Five Myths About the New Wiretapping Law

Why it’s a lot worse than you think.


Rep. Steny Hoyer

Sometime today, the Senate is likely to approve the most comprehensive overhaul of American surveillance law since the Watergate era. Unless you’re a government lawyer, a legal scholar, a masochist, or an insomniac, chances are you haven’t read the 114-page bill. Don’t beat yourself up: Neither have most of the 293 House members who voted for it last week. Ditto the mainstream press, who seem to have relied chiefly on summaries provided by the same lawmakers who hadn’t read it.

To be fair, wiretapping is so classified, and the language of the bill so opaque, that no one without a “top secret” clearance can say with any authority just how much surveillance the proposal will authorize the government to do. (The best assessment yet comes from former Justice Department official David Kris, who deems the legislation “so intricate” that it risks confusing even “the government officials who must apply it.”)

Out of the echo chamber of ignorance and self-serving political cant, a number of myths have begun to emerge. We may never know for sure everything that this new legislation entails. But here are a few things that it most certainly doesn’t.

Myth No. 1: This bill is a compromise.

The House bill “is the result of a compromise,” one of its architects, Steny Hoyer, D-Md., maintained the other day. But in truth, Hoyer and his colleagues gave the White House most of what it asked for, dramatically expanding the government’s surveillance capabilities without demanding any serious concessions in exchange. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., calls the deal “a capitulation,” and he’s right. Why else would the White House express its approval so quickly, after a full year in which President Bush petulantly vowed not to sign any legislation that obliged him to concede too much? Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., offered an honest appraisal: “I think the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped.”

Myth No. 2: We need the bill to intercept our enemies abroad.

Read moreFive Myths About the New Wiretapping Law

Low Sperm Counts and Deformed Penises: The Chemical Industry Has a Hold on Your Reproductive Future

By Joshua Zaffos, Colorado Springs Independent
Posted on June 26, 2008

From car seats to condoms, nasty compounds have invaded our lives.
Hormones are going haywire, and our human future is at risk.

I am half the man my father is.

This disturbing fortune came to me about five years ago, but not from an odd relative or a sadistic girlfriend. Instead, this dinner-table diagnosis came from Theo (short for Theodora) Colborn, an internationally known scientist who has helped develop the field of research exploring how chemical compounds interfere with the hormones that guide human development.

Known as endocrine disruption, chemicals found in computer screens and car seats, shower curtains and shampoo, plastic water bottles and prophylactics are skewing our odds against cancers and causing developmental delays and reproductive roadblocks, including declining sperm counts.

So, when Colborn informed me of my inferior manhood, I took consolation in the fact that she was indicting my entire generation — and her own — for loading our natural environment, our workplaces and our homes with tens of thousands of chemical compounds without really having a clue about what we’re doing. Our Stolen Future, the book Colborn co-authored in 1996, first delivered this bad news to the general public.

More than a decade later, scientists are still conducting experiments and measuring results, from cramped basement labs at universities to expansive high-country lakes in the wilderness. The hypotheses generally aren’t questions of whether chemicals are pervading and persisting in the environment, but rather how severely they are stunting our development and health. The federal government has investigated these questions with timidity, if not contempt, operating a regulatory system practically beholden to the chemical industry.

With half of my manhood at stake and hopes for a better assessment in the future, I’m wondering how we can heed the warning signs and reverse our chemical course.

A day in my half-life

For years, I started off each day drinking coffee out of a metallic cup, likely coated with bisphenol-A, a chemical commonly used to line plastic bottles and other food and beverage cans and containers. Anyone who has lugged around a Nalgene bottle made of polycarbonate plastic, trying to save the Earth one paper cup at a time, has gotten his or her share of bisphenol-A, which leaches from containers into liquids to enter our bodies. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control study detected bisphenol-A in 93 percent of all Americans.

Inside us, bisphenol-A mimics estrogen, plugging into hormone receptors; this is endocrine disruption. In pregnant or breastfeeding mothers and young and prepubescent children, it can have critical impacts, rewiring our developmental profiles and opening up our risks for cancers and physical and behavioral abnormalities. Lab tests suggest that chronic, low-dose exposure to bisphenol-A — like drinking out of a coated cup or polycarbonate bottle daily — may cause women to have greater chances of breast cancer and polycystic ovary syndrome, a leading cause of infertility, and men to have increased odds of prostate cancer and reduced sperm counts.

That’s a lot to think about during the day’s first cup of coffee or sip of water. Now I try to stick to ceramic mugs and glasses.

