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Tue, 03 Oct 2023
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Obama to ease travel restrictions to Cuba, allow more U.S. cash to island

© Alan Diaz /Associated Press
Passengers wait in line to check in as they prepare to travel to Cuba at Miami International Airport in Miami
Washington -- The Obama administration Friday said it will allow for more U.S. travel to Cuba, making it easier for schools, churches and cultural groups to visit the island.

A senior Obama official told The Miami Herald the much-expected move to expand cultural, religious and educational travel to Cuba is part of the administration's continuing ''effort to support the Cuban people's desire to freely determine their own future.

President Barack Obama is also restoring the amount of money ($2,000) that can be sent to nonfamily members to the level they were at during part of the Clinton and Bush administrations. There will be a quarterly limit on the amount that any American can send: $500 per quarter to ''support private economic activity.''

The administration also will restore the broader ''people-to-people'' category of travel, which allows ''purposeful'' visits to increase contacts between U.S. and Cuban citizens.


Psychopathically Misogynistic Vatican: Ordination of female priests as bad as paedophilia

The Vatican has classified the "attempted ordination" of women as one of the most serious crimes a Catholic priest can commit, putting it on a par with paedophilia, heresy and desecrating the Sacrament.

Anyone found to be ordaining women will be automatically excommunicated under the new rules.

The Vatican also announced new laws to tackle paedophilia, doubling the church's statute of limitations to 20 years and allowing bishops to sack priests without having to resort to a full canonical trial.

Bad Guys

The New Feudalism

TSA agent

TSA agent
TSA Pays Off In Breast Exposure Suit ... Texas woman, 24, receives "nominal" settlement ... The woman who sued the Transportation Security Administration after her breasts were exposed during a frisking at a Texas airport will receive a "nominal" payment from the government as part of a legal settlement ... The settlement was disclosed in documents filed last week in U.S. District Court in Amarillo, where Lynsie Murley last year filed a lawsuit accusing the TSA of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress in connection with the May 2008 incident at the Corpus Christi airport. - Smoking Gun

Dominant Social Theme: Fairness is the least that can be expected.

Free-Market Analysis: A new feudalism is being born. It is a quite deliberate effort of the power elite in our view, but people don't notice it - or haven't verbalized it - because it is difficult to analyze something when one is in the middle of it. But the feudal evolution is surely occurring. We can see its signature in the article above but there are many other signs.

Feudalism's "flourishing" or time-span was between ninth and 15th century, apparently. It was not a formal system but a sociopolitical evolution of relationships between various power nexuses. Wikipedia describes feudalism as "a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs. There is also a broader definition, as described by Marc Bloch (1939), that includes not only warrior nobility but the peasantry bonds of manorialism, sometimes referred to as a 'feudal society.'"

The evolution of the new feudalism can be seen in various ways, including the erosion of property rights for the middle class and the increasing molding of employment around the vast portfolios of the powers-that-be. (Lawyers and accountants are in high-demand.) The Western middle classes - especially in America where they have been the most vital - are under sustained attack. Taxes, inflation and unemployment are signatures of such a society, along with expansive regulations.


9-Year-Old Boy Has Disney World Trip Ruined After US Immigration Rules Him a Threat

© Getty Images
US President seen inside glass bubble
A nine-year-old boy's dream trip to Disney World was ruined when US immigration officials ruled he was a threat.

Civil servants Kathy and Edward Francis planned to surprise their grandson Micah Strachan with the holiday of a lifetime to Florida in February.

They were only going to tell Micah about it when they took him to the airport on February 19 for the flight to the US.

They had already spent more than £1,500 on plane tickets and had been organising the trip for months.

But this week US Embassy officials denied the schoolboy a visa to enter the US.

They said there was a risk he would not leave the US at the end of his holiday and refused his application under Section 214 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Micah was born in Britain and has lived in Middlesex all his life with his mum Claudia Lewis.

He holds a South African passport because his grandparents Kathy and Edward, who have lived and worked in Britain since 1990, only got him a South African passport.


