$23.7 Trillion Bailout, Mass Swine Flu Vaccinations, Court Weakens Civil Suits
Revealing News Articles
July 27, 2009
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on a new report identifying $23.7 trillion in government obligations under the TARP financial bailout program, plans for mass swine flu vaccinations, a recent Supreme Court decision which weakens the power of civil suits, 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.
Sticker Shock: $23.7 Trillion Bailout?
July 21, 2009, ABC News
"The total potential federal government support could reach up to $23.7 trillion," says Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, in a report released today on the government's efforts to fix the financial system. "The potential financial commitment the American taxpayers could be responsible for is of a size and scope that isn't even imaginable," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "If you spent a million dollars a day going back to the birth of Christ, that wouldn't even come close to just $1 trillion -- $23.7 trillion is a staggering figure." The government has about 50 different programs to fight the current recession, including programs to bail out ailing banks and automakers, boost lending and beat back the housing crisis. So far they've cost taxpayers around $4 trillion. But Barofsky says if each federal agency spent the maximum potential amount involved in these initiatives, taxpayers could be on the hook for trillions more. The watchdog also warned today that hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars could be lost if the government does not increase the transparency of the TARP program, which he says has grown to an unprecedented scope and scale. Requiring TARP recipients to report on how government funds are used is among the recommendations urged by Barofsky. He also wants the department to report on the values of its TARP portfolio so taxpayers know about the value of their investments.
Note: For a treasure trove of revelations from reliable sources on the hidden realities behind the Wall Street bailout, click here.
With Big Profit, Goldman Sees Big Payday Ahead
July 15, 2009, New York Times
After all that federal aid, a resurgent Goldman Sachs is on course to dole out bonuses that could rival the record paydays of the heady bull-market years. Goldman posted the richest quarterly profit in its 140-year history and, to the envy of its rivals, announced that it had earmarked $11.4 billion so far this year to compensate its workers. At that rate, Goldman employees could, on average, earn roughly $770,000 each this year – or nearly what they did at the height of the boom. Senior Goldman executives and bankers would be paid considerably more. Only three years ago, Goldman paid more than 50 employees above $20 million each. In 2007, its chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, collected one of the biggest bonuses in corporate history. The latest headline results – $3.44 billion in profits – were powered by earnings from the bank's secretive trading operations and exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. But Goldman's sudden good fortune, coming only a month after the bank repaid billions of bailout dollars, raises questions for Washington policy makers. In Washington, some lawmakers warned on Tuesday that a quick return to such high pay would stoke public anger as the Obama administration tried to overhaul financial regulation. They warned that Wall Street lobbyists were already trying to block financial reforms. "People all over this country feel an incredible frustration that they are seeing their neighbors lose their jobs and the government is helping companies like A.I.G. and Goldman Sachs and then the next thing they are reporting huge profits and huge compensation," said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio and a member of the banking committee. "I think people are incredulous that this system is working this way."
Note: For a treasure trove of revelations from reliable sources on the hidden realities behind the Wall Street bailout, click here.
Agencies to set up mass swine flu vaccinations
July 21, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Public health experts are gearing up for swine flu vaccinations this fall in what could be the largest mass-immunization campaign since the polio vaccine was introduced more than 50 years ago. Local public health agencies will bear much of the responsibility for vaccinating the public. For now, there are more questions than answers with regard to flu vaccinations, including how much of the vaccine will be made, when it will available, and who will get it first. In fact, the federal government has not officially announced plans to make a vaccine widely available, although it is expected to do so by the end of summer. "There's still a lot of information we have to figure out, and we're learning as we go," said Dr. Mantu Davis, deputy health officer with the Alameda County Public Health Department. "It's definitely a larger vaccination than anything we've seen, or anything in my lifetime." California authorities designed a mass vaccination plan years ago, under the assumption of a deadly pandemic flu and a limited vaccine supply, said Dr. John Talarico with the state public health department's Center for Infectious Disease. That plan is being revised, given that swine flu seems to be fairly mild so far and that a relatively large amount of vaccine may be available, even if it's not enough to give to everyone at once. A swine flu vaccine is still being designed, and the World Health Organization reported last week that a licensed version may not be available until the end of the year - weeks after the start of the flu season. An unlicensed vaccine - one that is still being tested but is deemed safe enough for the general public - may be available sooner.
