Doctors Experiment on Humans, Bank Bailout Created Behemoths, Bush Search Rules Kept
Revealing News Articles
September 7, 2009
Below are key excerpts of important news articles, which include revealing information on new charges that CIA doctors experimented on captives in the "war on terror," the creation of new behemoth banks by the government bailout of Wall Street, the decision by the Obama administration to keep airport search and seizure rules established by Bush, 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. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Special note: For those of you who are passionate about climate change, go to www.350.org to learn about a powerful movement preparing for action on Oct. 24th. And for a Cnet article on a U.S. bill which would give the president power over the Internet in emergencies, click here. For a powerful 60-minute radio interview on 9/11 questions with esteemed professor of economics Paul Zarembka, click here.
CIA doctors face human experimentation claims
September 2, 2009, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Doctors and psychologists the CIA employed to monitor its "enhanced interrogation" of terror suspects came close to, and may even have committed, unlawful human experimentation, a medical ethics watchdog has alleged. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a not-for-profit group that has investigated the role of medical personnel in alleged incidents of torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and other US detention sites, accuses doctors of being far more involved than hitherto understood. PHR says health professionals participated at every stage in the development, implementation and legal justification of what it calls the CIA's secret "torture programme". The most incendiary accusation of PHR's latest report, Aiding Torture, is that doctors actively monitored the CIA's interrogation techniques with a view to determining their effectiveness, using detainees as human subjects without their consent. The report concludes that such data gathering was "a practice that approaches unlawful experimentation". Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the prosecution of Nazi doctors. In April, a leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross found that medical staff employed by the CIA had been present during waterboarding, and had even used what appeared to be a pulse oxymeter, placed on the prisoner's finger to monitor his oxygen saturation during the procedure. PHR is calling for an official investigation into the role of doctors in the CIA's now widely discredited programme. It wants to know exactly how many doctors participated, what they did, what records they kept and the science that they applied.
Banks 'Too Big to Fail' Have Grown Even Bigger
August 28, 2009, Washington Post
When the credit crisis struck last year, federal regulators pumped tens of billions of dollars into the nation's leading financial institutions because the banks were so big that officials feared their failure would ruin the entire financial system. Today, the biggest of those banks are even bigger. The crisis may be turning out very well for many of the behemoths that dominate U.S. finance. A series of federally arranged mergers safely landed troubled banks on the decks of more stable firms. And it allowed the survivors to emerge from the turmoil with strengthened market positions, giving them even greater control over consumer lending and more potential to profit. J.P. Morgan Chase ... now holds more than $1 of every $10 on deposit in this country. So does Bank of America, scarred by its acquisition of Merrill Lynch and partly government-owned as a result of the crisis, as does Wells Fargo, the biggest West Coast bank. Those three banks, plus government-rescued and -owned Citigroup, now issue one of every two mortgages and about two of every three credit cards, federal data show. Concerns are twofold: that consumers will wind up with fewer choices for services and that big banks will assume they always have the government's backing if things go wrong. That presumed guarantee means large companies could return to the risky behavior that led to the crisis if they figure federal officials will clean up their mess. The worry for consumers is that the bailouts skewed the financial industry in favor of the big and powerful. Fresh data from the FDIC show that big banks have the ability to borrow more cheaply than their peers because creditors assume these large companies are not at risk of failing.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on the realities of the Wall Street bailout, click here.
Bush's Search Policy For Travelers Is Kept
August 28, 2009, Washington Post
The Obama administration will largely preserve Bush-era procedures allowing the government to search -- without suspicion of wrongdoing -- the contents of a traveler's laptop computer, cellphone or other electronic device. The policy, disclosed ... in a pair of Department of Homeland Security directives, describes more fully than did the Bush administration the procedures by which travelers' laptops, iPods, cameras and other digital devices can be searched and seized when they cross a U.S. border. And it sets time limits for completing searches. Representatives of civil liberties and travelers groups say they see little substantive difference between the Bush-era policy, which prompted controversy, and this one. "It's a disappointing ratification of the suspicionless search policy put in place by the Bush administration," said Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. "It doesn't deal with the fundamental problem, which is that under the policy, government officials are free to search people's laptops and cellphones for any reason whatsoever." "Under the policy begun by Bush and now continued by Obama, the government can open your laptop and read your medical records, financial records, e-mails, work product and personal correspondence -- all without any suspicion of illegal activity," said Elizabeth Goitein, who leads the liberty and national security project at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice.
Note: For important revelations of government threats to civil liberties, click here.
