Pentagon "Mission Creep," Bailouts Funded by Bonuses, New Debt Collection Guidelines
Revealing News Articles
January 2, 2009
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the use of taxpayer bailout funds by banks to pay the bonuses of their top executives, the Pentagon's "mission creep" into civilian governmental functions, new U.K. debt collection guidelines, 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.
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Execs of bailed-out banks got $1.6B last year, AP finds
December 21, 2008, USA Today/Associated Press
Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals. The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages. Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management. The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines. The AP compiled total compensation based on annual reports that the banks file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 116 banks have so far received $188 billion in taxpayer help. Among the findings: • Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $54 million in compensation last year. The company's top five executives received a total of $242 million. The New York-based company on Dec. 16 reported its first quarterly loss since it went public in 1999. It received $10 billion in taxpayer money on Oct. 28. • John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year. Like Goldman, Merrill got $10 billion from taxpayers on Oct. 28.
Note: For many reports on the realities of the Wall Street bailout from reliable sources, click here.
The Pentagon is muscling in everywhere. It's time to stop the mission creep.
December 21, 2008, Washington Post
We no longer have a civilian-led government. The most unnerving legacy of the Bush administration is the encroachment of the Department of Defense into a striking number of aspects of civilian government. Our Constitution is at risk. President-elect Barack Obama's selections of James L. Jones, a retired four-star Marine general, to be his national security adviser and, it appears, retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair to be his director of national intelligence ... could complete the silent military coup d'etat that has been steadily gaining ground below the radar screen of most Americans and the media. While serving the State Department in several senior capacities over the past four years, I witnessed firsthand the quiet, de facto military takeover of much of the U.S. government. The first assault on civilian government occurred in faraway places -- Iraq and Afghanistan. As military officers sought to take over the role played by civilian development experts abroad, Pentagon bureaucrats quietly populated the National Security Council and the State Department with their own personnel ... to ensure that the Defense Department could keep an eye on its rival agencies. The encroachment within America's borders continued with the military's increased involvement in domestic surveillance and its attempts to usurp the role of the federal courts in reviewing detainee cases. The Pentagon also resisted ceding any authority over its extensive intelligence operations to the ... director of national intelligence. Now the Pentagon has drawn up plans to deploy 20,000 U.S. soldiers inside our borders by 2011.
Note: The author of this piece, Thomas A. Schweich, served the Bush administration as ambassador for counter-narcotics in Afghanistan and deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement affairs.
Known Unknowns: Unconventional "Strategic Shocks" in Defense Strategy Development
November 2008, U.S. Army Website, Strategic Studies Institute
Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security. Deliberate employment of weapons of mass destruction or other catastrophic capabilities, unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters are all paths to disruptive domestic shock. An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home. Already predisposed to defer to the primacy of civilian authorities in instances of domestic security and divest all but the most extreme demands in areas like civil support and consequence management, DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance.
Note: For an analysis which deconstructs the opaque military jargon in which this revealing strategic document is written, click here. Use of military forces to maintain domestic order has been forbidden since 1878 by the Posse Comitatus Act. The Pentagon appears to be planning to abrogate this key support of civil liberties.
Bailiffs get power to use force on debtors
December 21, 2008, Times of London
The [U.K.] government has been accused of trampling on individual liberties by proposing wide-ranging new powers for bailiffs to break into homes and to use "reasonable force" against householders who try to protect their valuables. Under the regulations, bailiffs for private firms would for the first time be given permission to restrain or pin down householders. They would also be able to force their way into homes to seize property to pay off debts, such as unpaid credit card bills and loans. "These laws strip away tried and tested protections that make a person's home his castle, and which have stood for centuries," said Paul Nicolson, chairman of the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, a London-based welfare charity. "They could clearly lead to violent confrontations and undermine fundamental liberties." Bailiffs have for hundreds of years been denied powers to break into homes for civil debt or to use force against debtors, except in self-defence. Ministers have now proposed bailiffs be given powers to physically remove debtors who try to defend their property, for example by draping themselves over a car or blocking the door of their home. Details of the new guidelines were obtained under freedom of information laws. Reasonable grounds for breaking down the door include the "movement of a curtain", a radio being heard or a figure being spotted inside which "may be the offender". In one case, an 89-year-old grandmother returned home to find a bailiff sitting in her chair having drawn up a list of her possessions. He was pursuing a parking fine owed by her son, who did not even live at the address.
Note: For many disturbing reports from reliable sources on threats to civil liberties, click here.
Would hunt for subs kill whales?
