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The SEC has violated federal law by destroying the records of thousands of enforcement cases in which it decided not to file charges against or conduct full-blown investigations of Wall Street firms and others initially suspected of wrongdoing, a former agency official has alleged. The purged records involve major firms such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and hedge-fund manager SAC Capital. At issue were suspicions of actions such as insider trading, financial fraud and market manipulation. A file closed in 2002 involved Lehman Brothers, the investment bank whose collapse fueled the financial meltdown of 2008, according to the former official. A file closed in 2009 involved suspected insider trading in securities related to American International Group, the insurance giant bailed out by the government at the height of the financial crisis. The allegations were leveled in a July letter to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) from Gary J. Aguirre, a former SEC enforcement lawyer now representing a current SEC enforcement lawyer, Darcy Flynn. Flynn last year began managing SEC enforcement records and became concerned that records that were supposed to be preserved under federal law were being purged as a matter of SEC policy, Aguirre wrote.
Note: For more on this important news by Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on the criminal practices of Wall Street corporations which led to global economic recession and massive government bailouts, click here.
It is one of the mysteries of Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis: How much damage did the 11 March earthquake inflict on the Fukushima Daiichi reactors before the tsunami hit? The stakes are high: if the earthquake structurally compromised the plant and the safety of its nuclear fuel, then every similar reactor in Japan may have to be shut down. Throughout the months of lies and misinformation, one story has stuck: it was the earthquake that knocked out the plant's electric power, halting cooling to its six reactors. The tsunami then washed out the plant's back-up generators 40 minutes later, shutting down all cooling and starting the chain of events that would cause the world's first triple meltdown. But what if recirculation pipes and cooling pipes burst after the earthquake – before the tidal wave reached the facilities; before the electricity went out? This would surprise few people familiar with the 40-year-old reactor one, the grandfather of the nuclear reactors still operating in Japan. Problems with the fractured, deteriorating, poorly repaired pipes and the cooling system had been pointed out for years. In September 2002, Tepco admitted covering up data about cracks in critical circulation pipes.
New evidence has emerged in one of the most enduring mysteries of United Nations and African history, suggesting that the plane carrying the UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld was shot down over Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) 50 years ago, and the murder was covered up by British colonial authorities. A British-run commission of inquiry blamed the crash in 1961 on pilot error and a later UN investigation largely rubber-stamped its findings. They ignored or downplayed witness testimony of villagers near the crash site which suggested foul play. The key witnesses were located and interviewed over the past three years by Göran Björkdahl, a Swedish aid worker based in Africa. The investigation led Björkdahl to previously unpublished telegrams ... which illustrate US and British anger at an abortive UN military operation that the secretary general ordered on behalf of the Congolese government against a rebellion backed by western mining companies and mercenaries in the mineral-rich Katanga region. Hammarskjöld was flying to Ndola for peace talks with the Katanga leadership at a meeting that the British helped arrange. The fiercely independent Swedish diplomat had, by then, enraged almost all the major powers on the security council with his support for decolonisation, but support from developing countries meant his re-election as secretary general would have been virtually guaranteed at the general assembly vote due the following year.
Sitting in front of the television may be a relaxing way to pass an evening, but spending too much time in front of the tube may take years off your life. That's what Australian researchers found when they generated life-expectancy tables for people based on mortality information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics as well as participants' survey responses about how much TV they had watched in the past week. The TV-viewing data from more than 11,000 participants older than 25 years showed that Australian adults watched an estimated 9.8 billion hours of television in 2008. People who watched an average six hours of TV a day lived an average 4.8 years fewer than those who didn't watch any television, the study found. Even more humbling: every hour of TV that participants watched after age 25 was associated with a 22-minute reduction in their life expectancy. The findings suggest that watching too much TV is as detrimental to longevity as smoking and lack of exercise.
Note: How about the health impacts of hours daily online or working at a computer screen? Might they be similar to the health effects of watching TV? For lots more on important health issues from reliable sources, click here.
