New Wiretapping Law, Military Microchips,
Electronic Voting Machines
Revealing News Articles
August 8, 2007
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the new wiretapping law signed by President Bush, U.S. military plans for microchip brain implants in soldiers, decertification of electronic voting machines in California, 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.
Bush Signs Law to Widen Legal Reach for Wiretapping
August 6, 2007, New York Times
President Bush signed into law ... legislation that broadly [expands] the government's authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants. The law [goes] far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists [and will] sharply alter the legal limits on the government's ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the United States. The new law for the first time [provides] a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens. "This more or less legalizes the N.S.A. program," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington. Previously, the government needed search warrants approved by a special intelligence court to eavesdrop on ... electronic communications between individuals inside the United States and people overseas. The new law gives the attorney general and the director of national intelligence the power to approve the international surveillance, rather than the special intelligence court. The law also gave the administration greater power to force telecommunications companies to cooperate with such spying operations. The companies can now be compelled to cooperate by orders from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence.
Voting decision creates turmoil
August 5, 2007, Sacramento Bee (Leading newspaper of California's capital city)
Across California, bleary-eyed voting watchdogs, registrars and public officials spent the day trying to digest [Secretary of State Debra] Bowen's late Friday decision to limit electronic balloting and install various new safeguards. The former Democratic state senator, an electronic voting skeptic who fought in the Legislature to require a paper trail for digital ballots, [took action] after University of California researchers found security flaws in three electronic systems. Barring a legal challenge, Bowen's actions will force 21 counties to shutter most of their touch-screen machines. Those counties, who use machines made by Diebold Election Systems and Sequoia Voting Systems, will instead ask most voters to fill bubbles on paper ballots to make their selections, a method known as "optical scan." Dan Ashby, [an] electronic voting critic who heads the California Election Protection Network, praised Bowen for her actions. "Election officials are probably going to fight tooth and nail against the decertification order, but we think truth and logic are on our side," Ashby said. "The best use for the machines would be to melt them down for scrap. But before we can do that, we have to do a withdrawal in stages." Bowen estimated that more than two-thirds of California voters already cast paper ballots, a number she believes will continue to rise as more people vote absentee.
Note: The Sacramento Bee, within two days of its publication, restricted access to this story, requiring registration to read it. Secretary of State Bowen is under attack throughout the state for having proven the hackability of electronic voting machines. Many Registrars of Voters are threatening to ignore the new regulations, and they are getting a lot of press coverage as they attempt to reverse Bowen's decision. You can show support for Debra Bowen through contacting the media, writing letters to editors, or by signing this petition. For more reliable, verifiable information about the serious problems with new electronic voting machines, click here.
Ruling Limited Spying Efforts
August 3, 2007, Washington Post
A federal intelligence court judge earlier this year secretly declared a key element of the Bush administration's wiretapping efforts illegal, according to a lawmaker and government sources, providing a previously unstated rationale for fevered efforts by congressional lawmakers this week to expand the president's spying powers. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) disclosed elements of the court's decision in remarks ... to Fox News as he was promoting the administration-backed wiretapping legislation. The judge, whose name could not be learned, concluded early this year that the government had overstepped its authority in attempting to broadly surveil communications between two locations overseas that are passed through routing stations in the United States. The decision was both a political and practical blow to the administration, which had long held that all of the National Security Agency's enhanced surveillance efforts since 2001 were legal. The administration for years had declined to subject those efforts to the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and after it finally did so in January the court ruled that the administration's legal judgment was at least partly wrong. The practical effect has been to block the NSA's efforts to collect information from a large volume of foreign calls and e-mails that passes through U.S. communications nodes clustered around New York and California. Both Democrats and Republicans have signaled they are eager to fix that problem through amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). An unstated facet of the program is that anyone the foreigner is calling inside the United States, as long as that person is not the primary target, would also be wiretapped.