Note: After hundreds died and thousands were crippled by a vaccine for the swine flu in 1976, how can they be talking about using an unlicensed vaccine? For lots more on the swine flu scare and the billions in profits for well-connnected pharmaceutical corporations and their major investors, click here.
9/11 Case Could Bring Broad Shift on Civil Suits
July 21, 2009, New York Times
The most consequential decision of the Supreme Court's last term got only a little attention when it landed in May. And what attention it got was for the wrong reason. But the lower courts have certainly understood the significance of the decision, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which makes it much easier for judges to dismiss civil lawsuits right after they are filed. They have cited it more than 500 times in just the last two months. On its face, the Iqbal decision concerned the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The court ruled that a Muslim man swept up on immigration charges could not sue two Bush administration officials for what he said was the terrible abuse he suffered in detention. But something much deeper and broader was going on in the decision, something that may unsettle how civil litigation is conducted in the United States. For more than half a century, it has been clear that all a plaintiff had to do to start a lawsuit was to file what the rules call "a short and plain statement of the claim" in a document called a complaint. Information about wrongdoing is often secret. Plaintiffs claiming they were the victims of employment discrimination, a defective product, an antitrust conspiracy or a policy of harsh treatment in detention may not know exactly who harmed them and how before filing suit. But plaintiffs can learn valuable information during discovery. The Iqbal decision now requires plaintiffs to come forward with concrete facts at the outset, and it instructs lower court judges to dismiss lawsuits that strike them as implausible. "It obviously licenses highly subjective judgments," said Stephen B. Burbank, an authority on civil procedure at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. "This is a blank check for federal judges to get rid of cases they disfavor."
Note: For many important reports from major media sources on the erosion of civil liberties since the 9/11 attacks, click here.
Assassinations anyone? CIA claims of cancelled campaign are hogwash
July 19, 2009, Toronto Sun
CIA director Leon Panetta just told Congress he cancelled a secret operation to assassinate al-Qaida leaders. The CIA campaign, authorized in 2001, had not yet become operational, claimed Panetta. His claim is humbug. The U.S. has been trying to kill al-Qaida personnel (real and imagined) since the Clinton administration. These efforts continue under President Barack Obama. Claims by Congress it was never informed are hogwash. The CIA and Pentagon have been in the assassination business since the early 1950s, using American hit teams or third parties. Assassination was outlawed in the U.S. in 1976, but that did not stop attempts by its last three administrations to emulate Israel's Mossad in the "targeted killing" of enemies. The George W. Bush administration, and now the Obama White House, sidestepped American law by saying the U.S. was at war, and thus legally killing "enemy combatants." But Congress never declared war. Washington is buzzing about a secret death squad run by Dick Cheney when he was vice-president and his protege, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. This gung-ho general led the Pentagon's super secret Special Operations Command, which has become a major rival to the CIA in the business of "wet affairs" (as the KGB used to call assassinations) and covert raids. America is hardly alone in trying to rub out enemies or those who thwart its designs. Britain's MI-6 and France's SDECE were notorious for sending out assassins. U.S. assassins are still at work. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. drones are killing tribesmen almost daily. Over 90% are civilians. Americans have a curious notion that killing people from the air is not murder or even a crime, but somehow clean.
Report: Bush program extended beyond wiretapping
July 10, 2009, USA Today/Associated Press
The Bush administration built an unprecedented surveillance operation to pull in mountains of information far beyond the warrantless wiretapping previously acknowledged, a team of federal inspectors general reported Friday, questioning the legal basis for the effort but shielding almost all details on grounds they're still too secret to reveal. The report, compiled by five inspectors general, refers to "unprecedented collection activities" by U.S. intelligence agencies under an executive order signed by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Just what those activities involved remains classified, but the IGs pointedly say that any continued use of the secret programs must be "carefully monitored." The report says too few relevant officials knew of the size and depth of the program, let alone signed off on it. They particularly criticize John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general who wrote legal memos undergirding the policy. His boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, was not aware until March 2004 of the exact nature of the intelligence operations beyond wiretapping that he had been approving for the previous two and a half years, the report says. Most of the intelligence leads generated under what was known as the "President's Surveillance Program" did not have any connection to terrorism, the report said. The only piece of the intelligence-gathering operation acknowledged by the Bush White House was the wiretapping-without-warrants effort. Although the report documents Bush administration policies, its fallout could be a problem for the Obama administration if it inherited any or all of the still-classified operations.
