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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.
The amount the U.S. military spends annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan: $20.2 billion, according to a former Pentagon official. That's more than NASA's budget. "When you consider the cost to deliver the fuel to some of the most isolated places in the world — escorting, command and control, medevac support — when you throw all that infrastructure in, we're talking over $20 billion," Steven Anderson tells ... All Things Considered. He's a retired brigadier general who served as chief logistician for Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq. The Pentagon rejects Anderson's estimate. Still his claims raise questions about how much the US footprint in Afghanistan really costs – especially something like air conditioning. To power an air conditioner at a remote outpost in landlocked Afghanistan, a gallon of fuel has to be shipped into Karachi, Pakistan, then driven 800 miles over 18 days to Afghanistan on roads that are sometimes little more than "improved goat trails," Anderson says. "And you've got risks that are associated with moving the fuel almost every mile of the way." Anderson calculates that more than 1,000 troops have died in fuel convoys, which remain prime targets for attack. Freestanding tents equipped with air conditioners in 125-degree heat require a lot of fuel.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on government corruption, click here.
Santosh Devi is [a] 19-year-old, semi-literate woman from the backwaters of Rajasthan [who] has broken through India's rigid caste system to become the country's first Dalit solar engineer. While differences of caste have begun to blur in the cities, in rural India Dalits – also known as "untouchables" – are still impoverished and widely discriminated against. Santosh trained to be a solar engineer at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, 100km from Jaipur. The college was set up in 1972 by Sanjit "Bunker" Roy to teach rural people skills with which they could transform their villages, regardless of gender, caste, ethnicity, age or schooling. The college claims to have trained 15,000 women in skills including solar engineering, healthcare and water testing. Roy, 65, says his approach – low cost, decentralised and community driven – works by "capitalising on the resources already present in the villages". The college, spread over eight acres, runs entirely on solar energy, maintained by the Barefoot solar engineers. Since the solar course was launched in 2005, more than 300 Barefoot engineers have brought power to more than 13,000 homes across India. A further 6,000 households, in more than 120 villages in 24 countries from Afghanistan to Uganda, have been powered on the same model. Only villages that are inaccessible, remote and non-electrified are considered for solar power. A drop in the ocean, perhaps – 44% of rural households in India have no electricity – but these women are making an important contribution to the nation's power needs.
Note: For a very inspiring TED talk filled with great stories by the founder of this college, click here.
The number of American children diagnosed with bipolar disorder increased 40-fold in a recent 10-year span, one study found. In Minnesota, spending on powerful antipsychotic drugs to treat bipolar and other disorders in children has risen 17-fold since 2000 and exceeds $6 million annually -- just in one state-funded health program. Now, in a medical reversal with few parallels, psychiatrists are backing away from the diagnosis. While some feel bipolar was once under-diagnosed in children, they worry that thousands of kids have since received the diagnosis in error, due to overzealous doctors, desperate parents, quirks in the health insurance system and aggressive marketing by drug companies. This summer, in a sign of the profession's second thoughts, the manual that psychiatrists use to make diagnoses is being rewritten and field-tested with a new disorder that would replace bipolar in many cases. The profession's about-face could help the next generation of troubled children, but it also raises questions about the harm done to children who shouldn't have received either the diagnosis or the potent drugs used to treat it. While antipsychotics can be lifesavers for patients who truly are bipolar, they come with increased risks of obesity, diabetes, muscle spasms and other serious side effects.