Stampeding Congress, Again
August 3, 2007, New York Times
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not feel bound by the law or the Constitution. It cannot even be trusted to properly use the enhanced powers it was legally granted after the attacks. Yet, once again, President Bush has been trying to stampede Congress into a completely unnecessary expansion of his power to spy on Americans. The fight is over the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping on electronic communications that involve someone in the United States. Mr. Bush decided after 9/11 that he was no longer going to obey that law. He authorized the National Security Agency to intercept international telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans and other residents of this country without a court order. He told the public nothing and Congress next to nothing about what he was doing, until The Times disclosed the spying in December 2005. Ever since, the White House has tried to pressure Congress into legalizing Mr. Bush's rogue operation. The administration and its ... supporters in Congress argue that American intelligence is blinded by FISA and have seized on neatly timed warnings of heightened terrorist activity to scare everyone. It is vital for Americans, especially lawmakers, to resist that argument. It is pure propaganda. [The question at issue is] whether we are a nation ruled by law, or the whims of men in power.
U.S. Military May Implant Chips In Troops' Brains
August 2, 2007, KUTV (CBS affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah)
Imagine a day when the U.S. government implants microchips inside the brains of U.S. soldiers. Well you don't have to think too far into the future. The defense department is studying the idea now. The chip would be the size of a grain of rice. How far is too far when it comes to privacy? The department of defense recently awarded $1.6 million to Clemson University to develop an implantable biochip. It would go into the brain using a new gel that prevents the human body from rejecting it. The overall idea is to improve the quality and speed of care for fallen soldiers. "It's just crazy. To me, it's like a bad sci-fi movie," says Yelena Slattery [from] the website www.WeThePeopleWillNotBeChipped.com. Slattery says, "Soldiers can't choose not to get certain things done because they become government property once they sign up. When does it end? When does it become an infringement on a person's privacy?" Once the chip is in, she says, could those soldiers be put on surveillance, even when they're off-duty? A spokesman for veterans of foreign wars also urged caution. Joe Davis said, "If you have a chip that's holding a gigabyte, or 10 gigs, like an iPod, what kind of information is going to be on there? How could this be used against you if you were taken captive?"
Note: For a treasure trove of recent and reliable information on the increasing penetration of microchips into our lives, click here.
F.D.A. Panel Votes to Keep Diabetes Drug on Market
July 30, 2007, New York Times
A federal drug advisory committee voted 20 to 3 late this afternoon that Avandia, a controversial diabetes drug made by GlaxoSmithKline, raises the risks of heart attacks, but it then voted 22 to 1 that the drug should nonetheless remain on the market. Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, chairman of the committee [said] "there was enough concern on the advisory committee that virtually everybody felt there was risk" of heart attacks from taking Avandia. Patients who have congestive heart failure or a history of cardiovascular disease, or those taking insulin or nitrates should not be given Avandia, Dr. Rosen said. The votes came after an extraordinary meeting in which officials from the Food and Drug Administration, which brought the committee together, openly disagreed with one another about the right course to take. Dr. David Graham, a drug safety officer at the F.D.A., called for the drug's withdrawal and estimated that its toxic effects on the heart had caused as many as 205,000 heart attacks, strokes and death from 1999 to 2006. For every month that Avandia is sold, he said, another 1,600 to 2,200 patients are likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes, some of them fatal. Dr. Robert Meyer, director of the office within the F.D.A. that approved Avandia's initial application, immediately disagreed with Dr. Graham. Dr. Douglas C. Throckmorton, a deputy director of the F.D.A.'s center for drugs, explained at a news conference after the meeting that the split within the agency resulted from the "complexity" of the issue. The open disagreement within the F.D.A. reflects a fierce debate that has occurred among diabetes experts across the country since The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in May suggesting that Avandia increases the risks of heart attacks.
Note: To read a succinct, powerful summary of how drug companies control the regulation of their own industry, click here.
New Details on Tillman's Death
July 27, 2007, ABC News/Associated Press
Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime. "The medical evidence did not match up with the ... scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators. The doctors ... said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away. The medical examiners' suspicions were outlined in 2,300 pages of testimony released to the AP this week by the Defense Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Among other information contained in the documents: Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments. The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman's death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions. No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene, no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck. The military initially told the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by enemy fire. Only weeks later did the Pentagon acknowledge he was gunned down by fellow Rangers. With questions lingering about how high in the Bush administration the deception reached, Congress is preparing for yet another hearing next week.
