Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Corrupting Influence Of Oil Money

By Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, and Brad Johnson

31/07/08 "The Progress Report" -- - The world has never looked better for the Big Five oil companies. This morning, Exxon Mobil, the world's largest oil company, announced its "second-quarter profit rose 14 percent, to $11.68 billion, the highest-ever profit by an American company. Exxon broke its own record." Joining Exxon Mobil as the only oil companies to "earn more than $10 billion in a single quarter, Royal Dutch Shell said its profit rose to $11.56 billion." ConocoPhillips and BP last week reported their "massive second-quarter profits." The fifth oil major, Chevron, will release its earnings report tomorrow. Yesterday, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced "a new five-year leasing plan for offshore oil drilling" to give oil companies a "head start" on attacking protected waters, should the Congress follows President Bush, who recently lifted the presidential moratorium on offshore drilling "first issued by his father in 1990." Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) described Kempthorne's announcement as a "Going Out of Business Sale" on behalf of Big Oil. The unprecedented profits for Big Oil come at the expense of practically everyone else in the form of a collapsing economy, international instability, rampant commodity inflation, and deadly climate change. However, Big Oil's windfall has also meant largesse -- and criminal levels of corruption -- for some in Washington.

Since 2001, gasoline prices have more than doubled, and oil companies have made more than half a trillion dollars in profits. The price of oil has surged from below $30 a barrel to over $125, a fourfold increase. The Big Five oil companies could make a "projected $168 billion in profits" this year alone. The United States has only two percent of the world's oil reserves but consumes 25 percent of the world's oil. "At current oil prices," conservative oil man T. Boone Pickens argued, "we will send $700 billion dollars out of the country this year alone." If we continue on the same path for the next ten years, "the cost will be $10 trillion -- it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind," he added. The surging price of oil is due in part to demand growing faster than supply, but also to factors such as "the war in Iraq and the value of the dollar" and unregulated, Enron-like speculation. Instead of investing in 21st century energy, the oil companies are plowing most of their profits into stock buybacks, a windfall for their rich investors.

OIL'S GIFTS: In a "state-shattering tremor in an earthquake of change in Alaska politics," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) "was charged on Tuesday with concealing more than $250,000 worth of gifts, including home renovations, that he received from an Alaska oil services company," VECO Corp, "the top Alaska-based contributor to federal politics for at least five election cycles." The federal indictment "accuses Stevens, a former chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee and the longest-serving Republican senator ever, of using his position and office in the Senate on behalf of VECO between 2001 and 2006." Uncle Ted's indictment represents the culmination of a multiyear oil corruption scandal of Alaska's "bullying, nepotistic political culture": five state legislators (including Stevens's son Ben), four other officials, and Alaska's congressman Don Young (R) have also been implicated for their involvement with VECO CEO Bill Allen (Allen once told a state lawmaker, "I own your ass"). Over his career, Stevens has funneled over ten million dollars from his oil-funded war chest to other conservative politicians. Politicians who benefited from the $340,000 in campaign contributions from Ted Stevens's Northern Lights PAC this year alone are being pressured to return the money. Senate conservatives met yesterday to fill the positions vacated by Stevens, whose indictment forced him to give up "his plum committee posts."

MCCAIN'S EMBRACE: On June 13, 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) declared, "I am very angry, frankly, at the oil companies not only because of the obscene profits they've made but at their failure to invest in alternate energy to help us eliminate our dependence on foreign oil." Since then, McCain's tenor on Big Oil has completely changed, now championing the views of "oil executives." "My friends, we have to drill offshore. We have to do it. ... The oil executives say within a couple of years we could be seeing results from it. So why not do it?" he said recently. McCain's reversal took place on June 16, when he headed to Texas for oil-sponsored fundraisersdeclared support for offshore drilling." In the following month, his campaign's embrace of a Big Oil agenda has grown tighter. The campaign arranged an oil-field photo shoot after McCain had to cancel a planned visit to an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico because of a hurricane and an "untimely" oil spill. And Big Oil has embraced McCain, now that he has climbed aboard the Big Oil express. The day after his speech, "McCain raised $1.3 million at a closed-door luncheon and reception at the San Antonio Country Club." The Washington Post reported recently, "Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June. ... Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month -- three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban -- compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May."
and "

Under The Radar

ENVIRONMENT -- STATES AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS TO SUE EPA TO GET EMISSIONS RULES: A coalition of states and environmental groups intends to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "if it does not act soon to reduce pollution from ships, aircraft and off-road vehicles." California Attorney General Jerry Brown is set to send a letter to the EPA in which he will "accuse the Bush administration of ignoring their requests to set restrictions" on greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA will have 180 days to respond. Under the Clean Air Act, "a U.S. district court can compel the EPA to take action to protect the public's welfare if the agency delays doing so for an unreasonably long time." "It's a necessary pressure to get the job done," Brown said of the lawsuit. "The issue of reducing our energy dependence and greenhouse gas emissions is so challenging and so important that we have to follow this judicial pathway." In the last year, states have also sued the EPA for dragging its heels in regulating carbon dioxide and for having lax smog standards. This week, lawmakers called on EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to resign because he has become "a secretive and dangerous ally of polluters."

