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NSA Internet Spying, Mandatory Health Coverage, Washington Post Peddling Influence
Revealing News Articles
July 6, 2009

Dear friends,

Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the Washington Post's peddling private meetings of Obama administration officials, lobbyists and newpaper staff, legislation promoted by Pres. Obama calling for steep fines for people who refuse government-mandated health coverage, plans for the NSA to spy on all internet traffic with government websites, 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.

With best wishes,
Tod Fletcher and Fred Burks for PEERS and WantToKnow.info


Pay-for-Chat Plan Falls Flat at Washington Post
July 3, 2009, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/03/business/media/03post.html

For generations, The Washington Post has been a scrupulous watchdog over the capital's cozy world of power networking. For a short time, it almost became the network's host. The Post decided Thursday to cancel plans to charge lobbyists and trade groups $25,000 or more to sponsor private, off-the-record dinner parties at the home of its publisher, Katharine Weymouth, events that would have brought together lobbyists, business leaders, Post journalists and officials from the Obama administration and Congress. The revelation of the parties early Thursday morning by Politico.com appalled members of The Post newsroom and put the paper squarely in the cross hairs of journalism ethicists. In response, Ms. Weymouth canceled the first dinner, scheduled for July 21. A flier describing the events promised corporate sponsors conversation ("Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No.") at the Washington home of Ms. Weymouth. Sponsors were asked to pay $25,000 to attend an event, or underwrite a series of 11 for $250,000. The July 21 event, focusing on health care reform, "guaranteed" a "collegial evening" with health industry advocates, Post journalists covering the field and administration officials involved with its policies. The Politico article prompted an immediate newsroom reaction. The Post's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, wrote on his blog that "this comes pretty close to a public relations disaster." With the print business in tough straits, many news organizations have turned to conferences and other events to raise revenue and their profiles. But the planned Post events seem particularly audacious, not only acting essentially as a paid conduit between lobbyists and government officials, but also providing sponsors the opportunity to make their case to Post journalists.

Note: This article shows the blatant manipulations going on behind the scenes in our major media. To learn just how compromised the media have been for a long time, click here to read about former Post owner Katharine Graham's connections with the CIA. And to understand how major news is suppressed, click here.


Senate Bill Would Fine People More Than $1,000 for Refusing Health Care Coverage
July 2, 2009, Fox News/Associated Press
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/07/02/senate-democrats-trim-cost-health-care/

Americans who refuse to buy affordable medical coverage could be hit with fines of more than $1,000 under a health care overhaul bill unveiled Thursday by key Senate Democrats looking to fulfill President Barack Obama's top domestic priority. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the fines will raise around $36 billion over 10 years. Senate aides said the penalties would be modeled on the approach taken by Massachusetts, which now imposes a fine of about $1,000 a year on individuals who refuse to get coverage. Under the federal legislation, families would pay higher penalties than individuals. In a revamped health care system envisioned by lawmakers, people would be required to carry health insurance just like motorists must get auto coverage now. The government would provide subsidies for the poor and many middle-class families, but those who still refuse to sign up would face penalties. Called "shared responsibility payments," the fines would be set at least half the cost of basic medical coverage, according to the legislation. The goal is to nudge people to sign up for coverage when they are healthy, not wait until they get sick. The legislation would exempt certain hardship cases from fines. The fines would be collected through the income tax system. Obama wants a bill this year that would provide coverage to the nearly 50 million Americans who lack it and reduce medical costs. In a statement, Obama welcomed the legislation, saying it "reflects many of the principles I've laid out." The government's costs would be covered by a combination of higher taxes and cuts in projected Medicare and Medicaid spending.

Note: How can Congress even consider forcing people to buy insurance with threat of a major fine? What happened to the country of freedom and liberty? And is the people or the HMOs who benefit here?


