Secret Legal Opinions, Blackwater Cover-Up,
Clinical Trials Oversight
Revealing News Articles
October 5, 2007
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the secret legal opinions issued by the U.S. Justice Department authorizing harsh torture techniques, the cover-up by the U.S. State Department and Blackwater Corporation of the company's indiscriminate killings in Iraq, the lack of adequate F.D.A. oversight of private clinical trials, 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.
Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations
October 4, 2007, New York Times
When the Justice Department publicly declared torture "abhorrent" in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations. But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales's arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document; according to officials briefed on it, [it was] an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency. The new opinion ... for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures. Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard. The classified opinions, never previously disclosed, are a hidden legacy of President Bush's second term and Mr. Gonzales's tenure at the Justice Department. Congress and the Supreme Court have intervened repeatedly in the last two years to impose limits on interrogations, and the administration has responded as a policy matter by dropping the most extreme techniques. But the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums, officials said. They show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.
Report Says Firm Sought to Cover Up Iraq Shootings
October 2, 2007, New York Times
Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in [the] vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress. In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims' family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet. In one case last year, the department helped Blackwater spirit an employee out of Iraq less than 36 hours after the employee, while drunk, killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq's two vice presidents on Christmas Eve. The report ... adds weight to complaints from Iraqi officials, American military officers and Blackwater's competitors that company guards have taken an aggressive, trigger-happy approach to their work and have repeatedly acted with reckless disregard for Iraqi life. But the report is also harshly critical of the State Department for exercising virtually no restraint or supervision of the private security company's 861 employees in Iraq. "There is no evidence in the documents that the committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater's actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting episodes involving Blackwater or the company's high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation," the report states. Based on 437 internal Blackwater incident reports as well as internal State Department correspondence, the report said Blackwater's use of force was "frequent and extensive, resulting in significant casualties and property damage." The State Department ... has paid Blackwater more than $832 million for security services in Iraq and elsewhere, under a diplomatic security contract it shares with two other companies, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy.
Back In Iraq: The 'Whores Of War'
September 29, 2007, Sunday Herald (Scotland's leading newspaper, Sunday edition)
Despite being implicated in several controversial killings, [Blackwater] is the Pentagon's most favoured contractor and has effective diplomatic immunity in Iraq. Referred to as "the most powerful mercenary army in the world", both the US ambassador to Iraq and the army's top generals hold it in regard. The company, based near the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina, was co-founded by Erik Prince, a billionaire right-wing fundamentalist. At its HQ, Blackwater has trained more than 20,000 mercenaries to operate as freelancers in wars around the world. Prince is a big bankroller of the Republican Party - giving a total of around $275,550 - and was a young intern in the White House of George Bush Sr. Under George Bush Jr, Blackwater received lucrative no-bid contracts for work in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. His firm has pulled down contracts worth at least $320 million in Iraq alone. Jeremy Scahill, who wrote the book Blackwater: The Rise Of The World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, says when Bush was re-elected in 2004, one company boss sent this email to staff: "Bush Wins, Four More Years!! Hooyah!!" One Blackwater employment policy is to hire ex-administration big-hitters into key positions. It hired Cofer Black, a former State Department co-ordinator for counter-terrorism and former head of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre, as vice-chairman. Robert Richer, a former CIA divisional head, joined Blackwater as vice-president of intelligence in 2005. Scahill says the firm is "the front line in what the Bush administration views as the necessary revolution in military affairs" - privatisation of as many roles as possible. Scahill went on to call Prince a "neo-crusader, a Christian supremacist, who ... has been allowed to create a private army to defend Christendom around the world."
