Corporate Personhood Threat, Obama Fails on Transparency, German Warning on IE Browser
Revealing News Articles
January 25, 2010
Below are key excerpts of revealing news articles on corporate personhood's threat to democracy, President Obama's failure of transparency, an official German warning against using Microsoft's IE Browser, 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. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Special note: For a disturbing example how Internet technologies are being used by rogue groups to control government, click here. And for a powerfully inspiring, five-minute video clip showing beautifully how we are all one human family, click here.
Lobbyists Get Potent Weapon in Campaign Finance Ruling
January 22, 2010, New York Times
The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company ... will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election. "We have got a million we can spend advertising for you or against you – whichever one you want,' "a lobbyist can tell lawmakers, said Lawrence M. Noble, ... former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission. It is expected to unleash a torrent of attack advertisements from outside groups aiming to sway voters, without any candidate having to take the criticism for dirty campaigning. The biggest beneficiaries might be well-placed incumbents whose favor companies and interests groups are eager to court. It could also have a big impact on state and local governments, where a few million dollars can have more influence on elections. Fred Wertheimer, a longtime advocate of campaign finance laws, said the decision "wipes out a hundred years of history" during which American laws have sought to tamp down corporate power to influence elections.
Note: If you want to voice your opinion about this recent Supreme Court ruling, click here. For many key articles from reliable sources on serious flaws in the electoral process in the US, click here.
The Court's Blow to Democracy
January 22, 2010, New York Times
With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court's conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding. Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy. As a result of Thursday's ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission radically reverses well-established law and erodes a wall that has stood for a century between corporations and electoral politics. The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The real solution lies in getting the court's ruling overturned.
Note: The crux of the argument used by the Supreme Court is that under US law, corporations are treated as persons and therefore given Constitutional rights meant for people. Should we then give them the right to vote? For many key articles from reliable sources on serious flaws in the electoral process in the US, click here.
What happened to Obama's 'government transparency' pledge?
January 9, 2010, Christian Science Monitor
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama promised "transparency" in government. Specifically, Obama said, "we'll have [healthcare reform] negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so the people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who is making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." But now, the White House seems to be pulling back from that pledge. The House and Senate – each of which have passed versions of healthcare reform – were putting the final bill together "behind closed doors according to an agreement by top Democrats." Not so fast, cry Republicans, who are feeling left out even though their general approach on the issue has been "just say no." "The negotiations are obviously being done in secret and the American people really just want to know what they are trying to hide," said Rep. Tom Price, (R) of Georgia.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on government secrecy, click here.
German government warns against using MS Explorer
January 16, 2010, BBC News
The German government has warned web users to find an alternative browser to Internet Explorer to protect security. The warning from the Federal Office for Information Security comes after Microsoft admitted IE was the weak link in recent attacks on Google's systems. Microsoft says the security hole can be shut by setting the browser's security zone to "high", although this limits functionality and blocks many websites. Graham Cluley of anti-virus firm Sophos, told BBC News that not only did the warning apply to [versions] 6, 7 and 8 of the browser, but the instructions on how to exploit the flaw had been posted on the internet.
FBI broke law for years in phone record searches
January 19, 2010, Washington Post
The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions. E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. A Justice Department inspector general's report due out this month is expected to conclude that the FBI frequently violated the law with its emergency requests. FBI officials said they thought that nearly all of the requests involved terrorism investigations. FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni said ... that the FBI technically violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act when agents invoked nonexistent emergencies to collect records.
Note: The FBI, by admitting that "nearly all" of the phone records they obtained were related to "terrorism investigations," make it clear that some were not. But they used claims of "terrorism emergency" to obtain them. These they then assert were merely "technical" violations. For many disturbing reports from major media sources on the increasing threats to civil liberties under the pretext of the "war on terrorism," click here.
'Sorry' still seems to be the hardest word on Wall Street
January 14, 2010, Washington Post
Goldman Sachs Chairman Lloyd Blankfein still doesn't get it. Unemployment is at 10 percent and Americans are suffering because of the meltdown he and his colleagues helped create. But Blankfein's firm, generously bailed out by taxpayers, has already returned to its ways of greed. Blankfein, called to Washington on Wednesday to testify before the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, made it plain that he was done apologizing. "Would you look back on some of the financings as negligent or improper?" asked the commission chairman, former California state treasurer Phil Angelides. "I think those were very typical behaviors in the context that we were in," Blankfein replied. Angelides pointed out that others regarded Goldman's behavior -- in which the firm sold mortgage securities to customers and then placed bets against those same securities -- was "the most cynical" of practices. "That's what a market is," the CEO explained. Angelides ... tried again to get Blankfein to acknowledge that "excessive risk was being taken." "Look, how would you look at the risk of a hurricane?" the man from Goldman retorted. "Acts of God we'll exempt," Angelides said. "These were acts of men and women." But Blankfein seems to exempt himself from the rules of man.
Note: For many key reports on the corruption underlying the financial crisis and the government bailout of Wall Street, click here.
