War Contractor's $50 Million Deception, America's Love Affair With Meds, Knitting Socks for the Homeless
August 22, 2017
Explore below key excerpts of revealing news articles on a war contractor spending $50 million on luxuries and improperly documented salaries while working for the Pentagon to train military forces in Afghanistan, the excessive use of prescription medications in the US leading to 1.3 million emergency room visits and 124,000 deaths due to adverse drug effects in a single year, "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli's criminal conviction for defrauding investors, and more.
Read also wonderfully inspiring articles on the 88-year-old Canadian man who has knitted thousands of pairs of socks for homeless shelters, the new requirement that slaughterhouses in England maintain CCTV feeds to ensure that animals are not mistreated, how the world's biggest for-profit college is designed to provide social benefits along with financial returns for investors, and more. You can also skip to this section now.
Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails, see this page. The most important sentences are highlighted. And don't miss the "What you can do" section below the summaries. By educating ourselves and spreading the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Special note: An intriguing documentary shows that plants are much more like animals than you might think. Read an informative article on how the CIA weaponized the term "conspiracy theory" in response to those questioning the assassination of JFK.
Quote of the week: "One of the attributes of love, like art, is to bring harmony and order out of chaos, to introduce meaning and affect where before there was none, to give rhythmic variations, highs and lows to a landscape that was previously flat." ~~ Molly Haskell
US Contractor Bought Luxury Cars, Paid Fat Salaries to Partners on Afghanistan Contract
August 9, 2017, Newsweek
A U.S. contractor bilked the American military out of $50 million spent on Bentleys, Aston Martins and big salaries for senior staffers’ significant others, according to a government audit. Senator Claire McCaskill demanded on Wednesday that the Pentagon explain why it was allowed to get away with it. The British company New Century Consulting (NCC) was deployed by the U.S. overseas to train Afghanistan forces. It was originally subcontracted by the now-defunct company Imperitas from 2008 to 2013 but has since taken over the contract completely. Under Imperitas, NCC ... paid the significant others of senior staff an average of $420,000 as “executive assistants” who worked from home, auditors found. It’s not clear whether Imperitas or NCC actually completed their work in Afghanistan, as neither retained complete training records. In a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis Wednesday, McCaskill ... wrote that “NCC was unable to provide evidence that these executive assistants actually performed any work.” This is not the first time that NCC or Imperitas spending has been questioned or the companies investigated. In 2016, a federal lawsuit was brought in New York by investors against Imperitas. In 2015, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction had an ongoing criminal investigation open against both NCC and Imperitas. And in 2012, two former employees of Imperitas ... sued the company, alleging their co-workers abused alcohol and drugs and possessed illegal weapons—all violations of U.S. policy.
Too Many Meds? America's Love Affair With Prescription Medication
August 3, 2017, Consumer Reports
Americans take more pills today than at any other time in recent history - and far more than people in any other country. Much of that medication use is lifesaving or at least life-improving. But a lot is not. The amount of harm stemming from inappropriate prescription medication is staggering. Almost 1.3 million people went to U.S. emergency rooms due to adverse drug effects in 2014, and about 124,000 died from those events. That’s according to estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Other research suggests that up to half of those events were preventable. All of that bad medicine is costly, too. An estimated $200 billion per year is spent in the U.S. on the unnecessary and improper use of medication, for the drugs themselves and related medical costs. Our previous surveys have found that higher drug costs - including more expensive drugs and higher out-of-pocket costs - also strain household budgets, with many people telling us they had to cut back on groceries or delay paying other bills to pay for their prescriptions. Total spending on drug ads targeting consumers reached $6.4 billion last year, 64 percent more than in 2012. That’s $1.3 billion more than the FDA’s entire 2017 budget. Drug companies spend even more - $24 billion in 2012 alone - on marketing just to doctors through ads in medical journals, face-to-face sales, free medication samples, and educational and promotional meetings.
