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Corporate Tantrums - Can We Trust These Companies With Our Health?

Corporate Tantrums - Can We Trust these Companies with Our Health?
By Michael Collins | Michael Collins' Blog

...we're expected to believe that making the world safe for AETNA is so important to Jane and John Q Citizen, they'll trash town hall meetings to serve the cause.

Some major health insurers and other health interests are behind some of the highly emotional and disruptive scenes at town hall meetings around the country.

What does this say about their level of desperation concerning the health care debate?

A Canadian Doctor Diagnoses US Health Care

A Canadian Doctor Diagnoses US Health Care
By Michael M. Rachlis | Truthout

The caricature of "socialized medicine" is used by corporate interests to confuse Americans and maintain their bottom lines instead of patients' health.

Universal health insurance is on the American policy agenda for the fifth time since World War II. In the 1960s, the U.S. chose public coverage for only the elderly and the very poor, while Canada opted for a universal program for hospitals and physicians' services. As a policy analyst, I know there are lessons to be learned from studying the effect of different approaches in similar jurisdictions. But, as a Canadian with lots of American friends and relatives, I am saddened that Americans seem incapable of learning them.

Our countries are joined at the hip. We peacefully share a continent, a British heritage of representative government and now ownership of GM. And, until 50 years ago, we had similar health systems, healthcare costs and vital statistics.

The U.S.' and Canada's different health insurance decisions make up the world's largest health policy experiment. And the results?

On coverage, all Canadians have insurance for hospital and physician services. There are no deductibles or co-pays. Most provinces also provide coverage for programs for home care, long-term care, pharmaceuticals and durable medical equipment, although there are co-pays.

On the U.S. side, 46 million people have no insurance, millions are underinsured and healthcare bills bankrupt more than 1 million Americans every year. Read more.

Real Health Care Reform - Universal Single-Payer

Real Health Care Reform - Universal Single-Payer
By Stephen Lendman

Organizations like Physicians for a National Health Program want Americans to have the same system in place in all other Western countries and elsewhere, including Venezuela, South Korea, Japan, Cuba, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. But not in America - the only industrialized country without it despite spending more than double per capita than the other 30 OECD countries and delivering less for it.

In a September 2007 report to Congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) compared 2004 US health care spending with other OECD countries:

  • America then averaged $6,102 per person, well over double the average $2,560 for OECD countries;
  • US health care spending was 15.3% of the economy compared to 8.9% on average for OECD countries; for Canada it was 9.9%; Germany - 10.6%; Great Britain - 8.1%; France - 10.5%; and Japan 8.0%;
  • "US prices for medical care commodities and services are significantly higher than in other countries (delivering comparable care) and serve as a key determinant of higher overall spending;" high insurance and drug costs are the most significant factors;
  • life expectancy in America is lower than in other OECD countries;
  • the US ranks 22nd on life expectancy at birth; post-65, it's 11th for men and 13th for women;
  • America has the third highest infant mortality rate after Turkey and Mexico;
  • heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases are the top OECD country causes of death; America ranks 17th for heart disease "despite (performing) substantially more invasive heart procedures than all the other (OECD) countries;"
  • quality of US health care isn't superior overall; nor do Americans "have substantially better access to health care resources, even putting aside the issue of the uninsured;" and
  • because of the cost, many Americans delay or forego treatment.

Just Say "NO!"

Panetta Seeks to Whitewash CIA Crimes

PANETTA SEEKS TO WHITEWASH CIA CRIMES
By Sherwood Ross

CIA Director Leon Panetta’s article titled “It’s Time To Move On” published in the August 4th Miami Herald is a stunning disservice to the principles of justice. It not only calls for whitewashing the Agency’s past horrific crimes, which have included torture and murder, but openly advocates the use of force and violence. Panetta writes, “the focus on the past, especially in Congress, threatens to distract the CIA from its crucial core missions: intelligence collection, analysis and covert action.” In CIA lingo, “covert action” has always meant dirty tricks, from blackmailing to assassinating foreign leaders, and from pouring bribe money to influence elections to overthrowing governments. Covert action is not your church Tuesday night bingo party. And these criminal acts are invariably performed in sneaky secret because if the American people learned of them they would never tolerate the spy agency’s cruelty and waste of tax dollars. Besides, not a few of the CIA’s crimes might make you puke.

