Wall Street Bonuses, Obama Executive Orders Reverse Bush Policies, Stun Gun Fatalities Spike
Revealing News Articles
January 30, 2009
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the vast bonuses still paid out by Wall Street financial firms despite huge losses and government bailouts, the wide array of executive orders issued by President Obama reversing Bush administration policies, a disturbing spike in stun-gun fatalities of persons in custody, 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.
What Red Ink? Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses
January 29, 2009, New York Times
By almost any measure, 2008 was a complete disaster for Wall Street – except, that is, when the bonuses arrived. Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year. That was the sixth-largest haul on record, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State comptroller. Some bankers took home millions last year even as their employers lost billions. The comptroller's estimate, a closely watched guidepost of the annual December-January bonus season, is based largely on personal income tax collections. It excludes stock option awards that could push the figures even higher. The state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said it was unclear if banks had used taxpayer money for the bonuses, a possibility that strikes corporate governance experts, and indeed many ordinary Americans, as outrageous. He urged the Obama administration to examine the issue closely. "The issue of transparency is a significant one, and there needs to be an accounting about whether there was any taxpayer money used to pay bonuses or to pay for corporate jets or dividends or anything else," Mr. DiNapoli said in an interview.
Note: For many reports from reliable sources on the realities of the Wall Street bailout, click here.
U.N. crime chief says drug money flowed into banks
January 25, 2009, International Herald Tribune/Reuters News
The United Nations' crime and drug watchdog has indications that money made in illicit drug trade has been used to keep banks afloat in the global financial crisis, its head was quoted as saying on Sunday. Vienna-based UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said in an interview released by Austrian weekly Profil that drug money often became the only available capital when the crisis spiralled out of control last year. "In many instances, drug money is currently the only liquid investment capital," Costa was quoted as saying by Profil. "In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor." The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime had found evidence that "interbank loans were funded by money that originated from drug trade and other illegal activities," Costa was quoted as saying. There were "signs that some banks were rescued in that way." Profil said Costa declined to identify countries or banks which may have received drug money and gave no indication how much cash might be involved.
Note:. For powerful evidence that corporations and even rogue elements of government are involved in the huge amounts of cash generated in the drug trade, click here. For lots more on corporate corruption, click here.
Bush's 'War' On Terror Comes to a Sudden End
January 23, 2009, Washington Post
President Obama yesterday eliminated the most controversial tools employed by his predecessor against terrorism suspects. While Obama says he has no plans to diminish counterterrorism operations abroad, the notion that a president can circumvent long-standing U.S. laws simply by declaring war was halted by executive order in the Oval Office. Key components of the secret structure developed under Bush are being swept away: The military's Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the rights of habeas corpus and due process had been denied detainees, will close, and the CIA is now prohibited from maintaining its own overseas prisons. And in a broad swipe at the Bush administration's lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001. The CIA ... set up their first interrogation center in a compound walled off by black canvas at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and more at tiny bases throughout that country, where detainees could be questioned outside military rules and the protocols of the Geneva Conventions, which lay out the standards for treatment of prisoners of war. As the CIA recruited young case officers, polygraphers and medical personnel to work on interrogation teams, the agency's leaders asked its allies in Thailand and Eastern Europe to set up secret prisons where people ... could be held in isolation and subjected to extreme sleep and sensory deprivation, waterboarding and sexual humiliation. These tactics are not permitted under military rules or the Geneva Conventions.
Note: For many reports from reliable sources on the realities underlying the War on Terror, click here.
Executive Order -- Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel
January 21, 2009, The White House Press Office
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, ... it is hereby ordered as follows: Section 1. Ethics Pledge. Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2009, shall sign ... the following pledge: "As a condition, and in consideration, of my employment in the United States Government in a position invested with the public trust, I commit myself to the following obligations, which I understand are binding on me and are enforceable under law: "1. Lobbyist Gift Ban. I will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of my service as an appointee. "2. Revolving Door Ban All Appointees Entering Government. I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts. "3. Revolving Door Ban Lobbyists Entering Government. If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 2, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment: (a) participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment; (b) participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls; or (c) seek or accept employment with any executive agency that I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment.
Note: For lots more on government corruption, click here.
