Taggovernment

Dramatic Surge in Support for Whistleblower Rights

“Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) announced that seventy new organizations from across the United States have joined a June petition calling on Congress to enact sweeping new whistleblower rights for government employees. The groups are calling on Congress to finish the job before adjourning for the upcoming elections. Both chambers have approved legislation to revive the discredited Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), but efforts to reconcile the different versions have stalled.

Tom Devine, Legal Director of GAP, which helps coordinate whistleblower rights advocacy for the 182 groups now supporting the legislation, explained, ‘Groups demanding reform have increased by over 60% in a week of outreach since Labor Day. Our goal is credible free speech rights enforceable through jury trials for all employees paid by the taxpayers. Government employees need the same free speech rights that Congress has passed three times since 2006 for corporate workers in various sectors. This should not be controversial.’

Until Congress acts, the current law will remain a trap that rubber stamps almost any retaliation government whistleblowers challenge. The administrative board where employees receive a ‘day in court’ only has conceded illegal retaliation against government whistleblowers in two cases during the entire seven and a half years of the Bush administration (the board has found against whistleblowers 55 times). Ironically, this has made a so-called good government law the best reason for those witnessing fraud, waste or abuse to remain silent observers, instead of blowing the whistle.”

(via GAP)

Red Star Over Shambhala

“On his way across the wastes of Mongolia in 1921, Polish writer and refugee Ferdinand Ossendowski witnessed some strange behaviour on the part of his Mongol guides. Stopping their camels in the middle of nowhere, they began to pray in great earnestness while a strange hush fell over the animals and everything around. The Mongols later explained that this ritual happened whenever ‘the King of the World in his subterranean palace prays and searches out the destiny of all people on Earth.’

From assorted lamas, Ossendowski learned that this King of the World was ruler of a mysterious, but supposedly very real, kingdom, ‘Agharti.’ In Agharti, he was told, ‘the learned Panditas [masters of Buddhist arts and sciences] write on tablets of stone all the science of our planet and of the other worlds.’ Whoever gained access to the underground realm would have access to incredible knowledge – and power. Ossendowski was not exactly a casual listener. As noted in a previous article [The ‘Bloody’ Baron von Ungern-Sternberg: Madman or Mystic?, New Dawn No. 108 (May-June 2008)], during 1921 he would become a key adviser to ‘Mad Baron’ Roman von Ungern-Sternberg who established a short-lived regime in the Outer Mongolian capital of Urga. A self-proclaimed warrior Buddhist who dreamed of leading a holy war in Asia, the Baron allegedly tried to contact the ‘King of the World’ in hopes of furthering his scheme.

Ossendowski’s credibility later was assailed by the likes of Swedish explorer Sven Hedin. Among other things, Hedin accused the Pole of plagiarising the story of Agarthi from an earlier work by French esotericist Joseph Alexandre St.-Yves d’Alveydre. To one extent or another, that probably was true, but Hedin, a veteran seeker after lost cities, did not dismiss the possibility of a hidden Kingdom; indeed, he likely harboured the aim of finding it himself. In any event, Ossendowski did not invent the story of a fabulous land secreted somewhere in – or under – the vastness of Central Asia, be it called Agharti, Agarttha, Shangri-la, or, most commonly, Shambhala. Some believed it to be a physical, subterranean realm inhabited by an ancient, advanced race, while to others it was a spiritual dimension accessible only to the enlightened.”

(via New Dawn Magazine)

The Black Hole in the Cost of Healthcare-pt 2: Computerized Healthcare

Imagine receiving a letter in your mailbox asking you to participate in a study for cancer research, and that your doctor didn’t mention anything about cancer during your last physical. This is what happened to 400 women in Maryland. According to the Baltimore Sun, ‘A state contractor tampered with Maryland’s cancer registry, a database used by researchers to track the disease’s impact, counting hundreds of patients as having cancer when they did not, according to a legislative audit released yesterday. The company, Macro International Inc., found in an internal investigation that data were deliberately altered between August 2004 and December of that year. The company fired the employee responsible for the cancer registry. State officials said that Macro employees apparently overreported the incidence of cancer to ensure that the database met standards set by a national certification association, which closely monitors registries to ensure that states have a complete count of cases.’ These letters were sent in 2005, and they’re just addressing it now.

If this can happen with a cancer registry’s database, imagine what could happen with someone’s personal health records. The argument for computerized records is simple. It will eliminate many errors that occur with paperwork, and will help emergency workers to assist a patient if the patient is unable to communicate. While this seems like a great idea in general, the issues of privacy, confidentiality, and abuses of the system lie in the back of many people’s minds. And for good reasons.

