"Financial Overhaul" Weak, Ft. Detrick Pathogens Untracked, NSA Email Surveillance Unchecked
Revealing News Articles
June 22, 2009
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the weakness of Pres. Obama's "overhaul" of the financial system, an inventory revealing that deadly pathogens at the US biowarfare-research facility at Ft. Detrick, MD are frighteningly untracked, new Congressional investigations into the still-unchecked surveillance of domestic email communications by the National Security Agency [NSA], 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.
Only a Hint of Roosevelt in Financial Overhaul
June 18, 2009, New York Times
Three quarters of a century ago, President Franklin Roosevelt earned the undying enmity of Wall Street when he used his enormous popularity to push through a series of radical regulatory reforms that completely changed the norms of the financial industry. Wall Street hated the reforms, of course, but Roosevelt didn't care. Wall Street and the financial industry had engaged in practices they shouldn't have, and had helped lead the country into the Great Depression. Those practices had to be stopped. To the president, that's all that mattered. On Wednesday, President Obama unveiled what he described as "a sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system, a transformation on a scale not seen since the reforms that followed the Great Depression." In terms of the sheer number of proposals, outlined in an 88-page document the administration released on Tuesday, that is undoubtedly true. But in terms of the scope and breadth of the Obama plan – and more important, in terms of its overall effect on Wall Street's modus operandi – it's not even close to what Roosevelt accomplished during the Great Depression. Rather, the Obama plan is little more than an attempt to stick some new regulatory fingers into a very leaky financial dam rather than rebuild the dam itself. Everywhere you look in the plan, you see the same thing: additional regulation on the margin, but nothing that amounts to a true overhaul. The plan places enormous trust in the judgment of the Federal Reserve – trust that critics say has not really been borne out by its actions during the Internet and housing bubbles. Firms will have to put up a little more capital, and deal with a little more oversight, but once the financial crisis is over, it will, in all likelihood, be back to business as usual.
Note: To watch the Inspector General of the Federal Reserve testify to Congress that she knows pracitcally nothing of trillions of dollars that are unaccounted for, click here. For many revealing reports from reliable sources on the hidden realities of the continuing taxpayer bailout of the biggest financial corporations, click here.
Inventory Uncovers 9,200 More Pathogens
June 18, 2009, Washington Post
An inventory of potentially deadly pathogens at Fort Detrick's infectious disease laboratory found more than 9,000 vials that had not been accounted for, Army officials said yesterday, raising concerns that officials wouldn't know whether dangerous toxins were missing. After four months of searching about 335 freezers and refrigerators at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, investigators found 9,220 samples that hadn't been included in a database of about 66,000 items listed as of February, said Col. Mark Kortepeter, the institute's deputy commander. The vials contained some dangerous pathogens, among them the Ebola virus, anthrax bacteria and botulinum toxin, and less lethal agents such as Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus and the bacterium that causes tularemia. Most of them, forgotten inside freezer drawers, hadn't been used in years or even decades. Officials said some serum samples from hemorrhagic fever patients dated to the Korean War. The overstock and the previous inaccuracy of the database raised the possibility that someone could have taken a sample outside the lab with no way for officials to know something was missing. The institute has been under pressure to tighten security in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks, which killed five people and sickened 17. FBI investigators say they think the anthrax strain used in the attacks originated at the Army lab, and its prime suspect, Bruce E. Ivins, researched anthrax there. Ivins committed suicide last year during an investigation into his activities.
Note: Fort Detrick is the home of the government lab which is suspected to be involved with the creation of many previously unknown lethal viruses and germs. For lots more, see the excellent work of Dr. Leonard Horowitz at this link and this one.
E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress
June 17, 2009, New York Times
The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said. Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency's ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans' e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation. Both the former analyst's account and the rising concern among some members of Congress about the N.S.A.'s recent operation are raising fresh questions about the spy agency. Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agency's handling of domestic communications. In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent. "Some actions are so flagrant that they can't be accidental," Mr. Holt said.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on the ever-increasing government and coroporate threats to privacy, click here.
Swine flu shots may go to kids first, Sebelius says
June 16, 2009, USA Today/Associated Press
Schoolchildren could be first in line for swine flu vaccine this fall – and schools are being put on notice that they might even be turned into shot clinics. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday she is urging school superintendents around the country to spend the summer preparing for that possibility, if the government goes ahead with mass vaccinations. "If you think about vaccinating kids, schools are the logical place," Sebelius told The Associated Press. No decision has been made yet on whether and how to vaccinate millions of Americans against the new flu strain that the World Health Organization last week formally dubbed a pandemic, meaning it now is circulating the globe unchecked. But the U.S. is pouring money into development of a vaccine in anticipation of giving at least some people the shots. While swine flu doesn't yet seem any more lethal than the regular flu that each winter kills 36,000 people in the U.S. alone, scientists fear it may morph into a more dangerous type. Even in its current form, the WHO says about half of the more than 160 people worldwide killed by swine flu so far were previously young and healthy. If that trend continues, "the target may be school-age children as a first priority" for vaccination, Sebelius said Tuesday. "That's being watched carefully." The last mass vaccination against a different swine flu, in the U.S. in 1976, was marred by reports of a paralyzing side effect – for a feared outbreak that never happened. The secretary said: "The worst of all worlds is to have the vaccine cause more damage than the flu potential."