CIA's black sites, illuminated
August 31, 2009, Los Angeles Times
The secret overseas "black sites" where the CIA conducted the interrogations are empty now, if not already dismantled. They were never examined by a congressional committee, nor inspected by the international Red Cross. The black sites not only imprisoned men but reduced them to a near helpless state. The aim, as outlined in one document, was to teach every detainee "to perceive and value his personal welfare, comfort and immediate needs more than the information he is protecting." The prisoners' arrival -- almost always in diapers -- was engineered to achieve that end. After being shaved, stripped and photographed nude, detainees were examined by CIA medical and psychological personnel. Then came a preliminary interrogation that would determine the prisoners' fate. Only those considered extremely cooperative would avoid a trio of techniques designed to produce a "baseline, dependent" state: the deprivation of clothes, solid food and sleep. Follow-up sessions would start with the prisoner standing with his back against a wall and a towel or collar to prevent whiplash wrapped around his neck. He could be thrown against the wall just once "to make a point, or 20 to 30 times consecutively." Prisoners so abhorred the repeated slamming that they would remain in so-called stress positions, such as painful kneeling postures, for hours to avoid a return to the wall, according to one Dec. 30, 2004, memo that amounts to a CIA blueprint for breaking a detainee's will. Earlier this year, the Obama administration released a series of Justice Department memos laying out legal rationales for the array of coercive interrogation methods the CIA employed.
Note: For further revelations from major media sources on the illegal methods used by the US government in its wars around the world, click here.
Blackwater Tapped Foreigners on Secret CIA Program
August 31, 2009, ABC News/Associated Press
When the CIA revived a plan to kill or capture [alleged] terrorists in 2004, the agency turned to the well-connected security company then known as Blackwater USA. With Blackwater's lucrative government security work and contacts arrayed in hot spots around the world, company officials offered the services of foreigners supposedly skilled at tracking [people] in lawless regions and countries where the CIA had no working relationships with the government. But the CIA's use of the private contractor as part of its now-abandoned plan to dispatch death squads skirted concerns now re-emerging with recent disclosures about Blackwater's role. Blackwater's later hiring of several senior CIA officials who were involved in or aware of the secret program, including one of the men who ran the operation, showed the blurred lines of using a private contractor for such a highly classified and dangerous project. The 2004 decision by CIA officials to entrust the North Carolina-based company with such a sensitive overseas operation struck some former agency officials as highly unusual. "The question remains: Why do we need Blackwater?" said Charles Faddis, a former department chief at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center who retired in 2008 and was not involved in the secret program. "I remain mystified. This is quintessential CIA work. You wonder what it means that the CIA has to rely on Blackwater? Why are we still funding the CIA?" The former senior CIA official who had knowledge of the program explained that "you wouldn't want to have American fingerprints on it."
Note: For lots more on government corruption, click here.
Speculators busier as crude oil cost spikes
August 28, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Speculators now account for half of all traders in the main U.S. oil market, and their growing presence coincided with this decade's historic rise in the price of crude, according to a new Rice University study. The study does not try to prove that speculators caused the price spike, as many politicians and consumer advocates believe. But the authors note that prices rose steadily along with the number of speculative investors, and fell with them as well. Seven years ago, speculators accounted for 20 percent of oil traders on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That number jumped to 55 percent by the time oil prices reached their all-time peak above $145 per barrel last summer. Now oil costs $72, and speculative investors account for half the traders. The government limits the number of oil contracts that each speculator can hold. But under the Commodity Futures Modernization Act [passed in 2000], trades on electronic exchanges or overseas markets don't count toward those limits. The study uses data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Speculators are defined as traders who use oil strictly as a financial investment, those who will never take delivery of a tanker-full of crude. "This confirms what we and others have said for some time," said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at the Public Citizen watchdog group. "The good thing from the oil price run-up of 2008 is it has forced Congress to realize there's a problem in these markets, and the answer is re-regulation." The financial industry opposes tightening the regulations.
Note: To read the full study, click here.