Alarm at US right to highly personal data
July 22, 2007, The Observer (U.K.)
Highly sensitive information about the religious beliefs, political opinions and even the sex life of Britons travelling to the United States is to be made available to US authorities when the European Commission agrees to a new system of checking passengers. The EC is in the final stages of agreeing a new Passenger Name Record system with the US which will allow American officials to access detailed biographical information about passengers entering international airports. Civil liberty groups warn it will have serious consequences for European passengers. In a strongly worded document drawn up in response to the plan that will affect the 4 million-plus Britons who travel to the US every year, the EU parliament said it 'notes with concern that sensitive data (ie personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, and data concerning the health or sex life of individuals) will be made available to the DHS.' The US will be able to hold the records of European passengers for 15 years compared with the current three year limit. The EU parliament said it was concerned the data would lead to 'a significant risk of massive profiling and data mining, which is incompatible with basic European principles and is a practice still under discussion in the US congress.' Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor, has written to the EC expressing his 'grave concern' at the plan, which he describes as 'without legal precedent' and one that puts 'European data protection rights at risk'. Hustinx warns: 'Data on EU citizens will be readily accessible to a broad range of US agencies and there is no limitation to what US authorities are allowed to do with the data.'
Minimum wages, maximum CEO greed
July 19, 2007, Sacramento Bee (Sacramento's leading newspaper)
Minimum-wage workers made $5.15 an hour when Harry Potter became a sensation a decade ago, and nothing more until July 24, three days after the final Harry Potter book release. [That] year, 1997, Business Week declared CEO pay was "out of control." Since then, CEO pay has gotten more out of control. Average CEO pay at the top 500 companies jumped 38 percent to $15.2 million in 2006 -- the year we broke the record for the longest period ever without a raise in the federal minimum wage. The ... minimum wage increase from $5.15 to $5.85 is so little, so late, that the minimum wage is still worth less than it was back in 1997, when it was $6.67 in today's dollars. Minimum-wage workers had more buying power when Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton opened his first Walton's 5 & 10 in 1951. CEOs make more in 90 minutes than minimum wage workers make in a year. The two longest periods in history without a minimum wage increase have occurred since 1980. Those long droughts without a raise have left minimum-wage workers in the dust. In 1980, the average CEO at a big corporation made as much as 97 minimum-wage workers. In 1997, the average CEO made as much as 728 minimum-wage workers. Last year, CEOs made as much as 1,419 minimum-wage workers. "As the productivity of workers increases, one would expect worker compensation to experience similar gains," a 2001 U.S. Department of Labor report observed. Instead, the gains have gone to record-breaking profits, CEOs and other have-mores. Between 1980 and 2006, worker productivity went up 70 percent, average worker wages went nowhere, the minimum wage fell 32 percent, and domestic corporate profits rose 256 percent, adjusting for inflation.
A Challenge to Gene Theory, a Tougher Look at Biotech
July 1, 2007, New York Times
The $73.5 billion global biotech business may soon have to grapple with a discovery that calls into question the scientific principles on which it was founded. Last month, a consortium of scientists published findings that challenge the traditional view of how genes function. The exhaustive four-year effort was organized by the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute and carried out by 35 groups from 80 organizations around the world. To their surprise, researchers found that the human genome might not be a "tidy collection of independent genes" after all, with each sequence of DNA linked to a single function, such as a predisposition to diabetes or heart disease. Instead, genes appear to operate in a complex network, and interact and overlap with one another and with other components in ways not yet fully understood. According to the institute, these findings will challenge scientists "to rethink some long-held views about what genes are and what they do." Biologists have recorded these network effects for many years in other organisms. But in the world of science, discoveries often do not become part of mainstream thought until they are linked to humans. With that link now in place, the report is likely to have repercussions far beyond the laboratory. The presumption that genes operate independently has been institutionalized since 1976, when the first biotech company was founded. In fact, it is the economic and regulatory foundation on which the entire biotechnology industry is built. The principle that gave rise to the biotech industry promised benefits that were equally compelling. Known as the Central Dogma of molecular biology, it stated that each gene in living organisms, from humans to bacteria, carries the information needed to construct one protein.