December 22, 2008, Orlando Sentinel
The U.S. Navy wants to teach sailors how to hunt submarines off the coast of Jacksonville, but it's trying to prove its proposed undersea-warfare-training range won't hurt the world's most endangered whale. Concern about harm to the North Atlantic right whale from military sonar, vessels and torpedoes might pose a stumbling block to the proposed $100 million training range, which could be built near the whale's protected calving area. The U.S. Navy announced earlier this year that it wants to build the undersea-warfare-training range in a 662-square-mile zone nearly 58 miles off Jacksonville. Environmentalists fear whales could die from being run over by ships or becoming disoriented from the sonar. "Under federal law, environmental issues have to be placed on par with other national interests, including economic concerns and military training," said Michelle B. Nowlin, supervising attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at the Duke University School of Law. "The courts have been very clear there must be a balance of those interests." Federal reports say the death of even one pregnant female could risk the species' survival. That's why more than a dozen conservation groups have opposed a permanent range for the sonar-based warfare training near the calving grounds. Military sonar, broadcasting an active midfrequency signal at 235 decibels, has a lethal history, with a dozen cases worldwide of mass whale and dolphin strandings and evidence of damage to their hearing after underwater exercises.
Note: For reliable reports detailing threats to and abuse of marine mammals by military operations, click here.
Charting the psychology of evil, decades after 'shock' experiment
December 19, 2008, CNN
If someone told you to press a button to deliver a 450-volt electrical shock to an innocent person in the next room, would you do it? Common sense may say no, but decades of research suggests otherwise. In the early 1960s, [Stanley Milgram,] a young psychologist at Yale began what became one of the most widely recognized experiments in his field. In the first series, he found that about two-thirds of subjects were willing to inflict what they believed were increasingly painful shocks on an innocent person when the experimenter told them to do so, even when the victim screamed and pleaded. A new study to be published in the January issue of American Psychologist confirmed these results in an experiment that mimics many of Milgram's original conditions. This and other studies have corroborated the startling conclusion that the majority of people, when placed in certain kinds of situations, will follow orders, even if those orders entail harming another person. "It's situations that make ordinary people into evil monsters, and it's situations that make ordinary people into heroes," said Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University and author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. "Most heroes are everyday people who do a heroic deed once in their lifetime because they [happen] to be in a situation of evil or danger," he said.
Note: What's amazing about this is the willingness of many people responding to nothing more that verbal authority to deliver shocks up to 450 volts to victims who are writhing in pain, screaming and begging for them to stop. What would you do? For more, click here.
Fingerprints Can Reveal Drug Use, Medical History
December 10, 2008, Discovery Channel
A careless touch could be all police or insurance companies need to determine not only your identity, but also your past drug use, if you've fired a gun or handled explosives, even specific medical conditions. "A fingerprint is only good to identify a criminal if you already have their fingerprint on file," said David Russell, a professor at the University of East Anglia, who, along with Pompi Hazarika, helped developed [a new analytical] technique. "This will give police new tools to help discover that identity." For decades forensic scientists have dusted fingerprints with magnetic particles to reveal the hidden swirls and curls that differentiate each person on the planet. The iron oxide particles attach themselves to the tiny bits of water, minerals, and oils that accumulate on the fingers as they touch various objects and other parts of the body. The new technique attaches the iron oxide particles to antibodies and suspends them both in a liquid solution, which is then drizzled over a fingerprint. If the chemical that a specific antibody targets is present, the molecules latch onto it and glow. So far the scientists can detect five different drugs: THC (marijuana), cocaine, nicotine, methadone and a derivative of methadone. Other drugs, particularly opium-based drugs like heroine or morphine, should also be detectable, since antibodies already exist for them as well. Drugs aren't the only chemicals the new tests could detect. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other medical conditions produce specific chemicals also secreted in sweat and oil. By tweaking the antibodies on the particles, forensic scientists could test for a variety of medical conditions.
New approach counters diabetes in mice trials
December 11, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
When he was just 7 years old, Sacramento native Nate DeFelice was told he had Type 1 diabetes. So when he joined a diabetes research project at Ben-Gurion University [in Israel] two years ago, he hoped it would be a meaningful experience. As it turns out, the project could change his life and those of millions of other diabetics. DeFelice, 27, never dreamed that he would help discover a potential cure for his disease, see the beginning of a Federal Drug Administration-approved clinical trial in the United States, and co-author a scientific paper along with seven other researchers published in October by the National Academy of Sciences. Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in childhood, is caused by a failure of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas called "islets." They require daily injections of insulin, which helps break down glucose in the blood. When Ben-Gurion University biochemistry Professor Dr. Eli Lewis asked for volunteers to participate in new research on diabetes, DeFelice jumped at the chance. Lewis, DeFelice and the other researchers have focused their investigations on islet transplantation. The Israeli team then opted for a new approach, ... focusing ... on inflammation caused by the transplant itself. Lewis grafted healthy islets into diabetic mice and treated them with an anti-inflammatory drug called alpha-1-antitrypsin, or AAT. Within months, they discovered three encouraging results: AAT enabled the newly grafted islets to survive indefinitely, successfully secreting insulin. The researchers stopped administering AAT and the islets continued to function. The mice's immune systems remained intact and were able to reject additional grafts while the original transplant continued to function.
