Obama: Renew PATRIOT Act, Michael Moore on Capitalism, Violent Crime Down
Revealing News Articles
September 21, 2009
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the Obama administration's push to renew the PATRIOT Act, director Michael Moore's new film, "Capitalism: a Love Story," violent crime statistics being down, 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.
Patriot Act Provisions Get Obama Support
September 15, 2009, ABC News
The Justice Department has indicated that the Obama administration is in support of renewing [three] controversial sections of the USA Patriot Act that expire later this year. The provisions that will expire in December include Section 206, that allows "roving" wiretaps so FBI agents can tap multiple phones or computers (with court authorization) that a specific person (target) may use. Another expiring provision, Section 215, is the so-called "library provision," which allows investigators to obtain [library, medical, business, banking and other] records with approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And the final provision which was nicknamed the "Lone Wolf" authorization, allows intelligence gathering of people not suspected of being part of a foreign government or known terrorist organization. Critics of the Patriot Act protested loudly that the FBI could obtain individuals' library records under the legislation. [But] section 215 is much more expansive than reviewing a suspected terrorist's summer reading list. [It] allows the FBI to obtain any business record, "any tangible things," like credit card and bank statements and also allows access to medical and mental health records. The provision has been used to obtain communication and subscriber information to help set up surveillance and monitoring of computers and telephones.
Note: The American Library Association, the national organization of professional librarians, was the first and strongest defender of civil liberties after the passage of the PATRIOT Act. For a discussion of the concerns of professional librarians over this decision by the Obama administration, click here.
Michael Moore blames capitalism for meltdown
September 18, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Two weeks before his movie "Capitalism: A Love Story" opens nationwide, filmmaker Michael Moore swept through San Francisco ... with a rally, a Commonwealth Club appearance and an unlikely new antagonist: Democrats. When Moore criticized Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., this week on NBC's "The Jay Leno Show" for getting "sweetheart loans" from a mortgage company he was charged with overseeing, Moore said he got a call from a top Democratic Party official telling him to "back off." But Moore, a longtime supporter of a single-payer health plan, didn't back off. In an interview with The Chronicle, he chided House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not being aggressive enough in pushing health care reform and ripped President Obama's financial team as "the foxes guarding the henhouse." There is plenty of conservative-bashing in the film, which focuses on capitalism as the "evil" at the root of the financial crisis, but the film also refers to Democratic leaders as the "deliverymen" of the government bailouts for financially troubled Wall Street firms. In his new film, Moore focuses on the investment house Goldman Sachs as a main beneficiary of capitalism's largesse. He notes that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and senior White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers are proteges of Robert Rubin, longtime Goldman executive and President Bill Clinton's Treasury secretary. "The fact that Geithner and Summers are part of this administration makes everything that happens open to question and needs our vigilance," Moore said, "because, literally now, the foxes are guarding the henhouse."
Note: For a review of Michael Moore's new film, "Capitalism: a Love Story," click here.
FBI: Murder, Violent Crime Dropped in 2008
September 14, 2009, New York Times/Associated Press
Murder and manslaughter dropped almost 4 percent last year, as reported crime overall fell around the country, according to new data released ... by the FBI. The 3.9 percent decline in killings reported to police was part of a nationwide drop in violent crime of 1.9 percent from 2007 to 2008. Rapes declined 1.6 percent, to the lowest national number in 20 years -- about 89,000. The statistics are based on crimes reported to police, who then forward the information to the FBI. There were 14,180 murder victims in the United States last year. ''What has been impressive has been how flat all the violent crime rates have been since 2000. To a large degree that's still the case, but the striking change this year has been murder,'' said Alfred Blumstein, a professor of criminal justice at Carnegie-Mellon University. The figures show that crime has come way down since its peak in the early 1990's. ''These are rates we haven't seen since the 1960's, even though the change from year to year has been rather small,'' said Blumstein. Property crimes declined overall, by 0.8 percent, but that was driven mostly by a 12.7 percent drop in car thefts. The other major categories of property crime -- burglaries and larceny-thefts -- both rose. Typically, crime is expected to rise during economic hard times, but Blumstein said last year's data was too early in the economic cycle to reflect that, because the most serious economic impacts came toward the end of 2008, and may not have affected teenagers -- the group most likely to turn to crime as their job prospects dwindle.