As my body starts to properly caffeinate in the mornings, I usually sit in front of a laptop and do whatever it is writers do to put off writing — checking e-mails and boxscores — until I’m warmed up. As a computer warms up, particles inside start to fly and some catch a ride on dust. For years, I breathed in polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) from my laptop.

These compounds are flame-retardants, nearly universally used in couch cushions, televisions, cars and carpets. PBDEs have similar chemical structures to thyroid hormones, and, according to lab tests, they can lower our bodies’ production of the real thing.

Over time, thyroid-hormone deficiencies can hurt metabolism. Hypothyroidism causes fatigue, depression, anxiety, hair loss and a waning libido. Women with low thyroid-hormone counts are five times more likely to have children with IQs that qualify them as mildly retarded, according to one study. A 2005 experiment found that a single low dose of a common PDBE given to rats in utero resulted in a class of hyperactive rodents with persistent low sperm counts.

Read moreLow Sperm Counts and Deformed Penises: The Chemical Industry Has a Hold on Your Reproductive Future

Britons fear the carbon cops are coming

LONDON (Reuters) – First there were the thought police, then the surveillance society, now Britons fear the carbon cops are coming to ensure compliance with climate change legislation, a survey showed on Wednesday.

And with warnings of global catastrophe ringing in their ears some people fear that failure to cut personal carbon emissions will eventually result in enforced carbon behaviour re-education, the Energy Saving Trust said.

It said 41 percent of Britons think the country will need its own Carbon Police Force by mid-century and one quarter believe repeat offenders will have to go into carbon rehab and take carbon addiction classes.

“The UK’s perception is that by 2050 we could have the sort of draconian infringements on our civil liberties that have been highlighted in our research. This need not be the case,” said EST chief Philip Sellwood said.

“The carbon emissions we all produce from our homes and travel amount to over 40 per cent of the UK’s total emissions so we all have a part to play.”

The survey coincides with the EST’s “Emission Impossible, a vision for a low carbon lifestyle by 2050.”

Read moreBritons fear the carbon cops are coming

Canada: New law targets stoned drivers

Roadside tests to detect drug use. Demanding bodily fluids is an intrusive, unreliable form of testing, critics warn

Drivers who get behind the wheel while high on drugs will face roadside testing and they could be ordered to surrender urine, blood or saliva samples at the police station under a controversial new law that takes effect one week from today.

Drivers who refuse to comply will be subject to a minimum $1,000 fine – the same penalty for refusing the breathalyzer.

Read moreCanada: New law targets stoned drivers

The Weapon of Mass Destruction Is Cancer

Related articles:

Over 70,000 deaths, and over 1 million disabilities among American soldiers attributed to Iraq Wars says U.S. government data

IRAQ: ‘Special Weapons’ Have a Fallout on Babies

War-related birth defects in Fallujah

Cheney can only call Iraq a success if he has a mindset like Hitler

Wartime PTSD cases jumped roughly 50 pct. in 2007

Soldier suicides could trump war tolls: US health official

In March, 2003 my sister, Army Captain Chaplain Fran E. Stuart was deployed to Iraq with the rest of her battalion, from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, the 101st Airborne. The uncharted desert would not only hold uncertainty for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, but if she survived during her one-year deployment, she would return to the U. S. forever changed.

Although the changes that would occur two years to the day from her return home were changes she never could have fathomed. Not only had the desert sand, gun blasts and heat penetrated the armor of her psyche, but a carcinogen did too. It made a home in her body, mixed between the Anthrax Vaccine, depleted uranium, crude oil smog, and contaminated water dished up with every meal. It would, in two years, become part of the wrapping around her inner organs like an Octopus, gathering its fuel from her central abdomen. The volleyball size tumor would become the pregnancy she never had — and the birth of cancer she’d never forget.

In March 2006, the 41-year-old captain was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive, stage IV Dysgerminoma cancer, the “germ cell” cancer usually only seen in pregnant women, or teenage girls. Captain Stuart was medevaced from her new tour in Germany to Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in D.C. to undergo further testing and immediate surgery to remove the massive tumor, only to discover three more. It would take ten months of treatments to corral the cancer. After 35 rounds of chemotherapy and two more surgeries was she deemed in clinical remission.

While her family was supporting Captain Stuart at WRAMC, my exclusive access to WRAMC exposed cancer as a affliction suffered by many soldiers are returning from Iraq/Afghanistan, unknown to the public and unacknowledged by the military.

Although WRAMC Forrest Glen Fisher House provides housing exclusively for soldiers with cancer, undergoing surgeries, chemotherapy or radiation treatments at Walter Reed — the DoD hasn’t gone public with their findings. WRAMC has dedicated floors six and seven to the stricken soldiers arriving daily — their life may have been spared on the battlefield, but the savage beast within — cancer — had created its own war.