Cybersecurity Plan to Involve NSA, Telecoms
July 3, 2009, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/02/AR2009070202771.html

The Obama administration will proceed with a Bush-era plan to use National Security Agency assistance in screening government computer traffic on private-sector networks, with AT&T as the likely test site, according to three current and former government officials. President Obama said in May that government efforts to protect computer systems from attack would not involve "monitoring private-sector networks or Internet traffic," and Department of Homeland Security officials say the new program will scrutinize only data going to or from government systems. But the program has provoked debate within DHS, the officials said, because of uncertainty about whether private data can be shielded from unauthorized scrutiny, how much of a role NSA should play and whether the agency's involvement in warrantless wiretapping during George W. Bush's presidency would draw controversy. Each time a private citizen visited a "dot-gov" Web site or sent an e-mail to a civilian government employee, that action would be screened for potential harm to the network. Under a classified pilot program approved during the Bush administration, NSA data and hardware would be used to protect the networks of some civilian government agencies. Part of an initiative known as Einstein 3, the plan called for telecommunications companies to route the Internet traffic of civilian agencies through a monitoring box that would search for and block computer codes designed to penetrate or otherwise compromise networks. AT&T, the world's largest telecommunications firm, was the Bush administration's choice to participate in the test. AT&T officials declined to comment. The prospect of NSA involvement in cybersecurity ... fuels concerns about unwarranted government snooping into private communication."

Note: For lots more on government and corporate threats to privacy, click here and here.


To Critics, New Policy on Terror Looks Old
July 2, 2009, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/02/us/02gitmo.html

Civil libertarians recently accused President Obama of acting like former President George W. Bush, citing reports about Mr. Obama's plans to detain terrorism suspects without trials on domestic soil after he closes the Guantanamo prison. It was only the latest instance in which critics have argued that Mr. Obama has failed to live up to his campaign pledge "to restore our Constitution and the rule of law" and raised a pointed question: Has he, on issues related to fighting terrorism, turned out to be little different from his predecessor? Mr. Obama's critics say that ... the core problem with Mr. Bush's approach ... was that it trammeled individual rights. And they say Mr. Obama's policies have not changed that. "President Obama may mouth very different rhetoric," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "He may have a more complicated process with members of Congress. But in the end, there is no substantive break from the policies of the Bush administration." Mr. Obama has also drawn fire from human rights advocates for fighting to prevent detainees in Afghanistan from having habeas corpus rights. Mr. Obama has also continued other Bush-era policies ... like the C.I.A.'s "extraordinary rendition" program ... and the invocation of the "state secrets" privilege to shut down some lawsuits. Jack Balkin, a Yale Law School professor, said Mr. Obama's ratification of the basic outlines of the surveillance and detention policies he inherited would reverberate for generations. By bestowing bipartisan acceptance on them, Mr. Balkin said, Mr. Obama is consolidating them as entrenched features of government. "What we are watching," Mr. Balkin said, "is a liberal, centrist, Democratic version of the construction of these same governing practices."

Note: For revealing media articles from reliable sources on the hidden realities of never-ending "war on terror", click here.


Israelis intercept Gaza aid ship
June 30, 2009, BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8127145.stm

Israeli forces have boarded a ship trying to carry aid and pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip in defiance of Israel's blockade of the territory. The 20 passengers include former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel Prize winner Mairead Maguire. Ms McKinney described it as "an outrageous violation of international law", as the boat was on a humanitarian mission and was not in Israeli waters. The US-based Free Gaza Movement has breached the blockade five times since August 2008. Two other attempts by the activist group were stopped by Israeli warships during Israel's three-week military offensive in Gaza in December and January. The mission is the latest by the Free Gaza Movement, which has renamed the ferry Spirit of Humanity. "This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip," said Ms McKinney in a statement. "President [Barack] Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey." On Monday, a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross described the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza as people "trapped in despair", unable to rebuild their lives after Israel's offensive. Donors have pledged $4.5 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Gaza following the 22-day offensive which left more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties and 200 schools damaged or destroyed, as well as 39 mosques and two churches.

Note: A similar boat was rammed by the Israeli military about six months ago. To watch a 3-minute CNN interview on this, click here.


