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Below are one-paragraph excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. These news articles include revealing information on corporate wealth, oil profits, a secret war memo, vaccine producers' immunity, a 9/11 class action lawsuit, and much more. By choosing to educate ourselves now and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
With best wishes,
Fred Burks for the WantToKnow.info Team
Former language interpreter for Presidents Bush and Clinton
February 6, 2006, Newsweek
They were loyal conservatives and Bush appointees. They fought a quiet battle to rein in the president's power in the war on terror. And they paid a price for it. James Comey...resigned as deputy attorney general in the summer of 2005. Comey's farewell speech...contained...an unusual passage. Comey thanked "people who came to my office, or my home, or called my cell phone late at night, to quietly tell me when I was about to make a mistake; they were the people committed to getting it right....Some of them did pay a price for their commitment to right, but they wouldn't have it any other way." These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, [they] fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men. They did not see the struggle in terms of black and white but in shades of gray—as painfully close calls with unavoidable pitfalls. They worried deeply about whether their principles might put Americans at home and abroad at risk. Their story...is a quietly dramatic profile in courage.
Note: If you want to understand the complexities involved behind the scenes at the top levels of US politics, I most highly recommend reading this entire article. It is five webpages in length.
Blair-Bush deal before Iraq war revealed in secret memo
February 3 , 2006, The Guardian
Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was "solidly" behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today. A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme. Mr Bush told Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]". The revelation that Mr Blair had supported the US president's plans to go to war with Iraq even in the absence of a second UN resolution contrasts with the assurances the prime minister gave parliament shortly after. On February 25 2003 - three weeks after his trip to Washington - Mr Blair told the Commons that the government was giving "Saddam one further, final chance to disarm voluntarily". Downing Street did not deny the existence of the memo last night.
Note: Why was this hardly mentioned in the US media? For lots more, see our War Information Center.
Judge Slams Ex-EPA Chief Over Sept. 11
February 2, 2006, ABC/Associated Press
A federal judge blasted former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman on Thursday for reassuring New Yorkers soon after the Sept. 11 attacks that it was safe to return to their homes and offices while toxic dust was polluting the neighborhood. U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts refused to grant Whitman immunity against a class-action lawsuit brought in 2004 by residents, students and workers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn who said they were exposed to hazardous materials from the destruction of the World Trade Center. "No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws," the judge said. She called Whitman's actions "conscience-shocking," saying the EPA chief knew that the collapse of the twin towers released tons of hazardous materials into the air. In her ruling, Batts noted that the EPA and Whitman said repeatedly beginning just two days after the attack that the air appeared safe to breathe. The EPA's internal watchdog later found that the agency, at the urging of White House officials, gave misleading assurances.
Exxon Mobil Posts Largest Annual Profit for U.S. Company
January 30, 2006, New York Times
Exxon Mobil, the nation's largest energy company, today reported a 27 percent surge in profits for the fourth quarter as elevated fuel prices gave rise to the most lucrative year ever for an American company. Exxon's profits are expected to generate new scrutiny of the company's operations in Washington, where legislators have recently expressed concern over Big Oil's good fortune as soaring oil and natural gas prices pressure consumers. Exxon said its profits climbed more than 40 percent last year, while its tax bill rose only 14 percent. Exxon's revenue last year allowed it to surpass Wal-Mart as the largest company in the United States. [The company's] revenue of $371 billion surpassed the gross domestic product of $245 billion for Indonesia, an OPEC member and the world's fourth most populous country with 242 million people.
Note: This article fails to mention the huge profits reaped by oil companies as a result of gas price gouging immediately after Katrina.
FEMA ignored early offers of Katrina aid
January 30, 2006, Chicago Tribune
Hundreds of federal search-and-rescue workers and large numbers of boats, aircraft and bulldozers were offered to FEMA in the hours immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, but the aid proposals were either ignored or not effectively used, newly released documents show. The Interior Department, which made the offers, also proposed dispatching as many as 400 of its law enforcement officers to provide security in Gulf Coast cities ravaged by flooding and looting. But nearly a month would pass before FEMA put the officers to work. Acting in the "immediate aftermath" of the hurricane, Interior officials provided FEMA with a comprehensive list of assets that were "immediately available for humanitarian and emergency assistance," according to the memo, dated Nov. 7, 2005. Those assets included more than 300 boats, 11 aircraft, 119 pieces of heavy equipment, 300 dump trucks and other vehicles. Also offered were rescue crews from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service--teams that were trained for urban search-and-rescue missions using flat-bottom boats...but they were "never formally tasked" for that assignment by FEMA. The Interior Department wasn't the only government agency to offer assistance to FEMA that was not used effectively. Amtrak reportedly offered, before the storm, to carry residents out, but its train left nearly empty. New Mexico offered National Guard troops, but for days officials waited for formal approval to use them.