Note: This article admits "swine flu doesn't yet seem any more lethal than the regular flu that each winter kills 36,000 people in the U.S. alone." Be very cautious around any vaccination campaign. Vaccines are extremely poorly regulated and known to fill the wallets of rich politicians invested in them. For lots more reliable, verifiable information on this, click here.
Lawmakers Reveal Health-Care Investments
June 13, 2009, Washington Post
Almost 30 key lawmakers helping draft landmark health-care legislation have financial holdings in the industry, totaling nearly $11 million worth of personal investments in a sector that could be dramatically reshaped by this summer's debate. The list of members who have personal investments in the corporations that will be affected by the legislation -- which President Obama has called this year's highest domestic priority -- includes Congress's most powerful leaders and a bipartisan collection of lawmakers in key committee posts. Their total health-care holdings could be worth $27 million, because congressional financial disclosure forms released yesterday require reporting of only broad ranges of holdings rather than precise values of assets. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), for instance, has at least $50,000 invested in a health-care index, and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), a senior member of the health committee, has between $254,000 and $560,000 worth of stock holdings in major health-care companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck. The family of Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee drafting that chamber's legislation, held at least $3.2 million in more than 20 health-care companies at the end of last year. "If someone is going to be substantially enriched by the consequences of the vote, particularly if it represents a meaningful amount of their net worth, then there is a problem," said Harlan Krumholz, a professor of medicine at Yale University.
Torture, the painful truth
June 15, 2009, Los Angeles Times
Perhaps we protest too much. Torture, after all, is a venerable American tradition. If not quite as homespun as apple pie or lynching, it is at least as old as our imperial aspirations. We were waterboarding captives in one of our earliest wars of occupation, the Philippine-American War, which cost as many as 1 million civilian lives. In 1902, Teddy Roosevelt himself wrote with laconic praise of "the old Filipino method." Other techniques, crude or sophisticated, have filled the war bag since. CIA interrogation manuals from the 1960s, which lay out the basic stress-position and sleep- and sensory-deprivation techniques later applied at Bagram and Guantanamo, have been public since 1997. Despite our protestations, we have little to be surprised about. Now, when President Obama vows that "the United States does not torture" and spars with the former vice president over details, he crosses his fingers behind his back and saves himself a loophole. Via "extraordinary rendition" -- a Clinton administration innovation -- our government is still free to outsource torture and claim it doesn't know. The Obama administration has been relying increasingly on foreign intelligence services to detain and interrogate our suspects for us. Despite hundreds of front-page stories, we pretend we didn't know, that it was all somehow kept secret from us. This blindness serves a function. By declaring torture anomalous, by pushing it once again to the margins of legality, we can preserve a vision of U.S. military power -- and of American empire -- that is essentially benevolent. [But] maintaining military and economic hegemony over the planet remains an inherently bloody affair. Empire is a synonym for subjugation, and hence for violence on a massive scale.
Note: For a retired Marine Corps general's understanding of the real reasons behind both torture and mass slaughter of civilian populations by the US military, click here.
'We are fighting for our lives and our dignity'
June 13, 2009, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Across the globe, as mining and oil firms race for dwindling resources, indigenous peoples are battling to defend their lands – often paying the ultimate price. It has been called the world's second "oil war", but the only similarity between Iraq and events in the jungles of northern Peru over the last few weeks has been the mismatch of force. On one side have been the police armed with automatic weapons, teargas, helicopter gunships and armoured cars. On the other are several thousand Awajun and Wambis Indians, many of them in war paint and armed with bows and arrows and spears. The Indians this week warned Latin America what could happen if companies are given free access to the Amazonian forests to exploit an estimated 6bn barrels of oil and take as much timber they like. After months of peaceful protests, the police were ordered to use force to remove a road block near Bagua Grande. In the fights that followed, at least 50 Indians and nine police officers were killed, with hundreds more wounded or arrested. The indigenous rights group Survival International described it as "Peru's Tiananmen Square". "For thousands of years, we've run the Amazon forests," said Servando Puerta, one of the protest leaders. "This is genocide. They're killing us for defending our lives, our sovereignty, human dignity." Peru is just one of many countries now in open conflict with its indigenous people over natural resources. Barely reported in the international press, there have been major protests around mines, oil, logging and mineral exploitation in Africa, Latin America, Asia and North America. Hydro electric dams, biofuel plantations as well as coal, copper, gold and bauxite mines are all at the centre of major land rights disputes.