India's innovative "I Paid a Bribe" website – which puts a spotlight on government corruption – may become a model for rooting out corruption around the world. Co-founder Ramesh Ramanathan told The Hindu news site that he had received requests from seven countries to start similar sites for them. "I Paid a Bribe," begun last August, invites people to post anonymous reports on instances in which they have had to bribe an official. They can also share ways that they have been able to avoid paying a bribe. "Bribery is routinely expected in interactions with government officials – to register your house, to get your driving license, domestic water connection, even a death certificate," Swati Ramanathan, the other co-founder, told the BBC. "We said, 'It's not enough to moralize, we need to find out what exactly is this corruption? What's the size of it?'" The site has recorded more than 10,000 incidences of bribery. Some results are already being seen. "I Paid a Bribe" has already been copied in China by a number of sites ... reports Reuters news agency. Although the Chinese government is officially in favor of anti-corruption efforts, it's not clear whether the authoritarian regime will allow such citizen-led efforts to go forward. In Transparency International's 2010 survey of perceived corruption, India ranked 87th among 178 nations on the list and China ranked 78th. Denmark, New Zealand, and Singapore were listed as the least-corrupt countries. The United States ranked 22nd.
Note: Isn't it inspiring to see activism around government corruption? For lots more from reliable sources on this serious issue, click here.
There is nothing the state of North Carolina can do, Elaine Riddick says, to make up for forcing her to be sterilized when she was 14 years old. "They cut me open like I was a hog," [she said]. About 7,600 people were sterilized under North Carolina's eugenics program. Roughly 85 percent of the victims were women or girls. Unlike most states, North Carolina ramped up its sterilizations after World War II, despite associations between eugenics and Nazi Germany, which took eugenics to even more horrifying lengths. Around 70 percent of all North Carolina's sterilizations were performed after the war, peaking in the 1950s, according to state records. Nationwide, there were more than 60,000 known victims of sterilization programs, with perhaps another 40,000 sterilized through "unofficial" channels like hospitals or local health departments working on their own initiative. Eugenics was aimed at creating a better society by filtering out people considered undesirable, ranging from criminals to those imprecisely designated as "feeble-minded." People as young as 10 in North Carolina were sterilized for not getting along with schoolmates, being promiscuous or running afoul of local social workers or doctors. "Where did all this come from? This came from doctors, medical practitioners, professors, not guys in pickup trucks wearing white sheets," said Edwin Black, author of the eugenics history War Against the Weak.
The New York Fed is refusing to tell investigators how many billions of dollars it shipped to Iraq during the early days of the US invasion there, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction told CNBC [on June 21]. The Fed's lack of disclosure is making it difficult for the inspector general to follow the paper trail of billions of dollars that went missing in the chaotic rush to finance the Iraq occupation, and to determine how much of that money was stolen. The New York Fed will not reveal details, the inspector general said, because the money initially came from an account at the Fed that was held on behalf of the people of Iraq and financed by cash from the Oil-for-Food program. Without authorization from the account holder, the Iraqi government itself, the inspector general's office was told it can't receive information about the account. The problem is that critics of the Iraqi government believe highly placed officials there are among the people who may have made off with the money in the first place. And some think that will make it highly unlikely the Iraqis will sign off on revealing the total dollar amount. It was one of the largest shipments of cash in history. And the inspector general says that if the money was stolen, that would represent the largest heist in history.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on government corruption, click here.
Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping. The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation. Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit. At three sites — two in Illinois and one in Minnesota — leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes. At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean. Any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how slight, boosts cancer risk, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Tritium moves through soil quickly, and when it is detected it often indicates the presence of more powerful radioactive isotopes that are often spilled at the same time.
Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation's aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. Time after time, officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have decided that original regulations were too strict, arguing that safety margins could be eased without peril. The result? Rising fears that these accommodations by the NRC are significantly undermining safety — and inching the reactors closer to an accident that could harm the public. Examples abound. When valves leaked, more leakage was allowed — up to 20 times the original limit. When rampant cracking caused radioactive leaks from steam generator tubing, an easier test of the tubes was devised, so plants could meet standards. Failed cables. Busted seals. Broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete, dented containers, corroded metals and rusty underground pipes — all of these and thousands of other problems linked to aging were uncovered. Not a single official body in government or industry has studied the overall frequency and potential impact on safety of such breakdowns in recent years, even as the NRC has extended the licenses of dozens of reactors.