Why Martin Shkreli Won’t Be the Last Pharma Bro
August 8, 2017, Fortune
Martin Shkreli - famously known as the guy that jacked up the price of a lifesaving AIDS treatment by 5,000% - finally saw his day in court, albeit for a completely unrelated case involving an unrelated company. The trial ... found Shkreli guilty of three counts of fraud for essentially lying to his investors about how he would invest their money and when they would be paid back. The conviction, carrying a potential 20 years in prison, is no joke. Yet the notorious self-promoter took the opportunity to ... let the world know he wasn’t fazed. And why should he be? How Shkreli got rich in the first place remains not just legal but celebrated. The real crime of the Pharma Bro is the unrepentant greed that drives him, as well as the industry he’s thrived in. Sen. Bernie Sanders has attempted to put a stop to this greed with recently introduced legislation to cap prices for pharmaceuticals developed by government-funded research. Far from a new idea, Sanders has been pushing for a bill like this for decades. While raising the price of a life-saving drug by 5,000% rightfully drew the scorn of millions of people, price gouging is all too common for the industry. Take the EpiPen, the lifesaving device for kids and adults with severe allergies, whose price was famously hiked up over 500% ... after it was acquired by Mylan. Laws that protect investors in these companies are what landed Shkreli in court. Yet until there are laws to protect patients from drug company extortion, like the one proposed by Sanders, the line of Pharma Bros ready to take his place is already queued up.
Why Are Drug Prices So High? These Politicians Might Have The Answer
August 14, 2017, International Business Times
Why do Americans continue to pay the highest prices for medicine in the world? Lawmakers have sculpted specific policies, often not found in many other nations, that boost pharmaceutical industry profits. Meanwhile, the drug industry has spent $61 million on state elections and nearly $67 million on federal elections since 2010. Both parties have made pivotal decisions ... that have kept drug prices high. Insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, across the U.S., face at least nine class-action lawsuits alleging they attached arbitrary premiums to the prices of often less-expensive, generic prescription drugs. The plaintiffs also accuse the PBMs and insurers of imposing so-called “gag clauses” on pharmacies to keep pharmacists from telling consumers that they could save money by paying out of pocket. The system could be denying customers $120 billion in discounts and rebates. Should drugs developed at taxpayer expense be sold to Americans at sky high prices? In the past, the federal government passed a rule saying no — but that rule was rescinded in 1995. If Americans were allowed to import lower-priced drugs from places like Canada, it would save government agencies alone $6 billion. But ... Americans are still prohibited from engaging in such importation. The federal government could [also] save billions of dollars a year by having Medicare use its huge market power to negotiate - or require - lower drug prices for the program's beneficiaries.
Monsanto Emails Raise Issue of Influencing Research on Roundup Weed Killer
August 1, 2017, New York Times
Documents released Tuesday in a lawsuit against Monsanto raised new questions about the company’s efforts to influence the news media and scientific research and revealed internal debate over the safety of its highest-profile product, the weed killer Roundup. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is the most common weed killer in the world. The documents underscore the lengths to which the agrochemical company goes to protect its image. Documents show that Henry I. Miller ... a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes’s website in 2015. An academic involved in writing research funded by Monsanto, John Acquavella, [wrote] in a 2015 email to a Monsanto executive, “I can’t be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication.” He also said of the way the company was trying to present the authorship: “We call that ghost writing and it is unethical.” Mr. Miller’s 2015 article on Forbes’s website was an attack on the findings of ... a branch of the World Health Organization that had labeled glyphosate a probable carcinogen. The documents also show that A. Wallace Hayes, the former editor of a journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, has had a contractual relationship with Monsanto. In 2013, while he was still editor, Mr. Hayes retracted a key study damaging to Monsanto that found that Roundup, and genetically modified corn, could cause cancer and early death in rats.