Corporate Wealth Share Rises for Top-Income Americans
January 29, 2006, New York Times
New government data indicate that the concentration of corporate wealth among the highest-income Americans grew significantly in 2003, as a trend that began in 1991 accelerated in the first year that President Bush and Congress cut taxes on capital. In 2003 the top 1 percent of households owned 57.5 percent of corporate wealth, up from 53.4 percent the year before, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the latest income tax data. The top group's share of corporate wealth has grown by half since 1991, when it was 38.7 percent. In 2003, incomes in the top 1 percent of households ranged from $237,000 to several billion dollars. For every group below the top 1 percent, shares of corporate wealth have declined since 1991. Long-term capital gains were taxed at 28 percent until 1997, and at 20 percent until 2003, when rates were cut to 15 percent. The top rate on dividends was cut to 15 percent from 35 percent that year. The White House said it did not believe that the 2003 tax cuts had much influence on wealth shares.
Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him
January 29, 2006, New York Times
After [a] speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly [warned] Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists. Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said...the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all [NASA] personnel. "This is not about any individual or any issue like global warming," he said. Dr. Hansen strongly disagreed...saying such procedures had already prevented the public from fully grasping recent findings. Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide. The fight between Dr. Hansen and administration officials echoes other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone.
A Shocker: Partisan Thought Is Unconscious
January 24, 2006, New York Times
Using M.R.I. scanners, neuroscientists have now tracked what happens in the politically partisan brain when it tries to digest damning facts about favored candidates or criticisms of them. The process is almost entirely emotional and unconscious, the researchers report, and there are flares of activity in the brain's pleasure centers when unwelcome information is being rejected. Researchers have long known that political decisions are strongly influenced by unconscious emotional reactions, a fact routinely exploited by campaign consultants and advertisers. But the new research suggests that for partisans, political thinking is often predominantly emotional. It is possible to override these biases, Dr. Westen said, "but you have to engage in ruthless self reflection, to say, 'All right, I know what I want to believe, but I have to be honest.' " He added, "It speaks to the character of the discourse that this quality is rarely talked about in politics."
A new way to do well by doing good
January 5, 2006, Wall Street Journal/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Making tiny loans to poor entrepreneurs in developing countries has long been a popular charitable cause, but it is now gaining traction as an investment. Microfinance, as these loans are known, is aimed at lifting some of the world's most destitute people out of poverty by providing seed money for small businesses. Funding for the loans traditionally has come from charities and government-aid organizations. Now, an increasing number of private funds are steering capital to microfinance. Many of the new investment instruments have been launched by nonprofit organizations long involved in the industry, including Grameen Foundation USA, the Foundation for International Community Assistance, both in Washington. Microfinance investing got a boost this fall when eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pamela, gave $100 million to Tufts University to create a fund that invests in microfinance vehicles. Microfinance investment funds...lend money for small-scale businesses, such as vending fruit, weaving shawls or operating small farms in poor countries around the world. Calvert Foundation offers Community Investment Notes, which require a minimum $1,000 investment, and can be earmarked to invest in developing countries or other initiatives, including post-Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast.
Note: I deeply believe that microfinance is one of the most powerful movements in the world. When we let go of our fears around finances and put our money where our heart is, we invite major transformation into both our personal lives and our world. For how to get involved, see http://www.WantToKnow.info/051023microcredit
Woman awarded $100,000 for CIA-funded electroshock
June 10, 2004, CBC (Canada's PBS)
A Montreal woman who underwent intense electroshock treatment in a program funded by the CIA 50 years ago has been awarded $100,000. Gail Kastner was given massive electroshock therapy to treat depression in 1953 at the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal. She was left out of a federal compensation package in 1994 because her treatment was deemed to have been less intense than that of other victims of the experiments. Her treatment was also found to have had fewer long-term effects. A Federal Court judge reversed that ruling, and awarded her the same amount Ottawa gave to 77 others as compensation for their treatment. Dr. Ewan Cameron, who was director of the Allan Memorial Institute, conducted experiments using electroshock and drug-induced sleep. The research was funded from 1950 to 1965 by the CIA and by the Canadian government.
Note: Did you know that 78 people received awards of $100,000 each for having been subjected to CIA and government-funded experiments in controlling the mind? There is much more to this story. Don't miss our very well documented two-page summary on this little-known topic at http://www.WantToKnow.info/mindcontrol
The Man Behind The Vaccine Mystery
December 12, 2002, CBS
It's been a mystery in Washington for weeks. Just before President Bush signed the homeland security bill into law an unknown member of Congress inserted a provision into the legislation that blocks lawsuits against the maker of a controversial vaccine preservative called "thimerosal," used in vaccines that are given to children. Drug giant Eli Lilly and Company makes thimerosal. It's the mercury in the preservative that many parents say causes autism in thousands of children. But nobody in Congress would admit to adding the provision, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta – until now. House Majority Leader Dick Armey tells CBS News he did it to keep vaccine-makers from going out of business under the weight of mounting lawsuits. "I did it and I'm proud of it," says Armey, R-Texas. "It's a matter of national security," Armey says. Because Armey is retiring at the end of the year, some say the outgoing majority leader is the perfect fall guy to take the heat and shield the White House from embarrassment.
Note: Though this is old news, it is very important news about which I only recently learned.
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