Inequality in America. It's a subject that's getting more attention in light of the weak economy and the ongoing debate around budget cuts and raising revenues. Billionaire businessman ... Warren Buffett, who has argued in favor of higher taxes on the wealthiest, [discusses] the growing disparity. WARREN BUFFETT: It should be a land of opportunity. But the ... market system has led to extremes. Everybody in this country owes their good fortune in some way to the rest of the country. DAN ARIELY: People don't understand how much wealth the top 20 percent have. They actually have 84 percent of the wealth. And more disturbingly, people don't understand how little wealth the bottom of the distribution have. The bottom 40 percent of the U.S. have about 0.3 percent of the wealth, basically zero. RICHARD FREEMAN: In the last 30 years or so, the share of national [income] -- of income that has gone to the upper 0.1 percent -- not to the upper 1.0 percent -- 0.1 percent -- rose by 10 percentage points. That is one of the most astounding patterns I have ever seen in data. People sometimes say, oh, the rich, it's the upper 10 percent, it's the upper 5 percent. No, no, this is the 0.1 percent. Warren Buffett has this wonderful statement where he says: Yes, there's been a class war in the United States. And my class, namely the super rich people, have won.
Note: For key articles from major media sources on the extreme income inequality in the US, click here.
An Indian government attempt to head off a political crisis by arresting a key anti-corruption activist appeared to backfire ... when parliament walked out and demonstrations broke out across the country. Approximately 20 plainclothes police surrounded activist Anna Hazare, 73, ... as he left his house to begin a hunger strike against alleged widespread corruption, reportedly forbidding him from leaving the premises. When he defied them, they took him into custody on peremptory charges of "breach of peace." In April, Hazare held a five-day fast that garnered enormous national support and helped make him the public face of a grassroots anti-graft fight. It also put the ruling Congress party under pressure to pass a controversial "Lokpal Bill" that, among other things, would establish an independent ombudsman able to probe senior officials. When the cabinet passed a version that exempted the prime minister's office and top judges from close scrutiny, Hazare announced a second hunger-strike. India has seen a spate of corruption scandals in recent months, many allegedly involving senior Congress Party officials or their close allies, involving telecommunications, defense and sporting events allegedly amounting to tens of billions of dollars.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on government corruption, click here.
Members of a well-known hacking group -- according to a statement and Twitter messages -- took credit ... for an online attack targeting San Francisco's embattled transit system. Anonymous ... said it would take down the website of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, known as BART, between noon and 6 p.m. PT Sunday. This is in response to the system's decision to cut off cellphone signals at "select" subway stations in response to a planned protest last week. "By (cutting cell service), you have not only threatened your citizens' safety, you have also performed an act of censorship," a seemingly computer-generated voice -- speaking over dramatic music and images -- said in a video posted online Sunday afternoon. "By doing this, you have angered Anonymous." On Sunday afternoon, a link off BART's website to myBART.org apparently had been hacked. It showed a page featuring, among other items, the Anonymous logo -- a smirking mask above two crossed swords, all on a black background. In addition, Twitter traffic related to Anonymous boasted that hackers had been able to get into BART's internal network.
While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors. Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent. If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot. My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.
Note: The author of this article is Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world. Thanks for the excellent article, Warren.
In the annals of the sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, most of the cases that have come to light happened years before to children and teenagers who have long since grown into adults. But a painfully fresh case is devastating Catholics in Kansas City, Mo., where a priest, who was arrested in May, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of taking indecent photographs of young girls, most recently during an Easter egg hunt just four months ago. Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has acknowledged that he knew of the existence of photographs last December but did not turn them over to the police until May. A civil lawsuit filed last week claims that during those five months, the priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, attended children’s birthday parties, spent weekends in the homes of parish families, hosted the Easter egg hunt and presided, with the bishop’s permission, at a girl’s First Communion. The case has generated fury at a bishop who was already a polarizing figure in his diocese, and there are widespread calls for him to resign or even to be prosecuted. Bishop Finn, who was appointed in 2005, alienated many of his priests and parishioners, and won praise from others, when he remade the diocese to conform with his traditionalist theological views. He is one of few bishops affiliated with the conservative movement Opus Dei.
[The top counterterrorism adviser to President Clinton and Mr. Bush, Richard Clarke will] be featured in a documentary advancing [a] theory that the Central Intelligence Agency tried to turn two of the 9/11 hijackers into double agents while they resided in the United States in the years leading up to the attacks. During the 9/11 Commission's investigation of the attacks, the CIA said it didn't know the location of the hijackers Clarke refers to, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. In the documentary, Clarke ... concludes that the CIA director at the time, George Tenet, ordered the cover-up after the recruitment effort failed. In response to that accusation, Tenet released a written statement saying that Clarke has "suddenly invented baseless allegations which are belied by the record and unworthy of serious consideration."
Note: Richard Clarke is not the only highly-credible and respected former government official to question the official acount of 9/11. For the questions raised by many more, click here.
