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Lovebirds Steven and Kathryn share a well-organised home in bustling Las Vegas.
They have a neat, if compact kitchen, a furnished living area, and a bedroom complete with double bed, wardrobe and bookshelf featuring a wide selection including a Frank Sinatra biography and Spanish phrase book.
And they make their money in some of the biggest casinos in the world.
But their life is far from the ordinary.
Because, along with hundreds of others, the couple are part of a secret community living in the dark and dirty underground flood tunnels below the famous strip.
Rather than working in the bars or kitchens they "credit hustle", prowling the casinos searching the fruit machines for money or credits left by drunken gamblers.
Despite the risks from disease, highly venomous spiders and flooding washing them away, many of the tunnel people have put together elaborate camps with furniture, ornaments and shelves filled with belongings. Read more.
Why the Public Option is Doomed To Fail, and What Can Be Done About It
By Bruce A. Dixon, Managing Editor | Black Agenda Report
The generous, expansive public option on the lips of Congressional progressives, which would be open to all and compete to lower insurance prices is largely imaginary, while the president's stingy, divisive and means-tested version is all too real. But what about the third version of the public option? What is the Congressional Progressive Caucus doing to promote it, and to allow states to pursue single payer on their own?
The generous, expansive public option on the lips of Congressional progressives, which would be open to all and compete to lower insurance prices is largely imaginary, while the president's stingy, divisive and means-tested version is all too real. But what about the third version of the public option? What is the Congressional Progressive Caucus doing to promote it, and to allow states to pursue single payer on their own? Read more.
Center for Constitutional Rights Calls for Judicial Review of All Evidence When State Secrets Invoked
Center for Constitutional Rights Calls for Judicial Review of All Evidence When State Secrets Invoked | Press Release
Rights Group Critical of New DOJ Policy Promises
September 23, 2009, New York – In response to news the Attorney General is establishing new policy on the question of the use of the state secrets privilege, the Center for Constitutional Rights issues the following statement:
Artist Michael Parenti shared these graphics with ominous implications. The caption of Rina Castelnuovo's photo on the right for the New York Times reads, "A settler tosses wine at a Palestinian woman on Shuhada Street in Hebron. The approach of some settlers towards neighboring Palestinians, especially around Nablus in the north and Hebron in the south, has often been one of contempt and violence."
Robert Hariman posted the photo in his essay, The Practice of Domination in Everyday Life, describing its impacts this way:
One is that it reveals what is rarely shown: the small acts of personal viciousness and humiliation that make up the practice of domination in an occupied land. Second, it is clear that both the boy’s aggression and the woman’s protective reaction are often-practiced, habitual responses. Were he taunting an older woman for the first time, he would be likely to look much more ragged, uncoordinated, and either furtive or overly demonstrative. Instead, he could be a figure out of Whitman: throwing his weight around without breaking stride, a figure of youthful grace on the city street. Likewise, she isn’t being caught by surprise. Her head is already turned, her body hunched against the impending blow. She’s been through this before, and she’s learned that direct confrontation is not an option. This may be her neighborhood, but it’s his street.
The third dimension of the photograph’s power derives from its capacity for analogy. Look at the woman’s coat and hat, and at the Star of David scrawled on the storefront; she could be in the Warsaw ghetto, and all it takes is a change of costume to see him as a German soldier. Or they could be an African-American woman and a young cracker in the Jim Crow South, or any other tableau that depicts the small details of domination. One picture isn’t enough to nail down such comparisons, but it should make you think of them.
Commenter Dennis Q at BAGnewsNotes observed: "What makes this picture so horrifying for BagNews Notes readers is that the arc of the blood-red wine is the same as the arc of the scythe of the Grim Reaper."
The CIA's harsh interrogation program likely damaged the brain and memory functions of terrorist suspects, diminishing their physical ability to provide the detailed information the spy agency sought, according to a new scientific paper.
The paper by an Irish academic scrutinizes the harsh techniques used by the CIA under the Bush administration through the lens of neurobiology. Researchers concluded that the harsh methods were biologically counterproductive to eliciting quality information because prolonged stress harms the brain's ability to retain and recall information.
"Solid scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions (such as planning or forming intentions) suggests these techniques are unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of that intended by coercive or enhanced interrogation," according to the paper published Monday in the scientific journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Read more.
Doctors Are Mad As Hell Over Health Care - Tuesday, Louisville, KY, More & Ohio, Next! Wed., MI, IL, Hey Chi This Means You!
September 22 Mad as Hell in Louisville!