ECONOMY -- NEW YORK AND MARYLAND GOVERNORS URGE FEDERAL ACTION ON ECONOMY: Citing President Bush's record deficit, rising food and energy costs, high unemployment, stagnant wages, and a "shell-shocked stock market," Govs. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) and David Patterson (D-NY) write in a Washington Post op-ed today that they have come to Washington, D.C. "to call on the federal government to help all states navigate an economic crisis the likes of which we have not witnessed since the Great Depression." They note that in their respective states, they have "stepped up where the federal government has fallen down" by investing in clean, renewable energy, education, infrastructure and health care. O'Malley and Patterson urge the federal government to "pass a second stimulus packagewill discuss his views on progressive fiscal responsibility today at the Center for American Progress. that includes investments in our nation's infrastructure" and provides "additional extension of unemployment insurance and assistance for low-income Americans." They also demand fiscal responsibility from the federal government and urge it to examine its "irresponsible spending" over the last seven years. O'Malley

JUSTICE -- WHITE HOUSE DIRECTED AGENCIES TO HIRE 108 PEOPLE WHO 'LOYALLY SERVED THE PRESIDENT': A "little-noticed" passage in Monday's Department of Justice Inspector General (IG) report on the politicization of the department revealed an e-mail from the White House political affairs office clearly urging federal agencies to hire Bush loyalists. The May 2005 e-mail directs agencies to find jobs for 108 people on a list of "priority candidates" who "loyally served the president." "We simply want to place as many of our Bush loyalists as possible," the e-mail said. The New York Times notes that the message "urged administration officials to 'get creative' in finding the patronage positions." Two days later, the White House's liaison to the Justice Department replied exuberantly, "We pledge 7 slots within 40 days and 40 nights. Let the games begin!" Yesterday, IG Glenn Fine testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and said that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "said he wasn't aware of what was going on" in his agency. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino refused to say whether President Bush is "disappointed" in Gonzales.

Think Fast

Exxon Mobil broke its own record for "the highest-ever profit by a U.S. company," as second-quarter profits rose 14 percent. "Net income in the quarter rose to $11.68 billion, or $2.22 a share, from $10.26 billion, or $1.83 a share, last year."

Citing reductions in violence in Iraq, President Bush said this morning that "combat tour lengths for U.S. troops will be reduced to 12 months from 15 months." While 147,000 U.S.Iraq, Bush said troop reductions might be possible because the "terrorists are 'are on the run.'" troops remain in

Senate conservatives debated yesterday whether to threaten a government shutdown as a way to force a vote on offshore drilling. Congress would have to pass a continuing resolution in September to keep the government functioning, and conservatives are mulling a filibuster.

The Department of Health and Human Services is "reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity" that does not allow employees to opt out of providing birth-control pills, IUDs, and the Plan B contraceptive. The draft considers certain contraceptives as destroying "the life of a human being."

Iraq and the U.S. "are close to a deal on a sensitive security agreement" that satisfies Iraq's "desire to be treated as sovereign and independent." The agreement "guarantee[s] that there would no longer be foreign troops visible on their land -- and leaves room for them to discreetly ask for an extended American presence should security deteriorate."

11: The number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq this month. That is "the lowest monthly toll since the 2003 invasion, according Pentagon figures, highlighting what US commanders say is a marked drop in overall violence."

More than 3.7 million Americans have had their full-time jobs cut to part timethe largest figure since the government began tracking such data more than half a century ago." The loss of pay has reinforced "the downturn gripping the economy" for millions of American families because "paychecks are shrinking just as home prices plunge and gas prices soar." because of weak business, which is "

And finally: Grassley prescribes a legislative laxative. Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) complained about "Democratic leaders stymieing his tax-extenders legislation" by using "a metaphor to which many of his silver-haired colleagues could relate." "Issues are building up," said Grassley. "The Senate is constipated. This body needs a...laxative."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Prison operator CCA must open records, judge rules

Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America must follow public records law and open its files for viewing, a Chancery Court judge ruled Tuesday, a decision that could lead to more transparency in a historically hidden industry.

Alex Friedmann, an ex-offender and vice president of advocacy group Private Corrections Institute, had filed suit after CCA denied his request for records about prison operations and lawsuits they were part of.

CCA, which operates the Metro Davidson County Detention Facility and six other detention facilities across Tennessee, maintained the company did not have to comply with public records requests because it is private.

Access to prison records could accomplish two main goals, said Michele Deitch, an expert on private prison issues and adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin: shedding light on the operation of the private facilities and showing taxpayers how much money is spent on settlements with those who claim mistreatment.

"When the private sector says, 'We can do this cheaper and better,' people don't think about what happens if things go wrong," Deitch said. "Who pays for that? In fact, it does come back to the taxpayers and the government. We need that information for a fuller picture of the true cost of these prisons."

CCA plans to appeal the ruling, according to attorney Joe Welborn, who represented the company.

Public-private line blurs

It's too soon to say whether there will be national implications to the decision, said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center. But as more governmental functions are turned over to private industry, he said, the issue of what documents remain public can get muddied.

"These issues will be litigated more and more," Policinski said. "Where does public responsibility and public visibility end, and a private institution's own records begin, when performing public functions and accepting public money?"

Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled that CCA was a "functional equivalent" to a governmental entity, because the operations of jails and prisons are essential governmental functions, and most of their revenues are taxpayer-funded. She ordered the company to make all of its records available, except those sealed by a court order.

Andrew Clarke, attorney for Friedmann, said he kept his arguments simple because he felt the facts supported his client's assertion that CCA performs a governmental function.

"Sometimes it just is what it is," Clarke said.

'A layer of secrecy'

The chancellor has not yet ruled on whether to award attorney's fees to Friedmann. CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company is reserving comment until a final order has been issued.

CCA has been hammered in recent months by allegations of underplaying serious incidents in its jails and misrepresenting the circumstances of in-custody deaths. Much of the heat came after CCA's general counsel, Gus Puryear, was nominated to a federal judgeship.

The company's treatment of mentally ill inmates locally also was questioned after it was reported that an inmate hadn't left his cell or showered for nine months.

Friedmann's organization recently offered reward money for anyone who could shed light on the death of Estelle Richardson, who died in the Metro jail in 2004. CCA officials said that, because of a malfunction, there was no tape of the incident that led to Richardson's fatal injuries.

Friedmann served six years in a CCA-run facility before his release in 1999.

"This important ruling strips away a layer of secrecy that CCA has misused to conceal embarrassing and negative information from the public," Friedmann said.

Contact Kate Howard at 615-726-8968 or

Doctor admits illegal drug sales

TRENTON — Philip B. Eatough, the Rumson physician accused by federal prosecutors of using his medical practice as a front for illegal drug distribution, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Tuesday to money laundering and the illegal distribution of oxycodone.

Eatough, 61, also must surrender his medical license no later than Sept. 15 as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

In a related matter, his office assistant, Betty Over, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of aiding and abetting the illegal possession of oxycodone by another person. She is not expected to face any jail time, attorneys said.

Over had been indicted on a charge of money laundering. That charge will be dismissed when she is sentenced on Oct. 10.

Both pleas were entered before U.S. District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson, sitting in Trenton.

The action caps more than five years of investigation and legal proceedings at the state and federal levels and renders moot a state hearing into whether or not Eatough should be stripped of his license to practice medicine.

Standing beside his attorney, John McDonald, Eatough answered "yes" 10 times to questions posed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Frazer outlining the factual basis for his guilty plea.

Eatough paused several seconds before admitting he prescribed drugs without a legitimate medical purpose.

Eatough is expected to face anywhere from 36 to 42 months in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 10. He will remain free on a $1 million bond until sentencing.

Had he been convicted at trial he could have faced a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Gerard McAleer, special agent in charge of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in New Jersey, said the case was an important one for law enforcement.

"Not only did he violate federal law, he violated the first tenet of the medical profession: "First, do no harm,' " McAleer said. "He, through his own mouth, admitted the harm he did and his own culpability."

Police and federal agents had accused Eatough of using his offices in Keansburg and Middletown to distribute opioid-based painkillers to drug abusers under the guise of pain management.

While several of his patients described selling the medicines they were given — prosecutors said one told a grand jury she made as much as $20,000 a week distributing the drugs — others said Eatough was a savior who offered relief from chronic pain.

The case plumbed the murky area of pain management, with experts on both sides of the issue weighing in on whether or not Eatough's actions had crossed legal and ethical lines.

In the end, his defense began to unravel as prosecutors continued, in court papers and in a series of administrative actions, to hammer at inconsistencies in record keeping and the high dosages he was prescribing.

While experts were not in general agreement about how much medication constituted too much, Eatough's failure to drug test patients for evidence they were abusing other substances was criticized in an administrative hearing before the state Board of Medical Examiners.

At those hearings, the state Attorney General's Office produced an expert who testified such testing was an accepted and recommended practice for pain-management physicians.

Those sentiments were echoed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Eatough closed his Keansburg office as federal and local investigators began to comb through records of his drug disbursements between 2001 and 2005.

He was arrested in October after a federal grand jury returned an 11-count indictment against him.

Eight of the drug distribution charges are to be dismissed at the time of sentencing under the plea agreement, Frazer said.

His Middletown office was also closed in recent weeks as the terms of the plea deal were hammered out with prosecutors.

Monday, July 28, 2008

U.S. budget deficit nearly half a trillion dollars in 2009

White House sees record budget gap in 2009

Janet Whitman, Financial Post

NEW YORK -- Inflated by the sagging economy and the payout of taxpayer rebate cheques, the U.S. budget deficit is set to balloon to a record of nearly half a trillion dollars in fiscal 2009, it was revealed on Monday.

The whopping budget gap is bound to put a spotlight on the fiscal policies of presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain.

As part of its mid-season budget review, the White House projected a budget deficit of US$482-billion for fiscal 2009, which begins on Oct. 1. The estimate jumped US$74-billion from the Bush administration's estimate in February.

The deficit for the current fiscal year is forecast to total US$389-billion, US$21-billion less than the administration's previous forecast.

When U.S. President Bush took office in 2001, budget surpluses were forecast to continue for years, bolstered by a decade of strong economic growth. But the budget soon sank into the red, sapped by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a recession and lost revenue from massive tax cuts from the Bush administration.