And when Panetta charges that Congress “threatens to distract the CIA” he is revealing his fear that at any House or Senate intelligence committee hearings his Agency will have an awful lot of embarrassing crimes to account for. Yet, as reporter Tim Weiner points out in his aptly named “Legacy of Ashes, The History of The CIA(Anchor),” Congressional committees “need to do their work—ask hard questions, demand answers, and report back to the citizenry. They have been derelict in this duty for much of the past three decades, but their conduct since 9/11 has bordered on criminal negligence.” But when Congress changes course and tries to do its job, Panetta sees it as a “threat.”

Torturing Children: Bush's Legacy and Democracy's Failure

Torturing Children: Bush's Legacy and Democracy's Failure
By Harry A. Giroux | Truthout

This is an excerpt from Henry A. Giroux's forthcoming book, "Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror," to be published by Paradigm Publishers.

Nowhere is there a more disturbing, if not horrifying, example of the relationship between a culture of cruelty and the politics of irresponsibility than in the resounding silence that surrounds the torture of children under the presidency of George W. Bush - and the equal moral and political failure of the Obama administration to address and rectify the conditions that made it possible. But if we are to draw out the dark and hidden parameters of such crimes, they must be made visible so men and women can once again refuse to orphan the law, justice, and morality. How we deal with the issue of state terrorism and its complicity with the torture of children will determine not merely the conditions under which we are willing to live, but whether we will live in a society in which moral responsibility disappears altogether and whether we will come to find ourselves living under a democratic or authoritarian social order. This is not merely a political and ethical matter, but also a matter of how we take seriously the task of educating ourselves more critically in the future.

We haven't always looked away. When Emmett Till's battered, brutalized, and broken fourteen-year-old body was open to public viewing in Chicago after he was murdered in Mississippi in 1955, his mother refused to have him interred in a closed casket. His mutilated and swollen head, his face disfigured and missing an eye, made him unrecognizable as the young, handsome boy he once was. The torture, humiliation, and pain this innocent African-American youth endured at the hands of white racists was transformed into a sense of collective outrage and pain, and helped launch the Civil Rights movement. Torture when inflicted on children becomes indefensible. Even among those who believe that torture is a defensible practice to extract information, the case for inflicting pain and abuse upon children proves impossible to support. The image of young children being subjected to prolonged standing, handcuffed to the top of a cell door, doused with cold water, raped, and shocked with electrodes boggles the mind. Corrupting and degenerate practices, such despicable acts also reveal the utter moral depravity underlying the rationales used to defend torture as a viable war tactic. There is an undeniable pathological outcome when the issue of national security becomes more important than the survival of morality itself, resulting in some cases in the deaths of thousands of children - and with little public outrage. Read more.

North Korea Pardons Two Jailed Journalists After Bill Clinton's Visit

North Korea Pardons Two Jailed Journalists After Bill Clinton's Visit
Euna Lee and Laura Ling Could Board a Plane Back for U.S. as Early as Tonight, Sources Say
By Martha Raddatz and Joohee Cho | ABCNews

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il today ordered the release of jailed U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee through "a special pardon," the country's state-run news agency reported.

North Korea's Central News Agency said former President Bill Clinton, who took a surprise trip to the country to negotiate Ling and Lee's release apologized for the two female journalists "illegally crossing the border and committing a grave crime against our nation."

Ling and Lee's families said in a joint statement they are "overjoyed by the news of their pardon."

"We are so grateful to our government: President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the U.S. State Department for their dedication to and hard work on behalf of American citizens," the statement said. "We especially want to thank President Bill Clinton for taking on such an arduous mission and Vice President Al Gore for his tireless efforts to bring Laura and Euna home."

Clinton met with Ling and Lee earlier in what was a very emotional meeting, a government source told ABC News. Read more.