Note: What this report completely fails to report is that violent crime is down over 50% since 1994! Why does the major media consistently fail to report this awesome news? For reliable, verifiable on this, click here.
Boston launches flu shot tracking
November 21, 2008, Boston Globe
Using technology originally developed for mass disasters, Boston disease trackers are embarking on a novel experiment - one of the first in the country - aimed at eventually creating a citywide registry of everyone who has had a flu vaccination. The resulting vaccination map would allow swift intervention in neighborhoods left vulnerable to the fast-moving respiratory illness. The trial starts this afternoon, when several hundred people are expected to queue up for immunizations at the headquarters of the Boston Public Health Commission. Each of them will get a bracelet printed with a unique identifier code. Information about the vaccine's recipients, and the shot, will be entered into handheld devices similar to those used by delivery truck drivers. Infectious disease specialists in Boston and elsewhere predicted that the registry approach could prove even more useful if something more sinister strikes: a bioterrorism attack or the long-feared arrival of a global flu epidemic. In such crises, the registry could be used to track who received a special vaccine or antidote to a deadly germ. "Anything you can do to better pinpoint who's vaccinated and who's not, that's absolutely vital," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota. "I wish more cities were doing this kind of thing." When people arrive for their shots, they will get an ID bracelet with a barcode. Next, basic information - name, age, gender, address - will be entered into the patient tracking database. There will be electronic records, too, of who gave the vaccine and whether it was injected into the right arm or the left, and time-stamped for that day.
Mafia 'sank ships of toxic waste'
September 16, 2009, BBC News
A shipwreck apparently containing toxic waste is being investigated by authorities in Italy amid claims that it was deliberately sunk by the mafia. An informant from the Calabrian mafia said the ship was one of a number he blew up as part of an illegal operation to bypass laws on toxic waste disposal. The sunken vessel has been found 30km (18 miles) off the south-west of Italy. The informant said it contained "nuclear" material. Officials said it would be tested for radioactivity. Murky pictures taken by a robot camera show the vessel intact and alongside it are a number of yellow barrels. Labels on them say the contents are toxic. The informant said the mafia had muscled in on the lucrative business of radioactive waste disposal. But he said that instead of getting rid of the material safely, he blew up the vessel out at sea, off the Calabrian coast. He also says he was responsible for sinking two other ships containing toxic waste. For years there have been rumours that the mafia was sinking ships with nuclear and other waste on board, as part of a money-making racket. The environmental campaign group Greenpeace and others have compiled lists over the past few decades of ships that have disappeared off the coast of Italy and Greece. Processing waste is highly specialised and is supposed to be an industry where security is the top priority. If tests show that there is nuclear material on the seabed it will prove that the mafia has moved into its dirtiest business yet.
Why Are Corporate Insiders Selling Their Shares?
September 8, 2009, Time magazine
Any time corporate executives and directors are heavily selling their company's stock there's reason for concern. And lately they've been doing just that. The last time insider selling was as high as it is now was in the period from late 2006 to late 2007. It was right after that insider-selling surge that the stock market began its long painful decline, says Charles Biderman, CEO of TrimTabs, an independent institutional research firm. Biderman believes that insider trades shoot higher when there's a disconnect between broad market opinions and what business executives feel in their gut. "When [insiders think] things are going better than most people think, they buy stock," he says. "When things are going worse than people think, they sell." That's to say, insiders have no crystal ball but they often have access to up-to-the-minute sales data as well as firsthand impressions from their sales managers – and that gives them an inside track on what's happening in the economy. When this special access leads them to be big sellers of their stock, well, it's a vote of no confidence in their employer's near-term future. Biderman has measured the ratio of insider selling to buying since 2004, and says historically the ratio is 7 to 1. (Insiders almost always sell more than they buy because they receive stock as part of their compensation.) Right now the ratio is 30, one of the highest he's recorded. November 2007 is the last time the ratio even came close, at 24.
