First Synthetic Life Created, Russian Weather Control, Gulf Oil Spill Corruption
Revealing News Articles
May 24, 2010
Below are key excerpts of revealing news articles on the creation of the first synthetic life, Russia's usage of weather control, BP's control of information about the size, rate and toxicity and other corruption related to the Gulf oil spill, 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. The most important 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.
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Craig Venter creates synthetic life form
May 20, 2010, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Craig Venter and his team have built the genome of a bacterium from scratch and incorporated it into a cell to make what they call the world's first synthetic life form. The world's first synthetic life form ... paves the way for designer organisms that are built rather than evolved. The controversial feat, which has occupied 20 scientists for more than 10 years at an estimated cost of $40m, was described by one researcher as "a defining moment in biology". Craig Venter, the pioneering US geneticist behind the experiment, said the achievement heralds the dawn of a new era in which new life is made to benefit humanity, starting with bacteria that churn out biofuels, soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and even manufacture vaccines. However critics, including some religious groups, condemned the work, with one organisation warning that artificial organisms could escape into the wild and cause environmental havoc or be turned into biological weapons. Others said Venter was playing God. The new organism is based on an existing bacterium... but at its core is an entirely synthetic genome that was constructed from chemicals in the laboratory. The single-celled organism has four "watermarks" written into its DNA to identify it as synthetic and help trace its descendants back to their creator, should they go astray.
Note: For a vault of key reports from reliable souces on genetic engineering, click here.
Russian appeal of 'weather control'
March 26, 2010, BBC News
Some might think that controlling the weather sounds a bit like science fiction. But military pilot Alexander Akimenkov doesn't think so. He has seeded clouds over Moscow on important state holidays for many years. He says the Russians use two different methods to try to drive the rain away. "Either there's a special machine that spits out silver iodide, dry ice or cement into the clouds, or a hatch opens and a guy with a shovel seeds the clouds manually," he explains. "As soon as the chemicals touch the cloud, a hole appears. It becomes bigger and bigger, and it either rains right there and then or, if the clouds aren't very dense, they disperse without any precipitation." The Russian government has used rain prevention methods since Soviet times, seeding clouds for major celebrations three times a year - Victory Day, City Day and, more recently, Russia Day. There are also private companies that for some $6,000 per hour say they can guarantee sunshine on your wedding day - or for any other private party. But when Moscow's mayor Yuri Luzhkov suggested the technique could shift the winter snow outside the capital - and therefore save more than $10m in snow-clearing costs - many felt the city authorities were going a bit too far.
Note: Weather modification may be much more advanced and frequently used than most would suspect. For a great resource on weather modification with links to dozens of key documents, click here.
Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster
May 16, 2010, CBS News 60 Minutes
The gusher unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew crude oil. There are no reliable estimates of how much oil is pouring into the gulf. But it comes to many millions of gallons since the catastrophic blowout. Mike Williams, one of the last crewmembers to escape the inferno ... says the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon [oilrig] had been building for weeks in a series of mishaps. The tension in every drilling operation is between doing things safely and doing them fast; time is money and this job was costing BP a million dollars a day. But Williams says there was trouble from the start - getting to the oil was taking too long. Williams said they were told it would take 21 days; according to him, it actually took six weeks. With the schedule slipping, Williams says a BP manager ordered a faster pace. Williams says there was an accident on the rig that has not been reported before. He says, four weeks before the explosion, the rig's most vital piece of safety equipment was damaged ... the blowout preventer, or BOP. The spill has cost BP about $500 million so far. But consider, in just the first three months this year, BP made profits of $6 billion. There are plenty of accusations to go around that BP pressed for speed, Halliburton's cement plugs failed, and Transocean damaged the blowout preventer. Through all the red flags, they pressed ahead.
Low oil spill estimate could save BP millions in court, experts say
May 20, 2010, Kansas City Star
BP's estimate that only 5,000 barrels of oil are leaking daily from a well in the Gulf of Mexico, which the Obama administration hasn't disputed, could save the company millions of dollars in damages when the financial impact of the spill is resolved in court, legal experts say. Neither BP nor the federal government has tried to measure at the source the amount of crude pouring into the water. BP and the Obama administration have said they don't want to take the measurements for fear of interfering with efforts to stop the leaks. The amount of oil spilled is certain to be key evidence in the court battles that are likely to result from the disaster. The size of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, for example, was a significant factor that the jury considered when it assessed damages against Exxon. "If they put off measuring, then it's going to be a battle of dueling experts after the fact trying to extrapolate how much spilled after it has all sunk or has been carried away," said Lloyd Benton Miller, one of the lead plaintiffs' lawyers in the Exxon Valdez spill litigation. "The ability to measure how much oil was released will be impossible."