The administration is forecasting the budget will return to black ink in 2012. But many economists believe that view is overly optimistic given the struggling economy and the projection doesn't include spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan beyond 2009.

The 2009 budget is being dragged into the red in part by the US$117-billion worth of rebate cheques mailed out to 130 million Americans and other pieces of the bipartisan stimulus package aimed at keeping the U.S. economy from stumbling into a full-blown recession.

The deficit will easily exceed the nominal record of $413-billion set in fiscal 2004.

"If they gave out Olympic medals for fiscal irresponsibility, President Bush would take the gold, silver and bronze," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "With his eight years in office, he will have had the five highest deficits ever recorded."

Economists point out, however, that although it's hitting a record nominally, the projection for 2009 falls within historical norms when measured as an overall percentage of U.S. gross domestic product.

For 2008 and 2009, the budget gaps represent roughly 2.7% and 3.3% of GDP, respectively. That's only a little above historic norms for the past four decades and well below 2004's record.

Still, the gap will leave the next U.S. president with huge challenges.

Senator McCain, the Republican presidential hopeful and a harsh critic of government spending, yesterday reiterated his pledge to balance the budget by the end of his first term if elected.

"[Monday's] news makes that job harder, but should not change our resolve to make the tough decisions and the genuine effort to reach across the aisle that are needed to ensure a lasting solution to the spending problem that threatens the very stability of our economy."

Senator Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, has pledged to repeal some of President Bush's tax cuts. He met in Washington D.C. on Monday with a group of high-powered financial experts, including former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and Google chairman Eric Schmidt, among others, to discuss the faltering economy. Billionare investor Warren Buffett participated by telephone.

More than simply balancing the budget, the big fiscal challenge the next U.S. president faces will be grappling with the skyrocketting costs of Social Security and Medicare, said Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage.

"I'm less worried about the US$15-trillion in public debt than I am about the US$43-trillion hole in Social Security and Medicare over the next 70 years," Mr Riedl told the National Post in an interview. "The debt right now is not big enough to have a substantial impact on the economy."

Financial Post

Suicide hot line got calls from 22,000 veterans

By KATHARINE EUPHRAT, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - More than 22,000 veterans have sought help from a special suicide hot line in its first year, and 1,221 suicides have been averted, the government says.

According to a recent RAND Corp. study, roughly one in five soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan displays symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Researchers at Portland State University found that male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide than men who are not veterans.

This month, a former Army medic, Joseph Dwyer, who was shown in a Military Times photograph running through a battle zone carrying an Iraqi boy, died of an accidental overdose after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder for almost five years.

Janet Kemp, national suicide prevention coordinator for the Veterans Affairs Department, said the hot line is in place to help prevent deaths such as Dwyer's. "We just want them to know there's other options and people do care about them, and we can help them make a difference in their lives," she said in an interview.

The VA teamed up with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to launch the hot line last July after years of criticism that the VA wasn't doing enough to help wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In April, two veterans groups sued the VA, citing long delays for processing applications and other problems in treatment for veterans at risk for suicide. The department has spent $2.9 million on the hot line thus far.

The hot line receives up to 250 calls per day — double the average number calling when it began. Kemp said callers are divided evenly between veterans from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars. Richard McKeon, public health adviser for SAMHSA, said 10 to 20 of the 1,575 calls received each week have to be rerouted to high-volume backup call centers throughout the country.

The VA estimates that every year 6,500 veterans take their own lives. The mental health director for the VA, Ira Katz, said in an e-mail last December that of the 18 veterans who commit suicide each day, four to five of them are under VA care, and 12,000 veterans under VA care are attempting suicide each year.

This month, the hot line began an advertising campaign in Washington area subway stations and buses featuring the slogan, "It takes the courage and strength of a warrior to ask for help."

The veterans hot line, which is linked to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, received 55,000 callers in its first year, including both veterans and people who are concerned about them, according to figures being released Monday. One-third of the 40 specially trained counselors are veterans themselves.

"We try to get them (callers) to talk about their situation and what they remember and see if they can identify exactly what their issues are. I think there's a comfort in knowing that they can get some help from people who do understand what combat stress is like," Kemp said.

From the call center, counselors instantly can check a veteran's medical records and then connect the caller to local VA suicide prevention coordinators for follow-up, monitoring and care at local VA medical centers. Kemp said that since the hot line started, 106 veterans have been steered to free medical care from the VA.

Kemp said the hot line was put in place specifically for those veterans who don't get enough help until it's too late. "They have indicated to us that they are in extreme danger, either they have guns in their hand or they're standing on a bridge, or they've already swallowed pills," she said. Kemp said 1,221 veterans who were in such situations were rescued during the hot line's first year.

The VA is preparing for the eventual return of a large number of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This could put added stress on the mental health screening program for returning veterans, which could lead to a rise in undiagnosed mental health issues. The VA recently got enough money to double its suicide prevention staff and is planning to hire 212 more people soon.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day by calling 800-273-TALK (8255); veterans should press "1" after being connected.


On the Net:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Petition To Stop Bill C 51 - Making Natural Herbs Illegal

Petition Bill C 51 Making Natural Herbs illegal

Do you like your greens and vitamins?