Keith Kloor’s Endearing Love Affair With GMOs
July 19, 2017, Huffington Post
Few science writers have worked as hard as Keith Kloor to impact public opinion on genetically modified organism (GMO) agriculture. An adjunct professor at New York University and former editor for Audubon and blogger for Discover, Kloor has spent years championing GMO products and portraying skeptics and critics as scientifically illiterate quacks. His curious form of advocacy includes bitter attacks on anyone who disagrees with him. Kloor’s targets have included Jake Tapper of CNN; Michael Pollan, professor of journalism at UC-Berkeley; Tom Philpott of Mother Jones; Mark Bittman, the noted food columnist; Glenn Davis Stone, Guggenheim Fellow and professor of archaeology at Washington University; Nassim Taleb, professor of risk engineering at NYU; Marion Nestle, professor of food science at NYU; and Charles Seife, professor of science journalism at NYU. The public has known for some time that Keith Kloor loves GMOs. What they haven’t known, until now, is how hard he’s worked with industry-funded “experts” to present corporate talking points as journalism and then try to cover his tracks. An avalanche of documents released through court proceedings and freedom of information requests point to a coordinated effort by corporate front groups, scientists secretly funded by agrichemical industry giants, and allied reporters attempting to portray themselves as arbiters of scientific expertise while condemning critics of GMO technology as “antiscience.”
Note: The above article provides an in-depth view of Monsanto's corruption of mass media. This company's use of scientists as industry puppets, its lies to regulators and the public and its massive lobbying campaign have not kept information on the risks and dangers of GMOs from getting out.
US government demands details on all visitors to anti-Trump protest website
August 15, 2017, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The US government is seeking to unmask every person who visited an anti-Trump website in what privacy advocates say is an unconstitutional “fishing expedition” for political dissidents. The warrant appears to be an escalation of the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) campaign against anti-Trump activities, including the harsh prosecution of inauguration day protesters. On 17 July, the DoJ served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for every piece of information it possessed that was related to a website that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration. The warrant ... seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited [the site], as well as the date and time of their visit and information about what browser or operating system they used. The warrant was made public Monday, when DreamHost announced its plans to challenge the government in court. The government has aggressively prosecuted activists arrested during the 20 January protests in Washington DC. In April, the US attorney’s office in Washington DC filed a single indictment charging more than 217 people with identical crimes, including felony rioting. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been advising DreamHost, characterized the warrant as “unconstitutional”. “I can’t conceive of a legitimate justification other than casting your net as broadly as possible,” senior staff attorney Mark Rumold [said]. “What they would be getting is a list of everyone who has ever been interested in attending these protests.”
Note: In May, United Nations officials said that the US treatment of activists was increasingly "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of privacy.
A Legacy of Environmental Racism
August 13, 2017, The Intercept
A loud boom cut through the night and a stream of fire lit up the sky. A strong, unpleasant odor settled over the street. None of the neighbors reported what happened that night - nor the ... symptoms that followed. For [Joseph] Gaines, the symptoms included an intense sudden headache, tearing eyes, a runny nose, and congestion. A block and a half from Gaines’s house, the street ends in an Exxon Mobil refinery that ... releases at least 135 toxic chemicals, many of which - including 1,3-butadiene, benzo[a]pyrene, and styrene - are carcinogens. The plant is regularly in noncompliance with the Clean Air Act. Yet many of the people [in] Charlton-Pollard said they felt there was no point in trying to reduce the emissions. They raised [their concerns] in a formal complaint to the Environmental Protection Agency 17 years ago. The filing [described] the chemical pollution. And the complaint went further, arguing that the location of the oil refinery - next to a neighborhood where 95 percent of residents were African-American - was a civil rights violation. The majority of civil rights complaints the EPA accepted for investigation between 1996 and 2013 languished for years. As the people of Charlton-Pollard and Flint — as well as Tallassee, Alabama; Pittsburg, California; and Chaves County, New Mexico — can attest, the EPA’s lack of responsiveness to civil rights complaints spans not just many years, but also several presidential administrations. While pollution protections are moving backward, Exxon Mobil is planning to expand its Beaumont operations.