BP secrecy keeps oil-spill facts from public view
May 19, 2010, Sacramento Bee/McClatchy Newspapers
BP, the company in charge of the rig that exploded last month in the Gulf of Mexico, hasn't publicly divulged the results of tests on the extent of workers' exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say those data are crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe. Moreover, the company isn't monitoring the extent of the spill and only reluctantly released videos of the spill site that could give scientists a clue to the amount of the oil in the gulf. BP's role as the primary source of information has raised questions about whether the government should intervene to gather such data and to publicize them and whether an adequate cleanup can be accomplished without the details of crude oil spreading across the gulf. The company also hasn't publicly released air sampling for oil spill workers although Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency in charge of monitoring compliance with worker safety regulations, is relying on the information and has urged it to do so.
Rig firm's $270m profit from deadly spill
May 9, 2010, The Times (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The owner of the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and causing a giant slick, has made a $270 million profit from insurance payouts for the disaster. The revelation by Transocean, the world's biggest offshore driller, will add to the political storm over the disaster. The company was hired by BP to drill the well. The "accounting gain" arose because the $560 million insurance policy Transocean took out on its Deepwater Horizon rig was greater than the value of the rig itself. Transocean has already received a cash payment of $401 million with the rest due in the next few weeks. The windfall, revealed in a conference call with analysts, will more than cover the $200 million that Transocean expects to pay to survivors and their families and for higher insurance costs. The total cost of the clean-up and compensation could reach $30 billion, according to some estimates. Transocean said that virtually all of that must be covered by BP and two smaller partners, Anadarko Petroleum and Mitsui of Japan.
Research Links Pesticides With ADHD In Children
May 17, 2010, CBS News/Associated Press
A new analysis of U.S. health data links children's attention-deficit disorder with exposure to common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables. While the study couldn't prove that pesticides used in agriculture contribute to childhood learning problems, experts said the research is persuasive. "I would take it quite seriously," said Virginia Rauh of Columbia University, who has studied prenatal exposure to pesticides and wasn't involved in the new study. Children may be especially prone to the health risks of pesticides because they're still growing and they may consume more pesticide residue than adults relative to their body weight. The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the children. The kids with higher levels had increased chances of having ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a common problem that causes students to have trouble in school. The findings were published Monday in Pediatrics. "Exposure is practically ubiquitous. We're all exposed," said lead author Maryse Bouchard of the University of Montreal. She said people can limit their exposure by eating organic produce. A 2008 Emory University study found that in children who switched to organically grown fruits and vegetables, urine levels of pesticide compounds dropped to undetectable or close to undetectable levels.
Note: For a treasure trove of key health reports from reliable sources, click here.
Former Fed chief Volcker backs change in system
May 20, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
The United States must curb consumption and credit and boost production and savings, but its citizens and leaders so far lack the will to change, economist Paul Volcker said. Volcker, 82, an adviser to the Obama administration, ... said the United States spiraled toward the Great Recession through an excess of debt that subsidized an appetite for consumer goods, many of them imported. The chief bugaboo, in Volcker's view, was a runaway financial sector that ... became a factory to make money by manipulating money. He said under-regulated financiers made big profits and bonuses by swapping derivatives and other exotic instruments that produced few of the widespread benefits - like better jobs and wages - that normally flow from investment. Now that this financial house of cards has collapsed, Volcker said, U.S. and world leaders must figure out how to stop powerful mega-banks and hedge funds from engaging in the same shenanigans that forced taxpayers to bail them out to prevent further catastrophe. "The central issue with which we have been grappling is the doctrine of 'too big to fail,' " Volcker said, alluding to how the United States bailed out institutions like insurer AIG to prevent their collapse from further damaging the economy.
Note: For a great collection of reports from major media sources on the hidden realities of the Wall Street crisis and the government bailout of big finance, click here.
U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts
May 16, 2010, New York Times
Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. Earlier this year, government officials admitted that the military had sent a group of former Central Intelligence Agency officers and retired Special Operations troops into the region to collect information – some of which was used to track and kill people suspected of being militants. Many portrayed it as a rogue operation that had been hastily shut down once an investigation began. But interviews with more than a dozen current and former government officials and businessmen, and an examination of government documents, tell a different a story. Not only are the networks still operating, their detailed reports on subjects like the workings of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan and the movements of enemy fighters in southern Afghanistan are also submitted almost daily to top commanders and have become an important source of intelligence. Pentagon officials said that ... the supervisor who set up the contractor network, Michael D. Furlong, was now under investigation. But a review of the program by The New York Times found that Mr. Furlong's operatives were still providing information using the same intelligence gathering methods as before.
Note: For revealing reports on the secret and extra-legal operations of the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq, click here.
For $520 Million, AstraZeneca Will Settle Case Over Marketing of a Drug
April 27, 2010, New York Times
AstraZeneca has completed a deal to pay $520 million to settle federal investigations into marketing practices for its blockbuster schizophrenia drug, Seroquel. AstraZeneca becomes the fourth pharmaceutical giant in the last three years to admit to federal charges of illegal marketing of antipsychotic drugs, a lucrative category of medications that have quickly risen to the top of United States sales charts. Aggressive sales and promotional practices have helped expand the use of powerful new antipsychotic drugs for children and the elderly. The company, based in London, has been accused of misleading doctors and patients by playing up favorable research and not adequately disclosing studies that show Seroquel increases the risk of diabetes. AstraZeneca still faces more than 25,000 civil lawsuits filed on behalf of patients contending that the company did not disclose the drug's risks. As a result of aggressive marketing, Seroquel has been increasingly used for children and elderly people for indications not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The drugs have caused rapid weight gain in children, and side effects including deaths have prompted warnings against giving the drugs to elderly patients for dementia.