Humana Insurance Headquarters
500 W. Main Street
Contact: Garrett Adams
Goldstone Commission Gaza Conflict Findings and Reactions
By Stephen Lendman
"While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right of self defence, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole." Rocket attacks were a pretext for naked aggression.
Calling them war crimes, the Mission found evidence that "Palestinian armed groups" launched rockets and mortars into Southern Israel, but they were minor incidents compared to the Israeli onslaught.
On April 3, 2009, a UN press release stated:
"The Human Rights Council (HRC) today announced the appointment of Richard J. Goldstone....to lead an independent (four-person) fact-finding mission to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip....The team will be supported by staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights....Today's appointment comes following the adoption of a resolution by the Human Rights Council....to address 'the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip."
The bipartisan "gang of six" senators who helped craft the health care reform bill going before a key Senate committee Tuesday represent less than 3 percent of the U.S. population - but they hold a lot of power at a crucial policy-shaping moment in Congress.
That's why, analysts say, health care industry lobbyists have showered them with more campaign cash on average than other senators this year, in an attempt to influence the outcome.
Three Republican and three Democratic senators in the group, all of them members of the Senate Finance Committee, received an average of $74,600 from health industry lobbyists, according to The Chronicle's analysis of records through June.
That is about 25 percent more than the average of $59,632 in such donations that the gang's other Senate colleagues raked in from lobbyists for the pharmaceutical, hospital, insurance and nursing home industries, according to the analysis, which was based on records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit watchdog group.
"Money buys access," said Henry Brady, a professor of public policy and dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. Read more.
Obama has been desperate to ditch the public option for weeks. Max Baucus did the job he thought he was supposed to do--memorialize the deals that the White House cut with health care industry stakeholders. He left it to the White House to sell it, and now they have to.
But every time they tried to jettison the public option through surrogates like Kathleen Sebelius or "senior White House officials" speaking anonymously to media outlets, the base went haywire and Obama's poll numbers started tanking.
Well, now that Baucus has delivered his stenography, gotta get the base on board with the "goody bag" of benefits--which basically means whatever was left over after Rahm Emanuel got done auctioning off the rest to the medical industrial complex. Read more.
Illustration by Michael Parenti, http://artificialeyes.tv/blog/2 under a Creative Commons Share Alike with attribution license.
CIA Torturers Running Scared
By Ray McGovern
For the CIA supervisors and operatives who were responsible for torture, the chickens are coming home to roost. That is, if President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder mean it when they say no one is above the law — and if they have the courage to stand up to brazen intimidation.
Unable to prevent Attorney General Eric Holder from starting an investigation of torture and other war crimes that implicate CIA officials past and present, some of those same CIA officials, together with what in intelligence circles are called “agents of influence” in the media, are pulling out all the stops to quash the Department of Justice’s preliminary investigation.
In what should be seen as a bizarre twist, seven CIA directors—including three who are themselves implicated in planning and conducting torture and assassination— have asked the President to call off Holder.
Can someone please tell me how could the whole thing be more transparent?
By Linda Milazzo
In response to FOX's childish and embarrassing ad in the Washington Post that challenged competitors' coverage of the 9/12 teabaggers in Washington, DC, CNN is airing this equally chilidish and embarrassing ad to prove it did cover the teabaggers in Washington DC.
Oooh-oooh! Did I mention this is childish and embarrassing??
The Justice Department's review of detainee abuse by the CIA will focus on a very small number of cases, including at least one in which an Afghan prisoner died at a secret facility, according to two sources briefed on the matter.
On Friday, seven former CIA directors urged President Obama to end the inquiry, arguing that it would inhibit intelligence operations in the future and demoralize agency employees who believed they had been cleared by previous investigators.
"Attorney General [Eric] Holder's decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute," the directors, who served under Republican and Democratic presidents over the past 35 years, wrote in a letter.
Opposition to the probe has grown in the weeks since Holder ordered it, even as the outlines of the inquiry become more clear. Among the cases under review will be the death seven years ago of a young Afghan man, who was beaten and chained to a concrete floor without blankets, according to the sources. The man died in the cold night at a secret CIA facility north of Kabul, known as the Salt Pit. Read more.
Seven former CIA directors sent a letter to President Obama on Friday urging him to use his authority to reverse Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to re-open and pursue cases of prisoner abuse within the CIA in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
In August, Holder appointed a U.S. prosecutor to begin a criminal probe of CIA questioning of terror suspects during the Bush administration, reversing the course set by the Bush administration. The investigation potentially exposes CIA employees and agency contractors to criminal prosecution.
"Attorney General Holder's decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute," the former officials wrote. "Moreover, there is no reason to expect that the re-opened criminal investigation will remain narrowly focused."