Highland Park, NJ: Gaza, Jerusalem, West Bank Eyewitness Report This Thursday, Aug. 6, 6:30 PM

PALESTINE / ISRAEL
GAZA, JERUSALEM, WEST BANK EYE WITNESS REPORT

This Thursday, AUGUST 6, 2009 - 6:30PM
Reformed Church - Highland Park
19 South 2nd Ave, Highland Park, NJ 08904

  • Norman Finkelstein, Member of Code Pink delegation to Gaza in June
  • Jane Adas, Member of NY delegation to Gaza in May
  • Helen Schiff, Member of Code Pink delegation to Gaza & Israel in March & June
  • Manijeh Saba, Member of Code Pink's June delegation to Gaza via Israel
  • Video and slide Show

Cosponsors: CODEPINK; Somerset voices for Peace and Justice; Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless war.

Different US Locations Weighed For Gitmo Trials

Different US Locations Weighed For Gitmo Trials
By Devlin Barrett, Associated Press | Yahoo! News

Staring at a January deadline, the Obama administration is debating between two dramatically different schemes for putting Guantanamo Bay detainees on trial: big-city courtrooms in the nation's capital, New York and Virginia — or a one-of-a-kind superjail in the Midwest.

And the participants, working in tense but amicable secret meetings, know the final and politically volatile decision about where to try detainees will be made by President Barack Obama, who set the deadline for closing the prison on the military base in Cuba to meet a campaign promise.

Dozens of Guantanamo Bay detainee cases have been referred to federal prosecutors for possible criminal trials in those Eastern Seaboard locations, officials told The Associated Press on Monday, as the Justice Department, Pentagon and national security officials also weigh whether to hold virtually all Guantanamo-related civilian and military trials at a Midwestern prison in Michigan or Kansas.

The administration could decide that rather than bring the detainees to trial in a number of cities, it will instead bring prosecutors and judges with terrorism experience to one site in the Midwest for trial, which would pose other serious logistical hurdles. Or they could settle on a combination of the plans. Read more.

Rehabilitation: One Possible Solution for Some Gitmo Detainees

Rehabilitation: One Possible Solution for Some Gitmo Detainees
By Lt. Col. Barry Wingard | The Public Record

The Justice Department suffered stinging defeats this week when federal judges ordered the release of two more Guantanamo prisoners – Kuwaiti Khaled Al Mutairi and Afghan national Mohammed Jawad. All told, the government has now failed to convince federal judges in 27 of 32 cases that the government can justify the detentions of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

The bar for the government is extraordinarily low in habeas hearings. All the Justice Department has to do is demonstrate that a detained person might have committed some crime. The government does not have to prove a specific crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet, in most of the habeas cases, the government cannot produce even this bare minimum amount of credible evidence.

The staggering losses show that the government has been shockingly wrong in its detention policies. Seeking to save face, the government has been venue-shopping with the Gitmo cases – matching cases with the legal system most likely to produce a favorable outcome for the government.

Here’s how it works: If the government has reliable evidence untainted by abuse, it may send a detainee’s case to federal court. If the evidence is unreliable or tainted by abuse, the case goes to the military commissions where the standards are lower. Read more.

Cancer Survivor Hopes To Avoid Foreclosure

Cancer Survivor Hopes To Avoid Foreclosure
By Teresa Garcia | KGO-TV San Francisco CA

A cancer survivor's family is still in their Oakland home after winning a battle so many Americans are now facing. They were going to be foreclosed upon and evicted today. Read more.

OAKLAND, CA - 31JULY09 - Home Defender activists sit in on the steps of the home of Tosha Alberty, her husband, four children and two grandchildren, who were evicted after First Franklin Mortgage Services, owned by Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, foreclosed on the home. Community activists in the Home Defenders campaign of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) sat in on the house steps behind the padlocked gate in an act of civil disobedience, and were arrested for trespassing by the Oakland Police.

Click "Read more" for photos of the action.

How Many Civilian Deaths Are Acceptable?