Genetic Soldiers? Advisory Group Urges Pentagon To Map Genes Of All Personnel

© unknown

It sounds like something out of a dystopian science fiction novel, but it's not.

A new report from a secretive, highly influential group of scientists is urging the Department of Defense to begin collecting and mapping the full genome of all military personnel -- a move that could well give the Pentagon the ability to select for certain genetic predispositions.

Noting the dramatic decrease in the cost of fully mapping individuals' genomes, the report suggests that some traits relevant to war-fighting "are likely to have a strong genetic component, for which better understanding may lead to improved military capabilities."

Bizarro Earth

US - Obama official: MLK would love our wars!

© Library of Congress/Defense.gov
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Right: Jeh C. Johnson.
A top Pentagon official says the antiwar civil rights leader would support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

(UPDATED)With Martin Luther King Jr. Day right around the corner, attempts to misuse and/or whitewash his legacy are to be expected, particularly on the right.

But this, from Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson, is brazen even in the annals of misappropriations of King:
Washington, Jan. 13, 2011 - If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, would he understand why the United States is at war?

Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel, posed that question at today's Pentagon commemoration of King's legacy.

In the final year of his life, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Johnson told a packed auditorium. However, he added, today's wars are not out of line with the iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner's teachings.

"I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation's military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack," he said.


Britain's anti-terror control orders condemned as 'trademark of despots'

© Leon Neal/AFP
Theresa May, the home secretary, is believed to be sympathetic towards keeping control orders in some form.
Human rights groups across the world attack one of the 'most serious violations' of natural justice in developed democracies

A powerful coalition of human rights groups has intensified pressure on the government to abandon its use of control orders, as ministers continue to wrangle over whether to scrap the controversial counter-terrorism measure.

An international alliance of civil liberties organisations has united to condemn the UK for presiding over one of the "most serious violations" of natural justice in any developed democracy.

Campaigners from the Middle East, North and South America, Africa and Europe - including the UK human rights group Liberty - have signed a statement condemning punishment without charge or trial as an affront to democratic values. Among the signatories are the American Civil Liberties Union, Canadian Civil Liberties Union, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Argentina's Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and South Africa's Legal Resources Centre.

Bizarro Earth

The Mystery of the Black Goo


I got off the WeatherBird II mid way through the cruise in Pensacola, Florida. Five days later, an e-mail arrived from chief scientist David Hollander, subject line: "Yuck!"

As soon as it was back out on the water, the WeatherBird II headed to Perdido Pass, about two miles from Orange Beach, Alabama. When the team pulled up the multi-corer, they were stunned by what they found: the cylinders filled with pitch black, gelatinous goo that looks exactly like crude oil. But it didn't act like oil: the scientists were able to wash it off their hands easily, and it smelled strongly of sulfur, not petroleum. "As a sedimentoloist I can tell you that none of us have ever seen anything like this in the Gulf of Mexico," Hollander says, "especially not in shallow water. It certainly didn't belong there."

The location was also interesting. According to Hollander, "this exact area was subjected to over two months of continuous oiling of the shoreline region and the widespread use of dispersants in near-shore shallow waters."


The True Value of Money

You know we live in an age of declining humanity when a study is conducted outlining the price of a human life. More specifically, when the value of a specific nationality is formally measured as though one ethnicity is more precious than another.

A study revealed that the death of an Iraqi person costs the US government $2.40 each. In other words, an Iraqi costs as much as a value meal from McDonalds.

What is more shocking than the degrading price tag is the deconstruction of a human being entailed within this study. The miracle that is the human body, a complex system of nerves, organs and bloodstreams that house a soul is completely disregarded. The person's value to others as a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, lover and companion is completely undermined. This study reduced a human being, composed of flesh and spirit, into an inexpensive, discardable commodity.

Instances such as this only reaffirm my suspicion that the end of man will precede the moment of divine judgment promised by multiple beliefs, since man himself will cause it.

Admittedly, this is perhaps a highly cynical, slightly paranoid, and borderline blasphemous belief of mine. But when we live in an age in which people find it acceptable (and possible) to quantify the cost of human beings, can I be blamed?