The Canadian government, afraid of the public reaction once people find out what they are trying to pull, is currently fast-tracking a Bill which threatens to strip you of your rights to access a wide range of natural health products. If it passes, and you buy/sell/share/collect/dry/eat/feed to your family any of the restricted stuff, you become a criminal subject to fines 1000X bigger than those currently in effect.

Please take action to protect your current right to use the foods, herbs, supplements, and therapies:

1. visit: and read Bill C-51 and/or the analysis
to form your own opinion about whether this law is good for you
or for your country

2. sign this petition and pass the word to your friends, family, anyone
who cares. It is important to put your name. If you leave it blank,
it won't count in the end.

3. write paper letters, phone, email your MP


The government is putting out misleading information that this Bill
is OK, that it has none of the nasties that the opponents are claiming.
Let's take it as a sign that the pressure of opposition is having an effect,
and rather than backing down, let's keep the pressure steady.

(NaturalNews) A new law being pushed in Canada by Big Pharma seeks to outlaw up to 60 percent of natural health products currently sold in Canada, even while criminalizing parents who give herbs or supplements to their children. The law, known as C-51, was introduced by the Canadian Minister of Health on April 8th, 2008, and it proposes sweeping changes to Canada's Food and Drugs Act that could have devastating consequences on the health products industry.

Among the changes proposed by the bill are radical alterations to key terminology, including replacing the word "drug" with "therapeutic product" throughout the Act, thereby giving the Canadian government broad-reaching powers to regulate the sale of all herbs, vitamins, supplements and other items. With this single language change, anything that is "therapeutic" automatically falls under the Food and Drug Act. This would include bottled water, blueberries, dandelion greens and essentially all plant-derived substances.

The Act also changes the definition of the word "sell" to include anyone who gives such therapeutic products to someone else. So a mother giving an herb to her child, under the proposed new language, could be arrested for engaging in the sale of unregulated, unapproved "therapeutic substances." Learn about more of these freedom-squashing changes to the law at the website:

New enforcement powers allow Canadian government to seize your home or business

At the same time that C-51 is outlawing herbs, supplements and vitamins, it would grant alarming new "enforcement" powers to the (thugs) enforcement agents who claim to be "protecting" the public from dangerous unapproved "therapeutic agents" like, say, dandelion greens. As explained on the website ((, the C-51 law would allow the Canadian government's thugs enforcement agents to:

* Raid your home or business without a warrant
* Seize your bank accounts
* Levy fines up to $5 million and a jail terms up to 2 years for merely selling an herb
* Confiscate your property, then charge you storage fees for the expense involved in storing all the products they stole from you

C-51 would even criminalize the simple drying of herbs in your kitchen to be used in an herbal product, by the way. That would now be categorized as a "controlled activity," and anyone caught engaging in such "controlled activities" would be arrested, fined and potentially jailed. Other "controlled activities" include labeling bottles, harvesting plants on a farm, collecting herbs from your back yard, or even testing herbal products on yourself! (Yes, virtually every activity involving herbs or supplements would be criminalized...)

There's more, too. C-51 is the Canadian government's "final solution" for the health products industry. It's a desperate effort to destroy this industry that's threatening the profits and viability of conventional medicine. Natural medicine works so well -- and is becoming so widely used -- that both the Canadian and American governments have decided to "nuke" the industries by passing new laws that effectively criminalize anyone selling such products. They simply cannot tolerate allowing consumers to have continued access to natural products. To do so will ultimately spell the destruction of Big Pharma and the outdated, corrupt and criminally-operated pharmaceutical industry that these criminally-operated governments are trying to protect.

Bill C-51 Will:
Allow Government agents to:

-Enter private property without a warrant Section 23 (4)

-Confiscate your property at their discretion, at your cost Section 23.3 a

-Dispose of your property at their discretion, at your cost Section 23.3 c

-Seize your bank accounts without a warrant Section 23 (2) (d)

-Charge you for shipping and storage of your property Section 23.3a-b

-Store your property Indefinitely without paying you for damages Section 23 (2) (d)

-Levy fines of up to $5,000,000.00 / 2 years in jail per offence. Section 31.1

Introduce new legislation that will:

-Allow laws to be created in Canada, behind closed doors, with the assistance of foreign governments, industrial and trade organizations Section 30.7

-Allow "Crack house style" of enforcement on natural health providers Section 23.1

-Allow enforcement to be considered on more than 70% of Canadians who use NHP's Health Canada Reference

-Allow the minister, based on opinion, to shut down research without any scientific reason or evidence of risk or harm Section 18.5

-Allow the minister, based on opinion, to allow or disallow market authorizations for Natural Health Products

For More Information


Friday, July 18, 2008

Displaced Iraqis struggle for food

Displaced Iraqis struggle for food

Geneva-based aid agency said roughly 2.8 million internally displaced Iraqis face worsening living conditions


Published: Friday, July 18, 2008

BAGHDAD - Millions of Iraqis displaced by sectarian conflict are still struggling to get sufficient food, shelter and basic services like water and health care, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

In a mid-year review distributed late on Thursday, the Geneva-based aid agency said fewer Iraqis were fleeing their homes, but the roughly 2.8 million Iraqis who were already internally displaced faced worsening living conditions.