How Many Civilian Deaths Are Acceptable?
By Tom Hayden | Boston.com

In contrast, epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins employed active surveillance techniques, based on randomized household surveys typically used in war zones. By these measures, civilian casualties were at least three times higher than the numbers from the Iraq Body Count. The real numbers disappeared in a fog of war generated in part by the Pentagon and White House....To move forward, Kerry’s committee should release the Pentagon’s classified answer and, if necessary, press for further clarification.

It was a cryptic Pentagon answer to Senator John Kerry’s straightforward question, in notes from the Senate hearing on May 21:

Question. According to The New York Times July 20, 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld personally approved over 50 US airstrikes in Iraq which were expected to kill up to 50 innocent Iraqi civilians each. According to Pentagon policy at the time, any strikes expected to result in 50 or more civilian deaths as unavoidable collateral damage were to be approved personally by the Secretary. The media was informed of this policy in July 2003 when the chief US commander disclosed the sign-off policy. Does that policy continue today in Afghanistan, and, if so, in what form? Do White House or Pentagon officials sign off on bombing runs where civilian casualties are expected to be higher than 50? Which officials?

Answer. (DELETED)

Does the Obama administration, specifically the secretary of defense, know in advance how many innocent civilians are expected to die before bombing raids are approved in Afghanistan and Pakistan? This was the case with Donald Rumsfeld during the bombing of Iraq.

Now the administration insists on keeping the answers secret.

If the previous policy has been discontinued, that means the White House is delegating the projected body counts to lower field commanders, an unlikely abdication of sensitive decisions.

If the policy continues, does Secretary of Defense Robert Gates personally approve? Is the president in the loop? Do they believe there is an acceptable level of unavoidable civilian casualties, and, if so, what is that level and who sets it? Read more.

How to Cut Your Doctor's Bills

How to Cut Your Doctor's Bills
Patients Haggle with Doctors and Hospitals to Bring Down Medical Costs
By David Whelan | Forbes.com via ABCNews.com

Eric Remjeske, 38, was skiing in Vail, Colo., this February when he missed a jump. The result: broken bones in both feet and the prospect of big medical bills. Remjeske needed a night in the hospital plus an orthopedic surgeon to put two screws in each heel. His health insurance required him to meet a $6,000 deductible and pay a 20% share of any expense after that.

So Remjeske, a financial planner, returned home to Minneapolis for surgery and set out to trim his costs. He got quotes from three different surgeons at three hospitals and tried to anticipate related expenses, like anesthesia and physical therapy. The estimates ranged from $14,000 to $18,000. He picked the University of Minnesota's hospital, which had the lowest estimate.

After the successful surgery, the bills arrived, totaling $16,000--more than what he'd expected. Remjeske fought back, objecting to specific hospital charges. The hospital agreed to strike a $500 charge for time in the recovery room, $200 for a leg-lifting device that Remjeske claims wasn't used and $800 in other charges, including the cost of physical therapy sessions that never happened. Remjeske says he missed out on the opportunity to get a deal on his sedation medicine because the anesthesiologist wasn't able to tell him the price ahead of time.

The rise in health care costs, and especially in the share paid by the patient, is giving people a lot more incentive to gather their courage to try to bargain down prices. Last year, an average insured family spent $3,350 on copays, coinsurance (the percentage that is the patient's responsibility), premiums and deductibles. That's twice the average of a decade ago.

"If you go in unknowing and come out unknowing, you could end up with an unbelievable bill," Remjeske says. As for the hospital, "We think we give the best care," says spokeswoman Jennifer Amundson, "so it's nice to know that we're also competitive."

Haggle with your doctor and hospital? These days you'd be crazy not to. Read more.

Closing Argument at Guantanamo: The Torture of Mohammed Jawad

Closing Argument at Guantanamo: The Torture of Mohammed Jawad
By Major David J.R. Frakt | Harvard Human Rights Journal

Excerpts: Jawad was the first military commission case to squarely present the issue of the provable torture of a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, and Mohammed Jawad was the first Guantanamo detainee to take the witness stand in a military commission and describe his mistreatment under oath.