Note: For many disturbing reports on increasing threats to privacy under the pretext of protection against terrorism, click here.
U.S. Wiretapping of Limited Value, Officials Report
July 11, 2009, New York Times
While the Bush administration had defended its program of wiretapping without warrants as a vital tool that saved lives, a new government review released Friday said the program's effectiveness in fighting terrorism was unclear. Most intelligence officials interviewed "had difficulty citing specific instances" when the National Security Agency's wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists, the report said. The program ... played a limited role in the F.B.I.'s overall counterterrorism efforts," the report concluded. The Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence branches ... could not link it directly to counterterrorism successes, presumably arrests or thwarted plots. The report also hinted at political pressure in preparing the so-called threat assessments that helped form the legal basis for continuing the classified program, whose disclosure in 2005 provoked fierce debate about its legality. The initial authorization of the wiretapping program came after a senior C.I.A. official took a threat evaluation, prepared by analysts who knew nothing of the program, and inserted a paragraph provided by a senior White House official that spoke of the prospect of future attacks against the United States. These threat assessments, which provided the justification for President George W. Bush's reauthorization of the wiretapping program every 45 days, became known among intelligence officials as the "scary memos," the report said. Intelligence analysts involved in the process eventually realized that "if a threat assessment identified a threat against the United States," the wiretapping and related surveillance programs were "likely to be renewed," the report added.
Note: For many illuminating reports from reliable sources on the realities behind the "war on terror", click here.
CIA committed fraud in court, judge rules
July 21, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press
A federal judge has ruled that CIA officials committed fraud to protect a former covert agent against an eavesdropping lawsuit and is considering sanctioning as many as six who worked at the agency, including former CIA Director George Tenet. According to court documents unsealed Monday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth referred a CIA attorney, Jeffrey Yeates, for discipline. Lamberth also denied the CIA's renewed efforts under the Obama administration to keep the case secret because of what he calls the agency's "diminished credibility" in the case. The eavesdropping lawsuit was brought by a former agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency, Richard Horn, who says his home in Rangoon, Burma, was illegally wiretapped by the CIA in 1993. He says Arthur Brown, the former CIA station chief in Burma, and Franklin Huddle Jr., the chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Burma, were trying to get him relocated because they disagreed with his work with Burmese officials on the country's drug trade. Horn sued Brown and Huddle in 1994, seeking damages for violations of his civil rights because of the alleged wiretapping. Tenet filed an affidavit in 2000 asking that the case against Brown be dismissed because he was a covert agent whose identity must not be revealed in court. Lamberth granted the CIA's request and threw out the case against Brown in 2004. But Lamberth found out last year that Brown's cover had been lifted in 2002, even though the CIA continued to file legal documents saying his status was covert. The judge found that the CIA intentionally misled the court and reinstated the case against Brown.
Note: This may not seem like big news, but the fact that the CIA is facing court opposition is quite significant. In the past this never would have happened, much less have made it into a newspaper.
Pope Urges Forming New World Economic Order to Work for the 'Common Good'
July 8, 2009, New York Times
Pope Benedict XVI [has] called for a radical rethinking of the global economy, criticizing a growing divide between rich and poor and urging the establishment of a "true world political authority" to oversee the economy and work for the "common good." He criticized the current economic system, "where the pernicious effects of sin are evident," and urged financiers in particular to "rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity." He also called for "greater social responsibility" on the part of business. "Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty," Benedict wrote in his new encyclical, which the Vatican released on [July 7]. More than two years in the making, "Caritas in Veritate," or "Charity in Truth," is Benedict's third encyclical since he became pope in 2005. Filled with terms like "globalization," "market economy," "outsourcing," "labor unions" and "alternative energy," it is not surprising that the Italian media reported that the Vatican was having difficulty translating the 144-page document into Latin. In many ways, the document is a puzzling cross between an anti-globalization tract and a government white paper, another signal that the Vatican does not comfortably fit into traditional political categories of right and left. Benedict also called for a reform of the United Nations so there could be a unified "global political body" that allowed the less powerful of the earth to have a voice, and he called on rich nations to help less fortunate ones.
