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NSA Eavesdropping, FDA Corruption,
Deadly "Non-lethal" Weapons
Revealing News Articles
October 17, 2008

Dear friends,

Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on recent disclosures by NSA whistleblowers of agency eavesdropping on average US citizens, corruption at the FDA, development of deadly "non-lethal weapons" by the Pentagon, 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.

With best wishes,
Tod Fletcher and Fred Burks for PEERS and

Outrage Leads AIG To Cancel Second Luxury Retreat
October 9, 2008, ABC News

Battered by outrage over the $440,000 it spent on a luxury retreat less than a week after the federal government loaned it $85 billion dollars, the giant AIG Insurance Company says it has called off plans to hold a second retreat next week at the exclusive Ritz-Carlton Resort in Half Moon Bay, California. The Ritz-Carlton outing, like the earlier one, was to reward top independent insurance agents, which the company called a "standard industry practice." "I am somewhat relieved to hear that AIG has canceled their Ritz-Carlton conference, which was nothing less than a slap in the face of the American people," said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). "I cannot fathom how in the same day -- the very same day -- that AIG asked the government for another $37.8 billion loan, the company would even consider moving forward with plans to host another large conference at another luxury resort." Critics ... have denounced AIG for holding an expensive retreat at a time of economic crisis. The criticism has been "demoralizing" within AIG said Nicholas Ashooh, a spokesperson for AIG, "but we have to recognize that we're in a different environment and we have to adjust to that." AIG says it has instructed its worldwide managers to re-scrutinize how money is being spent. "We're certainly reviewing all our expenditures in light of financial circumstances and the fact that taxpayer dollars are helping to support AIG as we get through this difficult credit crisis," said Ashooh.

Note: For many reports of corporate corruption from reliable sources, click here.

Illinois sheriff scolds banks for evictions of 'innocent' renters
October 9, 2008, CNN

An outraged sheriff in Illinois who refuses to evict ... renters from foreclosed homes criticized mortgage companies ... and said the law should protect victims of the mortgage meltdown. Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said earlier he is suspending foreclosure evictions in Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago. The county had been on track to reach a record number of evictions, many because of mortgage foreclosures. "Many good tenants are suffering because building owners have fallen behind on their mortgage payments," he said Thursday on CNN's "American Morning." "These poor people are seeing everything they own put out on the street. ... They've paid their bills, paid them on time. Here we are with a battering ram at the front door going to throw them out. It's gotten insane," he said. Mortgage companies are supposed to identify a building's occupants before asking for an eviction, but sheriff's deputies routinely find that the mortgage companies have not done so, Dart said. "This is an example where the banking industry has not done any of the work they should do. It's a piece of paper to them," Dart said. "These mortgage companies ... don't care who's in the building," Dart said. "They simply want their money and don't care who gets hurt along the way. "On top of it all, they want taxpayers to fund their investigative work for them. We're not going to do their jobs for them anymore. We're just not going to evict innocent tenants. It stops today. When you're blindly sending me out to houses where I'm coming across innocent tenant after innocent tenant, I can't keep doing this and have a good conscience about it."

Note: For many reports of corporate corruption from reliable sources, click here.

Gift to Center Headed by FDA Panel Chairman Raises Questions
October 13, 2008, Washington Post

A retired medical supply manufacturer who considers bisphenol A to be "perfectly safe" gave $5 million to the research center headed by the chairman of a Food and Drug Administration panel about to rule on the chemical's safety. The July donation from Charles Gelman is nearly 50 times the annual budget of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, where Martin Philbert is founder and co-director. Philbert did not disclose the donation to the FDA, and agency officials learned of it when reporters asked about it. Gelman said he considers the chemical, which is used to make baby bottles and aluminum can liners, to be safe. He said he had made his views clear to Philbert in several conversations. Philbert denied that. Philbert's committee is expected to release its opinion this month. The decision of Philbert's committee is expected to have huge implications on the regulation and sale of the chemical in items such as baby bottles, reusable food containers and plastic wraps. Since the late 1990s, studies have linked bisphenol A to cancer, heart disease, obesity, reproductive failures and hyperactivity in laboratory animals. Gelman, a retired manufacturer of syringes and medical filtration devices, has fought against government regulation of pollutants for years. He is an anti-regulation activist and an outspoken supporter of organizations such as, the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute that attack the credibility of government and academic scientists on such topics as global warming and hazardous chemicals.

Note: For key reports on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.