Spanish MP's photo used for Osama Bin Laden poster
January 16, 2010, BBC News
A Spanish politician has said he was shocked to find out the FBI had used his photo for a digitally-altered image showing how Osama Bin Laden might look. Gaspar Llamazares said he would no longer feel safe travelling to the US after his hair and parts of his face appeared on a most-wanted poster. He said the use of a real person for the mocked-up image was "shameless". The FBI admitted a forensic artist had obtained certain facial features "from a photograph he found on the internet". The digitally-altered photos of the al-Qaeda leader, showing how he might look now, aged 52, were published on the state department's Rewards for Justice website. Officials said they had adapted a 1998 file image to take account of a decade's worth of ageing, and possible changes to facial hair. Mr Llamazares said it showed the "low level" of US intelligence services and could cause problems if he was wrongly identified as the Saudi. "Bin Laden's safety is not threatened by this but mine certainly is," he said, adding that he was considering taking legal action.
Note: Now the FBI has admitted that it is doctoring images of Osama bin Laden, and doing so quite ineptly. For WantToKnow team member David Ray Griffin's powerful analysis of the highly suspect series of audio and video "messages from bin Laden" claimed by US authorities, click here.
Risk on the shelves from BPA
January 19, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Our federal and state governments have dragged their feet in addressing the risks of BPA exposure - due mainly to relentless lobbying by the chemical industry. The chemical industry has used every weapon at its disposal - including lawsuits, in the case of San Francisco - to keep BPA on the shelves and in our bodies. So the Food and Drug Administration deserves mild applause for reversing its position on BPA, calling it a "concern" and offering ways in which the public can reduce its exposure to the chemical. It would have been far better for the FDA to ban the chemical, or at least require manufacturers to label products that contain it. Instead, it offered the familiar "more study is needed" defense and said that it doesn't have enough data to support a legal crackdown.
Note: The Department of Health and Human Services has released a list of ways to reduce your exposure. It can be found at www.hhs.gov/safety/bpa.
Police fight cellphone recordings
January 12, 2010, Boston Globe
Simon Glik, a lawyer, was walking down Tremont Street in Boston when he saw three police officers struggling to extract a plastic bag from a teenager's mouth. Thinking their force seemed excessive for a drug arrest, Glik pulled out his cellphone and began recording. Within minutes, Glik said, he was in handcuffs. The charge? Illegal electronic surveillance. Civil libertarians call [such arrests] a troubling misuse of the state's wiretapping law to stifle the kind of street-level oversight that cellphone and video technology make possible. "The police apparently do not want witnesses to what they do in public,'' said Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. With the advent of media-sharing websites like Facebook and YouTube, the practice of openly recording police activity has become commonplace. But in Massachusetts and other states, the arrests of street videographers, whether they use cellphones or other video technology, offers a dramatic illustration of the collision between new technology and policing practices. Police are not used to ceding power, and these tools are forcing them to cede power.
Note: For lots more on increasing government and corporate threats to civil liberties, click here.
Vets: Burn pits are killing us
January 16, 2010, Salt Lake Tribune
From the testing of chemical and biological weapons on soldiers and some civilians during the Cold War, to the vast use of toxic herbicides such as Agent Orange in Vietnam, to the unexplained illnesses suffered by veterans of the first war in Iraq, military service has sickened generation after generation of U.S. service members. But when confronted with ill and dying veterans, the nation's military leaders have turned to a time-honored tradition: denial. For years flames lapped at the sky, sending thick black plumes of smoke into the air across Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet even as the military's own environmental health experts quietly warned that the toxic fumes from open-air burn pits, located at every major U.S. base across the war zones, might sicken troops, military health officials stood their ground. The pits, they said, were not a danger. But veterans groups, families and members of Congress pressed for a more thorough investigation as thousands of warfighters returned suffering from respiratory illnesses, skin diseases, cancers and blood diseases.
Mawkish, maybe. But Avatar is a profound, insightful, important film
January 11, 2010, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Avatar ... is both profoundly silly and profound. It's profound because, like most films about aliens, it is a metaphor for contact between different human cultures. But in this case the metaphor is conscious and precise: this is the story of European engagement with the native peoples of the Americas. But this is a story no one wants to hear, because of the challenge it presents to the way we choose to see ourselves. Europe was massively enriched by the genocides in the Americas; the American nations were founded on them. In his book American Holocaust, the US scholar David Stannard documents the greatest acts of genocide the world has ever experienced. In 1492, [tens of millions of] native people lived in the Americas. By the end of the 19th century almost all of them had been exterminated. Many died as a result of disease, but the mass extinction was also engineered. When the Spanish arrived in the Americas [the] populations they encountered were healthy, well-nourished and mostly ... peaceable, democratic and egalitarian. Throughout the Americas the earliest explorers, including Columbus, remarked on the natives' extraordinary hospitality.