Allowing a political appointee to reopen an already-closed case would "seriously damage the willingness of many other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country," the officials wrote, since they would run the risk of facing "endless criminal investigations" for actions that may have previously been deemed legal.
"Those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as September 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their actions," the letter said. Read more.
Former CIA Directors: Holder's Investigation Could 'Help al Qaeda'
Letter to Obama Warns That The Investigation Will Hinder The CIA's Counter-Terrorism Efforts
By Jonathan Karl | ABC News
Seven former CIA directors have asked President Obama to use his authority to reverse Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to re-open the criminal investigation into the CIA's post 9/11 interrogations of suspected terrorists.
Over-ruling an attorney general on a criminal investigation would be an extraordinary move, but the former directors contend Holder's investigation will ultimately "help Al Qaeda elude U.S. intelligence and plan future operations."
The letter sent to the president on Friday was signed by CIA directors who served under Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43.
The letter warns that the investigation will hinder the CIA's counter-terrorism efforts by discouraging risk-taking by agents now in the field, publicly revealing more information about the CIA's operations, and hindering relations with foreign intelligence agencies.
The former directors contend that Holder's investigation could "help Al Qaeda." Read more.
Confronting War Criminals: Condoleezza Rice in San Jose, 9/17/2009
Thursday, Sept. 17, Condoleezza Rice was the keynote speaker at a conference on international technology "solutions" in San Jose, CA. She is currently a scholar at the conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford. She's reportedly writing three books and not teaching this fall. Protests took place outside and inside the hotel, with World Can't Wait, San Jose Peace and Justice, and a veterans' group protesting outside.
Cynthia Papermaster (National Accountability Action Network), Jane Miller (Code Pink), and Susan Harman (Progressive Democrats of America) had registered for the conference, and went inside with no problem. We sat in the third row center, right in front of Condi, who gave quite a good speech and had great rapport with the audience. She assumed that her audience supported the USA's dominance of the world economy, and was bold in her descriptions of other countries' flaws. I was most struck by her derisive characterization of the huge influence of corporations in Russia as "Russia, Inc." I think she missed the irony in her comparison of them with the US.
Her audience was overwhelmingly men in black suits. There was a serious police presence. The three of us had pinned fuschia signs saying "INDICT RICE" to our backs, under our jackets. We sat quietly through her speech, and toward the end, rubbed red paint on our hands. We stood up with the audience for the standing ovation, but didn't sit down. Instead, we took off our jackets so our signs showed, continued standing, and held up our bloody hands, echoing the iconic picture of CODEPINK's Desiree Fairooz confronting Rice in Congress. We told Rice she was a war criminal, having enabled torture, lied the U.S. into an illegal war of occupation, etc. She said, "These people came here to hear me, not you," and some other stuff we didn't catch because she was talking at us while we were talking loudly to her. She definitely heard us, loud and clear.
More pictures below the fold. Click "Read more."
CIA Should Stop Suppressing Guantánamo Detainee Statements | Press Release
Tribunal Transcripts Would Provide Critical Information About Bush Torture Program, Says ACLU
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged a federal court to review transcripts in which 14 prisoners now held at Guantánamo Bay describe abuse and torture suffered in CIA custody in order to determine whether the government can continue to withhold the records from the public. The filing came in an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to obtain uncensored transcripts from Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) used to determine if Guantánamo detainees qualify as "enemy combatants."
"While much is known about the Bush administration's torture program, the CIA is continuing to censor the most important eyewitnesses – the torture victims themselves," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The CIA destroyed videotapes of interrogations in order to hide its crimes from the American public; the Obama administration should not prolong this cover-up by suppressing the victims' firsthand accounts. The CSRT records will provide critical missing information about how the CIA's torture program was actually carried out and will shed light on whether interrogators followed, or exceeded, Justice Department legal guidance that purported to authorize brutal interrogations."
While the CIA released heavily-redacted versions of the documents in June, it continues to suppress major portions of the documents including detainees' allegations of torture. In August, the government filed a motion arguing that it should be able to continue suppressing the documents because releasing them would reveal "intelligence sources and methods" and might aid enemy "propaganda."
Hey ALL! Bill of Rights Defense Committee Seeks Your Assistance to Investigate Torture - Especially CA, NY, PA, TX, DC
Over the past several months, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) and its supporters and allies across the country have demanded a complete and thorough investigation of alleged torture and prosecution of all former and current officials involved. Thank you for adding your voice to the chorus demanding accountability throughout the chain of command.
