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Placebo Power, Tobacco Lies,
Crying Wolf, Brazil's Flex-Fuel Cars
Revealing News Articles
August 25, 2006

Dear friends,

Below are one-paragraph excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. These news articles include revealing information on the power of placebos, tobacco industry lies, crying wolf about terrorism, Brazil's "Flex-Fuel" cars, and more. Key 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,
Fred Burks for PEERS and
Former language interpreter for Presidents Bush and Clinton

Note: To join a discussion group, see

Pull the Plug on Electronic Voting
September 4, 2006 Edition, Forbes

You don't like hanging chads? Get ready for cheating chips and doctored drives. I am a computer scientist. I own seven Macintosh computers, one Windows machine and a Palm Treo 700p. So why am I advocating the use of 17th-century technology for voting in the 21st century? The 2000 debacle in Florida spurred a rush to computerize voting. While computers are very proficient...we should not rely on computers alone to count votes in public elections. The people who program them make mistakes. They are more vulnerable to manipulation than most people realize. Even an event as common as a power glitch could cause a hard disk to fail or a magnetic card that holds votes to permanently lose its data. In a 2003 election in Boone County, Ind., DREs recorded 144,000 votes in one precinct populated with fewer than 6,000 registered voters. Consider one simple mode of attack...called overwriting the boot loader. In overwriting it an attacker can, for example, make the machine count every fifth Republican vote as a Democratic vote, swap the vote outcome at the end of the election or produce a completely fabricated result. To stage this attack, a night janitor at the polling place would need only a few seconds' worth of access to the computer's memory card slot. DREs have a transparency problem: You can't easily discover if they've been tinkered with. It's one thing to suspect that officials have miscounted hanging chads, but something else entirely for people to wonder whether a corrupt programmer working behind the scenes has rigged a computer to help his side.

Senator who put 'secret hold' on bill to open federal records is a secret
August 23, 2006, Houston Chronicle

In an ironic twist, legislation that would open up the murky world of government contracting to public scrutiny has been derailed by a secret parliamentary maneuver. An unidentified senator placed a "secret hold" on legislation introduced by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., that would create a searchable database of government contracts, grants, insurance, loans and financial assistance, worth $2.5 trillion last year. The database would bring transparency to federal spending and be as simple to use as conducting a Google search. The measure had been unanimously passed in a voice vote last month by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. It was on the fast track for floor action before Congress recessed Aug. 4 when someone put a hold on the measure. Now the bill is in political limbo. Under Senate rules, unless the senator who placed the hold decides to lift it, the bill will not be brought up for a vote. "It really is outrageous to do this in the dead of night as Congress is recessing," said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a budget watchdog group based in Washington. "The public has a right to know how the government spends money." photographs of all senatorial suspects underneath a bold-faced headline asking, "Who is the Secret Holder?" There is no conceivable, rational explanation for killing this legislation unless they have something to hide.

Powered by the sun's rays
August 22, 2006, Sacramento Bee (leading newspaper of the capital city of California)

Sacramento's Solar Cookers International, will take the global stage Friday in Florence, Italy. The nongovernmental organization, which is dedicated to saving the world with solar power, will receive an award from the World Renewable Energy Congress. The secret of the group's success is the "CooKit," a 3-by-4-foot piece of cardboard lined with aluminum foil that harnesses the sun's rays to cook food and pasteurize water. About 90,000 "CooKits" are heating up in Africa, where they are being manufactured and sold for $8 or $9. The group has helped introduce 500,000 solar cookers to 25 nations where people spend half their $1-a-day wages to buy firewood to cook their meals, said Bob Metcalf, a microbiologist who co-founded the group in 1987. Solar cookers allow them to spend that money on food instead of firewood, said Metcalf, who teaches at California State University, Sacramento. Metcalf says he hopes the award will get him 30 minutes with Bill Gates or some other investor to spread the gospel of the CooKit, which could be used by "2.5 billion people today" who rely on wood, charcoal or animal dung to cook meals. Metcalf also invented the Water Pasteurization Indicator -- a reusable sealed test tube with wax that melts when food or water has been pasteurized at 149 degrees Fahrenheit. "It takes about 90 minutes in the sun," he said. For more information, go to

Note: For how to easily help several families a year pull out of poverty in third world countries, see

