Government Secrecy, U.S. Health Care,
Chinese Export Dangers
Revealing News Articles
June 7, 2007
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on US health care, Chinese export dangers, government secrecy 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. 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.
UCSF study questions drug trial results
June 5, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Money talks -- and very loudly -- when a drug company is funding a clinical trial involving one of its products. UCSF researchers looked at nearly 200 head-to-head studies of widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications, or statins, and found that results were 20 times more likely to favor the drug made by the company that sponsored the trial. "We have to be really, really skeptical of these drug-company-sponsored studies," said Lisa Bero, the study's author and professor of clinical pharmacy and health policy studies. The trials typically involved comparing the effectiveness of a drug to one or two other statins. UCSF researchers also found that a study's conclusions -- not the actual research results but the trial investigators' impressions -- are more than 35 times more likely to favor the test drug when that trial is sponsored by the drug's maker. Bero said drug companies fund up to 90 percent of drug-to-drug clinical trials for certain classes of medication. The researchers found other factors that could affect trial results. For example, pharmaceutical companies could choose not to publish results of studies that fail to favor their drugs, or they could be designed in ways to skew results. The study found the most important weakness of trials was lack of true clinical outcome measures. In the case of statins, some trials focused on less-direct results such as lipid levels but failed to connect the results with key outcomes such as heart attacks or mortality. "None of us really care what our cholesterol level is. We care about having a heart attack," Gibson said. "For the drug to be worthwhile taking, it has to be directly related to prevent a heart attack."
Note: For lots more reliable information about corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, click here.
Sicko? The truth about the US healthcare system
June 4, 2007, The Independent
Within a few hours, Cynthia Kline was dead. She died in an American city with one of the highest concentrations of top-flight medical specialists in the world. And it happened largely because of America's broken health care system - one where 50 million people are entirely without insurance coverage and tens of millions more struggle to have the treatment they need approved. As a result, medical problems go unattended until they reach crisis point. America's health system offers a tremendous paradox. In medical technology and in the scientific understanding of disease, it is second-to-none. And yet many, if not most, Americans are unable to reap the advantages of this. In fact, as The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has argued, the very proliferation of research and high-tech equipment is part of the reason for the imbalance in coverage between the privileged few and the increasingly underserved masses. "[The system] compensates for higher spending on insiders, in part, by consigning more people to outsider status --robbing Peter of basic care in order to pay for Paul's state-of-the-art treatment," Krugman wrote. "Thus we have the cruel paradox that medical progress is bad for many Americans' health." Having the system run by for-profit insurance companies turns out to be inefficient and expensive as well as dehumanising. America spends more than twice as much per capita on health care as France, and almost two and a half times as much as Britain. And yet it falls down in almost every key indicator of public health, starting ... with infant mortality, which is 36 per cent higher than in Britain.
U.S. health care is bad for your health
June 3, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
[A new] study ... finds that not only is the U.S. health care system the most expensive in the world (double that of the next most costly comparator country, Canada) but comes in dead last in almost any measure of performance. Although U.S. political leaders are fond of stating that we have the best health-care system in the world, they fail to acknowledge an important caveat: It is the best only for the very rich. For the rest of the population, its deficits far outweigh its advantages. [The] study compared the United States with Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Although the most notable way in which the United States differs from the other countries is in the absence of universal coverage, the United States is also last on dimensions of access, patient safety, efficiency and equity. The other five countries considered spend considerably less on health care, both per capita and as a percent of gross domestic product, than the United States. The United States spends $7,000 per person per year on health care, almost double that of Australia, Canada and Germany, each of which achieve better results on health status indicators than the United States. The United States also lags behind all industrialized nations in terms of health coverage. 46.6 million Americans (about 15.9 percent of the population) had no health insurance coverage during 2005. It is no wonder, then, that medical bills are overwhelmingly the most common reason for personal bankruptcy in the United States.
Note: For a treasure trove of reliable information on health, click here.