I had two meetings with Mr. Jawad at the detention camp where he was held prior to the hearing on May 7. I tried to persuade him to allow me to represent him, but he was understandably wary about accepting the assistance of a U.S. military attorney. In a meeting in the courthouse holding cell just before the hearing, Mr. Jawad and I reached a compromise—he would allow me to represent him for the limited purposes of challenging the legitimacy of the military commissions and the conditions of his confinement. The military judge, recognizing this compromise as progress, accepted the arrangement and gave me three weeks to file “law motions” challenging the jurisdiction of the commissions and the conditions of Mr. Jawad’s confinement.18

Two weeks later, the prosecutor, honoring his duty to provide exculpatory evidence to the defense, turned over prison logs revealing that my client had been subjected to a sleep deprivation program known as the “frequent flyer program.” Specifically, Mr. Jawad had been moved back and forth between two prison cells approximately every three hours for fourteen straight days, a total of 112 moves. These cell moves, which were clearly intended to disrupt the detainee’s sleep, were made time-consuming by the fact that both his hands and feet were shackled. My hastily conducted research convinced me that this program constituted torture.19 Along with the frequent flyer program, the prison logs also revealed that Mr. Jawad had attempted to commit suicide on December 25, 2003.

The only remedy indicated in the Manual for Military Commissions in cases of torture was suppression of evidence obtained by torture.20
###
The entire file is attached here at ADS, and can also be read at the link above for the Harvard Human Rights Journal. Click "Read more" to continue reading the Excerpt.

UN and International Agencies Fear Gaza Educational System Unprepared For New School Year

UN and International Agencies Fear Gaza Educational System Unprepared for new school year | Press Statement
Call for immediate opening of Gaza’s borders | 28 July 2009

Together with the communities we serve, the United Nations and non-governmental humanitarian organizations working in oPt collectively call for immediate steps to end the blockade, as is required by international humanitarian and human rights law. We call on the Government of Israel to urgently facilitate entry of construction materials and supplies for schools in the coming weeks, and to ensure that students, teachers and trainers can freely exit and enter Gaza to continue learning.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, representing UN aid agencies in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), and the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), represented by at least 25 NGOs, today demand full and unfettered access into and out of Gaza in particular to restore the Gazan educational system.

During the 23 days of Israel’s operation “Cast Lead” in Gaza, 18 schools were completely destroyed and at least 280 were damaged. Today, one month before the start of the new school year, more than six months after the ceasefires, none of these schools have been properly rebuilt or rehabilitated due to lack of construction materials. Since the imposition of the blockade, students have faced chronic shortages of educational supplies including textbooks, paper and uniforms, though we acknowledge the recent moves to allow textbooks, uniforms, and stationary into Gaza. These are welcome first steps. However, the quantities, kinds and predictability of goods being permitted into Gaza are still far below what is required for normal life. Even prior to “Cast Lead” the education system was already under severe duress due to the two year blockade that has caused a crisis of “human dignity” in Gaza.

The right to learn and be educated is a fundamental child right that is uniquely central to every child’s ability to realize his or her potential - and by extension, that of their communities and countries.

Afghanistan: Child Rapist Police Return Behind U.S., UK Troops

AFGHANISTAN: Child Rapist Police Return Behind U.S., UK Troops
By Gareth Porter* | IPSNews

WASHINGTON, Jul 29 (IPS) - The strategy of the major U.S. and British military offensive in Afghanistan's Helmand province aimed at wresting it from the Taliban is based on bringing back Afghan army and police to maintain permanent control of the population, so the foreign forces can move on to another insurgent stronghold.

But that strategy poses an acute problem: The police in the province, who are linked to the local warlord, have committed systematic abuses against the population, including the abduction and rape of pre-teen boys, according to village elders who met with British officers.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) 2008 Annual Report

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) 2008 Annual Report
By Stephen Lendman

Established in 1995, PCHR functions independently in Gaza and enjoys "Consultative Status" with the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It's also an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists-Geneva, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in Paris, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network in Copenhagen, the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Cairo, and the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) in Stockholm.

Palestinian lawyers and human rights activists established it to:

  • "protect human rights and promote the rule of law;"
  • create, develop and promote a democratic culture in Palestinian society; and
  • work for Palestinian self-determination and independence "in accordance with international law and UN resolutions."

