Prisons Book Purge, Flu Shot Effectiveness,
Collecting Data on Travelers
Revealing News Articles
September 28, 2007
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the purge of religious books in U.S. prisons, questions about the effectiveness of flu shots for the elderly, the collection of personal data about U.S. travelers, 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.
Prisons to Restore Purged Religious Books
September 27, 2007, New York Times
Facing pressure from religious groups, civil libertarians and members of Congress, the federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to return religious materials that had been purged from prison chapel libraries because they were not on the bureau's lists of approved resources. After the details of the removal became widely known this month, Republican lawmakers, liberal Christians and evangelical talk shows all criticized the government for creating a list of acceptable religious books. In an e-mail message Wednesday, the bureau said: "In response to concerns expressed by members of several religious communities, the Bureau of Prisons has decided to alter its planned course of action with respect to the Chapel Library Project. The bureau will begin immediately to return to chapel libraries materials that were removed in June 2007, with the exception of any publications that have been found to be inappropriate, such as material that could be radicalizing or incite violence. The review of all materials in chapel libraries will be completed by the end of January 2008." Only a week ago the bureau said it was not reconsidering the library policy. But critics of the bureau's program said it appeared that the bureau had bowed to widespread outrage. "Certainly putting the books back on the shelves is a major victory, and it shows the outcry from all over the country was heard," said Moses Silverman, a lawyer for three prisoners who are suing the bureau over the program. "But regarding what they do after they put them back ... I remain concerned that the criteria for returning the books will be constitutional and lawful."
Study finds flu shots do little to help most vulnerable elderly
September 24, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
A team of National Institutes of Health researchers has concluded that the often-touted benefits of flu shots to people over the age of 70 are highly exaggerated - there is no real proof they provide protection to the frail elderly. The conclusion published Monday in an online edition of the British journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases is unwelcome news for public health officials in the United States who are preparing to launch the annual flu shot campaign. This season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes that a record 132 million doses of flu vaccine will be manufactured for the U.S. market, but the federal agency has been having a hard time boosting the number of Americans who line up for the shots. Last year, at least 18 million doses of flu vaccine went to waste. The CDC's long-standing goal is to have 90 percent of seniors aged 65 and older vaccinated against flu. The policy has made progress: In the 2005-06 flu season, 69 percent of that population was vaccinated, compared to just 15 percent in 1980. It is precisely that success that has led disease control experts in recent years to question the value of the vaccine. With such a large increase in immunization rates, a drop in flu deaths among the elderly would have been expected. But several studies have failed to show any such reduction. The report underscores growing doubts about how useful the current flu vaccines are for the elderly.
Note: Vaccines are a big profit maker for the drug companies. Can we trust that they make decisions based on what's best for our health? For many key articles on health from reliable major media sources, click here.
Collecting of Details on Travelers Documented
September 22, 2007, Washington Post
The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials. The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, [by] the Department of Homeland Security's ... Automated Targeting System. But new details about the information being retained suggest that the government is monitoring the personal habits of travelers more closely than it has previously acknowledged. The details were learned when a group of activists requested copies of official records on their own travel. Those records included a description of a book on marijuana that one of them carried and small flashlights bearing the symbol of a marijuana leaf. Civil liberties advocates have alleged that the type of information preserved by the department raises alarms about the government's ability to intrude into the lives of ordinary people. The millions of travelers whose records are kept by the government are generally unaware of what their records say, and the government has not created an effective mechanism for reviewing the data and correcting any errors, activists said. The activists alleged that the data collection effort, as carried out now, violates the Privacy Act, which bars the gathering of data related to Americans' exercise of their First Amendment rights, such as their choice of reading material or persons with whom to associate. They also expressed concern that such personal data could one day be used to impede their right to travel.
Outsourcing foreign policy
September 21, 2007, Los Angeles Times
For years, the [Bush] administration has been quietly auctioning off U.S. foreign policy to the highest corporate bidder -- and it may be too late for us to buy it back. Look at Blackwater. Blackwater increasingly promises to do everything the U.S. government can do, but better. Blackwater's facility in North Carolina is the world's largest private military facility -- it's so good that the U.S. military uses it for training. Since its founding, it has trained 50,000 "consultants" who can be deployed anywhere in the world. With no geographical limits, the company is eager to prove its value. Blackwater has trained police in Afghanistan and naval commandos in Azerbaijan, and it sent heavily armed employees to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They started off offering their services as volunteers -- or vigilantes, some critics said. FEMA, playing catch-up, followed with contracts, as did a number of other agencies. Increasingly, Blackwater looks like a miniature government. It has people, infrastructure and hardware. For instance, it is buying Brazilian-made fighter bombers -- great in combat but not really necessary if you're merely providing civilian bodyguards. Blackwater is unusual, but it's not entirely unique. Other corporations ... are also eagerly filling the vacuum as the U.S. government retreats worldwide from the business of governing. The White House's motives are obvious. Why fight another war, with all the bother of convincing Congress, if you can quietly hire a private military company to fight it for you? Why interrogate suspected insurgents if you can outsource the whole messy business? As for the corporations so eagerly lapping up the contracting dollars, there's no conspiracy -- it's just the good old profit motive.