Nearly three quarters of them were unable to access regularly the government food rations they depend on, one third could not get the medicines they needed and 14 percent had no access to health care at all.

An internally displaced boy carries a toy gun as he lives in a bombed building in Baghdad, Iraq. An internally displaced Iraqi family has taken a bombed building as its home in Baghdad, Iraq.

An internally displaced boy carries a toy gun as he lives in a bombed building in Baghdad, Iraq. An internally displaced Iraqi family has taken a bombed building as its home in Baghdad, Iraq.

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Image

"The deteriorating conditions facing ... (Iraq's) internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as the limited returnee population, remain one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world," the IOM said.

It added that although the rate of displacement had slowed sharply and some refugees were coming home, most were still too terrified of sectarian attacks to consider returning.

"Some face increasing rent prices, others squat in public buildings fearing eviction, or live in simple mud huts."

Many of those who returned faced conditions at least as miserable as they experienced when displaced. Around 40 percent of displaced Iraqis had tried to come back home, only to find their property occupied or destroyed, the report said.

Blame 'botched operation,' not Khadr

Blame 'botched operation,' not Khadr

Khadr's defence team to argue friendly fire killed U.S. soldier

Steven Edwards , Canwest News Service

Published: Friday, July 18, 2008

NEW YORK - Omar Khadr's defence team says it has expert testimony indicating the soldier he is accused of killing died as a result of injuries inflicted by an American grenade.

The lawyers say the evidence will be added to the results of the defence's wider investigation of the July 2002 firefight, and show that the American assault had been a "botched operation."

The claim follows the lawyers' release of videotapes of Canadian officials interrogating Khadr that - beyond snippets they highlighted showing him crying or pulling at his hair - include statements he made that the prosecution in his war crimes case will have analyzed.

Omar Khadr's lawyers, Dennis Edney, left, and Nathan Whitling, right, say the evidence will be added to the results of the defence's wider investigation of the July 2002 firefight, and show that the American assault had been a 'botched operation.'

Omar Khadr's lawyers, Dennis Edney, left, and Nathan Whitling, right, say the evidence will be added to the results of the defence's wider investigation of the July 2002 firefight, and show that the American assault had been a 'botched operation.'

Greg Southam/Edmonton Journal
The contrasting pictures give a preview of some of the key opposing arguments when Khadr's war crimes trial gets under way in early October at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The proposition that American "friendly fire" may have killed Sgt. Chris Speer has been floated before by the defence, but U.S. navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, Khadr's Pentagon-appointed attorney, said in an interview the expert testimony has helped them complete what he calls the "first coherent version" of the firefight.

In a report expected soon, one expert will say that Speer's injuries are consistent with the types of wounds that fragments of an American-made grenade would have caused. The conclusion of another expert corroborates that finding, says Kuebler.

Khadr, now 21, says in a portion of the seven hours of videotapes released this week there was an abundance of rifles, pistols and grenades in the compound he and other al-Qaida suspects occupied near Khost, Afghanistan, the day of the battle.

It is also believed that only the U.S. soldiers who stormed the compound were armed with American-made grenades.

"A war crimes investigator who examined the evidence, without prompting of any kind, offered his opinion that (it) suggested a friendly fire incident of some kind," Kuebler said.

"A ballistics expert has expressed the opinion that Sgt. Speer's wounds - based on photos and description - are consistent with the fragments expected of an American grenade, rather than a Russian grenade of the type Omar is alleged to have thrown."

Kuebler said defence interviews of soldiers who had been at the scene suggest a series of poor command decisions led to things going wrong for the American side.

"U.S. forces . . . surrounded the compound they knew to be occupied by armed militants," he said. "(Several) were injured, in the words of one of the soldiers we interviewed, because the U.S. troops were 'just standing around' outside the walls . . . instead of being in covered positions."

Kuebler said that after air strikes were called in "at least one aircraft refused to drop its 500-pound bombs . . . because the commander had positioned (soldiers) too close."

It also emerged publicly for the first time that the commander's goal of flattening the compound using a Humvee-mounted Mark 19 grenade launcher failed when it malfunctioned.

"The Mark 19 got off (only) one round, which landed well beyond the target," Kuebler said.

Though al-Qaida suspects were still alive in the compound, U.S. soldiers entered. "Based on our interviews," Kuebler said, "it appears that at least two U.S. soldiers threw hand grenades."

Kuebler said none of the interviewed soldiers "suggested that Speer was hit by friendly fire," and one, Sgt. Layne Morris, reportedly said this week he had seen Khadr, then 15, "crouched in the rubble waiting for U.S. troops to get close enough so he could take one of them out."

Kuebler, who counters Morris had been injured and removed from the scene ahead of the final assault, argues that had four, instead of just two, 500-pound bombs been dropped, and the Mark 19 worked "there is a very good chance that the last individuals in the compound, including Omar, would have been killed, and Sgt. Speer alive today."

Khadr's taped discussion of conditions in the compound ahead of the battle is among a number of scenes that didn't make the 10 minutes of highlights released early Tuesday by the Canadian lawyers defending Khadr, who work closely with Kuebler.