How to deal with worries about stranded assets
November 24, 2016, The Economist
Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, addressed the insurance industry on climate change [in 2015]. He dropped a bombshell on the oil industry. His message was twofold. First, if the world seriously intended to limit global warming to 2ºC, most of the coal, oil and gas reserves in the ground would be left “stranded”, or unrecoverable. Second, a task force would be set up to prompt companies to disclose how they planned to manage risks and prepare for a 2ºC world, similar to the one created to improve risk disclosure by banks after the financial crisis. Mr Carney’s remarks presaged a change in attitude towards oil companies by governments, financial regulators and investors that has become clearer since the Paris climate-change agreement last December. The Securities and Exchange Commission, America’s stockmarket regulator, is investigating whether ExxonMobil, the country’s biggest oil company, values its untapped reserves appropriately in light of the recent halving of oil prices and potential regulatory action on climate change. In October it said it might write down about one-fifth of its reserves. The company has faced related probes by New York’s attorney-general. The industry may come under further pressure. If measures to stop global warming are fully implemented, oil-company revenues could fall by more than $22trn over the next 25 years, more than twice the predicted decline for the gas and coal industries combined.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing climate change news articles from reliable major media sources.
They Got Hurt At Work — Then They Got Deported
August 16, 2017, NPR
However people feel about immigration, judges and lawmakers nationwide have long acknowledged that the employment of unauthorized workers is a reality of the American economy. Some 8 million immigrants work with false or no papers nationwide. They're more likely to be hurt or killed on the job than other workers. Nearly all 50 states, including Florida, have given these workers the right to receive workers' comp. But in 2003, Florida's lawmakers [made] it a crime to file a workers' comp claim using false identification. Since then, insurers have avoided paying for injured immigrant workers' lost wages and medical care by repeatedly turning them in to the state. In a challenging twist of logic, immigrants can be charged with workers' comp fraud even if they've never been injured or filed a claim, because legislators also made it illegal to use a fake ID to get a job. In many cases, the state's insurance fraud unit has conducted unusual sweeps of worksites, arresting a dozen employees. To assess the impact of Florida's law on undocumented workers, ProPublica and NPR analyzed 14 years of state insurance fraud data. We found nearly 800 cases statewide in which employees were arrested under the law. Insurers have used the law to deny workers benefits after a litany of serious workplace injuries. Flagged by insurers or their private detectives, state fraud investigators have arrested injured workers at doctor's appointments and at depositions in their workers' comp cases. Some were taken into custody with their arms still in slings.
Google Doesn’t Want What’s Best for Us
August 12, 2017, New York Times
Google processes more than three billion search queries a day. It has altered our notions of privacy, tracking what we buy, what we search for online - and even our physical location at every moment of the day. It is a monopoly. So it matters how this company works - who it hires, who it fires and why. Last week, Google fired a software engineer for writing a memo that questioned the company’s gender diversity policies and made statements about women’s biological suitability for technical jobs. “Portions of the memo violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes,” Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, wrote. It’s impossible to believe that Google or other large tech companies a few years ago would have reacted like this to such a memo. In 2011 when CNN filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the workplace diversity data on big tech companies, Google [asked] for its data to be excluded. Google began to disclose statistics [in 2014] showing that only 17 percent of its technical work force was female. Today Google is under growing scrutiny, and the cognitive dissonance between the outward-facing “Don’t be evil” stance and the internal misogynistic “brogrammer” rhetoric was too extreme. Google had to fire the offending engineer, James Damore, but anyone who spends time on the message boards frequented by Valley engineers will know that the “bro” culture that gave us Gamergate - an online movement that targeted women in the video game industry - [remains] prevalent.
88-year-old Saskatoon man makes thousands of socks for shelters
January 5, 2017, CBC News (Canada's public broadcasting system)
It started as a dare. Bob Rutherford's friend didn't believe the Saskatoon man could make a cheap knitting machine that worked really, really fast. That's when Rutherford got to work. The now 88-year-old used sewer tubing to put together two super-powered machines. "It could be knitting at 90 stitches a second," he proudly said. And the octogenarian has now finished making 10,000 pairs of socks with the machines for shelters in Saskatoon and across the country. How on earth did he do it? He puts it rather simply: "The wool comes in the door and I knit it." Rutherford started making the socks seven years ago. "When my wife passed away in 2010, I felt the loss that everybody feels and had nothing to do," said Rutherford. "[My son] said to me, 'If you want to help yourself, help somebody else.'" He made the knitting machines years earlier, but had never really put them into action. And so he got to work, knitting every week. He calls the living room operation "Socks by Bob." Rutherford emphasizes the socks aren't only his doing — he also has help of a few friends. The group includes 92-year-old Glynn Sully, 85-year-old George Slater and "youngster" Barney Sullivan. "He's a really young guy, 65 maybe," said Rutherford. "Very good company." Just in the last year, they've made more than 2,000 pairs of socks. It's the connection with the group that keeps Rutherford knitting. "I think everybody has to have this. I think people have to reach out and touch other people. And I can do this by touching the socks," said Rutherford.