Note: For many reports on health issues from major media sources, click here.
No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty in 'Passive Houses'
December 27, 2008, New York Times
From the outside, there is nothing unusual about the stylish new gray and orange row houses in the Kranichstein District. But these houses are part of a revolution in building design: There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace. In Berthold Kaufmann's home, there is, to be fair, one radiator for emergency backup in the living room – but it is not in use. Even on the coldest nights in central Germany, Mr. Kaufmann's new "passive house" and others of this design get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer. "You don't think about temperature – the house just adjusts," said Mr. Kaufmann. His new home uses about one-twentieth the heating energy of his parents' home of roughly the same size, he said. The concept of the passive house, pioneered in this city of 140,000 outside Frankfurt, approaches the [energy efficiency] challenge from a different angle. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants' bodies. And in Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses. New passive houses use an ingenious central ventilation system. The warm air going out passes side by side with clean, cold air coming in, exchanging heat with 90 percent efficiency.
Note: For lots more on new energy technologies from reliable sources, click here.
The Novel That Predicted Portland
December 14, 2008, New York Times
Sometimes a book, or an idea, can be obscure and widely influential at the same time. That's the case with Ecotopia, a 1970s cult novel, originally self-published by its author, Ernest Callenbach, that has seeped into the American groundwater without becoming well known. The novel, now being rediscovered, speaks to our ecological present: in the flush of a financial crisis, the Pacific Northwest secedes from the United States, and its citizens establish a sustainable economy, a cross between Scandinavian socialism and Northern California back-to-the-landism, with the custom ... to eat local. In the '70s, the book, with a blurb from Ralph Nader, was a hit, selling 400,000 or so copies in the United States, and more worldwide. Today, Ecotopia is increasingly assigned in college courses on the environment, sociology and urban planning, and its cult following has begun to reach an unlikely readership: Mr. Callenbach, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., and calls himself a "fringe, '60s person," has been finding himself invited to speak at many small religious colleges. This month, the book's publisher, Bantam, is reissuing it. "For a while it seemed sort of antique to people," said Mr. Callenbach, a balding and eerily fit man of 79. But now that you go out into America and young society, it apparently doesn't seem that weird to them at all. "It is so hard to imagine anything fundamentally different from what we have now," he said. "But without these alternate visions, we get stuck on dead center. And we'd better get ready," he added. "We need to know where we'd like to go."
Heaven for the Godless?
December 27, 2008, New York Times
In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life. This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. But the survey suggested that Americans just weren't buying that. The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn't actually believe what they were saying, could they? So in August, Pew asked the question again. Sixty-five percent of respondents said – again – that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them. And they didn't stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven – dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt – and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go. What on earth does this mean? One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith. We meet so many good people of different faiths that it's hard for us to imagine God letting them go to hell. In fact, in the most recent survey, Pew asked people what they thought determined whether a person would achieve eternal life. Nearly as many Christians said you could achieve eternal life by just being a good person as said that you had to believe in Jesus.
Key Articles From Years Past
New York City Mayor Hylan Foresees A Revolt
December 10, 1922, New York Times
One of the most astounding facts about our American life is that the wealth and property of the country and the control of the machinery of government are in the hands of less than 2 per cent of the inhabitants. A small group of excessively wealthy individuals, members of the Republican and Democratic Parties alike, have, through the exercise of powerful, sinister and, too often, unlawful influence, usurped the government and seized public property on such a wholesale scale that they have become ... virtual dictators. A small group of international bankers and money lenders, public utility exploiters and tariff beneficiaries have actually dictated nominations for offices up to the Presidency. They have placed the slickest, cleverest, and most cunning manipulators in official positions, even in the minor posts, where they could be of service when called upon by the invisible power which, utterly devoid of all humanity, seeks but to wallow in riches. So absolute is the power of America's secret dynastic rulers that they have, without hindrance, written the very platforms and pledges of political parties, and because of substantial contributions to campaign chests they have arrogated to themselves the right to dictate the governmental policies of the administration elected to office regardless of party. Woe to the public officials who dare to resent their dictatorship! If there be such public officials who will not submit to their imperious dictation, then the flood-gates of lying press propaganda are released, sweeping the unhappy public servant to an earthly as well as political grave, or compelling him to compromise with his conscience and become their subservient tool to the end of his term.
Note: John F. Hylan was Mayor of New York City from 1918 to 1925. New York has long been the US banking and financial headquarters, with the mayor's office about a half-mile from the New York Stock Exchange. The rest of this important article can be accessed at this link as well as the one above. It is interesting to note that this article was published not long after the Federal Reserve was created, turning over huge amounts of control of the U.S. economy to the most powerful bankers in the country. For more on this, click here.
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Pentagon Mission Creep, Bailouts Fund Bonuses, New Debt Collection Guidelines