New Obama Orders on Transparency, FOIA Requests
January 21, 2009, Washington Post
In a move that pleased good government groups and some journalists, President Obama issued new orders today designed to improve the federal government's openness and transparency. The first memo instructs all agencies and departments to "adopt a presumption in favor" of Freedom of Information Act requests, while the second memo orders the director of the Office of Management and Budget to issue recommendations on making the federal government more transparent. His memo on government transparency ... directs the yet-to-be-named chief technology officer to work with the OMB director to develop an "Open Government Directive" in the next four months. Just in case new OMB director Peter R. Orszag needs any suggestions, the Sunlight Foundation -- a group dedicated to improving government transparency -- has several. Each agency should do an audit of its information and data how it makes it available, [director Ellen] Miller said. The administration should also redefine the definition of "public information" to mean that government information is not public until it is posted online in an easy-to-download format. "The devil is in the details," Miller cautions. Obama today also froze the salaries of senior White House staffers and issued executive orders on presidential records and new ethics guidelines for presidential appointees.
Note: For revealing reports on government secrecy, click here.
UCSF study raises doubts about stun gun safety
January 24, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
The number of in-custody sudden deaths rose dramatically during the first year California law enforcement agencies began using stun guns, raising questions about the safety of the devices, according to a new study at UCSF. "Tasers are not as safe as thought," said Dr. Byron Lee, one of the cardiologists involved in studying the death rate related to Tasers, the most widely used stun gun. "And if they are used, they should be used with caution." The researchers analyzed sudden death data from 50 law enforcement agencies in the state that use Tasers. They compared the death rate pre- and post-Taser deployment - analyzing data for five years before each agency began using Tasers and five years afterward. They found a sixfold increase in sudden deaths during the first year of Taser use - amounting to nearly 6 deaths per 100,000 arrests. California does not have a statewide training standard for stun guns, which have been used in the state for decades. Tasers, known as "conducted energy" devices, send out high-frequency pulses which can cause a very rapid, dangerous heart rhythm, said senior author Dr. Zian H. Tseng, an assistant clinical professor in cardiology. "Maybe a simple change of technique is what is necessary," he said. "The longer you hold the trigger, the higher the danger to the heart. ... The fewer pulses the better." Two years ago, Amnesty International reported 156 stun gun-related deaths of people in the United States during the previous five years.
Note: For more on so-called non-lethal weapons from reliable sources, click here.
Whistleblower exposes spying on Americans
January 22, 2009, MSNBC Countdown With Keith Olberman
OLBERMANN: It has taken less than 24 hours after the Bush presidency ended for a former analyst at the National Security Agency to come forward to reveal new allegations about how this nation was spied on by its own government. Russell Tice [reveals] that under the collar of fighting terrorism, the Bush administration was also targeting specific groups of Americans for surveillance. TICE: The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications, faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. They monitored all communications. What was done was a sort of an ability to look at the meta data, the signaling data for communications, and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected. Basically, filtering out sort of like sweeping everything with that meta data, and then cutting down ultimately what you are going to look at and what is going to be collected, and in the long run have an analyst look at, you know, needles in a haystack for what might be of interest. OLBERMANN: I mention that you say specific groups were targeted. What group or groups can you tell us about? TICE: The collection ... was 24/7, and you know, 365 days a year, and it made no sense. [Some of the groups they] collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.
Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You
January 27, 2009, New York Times
Ask mothers why babies are constantly picking things up from the floor or ground and putting them in their mouths, and chances are they'll say that it's instinctive – that that's how babies explore the world. But why the mouth, when sight, hearing, touch and even scent are far better at identifying things? Accumulating evidence strongly suggests that eating dirt is good for you. In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with "dirt" spur the development of a healthy immune system. Several continuing studies suggest that worms may help to redirect an immune system that has gone awry and resulted in autoimmune disorders, allergies and asthma. These studies, along with epidemiological observations, seem to explain why immune system disorders like multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and allergies have risen significantly in the United States and other developed countries. "What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment," Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, wrote in her new book, Why Dirt Is Good. "Not only does this allow for 'practice' of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored."
Note: For many key reports on new health research from reliable sources, click here.
Key Articles From Years Past
Join my gang
June, 2008 issue Ode magazine
With a population nearing 3 million, Guayaquil [Ecuador] is home to more than 200 gangs and 60,000 gang youth. But in recent months, this neighbourhood has become a Barrio de Paz ("peace town") under the guidance of Ser Paz, an organization committed to fostering peace in Guayaquil's violent neighbourhoods. Support comes from Nelsa Curbelo, a 66-year-old woman who looks more like a friendly grandmother passing time with neighbourhood children than a pioneer of social reform working in the most dangerous city in Ecuador. Curbelo has been playing against type for years. When she founded Ser Paz ("being peace") in 1999, she began her work by not working at all. Instead of establishing programs, she spent almost two years listening to the young people she'd later serve: walking the neighbourhoods of Guayaquil alone, sometimes after dark, talking with those who'd talk to her, learning about gangs and impressing the youth with her fearless willingness to be present on their streets. It's these qualities of presence and acceptance that distinguish Curbelo from others who work with gangs. Instead of dismissing gang culture, she validates the positive elements it inspires: teamwork, commitment, a sense of belonging and quick communication. She refuses to label gang members "delinquents," and suggests the instinct to come together in "teams" is a positive response by area youth to "a very unfair and unequal society."