When Fakery Turns Fatal
June 5, 2007, New York Times
They might be called China's renegade businessmen, small entrepreneurs who are experts at counterfeiting and willing to go to extraordinary lengths to make a profit. But just how far out of the Chinese mainstream are they? Cutting corners or producing fake goods is not just a legacy of China's initial rush toward the free market three decades ago but [is] still woven into the fabric of the nation's thriving industrial economy. It is driven by entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of a weak legal system, lax regulations and a business culture where bribery and corruption are rampant. "This is cut-throat market capitalism," said Wenran Jiang, a specialist in China who teaches at the University of Alberta. Since this country's economic reforms began to take root in the 1980s, businesses have engineered countless ways to produce everything from fake car parts, cosmetics and brand name bags to counterfeit electrical cables and phony Viagra. Counterfeiting rings are broken nearly every week; nonetheless, the government seems to be waging a losing battle against the operations. Dozens of Chinese cities have risen to prominence over the last two decades by first specializing in fake goods, like Wenzhou, which was once known for selling counterfeit Procter & Gamble products, and Kaihua in Zhejiang province, which specialized in fake Philips light bulbs. For a time, people even derided the entire province of Henan as the capital of substandard or fake goods, like medicines that could make you miraculously grow taller.
Note: The fact that China recently sentenced to death the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration may show that China is trying to address the problem, yet corruption is rampant in the drug industries of China, the U.S., and most other countries.
China corners vitamin market
June 3, 2007, Seattle Times (One of Seattle's two leading newspapers)
If you pop a vitamin C tablet in your mouth, it's a good bet it came from China. Indeed, many of the world's vitamins are now made in China. In less than a decade, China has captured 90 percent of the U.S. market for vitamin C, driving almost everyone else out of business. Chinese pharmaceutical companies also have taken over much of the world market in the production of antibiotics, analgesics, enzymes and primary amino acids. According to an industry group, China makes 70 percent of the world's penicillin, 50 percent of its aspirin and 35 percent of its [Tylenol], as well as the bulk of vitamins A, B12, C and E. In the wake of a pet-food scandal, in which adulterated wheat gluten from China led to the deaths of thousands of pets in North America, and other instances of food and toothpaste tampering, China's vitamin producers are reaching out to reassure U.S. consumers that their vitamins are safe. Whether that's true isn't clear, however. Foreign food-safety experts say China's larger companies have reputations to protect. The question is how they maintain quality control. Since U.S. laws don't require food and drug sellers to label products with the country of origin of ingredients, it's impossible for consumers to know where food or supplements are coming from, not to mention what factory produced them.
White House revises post-disaster protocol
June 2, 2007, Boston Globe
The Bush administration is writing a new plan to maintain governmental control in the wake of an apocalyptic terrorist attack or overwhelming natural disaster, moving such doomsday planning for the first time from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to officials inside the White House. Discussion among legal specialists, homeland security experts and Internet commentators [includes] concerns that the policy may [make] it too easy to invoke emergency presidential powers such as martial law. The ... new "National Continuity Policy" contains few details about how surviving officials would invoke emergency powers, or when emergency powers should be deemed to be no longer necessary. The unanswered questions have provoked anxiety across ideological lines. The conservative commentator Jerome Corsi [wrote] that the directive looked like a recipe for allowing the office of the presidency to seize "dictatorial powers" because the policy does not discuss consulting Congress about when to invoke emergency powers -- or when to turn them off. Some specialists say that the White House should be more specific about its worst-case scenario plans, pointing out two unanswered questions: what circumstances would trigger implementation of the plan and what legal limits the White House recognizes on its own emergency powers. The policy ... does not contain a direct reference to statutes in which Congress has imposed checks and balances on the president's power to impose martial law or other extraordinary measures, [nor does it] explicitly acknowledge the National Emergencies Act, [a] law that gives Congress the right to override the president's determination that a national emergency still exists.