Insider's Projects Drained Missile-Defense Millions
October 12, 2008, New York Times

Michael Cantrell, an engineer at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command headquarters in Huntsville, Ala., along with his deputy, Doug Ennis, had lined up millions of dollars from Congress for defense companies. Mr. Cantrell decided it was time to take a cut. Within months, [he] began getting personal checks from contractors and later [picked] up a briefcase stuffed with $75,000. The two men eventually collected more than $1.6 million in kickbacks, through 2007, [causing] them to plead guilty this year to corruption charges. But what has drawn little scrutiny are [Cantrell's] activities leading up to it. Thanks to important allies in Congress, he extracted nearly $350 million for projects the Pentagon did not want, wasting taxpayer money on what would become dead-end ventures. He often bypassed his bosses and broke department rules to make his case on Capitol Hill. He enlisted contractors to pitch projects that would keep the dollars flowing and paid lobbyists to ease them through. He cultivated lawmakers, who were eager to send money back home or to favored contractors and did not ask many questions. And when he ran into trouble, he could count on his powerful friends for protection from Pentagon officials who provided little oversight and were afraid of alienating lawmakers. "I could go over to the Hill and put pressure on people above me and get something done," Mr. Cantrell explained. "With the Army, as long as the senator is not calling over and complaining, everything is O.K. And the senator will not call over and complain unless the contractor you're working with does not get his money. So you just have to keep the players happy and it works."

Note: For key reports on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.

Exclusive: Inside Account of U.S. Eavesdropping on Americans
October 9, 2008, ABC News

Hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia. "These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003. She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States. Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007. Both former intercept operators came forward at first to speak with investigative journalist [James] Bamford for a book on the NSA, The Shadow Factory, to be published next week. "It's extremely rare," said Bamford, who has written two previous books on the NSA, including the landmark Puzzle Palace which first revealed the existence of the super secret spy agency. "Both of them felt that what they were doing was illegal and improper, and immoral, and it shouldn't be done, and that's what forces whistleblowers."

Note: For many reports from major media sources of disturbing threats to privacy, click here.

Army Orders Pain Ray Trucks; New Report Shows 'Potential for Death'
October 11, 2008, ABC News

After years of testing, the Active Denial System -- the pain ray which drives off rioters with a microwave-like beam -- could finally have its day. The Army is buying five of the truck-mounted systems for $25 million. But the energy weapon may face new hurdles, before it's shipped off to the battlefield; a new report details how the supposedly non-lethal blaster could be turned into a flesh-frying killer. The announcement arrives on the same day as a new report from less-lethal weapons expert Dr. J�rgen Altmann that analyzes the physics of several directed energy weapons, including Active Denial, the Advanced Tactical Laser (used as a non-lethal weapon), the Pulsed Energy Projectile (a.k.a. "Maximum Pain" laser) and the Long Range Acoustic Device (a.k.a. "Acoustic Blaster"). Dr. Altmann describes the Active Denial beam in some detail, noting that it will not be completely uniform; anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the center will experience more heating than someone at the edge. And perhaps more significant is his thorough analysis of the heating it produces -- and the cumulative effect if the target does not have the chance to cool down between exposures. In U.S. military tests, a fifteen-second delay between exposures was strictly observed; this may not happen when the ADS is used for real. "As a consequence, the ADS provides the technical possibility to produce burns of second and third degree. Because the beam of diameter 2 m and above is wider than human size, such burns would occur over considerable parts of the body, up to 50% of its surface."

Note: To download the technical report by Dr. Altmann referrred to in the article, click here. For lots more on "non-lethal" weapons from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.

For This Generation, Vocations of Service
October 14, 2008, Washington Post

Drew Chafetz, 25, a graduate of the private Maret School with a degree in economics from the University of Colorado, makes no money. He lives with his parents in Northwest Washington, sleeping in the same poster-filled basement room of his teenage years. But Chafetz, despite failure-to-launch appearances, is no slacker. He is actually on an alternative achievement track popular with his generation: social entrepreneurship. Using cheap Internet phone service and free coffee-shop wireless, Chafetz works full time on a project he founded called love.f�tbol. The nonprofit organization helps build low-maintenance soccer fields in Guatemalan communities where children often have no place to play except garbage-strewn lots or hard-to-reach fields. Social entrepreneurship, the movement in which people launch nonprofit or business ventures to address systemic problems in impoverished areas, emerged nearly three decades ago and is growing in appeal among young adults who want to help vulnerable people. Rather than working their way up at a government agency or large nonprofit, Chafetz and others in their 20s or early 30s are leveraging business partnerships, grants and donations for their own initiatives to do good in the world. Every generation has its altruists. But many Millennials, born in the late 1970s or early '80s, are displaying a notable urgency to make social change. UCLA's national poll of college freshmen has found that ... about 70 percent of incoming freshmen in 2007 said it's "essential or very important" to help others in difficulty, the highest that figure has been in 36 years.

Note: For lots more inspiring stories from major media sources, click here.