Purity of Federal 'Organic' Label Is Questioned
July 3, 2009, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/02/AR2009070203365.html

Three years ago, U.S. Department of Agriculture employees determined that synthetic additives in organic baby formula violated federal standards and should be banned from a product carrying the federal organic label. Today the same additives, purported to boost brainpower and vision, can be found in 90 percent of organic baby formula. The government's turnaround, from prohibition to permission, came after a USDA program manager was lobbied by the formula makers and overruled her staff. That decision and others by a handful of USDA employees, along with an advisory board's approval of a growing list of non-organic ingredients, have helped numerous companies win a coveted green-and-white "USDA Organic" seal on an array of products. Grated organic cheese, for example, contains wood starch to prevent clumping. Organic beer can be made from non-organic hops. Relaxation of the federal standards, and an explosion of consumer demand, have helped push the organics market into a $23 billion-a-year business, the fastest growing segment of the food industry. Half of the country's adults say they buy organic food often or sometimes, according to a survey last year by the Harvard School of Public Health. But the USDA program's shortcomings mean that consumers, who at times must pay twice as much for organic products, are not always getting what they expect: foods without pesticides and other chemicals, produced in a way that is gentle to the environment. "It will unravel everything we've done if the standards can no longer be trusted," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who sponsored the federal organics legislation. "If we don't protect the brand, the organic label, the program is finished. It could disappear overnight."

Note: For many revealing reports from major media sources on government corruption, click here.


Citi raises card rates on millions
June 30, 2009, Financial Times
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e1d0c610-65c7-11de-8e34-00144feabdc0.html

Citigroup has sharply increased interest rates on up to 15 [million] US credit card accounts just months before curbs on such rises come into effect, in a move that could fuel political anger at the treatment of consumers by bailed-out banks. People close to the situation said that Citi, which is about to cede a 34 per cent stake to the US government as part of its latest rescue, had upped rates on between 13 [million] and 15 [million] credit cards it co-brands with retailers such as Sears. Citi's rate increases emerged on the day the government proposed legislation to create a new regulator with sweeping powers on consumer protection and a week after the bank was attacked by some politicians for raising employees' salaries. Holders of co-branded cards who failed to pay their balance in full at the end of the month saw their rates rise by an average 24 per cent – or nearly 3 percentage points – between January and April, according to a Credit Suisse analysis of data from the consultancy Lightspeed Research. Citi's move came as the economic downturn caused record defaults among US card users and prompted many issuers to raise rates, both to cushion their losses and pre-empt the new restrictions set to come into effect in February. However, Citi's increases have been larger than those of its main rivals, according to Lightspeed, which tracks about 12,000 US credit card accounts. Carolyn Maloney, Democratic representative for New York, the author of the new rules that will sharply constrain lenders' ability to raise rates for risky borrowers, criticised Citi's move. "It's hard to tell if rate hikes on existing balances being put in place now are the result of prior bad business decisions or getting in under the wire of the new law," Ms Maloney told the Financial Times.

Note: Evidently one of the key effects of the forced multi-billion-dollar bailout of Citibank by US taxpayers has been to enable the bank to continue to gouge the public with exorbitant interest rates. This is called "saving the financial sytem." For lots more on the realities of the Wall Street bailout, click here.


Life-threatening disease is the price we pay for cheap meat
May 1, 2009, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-lifethreatening-disease...

A swelling number of scientists believe swine flu has not happened by accident. No: they argue that [it] is the direct result of our demand for cheap meat. So is the way we produce our food really making us sick as a pig? The scientific evidence increasingly suggests that we have unwittingly invented an artificial way to accelerate the evolution of these deadly viruses – and pump them out across the world. They are called factory farms. They manufacture low-cost flesh, with a side-dish of viruses to go. In most swine farms today, 6,000 pigs are crammed snout-to-snout in tiny cages where they can barely move, and are fed for life on an artificial pulp, while living on top of cess-pools of their own stale faeces. The virus ... has a pool of thousands [of pigs], constantly infecting and reinfecting each other. The virus can combine and recombine again and again. The ammonium from the waste they live above burns the pigs' respiratory tracts, making it easier yet for viruses to enter them. Better still, the pigs' immune systems are in free-fall. They are stressed, depressed, and permanently in panic, making them far easier to infect. There is no fresh air or sunlight to bolster their natural powers of resistance. They live in air thick with viral loads, and they are exposed every time they breathe in. As Dr Michael Greger, director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States, explains: "Put all this together, and you have a perfect storm environment for these super-strains. If you wanted to create global pandemics, you'd build as many of these factory farms as possible."