More Than $1B Needed to Make Forbes List
September 21, 2007, Associated Press
A billion dollars just doesn't go as far as it used to. For the first time, it takes more than $1 billion to earn a spot on Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans. The minimum net worth for inclusion in this year's rankings released Thursday was $1.3 billion, up $300 million from last year. The new threshold meant 82 of America's billionaires didn't make the cut. Collectively, the people who made the rankings released Thursday are worth $1.54 trillion, compared with $1.25 trillion last year. The very top of the list was unchanged: Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates led the list for the 14th straight year, this time with a net worth estimated at $59 billion. He was followed by Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in second place with an estimated $52 billion. The list showed some notable changes. Joining the top 10 of the country's richest for the first time were Google Inc. founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who tied for fifth place. The 34-year-old moguls' wealth has quadrupled since 2004 to an estimated $18.5 billion this year, while their company's stock value has surged 500 percent. Lower down, almost half of the 45 newcomers made their millions in hedge funds and private equity investments. "Wall Street really led the charge this year," said Matthew Miller, editor of the Forbes list.
Note: For more revealing articles on income inequality and the growing gap between the super-rich and the rest, click here.
September 20, 2007, Newsweek
The nation's biggest telecommunications companies, working closely with the White House, have mounted a secretive lobbying campaign to get Congress to quickly approve a measure wiping out all private lawsuits against them for assisting the U.S. intelligence community's warrantless surveillance programs. The campaign – which involves some of Washington's most prominent lobbying and law firms – has taken on new urgency in recent weeks because of fears that a U.S. appellate court in San Francisco is poised to rule that the lawsuits should be allowed to proceed. If that happens, the telecom companies say, they may be forced to terminate their cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community – or risk potentially crippling damage awards for allegedly turning over personal information about their customers to the government without a judicial warrant. But critics say the language proposed by the White House – drafted in close cooperation with the industry officials – is so extraordinarily broad that it would provide retroactive immunity for all past telecom actions related to the surveillance program. Its practical effect, they argue, would be to shut down any independent judicial or state inquires into how the companies have assisted the government in eavesdropping on the telephone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. "It's clear the goal is to kill our case," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, [which] filed the main lawsuit against the telecoms after The New York Times first disclosed, in December 2005, that President Bush had approved a secret program to monitor the phone conversations of U.S. residents without first seeking judicial warrants. "I find it a little shocking that Congress would participate in the covering up of what has been going on," added Cohn.
Searching Passengers' Faces For Subtle Cues to Terror
September 19, 2007, Washington Post
Looking for signs of "stress, fear and deception" among the hundreds of passengers shuffling past him at Orlando International Airport one day last month, security screener Edgar Medina immediately focused on four casually dressed men trying to catch a flight to Minneapolis. One of the men, in particular, was giving obvious signs of trying to hide something, Medina said. After obtaining the passengers' ID cards and boarding passes, the Transportation Security Administration officer quickly determined the men were illegal immigrants traveling with fake Florida driver's licenses. They were detained. The otherwise mundane arrests Aug. 13 illustrated an increasingly popular tactic in the government's effort to fight terrorism: detecting lawbreakers or potential terrorists by their behavior. The TSA has embraced the strategy, training 600 of its screeners ... in detection techniques. The TSA's teams are the most publicly acknowledged effort by the government or the private sector to come up with strategies and technology to detect lawbreakers or terrorists before they commit a crime. Other technologies under development or being deployed include machines that detect stress in voices and software that scans video images to match the faces of passengers with those of known terrorists. The government is testing other technology that can see through clothing with ... electromagnetic waves. TSA's growing reliance on detecting behavior and the close study of passengers' expressions concerns civil liberties groups and members of Congress. "The problem is behavioral characteristics will be found where you look for them," said John Reinstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.
How this 12inch miracle tube could halve heating bills
September 15, 2007, Daily Mail (U.K.)
It sounds too good to be true - not to mention the fact that it violates almost every known law of physics. But British scientists claim they have invented a revolutionary device that seems to 'create' energy from virtually nothing. Their so-called thermal energy cell could soon be fitted into ordinary homes, halving domestic heating bills and making a major contribution towards cutting carbon emissions. Even the makers of the device are at a loss to explain exactly how it works - but sceptical independent scientists carried out their own tests and discovered that the 12in x 2in tube really does produce far more heat energy than the electrical energy put in. The device seems to break the fundamental physical law that energy cannot be created from nothing - but researchers believe it taps into a previously unrecognised source of energy, stored at a sub-atomic level within the hydrogen atoms in water. The system - developed by scientists at a firm called Ecowatts [a holding of Gardner Watts] - involves passing an electrical current through a mixture of water, potassium carbonate [potash] and a secret liquid catalyst, based on chrome. This creates a reaction that releases an incredible amount of energy compared to that put in. If the reaction takes place in a unit surrounded by water, the liquid heats up, which could form the basis for a household heating system. If the technology can be developed on a domestic scale, it means consumers will need much less energy for heating and hot water - creating smaller bills and fewer greenhouse gases. The device has taken ten years of painstaking work by a small team at Ecowatts' ... laboratory, and bosses predict a household version of their device will be ready to go on sale within the next 18 months.
