Flu Scare Boosts Pharma Stocks, Media Flu Coverage Overblown, Indefinite Detention in U.S.
Revealing News Articles
May 4, 2009
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the swine flu scare's effect on the stock values of the pharmaceutical companies which make drugs claimed to be protective, the media spreading fear on the flu, the Obama administration's planned move to establish indefinite detention without trial on U.S. soil, 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. The most important 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.
P.S. To see the way the government and media attempted to spread fear about a swine flu virus in 1976, watch two short commercials broadcast on TV at the time, available here. Only one person died from the actual flu in that 1976 "epidemic," yet more than 30 died as a direct result of the flu vaccine. See the third article below for more on this. To explore the serious risks of vaccines reported in the media, click here. And for a comprehensive, well researched article on the deeper politics behind the swine flu, click here.
Companies look to Swine Flu to drive profits
April 29, 2009, ABC News
Pharmaceutical stocks are skyrocketing on fears that a swine flu outbreak could go global. Manufacturers of antiviral drugs [and] companies gearing up to produce a vaccine ... are turning profits in an otherwise skittish and down market. Companies gearing up for swine flu, including Roche, Gilead Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturers of the leading antiviral flu medications, are best positioned to see a boost in profits if the disease escalates to epidemic proportions, analysts said. Tamiflu ... was developed by Gilead and manufactured by Roche. Both companies' share prices spiked soon after the U.S. government allowed for its stockpiles of the drug to be made publicly available. Gilead stock surged to $47.53 at the end of the day Monday, up 3.78 percent. Roche rose to $31.72, up 4.34 percent. The other major flu drug currently on the market is Relenza, also stockpiled and released by the government, and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. Shares of Glaxo closed surged Monday to $31.56, up 7.57 percent. Both Tamiflu and Relenza are stockpiled by governments and in the case of an outbreak the companies are often required to sell the drugs directly to the government at a discount. "Government stockpiling is viewed as boon for profits. Though the government gets a discount and the margins sold to the government are lower than those if they sold to Walgreens, from a stock perspective it's an unexpected positive surprise," he said.
Note: Pharmaceutical companies make big bucks from scares like the avian flu and swine flu. Yet are the recommended drugs really effective? Many studies say they are not. For analysis of profiteering by the pharmaceutical industry during a previous flu scare, click here. See this link for lots more.
Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild
April 30, 2009, Los Angeles Times
As the World Health Organization raised its infectious disease alert level Wednesday and health officials confirmed the first death linked to swine flu inside U.S. borders, scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza -- at least in its current form -- isn't shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics. In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which emerged in San Diego and southern Mexico late last month, may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare. "Let's not lose track of the fact that the normal seasonal influenza is a huge public health problem that kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. alone and hundreds of thousands around the world," said Dr. Christopher Olsen, a molecular virologist who studies swine flu at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in Madison. Flu viruses are known to be notoriously unpredictable, and this strain could mutate at any point -- becoming either more benign or dangerously severe. But mounting preliminary evidence from genetics labs, epidemiology models and simple mathematics suggests that the worst-case scenarios are likely to be avoided in the current outbreak. "This virus doesn't have anywhere near the capacity to kill like the 1918 virus," which claimed an estimated 50 million victims worldwide, said Richard Webby, a leading influenza virologist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Note: For lots more on bird and swine flu scares, click here.
How to Deal with Swine Flu: Heeding the Mistakes of 1976
April 27, 2009, Time Magazine
In February 1976, an outbreak of swine flu struck Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey, killing a 19-year-old private and infecting hundreds of soldiers. Concerned that the U.S. was on the verge of a devastating epidemic, President Gerald Ford ordered a nationwide vaccination program at a cost of $135 million (some $500 million in today's money). Within weeks, reports surfaced of people developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, a paralyzing nerve disease that can be caused by the vaccine. By April, more than 30 people had died of the condition. Facing protests, federal officials abruptly canceled the program on Dec. 16. The epidemic failed to materialize. Medical historians and epidemiologists say ... the decisions made in the wake of the '76 outbreak – and the public's response to them – provide a cautionary tale for public health officials, who may soon have to consider whether to institute draconian measures to combat the disease. "I think 1976 provides an example of how not to handle a flu outbreak," says Hugh Pennington, an emeritus professor of virology at Britain's University of Aberdeen. Despite modern advances in microbiology, today's health officials still make decisions in a "cloud of uncertainty," Pennington says. "At the moment, our understanding of the current outbreak is similarly limited. For example, we don't yet understand why people are dying in Mexico but not elsewhere." Howard Markel, director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and a historical consultant to the CDC on flu pandemics, says the most vexing decision facing health officials is when to institute mass vaccination programs.