Note: For many important reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.


Osteogenesis imperfecta: Motivational speaker Sean Stephenson uses his disorder to inspire others
May 5, 2009, Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-sean-stephenson-05-may05,0,976278.story

Born with a disorder that would leave him 3 feet tall and so brittle that coughing could fracture a rib, Sean Stephenson could not walk as a child. He was racked with pain. People stared at him all the time. Except on Halloween. On Halloween, everyone looked different. His distinct physical appearance, the consequence of osteogenesis imperfecta, helped him blend in, and he loved that. But on Halloween morning 1988, he broke his leg after catching it on a door frame. His favorite day became an agonizing one. He was hysterical until his mother asked him the question that would change his life: "Is this going to be a gift or a burden?" Two decades later, the man who at birth was supposed to survive only 24 hours is doing his best to convert what would seem to be an insurmountable challenge into a gift -- to himself and others. Stephenson, who turns 30 on Tuesday, is a psychotherapist and inspirational speaker. His self-help book, Get Off Your 'But' was [just published], and on April 25 he finished filming a TV documentary pilot for A&E. A college graduate pursuing a PhD in clinical hypnosis, he's toying with the idea of running for Congress, after he opens orphanages for kids with disabilities and a summer camp aimed at eliminating "self-sabotage" in children. "I embrace my life," he said one morning from his 17th-floor office in the Oakbrook Terrace Tower. "I've lived the life of a rock star." He ... stresses that "connecting," which he defines as "an exchange of our humanity," is vastly different from communicating, the simple exchange of information. Understanding that difference can be one of the most powerful tools in changing people's lives, Stephenson maintains. "Being 3 feet tall and in a wheelchair is about 2 percent of who I am. I'm more than able. I'm playing large."


Key Articles From Years Past


Canadian teen's process decomposes plastic bags
June 5, 2008, Reuters News
http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSN0535499620080605

As countries and cities around the world move to ban plastic bags, a Canadian teenager is tackling the problem of what to do with them. High school student Daniel Burd successfully isolated microorganisms from soil and used them to help degrade 43 percent of his polyethylene sample within a few weeks in a science project that recently won him the C$10,000 ($9,800) top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. "The purpose of my project was to first of all prove that it's possible to do the degradation, and I just wanted to develop a beginning procedure that could be used," said the 17-year-old Grade 11 student, who also walked away with nearly C$35,000 in university scholarship offers. "We know that after 40 to 100,000 years, the plastic bags will be degraded naturally. Some type of microbe must be responsible for this. So the first step was to isolate this microbe and that's what I did," said Burd, who began his research in December 2006. To isolate the microorganism, he turned the plastic bags into a powder -- an important step, Burd said, because it increases the surface area and helps the microorganisms that can use the plastic to grow. Once he had the powder, he collected soil samples from a landfill, and combined the two with a home-made solution that would encourage microorganism growth. After months of experimenting, he isolated two microbial strains from the genuses sphingomonas and pseudomonas. Burd worked with the microbes to find the combination that would degrade strips of plastic bags best, and optimized the process by factoring in elements such as temperature and concentration of microbes. "In the end I was able to find that after six weeks incubation 43 percent of my plastic bag is degraded."

Note: Why wasn't this all over the news? Very few media outlets covered this highly inspiring story. For a more recent article on this fascinating topic, click here.


Steve Wilson Exposes Huge Prescription Drug Price Markups
February 5, 2004, WXYZ-TV (Detroit ABC affiliate)
http://web.archive.org/web/20050316092358/http://www.wxyz.com...