Although the lawyers later that day released all seven hours - they show Khadr being interrogated over four days in February 2003 - there has been little-to-no publicity given to scenes Khadr's prosecutors are more likely to have focused on.

In one he talks about his brothers receiving six months of training - with the interrogator asking if it was to learn about "infantry" and "rifles," and Khadr himself citing "grenades." Khadr also says his father put them through it "for self defence."

In another scene in which mines are mentioned, Khadr agrees with the interrogator's assessment that "the whole purpose . . . was to take them apart, to use them as an explosive."

Khadr says his father dropped him off at the compound near Khost - and the interrogator notes the multi-lingual youth had said it was to serve as a translator.

The interrogator draws out of Khadr that Afghans and at least two Arabs were present, and there was talk of attacking the Northern Alliance - the American-allied Afghan group that had opposed Taliban rule in Afghanistan

Khadr said he did not know how American forces discovered their location, adding later: "I didn't do anything. I was in the house when it started ... I had no choice."

Noting Khadr was the only person alive at the end of the battle, and was critically wounded, the interrogator mentions that the Canadian had said he was "waiting for the green lady."

It was an apparent reference by Khadr to martyrdom, and he identifies her as "your wife when you die" - but he also tells the interrogator he didn't think he believed in the concept.

The Canadian Supreme Court recently ordered the tapes released after Khadr's Canadian lawyers made requests for them from successive Canadian governments.

The public versions are heavily edited for security reasons. Kuebler dismisses any incriminating statements Khadr may have made at that time as inadmissible because of conditions of his confinement.

© Canwest News Service 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bring Omar Khadr Home

Bring Omar Khadr Home

By John S. Hatch

Yo, Harper—this is an open letter to you.

Wait a minute. That’s no way to address the Prime Minister of a great nation.

I’ll just call you Steve. Is that ok?

I hope you had fun with your good buddy George at Rusutsu and discussed all sorts of important matters regarding poverty and the poorest of the poor. Did the caviar go down ok? That’s good.

That George is such a kidder, isn’t he? One almost forgets the indelible blood all over his hands. He introduced you to President Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria one of the most corrupt countries on earth. The election was massively fraudulent, just like both of George’s. “Good man,” George said. Well, it takes one to know one, I guess. But careful, Steve—Bush is down to two lapdogs now that Tony-boy is gone, he might be looking for a third, and you might be it. Being a Canus Lapus for Bush (who many consider to be in the same league as Hitler, Pol Pot and Idi Amin) can be bad for one’s political career, let alone one’s dignity. Up to you, but if you’re going to sniff around George, maybe you shouldn’t do it from the Office of Prime Minister.

But that’s not why I’m writing, Steve.

About six years ago Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen then fifteen years old, was captured by American troops in Ayub Kheyl Afghanistan. After dropping five-hundred pound bombs on the house in which he and others were hiding, Khadr was shot three times in the back.

An American soldier prepared to murder him, but was restrained by a superior.

An American died in the previous fighting, and as Khadr was the only ‘insurgent’ survivor, it became convenient to blame him for the killing, although no evidence of this was forthcoming.

Under international law and convention, a fifteen year old cannot be considered a soldier (much less an ‘unlawful combatant’ which has no legal standing whatsoever), and cannot be held or tried for war crimes.

Nevertheless, Mr. Khadr was imprisoned first at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, then at Quantanamo in Cuba.

Over the six year period of his confinement, Mr. Khadr has undergone numerous forms of torture. These include but are not restricted to:

Being hung from a doorframe for hours in spite of his wounds;

Being ‘short-shackled’ in painful positions for hours;

Being sleep-deprived for twenty-one days in preparation for interrogation by Canada’s own CSIS (which then turned over information it gained to the Americans);

Being held in solitary confinement for long periods;

Being repeatedly threatened with rape.

He was interrogated by Joshua Claus who was removed after killing another prisoner named Dilawar. He beat him to death. Dilawar was later found to be completely innocent.

As far as a fair trial is concerned, the Department of Justice already directed that there be no not-guilty findings. Even military lawyers on both sides have described the process as a sham that makes Stalin’s show-trials look positively fair. The government has admitted that in many cases there will never be a hearing, and the prisoners will never be released. Better to bury them than admit to mistakes.

Steve, other civilized nations such as Britain, Australia, Germany, etc. have intervened with the US to save their citizens from America’s illegal deadly clutches. Children have been raped with various implements by American troops, CIA, or mercenaries.

Children have been taken and held as hostages, and sometimes tortured. Many other people have been tortured to death or otherwise murdered. In some cases prisoners were tortured for long periods so that their screams would serve to sleep-deprive others. Two birds with one stone, so to speak, good ol’ American ingenuity. If some poor soul manages to end his misery by committing suicide, it’s considered ‘an asymmetrical act of war’. We know, and even the Americans admit that many of the people imprisoned at known sites (and this includes an estimated 2500 children as young as nine) are completely innocent. It would follow that innocent people are also being held at the so-called ‘black’ sites. In spite of all this and the atrocities at Quantanamo Bay, your government has steadfastly refused to intervene in Mr. Khadr’s case, even when being urged to by Amnesty International, UNICEF, the Canadian Bar Association, and others. You even tried to blame the previous government for Mr. Khadr’s predicament. That was pretty unconvincing, and even cowardly.