Soldiers face a more deadly and rapidly moving carcinogen that covertly infiltrates all ranks, ethnicities, gender and ages from 21-57. Developing different stages and forms of rare cancers within 4-24 months, a portion are medevaced to WRAMC from Iraq already ill. Others, like my sister, are diagnosed two years post-deployment. Since soldiers are uninformed about depleted uranium (DU), they are not wearing protective gear and are unknowingly inhaling and ingesting the toxic dust.

Read moreThe Weapon of Mass Destruction Is Cancer

American Express: The Economy is Worsening

June 25 (Bloomberg) — American Express Co., the biggest U.S. credit-card company by purchases and cash advances, said customers are falling further behind on their debt, signaling the economy is worsening.

“Business conditions continue to weaken in the U.S. and so far this month we have seen credit indicators deteriorate beyond our expectations,” Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Chenault said in a statement today announcing the company would receive as much as $1.8 billion in a settlement with competitor MasterCard Inc.

American Express and rivals Capital One Financial Corp. and Discover Financial Services have fallen by more than a third in the past 12 months in New York trading as consumers absorb the housing slump, rising unemployment and higher food and fuel bills. New York-based American Express adopted a “cautious view” for the year in January after cardholder spending slowed and overdue payments rose in December.

“If you look at the employment situation, clearly that’s deteriorated, and consumer confidence is down as well,” said Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst with KBW Inc. in New York who has a “market perform” rating on the stock. “Both play a key role in the credit-card industry.”

The Federal Reserve today left its benchmark interest rate at 2 percent, saying “uncertainty about the inflation outlook remains high.” Consumer prices rose 4.2 percent in the 12 months ended in May, the fastest pace since January, while the unemployment rate rose by the most in more than two decades.

Consumer Confidence

Confidence among Americans dropped to the lowest level in 16 years, the Conference Board said yesterday.

Read moreAmerican Express: The Economy is Worsening

Why “President Obama” will cause World War III

OK, maybe the headline is a little misleading, but let me explain.

You’ve probably seen polls out this week that show Barack Obama opening up a lead in the race for the White House, quite possibly as large as double digits. That could change quickly — Michael Dukakis’ 17-point lead over George H.W. Bush in 1988 is now the stuff of legend — but with gas prices rising toward $5-a-gallon and Americans’ homes now worth less than they were 3 1/2 years ago, the GOP and the White House is well aware that there are big problems looming in November.

Which means only one thing.

We — or at least our closest regional ally, Israel — need to start a war with Iran! Pronto! As in, before January 20, 2009. For all the talk over the last generation of an “October surprise” in an American election, we’ve arguably never had one before. But things could be different this time in around.

I noted here recently that I’ve been avoiding some recent scare stories about planned military attacks on Iran’s incipient nuclear program, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I believe that while Dick Cheney clearly wants to strike Tehran, there are also now saner people within the Bush administration, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and many of the top Pentagon brass. And those recent reports have come from sources that have mixed credibility in my mind, Rupert Murdoch’s British papers and the Israeli press.

But this story comes from CBS News, and it’s alarming. There a new factor that’s been tossed into the mix, and has given Israeli leaders and the Cheney faction new life on the issue.

It’s “President Barack Obama.”

CBS consultant Michael Oren says Israel doesn’t want to wait for a new administration.

“The Israelis have been assured by the Bush administration that the Bush administration will not allow Iran to nuclearize,” Oren said. “Israelis are uncertain about what would be the policies of the next administration vis-à-vis Iran.”

Israel’s message is simple: If you don’t, we will. Israel held a dress rehearsal for a strike earlier this month, but military analysts say Israel can not do it alone.

“Keep in mind that Israel does not have strategic bombers,” Oren said. “The Israeli Air Force is not the American Air Force. Israel can not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program.”

The U.S. with its stealth bombers and cruise missiles has a much greater capability. Vice President Cheney is said to favor a strike, but both Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates are opposed to an attack which could touch off a third war in the region.

Mullen is Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who left last night to meet with the Israelis. To be sure, Americans — including Obama, of course — and much of the rest of the world don’t want Iran to develop nuclear weapons; the nuclear club already has too many members. In fact, my sense after watching Obama’s recent speech to AIPAC is that his stance on that is tougher than people give him credit for. There are still positive memories of how Israel in a down-and-dirty 1981 airstrike was able to destroy a Saddam Hussein nuclear start-up in Iraq.

