Daily Archives: September 14, 2006

Childhood is being ruined, warn experts

Childhood is being “poisoned” by a culture of junk food, marketing, video games and school targets, experts have warned. Rapid technological advances and a lack of interaction with “real-life” adults – as opposed to via a computer screen – are leading to a rise in the number of children suffering psychological and behavioural problems, they said.
Sue Palmer, author of the book Toxic Childhood, said children remain fundamentally the same, despite social, cultural and technological changes in the past 20 years. “Our world is so modern and technological we think children are going to be modern and technological as well,” she said. “But they are still the same biological creatures. We must remember that children need interaction with real-life adults.”


FDA whistle-blower Graham blasts new Merck arthritis drug

The arthritis drug that Merck has developed to compete with Celebrex may be as risky for the heart as Vioxx, writes Food and Drug Administration whistle-blower David Graham in an editorial posted online Tuesday by a medical journal.
In considering whether Arcoxia should be approved, “the FDA, academia, and the medical research enterprise are once again faced with the opportunity to forsake common sense by willfully accepting misdirection and disinformation presented in the guise of science,” Graham writes on the Journal of the American Medical Association’s website.


Two Years On, Some Strange Beslan Stories

How can a horrendous crime like Beslan be investigated if evidence is removed by the truckload?
As the second anniversary of the Beslan tragedy approached, one thing was clear — unlike the Dubrovka theater disaster, Beslan proved impossible to cover up.I’m not talking about the evidence heard in the trial of the sole surviving terrorist, Nurpashi Kulayev, or even the report drafted by State Duma deputy — and explosives expert — Yury Savelyev, which concluded that the storming of the school began with a fire ignited by flamethrowers and grenade-launchers on the gym roof of School No. 1.
No, the point is that Dubrovka took place in Moscow, where every person is an isolated atom and only a few atoms caught up in Dubrovka are running around asking questions, unable to establish anything. To this day, official figures say 129 people died, although lawyer Karina Moskalenko came up with a figure of 170 dead just by adding up the number of corpses in the hospitals — and even this is probably short of the real number.
Beslan took place in the Caucasus, where people are not atoms but part of a whole. You will not find a family in Ossetia without relatives or friends who suffered at Beslan. Everyone tells each other stories. I’d like to tell some of them here. On the night of Sept. 3, following the battle, the school is surrounded by three cordons of soldiers, who tell Beslan residents they cannot approach the building because it is mined. But the women see what is left after the attack being removed from the building in trucks. Crime scenes are always carefully sealed off. How can a horrendous crime like Beslan be investigated if evidence is removed by the truckload? In whose interest, apart from criminals, is the destruction of evidence?


Scores of torture victims’ bodies dumped in Baghdad

The bodies of 65 men who had been tortured with power drills and then shot have been dumped around Baghdad.
Meanwhile, two car bombs and two mortar attacks killed at least 32 people and injured dozens of others. Police said 60 of the bodies were found overnight scattered around Baghdad, with the majority dumped in predominantly Sunni Arab neighbourhoods. All the bodies were bound, bore signs of torture and had been shot, said police Lt. Thayer Mahmoud. Such killings are usually the work of death squads, operated by both Sunni Arabs and Shia gangs and militias, who kidnap people and usually torture them with power drills or beat them badly before shooting them.


Neo-Nazis set to win 12 parlimentary seats in eastern Germany

NEO-NAZIS are set to gain important seats in the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s home state on Sunday, in an election which will show that the spectre of a dark past continues to haunt the country. As many as 12 neo-Nazi MPs are forecast to be elected to the parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

They will join others elected two years ago as legislators in Saxony, another eastern Land, or state.
Despite attacks against black people in the run-up to the summer World Cup – in itself themed against racism – and warnings of no-go zones in the former communist east because of right-wing violence, the lure of the politics of the extreme remains strong in the region. The vote on Sunday is for a new legislature that will control vital areas such as police, education and health.