Generic drugs are just as safe and effective as their brand-name counterparts but they cost only a fraction as much. That is because companies that produce the generic versions simply copy the formula developed by the drug's inventor years before. While your drugstore charges you less for a generic drug than a brand name version, that price difference is nothing compared to the markup most druggists place on the generics. Your pharmacy most likely paid a wholesale price of only pennies for that generic medicine. They then charge you a markup of 3,000%, 4,000%, even 5,000% or more, pocketing most of your savings. Who's paying sky-high prices? People who can least afford to get ripped off–the elderly, the unemployed, and everybody who has to pay for their prescription medicine out of their own pocket. At CVS the cost of generic Prozac is marked up at least 56 times what the drug cost wholesale. It is a 5,594% markup. And in our survey of more than a dozen popular generic drugs, CVS leads the pack with average markups of 1,436% Walgreen's is not far behind at 1,341% and Rite Aid markups on generics average 1,183%. [WXYZ reporter] Steve Wilson took the issue to Kurt Proctor, Vice President of the Association of Chain Drug Stores. "Explain to me why it's necessary to take an 82 cent product and mark it up to $46.69? You have to mark it up 5,500% to meet your costs to make a profit? This is really about greed, isn't it?" asked Wilson. "It's not about greed," responded Proctor. "That's not accurate at all. That's a misleading statement. What I hope you will focus on is making sure people use their medications correctly."

Note: This important exposure of price-gouging by pharmacies is still available at Web Archive (click on the link above for the complete article, which is well worth reading in its entirety), but for some reason has been taken down at WXYZ's website. Could it be someone doesn't want us to know about this?


Museum Gives Voice to Doubts on Dr. King's Killer
October 16, 2002, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/16/us/museum-gives-voice-to-doubts-on-dr-king-s-killer.html

James Earl Ray, a drifter and ex-convict, shot and killed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a single bullet here on an April evening in 1968. That is the official story, the reason Mr. Ray spent the last three decades of his life in prison. Everybody knows it. But not everybody accepts it. Almost as soon as Dr. King was cut down -- and even more so after Mr. Ray recanted his guilty plea -- conspiracy theories abounded. Some said the assassin was an army sniper. Mr. Ray insisted he had been framed by a man named Raul, hired by the C.I.A. There was even a report that one of Dr. King's entourage had helped to kill him. Now ... the conspiracy theories have stirred to life again at the National Civil Rights Museum, in the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was shot. The museum recently opened an exhibit in a new $11 million wing primarily to document the assassination and the mystery that still surrounds it, at least in some people's minds. On display are 200 pieces of evidence, freshly unsealed from police archives. The gun. The 30.06-caliber bullet tweezed out of Dr. King's body. A fake passport and guidebook to Rhodesia found on Mr. Ray, curious artifacts for an unemployed ex-convict supposedly working solo. Questions are stamped on the wall, in bold letters. "Did Ray have help? Did someone else do it? Was the Memphis Police Department part of the conspiracy?" The King family believes that Mr. Ray, who died of liver disease in 1998, was not the killer. Dexter King, Dr. King's son, visited Mr. Ray on his deathbed. The government killed my father, Dexter King told him, not you. Mr. Ray's family said they were finally getting the vindication they deserved.

Note: In one of the biggest media cover-ups ever, the government was found guilty of consipiring to murder King in a 1999 civil trial in Memphis. The press strangely boycotted the historic trial. For more on this amazingly well kept secret, click here. For many revealing reports on the major US political assassinations, which consistently cast doubts on the official accounts of how they occurred, click here.


Special note: Check out a revealing list of the top lobbying corporations in the U.S. available here. Is it any wonder it's so difficult to get any real reform? For a revealing article and slide show on the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, reported at the respected military.com website, click here and here. And to see how the U.S. may be headed toward "gangster government" (in the words of a US representative in Congressional testimony), watch the four-minute video of this testimony exposing behind the scenes matters available here.

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