We are pleased to note that your efforts have borne some fruit: on August 24, Attorney General Eric Holder responded to these and other efforts by announcing the appointment of prosecutor John Durham to conduct a limited inquiry. While the Justice Department's pursuit of accountability is welcome, the investigation is unfortunately limited. Durham's mandate extends only to junior officials who allegedly strayed beyond interrogation techniques approved by senior officials--effectively immunizing those who authorized torture in the first instance and reinforcing the supposed legality of the policies themselves.
we are circulating a series of sign-on letters seeking the disbarment of attorneys who authorized torture of U.S. detainees. There are currently five states in which ethics complaints seeking disbarment have been submitted to state bar associations, and sign-on letters are available for each of those states: California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, DC.
We also have a longer-running sign-on campaign promoting investigation (and, wherever the evidence justifies it, prosecution) up and down the chain of command. In addition to a letter open to all signers, others are available specifically for legal professionals, educators, health professionals, and clergy and religious lay-leaders.
Doctors Aiding Torture
By Stephen Lendman
In April 2009, a confidential February 2007 ICRC torture report was publicly released. Titled, "ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen 'High Value Detainees' in CIA Custody," it detailed harsh and abusive treatment from their time of arrest, detention, transfer, and incarceration at Guantanamo where ICRC professionals interviewed them.
Besides detailed information on torture and abusive treatment, they obtained damning, consistent detainee accounts of medical personnel involvement, including:
- their monitoring of and direct participation in torture procedures;
- instructing interrogators to continue, adjust, or stop certain ones;
- informing detainees that medical treatment depended on their cooperation;
- performing medical checks before and after each transfer; and
- treating the effects of torture as well as ailments and injuries during incarceration.
45,000 American deaths associated with lack of insurance
By Madison Park | CNN
A freelance cameraman's appendix ruptured and by the time he was admitted to surgery, it was too late. A self-employed mother of two is found dead in bed from undiagnosed heart disease. A 26-year-old aspiring fashion designer collapsed in her bathroom after feeling unusually fatigued for days.
What all three of these people have in common is that they experienced symptoms, but didn't seek care because they were uninsured and they worried about the hospital expense, according to their families. All three died.
Research released this week in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that 45,000 deaths per year in the United States are associated with the lack of health insurance. If a person is uninsured, "it means you're at mortal risk," said one of the authors, Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The researchers examined government health surveys from more than 9,000 people aged 17 to 64, taken from 1986-1994, and then followed up through 2000. They determined that the uninsured have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance as a result of being unable to obtain necessary medical care. The researchers then extrapolated the results to census data from 2005 and calculated there were 44,789 deaths associated with lack of health insurance. Read more.
John Conyers and some allies on the House Judiciary Committee have come up with a fabulous way to get the insurance industry in line – by threatening to remove their anti-trust exemption.
Many people don’t know that the insurance industry, under the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, has a broad anti-trust exemption that facilitates regional monopolies. The Act allows states to regulate the insurance business instead of the federal government, but also allows that, as long as the state regulates the industry, federal anti-trust laws would not apply.
As a result of this exemption, states have seen markets for health insurance where one or two companies predominate. In the state of Maine, Wellpoint controls 71% of the market. In North Dakota, Blue Cross controls 90%. Using the Herfindahl/Hirschman Index, a metric for market concentration, a 2007 study by the AMA found almost every health insurance market in the United States is highly concentrated. Read more.
Top Executives from Health Insurance Industry Admit Denials and Delays of Medical Coverage Can Lead to Harm and Even Death
Top Executives from Health Insurance Industry Admit Denials and Delays of Medical Coverage can lead to Harm and Even Death | Press Release
Washington D.C. (September 17, 2009) – Top executives from the six largest health insurance companies in the U.S. today admitted to a congressional subcommittee that denials and delays in medical coverage can cause harm and even death.. The executives made the admission in testimony before the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, chaired by Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).
Kucinich asked the executives:
“Do you believe that a health insurer’s refusal to pay for a patient’s cancer treatment can directly or indirectly cause harm or death to that person?”
Each health insurance company executive answered “Yes.”
The executives represented the following companies: United Healthcare, Wellpoint, Aetna, Humana, Cigna and the Health Care Service Corporation.
The study found a 40 percent increased risk of death among the uninsured. As expected, death rates were also higher for males (37 percent increase), current or former smokers (102 percent and 42 percent increases), people who said that their health was fair or poor (126 percent increase), and those that examining physicians said were in fair or poor health (222 percent increase).
A study published online today estimates nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance. That figure is about two and a half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002.
The new study, “Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults,” appears in today’s online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.
The Harvard-based researchers found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.