As with so many people caught up in America’s self-induced hysteria, Mr. Khadr’s imprisonment is illegal. His torture is not only illegal, but despicable, and offends and threatens every value we hold dear as Canadians.

Steve, to paraphrase a not very great man, ‘You’re either with us or you’re with the evildoers’. In trying to wash your hands of the imprisonment and torture of Omar Khadr, an innocent Canadian, you’ve made it clear who your friends are. History may judge harshly. I hope so. A Prime Minister who countenances illegal detention and torture because his ‘friend’ is the perpetrator is one who has abdicated his responsibility, and does not represent me.

Have a nice day.

John S. Hatch is a Vancouver writer & film-maker.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Harper's comments on Omar Khadr 'deplorable': lawyer

Harper's comments on Omar Khadr 'deplorable': lawyer News Staff

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that his government has "no real alternative" to the U.S. legal system in the Omar Khadr case Thursday, setting off a barrage of criticism from lawyers, opposition critics and human right activists.

"I think it's deplorable that he would say that there's nothing to be done," Khadr's U.S, military lawyer, Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler told CTV Newsnet. "This Canadian prime minister refuses to stand up to the Bush administration and protect the rights of a Canadian citizen.

"This is a disingenuous comment from the prime minister," Khadr's Canadian lawyer Dennis Edney told The Canadian Press.

"The prime minister, through his cabinet members, particularly Mr. (Peter) MacKay, have long said that they have been assured that Omar Khadr was being well treated, when in fact the Canadian government well knew that was not the case," he said.

The prime minister's comments come a day after explosive new documents suggest Canada was aware of the harsh treatment that Khadr was being subjected to in Guantanamo Bay at the hands of U.S. military interrogators.

But Harper, speaking Thursday in Tokyo, Japan following this week's G8 meetings, said Canada had little say in the situation and has no intention of interfering.

The Foreign Affairs documents released by Khadr's defence team this week show Khadr was visited in 2004 by Canadian officials. They found the then 17-year-old had been deprived of sleep for weeks in an attempt to make him more pliable for interrogation by U.S. agents.

"Every three hours he was moved to a different place. A different cell to disorient him, to make him weak," Edney said.

Alex Neve of Amnesty International Canada told CTV News that people "who have been through it have called it one of the most excruciating types of torture because it just goes on and on."

Harper has distanced his government from the documents. He said former prime minister Paul Martin's government was aware of how Khadr was being treated, but there was little that could have been done.

"The previous government took a whole range, all of the information into account when they made the decision on how to proceed with the Khadr case several years ago,'' he said.

Harper added that Canada: "frankly, has no real alternative'' to the U.S. legal process.

Harper criticized

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, who was not part of the Paul Martin government, said on CTV Newsnet that "things got caught up" in the post-9/11 scramble to take direct action against terror suspects by governments.

But he says that time has passed and "it's extremely important for Canadians to take full responsibility for one of our own citizens and insist that he be brought home."

"Other countries have done the same and I can't, quite frankly, explain why Canada didn't do the same, but I think we should, and it's not too late to do that now," he added.

"I think it's time for Mr. Khadr to face justice in Canada."

Edney asked why Harper would criticize China's human rights record but ignore the situation in Guantanamo.

"It boggles my mind that this prime minister is prepared to criticize China over human rights and is prepared to lambaste Mexico for the way its criminal justice system is applied to a Canadian," he said.

"But when you have a young Canadian who is in Guantanamo Bay whom Canadian courts have said has been abused and tortured, our government remains silent."

Kuebler said the U.S. would probably have complied with a request from Harper to have Khadr transferred into Canadian custody -- but the request hasn't been made.

As a result, Kuebler said, any harsh treatment endured by Khadr is Canada's responsibility.

"The Canadian government has continued to hide behind assurances for the U.S. government that Omar Khadr is being treated humanely when it knew that . . . those assurances were false," he said.

The Toronto-born terror suspect is accused of throwing a grenade in 2002 in Afghanistan that killed a U.S. special forces soldier.

Khadr, 15 at the time, was captured and eventually sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he has remained ever since.

The son of an alleged al Qaeda financier -- and the only Canadian being held in Gitmo -- Khadr is set to go to trial in October.

According to the reports released by Khadr's defence team, Canadian official Jim Ghould visited Khadr in 2004 and was briefed by U.S. military officials on Khadr's case.

One report says Khadr was moved every three hours for 21 days -- a technique known as the 'frequent flyer program' -- in an attempt to deprive him of sleep and weaken his ability to withstand interrogation.

And a U.S. Air Force report from February 2003 says Khadr wasn't allowed to receive mail from his family in Canada.

When he was finally given a letter from his grandmother, agents watched secretly as the young man broke down in tears.

The same report says Khadr was picked on by other inmates following his interview sessions with officials.

CTV's legal analyst Steven Skurka called the new revelations a "bombshell."

"We've been told repeatedly by the Canadian government he's been treated humanely and now it appears in the face of those statements the Canadian government knew otherwise," Skurka told Canada AM.

He added that the treatment described in the documents "could be called torture, it's certainly inhumane, it's certainly a story that really has to make Canadians wake up and shudder."

With files from The Canadian Press