But this isn’t 1981. Tehran learned from Baghdad’s mistake — it’s nuclear start-up facilities are a lot better protected, and it would be hard to successfully strike them without significant civilian casualties, especially if, heaven forbid, tactical nuclear bombs were needed to reach them.

Read moreWhy “President Obama” will cause World War III

Taleban ‘siege’ of Peshawar threatens Pakistan’s grip

Pakistan’s battle against the Taleban threatened to spiral out of control yesterday after Islamic militants extended their grip in the lawless North West Frontier region.

Emboldened by an increasingly weakened and demoralised security force, Taleban fighters moved in to the outskirts of the provincial capital. Peshawar, surrounding the city and placing it virtually under siege.

Army troops have increased patrols in the garrison areas and paramilitary soldiers carrying machineguns are posted at government buildings. But senior security officials said that militants, who now control the region’s main arterial roads, were in a position to cut off communications at will.

Police on the city’s outskirts have long given up patrolling at night for fear of attacks by militants, who are organised under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taleban, the group led by the notorious commander Baitullah Mehsud. Several officers have been killed in rocket attacks on police posts in recent months. “It is a highly alarming situation,” said a senior provincial government official.

The Taleban raided the main government hospital in the heart of the city last week, kidnapping 16 Christians and taking them to the Khyber Agency tribal region outside Peshawar. Although they were freed after a few hours, the incident heightened fears among non-Muslims.

The Khyber Agency, the supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan, has emerged as the new centre of Taleban activity. Ambushes on convoys have become more frequent.

Read moreTaleban ‘siege’ of Peshawar threatens Pakistan’s grip

Israel Prodding U.S. To Attack Iran

Bush Administration Weighs Striking Iran’s Nuclear Complex,
Which Could Trigger 3rd War In Region

(CBS) Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen leaves Tuesday night on an overseas trip that will take him to Israel, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. The trip has been scheduled for some time but U.S. officials say it comes just as the Israelis are mounting a full court press to get the Bush administration to strike Iran’s nuclear complex.

CBS consultant Michael Oren says Israel doesn’t want to wait for a new administration.

“The Israelis have been assured by the Bush administration that the Bush administration will not allow Iran to nuclearize,” Oren said. “Israelis are uncertain about what would be the policies of the next administration vis-à-vis Iran.”

Israel’s message is simple: If you don’t, we will. Israel held a dress rehearsal for a strike earlier this month, but military analysts say Israel can not do it alone.

“Keep in mind that Israel does not have strategic bombers,” Oren said. “The Israeli Air Force is not the American Air Force. Israel can not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program.”

The U.S. with its stealth bombers and cruise missiles has a much greater capability. Vice President Cheney is said to favor a strike, but both Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates are opposed to an attack which could touch off a third war in the region.

U.S. intelligence estimates Iran won’t be able to build a weapon until sometime early in the next decade. But Israel is operating on a much shorter timetable.

“The Iranians, according to Israeli security sources, will have an operable nuclear weapon by 2009. That’s not a very long time,” Oren said.

For now, the Bush administration is counting on new economic sanctions which took effect Tuesday to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program. But nobody’s counting on it.

Read moreIsrael Prodding U.S. To Attack Iran

Faster Inflation May Unleash `Financial Tsunami’: Chart of Day

June 24 (Bloomberg) — Rising consumer prices will leave more U.S. consumers unable to pay their debts and may lead to a “financial tsunami,” according to Bennet Sedacca, president of money manager Atlantic Advisors LLC in Winter Park, Florida.

“Whether it is anecdotal or statistical evidence, I see inflation everywhere, and this is where the financial tsunami cometh,” Sedacca wrote in a report published yesterday. “A battered, over-indebted consumer, if forced to retrench, could create even more problems for the banking system as loan delinquencies would begin to rise even further. All sorts of delinquencies are rising. This is now a systemic issue.”

The four-part chart of the day shows how U.S. householders are struggling to pay their home loans. The top white chart shows the surge in delinquencies on all mortgages, while the yellow one measures foreclosures. The green chart tracks delinquencies on subprime adjustable-rate mortgages, and the purple one shows subprime mortgages that are 60 days behind on their payments.

Sedacca wrote that current financial-market conditions remind him of “someone standing on a lonely beach, armed with only a small bucket, trying to stop a rare tsunami that hits the shores. It is how I feel about our markets and the tools being utilized by the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and other regulatory bodies. They are overmatched for what they are facing and, worse yet, they helped create the mess in the first place by being far too easy with money and debt creation.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Gilbert in London at magilbert@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: June 24, 2008
By Mark Gilbert

Source: Bloomberg