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Monday, December 01, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Monday December 1 2008 - (813)

Monday December 1 2008 edition
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Bush Aides Rush To Enact Toxic Substance Rule That Obama Opposes
2008-11-30 17:44:18
The U.S. Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job.

The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health.

Public health officials and labor unions said the rule would delay needed protections for workers, resulting in additional deaths and illnesses.

With the economy tumbling and American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush has promised to cooperate with Obama to make the transition “as smooth as possible.” But that has not stopped his administration from trying, in its final days, to cement in place a diverse array of new regulations.

The Labor Department proposal is one of about 20 highly contentious rules the Bush administration is planning to issue in its final weeks. The rules deal with issues as diverse as abortion, auto safety and the environment.

One rule would make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas. Another would reduce the role of federal wildlife scientists in deciding whether dams, highways and other projects pose a threat to endangered species.

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Editorial: Expert Or Shill?
2008-11-30 17:43:51
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Saturday, November 29, 2008.

More evidence has emerged of appalling conflicts of interest that throw into doubt the advice rendered and the research performed by two prominent psychiatrists who have received substantial funding from the pharmaceutical industry. The revelations prove, once again, the need for universities and professional societies to crack down on conflicts of interest, and for Congress to pass legislation that will bring hidden conflicts into the open.

Earlier this year, Congressional investigators discovered that Dr. Joseph Biederman, a world-renowned child psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, had failed to report to Harvard at least $1.4 million in income from drug companies, in violation of the university’s conflict-of-interest guidelines.

Now, internal drug company e-mail and documents that surfaced in a lawsuit have sketched out what looks like an unsavory collaboration between Dr. Biederman and Johnson & Johnson to generate and disseminate data that would support use of an antipsychotic drug, Risperdal, in children, a controversial target group.

The various documents indicate that Dr. Biederman repeatedly asked a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary to fund a research center at Massachusetts General to focus on children and adolescents with bipolar disorders and that the company provided almost $1 million. Disturbingly, one of the center’s publicly stated missions, along with improving the psychiatric care of children, was to “move forward the commercial goals of J.& J.”

The company also drafted a scientific abstract on Risperdal for Dr. Biederman to sign - as if he were the author -  before it was presented at a professional meeting. And it sought his advice on how to handle the uncomfortable fact, not mentioned in the abstract, that children given placebos, not just those given Risperdal, also improved significantly.

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Economy Crashes The Gates At A Club For The Rich
2008-11-30 17:42:55
Every town has its walls and gates - some visible, some not - for keeping things out or in.

Here some of the gates are world famous. The Yellowstone Club, a cloistered and cosseted mountain retreat for the super-rich, helped define a style and an era with its creation in 1999.

The club had 340 members with a private ski mountain only a schuss away from $20 million vacation homes. It was the corner office and the executive suite of gated communities all in one - an exemplar of exclusivity.

That sense of refuge was an illusion. The global financial crises have stormed even these gilded confines: This month, the Yellowstone Club filed for bankruptcy protection.

“The economy caught up with them,” said L. C. Sammons, a retired physician from Memphis, Tennessee, who lives in Big Sky just down the road from the club.

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As Death Toll Exceeds 180 People, Top Indian Security Official Resigns
2008-11-30 17:44:07
India’s highest-ranking security official resigned on Sunday, as the government began to reckon with the fallout from a three-day standoff with militants that raised troubling questions about India’s vulnerability to terrorism.

The day after the siege’s end, the official death toll rose to 183, but the police said they were still waiting for the final figures of dead bodies pulled from the wreckage of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, the 105-year-old landmark where the attackers held out the longest. Funerals in this commercial capital were scheduled to continue throughout Sunday, for the second day in a row.

As an investigation moved forward, there were questions about whether Indian authorities could have anticipated the attack and had better security in place, especially after a 2007 report to Parliament that the country’s shores were inadequately protected from infiltration by sea - which is how the attackers sneaked into Mumbai.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil, responsible for public safety and internal security as one of the most senior members of the government, resigned on Sunday to take responsibility for the failure of the country’s intelligence services and military to prevent the attacks in Mumbai.

Patil’s resignation is the clearest sign yet that the current government is feeling pressure from the general public in India to make amends.

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One Man's Military-Industrial-Media Complex
2008-11-30 17:43:38

In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.

The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.

Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.

Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed,” he said.

Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.

General McCaffrey did not mention his new contract with Defense Solutions in his letter to General Petraeus. Nor did he disclose it when he went on CNBC that same week and praised the commander Defense Solutions was now counting on for help - “He’s got the heart of a lion” - or when he told Congress the next month that it should immediately supply Iraq with large numbers of armored vehicles and other equipment.

He had made similar arguments before he was hired by Defense Solutions, but this time he went further. In his testimony to Congress, General McCaffrey criticized a Pentagon plan to supply Iraq with several hundred armored vehicles made in the United States by a competitor of Defense Solutions. He called the plan “not in the right ballpark” and urged Congress to instead equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles.

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Swiss Approve Legal Heroine Program
2008-11-30 17:42:42
Swiss voters Sunday overwhelmingly approved a move to make permanent the country's pioneering program to give addicts government-authorized heroin.

At the same time, voters rejected a proposal to decriminalize marijuana.

Sixty-eight percent of the 2,264,968 voters casting ballots approved making the heroin program permanent. It has been credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts since it began in 1994.

Some 63.2 percent of voters voted against the marijuana initiative.

On a separate issue, 52 percent of voters approved an initiative to eliminate the statute of limitations on pornographic crimes against children before the age of puberty.

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