'USS Liberty' veterans demand investigation
June 3, 2007, Arizona Republic (Arizona's leading newspaper)
In demanding a congressional investigation into the aborted rescue during the attack of the USS Liberty and subsequent alleged cover-up [the following] conclusions [were] submitted in October 2003 to the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense by the USS Liberty Veterans Association, Inc.: 1. That on June 8, 1967 ... Israel launched a two-hour air and naval attack against USS Liberty ... inflicting 34 dead and 173 wounded American servicemen; 2. That ... unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on USS Liberty's bridge and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into [the] ship; 3. That the torpedo boat attack involved not only the firing of torpedoes, but the machine-gunning of Liberty's firefighters and stretcher-bearers as they struggled to save their ship and crew; the Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty's life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded; 4. That there is compelling evidence that Israel's attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew; evidence of such intent is supported by statements from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Undersecretary of State George Ball, former CIA Director Richard Helms, former NSA Directors Lt. Gen. William Odom, USA (Ret.), Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, USN (Ret.), and Marshal Carter; former NSA deputy directors Oliver Kirby and Maj. Gen. John Morrison, USAF (Ret.); 6. The White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of USS Liberty by recalling Sixth Fleet military rescue support while the ship was under attack.
Let children be children
June 3, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
We've just finished test time again in the schools of California. The mad frenzy of testing infects everyone from second grade through high school. Because of the rigors and threats of No Child Left Behind, schools are desperate to increase their scores. As the requirements become more stringent, we have completely lost sight of the children taking these tests. For 30 years as a teacher of primary kids, I have operated on the Any Fool Can See principle. And any fool can see that the spread between what is developmentally appropriate for 7- and 8-year-old children and what is demanded of them on these tests is widening. A lot of what used to be in the first-grade curriculum is now taught in kindergarten. Is your 5-year-old stressed out? Perhaps this is why. Currently, 2 1/2 uninterrupted hours are supposed to be devoted to language arts and reading every morning. I ask you, what adult could sustain an interest in one subject for that long? The result of this has been a decline in math scores at our school. The teaching of art is all but a subversive activity. Teachers whisper, "I taught art today!" as if they would be reported to the Reading Police for stealing time from the reading curriculum. The present emphasis on testing and test scores is sucking the soul out of the primary school experience for both teachers and children. So much time is spent on testing and measuring reading speed that the children are losing the joy that comes but once in their lifetime. The teachers around them, under constant pressure to raise those test scores, radiate urgency and pressure. They are not enjoying their jobs. The great unspoken secret of primary school is that a lot of what is going on is arrant nonsense, and it's getting worse. Any fool can see.
White House: Visitor logs exempt from laws
June 1, 2007, CNN/Associated Press
A newly disclosed effort to keep Vice President Dick Cheney's visitor records secret is the latest White House push to make sure the public doesn't learn who has been meeting with top officials in the Bush administration. Over the past year, lawyers for President Bush and Cheney have directed the Secret Service to maintain the confidentiality of visitor entry and exit logs, declaring them to be presidential records, exempt from a law requiring their disclosure to whoever asks to see them. Cabinet officers often don't want to give up their meeting calendars to journalists. They have no choice under the Freedom of Information Act, which provides public access to some records kept by federal agencies. But the FOIA disclosure law, which doesn't apply to Congress, also doesn't apply to presidential records. The Bush administration has exploited that difference, triggering a battle in the courts. The administration is seeking dismissal of two lawsuits by ... Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, demanding Secret Service visitor logs. "The scary thing about this move by the vice president's office is the power grab part of it," said Tom Blanton, head of [George Washington University's] National Security Archive ... which uses the FOIA law to pierce government secrecy. "We're looking at a huge problem if the White House can reach into any agency and say certain records have something to do with the White House and they are presidential from now on," Blanton said. "This White House has been infinitely creative in finding new ways and new forms of government secrecy."