Note: Click on the link above to read this important article in its entirety. It reports on numerous struggles around the world by indigenous people to protect their livelihoods and traditions from corporate and governmental predation.
Meet Your New Farmer: Hungry Corporate Giant
June 12, 2009, New York Times
Forget buckets of blood. Nothing says horror like one of those tubs of artificially buttered, nonorganic popcorn at the concession stand. That, at least, is one of the unappetizing lessons to draw from one of the scariest movies of the year, "Food, Inc.," an informative ... documentary about the big business of feeding or, more to the political point, force-feeding, Americans all the junk that multinational corporate money can buy. You'll shudder, shake and just possibly lose your genetically modified lunch. The director Robert Kenner jumps all over the food map, from industrial feedlots where millions of cruelly crammed cattle mill about in their own waste until slaughter, to the chains where millions of consumers gobble down industrially produced meat and an occasional serving of E. coli bacteria. The voice in the opening belongs to the ethical epicurean and locavore champion Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma. Mr. Pollan ... is a great strength of "Food, Inc.," as is one of its co-producers, Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation. [They], together with Mr. Kenner, chart how and why the villains not only outnumber the heroes in contemporary food production, but also how and why they outbluff, outmuscle and outspend their opponents by billions of often government-subsidized dollars. The movie takes a look at the animal abuse in industrial food production – including clandestine images of sick and crippled cows being prodded to join the rest of the ill-fated herd – but its main focus is on the human cost. It's a cost visible in the rounded bodies of a poor family that eats cheap if filling fast-food burgers for breakfast and in the obscured faces of farmers too frightened to go on record about Monsanto, the agricultural biotech giant.
Note: For another excellent review of this important film, click here.
On Web and iPhone, a Tool to Aid Careful Shopping
June 15, 2009, New York Times
These days, every skin lotion and dish detergent on store shelves gloats about how green it is. How do shoppers know which are good for them and good for the earth? It was a similar question that hit Dara O'Rourke, a professor of environmental and labor policy at the University of California, Berkeley, one morning when he was applying sunscreen to his young daughter's face. He realized he did not know what was in the lotion. He went to his office and quickly discovered that it contained a carcinogen activated by sunlight. It also contained an endocrine disruptor and two skin irritants. He also discovered that her soap included a kind of dioxane, a carcinogen, and then found that one of her brand-name toys was made with lead. And in looking for the answer, he hatched the idea for a company that used his esoteric research on supply chain management. "All I do is study this, and I know nothing about the products I'm bringing into our house and putting in, on and around our family," Mr. O'Rourke said. But when he wanted to find that information, he could. Most consumers would struggle to do so. Hence GoodGuide, a Web site and iPhone application that lets consumers dig past the package's marketing spiel by entering a product's name and discovering its health, environmental and social impacts. GoodGuide's office, in San Francisco, has 12 full-time and 12 part-time employees, half scientists and half engineers. They have scored 75,000 products with data from nearly 200 sources, including government databases, studies by nonprofits and academics, and the research by scientists on the GoodGuide staff.
Note: Check out this excellent means of finding what is in the products you use.
Mondragón Worker-Operatives Decide How to Ride Out a Downturn
Summer, 2009 issue, Yes! Magazine
The Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC), the largest consortium of worker-owned companies, has developed a different way of doing business–a way that puts workers, not shareholders, first. Here's how it played out when one of the Mondragón cooperatives fell on hard times. The worker/owners and the managers met to review their options. After three days of meetings, the worker/owners agreed that 20 percent of the workforce would leave their jobs for a year, during which they would continue to receive 80 percent of their pay and, if they wished, free training for other work. This group would be chosen by lottery, and if the company was still in trouble a year later, the first group would return to work and a second would take a year off. The result? The solution worked and the company thrives to this day. The central importance of workers permeates every aspect of the Mondragón Cooperatives. Even though the MCC businesses are affected by the global financial crisis, there is no unemployment within the MCC businesses. People are moved around to other jobs, or hours are cut without cutting pay. The wages for unworked hours are to be repaid through extra hours worked later in the year. Contrary to what some advocates of top-down management say, this worker-centered focus hasn't been an obstacle to growth. Founded in 1956 by Father Don Jose Arizmendi, a Basque Catholic priest, the Mondragón cooperatives today comprise more than 100 cooperatives, as well as more than 100 subsidiaries that MCC has purchased and hopes to convert. Altogether, MCC companies employ more than 100,000 worker/owners and in 2007 generated revenues of more than $24 billion.
Special note: For those who support a single-payer national health care system, you can sign U.S. Senator Sanders petition on his Senate website at this link.
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