Note: Read this detailed report in its entirety to see the amazing range of serious problems in the US nuclear industry which have systematically been covered up by the NRC. For lots more from reliable sources on government and corporate corruption, click here and here.
The bloated Missouri River rose to within 18 inches of forcing the shutdown of a nuclear power plant in southeast Nebraska but stopped and ebbed slightly [on June 20], after several levees in northern Missouri failed to hold back the surging waterway. The river has to hit 902 feet above sea level at Brownville before officials will shut down the Cooper Nuclear Plant, which sits at 903 feet, Nebraska Public Power District spokesman Mark Becker said. Becker said the river rose to 900.56 feet at Brownville on Sunday, then dropped to 900.4 feet later in the day and remained at that level Monday morning. The Cooper Nuclear Plant is operating at full capacity Monday, Becker said. The Columbus-based utility sent a "notification of unusual event" to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the river rose to 899 feet early Sunday morning. The declaration is the least serious of four emergency notifications established by the federal commission. The Cooper Nuclear Station is one of two plants along the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska. The Fort Calhoun Station, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, is about 20 miles north of Omaha. It issued a similar alert to the regulatory commission June 6.
Note: This same plant narrowly avoided a shutdown just a couple weeks prior due to an electrical fire. For the AP article on this, click here. On Monday, June 27, floodwaters collapsed a berm protecting the plant and flooded a building onsite. Authorities, however, still claim there are no dangers.
Military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones ... to the size of insects and birds. The drones in development ... are designed to replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world. “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight,” said Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, as he held up a prototype of a mechanical hawk that in the future might carry out espionage or kill. An explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones ... are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less known is the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it. The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Within the next decade the Air Force anticipates a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of “multirole” aerial drones like the Reaper — the ones that spy as well as strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined. “It’s a growth market,” said Ashton B. Carter, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer. The Pentagon has asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for drones next year, and by 2030 envisions ever more stuff of science fiction: “spy flies” equipped with sensors and microcameras to detect enemies
Note: Ashton B. Carter, CIA director John Deutch, and executive director of the 9/11 Commission Philip Zelikow co-authored a 1998 article in the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs, titled "Catastrophic Terrorism". It predicted, years in advance, a massive attack on the World Trade Center that would result in loss of civil liberties, detention without charge, torture, and endless wars abroad. The Pentagon's weapons-buying spree, now including billions of dollars for drones to be used over US soil, and for which Carter is the "chief weapons buyer," would have been impossible without the 9/11 attacks.
Americans continued to strongly support charitable work with their dollars last year, despite the lingering recession, a new report says. The biggest area of growth in charitable giving was in aiding international causes, such as the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. Total US charitable giving rose 3.8 percent in 2010 (2.1 percent adjusted for inflation), estimates "Giving USA 2011: The annual report on philanthropy for the year 2010," produced by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The groups estimate that total US charitable giving in 2010 was $291 billion, compared with an estimated $280 billion in 2009. "The environment for philanthropy has been admittedly challenging over the past few years, but one message has come through loud and clear: Charitable giving remains a central part of the American fabric," says a foreword to the report. "Even through a period of economic stress and volatility, Americans have continued to give." Americans give about 2 percent of their disposable income to charitable causes, the report says, a figure that has stayed stable over many years.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein renewed a decadelong push [on June 17] to phase out the routine use of antibiotics in livestock, hogs and poultry. Government officials have warned that increasing antibiotic resistance in humans poses a serious public health threat. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that 80 percent of all antibiotics are given to farm animals in low doses intended to stave off disease in large livestock operations. Many of the antibiotics are the same ones used to treat human diseases. Scientists have linked the practice to rising antibiotic resistance in humans, along with the overprescription of antibiotics by doctors. Feinstein's legislation, opposed by the National Pork Producers Council, would phase out the use of antibiotics considered "medically important" to humans and require new applications for animal antibiotics to prove that they do not endanger human health. The bill would permit antibiotics to treat sick animals. The California Democrat's bill is an identical version of a House bill, HR965, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, by Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., a microbiologist on a crusade to eliminate low-dose antibiotic use in livestock.