Note: According to the New York Times, insider trading levels are at the "highest levels since the firm started keeping numbers in 2004." Why does this Time article state they were higher in 2006 to 2007? For a treasure trove of revealing reports from reliable sources on the realities of the Wall Street bailout, click here.
Diebold Exits US Voting-Machine Business
September 3, 2009, Wall Street Journal
Diebold Inc. has sold its money-losing U.S. election-systems business, just seven years after acquiring it amid hopes of rising demand for voting technology upgrades in the wake of the 2000 presidential election fiasco. Diebold [said] it sold the voting-machine unit to privately held Election Systems & Software Inc. for $5 million, about one-fifth of what it paid in 2002. "There were assumptions we made in that space that didn't materialize," Diebold spokesman Mike Jacobsen said. Diebold, which was the industry's biggest maker of electronic voting machines heading into the 2004 presidential election, was in the spotlight as concerns increased about the reliability and security of the electronic systems. Diebold also suffered from a perception problem when the company's then-Chief Executive Walden O'Dell very publicly supported and fundraised for President George W. Bush in his re-election campaign.
Note: This article fails to mention that the merger of Diebold and ES&S creates a major monopoly on US voting machines in the hands of companies owned by staunch conservatives. For more vital information on this and the suspicious death of the principal witness related to Karl Rove in an key Ohio elections case, click here.
Steroids, drink and paranoia: the murky world of the private security contractor
September 1, 2009, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Paranoid, competitive and fuelled by guns, alcohol and steroids. That is how one senior contractor in Baghdad describes the private security industry operating in the city's Green Zone. It was the world to which Danny Fitzsimons, a 29-year-old former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoia, and with an extensive criminal past, returned three weeks ago. Despite rules against alcohol, his ArmorGroup colleagues welcomed him with a drinking session. A fight broke out and he shot and killed two of them – a Briton, Paul McGuigan, and an Australian, Darren Hoare – then wounded an Iraqi, Arkhan Mahdi. He faces a premeditated murder charge and execution if found guilty. Mr Fitzsimons's family is determined to save him and say he was suffering from severe psychiatric problems after a brutal career in the Army and in the security industry. But those on the ground hold little hope. They are already resigned to Mr Fitzsimons's execution and say that he is a tiny pawn in a huge, expensive and vicious game of chess. They say the private security business in Iraq is in a vice-like crush. The gold rush that began with the conflict in 2003 is drying up. Contracts are not as lucrative, the trend is towards employing Iraqis instead of Westerners and, crucially, the Iraqi authorities ... are clamping down. "We are loathed out here. We are the single most hated entity in Iraq," said Ethan Madison, a security contractor who has worked in Baghdad for five years.
Note: For lots more on the illegal activities of US military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, click here.
Big Food vs. Big Insurance
September 10, 2009, New York Times
To listen to President Obama, or to just about anyone else in the health care debate, you would think that the biggest problem with health care in America is the system itself – perverse incentives, inefficiencies, unnecessary tests and procedures, lack of competition, and greed. No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet. That's why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat "preventable chronic diseases." Not all of these diseases are linked to diet – there's smoking, for instance – but many, if not most, of them are. We're spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care. The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care.
Note: For a detailed overview of some of the critical risks of the industrially-engineered modern American diet, click here.