May 29, 2007, MSNBC
On what should [have been] a happy day of fundraising in the four boroughs of New York City ... for Rudy Giuliani's 63rd birthday, a few protestors ruined his first event. At City Island's Sea Shore Restaurant in the Bronx, a young woman named Sabrina approached the Mayor with a prepared question, reading it word for word off of a notepad. "You reported to Peter Jennings on 9/11 that the World Trade Center towers were going to collapse. No steel structure in history has ever collapsed due to fire. How come the people in the buildings weren't notified and who else knew about this? How do you sleep at night?" Matthew Lepaceak, who stood on the other side of Giuliani, joined in. "But you said on ABC video with Peter Jennings in an interview that you were aware the towers were going to collapse in advance. Who told you the towers were going to collapse in advance, sir?" During this time, Giuliani had an incredulous look on his face, completely caught off guard. The statement they were referring to is from a phoner Giuliani had with Jennings. "We set up headquarters at 75 Barclay Street which was right there with the police commissioner and the fire commissioner, the head of emergency management, and we were operating out of there when we were told the World Traded Center was going to collapse." After being interrupted again, Giuliani responded with an explanation. "Our understanding was that over a long period of time, the way other buildings collapse, the towers could collapse. Meaning over a seven-, eight-, nine-, ten-hour period. No one that I knew of had any idea that they would implode. That was a complete surprise."
Note: To view a video clip of Rudy Giuliani describing how he was told of the Towers' collapse ahead of time, click here. To watch him deny what he said on this clip, watch this one. When so many have said no one could have predicted the fall of the towers, how is it that Giuliani knew otherwise -- and then denied ever knowing it?
US on Mad Cow: Don't Test All Cattle
May 29, 2007, New York Times/Associated Press
The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease. The Agriculture Department tests less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. But Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows. Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone tested its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive test, too. The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry. A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. U.S. District Judge James Robertson noted that Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on and said the government didn't have the authority to restrict it. The ruling was to take effect June 1, but the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it would appeal -- effectively delaying the testing until the court challenge plays out. Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Britain. There have been three cases of mad cow disease in the U.S.
Dirt exposure 'boosts happiness'
April 1, 2007, BBC
Exposure to dirt may be a way to lift mood as well as boost the immune system, UK scientists say. Lung cancer patients treated with "friendly" bacteria normally found in the soil have anecdotally reported improvements in their quality of life. Mice exposed to the same bacteria made more of the brain's "happy" chemical serotonin, the Bristol University authors told the journal Neuroscience. A lack of serotonin is linked with depression in people. The scientists say more work is now needed to determine if the bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae has antidepressant properties. Lead researcher Dr Chris Lowry said: "These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health. They also leave us wondering if we shouldn't all spend more time playing in the dirt." The work could also help experts' understanding of why an imbalance in the immune system leaves some individuals vulnerable to mood disorders like depression, he added.
Key Articles From Past Years
Blind artist's painting passion
August 10, 2000, BBC
A financial analyst who was devastated when she lost her sight has taken up a new career: painting. Lisa Fittipaldi ... has created more than 400 works of art. Her pictures now sell from $2,800 to $10,000 and hang in some of the most exclusive galleries in the United States. Mrs Fittipaldi was robbed of her sight seven years ago by a degenerative vascular disease. The gift of a child's water colour set has changed her life. Her husband, Al, gave her the painting kit to stop her feeling sorry for herself. Even though Lisa had never painted before, a star of the art world was born. She does not do abstracts, but instead paints images from memories from her travels. She uses a technique she describes as mental mapping to work her way around a canvas, by dividing it up into quadrants. And how does she find the right colours? "In water colours, I used to differentiate between colours by dipping my fingers in it," she said. "The pigment of blue is a little bit drier, a bit stickier than red." She is encountering new hurdles as she attempts to progress from water colours to oils. One dollop of oil paint feels identical to another. Lisa's husband is still amazed. "When she first picked up a brush and started doing water colours, I just couldn't believe that this could be happening," said Al Fittipaldi, glowing with pride. "But now I just accept it and we move on with it and her work just keeps getting better and better." For how much longer will Lisa be able to transfer her inner vision to the canvas? The disease that made her blind is slowly crippling her body. She says she will never give up painting and says her ambition is to travel to India to paint a thousand people bathing in the Ganges.
Special Note: To visit an important new website, Architects and Engineers For 9/11 Truth (ae911truth.org), please click here. To see Media Channel's highly informative new Media Ownership Chart, click here.
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U.S. Health Care, Chinese Export Dangers, Government Secrecy