Note: For key reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
What is definitely known about Area 51 is that it’s used by the US government to develop and test experimental aircraft and weapons systems and that it’s been doing this since flight-testing of the U-2 spy plane began there in 1955. Designed by Lockheed, on behalf of the CIA, the U-2 was a high-altitude, long-range aircraft capable of flying over enemy territory and taking pictures, unobserved. The site is bordered to the west by the Nevada test site – a vast tract of desert sequestered by the Department of Energy, ... very much off-limits to the public. Area 51 was the perfect place to develop and test the “black projects” – military aircraft so vital to America’s national security that even most members of the government had no “need to know” that they even existed. West of the base’s main living quarters, on a piece of ground slightly above the lake bed, a waste dump had been constructed. Vehicles with California license plates would head up to the dump to unload cargoes of waste too secret to dispose of normally. While a lot of waste material put into the pits was generated on-site, there were also the contents of those trucks that hauled up every week from California.
Note: Although this is an unusually informative article about Area 51, it dismisses any UFO involvement there, despite much evidence. See our informative UFO Information Center for additional perspectives.
Scientists have developed a way to turn memories on and off -— literally with the flip of a switch. Using an electronic system that duplicates the neural signals associated with memory, they managed to replicate the brain function in rats associated with long-term learned behavior, even when the rats had been drugged to forget. "Flip the switch on, and the rats remember. Flip it off, and the rats forget," said Theodore Berger of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering's Department of Biomedical Engineering. Using embedded electrical probes, the [team] recorded changes in the rat's brain activity between the ... divisions of the hippocampus, known as subregions CA3 and CA1. During the learning process, the hippocampus converts short-term memory into long-term memory. In a dramatic demonstration, the experimenters blocked the normal neural interactions between the two areas using pharmacological agents. The previously trained rats then no longer displayed the long-term learned behavior. But long-term memory capability returned to the pharmacologically blocked rats when the team activated the electronic device programmed to duplicate the memory-encoding function.
Note: With the flip of a switch, researchers can now change, delete, or augment memories. And remember that any public research is generally at least a decade behind what is happening in secret government research labs. For key reports from reliable sources on mind control, click here.
Physician Janette Sherman, M.D. and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published a report Monday highlighting a 35% spike in northwest infant mortality after Japan's nuclear meltdown. The report spotlighted data from the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on infant mortality rates in eight northwest cities, including Seattle, in the 10 weeks after Fukushima's nuclear meltdown. The average number of infant deaths for the region moved from an average of 9.25 in the four weeks before Fukushima' nuclear meltdown, to an average of 12.5 per week in the 10 weeks after. The change represents a 35% increase in the northwest's infant mortality rates. In comparison, the average rates for the entire U.S. rose only 2.3%.
The US defence agency that invented the forerunner to the internet is working on a "virtual firing range" intended as a replica of the real internet so scientists can mimic international cyberwars to test their defences. Called the National Cyber Range, the system will be ready by next year and will also help the Pentagon to train its own hackers. The move marks another rise in the temperature of the online battlefield. The US and Israel are believed to have collaborated on a sophisticated piece of malware called Stuxnet that targeted computers controlling Iran's nuclear centrifuge scheme. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), which developed Arpanet, the forerunner of the internet, in the 1960s, is working on a number of fronts. Barack Obama has asked Congress for more than $250m (Ł154m) to fund Darpa's cyber initiatives in the coming year, double his fiscal 2011 request. The National Cyber Range is expected to be working by mid 2012, four years after the Pentagon approached contractors to build it at an estimated $130m. Darpa will this summer select one of them to operate a prototype test range during a year-long test. It will also help train cyberwarriors such as those in the American military's Cyber Command, ordered up by the secretary of defence, Robert Gates, in June 2009.