World's Stocks Controlled by Select Few
August 26, 2009, Inside Science News/American Institute of Physics
A recent analysis of the 2007 financial markets of 48 countries has revealed that the world's finances are in the hands of just a few mutual funds, banks, and corporations. This is the first clear picture of the global concentration of financial power, and ... the worldwide financial system's vulnerability. A pair of physicists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich did a physics-based analysis of the world economy as it looked in early 2007. Stefano Battiston and James Glattfelder extracted the information from the tangled yarn that links 24,877 stocks and 106,141 shareholding entities in 48 countries, revealing what they called the "backbone" of each country's financial market. The most pared-down backbones exist in Anglo-Saxon countries, including the U.S., Australia, and the U.K.. The biggest fish was the Capital Group Companies, with major stakes in 36 of the 48 countries studied. The results raise questions of where and when a company could choose to exert this influence. Glattfelder added that the internationalism of these powerful companies makes it difficult to gauge their economic influence. "[With] company structures which are so big and spanning the globe, it's hard to see what they're up to and what they're doing," he said. Large, sparse networks dominated by a few major companies could also be more vulnerable, he said. "In network speak, if those nodes fail, that has a big effect on the network." The results will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Physical Review E.
Note: For a treasure trove of revelations about the realities of the global financial structure, click here.
Secret process benefits pet projects
August 26, 2009, Houston Chronicle (One of Houston's leading newspapers)
A sleepy Montana checkpoint along the Canadian border that sees about three travelers a day will get $15 million under President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan. A government priority list ranked the project as marginal, but two powerful Democratic senators persuaded the administration to make it happen. Despite Obama's promises that the stimulus plan would be transparent and free of politics, the government is handing out $720 million for border upgrades under a process that is both secretive and susceptible to political influence. It wasn't supposed to be that way. In 2004, Congress ordered Homeland Security to create a list, updated annually, of the most important repairs at checkpoints nationwide. But the Obama administration continued a Bush administration practice of considering other, more subjective factors when deciding which projects get money. The results: • A border station in Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's home state of Arizona is getting $199 million, five times more than any other border station. • A checkpoint in Laredo, Texas, which serves more than 55,000 travelers and 4,200 trucks a day, is rated among the government's highest priorities but was passed over for stimulus money. • The Westhope, N.D., checkpoint, which serves about 73 people a day and is among the lowest-priority projects, is set to get nearly $15 million for renovations. The Whitetail project, which involves building a border station the size and cost of a Hollywood mansion, benefited from two key allies, Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester.
Note: For lots more on government corruption, click here.
Pfizer Pays $2.3 Billion to Settle Marketing Case
September 3, 2009, New York Times
The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billion to settle civil and criminal allegations that it had illegally marketed its painkiller Bextra, which has been withdrawn. It was the largest health care fraud settlement and the largest criminal fine of any kind ever. The settlement had been expected. Pfizer, which is acquiring a rival, Wyeth, reported in January that it had taken a $2.3 billion charge to resolve claims involving Bextra and other drugs. It was Pfizer's fourth settlement over illegal marketing activities since 2002. The government charged that executives and sales representatives throughout Pfizer's ranks planned and executed schemes to illegally market not only Bextra but also Geodon, an antipsychotic; Zyvox, an antibiotic; and Lyrica, which treats nerve pain. While the government said the fine was a record sum, the $2.3 billion fine amounts to less than three weeks of Pfizer's sales. Much of the activities cited Wednesday occurred while Pfizer was in the midst of resolving allegations that it illegally marketed Neurontin, an epilepsy drug for which the company in 2004 paid a $430 million fine and signed a corporate integrity agreement – a companywide promise to behave. John Kopchinski, a former Pfizer sales representative whose complaint helped prompt the government's Bextra case, said that company managers told him and others to dismiss concerns about the Neurontin case while pushing them to undertake similar illegal efforts on behalf of Bextra. "The whole culture of Pfizer is driven by sales, and if you didn't sell drugs illegally, you were not seen as a team player," said Mr. Kopchinski.
Oil, Ecuador and its people
August 28, 2009, Los Angeles Times
Chevron Corp., California's largest company and one of the world's largest oil producers, will soon face a day of reckoning. After 16 years of litigation, a case the company inherited in a merger, Aguinda vs. Texaco Inc., is nearing an end. The legal battle that began in the United States in 1993 and resumed in Ecuador in 2003 has pitted the multinational against an unlikely adversary, a coalition of indigenous tribes and communities. A verdict is expected early next year. The plaintiffs are poised to prevail, and Chevron acknowledges that it is likely to lose. The case is historic by several measures. Never before have indigenous peoples brought a multinational oil corporation to trial in their own country. Moreover, a victory would mark a turning point in the relations between native populations around the world and the foreign corporations that do business in their homelands. And the potential damages are staggering: A court-appointed expert has determined that they could run to $27 billion, almost 10 times that initially awarded to plaintiffs after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Today, a swath of the Ecuadorean Amazon the size of Rhode Island remains contaminated beyond imagining. At one site after another, oil hangs in the air, slides on the water's surface and saturates the land. Pipelines and waste pits left behind years ago still drip and ooze. Advocates for the plaintiffs have called the former Texaco concession area the "Amazon Chernobyl." Were it in the United States, it would easily qualify as a Superfund site. Neither side in the case disputes the devastation, only who should pay for it.