Report Assails F.D.A. Oversight of Clinical Trials
September 27, 2007, New York Times
The Food and Drug Administration does very little to ensure the safety of the millions of people who participate in clinical trials, a federal investigator has found. The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, Daniel R. Levinson, said federal health officials did not know how many clinical trials were being conducted, audited fewer than 1 percent of the testing sites and, on the rare occasions when inspectors did appear, generally showed up long after the tests had been completed. The F.D.A. has 200 inspectors, some of whom audit clinical trials part time, to police an estimated 350,000 testing sites. Even when those inspectors found serious problems in human trials, top drug officials in Washington downgraded their findings 68 percent of the time, the report found. Among the remaining cases, the agency almost never followed up with inspections to determine whether the corrective actions that the agency demanded had occurred. "In many ways, rats and mice get greater protection as research subjects in the United States than do humans," said Arthur L. Caplan, chairman of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. Animal research centers have to register with the federal government, keep track of subject numbers, have unannounced spot inspections and address problems speedily or risk closing, none of which is true in human research, Mr. Caplan said. Because no one collects the data systematically, there is no way to tell how safe the nation's clinical research is or ever has been. The drug agency oversees just the safety of trials by companies seeking approval to sell drugs or devices. Using an entirely different set of rules, the Office for Human Research Protections oversees trials financed by the federal government. Privately financed noncommercial trials have no federal oversight.
Note: For further information on corruption in the health care industry, click here.
New idea for space travel?
September 30, 2007, Los Angeles Times
Since Robert Goddard launched a 10-foot rocket from a New England farm more than 80 years ago, the basic principles of space travel haven't changed much. Still required: a violent combustion of fuel and oxygen to propel the vehicle. Unless, maybe, you have a laser and a couple of mirrors. Young K. Bae, a maverick one-man rocket research institution in Tustin, believes he has hit on a propulsion technology that could revolutionize space travel, finally overcoming the limits of chemical rockets, which are slow and dangerous and need vast amounts of fuel. The 51-year-old physicist calls it the photonic laser thruster. "This overcomes the physical barriers of current rocket technology," he says, pointing to a tiny laser encased in glass. Hurling ships into space with light beams has been the stuff of science fiction novels for decades, but Bae says he has proved that it really is just science. He says a laser beam bouncing off two mirrors facing each other was able to exert force on one of the mirrors, albeit ever so slight. The discovery came in December, but Bae waited months to reveal the experiment to verify that the measuring devices were accurate and that the results could be repeated. Franklin B. Mead, a rocket propulsion expert at the Air Force Research Laboratory, calls it "pretty incredible." The photonic laser thruster can in theory be made much more powerful -- strong enough to propel a spacecraft to near light speed. "If it proves out it would be revolutionary," says Carl Ehrlich, a retired aerospace engineer who has worked on the space shuttle and other rocket programs. Within a year or two, [Bae] will attempt to have the laser device lift an object the size and weight of a compact disc. Ehrlich will be watching. "We're still using the same technology developed by Goddard. We need a breakthrough," he says.
The truth is out there: Roswell incident recalled
September 29, 2007, North County Times (Newspaper from San Diego, CA)
On July 9, 1947, the Roswell Daily Record, a newspaper, printed a story with the alarming headline: "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region." There appear to be few things people agree on regarding what has become known as "the Roswell incident." Six decades later, competing UFO enthusiasts promote their own theories, skeptics dismiss the spaceship claims as outrageous, and the military, which originally claimed all the fuss was over a weather balloon, now sticks to its story that it was an experimental spy craft. Escondido resident Milton Sprouse, 85, said he knows what happened in Roswell ---- not because he favors one theory over another, but because he was there. As for the outrageous stories of mysterious metal, alien corpses and a military coverup? It's all true, he said. "I was there the day they announced a UFO had crashed," he said. "The next day, it was published in the Roswell Daily Record, and that night, all the generals said the story was untrue." Sprouse said all copies of the Roswell newspaper were collected by officers. Sprouse ... said he recalls people speaking about "alien bodies" immediately after the debris discovery. "They took the bodies to a hangar, and there were two guards at each door with machine guns," he said. Sprouse said one witness, a barracksmate, was an emergency-room medic who reported seeing what he called "humanoid" bodies in the hospital. "They went to the ER room and two doctors and two nurses were called in, and they dissected two of those humanoid bodies. Then the doctors and nurses were transferred. My friend said he saw the bodies, and I believed him," Sprouse said. "He said, 'We don't think the humanoid ate food.' I don't know why he said that. The digestive system wasn't designed for food or something."