Note: For key reports on developing new war technologies, click here.
The psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms may have lasting medical and spiritual benefits, according to new research from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The mushroom-derived hallucinogen, called psilocybin, is known to trigger transformative spiritual states, but at high doses it can also result in "bad trips" marked by terror and panic. "The important point here is that we found the sweet spot where we can optimize the positive persistent effects and avoid some of the fear and anxiety that can occur and can be quite disruptive," says lead author Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology at Hopkins. Giffiths' study involved 18 healthy adults, average age 46. Nearly all the volunteers were college graduates and 78% participated regularly in religious activities; all were interested in spiritual experience. Fourteen months after participating in the study, 94% of those who received the drug said the experiment was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives; 39% said it was the single most meaningful experience. Their friends, family member and colleagues also reported that the psilocybin experience had made the participants calmer, happier and kinder.
Why do we still go to war? We seem unable to stop. Britain's borders and British people have not been under serious threat for a generation. Yet time and again our leaders crave battle. Why? Last week we got a glimpse of an answer and it was not nice. The outgoing US defence secretary, Robert Gates, berated Europe's "failure of political will" in not maintaining defence spending. He said Nato had declined into a "two-tier alliance" between those willing to wage war and those "who specialise in 'soft' humanitarian, development, peacekeeping and talking tasks". Peace, he implied, is for wimps. Real men buy bombs, and drop them. Libya has cost Britain Ł100m so far, and rising. But Iraq and the Afghan war are costing America $3bn a week, and there is scarcely an industry, or a state, in the country that does not see some of this money. These wars show no signs of being ended, let alone won. But to the defence lobby what matters is the money. It sustains combat by constantly promising success and inducing politicians and journalists to see "more enemy dead", "a glimmer of hope" and "a corner about to be turned". Victory will come, but only if politicians spend more money on "a surge".
Note: For a very similar, classic analysis of war profiteering by famed US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, click here.
A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him. Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war. In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole. Since a series of Watergate-era abuses involving spying on White House political enemies, the C.I.A. and other spy agencies have been prohibited from collecting intelligence concerning the activities of American citizens inside the United States. “These allegations, if true, raise very troubling questions,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former C.I.A. general counsel. “The statute makes it very clear: you can’t spy on Americans.” Mr. Smith added that a 1981 executive order that prohibits the C.I.A. from spying on Americans places tight legal restrictions not only on the agency’s ability to collect information on United States citizens, but also on its retention or dissemination of that data.
Note: For important reports from major media sources on a wide array of threats to civil liberties by out-of-control government agencies and officials, click here.
You probably missed the recent special issue of China Newsweek, so let me bring you up to date. Who do you think was on the cover — named the “most influential foreign figure” of the year in China? Barack Obama? No. Bill Gates? No. Warren Buffett? No. O.K., I’ll give you a hint: He’s a rock star in Asia, and people in China, Japan and South Korea scalp tickets to hear him. Give up? It was Michael J. Sandel, the Harvard University political philosopher. This news will not come as a surprise to Harvard students, some 15,000 of whom have taken Sandel’s legendary “Justice” class. What makes the class so compelling is the way Sandel uses real-life examples to illustrate the philosophies of the likes of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill. Sandel is touching something deep in both Boston and Beijing. “Students everywhere are hungry for discussion of the big ethical questions we confront in our everyday lives,” Sandel argues. “In recent years, seemingly technical economic questions have crowded out questions of justice and the common good. I think there is a growing sense, in many societies, that G.D.P. and market values do not by themselves produce happiness, or a good society. My dream is to create a video-linked global classroom, connecting students across cultures and national boundaries — to think through these hard moral questions together, to see what we can learn from one another.”
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.