Note: To watch two short commercials made in 1976 showing clear scare tactics, click here. Only one person died from the actual flu in this 1976 "epidemic," yet more than 30 died of the flu vaccine. To explore the serious risks of vaccines reported in the media, click here. For lots more on bird and swine flu scares, click here.
Some see media flu coverage as overblown
May 3, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle
After a few days of breathless H1N1 flu coverage - some of it on his own network - CNN commentator Jack Cafferty noted that 13,000 people have died from the "regular ol' flu" this year in the United States, compared with just one confirmed H1N1 flu death. Cafferty then asked his audience to respond to his online poll asking "if swine flu coverage was overblown." He waited a moment, then said, "Hint: Yes." For a week, the flu story has whet cable TV's bloodlust with what the 24-hour cable news vacuum craves: mystery, death and great visuals that inspire fear. "Frankly, I've been a little horrified by how sensationalist and scare-mongering it is," said Vivian Schiller, chief executive officer of National Public Radio. No detail about the flu - often delivered without context - has been too tiny to go unreported, which means that cable TV viewers are getting coverage that is moment-to-moment but often not terribly useful. Conservative talk radio hosts have used fear about the flu to segue to anti-immigrant remarks and calls to close the U.S.-Mexico border.Just when the coverage appeared to be calming a bit Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden helped rekindle fears by saying on the "Today'" show that he "would tell members of my family - and I have - I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now." Health stories always attract huge audiences, said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. But viewers shouldn't expect as much breathless coverage when Congress begins debating an overhaul of the U.S. health care system over the next few months.
Note: For an excellent article showing how media fear-mongering of this and past flu emergencies have brought unprecedented profits to the pharmaceutical companies, click here.
Hints That Detainees May Be Held on U.S. Soil
May 1, 2009, New York Times
As many as 100 detainees at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could end up held without trial on American soil, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested Thursday, a situation that he acknowledged would create widespread if not unanimous opposition in Congress. The estimate was the most specific yet from the Obama administration about how many of the 241 prisoners at Guantanamo could not be safely released, sent to other countries or appropriately tried in American courts. Mr. Gates said discussions had started this week with the Justice Department about determining how many of the Guantanamo detainees could not be sent to other countries or tried in courts. He did not say which detainees might be in that group, but independent experts have said it probably would include terrorism suspects whom the military has not yet brought charges against, among them detainees from Yemen and the Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah, who was subjected to brutal interrogation in secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency. He did not say ... under what law they would be held. The Obama administration is debating how to establish a legal basis for incarcerating detainees deemed too dangerous to be released but not appropriate to be tried because of potential problems posed by their harsh interrogations, the evidence against them or other issues. Mr. Gates said he had asked for $50 million in supplemental financing in case a facility needed to be built quickly for the detainees.
Note: Ironically, it would seem from these plans revealed by Gates that closing the prison in Guantanamo is going to be used as the pretext to establish indefinite detention, without the right of habeas corpus, on American soil. But the reason for the widespread demand to close the prison is precisely to end such detentions! Do they think no one will notice? For many revealing reports from reliable sources on government attempts to erode civil liberties, click here.
Jet Flyover Frightens New Yorkers
April 28, 2009, New York Times
It was supposed to be a photo opportunity, a showcase of Air Force One alongside the sweep of New York City skyline. But as the low-flying Boeing 747 speeded in the shadows of skyscrapers, trailed by two fighter jets, the sight instead awakened barely dormant fears of a terrorist attack, causing a momentary panic that sent workers pouring out of buildings on both sides of the Hudson River. "I thought there was some kind of an attack," said Paul Nadler, who sprinted down more than 20 flights of stairs after watching the plane from his office in Jersey City shortly after 10 a.m. "We ran like hell." Witnesses described the engine roar as the planes swooped by office towers close enough to rattle the windows and prompt evacuations at scores of buildings. Some sobbed as they made their way to the street. "As soon as someone saw how close it got to the buildings, people literally ran out," said Carlina Rivera, 25, who works at an educational services company on the 22nd floor of 1 Liberty Plaza, adjacent to the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack. "Probably about 80 percent of my office left within two minutes of seeing how close it got to our building." Neither the White House nor the F.A.A. explained why the mission was deemed a secret, even though officials conceded the primary purpose was picture taking. Officials at the Department of Transportation and at the Pentagon each denied responsibility for the secrecy.