The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America
October 14, 2008, Washington Post

By exploring the current, post-9/11 operations of the NSA [National Security Agency, James] Bamford ... goes where congressional oversight committees and investigative journalists still struggle to go. [When] the Bush administration declared its ... global war on terror, Congress agreed to most of the White House's demands. According to Bamford, the NSA's expanded powers and resources enabled it to collect communications both inside and outside the United States. He quotes a former NSA employee as a witness to the agency's spying on the conversations of Americans who have no connection to terrorism. After suing the NSA for documents, [Bamford] obtained considerable evidence that telecommunication companies (with the notable exception of Qwest) knowingly violated U.S. law by cooperating with the NSA to tap fiber optic lines. In impressive detail, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America tells how private contractors, including some little-known entities with foreign owners, have done the sensitive work of storing and processing the voices and written data of Americans and non-Americans alike. In the book, he offers new revelations about the National Security Agency's counterterrorism tactics, including its controversial domestic surveillance programs. Bamford warns of worse to come: 'There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss -- the abyss from which there is no return.'"

Note: Bamford is the author of two other books on the NSA: Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace.

Appeals court blocks release of Guantanamo detainees
October 8, 2008, McClatchy Newspapers

A federal appeals court temporarily blocked the release of 17 Chinese-born Muslims detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a day after a landmark decision required them to be shipped to the U.S. The move Wednesday night by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sets the stage for a protracted court battle over the fate of the men, who've been held for nearly seven years despite being cleared for release by the U.S. military. Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina had ordered the Bush administration to transfer the men to the U.S. by Friday. The Justice Department had launched a down-to-the wire effort to stop the release of the men from the ethnic Uighur minority by seeking an emergency delay of the ruling. If the court had refused to act, the Bush administration had threatened to ask the Supreme Court to intervene. Attorneys for the group, however, reacted with disappointment. "Seventeen men were told yesterday that they were going to be released after nearly seven years of wrongful detention," said Emi MacLean, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which coordinates the representation of detainees including the Uighurs. "Now, they have to be told that their detention will continue to be indefinite." Urbina's decision marked the first time a court had ordered the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. and could have prompted the release of others who've been cleared by the military. Urbina declared the continued detention of the Uighurs to be "unlawful" and said the government could no longer detain them after conceding they weren't enemy combatants.

Note: For many reports on the Bush/Cheney administration's unlawful denials of civil liberties, click here.

Satellite-Surveillance Program to Begin Despite Privacy Concerns
October 1, 2008, Wall Street Journal

The Department of Homeland Security will proceed with the first phase of a controversial satellite-surveillance program, even though an independent review found the department hasn't yet ensured the program will comply with privacy laws. Congress provided partial funding for the program in a little-debated $634 billion spending measure that will fund the government until early March. For the past year, the Bush administration had been fighting Democratic lawmakers over the spy program, known as the National Applications Office. The program is designed to provide federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery. Since the department proposed the program a year ago, several Democratic lawmakers have said that turning the spy lens on America could violate Americans' privacy and civil liberties unless adequate safeguards were required. A new [but classified] 60-page Government Accountability Office report said the department "lacks assurance that NAO operations will comply with applicable laws and privacy and civil liberties standards." The report cites gaps in privacy safeguards. The department, it found, lacks controls to prevent improper use of domestic-intelligence data by other agencies and provided insufficient assurance that requests for classified information will be fully reviewed to ensure it can be legally provided. But the bill Congress approved, which President George W. Bush signed into law Tuesday, allows the department to launch a limited version.

Note: For many reports from major media sources of disturbing threats to privacy, click here.

Keating 5 ring a bell?
September 25, 2008, Los Angeles Times,0,1039504.column

Once upon a time, a politician took campaign contributions and favors from a friendly constituent who happened to run a savings and loan association. The contributions were generous: They came to about $200,000 in today's dollars, and on top of that there were several free vacations for the politician and his family, along with private jet trips and other perks. The politician voted repeatedly against congressional efforts to tighten regulation of S&Ls, and in 1987, when he learned that his constituent's S&L was the target of a federal investigation, he met with regulators in an effort to get them to back off. That politician was John McCain, and his generous friend was Charles Keating, head of Lincoln Savings & Loan. While he was courting McCain and other senators and urging them to oppose tougher regulation of S&Ls, Keating was also investing his depositors' federally insured savings in risky ventures. In 1989, [Lincoln] went belly up -- and more than 20,000 Lincoln customers saw their savings vanish. Keating went to prison, and McCain's Senate career almost ended. Together with the rest of the so-called Keating Five ... McCain was investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee and ultimately reprimanded for "poor judgment." But the savings and loan crisis mushroomed. Eventually, the government spent about $125 billion in taxpayer dollars to bail out hundreds of failed S&Ls. The $125 billion seems like small change compared to the $700-billion price tag for the Bush administration's proposed Wall Street bailout. But the root causes of both crises are the same: a lethal mix of deregulation and greed.

Note: For key reports on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.

Special note:
A fascinating one-minute CNN news video clip shows a human-powered car which can actually reach 60 mph. Click here to watch.

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NSA Eavesdropping, FDA Corruption, Deadly "Non-lethal" Weapons