A dull-looking chart projected on the wall of a university office in Jerusalem displayed a revelation that would startle many readers of the Old Testament: The sacred text that people revered in the past was not the same one we study today. An ancient version of one book has an extra phrase. Another appears to have been revised to retroactively insert a prophecy after the events happened. Scholars in this out-of-the-way corner of the Hebrew University campus have been quietly at work for 53 years on one of the most ambitious projects attempted in biblical studies — publishing the authoritative edition of the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Bible, and tracking every single evolution of the text over centuries and millennia. The ongoing work of the academic detectives of the Bible Project, as their undertaking is known, shows that this text at the root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was somewhat fluid for long periods of its history, and that its transmission through the ages was messier and more human than most of us imagine. The sheer volume of information makes the Bible Project's version "the most comprehensive critical edition of the Hebrew Bible in existence at the present time," said David Marcus, a Bible scholar at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, who is not involved with the project.
Fareed Zakaria talks to Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman. Why does Paul Krugman say space aliens could fix the U.S. economy? Paul Krugman: Think about World War II, right? That was actually negative social product spending, and yet it brought us out. If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and ... inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, oops, we made a mistake, there aren't any aliens, we'd be better – there was a Twilight Zone episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time ... we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.
Note: A Fairchilds Industries Corporate Manager turned whistleblower has been talking about a staged UFO alien invastion predicted by rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun for many years. See her comments here.
Only up close does it become clear that some of the bulky figures in armoured vests scouring the fields of southern Lebanon for unexploded cluster bombs are wearing hijabs under their protective helmets. Once local teachers, nurses and housewives, this group of women are now fully trained to search for mines and make up the only all-female clearance team in Lebanon, combing the undergrowth inch by inch for the remnants of one of the most indiscriminate weapons of modern warfare. Leading the women in the field is Lamis Zein, a 33-year-old divorced mother of two and the team's supervisor. She was one of the first recruits for the team, which was set up by the de-mining NGO Norwegian People's Aid. "We are good at what we do and we are showing that women can do any kind of job," [said Zein]. Their painstaking task became necessary five years ago this week, after Israel rained cluster munitions on southern Lebanon to a degree the UN condemned as a "flagrant violation of international law". The women's team works in tandem with other teams of searchers, all co-ordinated by the Lebanese army, to clear up the unexploded ordnance that still litters the countryside. "Women are more patient than men," said Zein. "That is why we are good at this job. We work more slowly – and maybe we are a little more afraid than men."
A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison in connection to a bribery scandal that roiled the state's juvenile justice system. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was convicted of taking $1 million in bribes from developers of juvenile detention centers. The judge then presided over cases that would send juveniles to those same centers. The case came to be known as "kids-for-cash." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. More than a dozen people who said they had been affected by the judge's decision stood outside [the court house in Scranton, PA], awaiting the sentencing. Jeff Pollins was in that crowd. His stepson was convicted by Ciavarella. "These kids are still affected by it. It's like post traumatic stress disorder," Pollins told the Times Leader. "Our life is ruined. It's never going to be the same".
Note: Two crooked judges and a for-profit detention center company used millions of taxpayer dollars to systematically violate the rights of thousands of kids. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison industry corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Newly released government files on UFOs show a lack of will and resources to study thousands of reported sightings. The Ministry of Defence files released by the National Archives cover reported sightings of UFOs from 1985 to 2007. The 34 files include sightings of lights over Glastonbury and a "flying saucer" in Nottinghamshire. National Archives consultant Dr David Clarke said it was about time the data was released. "One of the most interesting documents in the files is a piece from an intelligence officer, who basically says that despite thousands of reports that they've received since the Second World War, they've never done any study or spent any money or time on the subject, and they say that people just won't believe that when they find out." Nick Pope worked at the MoD between 1991 and 1994. He said the files were quite revealing: "The fascinating thing about these files is that they show that just as in society there's this huge debate about UFOs - is it really interesting, are we being visited by aliens - or is it all just nonsense? We were having the same debates in the Ministry of Defence. Some people thought it was a waste of time and money, others thought it was of extreme defence significance."
A longtime judge has been ordered to spend nearly three decades in prison for his role in a massive juvenile justice bribery scandal that prompted the state's high court to toss thousands of convictions. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced ... to 28 years in federal prison for taking $1 million in bribes from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as "kids-for-cash." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2 million in bribes from the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the facilities' co-owner. Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, filled the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes.