It's a Small, Small World
August 6, 2007, ABC News
Willard Wigan's artwork is so tiny a microscope is needed to view it. The Birmingham, England, native is known as the creator of the world's smallest sculptures. He makes small worlds of their own that are almost invisible to the naked eye -- such as a $300,000 sculpture that sits on a pinhead. Under a microscope, you see an elephant carved from a fragment of a single grain of sand. "The tail is made from a floating particle of dust out of the air that you see floating," Wigan explained. How does he do it? Wigan uses tiny, homemade tools to carve his sculptures out of grains of rice or sugar, and paints them with a hair plucked from a housefly's back. He said he's able to slow his heart down to work between the beats to avoid hand tremors. "Underneath a microscope, those tremors become an earthquake," he said. According to Wigan, his obsession with tiny objects began when he was a lonely 5-year-old. "I have learning difficulties. You know, I can't read or write. But I had to find a way of expressing myself. The teachers at school made me feel small, so they made me feel like nothing. So I had to show them something." He started by making houses for ants as a child, and now he creates entire, tiny worlds. Wigan has something to prove, which makes the misery worthwhile. "I'm trying to prove to the world that nothing doesn't exist. It doesn't matter how big a building is, it's made up of molecules. We ignore the world that we can't see."
Note: Don't miss the amazing three-minute video clip of this work available here.
Last survivor of 'Christmas truce' tells of his sorrow
December 19, 2004, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The words drifted across the frozen battlefield: 'Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht'. To the ears of the British troops peering over their trench, the lyrics may have been unfamiliar but the haunting tune was unmistakable. After the last note a lone German infantryman appeared holding a small tree glowing with light. 'Merry Christmas. We not shoot, you not shoot.' It was just after dawn on a bitingly cold Christmas Day in 1914, ... and one of the most extraordinary incidents of the Great War was about to unfold. Weary men climbed hesitantly at first out of trenches and stumbled into no man's land. They shook hands, sang carols, lit each other's cigarettes, swapped tunic buttons and addresses and, most famously, played football. The unauthorised Christmas truce spread across much of the 500-mile Western Front where more than a million men were encamped. There is only one man in the world still alive who spent 25 December 1914 serving in a conflict that left 31 million people dead, wounded or missing. Alfred Anderson was 18 at the time. 'I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,' he said. 'Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted "Merry Christmas", even though nobody felt merry.' In some parts of the front, the ceasefire lasted several weeks. 'I'll give Christmas Day 1914 a brief thought, as I do every year. And I'll think about all my friends who never made it home. But it's too sad to think too much about it. Far too sad,' he said, his head bowed and his eyes filled with tears.
Note: For more on this amazing moment in history, including a powerfully moving song, click here.
Tapes Depict Proposal to Thwart Bomb Used in Trade Center Blast
October 28, 1993, New York Times
Law-enforcement officials were told that terrorists were building a bomb that was eventually used to blow up the World Trade Center, and they planned to thwart the plotters by secretly substituting harmless powder for the explosives, an informer said after the blast. The informer was to have helped the plotters build the bomb and supply the fake powder, but the plan was called off by an F.B.I. supervisor who had other ideas about how the informer, Emad A. Salem, should be used, the informer said. The account, which is given in the transcript of hundreds of hours of tape recordings Mr. Salem secretly made of his talks with law-enforcement agents, portrays the authorities as in a far better position than previously known to foil the Feb. 26 bombing of New York City's tallest towers. Mr. Salem, a 43-year-old former Egyptian army officer ... is the crucial witness [in the] case. William M. Kunstler, [his] defense lawyer, accused the Government this week of improper delay in handing over all the material. The transcripts he had seen, he said, "were filled with all sorts of Government misconduct." The transcripts do not make clear the extent to which Federal authorities knew that there was a plan to bomb the World Trade Center, merely that they knew that a bombing of some sort was being discussed. But Mr. Salem's evident anguish at not being able to thwart the trade center blast is a recurrent theme in the transcripts.
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Wall Street Bonuses, Obama Executive Orders Reverse Bush Policies, Stun Gun Fatalities Spike