Note: The official lack of explanation for the government secrecy prior to this terrifying overflight of traumatized Manhattan certainly raises further questions. For lots more on the hidden realities behind the fake "war on terror", click here.
How '07 ABC Interview Tilted a Torture Debate
April 28, 2009, New York Times
In late 2007, there was the first crack of daylight into the government's use of waterboarding during interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees. On Dec. 10, John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer who had participated in the capture of the suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002, appeared on ABC News to say that while he considered waterboarding a form of torture, the technique worked and yielded results very quickly. Mr. Zubaydah started to cooperate after being waterboarded for "probably 30, 35 seconds," Mr. Kiriakou told the ABC reporter Brian Ross. "From that day on he answered every question." His claims – unverified at the time, but repeated by dozens of broadcasts, blogs and newspapers – have been sharply contradicted by a newly declassified Justice Department memo that said waterboarding had been used on Mr. Zubaydah "at least 83 times." Some critics say that the now-discredited information shared by Mr. Kiriakou and other sources heightened the public perception of waterboarding as an effective interrogation technique. "I think it was sanitized by the way it was described" in press accounts, said John Sifton, a former lawyer for Human Rights Watch. On "World News," ABC included only a caveat that Mr. Kiriakou himself "never carried out any of the waterboarding." Still, he told ABC that the actions had "disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks." A video of the interview was no longer on ABC's website.
The State-Secrets Privilege, Tamed
April 30, 2009, New York Times
Of the many ways that the Bush administration sought to evade accountability for its violations of the law and the Constitution under the cover of battling terrorism, one of the most appalling was its attempt to use inflated claims of state secrecy to slam shut the doors of the nation's courthouses. Sadly, the Obama administration also embraced this tactic, even though President Obama criticized the cult of secrecy while running for office, leaving it to the courts to stand up for transparency and accountability. And that is just what a panel of the federal appeals court in San Francisco did on Tuesday by firmly rejecting the claim that the government can prevent a judge from even hearing those who say they were hurt by federal policies and actions. The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reinstated a civil lawsuit brought against a government contractor by five victims of the extraordinary rendition program, under which foreigners were kidnapped and flown to other countries for interrogation and torture. The panel said the government can ask a judge to decide on a case-by-case basis whether disclosing particular evidence would jeopardize national security. But it recognized the affront to civil liberties and the constitutional separation of powers in the Justice Department's argument that the executive branch is entitled to have lawsuits shut down whenever an official makes a blanket claim of national security.
Note: For lots more on government secrecy from reliable sources, click here.
Brain Wave of The Future
April 23, 2009, Washington Post
Competing mind-over-matter toys from Mattel and Uncle Milton Industries are coming this fall to a store near you. They are the first "brain-computer interfaces" to enter the consumer mainstream. NeuroSky is in the forefront of turning brain-computer interfaces into cheap, ubiquitous consumer items. It's selling brain-reading hardware and software headsets to all comers -- including Christmas competitors like Mattel's $80 Mindflex and Uncle Milton's $130 Force Trainer, both of which involve levitating a ping-pong-like ball. NeuroSky has its sights set on providing brain-wave sensors for the automotive, health-care and education industries. The prospect for mind controlling matter dates to 1875, when Richard Caton discovered that you could peer into the workings of the brain by detecting its electrical impulses. In 1929 came the first electroencephalograph -- the EEG machine. But hospital EEG machines are expensive, enormous and not good at fine control; plus you have to smear conductive goop on your head -- not a great selling point. Thus, NeuroSky's adaptation is no small thing. They get a single dry sensor to read your bare forehead, no goop, no holes drilled through the skull. They get the device to focus on the correct signals from that extremely noisy brain area, filtering out everything else -- that's their big trick. "It's like being at a crowded party, and picking out one quiet conversation," says Liu. Then they make it small, light and cheap, and deliver it to market.