Placebo's power goes beyond the mind
August 21, 2006, MSNBC News

For years, scientists have looked at the placebo effect as just a figment of overactive patient imaginations. Sure, dummy medications seemed to curb epileptic seizures, lower blood pressure, soothe migraines and smooth out jerky movements in Parkinson's–but these people weren't really better. Now, using PET scanners and MRIs...researchers have discovered that the placebo effect is not "all in patients' heads" but rather, in their brains. New research shows that belief in a dummy treatment leads to changes in brain chemistry. Says Dr. Michael Selzer, professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, "After pooh-poohing this for years, here are studies that show that our thoughts may actually interact with the brain in a physical way." New insights into how placebos work may even help scientists figure out how to harness the effect and teach people to train their own brains to help with healing. Studies in depressed patients...have found that almost as many are helped by placebo treatments as by actual medications. Researchers are just starting to appreciate the power that the mind can have over the body. Part of what goes into the brain's interpretation is expectation. By changing the expectancy and bumping up the placebo response we might be able to ultimately find a way to provide sustained therapy for chronic pain."

Five Years After 9/11, Fear Finally Strikes Out
August 20, 2006, New York Times

The results are in for the White House's latest effort to exploit terrorism for political gain: the era of Americans' fearing fear itself is over. By crying wolf about terrorism way too often, usually when a distraction is needed from bad news in Iraq, [President Bush] and his administration have long since become comedy fodder. June's scenario was particularly choice: as Baghdad imploded, Alberto Gonzales breathlessly unmasked a Miami terror cell plotting a "full ground war" and the destruction of the Sears Tower, even though the alleged cell had no concrete plans, no contacts with terrorist networks and no equipment, including boots. Dick Cheney...will always be the man who told us that Iraqis would greet our troops as liberators and that the insurgency was in its last throes in May 2005. The administration's constant refrain that Iraq is the "central front" in the war on terror is not only false but has now also backfired politically: only 9 percent in the CBS poll felt that our involvement in Iraq was helping decrease terrorism. As its fifth anniversary arrives, 9/11 itself has been dwarfed by the mayhem in Iraq, where more civilians are now killed per month than died in the attack on America. This country remains a country of the center, and opposition to the war in Iraq is now the center and...even the center right. It's hard to ignore the tragic reality that...botched American policy has strengthened Iran and Hezbollah and undermined Israel, and that our Department of Homeland Security is as ill-equipped now to prevent explosives (liquid or otherwise) in cargo as it was on 9/11.

Scientists flock to test 'free energy' discovery
August 20, 2006, The Observer (one of the U.K.'s leading newspapers),,1854305,00.html

A man who claims to have developed a free energy technology which could power everything from mobile phones to cars has received more than 400 applications from scientists to test it. Sean McCarthy says that no one was more sceptical than he when Steorn, his small hi-tech firm in Dublin, hit upon a way of generating clean, free and constant energy from the interaction of magnetic fields. 'It wasn't so much a Eureka moment as a get-back-in-there-and-check-your-instruments moment, although in far more colourful language,' said McCarthy. But when he attempted to share his findings, he says, scientists either put the phone down on him or refused to endorse him publicly in case they damaged their academic reputations. So last week he took out a full-page advert in the Economist magazine, challenging the scientific community to examine his technology. McCarthy claims it provides five times the amount of energy a mobile phone battery generates for the same size, and does not have to be recharged. Within 36 hours of his advert appearing he had been contacted by 420 scientists in Europe, America and Australia, and a further 4,606 people had registered to receive the results.

Steorn and free energy: the plot thickens
August 19, 2006, Houston Chronicle Science Blog

Steorn has now posted a slick, five-minute video that features interviews with company CEO Sean McCarthy as well as the company's marketing director. For more background, see our earlier discussion. The video's slick, and not too heavy on scientific detail. But it's worth checking out. It does begin to explain the company's motivations for choosing to issue a challenge in the Economist. McCarthy: "The first roadblock is science. With the academic community, it might take five to seven years before being able to get to a consensus position. As a business, that makes absolutely no sense." The video explains that a "quiet" campaign was plan A. The direct marketing approach currently being taken is Plan B. McCarthy: "The claim does rail against so much thinking from ordinary people. We have to fight public opinion, we have to fight the scientific community and we have to fight the energy industry. We couldn't pick a worse battleground."

Note: For lots more on the many who have developed similar discoveries and how they have been either bought out or shut down:

Brazil's alcohol cars hit 2m mark
August 18, 2006, BBC News

Brazil's new generation of cars and trucks adapted to run on alcohol has just hit the two-million mark. "Flex-fuel" vehicles, which run on any combination of ethanol and petrol, now make up 77% of the Brazilian market. Brazil has pioneered the use of ethanol derived from sugar-cane as motor fuel. Ethanol-driven cars have been on sale there for 25 years, but they have been enjoying a revival since flex-fuel models first appeared in March 2003. Just 48,200 flex-fuel cars were sold in Brazil in 2003, but the total had reached 1.2 million by the end of last year and had since topped two million, the Brazilian motor manufacturers' association Anfavea said.