It’s not only our health records that are vulnerable. The WSJ Health Blog reports ‘In yet another example of the health industry mishandling private patient records, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia sent some 202,000 explanation of benefits letters to the wrong addresses last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The letters, which were mistakenly directed to the addresses of other policyholders, included names and insurance identification numbers of patients as well as the names of the doctors and other medical providers they were using.[..] A small proportion of the letters also had Social Security numbers, a spokeswoman for the company told the paper. Vulnerability to identity theft is one concern. But EOB letters are especially sensitive from a privacy standpoint because they contain some treatment information. And this is one of a steady stream of mistakes by the health-care industry when it comes to protecting electronic data. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia told the AJC that a computer system change was to blame, and it’s taken steps to avoid the problem in the future.’

I foresee many ‘computer system changes’ in the future. Is this what we have to look forward to? The steps they’re taking to ‘avoid the problem in the future’ currently may be completely different whatever steps are needed in the future. Will everyone be up to speed?

According to USA Today advocates for electronic prescribing ‘say it will have many benefits including decreasing medical errors, which harm least 1.5 million people every year, according to the Institute of Medicine. Doctors’ scrawl will be replaced with typed information, and potentially dangerous interactions with patients’ existing medications will be flagged.’ Yet privacy advocates are worried. ‘Transforming prescriptions from scrawl into a standardized electronic format can make them even easier for pharmacies to sell and trade, violating patient privacy, says Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. ‘Any time you put something in a digital format and standardize it, it becomes much more profitable and easy to move those records.” The WSJ Health Blog also quotes the Coalition for Patient Privacy which said ‘While e-prescribing is attractive to many, Americans do not want their private prescription information data mined and used without their permission. Many Americans would be quite alarmed to discover their employer and others know they take an anti-anxiety medication or that they are being treated for an STD.’

I’m all for simplifying the paperwork process involved in healthcare. But I, like many others, am also worried about personal information being altered or available to those I don’t want accessing it. Will there be enough people enforcing our HIPAA rights? Will there be enough people to oversee these systems, to address immediate problems and to correct any glitches? Or will this be a windfall for Big Pharma and those who work in the field of law?

(Resources: Baltimore Sun-‘Md Cancer Statistics Altered’, WSJ Health Blog- ‘Insurer Sends Patient Info To The Wrong People’ and ‘Privacy Advocates Sound Alarm about Electronic Prescribing’, USA Today- ‘Writing is on The Wall for Doctors’ E-prescriptions’, Journal of Medical Internet Research-‘The Emergence of National Health Record Architectures in the United States and Australia: Models, Costs, and Questions’, and National Academy Press-” For the Record: Protecting Electronic Health Information” )

(See also: The Black Hole in The Cost of Healthcare: Big Pharma and Transparency)

The Handmaid’s Tale Could Become Fact Instead of Fiction

“This morning, I heard an astonishing interview on WNYC that discussed a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) draft document that was just leaked. This document proposes to redefine nearly all forms of birth control, especially birth control pills, as a form of abortion and allows any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman’s access to contraception [PDF]. Considering that roughly half of all American women use birth control pills, I think this is a shocking proposal that, if enacted, will change modern American society as we know it.

Currently, the federal government accepts the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ definition of pregnancy as beginning at implantation. However, the HHS proposes to reject that definition — provided by medical experts — and to change the federal definition of pregancy to conform with public polling data, as stated in the “Definitions” section of the proposal;

Abortion: An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. There are two commonly held views on the question of when a pregnancy begins. Some consider a pregnancy to begin at conception (that is, the fertilization of the egg by the sperm), while others consider it to begin with implantation (when the embryo implants in the lining of the uterus). A 2001 Zogby International American Values poll revealed that 49% of Americans believe that human life begins at conception. Presumably many who hold this belief think that any action that destroys human life after conception is the termination of a pregnancy, and so would be included in their definition of the term “abortion.” Those who believe pregnancy begins at implantation believe the term “abortion” only includes the destruction of a human being after it has implanted in the lining of the uterus.

And then they propose;

[T]he Department proposes to define abortion as “any of the various procedures – including the prescription and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action – that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.”

(via Living The Scientific Life)

The Vast and Dangerous Transfer of American Spying to Mercenary Companies

“Chalmers Johnson has produced a superb new article on what privatization has meant to the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Focusing on Tim Shorrock’s new book, Spies for Hire, Johnson traces the history of “the wholesale transfer of military and intelligence functions to private, often anonymous operatives” from Ronald Reagan’s day to the present, reminding us of just how crucial the Clinton administration was to this development. He also lays out just what can happen when the intelligence budget soars and startling amounts of it are placed in private, for-profit hands. Not only, he claims, has the privatization of intelligence made it easier for enemies to penetrate American intelligence and greased the slippery slope to the loss of professionalism within the community of intelligence analysts, but, perhaps most serious of all, it has ensured the loss of the most valuable asset any intelligence organization possesses — its institutional memory.