Note: For more on corporate corruption, click here.
State first lady adds good humor to conference
May 21, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
California first lady Maria Shriver told 1,000-odd attendees at the Microfinance USA 2010 conference in San Francisco. "Maybe I need a loan, too." Actually, she admitted offstage, her 2-year-old company, Lovin' Scoopful, whose "gourmet light" ice cream is on grocery shelves in 22 states, is doing quite well. And Shriver was at the conference to give rather than receive. Not only to cheer on the burgeoning microfinance movement, but to give $300,000 from her nonprofit Women's Conference organization to various microfinance organizations, including San Francisco's Kiva.org - Shriver heads one of its "lending teams" - and San Jose's Opportunity Fund, which put on the two-day conference. But that was a small tip of the growing amount of serious money flowing into the sector. "Banks, especially since they've come under more scrutiny, realize getting involved in microfinance is good business," said Premal Shah, president of Kiva. "Bringing more people into the economic mainstream ultimately brings them more customers." But with the coming of age also come pitfalls, as Kiva and others have found. A New York Times story last month ... about the seemingly usurious rates of interest some lenders were charging created a stir in the microfinance community.
Note: To learn more about how you can help to end poverty through investing in microloans, click here.
Key Articles From Years Past
Inquiry Stokes Unease Over Trading Firms That Shape Markets
September 4, 2009, New York Times
Its superfast, supersecret oil trading software was called the Hammer. And if the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is right, the name fit well with an intricate scheme that allowed commodity traders in Chicago working for Optiver, a little-known company based in Amsterdam, to put their orders first in line and subtly manipulate the price of oil to the company's advantage. Transcripts and taped conversations of actions that took place in 2007 ... reveal the secretive workings of high-frequency trading, a fast-growing Wall Street business. Critics say this high-speed form of computerized trading, which is used in a wide range of financial markets, enables its practitioners to profit at other investors' expense. Traders in the Chicago office of Optiver openly talked among themselves of "whacking" and "bullying up" the price of oil. But when called to account by officials of the New York Mercantile Exchange, they described their actions as just "providing liquidity." In July 2008, the commission charged Optiver with manipulating the price of oil; negotiations over a settlement continue. The Securities and Exchange Commission has opened up an investigation into high-speed-trading practices, in particular the ability of some of the most powerful computers to jump to the head of the trading queue and – in a fraction of a millisecond – capture the evanescent trading spread before the rest of the market does.
Note: This and other reports likely show only the tip of the iceberg of how prices of key stocks and commodities are manipulated. For a great collection of reports from major media sources on the schemes and tricks used by financial corporations, click here.
Who Killed the Electric Car?
July 10, 2006, Popular Science magazine
Chris Paine�s documentary film "Who Killed the Electric Car?" argues convincingly that there was indeed a market for the cars – and a devoted one, ... but that GM [General Motors] squashed the EV1 because, quite simply, it threatened the livelihood of the entire automotive industry. The car used no gasoline, no oil and no mufflers, and it required only sporadic brake maintenance. Each of these components represents billions of dollars in profits for the industry. GM, the oil companies and various government agencies argued that the car wasn�t practical, didn�t have enough range for consumers and was less promising than the apparently imminent hydrogen technology. The reality was exactly the opposite, Paine�s film suggests – the viability of hydrogen as an automotive fuel source alone is in fact almost comically optimistic. The whisper-quiet EV1 was designed by [an] aviation pioneer, Paul MacCready of AeroVironment. In the 1970s, MacCready built the only successful human-powered aircraft, the Gossamer Condor and the Gossamer Albatross. His solar-powered electric car Sunraycer, built for GM, won the 1987 World Solar Challenge Race in Australia. His corporate mantra is "do more with less" – that is, focus on creating vehicles that require less energy to operate, not on finding ways to pump more power into inefficient systems. His team�s battery-powered EV1 was a triumph of engineering and a joy to operate.
Note: For lots more on key suppressed automotive and energy inventions, click here.
Iran-Contra Hearing; North's Testimony: 'Fall Guy' and Foreign Policy
July 14, 1987, New York Times
REPRESENTATIVE JACK BROOKS, Democrat of Texas. Colonel North, in your work at the N.S.C., were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster? SENATOR DANIEL K. INOUYE, Democrat of Hawaii. I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch upon that. MR. BROOKS. I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed, by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American Constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was the area in which he had worked. I believe that it was, and I wanted to get his confirmation. MR. INOUYE. May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon, at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I'm certain arrangements can be made for an executive session.
Note: Why was the chairman not allowing a discussion of the fact that plans were being made in the event of an emergency for the suspension of the U.S. Constitution?
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