Note: With sky-high gasoline prices and the fear of depletion of global oil suppolies, why don't such cars exist in the U.S.? And why are the trains of almost every other developed nation far advanced from trains in the U.S.? For possible answers, The excellent movie "Who Killed the Electric Car" is also incredibly revealing:

Author, filmmakers fight over adaptation of 9/11 expose
August 18, 2006, Miami Herald (Miami's leading newspaper)

What was already expected to be a controversial documentary that charges that Osama bin Laden's top spy infiltrated three different branches of U.S. national security has gotten even hotter. Veteran investigative reporter Peter Lance call[ed] the TV documentary based on his book a whitewash. The documentary, Triple Cross, is scheduled to air on the National Geographic Channel Aug. 28, with Lance's book of the same name set for publication a few weeks later. But their accounts of the way bin Laden's master spy Ali A. Mohamed outwitted the CIA, the FBI and the U.S. Army may be overshadowed by the acrimonious war of words. National Geographic's producers at one point held back transcripts of interviews they were supposed to share with Lance, and still won't let him see the final documentary unless he signs what they call a "non-disparagment agreement." Mohamed turned up in FBI surveillance photos as early as 1989, training radical Muslims who would go on to...detonate a truck bomb at the World Trade Center. He not only avoided arrest, but managed to become an FBI informant at the same time he was smuggling bin Laden in and out of Afghanistan, writing most of the al Qaeda terrorist manual and helping plan attacks on American troops in Somalia and U.S. embassies in Africa. Finally arrested in 1998, Mohamed cut a deal with the Justice Department. His whereabouts remain shrouded in official secrecy. Lance, an Emmy winner who spent nine years as a producer-reporter at ABC, was one of the first journalists on the trail of the Mohamed story. "The FBI allowed the chief spy for al Qaeda to...plan the bombings of the embassies in Africa right under their noses.''

Big Tobacco Lied to Public, Judge Says
August 18, 2006, Washington Post

A federal judge ruled yesterday that tobacco companies have violated civil racketeering laws, concluding that cigarette makers conspired for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of their product. But U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said that under a 2005 appellate court ruling, she could not impose billions of dollars in penalties that had been sought by the Justice Department in its civil racketeering suit. In the opinion...Kessler wrote that there is "overwhelming evidence" [that the industry] conspired to violate, and indeed violated, federal racketeering laws. "In short," she wrote, "defendants have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted. Over the course of more than 50 years, defendants lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people...about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke." Kessler added that the companies "suppressed research, they destroyed documents, they manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction...and they abused the legal system in order to achieve their goal -- to make money." The Justice Department lawsuit originally sought $280 billion. But the U.S. Court of Appeals [ruled] a company could not be forced to turn over past profits as a way of preventing future misconduct. The Justice Department subsequently proposed a $130 billion penalty to pay for anti-smoking programs, scaled that back to a total of $14 billion.

Remarks at the Swearing-in of Gregg Rickman as the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism
May 26, 2006, U.S. Department of State

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here to swear in Dr. Gregg Rickman as our Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism. Greg is going to serve as our first Anti-Semitism Special Envoy and this is a position that was created by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act. I want to recognize the seminal role of Congress in creating this position. President Bush has said that defending freedom also means disrupting the evil of anti-Semitism. Today ethnic and religious differences are still viewed by some as a license to kill. And we are reminded of the sad history of humankind when prejudice and hatred turn violent against those who are simply different.

Note: Why not have a special envoy for monitoring and combating racism and prejudice?

Other Media Articles on 9/11

Teacher's radical 9/11 views raise red flags
Christian Science Monitor - August 18, 2006

But the truth behind 9/11 is so less interesting
Minneapolis Star-Tribune - August 19, 2006

Coverage doesn't give approval
Albany Times Union - August 18, 2006 (On the front page!!!)

Note: For an interesting four-minute video clip of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and others discussing a UFO sighting on their mission, see And for an excellent overview of government-sponsored terror, see the Alex Jones two-hour production Terrorstorm at I most highly recommend the first hour of this documentary, though I was sad to watch the second hour degenerate into anger and blame.

Finding Balance: Inspiration Center believes it is important to balance disturbing cover-up information with inspirational writings which call us to be all that we can be and to work together for positive change. For an abundance of uplifting material, please visit our Inspiration Center.

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Placebo Power, Tobacco Lies, Crying Wolf, Brazil's Flex-Fuel Cars