Fla. Man Invents Machine To Turn Water Into Fire
May 24, 2007, WPFB-TV (ABC affiliate in Palm Beach, FL)
A Florida man may have accidentally invented a machine that could solve the gasoline and energy crisis plaguing the U.S.. [John] Kanzius, 63, invented a machine that emits radio waves in an attempt to kill cancerous cells while leaving normal cells intact. While testing his machine, he noticed that his invention had other unexpected abilities. Filling a test tube with salt water from a canal in his back yard, Kanzius placed the tube and a paper towel in the machine and turned it on. Suddenly, the paper towel ignited. Kanzius performed the experiment without the paper towel and got the same result -- the saltwater was actually burning. [He] said he showed the experiment to a handful of scientists across the country who claim they are baffled at watching salt water ignite. Kanzius said the flame created from his machine reaches a temperature of around 3,000 [°F]. He said a chemist told him that the immense heat created from the machine breaks down the hydrogen-oxygen bond in the water, igniting the hydrogen. "You could take plain salt water out of the sea, put it in containers and produce a violent flame that could heat generators that make electricity, or provide other forms of energy," Kanzius said. He said engineers are currently experimenting with him in Erie, Pa. in an attempt to harness the energy. They've built an engine that, when placed on top of the flame, chugged along for two minutes. Kanzius admits all the excitement surrounding a new possible energy source was a stroke of luck. Someone who witnessed his work on the cancer front asked him if perhaps the machine could be used for desalinization. "This was an experiment to see if I could heat salt water, and instead of heat, I got fire," Kanzius said.
Note: Why aren't millions of dollars being channeled to explore this exciting field further? To watch a video clip of this exciting machine igniting sea water, click here.
Ex-CIA official, contractor face new charges
May 11, 2007, MSNBC/Associated Press
New charges have been filed alleging that a former top CIA official pushed a proposed $100 million government contract for his best friend in return for lavish vacations, private jet flights and a lucrative job offer. The indictment [brings] charges ... against Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who resigned from the spy agency a year ago, and ... defense contractor Brent Wilkes. The charges grew from the bribery scandal that landed former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham in prison. The pair now face 30 wide-ranging counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering [including that] Foggo provided Wilkes with "sensitive, internal information related to ... national security," including classified information, to help him prepare proposals for providing undercover flights for the CIA under the guise of a civil aviation company and armored vehicles for agency operations. Then, he pushed his CIA colleagues to hire Wilkes' companies without disclosing their friendship, prosecutors allege. In a June 2005 e-mail to the head of CIA air operations quoted in the indictment, Foggo offered to "use some 'EXDIR grease"' on Wilkes' behalf. Foggo was the agency's executive director at the time. In return, Wilkes offered to hire Foggo after he retired from government service. [An] initial indictment in February charged the pair with 11 counts of the same charges in connection with a $1.7 million water-supply contract Foggo allegedly helped win for one of Wilkes' companies while he was working as a logistics coordinator at a CIA supply hub overseas. Foggo, the former No. 3 official at the CIA, resigned from the spy agency after his house and office were raided by federal agents.
Note: Until just a few years ago, there was a virtual blackout in the media on any negative coverage of the CIA. The prosecution of the #3 man in the CIA is an external manifestation of huge shake-ups going on behind the scenes. Buzzy Krongard, the previous #3 at the CIA has been linked to the millions of dollars in suspicious stock option trades made just prior to 9/11 that were never claimed, though this received little media coverage.
Cat plays furry grim reaper at nursing home
July 27, 2007, MSNBC
Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live. "He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in [the July 26] issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. "Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University. The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses. After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours. Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said. Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.
Special Note: 9/9 UNITED FOR TRUTH, an exciting and important European demonstration for 9/11 truth and the return of civil liberties, is scheduled to take place in Brussels on September 9, 2007. To get all the details, click here.
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New Wiretapping Law, Military Microchips, Electronic Voting Machines