The condition of the human race as a whole has become so sickeningly desensitized that it has come to a point in which it is able to calculate the monetary value of another human.

And what has instigated this epidemic of desensitization is the birth of a new religion in the 20th century.

The economy, an entirely human construct in which sanctity is bestowed upon a 6x3inch paper bill, is now the most influential belief system.


15 Dirty Big Pharma Tricks That Rip You Off and Risk Your Health for Profit

© unknown
Even during a recession, pharma is still the nation's third most profitable sector. Here are some of the dirty tricks it employs to stay on top.

Even during a two-year recession with people losing their homes and jobs, pharma is still the nation's third most profitable sector. How does it do that? In part by cheating the government, misrepresenting science, bribing doctors, patients and pharmacies, and squeezing the FDA. Other than that, the industry plays completely fair. Pharma has often been criticized for lack of creativity in developing new drugs. But these dirty tricks show its creativity is alive and well when it comes to putting the public at risk just to turn a profit.
  1. Astroturf Patients?

    Pharma promotes fake patient advocacy groups to lobby for its interests.

    These front groups often push the FDA to approve an expensive drug that has acceptable, cheaper alternatives. Or, they'll try to prevent Medicaid from switching to the less pricey drug. One of the largest faux groups, the "grassroots" National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), was investigated by Sen. Charles Grassley for undisclosed pharma links. He found the 10 top NAMI state chapters received $3.84 million from pharma in less than five years, the biggest largesse from Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

    How else can you tell an astroturf group? Their Web sites look just like the pharma companies that fund them.
  2. Cheating the Government

    Pharma is now a top defrauder of the federal government. "Desperate to maintain their high margin of profit in the face of a dwindling number of important new drugs," pharma illegally promotes unapproved uses of drugs and deliberately overcharges Medicare and Medicaid, says Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. Pharmaceutical companies have been hit with $14.8 billion in wrongdoing settlements in the last five years. But that's still cheaper for Big Pharma than going about things the old-fashioned, legal way. So the fraud continues.
  3. Trials and Fibulations

    Presiding over clinical trials can make a doctor thousands per patient. But they wouldn't compromise patient safety just to make a buck, would they? Medical College of Georgia psychiatrist Richard Borison and his colleague Bruce Diamond did 13 years ago when they tested Zyprexa, Risperdal and 20 other drugs and ended up in jail. So did Baystate Medical Center's Scott Reuben, who went to prison earlier this year for fraudulent Celebrex, Neurontin and Lyrica trials. And a Tucson facility testing asthma drugs Symbicort, Advair and Singulair doctored data and risked patients' health to net as much as $10,000 per patient, according to a whistleblower and government and court documents. How many other drugs were tested for such fiscal outcomes? Not counting recalled ones, of course.
  4. More Trials and Fibulations

    Even without fraud, pharma-sponsored studies can deceive. Trials that only determine that a drug is "not worse" than another one or impute safety before real data are available -- as in the case of Vioxx and Avandia's threat of heart attacks -- can skew results. And some research is not meant to be accurate to begin with. The Johnson & Johnson Center for Pediatric Psychopathology Research at Massachusetts General Hospital was founded to "move forward the commercial goals of J.& J." according to unsealed court documents. Its head, Harvard's Joseph Biederman, promised J.& J. a proposed drug trial "will support the safety and effectiveness of risperidone [Risperdal] in this age group," before it was ever conducted. Why leave things up to science?
  5. Overseas Adventurism

    As pharma increasingly eyes poorer countries for new markets and cheaper manufacturing it also eyes them for cheaper clinical trials. In 1996, 11 Nigerian children died in trials testing Pfizer's not-yet-approved antibiotic Trovan. While Pfizer paid the Nigerian government and state of Kano millions in a settlement, documents released by Wikileaks show that Pfizer tried to extort Nigeria's former attorney general to drop the lawsuits. Trovan was withdrawn from U.S. markets in 2001 for liver toxicity, though "safety signals" may have appeared sooner.