Key Articles From Years Past
'Hitler skull' revealed as female
September 29, 2009, BBC News
A bone fragment believed to be part of Adolf Hitler's skull has been revealed as being that of an unidentified woman, US scientists have said. The section of bone - marked with a bullet hole - was used to support the theory that Hitler shot himself. Russian scientists said the skull piece was found alongside Hitler's jawbone and had put it on display in Moscow. But US scientists said DNA tests revealed it actually belonged to a woman aged between 20 and 40. An archaeologist from the University of Connecticut travelled to Moscow, where the fragment has been on show in the city's federal archive since 2000, to take a sample. Nick Bellantoni said he had suspected even before the bone was tested that the fragment did not come from an adult male. DNA tests confirmed that the bone fragment came from a female. Doubts about exactly how Hitler died have persisted for decades. Russian officials said that the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun - who reportedly committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in 1945 - were removed from a shell crater shortly after they died. The piece of skull forms part of a collection that also includes a section of a bloodstained sofa where Hitler is believed to have shot himself after swallowing a cyanide pill.
US authorites divert Air France flight carrying 'no-fly' journalist to Mexico
April 24, 2009, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
American authorities reportedly refused an Air France flight from Paris to Mexico entry into US airspace because a left-wing journalist writing a book on the CIA was on board. Hernando Calvo Ospina, who works for Le Monde Diplomatique and has written on revolutionary movements in Cuba and Colombia , figured on the US authorities' "no-fly list". A spokesman for Mr Ospina's French publisher, Le Temps des Cerises, said: "Hernando, who was heading to Nicaragua to research a report, thus found out that he is on a 'no-fly list' that bans a number of people from flying to or even over the United States." Some 50,000 people are said to be on the list set up under George W. Bush, the former US president. The publisher accused the Central Intelligence Agency of being behind Mr Ospina's blacklisting, pointing out that the journalist was currently researching a book about the spy agency. "It shows to what degree its paranoia (has reached)," it said. Critics claim that [the list] has been abusively extended to peaceful critics of US policy.
Note: For many disturbing reports from major media sources on the increasing threats to civil liberties under the pretext of the "war on terrorism," click here.
VW May Produce 282 MPG Two-Seat Car
July 2, 2008, US News & World Report
Volkswagen has a new car in pre-production that, the automaker estimates, could get up to 282 mpg. That's not a misprint. Autoblog explains, "A few years back, Volkswagen introduced a concept vehicle," known as the VW 1L, "which derived its name from its stated goal of using just one liter of fuel per one-hundred kilometers traveled." The concept "actually beat its lofty goal rather handily as it managed to achieve a miserly 282 miles per gallon in testing. Much of its amazing fuel-saving capability stemmed from its 660 pounds (300 kilograms) curb weight. The concept also featured a single cylinder engine and a 1+1 seating arrangement down the center of the car." The U.K.'s Car Magazine reports, "At the time the chairman of VW's supervisory board predicted that the super-economical two-seater would go into production...in 2012. Now the VW 1L will hit the market two years ahead of schedule, in 2010." Whether the 1L would be sold in the U.S. market isn't yet clear.
Note: Any bets on whether this car will actually go into production and be promoted? Check out what happened to the Eco Spirit, which got over 100 mpg at this link.
Microchip to allow wallet-free drinking
January 17, 2005, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
A Scottish nightclub is about to become the first in Britain to offer its customers the chance to have a microchip implanted in their arm to save them carrying cash. The "digital wallet", the size of a grain of rice, guarantees entry to the club and allows customers to buy drinks on account. Brad Stevens, owner of Bar Soba in Glasgow, said his customers had responded enthusiastically to the idea. The VeriChip is inserted by a medical professional and then scanned for its unique ID number as a customer enters the bar. The scheme was criticised by a spokesman for the Scottish Executive, who said the microchip could encourage excessive drinking, and by Notags, a consumer group set up to resist the spread of radio frequency identification devices. A spokesman said: "The chip contains your name and ID number and, as this could be read remotely without your knowledge, that is already too much information."
Note: For summaries of media articles showing an agenda to promote microchip implants in humans, click here. For a well-researched essay by a caring woman whose dog died of cancer likely from a microchip, click here.
Experimental bomb to create huge tidal wave was tested in 1944
September 27, 1999, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Secret wartime experiments were conducted off the New Zealand coast to perfect a bomb that could trigger devastating tidal waves, according to government files declassified in Auckland. The New Zealand Herald, citing the files, said that senior United States defence officials believed the weapon had the potential to be as deadly as the atomic bomb. But the tsunami bomb, as it was known, was never fully tested and the war ended before the project was completed. Its mastermind was Thomas Leech, an Australian professor who as the dean of engineering at Auckland University from 1940 to 1950. He was seconded to the New Zealand Army during the Second World War. He set off a series of underwater explosions that triggered mini tidal waves at Whangaparaoa, just north of Auckland, in 1944 and 1945. Details of the research, known as Project Seal, are contained in 53- year-old documents released by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. What happened to Project Seal once the final report was forwarded to Wellington in the late 1940s is not clear.
Note: For a revealing, well researched article presenting solid evidence that elements within the military have much more control over the weather than is generally believed, click here.
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