Lead author Dr. Andrew Wilper, who worked at Harvard Medical School when the study was done and who now teaches at the University of Washington Medical School, said, “The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health. We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes and heart disease – but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.”
Bill Moyers This Week: Crisis Facing Organized Labor, Its Relationship With Obama Administration & The Broader Working Class
Michael Zweig of the Center for Study of Working Class Life Bill Fletcher and I are scheduled to appear on the Bill Moyers Journal on PBS stations this weekend in a conversation about the crisis facing organized labor, and its relationship to the Obama administration and the broader working class. Check local listings for the times of broadcast in your area.
From TomDispatch this morning, a deep dive into the American "state of war" -- the way this country has grown used to its now seemingly unending wars and the immense, intense preparations for more of the same: Tom Engelhardt, "Is America Hooked on War?"
Here's how I begin my latest post: "'War is peace' was one of the memorable slogans on the facade of the Ministry of Truth, Minitrue in 'Newspeak,' the language invented by George Orwell in 1948 for his dystopian novel 1984. Some 60 years later, a quarter-century after Orwell's imagined future bit the dust, the phrase is, in a number of ways, eerily applicable to the United States."
I begin with the present increasingly fierce debate in Washington over whether the president should send more U.S. troops or train more Afghan soldiers to deal with our deteriorating position in that country and point out that both positions can be summed up with the same word: More. And that real alternatives to the present course of action in that country are unlikely to get a hearing "because alternatives that don't fit with 'more' have ceased to be part of Washington's war culture."
The rest of this post, via a set of my own questions, plunges into the American "state of war" in which we now live and the American version of Newspeak that goes with it in which, increasingly, war has indeed become peace, and peace is 'No longer the opposite of war, just a rhetorical flourish embedded, like one of our reporters, in Warspeak."
Here's just one passage to consider:
"On the day I'm writing this piece, 'Names of the Dead,' a feature which appears almost daily in my hometown newspaper, records the death of an Army private from DeKalb, Illinois, in Afghanistan. Among the spare facts offered: he was 20 years old, which means he was probably born not long before the First Gulf War was launched in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. If you include that war, which never really ended -- low-level U.S. military actions against Saddam Hussein's regime continued until the invasion of 2003 -- as well as U.S. actions in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia, not to speak of the steady warfare underway since November 2001, in his short life, there was hardly a moment in which the U.S. wasn't engaged in military operations somewhere on the planet (invariably thousands of miles from home). If that private left a one-year-old baby behind in the States, and you believe the statements of various military officials, that child could pass her tenth birthday before the war in which her father died comes to an end. Given the record of these last years, and the present military talk about being better prepared for 'the next war,' she could reach 2025, the age when she, too, might join the military without ever spending a warless day. Is that the future you had in mind? Read more.
Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) wrote to update us on the International People's Declaration of Peace (IPDoP):
- This is the final version of IPDoP...the committee sent it out for translation services today!
- We are working on website and an online petition to sign after the translations are complete, it is not ready to be signed yet.
- We are also working on an archival quality hard copy document to be taken all over the world for signatures of leading peace proponents.
- We are also working on accompanying articles for the Declaration.
- We still need commitments for free or very low cost translation services into: French, Japanese, Arabic, Bengali, and Chinese
International People's Declaration of Peace
We the undersigned, as responsible citizens of this planet, hereby proclaim the urgent universal need for sustained security through peace, for present and future generations of the human family.
The FBI is investigating as a possible hate crime an incident in which a woman was beaten to the ground in front of her child at the entrance to a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Morrow, Georgia, south of Atlanta.
Troy Dale West Jr., of Poulan, Georgia, is facing charges including misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct after allegedly beating Army reservist Tashawnea Hill, 35, after the two had words at the entrance of the Morrow, Georgia, restaurant the evening of September 9.
Hill, an African-American, told police that West, 47, yelled racial epithets at her as the attack took place.
"He did punch me with a closed fist repeated times. My head is still hurting today. I have knots on my head," Hill told CNN Wednesday night, adding she also was kicked.
Police said witnesses confirmed her account.
The FBI has "initiated an investigation in the matter to determine if a civil rights violation occurred," the agency said in a statement.
Because the alleged incident happened in full view of Hill's 7-year-old daughter, the Clayton County district attorney's office added a felony charge of cruelty to children.
"[The woman's daughter] was visibly upset the night of the attack," according to Capt. James Callaway of the Morrow Police Department, who said he was on the scene shortly after the alleged attack.
A police report of the incident said Hill's daughter was "crying uncontrollably and her body [was] shaking/trembling" from witnessing the attack. Read more.