Note: Don't miss the video of this creative and compassionate man's workshop in action at the link above. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
All slaughterhouses in England to have compulsory CCTV
August 11, 2017, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
All slaughterhouses in England will be fitted with compulsory CCTV under plans to be unveiled on Friday by environment secretary Michael Gove, as part of a series of measures to bolster welfare standards and enforce laws against animal cruelty. The government will also raise standards for farm animals and domestic pets by modernising statutory animal welfare codes to reflect enhancements in medicines, technological advances and the latest research and advice from vets. The codes will remain enshrined in law and the first to be updated will cover chickens bred for meat. Animal welfare groups have been calling for compulsory cameras – backed by an independent monitoring system for years, while the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, British Veterinary Association, Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the RSPCA have also all backed slaughterhouse CCTV. Between 2009 and 2016, the animal welfare group Animal Aid secretly filmed inside 11 randomly chosen UK slaughterhouses. Their undercover researchers found clear evidence of cruelty and law-breaking in 10 of those 11. UK supermarkets have also backed compulsory CCTV, with the vast majority now insisting that their suppliers have it.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The World's Biggest For-Profit College Company, Laureate Education, Raises $490 Million In Public Debut
February 1, 2017, Forbes
The largest for-profit college company on the planet raised $490 million in its public debut on Wednesday. Laureate Education, an education juggernaut that is backed by big-name investors like Henry Kravis and Steve Cohen and counts Bill Clinton as its former honorary chancellor, listed its stock on the Nasdaq. The company, which operates colleges primarily outside the United States, is notable for being the first public benefit corporation to go public. That means it incorporated as a new type of company that seeks to balance an appetite for profits with the desire to positively impact society. This is in addition to its certification as a B Corp by the non-profit B Lab, along with 2,000 other companies like Patagonia and Warby Parker, most of whom have opted to stay private. By casting itself as part of the do-gooder crowd and having such a small presence in the U.S., Laureate has managed to distance itself from the nation's for-profit college sector, which received increased scrutiny under the Obama Administration. Corinthian College, for instance, declared bankruptcy and closed its campuses after regulators zeroed on its marketing practices and high loan default rates among students. Laureate and its proponents portray the company as one that is focused on expanding access to higher education in emerging markets to support a rapidly-growing middle class.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
GM is selling a $5,000 electric car in China
August 8, 2017, CNN News
General Motors will start selling a tiny electric car in China this week that will cost about $5,300 after national and local electric vehicle incentives. For that sort of price, the Baojun E100 is no Cadillac, of course. The two-seat car's wheelbase - the distance from the center of the front wheels to the center of the rear wheels - is just 63 inches. Prices for the car start at RMB 93,900, or about $14,000, before incentives. The E100, which is Baojun's first electric car, is powered by a single 39-horsepower electric motor and has a top speed of 62 miles an hour. The E100 can drive about 96 miles on a fully charged battery. Baojun is a mass-market car brand from General Motors' SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture in China. It's China's eighth most popular car brand. More than 5,000 people have already registered to buy the first 200 vehicles, according to GM. Another 500 vehicles will be made available this week, and buyers will be chosen on a first-come-first-served basis, a GM spokesperson said. Sales will initially be limited to the Guanxi region of southern China, but GM plans to sell the car more widely in China. A GM spokesperson declined to say exactly how many it expects to sell. China is the largest automotive market in the world, and its government is making a big push for electric cars. Already, China accounts for 40% of all electric cars sold worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
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