The Experts Say: It’s a Police State

Bush has exploited 9/11 to install a police state in America
Five years after 9/11, it’s clear that the Bush administration’s costly War on Terror has failed on two counts. It has undermined our civil liberties and made the world more dangerous. The direct cost of the war in Iraq, according to Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel economist, has already exceeded $1 trillion, including long-term veterans’ care and similar costs. Along with the war has come enormous destruction and loss of life, and major damage to our international standing. And there are more terrorists in the world than ever before, a fact the administration plays up to curtail our freedoms. In the aftermath of 9/11, the administration succeeded in passing an extreme version of an internal security law, called the USA Patriot Act. It permits secret arrests, sneak and peek searches, and obtaining bank, credit, library and Internet records, all without a warrant. The administration also instituted wiretaps and intercepts on millions of Americans’ e-mail messages and phone calls without warrants, a program recently ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.


Google developing 1984-type telescreen software

Given the furor caused when AOL released searches on the internet, there might be more than a few civil liberties activists less than happy for Google to put this idea into practice. Also, given that Google provides the software link between its search software and the microphone, it’s a small step to making the same link to any webcams attached to the PC. Pretty soon the security industry is going to find a way to hijack the Google feed and use it for full on espionage.
Google says that its fingerprinting technology makes it impossible for the company (or anyone else) to eavesdrop on other sounds in the room, such as personal conversations, because the conversion to a fingerprint is made on the PC, and a fingerprint can’t be reversed, as it’s only an identity. But we should think that “spyware” might take on an extra meaning if someone less scrupulous decided on a similar piece of software.


Criminalizing speech to protect secrets

The impact of an official secrets act would be particularly acute for the press.

There has been a startling expansion of secrecy in the past five years. It has become very difficult to find out about, let alone challenge, important actions and policies concerning our security. Executive-branch officials have thrown up a daunting array of obstacles for citizens and lawmakers: overclassification, misclassification, reclassification and pseudo-classification. Even congressional committees and independent commissions with a lot of clout find it difficult to get over the administration’s stone walls. Meanwhile, alternative sources of information — whistleblowers and journalists — are hounded, harassed and threatened with jail. Equally important, this law would chill the speech of a host of other important speakers in public discourse: elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, scholars, lobbyists and public-interest groups. Even former government officials, never sure what is classified or reclassified, would be vulnerable to prosecution for their writing, teaching or other public activities. The impact of an official secrets act would be particularly acute for the press. Though the sponsors of the act insist that the press is not targeted, the potential harm is great. The law would authorize grand jury subpoenas for journalists and search warrants for their records and notes. It could make them witnesses to and possible co-conspirators in a criminal act.


Pentagon Spends Billions to Outsource Torture

Bush administration hawks are getting profit-hungry companies like CACI to do their dirty work in the war zones of the New American Empire.

And we’re footing the bill. Plus: links to related articles, including AlterNet’s recent war profiteering coverage. The thousands of mercenary security contractors employed in the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” are billed to American taxpayers, but they’ve handed Osama Bin Laden his greatest victories — public relations coups that have transformed him from just another face in a crowd of radical clerics to a hero of millions in the global South (posters of Bin Laden have been spotted in largely Catholic Latin America during protests against George W. Bush). The internet hums with viral videos of British contractors opening fire on civilian vehicles in Iraq as part of a bloody game, stories about CIA contractors killing prisoners in Afghanistan, veterans of Apartheid-era South African and Latin American death squads discovered among contractors’ staffs and notoriously shady Russian arms dealers working for occupation authorities. One Special Forces operator told Amnesty International that some contractors are in it just because they “really want to kill somebody and they can do it easier there … [not] everybody is like that, but a dangerously high element.”


This war is just beginning, Bush insists

DECLARING the world in the “early hours” of a struggle between tyranny and freedom, US President George W. Bush used a prime-time Oval Office address on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to try to bolster flagging public support for the war in Iraq.

Closing a day of mourning in the US on the September 11 attacks, Mr Bush told Americans and the world yesterday: “Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. “They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.” He added that the war on terrorism was “the calling of our generation”.