Note: For an abundance of reliable reports on amazing new energy developments, click here.
Key Articles From Years Past
Free-hug man speaks out
2006-09-28, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia's leading newspaper)
The man behind the latest YouTube sensation has spoken out for the first time about his global cuddling controversy. Serial hugger Juan Mann describes the free hugs he hands out...as fast-food emotion. His cuddling campaign received an international dose of publicity today, after a clip showing his public displays of affection won a coveted front page spot on the video sharing website. An American television audience of millions also watched him at work, when the video was broadcast on the prime-time breakfast program Good Morning America yesterday. Today, the hugger was at it again, brandishing his "free hugs" sign in the busy pedestrian thoroughfare, and having quite a few people take him up on his offer. "It's a way to make people smile," Mann said. "For every person who gets a hug, you see five walk past with a smile on their face." But his efforts to spread the love became a little too popular for some people's liking, according to a blurb on the YouTube video, which said: "As this symbol of human hope spread across the city, police and officials ordered the Free Hugs campaign BANNED." Undeterred, Mann collected more than 10,000 signatures on a petition he presented to the City of Sydney council. Demands for a halt to the hugs petered out shortly after, and the end of the clip shows Mann hugging an official. City worker Elly Mitchell, who handed out a few free hugs on her lunch break today, said she was inspired to organise [an] event after seeing the video online. "We're going to hug the city," Ms Mitchell said.
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Take water and potash, add electricity and get - a mystery
May 18, 2003, Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
British researchers believe that they have made a groundbreaking scientific discovery after apparently managing to "create" energy from hydrogen atoms. In results independently verified at Bristol University, a team from Gardner Watts - an environmental technology company - show a "thermal energy cell" which appears to produce hundreds of times more energy than that put into it. If the findings are correct and can be reproduced on a commercial scale, the thermal energy cell could become a feature of every home, heating water for a fraction of the cost and cutting fuel bills by at least 90 per cent. The makers of the cell, which passes an electric current through a liquid between two electrodes, admit that they cannot explain precisely how the invention works. "What we are saying is that the device seems to tap into another, previously unrecognised source of energy." The cell is the product of research into the fundamental properties of hydrogen, the most common element in the universe. Hydrogen can exist in a so-called metastable state that harbours a potential source of extra energy. [Quantum] theory suggests that if electricity were passed into a mixture of water and a chemical catalyst, the extra energy would be released in the form of heat. After some experimentation, the team found that a small amount of electricity passed through a mixture of water and potassium carbonate - potash - released an astonishing amount of energy. "It generates a lot of heat in a very small volume," said Christopher Eccles, the chief scientist at Gardner Watts. The findings of the Gardner Watts team were tested by Dr Jason Riley of Bristol University, who found energy gains of between three and 26 times what had been put in.
Note: For an abundance of reliable reports on amazing new energy developments, click here.
Unanswered questions: The mystery of Flight 93
August 13, 2002, Independent (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The shortage of available facts [about the crash of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001] did not prevent the creation of an instant legend ... that the US government and the US media were pleased to propagate, and that the American public have been eager, for the most part, to accept as fact. The absence of official information has led to lively and often well-informed debate [on] the internet (see www.flight93crash.com.) There are ... a number of important unanswered questions ... based on evidence, as well as on a manifest absence of candour on the part of the authorities – which the national US media, typically so sceptical and inquisitive, have shown a curious reluctance to ask. The alternative theories, both of which have been denied by the US military and the FBI, are a) that Flight 93 was brought down by a US government plane; and b) that a bomb went off aboard. If doubts remain despite the denials, if conspiracy theories flourish, it is in large part because of the authorities' failure to address head-on questions, [including:] 1. The wide displacement of the plane's debris, one explanation for which might be an explosion of some sort aboard prior to the crash. Letters ... and other papers from the plane were found eight miles (13km) away from the scene of the crash. A sector of one engine weighing one ton was found [more than a mile] away . Other remains of the plane were found two miles away near a town called Indian Lake. 2. A federal flight controller [was quoted] a few days later in a newspaper [stating] that an F-16 had been "in hot pursuit" of the hijacked United jet and "must have seen the whole thing". Everything is speculation – that is the problem with the story of Flight 93.
Note: For a treasure trove of revealing articles from major media sources that raise numerous questions about what really happened on 9/11, click here.
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Prisons Book Purge, Flu Shot Effectiveness, Collecting Data on Travelers