Have a Nice Day
September 16, 2009, New York Times
Applied Materials is one of the most important U.S. companies you've probably never heard of. It makes the machines that make the microchips that go inside your computer. The chip business, though, is volatile, so in 2004 Mike Splinter, Applied Materials's C.E.O., decided to add a new business line to take advantage of the company's nanotechnology capabilities – making the machines that make solar panels. The other day, Splinter gave me a tour of the company's Silicon Valley facility, culminating with a visit to its "war room," where Applied maintains a real-time global interaction with all 14 solar panel factories it's built around the world in the last two years. Not a single one is in America. Let's see: five are in Germany, four are in China, one is in Spain, one is in India, one is in Italy, one is in Taiwan and one is even in Abu Dhabi. The reason that all these other countries are building solar-panel industries today is because most of their governments have put in place the three prerequisites for growing a renewable energy industry: 1) any business or homeowner can generate solar energy; 2) if they decide to do so, the power utility has to connect them to the grid; and 3) the utility has to buy the power for a predictable period at a price that is a no-brainer good deal for the family or business putting the solar panels on their rooftop. Regulatory, price and connectivity certainty, that is what Germany put in place, and that explains why Germany now generates almost half the solar power in the world today and, as a byproduct, is making itself the world-center for solar research, engineering, manufacturing and installation. With more than 50,000 new jobs, the renewable energy industry in Germany is now second only to its auto industry.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on promising new energy developments, click here.
Peanut Butter Plan to feed the homeless spreads
September 15, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
The world is getting better, one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time. It's called the Peanut Butter Plan. Like many of the best plans, it's simple: Strangers get together, make peanut butter sandwiches and immediately pass them out to homeless people. No federal subsidy, no foundation, no vouchers. No official sanction from anybody. Just strangers, good will and peanut butter. Jory John, a San Francisco children's book writer, got the idea for the PBJ stealth campaign this spring. John put forth the idea on Facebook and, over the past few months, PBJ handouts have taken place in Los Angeles; Berkeley; Phoenix; Little Rock, Ark.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Austin, Texas; and London. "People are joining from all over the place," John said. "I thought it was about time to use a social networking site to do some good." The monthly gathering took place the other evening around a conference table inside a publishing house that had donated its office for the cause. Some sandwich-laden volunteers [went] to the Tenderloin and some others to the Haight and South of Market.There was no shortage of people who found the idea of a complimentary peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich to be just the thing. Outside the BART station at 16th and Mission streets, a dozen folks accepted sandwiches. When the sandwiches were gone, [the] sandwich makers retired to a nearby tavern for a beer. The camaraderie of doing something nice, along with the beers, made everyone feel pretty good and some of the strangers exchanged phone numbers. "The smallest actions make the biggest difference," [John] said. "There are some cynics who say it's not really curing hunger, and it isn't curing hunger. But it's curing one person's hunger. There's nothing wrong with that."
Note: Information on the Peanut Butter Plan and its operations in various cities around the U.S. is available at www.peanutbutterplan.org.
Key Article From Years Past
Stonewalled by the C.I.A.
January 2, 2008, New York Times
More than five years ago, Congress and President Bush created the 9/11 commission. Soon after its creation, the president's chief of staff directed all executive branch agencies to cooperate with the commission. The commission's mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the C.I.A. destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes – and did not tell us about them – obstructed our investigation. No one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations. We did ask, repeatedly, for the kind of information that would have been contained in such videotapes. Beginning in June 2003, we requested all reports of intelligence information ... that had been gleaned from the interrogations of 118 named individuals, including both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, two senior Qaeda operatives, portions of whose interrogations were apparently recorded and then destroyed. The C.I.A. gave us many reports summarizing information gained in the interrogations. But the reports raised almost as many questions as they answered. So, in October 2003, we sent another wave of questions to the C.I.A.'s general counsel. The general counsel responded in writing with non-specific replies. The agency did not disclose that any interrogations had ever been recorded or that it had held any further relevant information, in any form. Government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.
Note: The authors of this op-ed, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, served as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the 9/11 Commission.
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