Johnson concludes: “The current situation represents the worst of all possible worlds. Successive administrations and Congresses have made no effort to alter the CIA’s role as the president’s private army, even as we have increased its incompetence by turning over many of its functions to the private sector. We have thereby heightened the risks of war by accident, or by presidential whim, as well as of surprise attack because our government is no longer capable of accurately assessing what is going on in the world and because its intelligence agencies are so open to pressure, penetration, and manipulation of every kind.”

(via Alternet)

All air passengers to give their fingerprints … but is the reason security or simply to raise profits for the duty-free shops?

“Millions of passengers flying from British airports will be fingerprinted from next year under the latest controversial Government anti-terror plans. The measures, which will apply to both domestic and international passengers, are being introduced despite opposition from the Information Commissioner, Britain’s privacy watchdog.

The Commissioner forced Heathrow to abandon a similar plan earlier this year after warning that it was potentially illegal under data protection laws. As a result, ?common departure lounges’, where both domestic and international passengers can mix freely, are being introduced at all major UK airports. This poses an obvious security risk in that an incoming international passenger – possibly a terrorist or a criminal – could switch tickets with an accomplice booked on a domestic flight. The international passenger would then be able to fly elsewhere in Britain and enter the country without being checked by immigration authorities.

Now, the Home Office is putting the finishing touches to new rules requiring compulsory fingerprinting for all passengers. The amendments to national aviation security rules will require fingerprints to be scanned when passengers pass through security into the airside terminal. Passengers will be fingerprint-scanned again at their flight departure gate. It is likely that the scheme will later be expanded to cover passengers at major seaports and the Channel Tunnel rail links.

The measures will enable police and the Security Services to check fingerprints against international watch lists and Interpol databases, searching for suspects travelling on false identities. Critics say the main reason for the scheme is that airport operators want to maximise profits by ensuring all passengers are able to spend money in ?duty-free’ shops.”

(via The Daily Mail)

FDA Whistleblower Site: Thoreau-FDA.com

“Welcome to Thoreau-FDA.com, a website launched and operated by current and former US Food and Drug Administration staff who believe public health is being put at unnecessary risk. These concerned civil servants and ex-civil servants have either experienced or are aware of wrongful directives by US FDA upper management – directives that put public health at avoidable risk. Thoreau-FDA stands for Thorough – High – Objectivity – Review – Ends – Are – Us – FDA. Here at Thoreau-FDA.com, you will find articles by its members that describe their efforts to protect all of us and our pets from harmful drugs and other medical products. And there are also reports of ordeals of other US FDCA staff, who are not involved in setting up this web site.

You can join others in discussion about the US FDA’s broken system by clicking on the link to FDA-blog.com. Or submit articles that will be considered for publication on our site by going to ‘Contact Us.’ Finally, we ask for your help. Read as much content on the site and related links as you need to convince yourself of the truth. Then, join an effort to effect real change at US FDA by sending a letter to the Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration. A sample letter is already prepared – but you can edit the letter to reflect your perspective. It prompts answers from the US FDA Commissioner about the effectiveness of the FDA’s ‘Values and Vision’ effort – a program that is supposed to correct many of US FDA’s problems that have persistently gotten worse over the last few years.”

(Thoreau-FDA.com. h/t: Pharma Law Blog)

VA Testing Drugs on War Veterans

“The government is testing drugs with severe side effects like psychosis and suicidal behavior on hundreds of military veterans, using small cash payments to attract patients into medical experiments that often target distressed soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, a Washington Times/ABC News investigation has found.

In one such experiment involving the controversial anti-smoking drug Chantix, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took three months to alert its patients about severe mental side effects. The warning did not arrive until after one of the veterans taking the drug had suffered a psychotic episode that ended in a near lethal confrontation with police.”

(via Washington Times)

US Special Forces counter-insurgency manual leaked on Wikileaks

“US Army Field Manual FM 31-20-3, Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces; 2004 edition. Made US Army doctrine (policy) on 20 September 1994; 219 printed pages. Written at the sensitive but unclassified level.

This sensitive US military counterinsurgency manual could be critically described as “What we learned about running death squads and propping up corrupt government in Latin America and how to apply it to other places”. Its contents are both history defining for Latin America and, given the continued role of US Special Forces in the suppression of insurgencies and guerilla movements world wide, history making.

The document, which is official US Special Forces policy, directly advocates training paramilitaries, pervasive surveillance, censorship, press control, restrictions on labor unions & political parties, suspending habeas corpus, warrantless searches, detainment without charge, bribery, employing terrorists, false flag operations, concealing human rights abuses from journalists, and extensive use of “psychological operations” (propaganda) to make these and other “population & resource control” measures palatable.”

(via Wikileaks. h/t: Conspiracy Planet)

CIA Drug Ops Conspiracy (unaired documentary)

This is a series that was never aired (no surprise there) about the CIA, Iran-Contra, drug trafficking, and the Mena cover-up.

(via Google Video. Thanks DJ!)

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