Note: For more revealing information on UFOs from major media sources, click here.
Consumers lose most credit card disputes
September 27, 2007, CNN/Associated Press
A consumer advocacy group [has] released a study alleging credit card companies use arbitration firms that they know will rarely rule in favor of consumers. Nearly all credit card customer service agreements mandate binding arbitration because it is a cheaper and faster way to resolve disputes, industry officials say. Public Citizen though says the companies hire arbitration firms that almost always rule in favor of the card issuer. Arbitration firms used by companies such as Mastercard Inc., Visa, Discover Financial Services LLC and American Express Co. ruled against consumers in 32,300 of 34,000 disputes that went to arbitration, according to Public Citizen's study. 'This is a system that is unfair to consumers,' Joan Claybrook, the group's president said at a press briefing. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. and Rep Hank Johnson, D-Ga., attended the briefing to say they have introduced legislation that would let credit card customers choose arbitration or civil court in a dispute. 'People shouldn't have to give up their legal rights just to get a credit card,' Claybrook said. Public Citizen's study singled out arbitration disputes in California because it is the only state that requires arbitration resolutions be disclosed. Public Citizen also singled out the Minneapolis-based National Arbitration Forum, which has arbitrated many of the disputes analyzed.
'Eco-towns' target doubled by PM
September 24, 2007, BBC
Gordon Brown has promised to double the number of "eco-towns" to be built across the UK from five to ten. The prime minister told the Labour conference in Bournemouth that a positive response to the project had encouraged him to expand it. This showed "imagination", he said, adding that eco-towns would help the government meet housebuilding targets. In May, Mr Brown promised [that] communities of up to 100,000 low-carbon and carbon-neutral homes would be built. Mr Brown told the Labour conference: "For the first time in nearly half a century we will show the imagination to build new towns - eco-towns with low and zero-carbon homes. And today, because of the responses we have received, we are announcing that instead of just five new eco-towns we will now aim for ten - building thousands of new homes in every region of the country." This would help boost housebuilding to 240,000 homes a year, he said. The eco-town idea was the first major policy announcement made by Mr Brown as he began his campaign to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister earlier this year. Constructed on old industrial sites, they will be powered by locally generated energy from sustainable sources. The government said that, with a month to go until the deadline, there had been about 30 expressions of interest in building eco-towns from councils, developers and others.
Microcredit movement tackling poverty one tiny loan at a time
September 30, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
A Peruvian widow borrowed $64 and bought a few pigs. For $55, a villager in Ghana went into the mineral-water trade. A mother of nine in Guatemala upgraded her grocery store with $250. These women from three continents have something in common: They are beneficiaries of microcredit - very small loans to very poor people for very small businesses. The benefactors, in many cases, are ordinary individuals inspired by a movement that is reshaping philanthropy. More and more of us are becoming convinced that lending even tiny amounts of money to destitute people in the developing world can transform lives - theirs and ours. "My life has changed because of this loan," said 27-year-old Patience Asare-Boateng, in a phone interview from Ghana. "This is something that people want: a sense of connection and a sense of community," said Bob Graham, founder of NamasteDirect, a microcredit organization in San Francisco. "Because it's decreasing in our daily lives." The microcredit approach carved out in Bangladesh three decades ago by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus has inspired a war on poverty that blends social conscience and business savvy - especially in Northern California. Although Yunus, widely regarded as the father of the modern microcredit movement, made his first loan in 1976 and established Grameen Bank - lending to the poorest of the poor - 24 years ago, microlending only recently started seeping into public consciousness.
Note: For more inspiring information on the microcredit movement founded by Nobel Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus, click here.
Special Note: For an incredibly revealing interview with author Naomi Klein on the role of the Chicago School of economists in promoting radical antidemocratic change by using states of public shock to push through unwanted policies, click here.
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Secret Legal Opinions, Blackwater Cover-Up, Clinical Trials Oversight