Note: Don't miss the astonishing video demonstration on the Post website. And remember that the military is generally at least 10 years ahead of industry in any new technologies like this.
Paying a Price for Loving Red Meat
April 28, 2009, New York Times
There was a time when red meat was a luxury for ordinary Americans, or was at least something special: cooking a roast for Sunday dinner, ordering a steak at a restaurant. Not anymore. Meat consumption has more than doubled in the United States in the last 50 years. Now a new study of more than 500,000 Americans has provided the best evidence yet that our affinity for red meat has exacted a hefty price on our health and limited our longevity. The study found that, other things being equal, the men and women who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to die sooner, especially from one of our two leading killers, heart disease and cancer, than people who consumed much smaller amounts of these foods. The number of excess deaths that could be attributed to high meat consumption is quite large given the size of the American population. Extrapolated to all Americans in the age group studied, the new findings suggest that over the course of a decade, the deaths of one million men and perhaps half a million women could be prevented just by eating less red and processed meats, according to estimates prepared by Dr. Barry Popkin, who wrote an editorial accompanying the report. In place of red meat, nonvegetarians might consider poultry and fish. In the study, the largest consumers of "white" meat from poultry and fish had a slight survival advantage. Likewise, those who ate the most fruits and vegetables also tended to live longer.
Note: For many excellent reports on health issues, click here.
Birds can 'dance' to music, researchers say
May 1, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
After studying a cockatoo that grooves to the Backstreet Boys and about 1,000 YouTube videos, scientists say they've documented for the first time that some animals "dance" to a musical beat. The results support a theory for why the human brain is wired for dancing. In lab studies of two parrots and close review of the YouTube videos, scientists looked for signs that animals were actually feeling the beat of music they heard. The verdict: Some parrots did, and maybe an occasional elephant. But researchers found no evidence of that for dogs and cats, despite long exposure to people and music, nor for chimps, our closest living relatives. Why? The truly boppin' animals shared with people some ability to mimic sounds they hear, the researchers say. The brain circuitry for that ability lets people learn to talk, and evidently also to dance or tap their toes to music, suggests Aniruddh Patel of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego. He proposed the music connection in 2006. He also led a study of Snowball that was published online Thursday by the journal Current Biology. A separate YouTube study, also published Thursday by the journal, was led by Adena Schachner, a graduate student in psychology at Harvard University. In sum, the new research "definitely gives us a bit of insight into why and how humans became able to dance," Schachner said. A video of Snowball bobbing his head and kicking like a little Rockette to music has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube since it was posted in 2007. Snowball's movements followed the beat of his favorite Backstreet Boys song ... even when researchers sped up the tune and slowed it down.
Note: To watch videos of Snowball dancing to the Backstreet Boys and Huey Lewis, click here.
Key Articles From Years Past
Donald Rumsfeld makes $5m killing on bird flu drug
March 12, 2006, The Independent (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The US Defence Secretary has made more than $5m (£2.9m) in capital gains from selling shares in the biotechnology firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu, the drug being bought in massive amounts by Governments to treat a possible human pandemic of the disease. More than 60 countries have so far ordered large stocks of the antiviral medication - the only oral medicine believed to be effective against the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease - to try to protect their people. The United Nations estimates that a pandemic could kill 150 million people worldwide. The drug was developed by a Californian biotech company, Gilead Sciences. Mr Rumsfeld was on the board of Gilead from 1988 to 2001, and was its chairman from 1997. He then left to join the Bush administration, but retained a huge shareholding. The 2005 report showed that, in all, he owned shares worth up to $95.9m, from which he got an income of up to $13m. The firm made a loss in 2003, the year before concern about bird flu started. Then revenues from Tamiflu almost quadrupled, to $44.6m, helping put the company well into the black. Sales almost quadrupled again, to $161.6m last year.
Special note: If you want to learn about the largest government contractor you've never heard of, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), don't miss the PBS special on this available here. How is it that even though "several of SAIC's biggest projects have turned out to be colossal failures," the company always manages to get paid? And to learn about the inspiring World March for Peace and Nonviolence, click here.
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