -- the first consumer product to earn that distinction. This unique business takes its cue from Szaky. The Princeton drop-out, born to Hungarian parents and raised primarily in Canada, said he doesn't consider himself an environmentalist, admitting he doesn't eat organic food or drive a hybrid car. Many of the breakthroughs came out of necessity, conveniently married to the pro-environment, anti-waste cause. The two core components are worms -- which eat, excrete and procreate freely -- and similarly cheap, all but omnipresent organic waste. When short on cash, TerraCycle decided to place the liquid fertilizer in used, plastic soda bottles scooped off the streets instead of buying new or recycled bottles.
Note: For lots more on this most inspiring company that is creating a new paradigm in business, visit http://www.terracycle.net and watch the great video there.
Special note: For those interested in the intriguing WingMakers material, we have come up with a highly revealing comparison of the original and changed WingMakers interviews available here. For those interested in the intriguing program called NESARA, you might appreciate some information we've gathered, available here.
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IRS Audits Decline, Domestic Spy Satellite Surveillance, Cheney and Rice Approved Torture