Chemicals and Our Health
July 16, 2009, New York Times
However careful you are about your health, your body is almost certainly home to troubling chemicals called phthalates. These are ubiquitous in modern life, found in plastic bottles, cosmetics, some toys, hair conditioners, and fragrances – and many scientists have linked them to everything from sexual deformities in babies to obesity and diabetes. The problem is that phthalates suppress male hormones and sometimes mimic female hormones. Chemicals called endocrine disruptors are believed to explain the proliferation of "intersex fish" – male fish that produce eggs – as well as sexual deformities in animals and humans. Phthalates ... are among the most common endocrine disruptors, and among the most difficult to avoid. They're even in tap water, and levels soar in certain plastic water bottles. In girls, some research suggests that phthalates may cause early onset puberty. Most vulnerable of all, it seems, are male fetuses in the first trimester of pregnancy, just as they are differentiating their sex. At that stage, scholars believe, phthalates may "feminize" these boys. "Commonly used phthalates may undervirilize humans," concluded a study by the University of Rochester. There has also been a flurry of scientific articles questioning whether endocrine disruptors are tied to obesity, autism and allergies, although the evidence there is less firm than with genital abnormalities and depressed sperm count. Dr. Theo Colborn, the founder of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, ... tells researchers working with her to toss out plastic water bottles and use stainless steel instead. "I don't have plastic food containers in my house," she added. "I use glass."
Note: For many more important health reports from reliable sources, click here.
To meet June deadline, US and Iraqis redraw city borders
May 19, 2009, Christian Science Monitor
On a map of Baghdad, the US Army's Forward Operating Base Falcon is clearly within city limits. Except that Iraqi and American military officials have decided it's not. As the June 30 deadline for US soldiers to be out of Iraqi cities approaches, there are no plans to relocate the roughly 3,000 American troops who help maintain security in south Baghdad along what were the fault lines in the sectarian war. "We and the Iraqis decided it wasn't in the city," says a US military official. The base on the southern outskirts of Baghdad's Rasheed district is an example of the fluidity of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) agreed to late last year, which orders all US combat forces out of Iraqi cities, towns, and villages by June 30. Although the mission for most brigades and battalions is not expected to substantially change after June 30, US military officials have stopped using the term forward operating base in favor of the more benign-sounding contingency operating site. The SOFA and a wider strategic framework agreement set out a relationship between the US and Iraq very different from that of the military occupation of the past six years. One of the challenges of that new relationship is how the US can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so. "For so long we have been one of the driving forces here ... it is such a hard habit to break," says a senior US State Department official. "I think we need to do everything we can not to make ourselves an issue. It has to be seen here as doing it quietly ... so that you are not doing things for the Iraqis, the Iraqis are doing things for themselves but with your help and we remain in the shadows.... It's a very delicate choreography," adds the State Department official.
Note: For a trove of revealing reports on the deceptive strategies used by the US to advance its wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, click here.
Club members who give half their money away
July 16, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Berkeley's Mike Hannigan gives most of his money away. It started in 1991. He had about $20,000 in his bank account and thought about all the good it could do in the world. With partner Sean Marx, he started Give Something Back Inc., an office supply firm that now gives away up to 80 percent of its profit. The company has given away about $4 million to community charities over the last 18 years. That puts Hannigan in a small circle of individuals who are recognized for giving away at least half their income, profit or personal wealth. This so-called "50 percent league" is the brainchild of a national nonprofit organization called Bolder Giving, which has highlighted these givers since its inception in 2007 in the hope that others will take a closer look at how much they give and how much more they could afford to contribute. Every year, the average U.S. household donates about 3 percent of its income. Yet deep in the heart of this recession there is a growing group giving away at least half of what they've got. Currently, 125 individuals or families are on the 50 percent club list and Bolder Giving, based in Arlington, Mass., is looking for more members. At Hannigan's Oakland-based company, the vast majority of the profits go to charities selected by customers and employees. Food banks and education-related organizations are among the most frequent recipients, Hannigan said. It's a way "to use the business as a mechanism to circulate wealth throughout the community," he said. The 59-year-old businessman doesn't consider himself a philanthropist, but an activist who lives a comfortable life.
Special note: To watch a three-minute video from the Today Show in which Dr. Nancy Snyderman describes government plans for a mass swine flu vaccination program involving a series of three shots, click here.
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