Guantánamo Bay: The Inside Story

Guantánamo Bay: the inside story
By Naomi Wolf | Times Online
There’s a McDonald’s on the high street, suburban houses, rats the size of dogs, and 229 of the world’s most high-profile prisoners. Six months after President Obama declared that he would close it down, Naomi Wolf heads to Guantánamo Bay to see whether anything has changed

Six months ago this week President Obama, on his second day in office, promised to close the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, and to undo the secretive and coercive detention and interrogation policies of George W. Bush. But has Obama been as good as his word?

I went to Guantánamo last month to see for myself what difference, if any, Obama’s election had made. My trip was surreal from start to end. I was in line for the rotating junket to the island, and had been given a date by a nervous-sounding and very young Lieutenant Cody Starken. I signed papers that committed me to not reporting classified information — on pain of prosecution. Then I got on a tiny aircraft — unmarked on any announcement board — out of Fort Lauderdale airport.

On the aircraft were bland-looking contractors, male and female, who deflected my small talk, and two young staffers from the Centre for Constitutional Rights, the organisation representing the detainees when no one else would touch the work, and which now co-ordinates hundreds of lawyers from across the country doing so: Pardis Kebriaei, a staff lawyer, and Jess Baen, a legal worker, tried to answer all my questions until my military handler determinedly parted us on our arrival. Lawyers are kept in a compound on one side of the military base at Guantánamo, journalists housed on the other side; they may never communicate with or run into one another. As a journalist, a handler sticks within 18in of you at all times, standing outside when you go to the bathroom and near by when you buy personal items at the commissary; your phone calls and e-mail are monitored. Read more.

The People's Rally, in DC, at Malcolm X Park, for Single Payer

The People's Rally, in DC, at Malcolm X Park, for Single Payer - Part 1

On Sunday, July 26, 2009, in Malcolm X Park, in Washington, DC, “The People’s Rally” for a Single Payer Healthcare system was held. It featured a “Speak Out” by the uninsured and the underinsured; and by patients, doctors, nurses, political and community leaders. The lively event was sponsored and supported by the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer, Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, Healthcare Now, and the Spirit of Truth Foundation.

Rep. Grijalva Urges U.S. Pressure on Coup Regime in Honduras

It's been a month since Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was deposed in a military coup. Negotiations on restoring democracy supported by the United States broke down when the coup regime refused to accept a compromise that would allow President Zelaya to return.

The Obama Administration still says it is working for President Zelaya's return, but so far it has not responded to the call from Hondurans for increased U.S. pressure on the coup regime.

Indeed, when President Zelaya tried to increase pressure on the coup regime by threatening to return to Honduras without an agreement, Secretary of State Clinton attacked President Zelaya as "reckless," instead of expressing any concern about repression by the coup regime against President Zelaya's supporters.

Racist Web Posts Traced to Homeland Security

Racist Web Posts Traced to Homeland Security
By Kirk Semple | NYTimes

After federal border agents detained several Mexican immigrants in western New York in June, an article about the incident in a local newspaper drew an onslaught of vitriolic postings on its Web site. Some were racist. Others attacked farmers in the region, an apple-growing area east of Rochester, accusing them of harboring illegal workers. Still others made personal attacks about the reporter who wrote the article.

Most of the posts were made anonymously. But in reviewing the logs of its Internet server, the paper, The Wayne County Star in Wolcott, traced three of them to Internet protocol addresses at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border protection.

Homeland Security started an investigation into the posts this month, according to the reporter, Louise Hoffman-Broach, and Richard M. Healy, the Wayne County district attorney. A spokeswoman for the federal agency’s inspector general said she could neither confirm nor deny an investigation; department rules prohibit the use of office equipment for the personal transmission of material that could offend fellow employees or the public. Read more.

I AM APPALLED! Admiral Mullen After Viewing Classified Detainee Photos

Joint Chiefs Chairman 'Appalled' By Detainee Abuse Photos | Fox News

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed outrage to his combatant commanders after seeing some of the detainee abuse photos now under wraps by the Obama administration...

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