Note: For the inspiring story of the courageous Ecuadorian lawyer behind this David vs. Goliath lawsuit, click here. A smear campaign by Chevron against the judge in this case has more recently swayed opinion in favor of Chevron again. Contact your political and media representatives at this link to express your opinion.
Mobile phone towers threaten honey bees: study
August 31, 2009, MSN News/Agence France Presse
The electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phone towers and cellphones can pose a threat to honey bees, a study published in India has concluded. An experiment conducted in the southern state of Kerala found that a sudden fall in the bee population was caused by towers installed across the state by cellphone companies to increase their network. The electromagnetic waves emitted by the towers crippled the "navigational skills" of the worker bees that go out to collect nectar from flowers to sustain bee colonies, said Dr. Sainuddin Pattazhy, who conducted the study. He found that when a cell phone was kept near a beehive, the worker bees were unable to return, leaving the hives with only the queens and eggs and resulting in the collapse of the colony within ten days. Over 100,000 people in Kerala are engaged in apiculture and the dwindling worker bee population poses a threat to their livelihood. The bees also play a vital role in pollinating flowers to sustain vegetation. If towers and mobile phones further increase, honey bees might be wiped out in 10 years, Pattazhy said.
A 'Little Judge' Who Rejects Foreclosures, Brooklyn Style
August 31, 2009, New York Times
Every week, the nation's mightiest banks come to his court seeking to take the homes of New Yorkers who cannot pay their mortgages. And nearly as often, the judge says, they file foreclosure papers speckled with errors. He plucks out one motion and leafs through: a Deutsche Bank representative signed an affidavit claiming to be the vice president of two different banks. His office was in Kansas City, Mo., but the signature was notarized in Texas. And the bank did not even own the mortgage when it began to foreclose on the homeowner. "I'm a little guy in Brooklyn who doesn't belong to their country clubs, what can I tell you?" he says, adding a shrug for punctuation. "I won't accept their comedy of errors." The judge, Arthur M. Schack, 64, fashions himself a judicial Don Quixote, tilting at the phalanxes of bankers, foreclosure facilitators and lawyers who file motions by the bale. He has tossed out 46 of the 102 foreclosure motions that have come before him in the last two years. And his often scathing decisions, peppered with allusions to the Croesus-like wealth of bank presidents, have attracted the respectful attention of judges and lawyers from Florida to Ohio to California. At recent judicial conferences in Chicago and Arizona, several panelists praised his rulings as a possible national model. Justice Schack, like a handful of state and federal judges, has taken a magnifying glass to the mortgage industry. Justice Schack's take is straightforward, and sends a tremor through some bank suites: If a bank cannot prove ownership, it cannot foreclose. "If you are going to take away someone's house, everything should be legal and correct," he said. "I'm a strange guy – I don't want to put a family on the street unless it's legitimate."
Israel's Wealthiest Woman Says She Can See the Future
August 31, 2009, Washington Post
The office door has a steel vault veneer, and Shari Arison -- controlling stockholder in Israel's largest bank and its largest construction company, heiress to the Carnival Cruise Lines fortune and head of a long list of other undertakings -- has a lot to protect. Arison says she plans to mobilize her wealth, her companies and, most important, the energy of her accumulated lives to save the human race. As a businesswoman, Arison has an environmental focus -- green building, renewable energy, water management. As a philanthropist and erstwhile spiritual role model, she had already been taking action -- like encouraging good works and promoting the kind of inner harmony she believes will do as much as summit meetings to keep people, and particularly Arabs and Jews, from hurting each other. The philanthropies Arison has launched over the past several years get downright tantric -- all tiny ripples she hopes will build into a planet-changing wave. Here is how the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a 15-year-old undergraduate and research university, describes the Shari Arison Awareness Communication Center, which she endowed in 2006: "The center will focus on research on the importance of the individual's inner balance as an engine for self-development and self-achievement. It shall also research how humanity can function in an increasingly technological world in the future." For "true world peace, among all people, each one of us has to reach their own individual peace," Arison says in a video introduction to Essence of Life, which sponsors workshops and a Web site aimed at "bringing about a major shift in collective consciousness."
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