Corey Feldman has no idea what it's like not to be famous. After all, he starred in a McDonald's ad when he was just 3 years old. But being famous and underage, he said, caused serious damage to him and his friends, including loss of innocence and a lost childhood. Feldman blamed the adults around him, not just those looking to profit from charming children, but also some with far more sinister motives. "I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia. That's the biggest problem for children in this industry. ... It's the big secret," Feldman said. The "casting couch," which is the old Hollywood reference to actors being expected to offer sex for roles, applied to children, Feldman said. "I was surrounded by [pedophiles] when I was 14 years old. … Didn't even know it. It wasn't until I was old enough to realize what they were and what they wanted … till I went, Oh, my God. They were everywhere," Feldman, 40, said. The trauma of pedophilia contributed to the 2010 death of his closest friend and "The Lost Boys" co-star, Corey Haim, Feldman said. "There's one person to blame in the death of Corey Haim. And that person happens to be a Hollywood mogul," Feldman said, adding that he, too, had been sexually abused by men in show business. Feldman said his realization followed the discovery of what some adults around him had allegedly done to other children. "There was a circle of older men … around this group of kids. And they all had either their own power or connections to great power in the entertainment industry," he said.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on pedophilia and sexual abuse by the powerful, click here.
Doctors have treated only three leukemia patients, but the sensational results from a single shot could be one of the most significant advances in cancer research in decades. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania say the treatment made the most common type of leukemia completely disappear in two of the patients and reduced it by 70 percent in the third. In each of the patients as much as five pounds of cancerous tissue completely melted away in a few weeks, and a year later it is still gone. The results of the preliminary test “exceeded our wildest expectations,” says immunologist Dr. Carl June a member of the Abramson Cancer Center's research team. Chemotherapy and radiation can hold this form of leukemia at bay for years, but until now the only cure has been a bone marrow transplant. A bone marrow transplant requires a suitable match, works only about half the time, and often brings on severe, life-threatening side effects such as pain and infection. So why has this remarkable treatment been tried so far on only three patients? Both the National Cancer Institute and several pharmaceutical companies declined to pay for the research. Neither applicants nor funders discuss the reasons an application is turned down.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on hopeful new cancer treatments, click here.
Investors are pouring into farmland in the U.S. and parts of Europe, Latin America and Africa as global food prices soar. A fund controlled by George Soros, the billionaire hedge-fund manager, owns 23.4 percent of South American farmland venture Adecoagro SA. Hedge funds Ospraie Management LLC and Passport Capital LLC as well as Harvard University's endowment are also betting on farming. TIAA-CREF, the $466 billion financial services giant, has $2 billion invested in some 600,000 acres (240,000 hectares) of farmland in Australia, Brazil and North America and wants to double the size of its investment. The growth in demand for food, spurred by the rising middle classes in China, India and other emerging markets, shows no signs of abating. Food prices in June, as measured by a United Nations index of 55 food commodities, were just slightly below their peak in February. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said in a June report that it expects food costs to remain high through 2012. So many investors have rushed to capitalize on food prices in the past three years that they may be creating a farmland bubble. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which covers Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and other agricultural states, said in May that farmland prices had surged 20 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier.
Note: This news is further clear evidence that the rapid increases in food prices is another ploy to funnel money from the pockets of the public into the uber wealthy.
It was the kind of study that made doctors around the world sit up and take notice: Two popular high-blood-pressure drugs were found to be much better in combination than either alone. Unfortunately, it wasn't true. Six and a half years later, the prestigious medical journal the Lancet retracted the paper, citing "serious concerns" about the findings. The damage was done. Doctors by then had given the drug combination to well over 100,000 patients. Instead of protecting them from kidney problems, as the study said the drug combo could do, it left them more vulnerable to potentially life-threatening side effects, later studies showed. Today, "tens of thousands" of patients are still on the dual therapy, according to research firm SDI. When a study is retracted, "it can be hard to make its effects go away," says Sheldon Tobe, a kidney-disease specialist at the University of Toronto. And that's more important today than ever because retractions of scientific studies are surging. Since 2001, while the number of papers published in research journals has risen 44%, the number retracted has leapt more than 15-fold, data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by Thomson Reuters reveal. Just 22 retraction notices appeared in 2001, but 139 in 2006 and 339 last year
Note: To learn lots more of how the medical industry puts profit above public health, click here.
Important Note: Explore our full index to key excerpts of revealing major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.